Great Britain

Polls suggest most Britons are in favour of new coronavirus restrictions, despite loud opposition voices

The new coronavirus restrictions have left Tory MPs in a mutinous mood, and they aren’t short of media, and especially social media, supporters.  

New coronavirus restrictions? An outrage, I tell you, an outrage. What about the civil liberties we usually don’t care much about when it comes to poor people getting access to legal help when they’re accused of crimes? Or asylum seekers getting a fair hearing before being packed off to hellhole detention centres run by private companies that dig deep for party coffers?  If it’s lives versus livelihoods we need to come down on the side of livelihoods. Especially ours. Have you seen the state of my stock portfolio? Our older supporters can just take one for the team because, ha, they always back us when it counts.  

Thing is, this is very much a minority view in Britain, at least so far as the polling indicates. And by that, I mean proper polling conducted by legitimate polling organisations, not something designed to confirm the poster’s prejudices when put up on Twitter so their followers can give them the answers they want.  

YouGov has sought to gauge the public’s reaction every time the government has announced restrictions designed to combat the pandemic. The results have been remarkably consistent. Polls have registered solid support for the actions taken at every stage. Actually, “solid” might be underplaying it.  

We’re talking here about a backing of 70 per cent plus. To get a result like that your measures need to find favour with people from different age groups, different social backgrounds, different political outlooks.  

The polling company sent me links to the surveys it has conducted since Boris Johnson’s belated announcement of lockdown in March to assist with the research for this piece. Another interesting factoid I found when I went through them: they also point to wariness when restrictions were relaxed.  

What it couldn’t provide, regrettably, was a tracking poll, one of those looking at how opinion shifts over time by asking the same question over and over again to gauge the state of “lockdown fatigue” among the public.  

But it’s still possible to use the data that has been published to get an idea.  

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The latest survey doesn’t appear to show much sign of it when compared to earlier ones. YouGov characterises the 78 per cent saying they supported the new lockdown measures as “overwhelming” support. Of them, 44 per cent expressed “strong” backing, with 34 per cent “somewhat” supportive. So the adjective seems accurate.

By contrast, less than one in five (17 per cent) of those taking part said they were somewhat or strongly opposed. It’s also notable that nearly half (45 per cent) said they didn’t think the measures went far enough.  

There were signs of growing opposition among 18-24-year-olds, generally considered to be least at risk from nasty coronavirus related complications, or even the sort of six-week odyssey and extended hangover that I’ve suffered as a result of the scourge. Opposition among this group stood at 32 per cent. That represents a change when compared to the poll conducted at the time of the initial lockdown in March when support for the measure was broad across all groups.  

But opponents among the young are still in the minority, which is quite striking when you consider the hit they’ve taken through the brutal economic blowback from the virus and how the restrictions have arguably had the greatest impact on the sort of activities they engage in.  

If you set aside the noisy Twitterati, the no name backbenchers, the musicians who ought to know better (protesting your right to put your fellow citizens at risk of a deadly disease is quite a come down from Astral Weeks for Van Morrison), there have been some legitimate concerns expressed about the economy.  

A bad one can kill as surely as the virus, and the numbers I see every day are a cause for real concern.  

But those making the case for UK plc would do well to remember that the economic damage from letting the virus do its worst could ultimately be worse than taking some more pain now as the price of getting it back under control.  

Putting the economy over people’s lives and health is also highly problematic from a moral standpoint.  

The public appears to agree. There isn’t much of an appetite to kill granny for the sake of the economy, not to mention people with disabilities and medical conditions like me who are similarly at risk of getting hit. They appear to recognise that the inconveniences we are being asked to accept are relatively minor when set against the loss of a loved one. And that speaks rather well of this otherwise fractious and divided nation.  

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