Economic confidence falls to lowest since 2008 but half think government handling the coronavirus crisis well

The March 2020 Ipsos Political Monitor finds that just under half of people think Boris Johnson is handling the coronavirus crisis well.

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North
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Economic optimism has fallen to its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, according to Ipsos’s new Political Monitor. The new poll, conducted between 13-16 March, so before some of this week’s emergency measures were announced, shows seven in ten (69%) now say they think the economy will get worse in the next 12 months – this is up from 42% in February. Just 15% think that the economy will improve, leaving an Economic Optimism Index score of -54. The last time pessimism was this low was in November 2008 (at its worst during the 2008 crisis 75% thought the economy would get worse).  Despite this pessimism, around half (49%) believe the Government is handling the coronavirus outbreak well (35% say badly).

The Ipsos poll also shows:

  • Just under half (47%) think Boris Johnson is handling the coronavirus crisis well (38% say badly). Two in five (39%) think Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has been handling the crisis well (23% say badly). Two in five (41%) also say Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been handling the crisis well (13% say badly). And more than half (52%) say Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, has handled the crisis well (14% say badly).

Handling of Coronavirus - Ipsos

  • Young people tended to be more critical of the government’s handling of the outbreak than older people (28% of 18-34s thought the government was handling it well, compared with 70% of over 65s), as were Labour supporters (only 30% thought the government was handling it well), public sector workers (35%), and Londoners (38%).  Meanwhile, economic pessimism is particularly high among women (77% think economy will get worse vs 60% of men).
  • The response to the Government’s Budget to combat the coronavirus was positive, suggesting the public are looking for action from the Government to ease the economic burden from the virus outbreak. Two-thirds (65%) believed it will be helpful in tackling the coronavirus outbreak (27% say it won’t be). There was particularly strong support for the £5bn NHS emergency fund, which 81% strongly supported. More than half (54%) said the Budget would be good for the country (22% say it will be bad) overall, while 45% said it will be good for them personally (24% say bad).
  • However, over the weekend the public were split on whether the Government was taking enough action. Half (50%) said the measures the Government had taken do not go far enough and more should be done while 42% said the measures the Government had taken are about right.
  • Roughly three in four supported cancelling various sporting events - the FA Cup (75%), the rest of the season for Britain’s football leagues (73%), the UEFA European Football Championship (79%), and Wimbledon (71%), while seven in ten (72%) supported postponing the upcoming local elections.
  • Britons were unconvinced at the weekend that all their fellow citizens would follow government advice to self-isolate for 7 days if they had mild symptoms of the coronavirus, even if they were not tested.  Two in five (39%) thought more than half would, 25% said around half would, and 34% said less than half would

Our ongoing leadership satisfaction figures show satisfaction is up with the Government and Boris Johnson. Half (48%) are satisfied with the Government (up 8 points) with 41% dissatisfied (down 9 points) giving a satisfaction net rating of +7 (the first positive net rating for any government since July 2010). Satisfaction is up for the PM to 52% (up 5 points) with 38% dissatisfied (down 6 points) with him giving him a net score of +14. Jeremy Corbyn has also seen a slight improvement in his leadership satisfaction ratings although they remain low. One in five (19%) say they are satisfied with the Labour leader (up 3 points) with 68% dissatisfied (down 7 points) leaving Jeremy Corbyn a net satisfaction score of -49.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, said:

Britons’ worries about the economic impact of the coronavirus are laid clear with pessimism about the economy at its worst in our trends since the 2008 crash, while women are particularly concerned.   However at the time of asking around half the public felt the government was handling the crisis well, although half were wanting more to be done, and high levels of support for the Budget’s financial measures suggests that they are looking for the government to take further action to minimise economic damage and restore confidence.

Technical Note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,003 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone omnibus between 13th – 16th March 2020.  Data are weighted to the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points. 

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North

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