New polling from Ipsos MORI reveals how the British public divides into five groups, according to their different views towards the timing of the original lockdown measures in March, and the relaxation of some of the measures in July.
The survey, taken after the announcement of the relaxation but before the measures were actually lifted, shows that the largest grouping are the “Earlier, longer lockdown” segment. Making up around half of Britons (48%), this group says both that the original lockdown measures on the 23rd March were introduced too late (with the benefit of hindsight), and that the relaxations in England announced for July 4th are happening too quickly. Another 11% are “Becoming more cautious”: they believe that the original measures were introduced too soon or at the right time, but are now worried they are being relaxed too quickly.
On the other hand, around one in eight (12%) are in the “Government got it right then and now” group, saying both the March imposition and July relaxation were done at the right time. And another one in five (18%) think the original restrictions were imposed too late, but that it is right to relax them now (or even that they are being relaxed too slowly) – thus making up the “Started too late but now ready for relaxing” segment. Only very few, 4%, have been consistently of the view that restrictions were either originally imposed too quickly, and are now being relaxed too slowly or at the right time, or think the original restrictions were correct but should now be relaxed more quickly.
Who is in these groups?
- The “Earlier, longer lockdown” group is relatively likely to be aged between 45-64 (42% of this group are that age), and to have voted Labour in the 2019 General Election or Remain in the 2016 EU referendum (45% and 50% of this group respectively).
- The “Becoming more cautious” group is the oldest segment (39% are aged 55 to 75), is slightly more female than male (by 53% to 46%), and six in ten live in the Midlands and South of England. Half (52%) of this group voted Conservative in 2019.
- The “Government got it right then and now” segment is the most middle-class group (36% are in social class AB), and it also has relatively high proportions of 25-34 year olds (29%) and of parents (34%). Unsurprisingly, six in ten of this group voted Conservative in the 2019 election and Leave in the 2016 referendum.
- The “Started too late but now ready for relaxing” group is also slightly younger (39% are aged 18-34), but in this case are slightly more male than female (by 54% to 45%). They also have a slightly higher proportion of 2019 Conservative voters (45%).
Overall, seven in ten (69%) now think that the original lockdown in March 23rd was imposed too late. 22% think it was at about the right time and 5% that they were taken too soon. While perceptions have changed little since the end of April, there has been a clear shift since immediately after the lockdown was introduced, when 56% thought the measures were being taken too late, and 35% at the right time.
Six in ten (60%), feel that the relaxation announced for England on the 4th July are happening too quickly, rising to seven in ten among Labour, Liberal Democrat and Remain voters. Almost three in ten (28%) think the measures are being relaxed at the right time (rising to 42% of 2019 Conservatives), but just 8% think the relaxation is happening too slowly.
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said:
These findings confirm our other research that, overall, Britons tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to the lockdown measures. But it also shows that these views aren’t static. Even though the real number of cases has fallen, perceptions have hardened that the original measures were imposed too late, underpinned by a clear partisan divide.
Nevertheless, even with the benefit of hindsight, not everyone takes the same line for both the March restrictions and the July relaxation. Some want to keep the restrictions in place for longer, but others are ready for them to be relaxed, even if they felt they were originally introduced too late, and there is also a minority who think the government has always picked the right time. This all suggests that despite views hardening the public hasn’t yet come to a final view, with the impact of the relaxation this weekend likely to be key in determining whether the Government is seen as leading public opinion or moving before it was ready.
- Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,078 British adults aged 18-75. Interviews were conducted online from 26-29 June 2020. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.