Scottish views of Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic hit new low

New polling from Ipsos MORI for BBC Scotland shows that ratings of how well Boris Johnson has handled the coronavirus pandemic have fallen since May. While ratings of Nicola Sturgeon have also fallen a little, public ratings of how she has handled the pandemic remain far higher.

The author(s)

  • Rachel Ormston Ipsos MORI Scotland
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Johnson’s ratings in Scotland trail behind Sturgeon’s

Just 19% of the Scottish public now feel that Boris Johnson is handling the pandemic well, while 62% feel he is handling it badly. In sharp contrast, 74% say Nicola Sturgeon is handling it well and just 13% that she is handling it badly. (Fieldwork took place prior to Boris Johnson’s recent comments about Scottish Devolution, in which he was widely reported to have described it as “a disaster”.)

While ratings of both leaders have fallen a little since we last asked this question in May, ratings of Johnson have fallen more – from a ‘net score’ (the percentage who think he has handled it well, minus the percentage who think he has handled it badly) of -25 in May, to -43 now.

There is a similar gap in public perceptions of how well the UK and Scottish Governments have handled the pandemic: 72% say the Scottish Government has handled it well, compared with just 25% who say the same of the UK Government.

Ratings among Scottosh public of how leaders and governments have handled the crisis - Ipsos MORI

Should restrictions have been tightened earlier?

Although the public generally believe that the Scottish Government is handling the pandemic well, around half believe it should have acted faster in introducing tougher restrictions after the summer – 49% say that new rules were introduced too late, while 42% say they were introduced at about the right time (just 5% say they were introduced too early).

Would an independent Scotland have handled things any better?

Our poll also asked people if they thought an independent Scotland would have handled the pandemic better, worse, or if it would have made no difference. Overall, 39% said Scotland would have handled the pandemic better as an independent country, 19% that it would have handled it worse, and 38% that it would have made no difference either way.

Among those who voted Yes in the 2014 referendum on independence, unsurprisingly more felt an independent Scotland would have handled things better – 59%, with 32% saying it would have made no difference and just 6% that it would have handled it worse. However, even among those who voted No in 2014, 15% said that an independent Scotland would have handled things better.

Would an independent Scotland have handled the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic better? - Ipsos MORI

Rachel Ormston, Research Director at Ipsos MORI Scotland, commented:

Yet again, these findings highlight the difference in how the Scottish public views Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. If anything, perceptions of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic are even worse now than they were in May. However, although these findings are clearly very positive for Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, there is also a widespread view that they could have acted more quickly in tightening restrictions to control the increase in coronavirus cases after the summer.
The finding that 15% of those who voted No in the 2014 referendum now feel that an independent Scotland would have handled the crisis better is in line with the trend in recent polls, which show a significant proportion of No voters have moved towards favouring independence. Perceptions of how different leaders and governments have handled the coronavirus crisis may well have played a significant role in this shift.

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,037 Scottish adults aged 16+ by telephone between 10th and 15th November 2020. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Rachel Ormston Ipsos MORI Scotland

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