Covid-19 and Changing Attitudes: Concerns for the Future and Trust

Covid-19

Covid-19 and Changing Attitudes: Concerns for the Future and Trust

Report
Posted on: 2nd July 2020
By Multiple Authors
Lizzie Insall
Policy Lead, Renewing the Centre
Andrew Bennett
Policy Analyst, Technology and Public Policy
Max Beverton-Palmer
Head of Tech and Society

    Summary

    Summary

    The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many aspects of how we live and work, with homes becoming offices and much offline activity forced to move online. At the same time, crayon rainbows now adorn many front windows in Britain while symbolic national tributes have shown appreciation for key workers, carers and the NHS, in a sign that amid the medical difficulties there has been a social response too.

    In June we conducted surveys with YouGov with more than 2,000 people in each of four countries – Great Britain, the United States, Germany and France – to understand attitudes towards coronavirus and its impacts. This article, setting out how social attitudes have changed across four countries in the West, is published alongside two companion pieces, one setting out perceptions of the United States, China and global cooperation and the other exploring technology and Big Tech.

    On social attitudes, these representative surveys demonstrate that:

    1. Britain has seen a greater surge in community spirit in response to the pandemic than the other countries surveyed.
    2. More people in Britain are worried about the economy in general than they are about their own health. But a similar proportion are as worried about their health as about their own individual economic circumstances.
    3. Across all four countries, more people are more concerned about others than are concerned about their own situation, with worries about families’ health and the broader economy more widespread than for individual circumstances.
    4. There is political polarisation as to who bears responsibility for the severity of the pandemic, and who is trusted to address it.

    Social Togetherness

    Social Togetherness

    Britain has seen a greater surge in community spirit in response to the pandemic than the other countries surveyed.

    Many people in Britain have talked about a surge of community spirit, yet this survey suggests that this is a relatively British experience and not a universal response to the virus. Even though the iconic national act of the “clap for carers” was imported to Britain from Europe, people’s sense of social togetherness has risen to a far greater extent in Britain than in the US, Germany or France.

    Across all age groups in Britain, people report an increased sense of social togetherness both in their local area and at a national level, with slightly stronger emphasis at the national level. This is much more pronounced in Britain than in any of the other countries we looked at, though it could also reflect a comparatively low sense of social togetherness in Britain before the pandemic hit. In France, an equal number of people think that social togetherness at a local level has decreased as think it has increased (17%). In the US, almost double as many people perceive it to have decreased rather than increased at a national level (43% to 22%). It is worth noting that this period coincides with the Black Lives Matter protests, so this phenomenon cannot be confidently attributed to Covid-19 alone.

    Figure 1 – Increased sense of social togetherness (all four countries)

    Compared with before the coronavirus pandemic started, would you say the overall sense of social togetherness in your local area has increased or decreased or stayed about the same?

    While the experience of social togetherness is greater in Britain than in other countries across all ages, it is more pronounced among older age groups. In contrast, this trend does not always hold elsewhere. In Germany, for example, 34% of 18- to 24-year-olds reported an increased sense of social togetherness locally, dropping to 20% of 25- to 34-year-olds, and rising again with 28% of over 65s. This is reversed nationally: 43% of over-65s reported an increased sense of social togetherness nationally, compared with 29% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 39% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

    Figure 2 – Increased sense of social togetherness locally and nationally (Great Britain)

    Compared with before the coronavirus pandemic started, would you say the overall sense of social togetherness in your local area has increased or decreased or stayed about the same?

    This increased sense of social togetherness in Britain is also reflected in the more immediate relationships that people have. A third (34%) of people in Britain report an improvement in their relationships with neighbours, and the majority (59%) have increased their use of online video calls to friends and family to a greater extent than those in the other countries surveyed. While these behaviours are increasing across all age groups, they show some sensitivity to age, with older age groups more likely to report better relationships with neighbours, while the use of online video calls is particularly prevalent amongst those aged under 45 (ranging from 67% to 73%) but still common for those aged 45 and over (ranging from 46% to 54%).

    Figure 3 – Relationships with others (all four countries)

    Compared with before the coronavirus pandemic started, would you say that each of the following has generally got better or worse or stayed about the same? Your relations with neighbours
    Generally speaking, compared with before the coronavirus pandemic started, are you doing more or less of the following, or has there been no real change from before? Using online video calls to stay in touch with friends or family

    Attitudes Towards Health and the Economy

    Attitudes Towards Health and the Economy

    More people in Britain are worried about the economy than they are about their health. But a similar proportion are as worried about their own economic circumstances as they are about their own health.

    Covid-19 has forced policymakers to strike a careful balance between protecting people’s health and protecting economies. While the data do not reveal how people would prioritise these concerns, worry for the British economy is incredibly high regardless of party-political preferences; overall, 82% are worried about the impact of coronavirus on the economy. Although concerns are still high among the young, with 68% of 18- to 24-year-olds expressing worry, this is a lower proportion than in all other age groups, for which more than 80% are worried.

    This finding is interesting in relation to the projected economic impact of the crisis on different age groups. ONS data show that households headed by 16- to 34-year-olds have lower levels of financial resilience, with fewer assets to withstand a drop in income. Data from the Learning and Work Institute show that young people are two-and-a-half times as likely to be employed in the sectors that have been shut down by the lockdown than other workers.

    Figure 4 – Worries about personal health compared to national economy (all four countries)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    However, when it comes to an individual’s personal circumstances, worries about health and personal economic circumstance are remarkably close in all four countries.

    Figure 5 – Worries about personal health compared to personal economic situation (all four countries)

     

    In Britain, this relationship looks slightly different across different ages. Up to the age of 55, in terms of their personal circumstances, more people are worried about their economic circumstances than their own health, and more are not worried about their health than are not worried about the economy. Concerns are comparable between ages 35 and 55, and after 55 more people are worried about their health than their individual economic situation. Notably, in general over-65s are not very worried about their personal economic circumstances, although France (51%), and to a lesser extent the US (42%), stand in contrast to Britain (36%) and Germany (24%).

    Figure 6 – Worries about personal health compared to personal economic situation by age (Great Britain)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    Although over-65s are more worried about their own health, on mental health they take a very different position; in Britain people in this age group overwhelmingly state that they are not worried about their mental health. There is a notable shift in perspective across the age groups as to whether or not people are worried about their mental wellbeing.

    Figure 7 – Impact of coronavirus on mental health by age (Great Britain)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    On economic and health issues, across the board women in Britain are more worried than men, a trend that is echoed in the other countries that we looked at. This may reflect a broader gendered impact of the pandemic, with a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education indicating that British working mothers are interrupted by children more often than fathers in lockdown, are more likely to have lost jobs, and are doing more childcare and housework.

    Figure 8 – Worries about impact of coronavirus, by gender (Great Britain)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    Collective vs Individual

    Collective vs Individual

    Across all four countries, there are more people who are concerned about others than people who are worried about their own circumstances.

    The proportion of people who showed concern for their family’s health was higher than the proportion of those who worried for their own health, and this finding also holds for concern for the national economic outlook than for their personal economic circumstances.

    Figure 9 – Collective vs individual worries (all four countries)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    In Britain, the gap between worrying about your own health versus that of your family is greater among younger age groups, with 35- to 44-year-olds most worried about families’ health (70%). Given that older age groups are more at risk from the virus, this may reflect younger generations worrying about vulnerable elder famly members.

    Figure 10 – Concern for collective vs individual, health (Great Britain)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    Figure 11 – Concern for collective vs individual, economic (Great Britain)

    How worried, if at all, are you about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on each of the following? Your health; your family’s health; your mental wellbeing; the economy; your personal economic situation

    Political Trust

    Political Trust

    In Britain, there is significant political polarisation as to who bears responsibility for the severity of the pandemic, and who is trusted to address it. 

    Party affiliation in Britain and voting preference in the Brexit referendum have limited or no correlation to how people responded to questions about the above health, social and economic issues. However, when it comes to the question of who bears responsibility for the severity of the situation and who is best equipped to improve it, as well as broader questions of trust, a much stronger divide appears on positions based on party political preferences.  

    While a significant majority of non-Conservative voters believe responsibility lies with the government (58% of Liberal Democrats supporters and 67% of Labour supporters), Conservative voters primarily consider this responsibility to belong to China (64%) and believe that the government should shoulder nearly as much responsibility (19%) as the World Health Organisation (21%). The same polarisation is seen in the US, with those who voted for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 primarily holding the US government responsible (61%) and 2016 Trump voters considering China (80%) and the World Health Organisation (50%) most responsible.

    Figure 12 – Attitudes on responsibility for severity of the coronavirus pandemic by 2019 General Election voting record (Great Britain)

    Which one or two, if any, of the following would you say is MOST responsible for the severity of the coronavirus pandemic? Britain's government; Your local/regional government; The Chinese government; The World Health Organisation; Scientists in Britain; The health-care system in Britain; Other; No one is really to blame; Don’t know

    In terms of where confidence lies to solve the problems created by the pandemic, British Conservative voters have more confidence in national and local government and politicians in general than supporters of either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. However, across all party affiliations, there is greater confidence in the role of scientists than there is in the role of government. This greater confidence in scientists is replicated across the US, Germany and France. However, there is interestingly a greater degree of confidence in Britain than elsewhere for the role that global pharmaceutical companies might play. While this was 35% in Britain, it was 25% in the US, 26% in Germany and 21% in France.

    Figure 13 – Confidence in different groups to help solve problems created by the coronavirus pandemic, by 2019 General Election voting record (Great Britain)

    How much confidence, if any, do you have in the following to help solve the problems created by the coronavirus pandemic? 1 – Have a lot of confidence, 5 – Have no confidence at all "Britain’s national government; Your local/regional government; Scientists in Britain; Politicians in Britain; Amazon; Google; Facebook; Twitter; Apple; Global pharmaceutical companies". ‘Confidence’ taken as the total of ‘1’ and ‘2’ responses.

    Despite the divergence in views across political affiliations as to the political leadership of the crisis, there is a shared view (48%) across these affiliations, and all age groups, that the atmosphere of political debate in Britain has deteriorated in comparison with prior to the pandemic. This view is held quite strongly in Scotland, where 58% support the view that the atmosphere of political debate has become worse. This is not a finding that is unique to Britain and is a relatively widely held view across all four countries that we looked at, although it is more pronounced in the US (58%) and less so in Germany (32%).

    The other issue that shows a striking divide along the lines of party affiliation is perceptions of inequality. While very few people think that the pandemic has reduced the gap between rich and poor, there is a much stronger perception that the gap has increased among those who voted Labour (76%) or Remain (71%) than those who voted Conservative (46%) or Leave (47%). Interestingly, this perception is also held more strongly among households that are generally well-off (ABC1) as opposed to poorer households (C2DE). Similarly, even though the economic impacts of coronavirus might be expected to fall more heavily on C2DE respondents, they report similar concern for their personal economic situation (47%) as do ABC1 (45%).

    The general perspective that inequality has increased is shared across other countries, but only in the US is the political divide in perception as stark as it is in Britain. In fact, it is far more so with 72% of 2016 Clinton voters considering the gap to have increased, while just 36% of Trump supporters hold that view. In contrast, Macron and Le Pen voters in France are broadly comparable (67% and 64%, respectively).


    Figure 14 – Perceptions on inequality, by GB politics and socioeconomics, and US and FR politics

    17 column charts showing that every group surveyed, regardless of political opinions, believed that Covid-19 has increased inequality
    From what you know, do you think that so far the coronavirus pandemic has increased or decreased the gap between rich and poor in (your country), or has it made no real difference either way?

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The source of this data is polling conducted by YouGov of a sample of 8,494 adults in Great Britain, the United States, Germany and France. The sample was made up of 2,033 adults in GB between 4 and 15 June 2020; 2,418 adults in the US between 8 and 11 June 2020; 2,020 adults in Germany between 9 and 12 June 2020; and 2,023 adults in France between 9 and 11 June 2020.

    Full Survey Results
    The data is available here in XLSX format

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