With Boris Johnson reported to want to ease the lockdown slowly in the hope that doing so will prevent the need for another, he faces a growing backlash among the Tory MPs who make up the Covid Recovery Group. But what about voters? So far, polling has suggested that the public are generally supportive of social distancing and restrictions – often claiming they would like the rules to go even further.
A new poll for Coffee House by Redfield and Wilton – with a sample size of 2,000 – saw the public quizzed on the current lockdown, restrictions and vaccines. For now, there appears to be majority support for the current government restrictions with 62 per cent saying the restrictions are more helpful than harmful to society, compared to 24 per cent who think they are more harmful than helpful.
Although Boris Johnson insisted again this week that lockdown measures will be looked at in mid-February to see whether they can be eased, few expect them to be. Only 25 per cent think the current level of restrictions will be relaxed within a month from now. Overall, 70 per cent think the current level of restrictions will be relaxed within three months from now. As for how many people need to be vaccinated before there can be a substantial easing, both the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock have suggested that decision is a matter for debate – one the country should have before making any firm decisions. The poll suggests there is as of yet no clear consensus.
When surveyed on when the lockdown should end, 21 per cent say it should end as soon as those over the age of 70 have been vaccinated, 32 per cent think it should end when those over the age of 50 have been vaccinated, while 38 per cent said the current lockdown should only end when the vast majority of the entire population has been vaccinated. On the question of when all non-travel related restrictions should go, a majority – 61 per cent – agreed they should end only once enough vaccinations have been given to the general population. However, 39 per cent think they should end sooner – once enough vaccinations have been given to the vulnerable population.
Polling on lockdown measures should not be taken as gospel – as several Tory MPs are keen to point out, adherence data on how many people follow the rules often paints a different picture of people struggling much more with the restrictions than they let on in a focus group. However, it does give an indicator of the pressure points in the coming months. While Johnson appears to have backing to stick with the lockdown past his mid-February review date and into the spring, there is less in the way of consensus on the next debate: which groups need to be vaccinated before the lockdown can end and restrictions substantially lifted.