The HOPE not hate Charitable Trust has published the first in a series of new polls on the Coronavirus crisis which uncovers a crisis of public confidence in aspects of the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and worryingly widespread levels of distrust of both the media and the government as sources of accurate information during this public health emergency.

The key findings being published today include:

  • The country is split 51/49 that the government is dealing with the crisis too slowly
  • A third do not trust the Prime Minister and the government to deal with the crisis well
  • 78% of people blame austerity and cuts to funding for the NHS struggling to cope with Coronavirus
  • A third of young people (30%) do not think Coronavirus is as serious as portrayed in the media
  • Two-thirds of people (65%) think it is important to seek alternative opinions about Coronavirus and not just rely on what we get told through the mainstream media
  • Close to half (42%) felt they would prefer to find the truth out about Coronavirus themselves than simply relying on the Government and their experts
  • Over 54% feel that ‘China is to blame for Coronavirus’ with only 23% disagreeing
  • 11% of Londoners say that they are having more contact than usual with their neighbours because of the Corona pandemic

The public’s assessment of the government’s Coronavirus response is the new social dividing line in the country:

  • 51% think the Government has been too slow in dealing with the Corona pandemic, whilst 49% feel Government is dealing with the Coronavirus as well as could be expected.
  • 50% trust that Boris Johnson and the Government will deal with coronavirus appropriately whilst 32% of people say that they do not.
  • Almost three quarters (74%) of 2019 Conservative voters think that the government’s response has been as well as can be expected, while only 29% of Labour voters agree.
  • Older people are less concerned than younger people with the government’s response. Just 38% of over 65s say that the Government has been too slow in dealing with the Coronavirus compared with 68% of 18-24 year olds
  • The majority of people (71%) trust that the experts at the Department of Health are competent and take appropriate action based on the information available. Labour voters are among the least likely to trust this, 15% say they do not, while only 4% of Conservative voters think the same.
  • 58% say Coronavirus is best dealt with at an international level, but 42% think it is best dealt with at a national level

One standout finding is that everyone is united in attributing the NHS’ difficulties in coping with the current crisis to austerity and underinvestment, including Conservative voters:

  • An overwhelming 78% of people think that austerity and cutbacks to NHS funding means that it will struggle to cope with Coronavirus. Less than a quarter (22%) think that the NHS is well resourced and able to cope with the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • A majority of Conservative voters (62%) think that austerity and cutbacks to NHS funding means that it will struggle to cope with Coronavirus

The longstanding trend of collapsing trust between the public, government, politicians, experts and the ‘establishment’ is feeding into the public health crisis:

  • A huge 65% agree that it is important to seek alternative opinions about Coronavirus and not just rely on what we get told through the mainstream media, with only 12% disagree.
  • Younger people are most likely to want to seek alternative media, with 74% of people aged 18-24 agreeing.
  • A fifth (19%) of people believe that the coronavirus is not as serious as media and government makes it out to be. Almost a third (30%) of those aged 18-24 think that this is the case.
  • People are less trusting of Government advice with 42% of people agreeing that ‘I would prefer to find the truth out about Coronavirus myself than simply relying on the Government and their experts’, and just 27% disagreeing.

It should worry us all that the Covid-19 pandemic is feeding into widespread fears for our future:

  • 73% of people agree that Coronavirus is the latest sign that the world we live in is becoming increasingly dangerous.

These fears are being stoked successfully by the radical and populist right, and worryingly anti-China sentiment risks becoming entrenched:

  • More than twice as many people (54%) agree that ‘China is to blame for Coronavirus’ than disagree (23%)
  • 65% of people who voted Conservative in 2019 and 69% of people who voted Brexit party agree that China is to blame for Coronavirus.
  • However, despite some attempts at division, community spirit and responsibility is high:
  • The coronavirus has highlighted the importance of community. 83% of people agree that having a strong community around you is important. Just 4% disagree

The movement restrictions have left people feeling disconnected;

  • 48% of people say they are having less contact with their families, 46% are having less contact with their neighbours, and 63% are having less contact with others in the wider local community. Older people are most likely to say that they are having less contact with all of these groups.
  • 11% of Londoners say that because of coronavirus they are having more contact than usual with their neighbours
  • More than three times as many people (43%) think that Coronavirus will bring their family closer together than think it will not (13%)
  • An overwhelming 88% of people agree that it is incumbent on us all to look after our family, friends and neighbours, while only 2% disagree.

The results we’re publishing are based on a poll of 2,022 adults 18+ who were sampled from across Great Britain. The poll was carried out between 20th-23rd March, using an online interview administered by Focaldata. The data was weighted to be representative of the GB population.

Why has HOPE not hate Charitable Trust commissioned this polling?

HOPE not hate believes in a dual strategy for combatting extreme and hateful politics. We investigate and expose those that spread division and hate whilst also working to build the capacity of communities, and our society as a whole, to resist their messages.

As part of this strategy, we are constantly seeking to understand public opinion around questions of fear, trust, well-being and social cohesion as we understand that extreme politics often survives and thrives in communities suffering from economic insecurity, social uncertainty and institutional neglect.

At a time when we are seeing many instances of anti-East Asian racism as a nationalistic edge is introduced to this global crisis and looming economic hardship a likelihood, we believe it is important to understand public fears and concerns so that civic institutions, communities and activists can take the action required to prevent hatred and division from gaining a foothold in our future.