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Significant rise of ‘no confidence’ in government’s handling of COVID-19

By Nuffield Foundation

Over a quarter (27%) of people in England have said that they have ‘no confidence’ in the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, up from just 6% at the start of lockdown, find UCL researchers as part of the Nuffield-funded COVID-19 social study.

The number of people in England who ‘on balance’ do not have confidence in the government’s handling has also more than doubled in the last 6 months, from 25% at the start of lockdown to 56% now. Confidence is lowest in those under the age of 30, those in urban areas and those with a mental health diagnosis.

In Wales, confidence remains higher, with a quarter (25%) ‘on balance’ not having confidence in the Welsh Government, an almost identical figure to the start of lockdown (26%). Just 6% of people in Wales report having ‘no confidence’ in the Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic, the same as at the start of lockdown.

Levels of ‘full confidence’ in the Scottish government remain higher than at the start of lockdown (17% vs. 10%) but have fallen significantly since the peak of 34% in July. Similarly, just over a quarter (26%) of respondents in Scotland ‘on balance’ don’t have confidence in the Scottish government, an improvement from 33% when lockdown came in, but down from 11% in early July.

Launched in the week before lockdown started, the ongoing UCL COVID-19 Social Study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health with over 70,000 participants who have been followed across the last 28 weeks.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “Confidence levels in the government have decreased markedly in England since the beginning of lockdown.

“This loss of confidence could be down to perceived government mismanagement of the pandemic coupled with a high number of COVID-19 cases in England. Scandals such as government adviser Dominic Cummings’ journey to Barnard Castle may also have contributed to the fall.

“The rising numbers of cases could also be to blame for the loss of confidence in Scotland and Wales, although both Scottish and Welsh devolved governments have seen a smaller reduction in confidence than the UK Government.”

The study also found that just over one in 10 people (12%) are concerned that the NHS will not be able to cope with COVID-19, an improvement from the start of lockdown, but confidence has decreased as cases have risen. 78% of people are confident that the NHS can cope with Covid-19, with confidence higher in older adults and those living in rural areas.

Depression and anxiety levels, life satisfaction, happiness, and loneliness have stayed relatively stable over the past two weeks, but stress around catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 has increased, with nearly half (45%) of people reporting feeling stressed about the issue, up from 37% a month ago.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

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