by Amy Jones
Friday, 9
July 2021
Chart
11:31

Pro-lockdown polling is not as clear as you might think

Does one-fifth of the country really support nighttime curfews?
by Amy Jones
According to the polls, this protestor is an outlier.

A new poll on the public’s views of Covid restrictions has been doing the rounds this week, and the results may come as a shock to many. They find that, of the people surveyed, 40% wished to continue with masks permanently, 26% were in favour of shutting casinos and clubs forever, and an astonishing 19% were in favour of a permanent 10pm curfew. Has Britain become a nation of authoritarians?

We’ve seen results like this before. Over the last 16 months, poll after poll has shown high levels of public approval for lockdowns and restrictions, which feels hard to square with the scenes of people emphatically celebrating the England victory on the streets this week.

That may be because, as a new study shows, the polling data is not all that it seems. Examining public attitudes towards restrictions, researchers at the Royal Society asked a sample of the public about their opinions on lockdown, twice over a 6 month period, first in June 2020, then again in December. Beyond standard questions about approval for lockdown and restrictions, they dug a little deeper, and asked participants what their views were on topics such as the side effects and trade-offs of restrictions, how they judged the threat of covid, and whether they felt this threat was mostly an individual threat, or a societal threat.

As anticipated, participants were in favour of lockdowns and almost all restrictions suggested. But when they were asked about their feelings about side effects (e.g. depression, obesity and abuse) of these policies, the picture changed. In fact, a majority of people appreciated that there were significant side effects and were generally unsure if the trade-offs were worthwhile. Essentially, a picture of ambivalence emerged.

There were some other interesting findings: public assessment of the risk of Covid was generally not related to individual threat, but to the threat to society as a whole. The fact that lockdown was considered necessary by the Government itself increased perception of the threat Covid posed to society. This in turn fed into public approval of lockdowns, essentially making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The researchers also found that this applied to support for restrictions. Due to the “apparent moralisation” (just this week, a WHO member accused the Government of “moral emptiness” for loosening restrictions) of the issue, there was more support for tighter measures. This then fed into participants’ responses, who in wishing to give socially acceptable answers, voiced support for restrictions. 

It would therefore seem that public attitudes towards restrictions are far more complex than the headlines and polls suggest. Public feelings on restrictions are nuanced, and multifaceted — as one would expect, given the benefits, risks and huge trade-offs. Distilling complex issues into soundbites and simple figures only muddies the water further. So next time you see a poll claiming that nearly one-fifth of the population supports a permanent curfew, treat it with a heavy dose of scepticism. Journalists and politicians, that applies to you too.

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Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago

People who fill in opinion polls are those who have time. They are likely to be retired, hypochondriac housewives, benefit claimants who don’t want to work and those on furlough who don’t want it to end. Many of them would close night clubs and casinos and curfew drinkers whether there was a virus or not; it is just a vehicle for their killjoy attitudes. Many of them ‘suffer from anxiety’ and think it makes them special and that others should pander to them.
People who are working for a living or running small businesses don’t have time to fill in opinion polls. They are, therefore, a skewed and unrepresentative sample.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

But they have time to post BTL?

I would say it is all that ‘Project Fear’ has been wildly successful, insanely successful. I would also say project fear was planned, and then instituted with a great many Psy-Opps techniques, and a very great many groups colluding who have NO Business playing Government Stooge, in fact it being utterly unethical for them to be doing so. Groups like The MSM, BBC, NHS, SAGE, WHO, CDC, Schools, Unions, Social Media, Corporations, Celebrities, Big Pharma, the Medical-Industrial Complex, and on and on.

The world turned against freedom and Rights, and a new age is on us now, a frightening one. The additional social chaos and militant woke ideology is merely a part of this huge conspiracy against the Western nations, and free people everywhere.

John K
John K
1 year ago

Opinion polls measure what those commissioning them want to be measured. Nothing more, nothing less. And if you ask the same question different ways you get very different answers.
So I look at all such polls with a very jaundiced eye.

Last edited 1 year ago by John K
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  John K

Polls have a bias, but are useful. I look at knee-jerk cynicism with a jaundiced eye. The Economist is pretty Left, but is a legitimate news source still, and I would suppose this poll was done fairly properly.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  John K

Hahahaa – my post is ‘Awaiting for Approval’ because I failed to use the required *, and so here it is again, c/p, with the offending letter redacted:
“Polls have a bias, but are useful. I look at knee-j* erk cynicism with a jaundiced eye. The Economist is pretty Left, but is a legitimate news source still, and I would suppose this poll was done fairly properly.”

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

Learning that the Chinese-governed WHO thinks that easing the UK lockdown is immoral provides great reassurance that it is well judged and timely; for, on the Toynbee scale of irrelevance and inaccuracy the WHO usually score 10

Last edited 1 year ago by Mike Doyle
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

“””well judged and timely”””
that statement would have been good 14 months ago.
Take USA, 1/2 locked down, 1/2 did not. How were the results different? Sweden and Belarus? The entire West Pacific, Koreas, Japan,. China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, no lockdowns but for a couple show ones, deaths per million running about 5 PER MILLION to the Western 2000 PER MILLION.
This lockdown was not about the virus. The youth and economy wrecked, education destroyed, the property ladder made more impossible to enter, jobs and small business destroyed, the healthy denied medical screening and treatment, the economy changed for ever and the super wealthy made super, super, wealthy – to save the over 82 year olds for another year of being locked up? No, this was all NWO.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Can we please see the bleeding questions? Without that information there is very little to understand.

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Exactly. The precise way the questions are phrased can make a huge difference to the responses.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago

see How to lie with statistics by Darrell Huff.

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
John K
John K
1 year ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Great book.
But opinion polls are arguably not even really statistics.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

As brilliant as it was (still is) the UK really could do with a new, updated, “Yes, Minister/ Prime Minister. Once again, we need an insightful, accessible, comedy about how government really works. After all, if they carried out a poll, I’m sure everyone would be in favour of conscription, aren’t they ?

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Agreed! And while we’re at it, let’s bring back Spitting Image on mainstream tv!

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

It would be better if these short articles contained more information. For example, how did the responses vary with age? Or between males and females?

I would expect older people to vote for lockdowns and females to vote for removing lockdowns.

Something which really bugs me is that ONS statistics show that twice as many women (compared to men) catch Covid but more than twice as many men (compared to women) die from Covid. To me this means that women want to hug their families and party with friends whilst the men just die.

I said this once on Unherd and men dismissed it talking about genetic issues. Could you imagine the shouts and cries if the figures were the other way around. “Women being let down by the NHS. Women suffering so that men can enjoy themselves”

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
1 year ago

Social taboos seem to be an increasing problem for polling.

Here in the US we had the phenomenon of “the hidden Trump voter” in 2016. Because it was deemed socially unacceptable to vote for Trump, pollsters had a hard time finding a representative sample or getting realistic responses from a representative sample.
Despite being aware of this, the same thing happened in the 2020 election.

Perhaps measures of behavior are becoming increasingly the only real indication of true social attitudes.

David Harris
David Harris
1 year ago

It would therefore seem that public attitudes towards <ADD ANY TOPIC HERE> are far more complex than the headlines and polls suggest.”