Coronavirus (COVID-19) Polling Round-Up

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Westco polling round-up

We have recently developed and launched our online tracker survey for our public sector and local authority clients  to engage with and monitor residents and local businesses on the personal and financial impact of COVID-19, their concerns and support they have accessed/need from their local authorities. These trackers are:

  • Quick to turnaround to launch and gather results
  • Low cost
  • Highly useful in terms of providing actionable insight to inform both crisis response and recovery
  • Monitor and track trends over time, whilst benchmarking against national data and other Westco tracker surveys

If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact our Executive Research Director, Caroline Roper, for more information  (caroline@westcocommunications.com).

In the last couple of weeks, many market research agencies have started to publish the first findings from polls tracking the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Over the coming weeks, we will be regularly updating our clients on these results, particularly in regard to behaviours, concerns and support/needs of residents and businesses, and the effect this may have on local government and public sector communications and decision making.  The latest findings are provided below.

 

Behaviour

All polling indicates that there has been significant behaviour change amongst the UK public over a short period of time.

UK residents are clearly obeying restrictions imposed by the Government’s lockdown. An Ipsos MORI poll found that 60% were following these restrictions ‘completely’ and 27% followed these rules ‘nearly all the time’[1].  Similarly, a YouGov poll found that 41% had not left their house ‘at all’ and 47% had only left their house ‘once’, the day before they were surveyed[2].

The Ipsos poll found that the vast majority were also following other Government guidelines:

  • 94% said they stay 2 metres apart from people outside of their home
  • 93% avoid places where people gather
  • 93% wash their hands more often and for 20 seconds
  • 90% cover their mouth when they cough

This is good news as it shows that the vast majority of the population report that they are following the Government’s guidance on social distancing – which will reduce the transmission rates of coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, it does mean that the challenge local government faces is to maintain these high levels of adherence. On average, UK residents thought it would be six weeks before they would find it difficult to cope with the lockdown restrictions, but 79% thought that it would be 3 months or longer before these restrictions are lifted. It is important that councils signpost the support that is already available to residents and identify any gaps in that provision[3].

 

Concerns

One of the top concerns of the public and businesses is the economy.

One of the ways local government can help residents is by addressing their concerns. In the latest wave of a poll conducted by MARU, the ‘economy’ was one of UK residents’ top concerns (65%), followed by the physical and mental health of the respondent’s family (59% and 51% respectively)[4]. Concerns about the financial impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) were backed up in the Ipsos MORI survey which found that 73% or people felt that the coronavirus (COVID-19) will have a financial impact on the respondent or their family[5].  

Concern about the financial impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is also shared by businesses. In a survey conducted by the Government, 45% of businesses surveyed had experienced a lower than normal turnover. Of those that had experienced lower levels of turnover than normal, 98% said that this was because of the virus[6].

The Government’s survey also found that 46% of businesses had made it mandatory for staff to work from home. More worryingly, over a quarter of businesses had reported reducing staff levels (27%) and almost three out of ten reported decreasing working hours (29%)[7].

These polls demonstrate that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having a tangible effect on people’s economic wellbeing. Increasingly, residents may feel that they have to make trade-offs between following Government guidance on social distancing and the need to earn money in order to support themselves. It is important that local government communications focus on the range of schemes available to residents and businesses to help them during this period of national crisis.

 

Communications

There has been significant shifts in media consumption and habits in the last couple of weeks. The perceived rise in false or misleading information has also seen a shift in using and consuming “trusted” outlets and sources.

Along with significant changes in behaviour, there have been big changes in media consumption habits. In general, multiple polls have found that people are consuming more news and are consuming it more frequently. An OFCOM survey found that 99% of UK residents accessed the news at least daily and around a quarter said that they were getting news upwards of 20 times a day[8]. YouGov also identified increases in news consumption, on the 12th March 39% of their respondents were consuming general news content, by the 26th March this has increased to 66%. The same YouGov poll found that consumption of all forms of media, not just news, had increased, as a result of lockdown. For instance, there has been a 40% increase in the consumption of T.V./movies, 31% increase in the consumption of content on Facebook and 30% increase in the consumption of on demand television[9]. Local government needs to respond to the volume and rate of media consumption. Daily updates are important even if updates confirm that there have been no significant changes. Council communications teams should also be prepared to respond more quickly to enquires and stories. 

In addition to the volume of news consumed, there are also clear preferences for particular media outlets – notably the BBC. The OFCOM survey found that the vast majority of UK residents use BBC news sources for information about coronavirus (82%) and a similar proportion trust the BBC for factual information (83%). Similarly, a Havas Media Group survey found that 64% of respondents cited the BBC as their most trusted news source for factually correct information[10].

The OFCOM survey also shows that aside from the BBC, UK residents are likely to trust ‘official’ sources and established media brands highly. For instance, amongst official sources the NHS is most trusted (95%), followed by the WHO (94%), local health services (91%), official scientists (90%) and the Government (89%). Trust in established broadcast brands like Chanel 4 (83%) and Sky (75%) is also high[11].

Local government should prioritise getting media coverage from established media brands, in particular broadcasters and especially the BBC. As councils are already ‘official’ sources of information, prioritising media coverage from traditional news organisations reinforces the validity of the information councils seeks to promote.

The usage of traditional sources could be linked with the prevalence of false or misleading information. OFCOM’s survey found that 46% reported seeing inaccurate or misleading information. Of those that found misleading or false information, 66% said they had seen this information daily[12].

These changes to media consumption habits benefit local government because council communication channels are seen as ‘official’ sources and therefore have credibility when it comes to providing information about coronavirus (COVID-19). At this time, it is important for councils to reach their audiences directly, rather than through intermediaries (such as influencers), as local authorities are seen as trusted messengers. Local government communications teams should also consider citing information from other sources that are also viewed as ‘official’, i.e. from Central Government, and the NHS, as these are also viewed as trusted and reliable sources.

 

Author: Rishi Moulton, Associate Director (Research & Insight) at Westco.

 

[1] King’s College London/Ipsos Mori, ‘Life under lockdown: coronavirus in the UK’, 1-3 April 2020. Base: 2250 UK residents aged between 18-75 (source: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/coronavirus_in_the_uk.pdf)

[2] YouGov, ‘COVID-19 Tracker’, 1-7 April 2020, Base 1000 UK Residents (source: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/international/articles-reports/2020/04/11/yougovimperial-college-study-examines-how-well-pub)

[3] King’s College London/Ipsos Mori, ‘Life under lockdown: coronavirus in the UK’, 1-3 April 2020. Base: 2250 UK residents aged between 18-75 (source: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/coronavirus_in_the_uk.pdf)

[4] MARU/BLUE, ‘The UK During COVID-19’, 2-3 April. Base: 1000 UK residents (source: https://marureports.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/MaruReports-COVID19_UK-Infographic_02.04_week-3.pdf

[5] King’s College London/Ipsos Mori, ‘Life under lockdown: coronavirus in the UK’, 1-3 April 2020. Base: 2250 UK residents aged between 18-75 (source: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/coronavirus_in_the_uk.pdf)

[6] UK Government, ‘Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey’, 9-22 March. Base: 3642 UK businesses (source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronavirustheukeconomyandsocietyfasterindicators/dataasat2april2020)

[7] UK Government, ‘Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey’, 9-22 March. Base: 3642 UK businesses (source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronavirustheukeconomyandsocietyfasterindicators/dataasat2april2020)

[8] OFCOM, ‘Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes’, 27-29 March. Base: 2000 UK residents with access to the internet (source: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/193747/covid-19-news-consumption-week-one-findings.pdf)

[9] YouGov, ‘COVID-19 Tracker’, 1-7 April 2020, Base 1000 UK Residents (source: https://campaign.yougov.com/webinar-recording-uk.html?utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_source=CTA&utm_campaign=UK_2020_04_COVID-19_Newsletter)

[10] Havas Media Group, ‘Covid-19 Media Behaviours Report’, 23 March, Base: 1478 UK residents

[11] OFCOM, ‘Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes’, 27-29 March. Base: 2000 UK residents with access to the internet (source: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/193747/covid-19-news-consumption-week-one-findings.pdf)

[12] OFCOM, ‘Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes’, 27-29 March. Base: 2000 UK residents with access to the internet (source: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/193747/covid-19-news-consumption-week-one-findings.pdf)

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