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The limitations of polling data in understanding public support for COVID-19 lockdown policies

Foad, Colin M. ORCID:, Whitmarsh, Lorraine, Hannel, Paul H. and Haddock, Geoffrey ORCID: 2021. The limitations of polling data in understanding public support for COVID-19 lockdown policies. Royal Society Open Science 8 (7) , 210678. 10.1098/rsos.210678

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Opinion polls regarding policies designed to tackle COVID-19 have shown public support has remained high throughout the first year of the pandemic in most places around the world. However, there is a risk that headline support over-simplifies people's views. We carried out a two-wave survey with six-month interval on a public sample (N = 212) in the UK, examining the factors that underpin lockdown policy support. We find that the majority of people support most public health measures introduced, but that they also see significant side effects of these policies, and that they consider many of these side effects as unacceptable in a cost–benefit analysis. We also find that people judged the threat of COVID-19 via the magnitude of the policy response, and that they do not use their perception of the personal threat to themselves or close others to guide their support for policy. Polling data only offer one simple perspective and do not illustrate the ambivalence many people feel around lockdown policies. There is also a meaningful risk of public opinion and government policy forming a symbiotic relationship, which impacts upon how effectively such policies are implemented both now, and in relation to future threats.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
Publisher: The Royal Society
ISSN: 2054-5703
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 July 2021
Date of Acceptance: 23 June 2021
Last Modified: 08 May 2023 13:29

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