The majority of people were in favor of tough measures on the UK’s initial lockdown – but only around half thought the government was doing a good job of fighting the coronavirus, according to a study.
Almost 97% of those polled were in favor of governments having the power to force people to change their behavior in the first wave, but only 52% thought officials make good decisions, researchers said.
Researchers have warned that those responsible cannot rely on the so-called “crisis effect” in the long term and that a lack of public trust could hamper efforts to fight the virus.
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University College London (UCL) project collected data from more than 9,000 adults living in the UK using an online survey dated April 2020.
Just over a third (36%) believed the government had “always or mostly” told the truth about Covid-19, according to the study published in PLOS One Journal.
The scientists involved asked people to share their experience with lockdown and used sophisticated machine learning approaches to figure out where participants were talking about topics related to trust and transparency.
They said the poll asked about “the government” and was mainly interpreted as referring to central government, but some respondents from decentralized nations made a distinction in their responses between their perspectives on Westminster and their decentralized government.
Dr. Luisa Enria, assistant professor at LSHTM and lead author of the study, said: “In times of crisis and uncertainty, citizens may be willing to accept a lower level of transparency for reasons of national security.
“However, if this is a crisis effect caused by sudden dramatic changes and a climate of fear and uncertainty, then government cannot necessarily rely on it in the long term to maintain trust and support in control policies. ”
Dr. Enria said many respondents had raised concerns about the extent to which science was actually used as a guide for policy, how consistent communication was, how few policy decisions were made, and what real motivations the government had were also among the concerns.
The study found that Scottish participants had significantly lower levels of confidence compared to those living in London, while people from the West Midlands, east and south-east of England had significantly higher levels of confidence.
The researchers recommended that the government develop targeted community engagement measures and adapt their news and public discussions to address the differences in experiences and perspectives across the country.
They said this could help maintain policy support and compliance going forward.