New research: politics in the time of Coronavirus

COVID 19 has upended the national conversation, suspending interest in everything else and dominating politics and the media landscape. 

Even post-Brexit, hot-topics such as political leadership, trust in experts, and fake news are back at the top of the agenda. Our forthcoming 2020 research looks in detail at public perceptions of experts, and what kind of expertise is valued.

The research, completed yesterday, also had some timely and relevant findings to the ongoing debate on Boris Johnson’s reliance on expert opinion to guide the Government’s response to the pandemic.

  • The British public are pleased Boris Johnson is guiding the country through the COVID 19 crisis, rating his leadership ability at 5.3/10, compared to Jeremy Corbyn at 3.6/10. Brits think much more highly of their own Prime Minister’s leadership ability than the American President, with Donald Trump scoring 3.8/10.
  • 78% of Brits agree that experts are important because without expert knowledge and research we won’t develop as a society.
  • Unsurprisingly given the present situation, medical doctors are the most valued kind of expert in the UK, seen as valuable by 92% of the population, compared to technologists (75%), academics (67%), economists (61%), and political experts (42%). 
  • But at the same time half of us (49%) believe our politicians place too much emphasis on evidence and not enough on instinct or common sense, and half (48%) think that facts and stats should be less important than common sense in politics.
  • We can’t tell what the truth is. 60% are not always sure how to tell whether something is a fact or not. A third of us (31%) think that there are just too many facts in the world.

This unique situation has turned the world upside down for billions across the world. People are hungry for accurate, trustworthy information about the risks of coronavirus and the behaviours we should follow to reduce the risk to ourselves and our community. 

It’s no surprise in this climate we are hungry for expert advice, and that medical doctors are the UK’s most trusted expert. Politicians would be wise to base policy on sound evidence, demonstrate sound leadership, and ensure they communicate in a compelling way to maintain public trust.

We’ll share more details on our 2020 research in due course, but if you have any comments or questions on what we have published here, get in touch.

N.B.: We interviewed n=1,092 UK adults aged 18+ by online survey. The sample was nationally representative by age, gender and region. Fieldwork was conducted between 6th and 16th March 2020.March 17, 2020.

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