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Britain Barometer February 2021

25 February 2021

Majority of Britons support vaccine passports for travel

The Britain Barometer is our regular polling of public opinion in Britain.  We cover a range of topics including political views and voting intentions, the economy, government policies and emerging issues important to the British public.

Our latest public opinion research finds increasing levels of approval of the government’s handling of COVID-19, improvements in economic outlook and a view that police, fire and army should be prioritised for phase two of the vaccinations.

Findings from research, which took place between 18 and 22 February, reveal:

  • Frontline emergency services are the group selected by most people to be prioritised for phase two of vaccines (58%), followed by people who work in supermarkets and essential shops (46%) and teachers (44%).
  • Over seven in ten (77%, no change vs January 2021) say they have already or would definitely/probably get a COVID-19 vaccine. In December 2020, 65% of people said they would definitely/probably do so.
  • 63% strongly support/tend to support the introduction of a vaccine passport to allow overseas travel into and out of the UK this summer.
  • 64% agree/strongly agree that “the school summer term should be extended by one or two weeks into August to help pupils catch up with their education”.
  • One in three think it will not be “not very safe”/“not at all safe” for teachers, parents and children for schools to reopen as planned (35%)
  • 45% of people think that the government are handling the COVID-19 outbreak very/fairly well (+5), the highest proportion since May 2020 when it was 49%.

More detailed analysis on themes

1. Impacts of household budgets

After several months of gloomy economic impacts reported by the public, there are some signs of recovery in this months’ research:

  • Fewer people in February say it is harder for them to meet their monthly household budget than it was 12 months ago: 26% vs 39% in January.
  • Fewer people in February state that their job feels “less secure compared to a year ago”: 30%, compared to 38% in January. This is the lowest figure since the beginning of the pandemic in the UK in March 2020 (26%).
  • Fewer people now report that coronavirus has reduced their personal income: 35% compared to 42% in January.
  • When asked to think about how the economy will be doing in 12 months’ time, 30% say worse than it is now (-4). This is the lowest figure since the pandemic began.

The weeks ahead will reveal the 2021 Budget and the end of government-backed COVID-19 support schemes such as furlough. Our research finds that 45% (-4) rate the government’s response to supporting companies that have faced closure and revenue loss as very/fairly poor, compared to 34% (-1) who rate it as very/fairly good.

2. Attitudes towards vaccination and the roll out

Compared to January, a larger proportion of people are satisfied with the vaccine rollout; more than three quarters of people (76%) are very/somewhat satisfied with the vaccine rollout organised by government and health authorities, compared to 61% last month.

Over six in ten (63%) strongly support/tend to support the introduction of a vaccine passport to allow overseas travel into and out of the UK this summer, but it varies considerably by age: 81% of 65+ strongly support/tend to support, compared with half of those aged 18-34. Further, the public are split about the question of if the vaccine should be compulsory: 44% (-5) think the vaccine should be mandatory, compared to 43% (+3) who think adults should be able to choose.

Less than one in seven (14%) of people say they definitely/probably would not plan to be vaccinated, compared to 17% in January and 23% in December 2020. Of this group, the main reasons given as to why not are:

  • 23% think the threat has been overexaggerated
  • 22% think coronavirus will go away or get less severe on its own
  • 22% say they do not trust the intentions of those creating the vaccines

The study also found that older people are the most positive towards the government’s response to the outbreak:

  • 64% of those aged 65+ think the government are handling the COVID-19 outbreak very/fairly well.
  • 69% of those aged 65+ rate the government positively in how it is communicating information about the coronavirus outbreak.
  • 94% of those aged 65+ are satisfied with the way the government and health authorities have organised the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine so far.
3. Travel and boarder control 

In response to the new rules regarding entry into England, almost two thirds (65%) approve/strongly approve of the new quarantine rules for red list countries, although approval varies considerably by age: 86% of those aged 65+ approve, compared with 46% of 18-24-year-olds and 53% of 25-34-year-olds.

4. Views on back to school plans 

With schools in Scotland and Wales beginning to reopen already, and schools in England now due to go back on 8 March, research conducted over the weekend before the England dates were confirmed found that:

  • 61% agree/strongly agree that “the government should prioritise re-opening schools even if this means restaurants, pubs and other non-essential shops have to stay closed”
  • 55% agree/strongly agree that “the government should prioritise re-opening schools even if this means other lockdown restrictions (such as meeting people from other households and travel within the UK) have to be extended”
  • 51% think re-opening schools will be very/fairly safe for teachers, children and their families. However, 35% think it will be not very/not at all safe.

5. Views on Brexit

Following the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement being ratified by UK Parliament at the end of 2020, the public are expecting an impact on their everyday lives:

  • A majority expect their regular food shop to become a bit/much more expensive as a result of Brexit (59%, -9), compared to 4% (-1) who think it will become a bit/much cheaper.
  • 35% (-8) say they are more likely to buy British produce as a result of Brexit, compared to 5% (nc) who say they are less likely to, and 37% (nc) who say there has been no change.

When asked if the UK should apply for EU membership if the general economic situation is much worse in the UK than the EU in five years’ time, 27% (-2) said yes, 17% (+5) said maybe and 33% (+3) said no.

6. Voting intentions

  • Con 40% (nc vs January 2021)
  • Lab 33% (-4)
  • Lib Dem 11% (+1)
  • Green 6% (+1)
  • SNP 4% (nc)
  • Reform UK (formerly Brexit Party) 3% (+1)
  • UKIP 2% (+1)
  • Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)
  • Other 1% (nc)

7. Methodological information 

A total of 1,114 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between 18 and 22 February 2021. All interviews were conducted as online self-completion. The Kantar online access panel was the main sample source.

The data was weighted to match population totals for age, gender, 2019 General Election voting patterns, 2016 EU referendum voting patterns, education, region, and likelihood to vote in the next General Election. Any use of this research must cite Kantar as the source.

More Britain Barometers

This Britain Barometer was issued under our former global brand name: Kantar Public.  

Richard Crawshaw
Senior Research Scientist United Kingdom

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