COVID-19: A year in review

May 31, 2021, 7:57 AM GMT+0

A recent YouGov/ICL webinar explored the data we have collected over the COVID-19 pandemic since launching our study in March 2020 – amounting to 42m datapoints from 413,000 participants.

Led by Marcus Roberts, International Projects Director at YouGov, and Sarah Jones, a researcher at Imperial College London and a Scientific Advisor to YouGov, the session explored public attitudes to the crisis across four continents and 29 countries.

Here’s what the webinar covered.

The impact of COVID-19 and the post-COVID future

The session highlighted the economic impact of the pandemic in Britain – specifically, workers who’ve been placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays up to 80% of salaries to help employers retain workers during the complex economic conditions of the crisis. While senior government figures have allegedly talked about “weaning people off” the scheme, our data shows that most employees on furlough say it has been bad for their mental health (51%), with just one in five (19%) saying it has had a positive impact in this area.

And small wonder. The webinar revealed that, among workers on furlough, nearly three in five (57%) say they’re worried about losing their jobs – and over two in five (44%) are worried that their careers will stall while they’re using the scheme.

Beyond job prospects, many global workers have found that aspects of the “new normal” are generally to their liking. In America, for example, over two-thirds (68%) of employees who started working from home during the pandemic said that they wanted to stay remote at least some of the time. Some 57% of Britons who started working from home said the same.

But if the session pointed out that life after COVID has its perks, it also revealed that half (49%) of the British public think it will be hard to re-adjust to life after the pandemic. When asked what the most difficult thing about post-pandemic life might be, a third say being out in public with other people and crowds (34%), and 16% expect some difficulty with socializing. The pandemic may have made us more socially awkward than we were before.

Travel is another aspect of “the new normal” that people have varying degrees of comfort with. In the US, two in five aren’t planning on going anywhere this summer (42%), but nearly as many are (37%). The American public, however, are very much in favour of vaccine passports.

Taking a broader view of the COVID situation, respondents are more likely to say their national coronavirus situation is improving – and decidedly less enthusiastic about the global situation.

Global behaviours and attitudes

The next stage of the session focused on YouGov/ICL’s behaviour tracker, which has measured adherence to preventive measures, life satisfaction, trust in governments, and attitudes towards vaccination.

The data showed that face mask usage increased in all countries surveyed between April 2020 and 2021 – and was at its highest in Korea, Spain, and Singapore (97% for all). Australia (42%) and Sweden remain remain outliers in terms of low uptake.

The webinar also highlighted a growing phenomenon: self-isolation fatigue. While seven in ten (70%) of the global public said they were willing to self-isolate if advised to do so, this proportion saw a year-on-year decline in many markets.

Vaccine uptake

The data shows that willingness to take the vaccine between November 2020 and April 2021 increased in all countries save Australia – where half of the unvaccinated public (51%) are still willing to get vaccinated.

Concerns around vaccine side effects also appear to be decreasing among the unvaccinated in most markets, although Denmark is an exception: rising to 45% from 42% in November 2020. When vaccine refuseniks are asked about their primary concerns, the most common are side effects – cited by nearly half of Americans (48%) and two in five French respondents (41%) - and concerns about lack of testing (41% US; 33% France). Concerns around vaccine effectiveness and potential regrets were also key consideration. Overall, US respondents were more likely to report a multitude of factors behind why they would not get the vaccine, and Europeans would just report one or two.

The full session covered all of the above and much more in greater detail. You can watch the webinar here.