Survey finds tumbling trust in Boris Johnson’s handling of pandemic

Andrew Woodcock
·4 min read

Trust in Boris Johnson’s government to “do the right thing” has tumbled from 60 per cent at the height of the first lockdown to just 44 per cent now, according to a new survey.

And the study suggests that far from bringing the UK together, the coronavirus crisis has exposed divisions between its four constituent nations, with 75 per cent saying they are becoming more divided.

A majority (57 per cent) of Britons questioned for the annual Edelman Trust Barometer said the UK government had performed poorly in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And views on its performance are far more positive in England than in Scotland or Wales, with voters expressing more trust in the leaders of devolved administrations than in the central government in Westminster.

Meanwhile, almost half (44 per cent) of Britons feel that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal was bad for the UK, against less than one-third (31 per cent) who think it was good.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown

Edelman’s analysis said the study suggests that “the integrity of the United Kingdom may now be under threat, with perceived mishandling of the pandemic and dissatisfaction around Brexit fuelling widespread concern about the future of the Union between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland”.

The global communications firm’s Europe president Ed Williams said:The high spring tide of trust in government in April last year has ebbed away and revealed cracks in the United Kingdom.

“Whether these divisions can be repaired or represent growing fault lines is now a fundamental question for the future of the Union.

“For those looking to keep the UK together, building trust across all the nations and regions as the country emerges from the pandemic is an urgent and critical task, not just for government but for business and the media.”

The UK supplement to the global Trust Barometer sampled the opinions of more than 3,000 adults in the UK between 3 and 21 February.

Some 44 per cent of those in England, 60 per cent in Scotland, 53 per cent in Wales and 51 per cent in Northern Ireland said that the handling of the pandemic has had a negative impact on how they view the UK.

A majority (65 per cent) said the coronavirus crisis has made them realise how divided the countries that make up the UK are, with 61 per cent reporting a decreasing feeling of national unity and 59 per cent saying it has made the break-up of the Union more likely - a future which rose to 70 per cent in Scotland.

Just 24 per cent of those questioned overall said the UK government has performed well in its response to the pandemic.

But in Scotland, the figure was just 15 per cent, compared to 46 per cent who thought Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP administration in Edinburgh had performed well.

In Wales, just 21 per cent said Mr Johnson’s government had performed well, compared to 35 per cent who approved of the performance of Mark Drakeford’s Welsh government.

And Mr Johnson’s personal trust ratings trailed behind the leaders of devolved administrations.

Just 32 per cent of people in Wales, 34 per cent in Scotland and 32 per cent in Northern Ireland said they trusted the prime minister, compared to 41 per cent in England.

By contrast, Ms Sturgeon enjoyed the trust of 62 per cent in Scotland and Mr Drakeford 43 per cent in Wales. Only the DUP first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, scored lower on trust than the PM in her home nation, with 31 per cent.

However, with May’s elections to the Holyrood parliament just months away and Ms Sturgeon agitating for a second independence referendum, it was unclear that dissatisfaction with Westminster would translate into a vote to break away from the UK.

Some 40 per cent of Scots polled by Edelman said they would back independence, against 41 who would vote to stay in the UK. With almost 20 per cent unsure how they would vote, the results suggested that any poll could go either way.

In Wales just 25 per cent said they would back independence, with 58 per cent against.

Watch: The political U-turns and broken promises of 2020

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