Public support for government collapses as ministers face barrage of criticism over coronavirus crisis

James MorrisSenior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Yahoo News UK
More people disapprove of Boris Johnson's government for the first time since early March, YouGov polling suggests. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
More people disapprove of Boris Johnson's government for the first time since early March, YouGov polling suggests. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

Support for the government has plummeted since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, new polling suggests.

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Amid the UK’s continued struggles with the COVID-19 outbreak, a YouGov tracker updated on Tuesday shows more voters – 42% – disapprove of Boris Johnson’s administration for the first time since early March. Some 39% currently approve.

Chris Curtis, from YouGov, said it was a sign “things are returning to normal” after initial unity at the beginning of the outbreak.

However, he also said it could reflect growing unease at the government’s handling of the crisis.

(YouGov)
(YouGov)

Since the lockdown was introduced, the UK’s coronavirus death toll rose to the second highest in the world, with thousands of deaths happening in care homes.

The government has been questioned about issues ranging from a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care workers, to its plans for primary school children to return to school next month.

It has also been accused of confused messaging after lockdown restrictions were eased last week.

The last time more people disapproved of the government on the tracker was on 7, 8 and 9 March – at the beginning of the outbreak – when 37% disapproved compared to 36% who approved.

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The government’s popularity then peaked at 52% on 21, 22 and 23 March, when the lockdown was imposed. At that point, just 27% disapproved of its performance.

However, its ratings have gradually declined ever since, with Number 10 having faced growing questions about its response to the pandemic.

Curtis, political research manager at YouGov, told Yahoo News UK of the latest figures: “Things are returning to normal. We have been tracking government approval for nearly two decades and for almost all of that time, there have been more people disapproving of the government than approving.

“At the start of the crisis, any crisis, what you see is a ‘rally around the flag’ effect, where people who are normally politically opposed to the government rally around it because they believe in national unity.

“But as the crisis goes on, there is more criticism of the government. Opposition parties and the media start criticising the government again and we start to see numbers returning to normal.”

He went on: “Having said that, I think it’s fair to say last week was particularly bad for the government.

“The public is very nervous about easing lockdown restrictions, they are worried the government is going too far and too quickly in doing so.

“Therefore, the fact the messaging around the easing of lockdown was a bit of a mess has meant the public – which previously had a lot of confidence in what the government was doing – is now feeling a lot more uneasy.”

However, other polling has shown Johnson’s Conservatives remain favoured by the electorate compared to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour.

An Opinium poll released on Sunday showed 49% of people would vote for the Tories in an election, with 34% choosing Labour.

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