At first glance, these numbers might shock you. But there’s little reason to doubt them, for reasons we’ll come to in a moment:
47% think the worst of the pandemic is ahead of us, the highest level reported since April
52% think there should be more restrictions, similar to the levels reported in March
— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) September 21, 2020
Those figures were released by the Government, yesterday evening, and come from the Government’s own polling, conducted by Amárach research. You’d better believe they’re polling this stuff relentlessly, too: No politician worth their salt is going to make a decision like the one they’ve just taken in relation to Dublin without polling it extensively first to make sure that most of the voters are at least tolerant of it.
Some more figures that stand out from the poll:
Less than one in five people (17%) think that the “worst of Covid is behind us”, compared to the 47% who think that the worst is yet to come.
Only 29% say “no” when asked if there should be more restrictions.
These results might shock people, but the evidence internationally has been that, for want of a better term, the silent majority in most western countries is in favour of the lockdown and more restrictions. And the noisy minority are actually those who are opposed. That doesn’t mean the majority is right, of course, or that the minority is wrong, but the pattern is clear.
As Israel looks highly likely to face a second nationwide lockdown due to high morbidity rates, more than half of Israelis support the move, a new poll published Sunday morning showed.
The survey, conducted by Panels Politics and revealed on radio 103FM, showed that 55 percent support a lockdown in order to curtail the coronavirus spread versus 36 percent who oppose.
And the UK:
Premier Daniel Andrews’ handling of the second COVID-19 outbreak has the backing of a majority of Victorians while nearly two-thirds of Australian voters rate the state’s lockdown as “about right”, the latest Newspoll suggests.
The poll for The Australian shows 62 per cent of Victorian voters agree the premier has managed the crisis well, despite a hotel quarantine bungle that unleashed a second wave of the virus.
Separately, 61 per cent of voters around Australia, including 57 per cent of coalition voters, say the restrictions which locked Victorians at home and prevented them from travelling interstate were appropriate.
Go to any western country that has had a Covid lockdown, or that’s talking about a new one, and the picture is the same: A majority, often a supermajority, of voters support it.
Part of it, of course, is that the public have, by and large, been cushioned from the economic impact of the lockdowns to date. Ask pub owners do they support the lockdown continuing, and you’ll get a different answer. But somebody who owns a business and is watching it sink is likely to give a different answer to somebody getting by on state support and getting to spend more time with their family.
The other element to this is that the lockdown tends to have significant support amongst older voters, who are most afraid of catching covid and dying. In the US, for example, concerns about Covid amongst older voters are the thing that is keeping Joe Biden ahead of President Trump in the polls. Four years ago, Trump won older voters, but this year, Biden is the one saying “I can keep you safe”, and it’s working for him.
Though there’s no demographic breakdown in the Irish Government poll, you’d be shocked to see a different result. For middle aged people, Covid is an inconvenience. For older people, it might be life and death. They’re keener on a lockdown than their children are.
The wrinkle to all of this, though, is that polls only tell you what people believe now, today. Ask them again in two years, as the country is going through its third consecutive budget from hell, whether they supported the lockdown, and you might find that some of them forget that they did.
In the meantime, though, lockdown sceptics should be aware that they’re in a minority, and try to understand the reasons why.