What do people in the UK think of the new restrictions?

Almost two-thirds of Britons accept that there will be restrictions to everyone’s everyday life until there is a vaccine.
23 September 2020
Sept Britain Barometer- web
Luke Taylor

Head of Opinion Polling, Public Division, UK

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Our latest monthly barometer on British public opinion and voting intentions finds doubts over the effectiveness of the new ‘rule of six’, growing job insecurity, and widespread agreement that schools should remain open, even if it means other non-essential places would have to close. 

Key findings from the research, which took place between 17 and 21 September, reveal:

  • There has been an increase in the proportion of Britons who think that the pace at which the government is adjusting restrictions to everyday life a bit/much too slow, at 42%, up from 25% in August*. Now, 20% of people say they think it is a bit or much too fast, compared to 33% in August. 27% think the government have got it about right (-4)
  • Looking to the future, almost one in three (31%, +5) of those working think that their job is not at all / not very secure in the period to the end of 2020, with two thirds (59%, -6) of those working think that their job is very/somewhat secure
  • Thinking about the future for the country, almost two in three Britons (64%) say they think that we should accept that there will be restrictions on all our lives until there is everyday testing and/or a vaccine for COVID-19. Just over one in four (26%) say instead that they think the most vulnerable should be asked to self-isolate while the rest of the country goes back to work and normal life
  • As the government moves to implement fresh restrictions on the public to limit the spread of COVID-19, the public view on local lockdowns is dimming, although they are more popular than the new “rule of six”. 75% (-7 vs last month) of people approve or strongly approve of the government using local lockdowns to tackle outbreaks of coronavirus, compared to 64% who say the same of the ‘rule of six’ (not asked in August)
  • 67% of people strongly/agree that it is important that schools remain open and 60% of people strongly / agree that the government should prioritize schools remaining open even if this means restaurants, pubs or other non-essential shops would have to close
  • 35% of people (-6) say they ‘definitely’ plan to get vaccinated if a coronavirus is developed, compared to 29% (+3) who say ‘probably’
  • When asked about the UK government negotiating the future relationship with the EU, 57% of people think they are being handled fairly/very poorly (+12), compared to 24% who said very/fairly well (-7)

Overall, expectations for the economy and the personal impacts are austere, with over a third (35%, +3) reporting that coronavirus has reduced their personal income. Of that group, 25% expect this reduction to be permanent (+6).

Perceptions of actions and intervention to tackle COVID-19

Whilst three quarters of people (76%, nc) are very/fairly concerned that there will be a second wave of coronavirus infections in the UK, the public view of just how effective these tools are is dropping:

  • Fewer people in September think that local lockdowns are fairly/very effective (56%), compared to August (69%). 38% of people say they think the “rule of six” will be fairly/very effective in tackling the spread of coronavirus
  • 50% of people think people in their area understand the new rules of six** a lot/fair amount, compared to 42% who think they understand them not very much/not at all. However, almost two in three people (64%) approve/strongly approve of these new rules, compared to 25% who disapprove/strongly disapprove
  • Public perception of how the UK government is handling the crisis remains poor, with six in ten (60%, +4) stating that they think the government is handling the coronavirus outbreak very/fairly poorly. Fewer than four in ten (32%, -7) think that the government are handling it very/fairly well.

Voting intentions

  • Conservative 40% (-2 vs August 2020)
  • Labour 38% (+3)
  • Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)
  • SNP 4% (-2)
  • Green 4% (+1)
  • The Brexit Party 3% (nc)
  • UKIP 2% (+1)
  • Plaid Cymru 1% (nc)
  • Other 1% (nc)

Methodological information

The survey data and further details on the methodological approach can be found here. A total of 1,125 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between 17 and 21 September 2020. 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.


*A representative sample of 1,161 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between 6 and 10 August 2020. All interviews were conducted as online self-completion with Kantar online access panel as the main sample source.

**Question was preceded with description of the local “rule of six” details for England, Scotland and Wales for respondents in those nations. The full question wording is provided at the end of the data tables.

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