Findings from first COVID-19 survey: trust in government, and in others, during the lockdown in May 2020

Over 29,000 study members across five cohort studies, including Next Steps, completed one or both of our first two COVID-19 surveys, in May and September to October 2020. Your responses are helping us understand the impact of the pandemic on many different aspects of your lives. Researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) have done some initial analysis on answers you gave to questions in the first survey about compliance with social distancing guidelines and trust in government and in others.

Strong compliance with social distancing

People in all generations reported very high levels of compliance with the social distancing guidelines in May. Self-rated compliance, when asked ‘how much would you say you are complying with the guidelines’ ranged from an average of 8.9/10 for age 19 to an average of 9.3/10 for age 74 with 10 being complete compliance. Around two-thirds of 62- and 74-year olds reported they were completely compliant (10/10), with around a half of the members of the three younger cohorts including Next Steps scoring themselves the maximum compliance. The average reported compliance for your generation was 9.1. Women were more likely than men to report they had been completely compliant in all but the youngest generation, and older women were the most likely of all to report they had been completely compliant.

Trust in government

Members of the three older generations surveyed (ages 74, 62 and 50) reported the highest levels of trust in government in contrast to their younger counterparts (ages 30 and 19). The 30-year-olds reported the lowest average trust levels. Average trust in government did not differ by gender or social class, although people from ethnic minority backgrounds, ages 30 and 19, displayed much lower average levels of trust in government than their White counterparts. A majority of study members reported no change in their level of trust in the Government (54-60% depending on cohort) in May 2020 compared to how much trust they had just before the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020.

Trust in others

Across all generations, the majority of study members (60-75%) reported no decrease or increase in their trust towards others in their local area compared to before the outbreak. For those who did report change, much more change was reported as an increase in trust.

The concept of trust

The concept of trust is multi-layered, and the researchers recognised where government is the object of trust it may also cover trust in the Prime Minister, the cabinet, or politicians in general or the role of government advisors. Trust in others can have different meanings for different people and is likely to include a specific person or persons, family, friends and/or neighbours, depending on how participants interpret ‘others’.

Why this research is important

This analysis refers to a period of time when the lockdown was still quite a new experience for study members. We asked you questions about trust in the second survey in September to October and we will ask you again in our third survey. Researchers will be able to use the information from all three surveys to see whether and how levels of trust have changed at different stages of the pandemic.
A big thank you to all study members, across the five studies, who completed our COVID-19 survey.

Further information

Trust in government and others during the COVID-19 pandemic – initial findings from COVID-19 survey (Download – opens PDF in a separate window)