Visiting family is the most common lockdown breach, polling shows

A majority of voters want restrictions to continue unchanged but the young admit to struggling to abide by them.

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A clear majority of UK voters want the Covid-19 lockdown to continue unaltered beyond this week and overwhelming numbers say they have complied fully with restrictions so far, polling for the New Statesman has found.

With Boris Johnson due to decide on whether to ease social distancing measures designed to stop the spread of Covid-19 on Sunday (9 May), new polling by Redfield and Wilton Strategies found widespread public support for the stringent rules imposed on 23 March.

However, a significant minority admitted to flouting the rules, with clandestine visits to family the most popular unauthorised activity. Despite pressure from Conservative MPs and sections of the media, some 59 per cent of voters want lockdown to be extended in its current form beyond 7 May, nearly double the number – 32 per cent – who favour a partial relaxation that allows non-essential businesses to re-open and people to gather in small groups.

Only 3 per cent of voters want the measures to be lifted completely. Support for a total relaxation of lockdown was most pronounced among voters who backed the Brexit Party at the 2019 general election, 9 per cent of whom want the government to transition to a regime that allowed life before the restrictions to resume.

Redfield and Wilton’s findings also suggest that young people are more likely to disobey lockdown rules. While 70 per cent of people overall said they had “fully observed” the lockdown measures since they were announced on 23 March, the equivalent figure among 25 to 34-year-olds fell to 61 per cent.

Some 25 per cent of all respondents said they had “mostly” observed the restrictions, rising to 34 per cent for 25 to 34 year olds. Of all respondents, 3 per cent said they had “somewhat” complied while 1 per cent said they had “scarcely” observed the rules. By comparison, 3 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds and 2 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds said they were scarcely complying.

The reasons given by those who admitted to less than full compliance with the restrictions highlight the pressures of life under the one-size-fits-all lockdown. Some 38 per cent of those who said they had not fully observed the rules said they had found avoiding interactions with family members with whom they did not share a home to be most difficult. That figure rose to nearly half – 47 per cent – of 35 to 44-year-olds, and 40 per cent of 18 to 24 and 25 to 34-year-olds.

Meanwhile, 28 per cent said they had found it most difficult to avoid leaving home for work. The same number reported finding it most difficult to avoid seeing friends they did not live with, rising to 43 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Nearly a quarter – 24 per cent – struggled most to avoid leaving the house for exercise more than once a day, 22 per cent found it most difficult to avoid non-essential journeys on public transport, while 18 per cent had most trouble avoiding small gatherings in public.

On the latter, the young again admitted they had the trickiest time complying. A reported 20 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, 28 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds and 33 per cent of 35 to 44-year-olds fell identified themselves as having had most trouble with small gatherings.

Patrick Maguire was political correspondent at the New Statesman.

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