Overall approval for the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic is now positive for the first time since May last year, in the latest sign that the vaccine rollout has helped transform its fortunes.
The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 44% now approve of the government’s Covid handling, with 36% disapproving. Overall, it recorded a nine-point lead for the Conservatives over Labour, the largest Tory lead since last May.
The Conservatives recorded a 45% share of the vote, up four points on a fortnight ago, while Labour recorded 36%, down one. The Lib Dems were unchanged on 6% of the vote. Boris Johnson’s personal approval rating is positive overall, with 41% approving and 38% disapproving (+3). Labour leader Keir Starmer has a very similar rating, with 32% approving and 30% disapproving (+2 overall).
However, Johnson has a substantial lead when voters are asked to choose which makes the best prime minister, with 38% opting for Johnson and 25% for Starmer. More than one in five (22%) opted for “none of these”.
Driving the increased approval for the government’s Covid handling is support for the vaccine distribution programme, with 72% approving of the efforts and only 8% disapproving. Support is high even among Labour (71%) and SNP (57%) voters.
A majority of voters (54%) believe the government’s roadmap out of Covid restrictions is at about the right pace, up slightly from 47% a fortnight ago. The proportion thinking that restrictions are being eased “too quickly” has dropped from 31% to 27%, and “too slowly” is down slightly from 12% to 10%.
The idea of “vaccine passports”, to facilitate the reduction of social distancing and reopen different types of venues within the UK, is backed by 57%. More (68%) back the idea to open up international travel. Conservative voters are most strongly behind the passports (70% for domestic use and 83% for international use).
Before the local elections, which could produce a majority for pro-independence MSPs, 57% of all UK adults thought it was “likely” that Scotland would vote to leave the UK within the next five years, with 26% believing it to be unlikely.
Adam Drummond, an Opinium associate director, said: “The vaccine bounce continues to yield political benefits for the government, with their strongest figures for handling the pandemic since they first became negative last May. In terms of voting intention, the figures bounce around due to statistical noise, but there is a consistent Conservative lead in the high single digits.
“With our recent Scottish polling showing a strong chance of an SNP majority, most people in each country of the UK now think it likely Scotland will vote to become independent in the near future, but there has not been the strong ‘we want you to stay’ result from the rest of the UK.
“In September 2014, just before the referendum, 63% of people in England and Wales told Opinium they wanted Scotland to vote to stay part of the United Kingdom. In April 2021 only 33% said they opposed Scotland becoming independent (albeit in a slightly differently structured question), but this is an indicator of how the subject being high profile for over seven years has impacted views in the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Opinium polled 2,006 adults online between 8 and 9 April.