DPIR study reveals a major rise in public support for COVID vaccine

The Coping with COVID-19 project has published its early findings, revealing important insights for policymakers on public opinion surrounding the vaccine.

More than three quarters of people in the UK now say they are ’very likely’ to have the vaccine—up from 50% among the same group of survey respondents five months ago—according to a two-wave survey published today.

Age remains a strong predictor of willingness to take the vaccine and the Oxford study shows the 50-59 group in particular have become much more positive about the vaccine since October.

Despite this steep shift in public opinion, however, researchers found important gaps remain, driven by income, political values and ethnicity.  The survey of 1,200 UK residents, contacted in early October 2020 and again in the first week of February 2021, revealed strong relationships between political attitudes and the intention to accept the vaccine. The survey found:

  • People on lower incomes are, on average, much less willing to take the vaccine. Going against the broad trend towards vaccine uptake, this gap has widened somewhat since October.  
  • Whether you voted for Brexit appears related to vaccine acceptance. The study found ‘Remainers’ are 7% points more likely willing to take the vaccine than ‘Leavers’ or those who did not vote in the 2016 referendum. 
  • People who voted Brexit party or Green in 2019 – and especially those who did not vote at all - are the least willing to take the vaccine, with SNP and Liberal voters most positively inclined.  
  • Supporters of Nigel Farage’s new Reform UK party are the most hesitant, with just over 50% saying they will take the vaccine, compared to 100% of SNP voters.
  • The opinion of ethnic minority participants has edged slightly in favour of the vaccine, but still trails the white population.  
  • There is no evidence that noting the UK’s leading role in approving or developing the vaccine affects willingness to take it.
  • Respondents were broadly supportive of the government’s performance in rolling out the vaccine and in who received priority for the vaccine but showed greater concerns about the policy of delaying the second dose of the vaccine.

Ben Ansell, Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at the Department of Politics and International Relations, says, ‘This multi-wave study gives us a rare glimpse of whose opinions have shifted and why. People have become massively more supportive of taking the vaccine overall but important gaps remain especially among groups whose trust in politicians is typically lower: non-voters, younger citizens, and poorer households.’ 

‘When so much of the UK Government’s lockdown exit strategy rests on successful vaccine roll out, these insights will be of immediate importance to policymakers in both their internal deliberation on policy and their outward facing communication with the public.’

The study, part of the University of Oxford funded research projectCoping with COVID-19’, was conducted on a representative sample of over 1,600 UK mainland adults using the polling company YouGov. Over 1,200 respondents responded to both the October and February surveys. The study was co-authored by scholars from the University of Oxford, London School of Economics, and University College London.


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When so much of the UK Government’s lockdown exit strategy rests on successful vaccine roll out, these insights will be of immediate importance to policymakers.
Ben Ansell