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Feature Justice and equalities

Public attitudes to COVID-19, technology and inequality: a tracker

Tracking studies and projects that offer insight into people’s attitudes and perspectives to COVID-19, technology and inequality

5 March 2021

Reading time: 10 minutes

Health, digital and societal inequalities resulting from, and interacting with the coronavirus pandemic must be urgently addressed to ensure more equitable and just outcomes for everyone. Understanding how people think and feel about these issues is crucial to addressing them, and informs our projects on data and AI in relation to health and COVID-19.

This page shares information from the Ada Lovelace Institute’s work to follow studies and projects that offer insight into people’s attitudes and perspectives to COVID-19, technology and inequality.

This page was last updated on 2 March 2021. Please get in touch if you are aware of any updates or additions we should include. Let us know by contacting Aidan Peppin via apeppin@adalovelaceinstitute.org.

COVID-19 repository and public attitudes retrospective

Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

Status: completed

Published: March 2021

Fieldwork: June – December 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a longitudinal survey, covering 12, 113 individuals and representing all regions of the UK.

Summary: a survey on the use of AI and data-driven technology in the UK’s COVID-19 response. The results suggest significant public support for the use of data-driven technology to help combat the immediate public health crisis, and to mitigate the wider effects of lockdown. However, many respondents also felt that the potential of data-driven technology was not being fully realised. They find that trust in the rules and regulations governing technology is the single biggest predictor of whether someone believes that digital technology has a role to play in the COVID-19 response.


Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

Office for National Statistics

Status: ongoing

Most recent update: February 2021

Fieldwork: weekly since March 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a weekly poll of 4000-4500 UK adults, via the ONS Opinions and Lifestyles survey.

Summary: since March 2020, the ONS has run the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey weekly, to understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain. The findings cover a wide range of issues.


Coronavirus diaries

BritainThinks

Status: ongoing

Most recent update: February 2021

Fieldwork: periodically since April 2020

Type: mixed

Method: longitudinal diary, focus group and poll study, with 50 people from around the UK.

Summary: since April 2020, BritainThinks has worked with members of the public to understand their experience of the crisis, through a series of online focus groups, diary-keeping and polling. They have run several fieldwork series and completed reports following these. As of 21 February 2021, BritainThinks reported that people’s emotional resilience was stretched, and the public was hoping for a future post-pandemic where society is fairer – but they did not feel this was achievable.


COVID-19 behaviour tracker

Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London and YouGov

Status: ongoing

Most recent update: February 2021

Fieldwork: weekly since April 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a global survey across 29 countries, sample size 30,000.

Summary: Imperial College London and YouGov have partnered to survey behaviour and compliance with public health measures across various countries in relation to COVID-19.


Engaging with Black and South Asian people on equitable data collection

Understanding Patient Data

Status: commissioning

Published: February 2021

Type: qualitative

Method: a series of public engagement sessions with people from Black and South Asian backgrounds. The method is not yet defined.

Summary: Understanding Patient Data is commissioning a project to explore Black and South Asian people’s views on health data collection and use, understand what it means to be represented and learn about people’s questions, concerns and aspirations.


Kantar UK barometer

Kantar

Status: completed

Published: February 2021

Fieldwork: February 2021

Type: quantitative

Method: online, nationally representative survey of 1,114 UK adults.

Summary: Kantar surveyed public attitudes on government handling of COVID-19. 77% of respondents say they would have a vaccine, and 63% support the introduction of a vaccine passport to enable overseas travel this summer. Older groups are most supportive of vaccine passports for international travel (81% of over 65s support), compared to only half of those aged 18-34 supporting the idea. Attitudes are split on whether or not vaccines should be mandatory.


Public opinion & vaccine passports in the UK

Serco Institute

Status: completed

Published: February 2021

Fieldwork: February 2021

Type: quantitative

Method: online, nationally representative survey of 1,003 UK adults.

Summary: a survey of attitudes to the use of vaccine passports, assuming ‘appropriate protections and exemptions for people who are precluded from taking the vaccine due to medical conditions’ were in place. Found broad support for vaccine passports across a range of settings: international travel, hospitality, events, workplaces, retail, social gatherings and places of worship. Support is highest for international travel and lowest for retail. Strong support is highest among older age groups. The authors note small differences across Conservative or Labour voters, and do not note differences across other demographic factors. The authors note that ‘legal, ethical and practical issues’ must be considered alongside public opinion.


UK COVID-19 social study

Daisy Fancourt et al., University College London

Status: ongoing

Most recent update: February 2021

Fieldwork: weekly since March 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a longitudinal study with a weekly online survey of 70,000 self-selected participants across the UK.

Summary: the COVID-19 social study aims to understand the social and psychological impact of coronavirus and the measures introduced to tackle it, such as lockdown and social distancing. Each week the panel is surveyed, and the research team share findings on psychological response and other issues such as experience of lockdown, adherence to the rules, financial impact and more.


Unequal Britain

Bobby Duffy et al. Policy Institute, Kings College London

Status: completed

Published: February 2021

Fieldwork: November 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: online, nationally representative survey of 2,226 UK adults. Survey was conducted by YouGov.

Summary: researchers survey the public on attitudes towards societal inequality in light of COVID-19. Inequalities between more and less deprived areas, as well as income inequalities were seen as the most serious forms of inequality in the UK. Inequalities across ethnic groups was seen as a serious concern, but attitudes towards this varied between different political, economic and ethnic demographics.


Public acceptance of privacy-encroaching policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom

Stephan Lewandowsky et al.

Status: completed

Published: January 2021

Fieldwork: June – July 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a survey of attitudes to differing track and trace scenarios. 3,500 participants across two waves.

Summary: the study looked at different hypothetical examples of track and trace apps, based on what government plans and media reports at the time suggested could be likely. The scenarios had varying levels of privacy invasion and mandating by government. At the time of the survey, a majority of people reported support for tracing-based policies and immunity passport schemes. While respondents appeared comfortable trading privacy for public health benefit, they expressed a desire for sunset clauses that would limit the time-use of any collected data. The report is part of a larger project.


Citizens’ attitudes to contact tracing apps

Laszlo Horvath, Susan Banducci, Oliver James

Status: completed

Published: September 2020

Fieldwork: May 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a choice-experiment survey. 2,300 UK participants across two studies.

Summary: researchers looked at attitudes towards different contact tracing methods. They found that privacy preservation concerns were overridden by trust in the NHS, and an NHS app is preferred to a government app, whether centralised or decentralised.


Lockdown debate

Ada Lovelace Institute

Status: completed

Published: August 2020

Fieldwork: May – June 2020

Type: deliberative

Method: online, deliberation via a ‘mini public’ of 28 UK adults from London and Kent.

Summary: Ada Lovelace Institute partnered with Traverse, Involve and Bang the Table to deliver a rapid online discussion on the question ‘under what circumstances do citizens think that technological solutions like the COVID-19 contact tracing app are appropriate?’ We found that transparency of evidence, independent assessment, clear boundaries on data use and proactive inclusion of vulnerable groups were priorities.


Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19

Health Foundation and IPSOS Mori

Status: completed

Published: July 2020

Fieldwork: May 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a telephone-based survey of approx. 1900 people from the UK.

Summary: this survey found that the proportion of people who believed the government has a responsibility for ensuring people stay healthy increased to 86%, from 61% in 2018. Financial impacts of the virus and of lockdown risk people’s long-term health and wellbeing.


Public attitudes to COVID-19 contact tracing based apps: a UK-based focus group study

Simon Williams et al.

Status: completed

Published: June 2020

Fieldwork: May 2020

Type: qualitative

Method: five online focus groups, with 22 people in total, representing a range of genders, ages, ethnicities and locations.

Summary: in this study, researchers aimed to explore public attitudes to the proposed COVID-19 contact tracing app in the United Kingdom. Findings revealed five main themes: lack of information, concerns around privacy, concerns about stigmatisation, concerns about uptake, and contact tracing as ‘the greater good’.


Trust in COVID tech poll

Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI)

Status: completed

Published: June 2020

Fieldwork: June 2020

Type: quantitative

Method: a survey of public attitudes towards the use of technology in response to COVID-19.

Summary: at the time of the study, 73% of people felt that technology had the potential to be used in addressing COVID-19, but that potential wasn’t always realised. Only 6% of people felt technology is making the situation worse. Many respondents gave a neutral response to many questions, suggesting uncertainty, lack of awareness or disengagement with the issues.

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