Britain is more divided over measures to curb coronavirus than it was over Brexit, research reveals today.
A study by think tank Demos suggests the “social fractures” triggered by moves to halt the spread of Covid-19 have proved more controversial than the rows unleashed by the UK’s exit from the EU.
Its online survey of 10,061 voters, carried out between July 31 and August 7, found 58% of mask wearers have “severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers”.
Some 68% of people who stuck to strict lockdown rules have “strong negative views” about lockdown rule breakers.
In comparison, only 33% of people who did not vote Leave in the 2016 EU referendum “resent, hate, or think people who voted for Brexit are bad people”, while 26% either “admire, respect or think they are good people”, the survey found.
Leavers are even less resentful of Remainers, with 33% of people who did not vote Remain saying they feel positively about Remain voters, and only 20% saying that they feel animosity towards them.
Demos chief executive Polly Mackenzie told the Mirror: “I find it deeply worrying that Covid-19 has been in many ways causing deeper divides than Brexit.
“But it emphasises the urgent need for us to come together and have a national conversation about the future, before the divisions become too entrenched.”
Some experts believe splits over the response to the pandemic are the latest battle in Britain’s deepening culture wars.
Others hope the apparent unity of the initial stage of lockdown can return.
But Demos’ 18-page study, ‘What Next? Priorities for Britain’, found divisions still remain from the early days of the pandemic, with six in 10 of those who did not stockpile essentials claiming they “hate, resent or think stockpilers are bad people”.
Some 51% of parents said the pandemic was bad for their kids’ education but 63% believed it was good for their relationships with their children.
Other findings include employees’ boosted hopes for a better work-life balance.
Ms Mackenzie added: “In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has helped communities, neighbours and wider society come together.
“But our new research has found that there is also a more concerning picture that has arisen.
“The social divisions caused by the pandemic are stark, but we must work to ensure that these divisions don’t fracture society in the long-term.
“Our project, Renew Normal, wants to hear from people up and down the country about their views on how Britain should build back from Covid-19.
“We hope that bringing people together for a national conversation to shape Britain’s future will help heal the divides, find common ground and take forward the best of the community spirit gained through the health crisis.”