While the government is said to be following the science in its decisions on the easing of lockdown, it is also running a large-scale data-driven operation to help with strategy, as seen during the general election and EU referendum.
POLITICO reports that Downing Street have resorted to Vote Leave tactics to win ‘hearts and minds’, with aides receiving ‘near-daily updates’ on the public mood gathered from focus group research.
The operation is an approach typical of a Dominic Cummings operation, who once headed the pro-Brexit campaign but now operates as Boris Johnson’s key adviser.
‘The internal polling is pretty extensive every day,’ an official told the publication. ‘We get an overnight breakdown of surveys of 2,000 adults. We get stats on how worried people are, people’s perceptions of risk, whether they feel they’re being served by government information, whether we’ve got the balance right between the economy and healthcare, polling on people’s finances, thoughts on the NHS, about social distancing, businesses, workplace, face masks.’
It has been what has led the Tories to move from a ‘stay at home’ order to a more libertarian ‘stay alert’ and use ‘common sense’ message.
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Downing Street tracks the public’s understanding of every element of the messaging that comes out of government – whether it is the ‘R’ number, the messaging, or what they are being told to do.
But despite overseeing this approach for both the EU referendum and the general election, it is unsurprisingly not as plain-sailing in a pandemic.
The news website reports that the high death toll is said to have ‘traumatised’ the British people, making the public some of the most cautious in the world.
There are also concerns about the new Labour leader, a slip in the ratings for Johnson, and the public’s confusion over its new ‘stay alert’ messaging which was leaked to Sunday newspapers before being rolled out.
‘Naturally a new leader of the opposition comes with new challenges,’ an aide told the publication.