A breach of lockdown rules by top aide Dominic Cummings directly harmed public confidence in the UK government’s coronavirus response, a study said today.
The incident caused a clear decrease of public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic, which started from the day the story broke and has not recovered since, a study by UCL found.
In March, Cummings and his wife travelled 250 miles outside of London while showing symptoms to be closer to family for childcare reasons, causing a major outcry among Brits stuck at home.
Cummings and Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied the adviser had broken any rules, resisting calls for Cummings’ resignation.
“These data illustrate the negative and lasting consequences that political decisions can have for public trust and the risks to behaviours,” said Daisy Fancourt, the lead author of the study.
The study compared data from a large scale survey on confidence following the Cummings row, with data from the same source on confidence in devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, and in the NHS.
Confidence in England dropped by 0.4 points on a seven-point scale between 21 May and 25 May — while the story broke on 22 May — while there was no corresponding drop on the other indicators.
The study looked at 220,000 results from more than 40,000 individuals between 24 April and 11 June. However the findings have yet to be externally peer-reviewed.
Ahead of 22 May, the data showed confidence had stabilised and was even improving slightly. It then dropped after news of Cummings’ lockdown trip broke, and has yet to recover.