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Publication Detail
Public Opinion about the UK Government during COVID-19 and Implications for Public Health: A Topic Modelling Analysis of Open-Ended Survey Response Data
Confidence in the central UK Government has declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while this may be linked to specific government actions to curb the spread of the virus, understanding is still incomplete. Examining public opinion is important, as research suggests that low confidence in government increases the extent of non-compliance with infection-dampening rules (for instance, social distancing); however, the detailed reasons for this association are still unclear. To understand public opinion on the central UK government during COVID-19, we used structural topic modelling, a text mining technique, to extract themes from over 4000 free-text survey responses, collected between 14 October and 26 November 2020. We identified eleven topics, among which were topics related to perceived government corruption and cronyism, complaints about inconsistency in rules and messaging, lack of clear planning, and lack of openness and transparency. Participants reported that elements of the government’s approach had made it difficult to comply with guidelines (e.g., changing rules) or were having impacts on mental wellbeing (e.g., inability to plan for the future). Results suggested that consistent, transparent communication and messaging from the government is critical to improving compliance with measures to contain the virus, as well as protecting mental health during health emergencies.
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