Do People Want Their Pre-Pandemic Freedom Back?
When it comes to insanely restrictive (and, arguably, ineffective) pandemic measures, critics tend to point the finger at public officials and their appetite for power. But government functionaries may be no more of a danger to post-COVID freedom than some of our neighbors. Recent polling suggests that many among us not only approve of the lockdowns of the past year and foresee public health restrictions continuing into the indefinite future, but they also want the world to remain constrained by efforts to prevent illness—or maybe just constrained, and never mind the reason.
“Public willingness to sacrifice for the common good in a time of crisis has surprised ministers,” The Economist noted last week. “But the pandemic has also revealed John Bull’s authoritarian streak.” The magazine went on to report on the results of polling conducted along with Ipsos MORI that found a surprising degree of support among Britons not just for the lockdowns of the past year, but for maintaining restrictions sold as efforts to head off the spread of COVID-19.
“Polling by Ipsos MORI for The Economist suggests two-thirds think masks, social distancing and travel restrictions should continue for another month. A majority would support them until covid-19 is controlled worldwide, which may take years. Even more strikingly, a sizeable minority would like personal freedoms to be restricted permanently. A quarter say nightclubs and casinos should never reopen; almost two in ten would support an indefinite ban on leaving home after 10pm ‘without good reason’,” the report added.
Did that say “restricted permanently”? Yes, it did. Full results at the polling firm’s website reveal 19 percent support for a permanent 10pm curfew. Significant minorities favor other permanent restrictions, including: keeping nightclubs and casinos closed forever (26 percent); enforced social distancing in theaters, pubs and sports grounds (34 percent); mandatory 10-day quarantines for people returning from foreign countries (35 percent); mandatory tracking-app check-ins when entering pubs and restaurants (36 percent); mandatory masks in shops and on public transportation (40 percent); foreign travel allowed only with proof of vaccination (46 percent).
Ipsos emphasizes that support for permanent restrictions is in the minority, although majorities favor keeping some controls in place “until COVID-19 is under control worldwide.” But it’s such a surprisingly large minority that The Economist portrays the data as evidence that liberty-loving England is a myth.
It’s easy to scoff at the polling results from across the Atlantic—especially so soon after July 4th festivities. We knew there was a reason the founders wanted American independence, right? But a portion of the U.S
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