Coronavirus: Fear, Racism & Solidarity

New research by Hope not Hate reveals a mix of underlying fear, emergent racism and community spirit among people’s responses to the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected at least 800,000 people worldwide and caused more than 40,000 deaths.

The poll, undertaken by the anti-extremist organisation’s charitable trust, found that “people are greatly concerned and fearful about the impact of the virus”; that it has “increased racism towards Chinese and East Asian communities, with many blaming China for the outbreak”, but that people are also “looking to the community for support and, more than ever, are looking out for the most vulnerable around them”.

Hope not Hate report 10 key points from the survey:

  1. Four out of five people (80%) support a publicly funded government initiative (such as in Denmark) where the government helps guarantee people’s incomes during the coronavirus crisis.
  2. Almost three-quarters of people (73%) agree that coronavirus is the latest sign that the world we live in is become increasingly dangerous, while only 10% disagree.
  3. The coronavirus has highlighted the importance of community. A huge 83% of people agree that having a strong community around you is important.
  4. A staggering 88% of people agree that it is incumbent on us all to look after our family, friends and neighbours, while only 2% disagree.
  5. More than three times as many people (43%)think that coronavirus will bring our family closer together than think it will not (13%).
  6. Coronavirus is testing people’s relationship with mainstream media. Two-thirds of people (65%) agree that it is important that we seek alternative opinions about coronavirus and not just rely on what we get told through the mainstream media, just 12% disagree.
  7. Two-thirds of people (64%) say that the government should request an extension to the Brexit transition period in order to focus properly on the coronavirus. This included 44% of 2019 Conservative voters, suggesting many of those most committed to leaving the EU would agree.
  8. Two-thirds (65%) people think the government should seek to be a member of the EU’s early warning system for medical emergencies, while only 12% think they should not. This support comes from across political divides, including 55% of Conservative voters.
  9. A majority of Britons (54%) blame China for coronavirus, with only 23% of people believing this is not the case. This view is held amongst age groups.
  10. The majority of people (71%) trust that the experts at the Department of Health are competent and take appropriate action based on the information available.

Hope not Hate’s senior policy officer Rosie Carter warned: “While we have seen incredible moments of togetherness in communities across the country, the virus also poses a massive threat to community cohesion.

“We understand that extreme politics often survives and thrives in communities suffering from economic insecurity, social uncertainty and declining trust.”


See also: ‘Coronavirus: Stumbling into Crisis’ by David Connolly.