Information

Scottish social attitudes survey 2021/22: Attitudes to Scotland's handling of the pandemic

Findings from the Scottish Government funded Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021/22 ‘Attitudes to Scotland’s Handling of the Pandemic’ module.


Chapter 3 – Government procedural justice (relationship between authority and the people)

This chapter outlines attitudes towards the relationship between governmental authority and the people during the pandemic. Procedural justice refers to whether people feel that they were given a voice in the policy decisions made, that is, whether their views or feelings were taken into account. Specifically, the following research questions are addressed:

  • How well do people in Scotland think that the Scottish Government understood the impact of coronavirus restrictions on their lives?
  • How well do people think the Scottish Government listened to the views of the population in making decisions about how best to handle the coronavirus pandemic?
  • Do people in Scotland think that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart when making decisions about how best to handle the coronavirus pandemic?
  • Do people think that the Scottish Government made its decisions regardless of what people wanted during the pandemic?

This chapter also provides an analysis of how perceptions of government procedural justice during the coronavirus pandemic differed between various subgroups.

Empathy

People across Scotland were asked how well or badly they thought the Scottish Government had understood the impact of coronavirus restrictions on the lives of people like them.

Overall, just under two-thirds (65%) felt that the Scottish Government understood the impact of the restrictions ‘very/fairly well’ while just over a fifth (23%) felt that the government understood this ‘very/fairly badly’ and 13% ‘neither well nor badly’. Table 3.1 summarises these responses.

Table 3.1: In general, how well or badly do you think the Scottish Government understood the impact of the coronavirus restrictions on the lives of people like yourself?
(%)
Very well 27
Fairly well 37
Neither well nor badly 13
Fairly badly 12
Very badly 11
Don’t know/Refusal 0
Weighted base 1130
Unweighted base 1130

Base: All respondents

How do these attitudes vary by sub-group?

The proportion of those who felt that the Scottish Government understood the impact of restrictions on the lives of people like themselves was associated with gender. Seventy per cent of women said that the government understood the impact of restrictions ‘very/fairly well’ compared with 59% of men.

There was also an association between the level of trust in others and how well or badly it was felt that the Scottish Government understood the impact of restrictions. Seventy-one per cent of those who felt that ‘most people can be trusted’ felt that the government understood the impact ‘very/fairly well’, while 55% who felt that they ‘can’t be too careful in dealing with people’ felt the same way. Around two-thirds (67%) of those who felt that the Scottish Government understood the impact of restrictions ‘very/fairly well’ agreed or strongly agreed that they had someone in the area to turn to for advice and support. This compared with 51% among those who disagreed or strongly disagreed that they had someone to turn to in their area.

Taking the views and feelings of the public into account in policy making

How well did the Scottish Government listen to people’s views?

People were also asked how well they felt the Scottish Government have been at listening to people’s views about how to best handle the coronavirus pandemic. Over two-fifths (44%) felt that the government had been ‘very/fairly good’ at this, a third (33%) felt they had been ‘neither good nor bad’ and a fifth (20%) felt they had been ‘fairly/very bad’. Table 3.2 breaks down these results.

Table 3.2: In general, how good or bad do you think the Scottish Government have been at listening to the views of people like yourself about how best to handle the coronavirus pandemic?
(%)
Very good 14
Fairly good 31
Neither good nor bad 33
Fairly bad 11
Very bad 10
Don’t know/Refusal 2
Weighted base 1130
Unweighted base 1130

Base: All respondents

This highlights that 86% of the public thought that there was at least some room for improvement in terms of how well the Scottish Government listened to the views of people like themselves about how to handle the pandemic. For example, by either stating that they were ‘fairly good,’ ‘neither good/nor bad,’ ‘fairly bad,’ or ‘very bad’ at this. This was compared with the 61% that felt that the amount of influence the views of the public had on decisions made was ‘about right.’ Nevertheless, taking the responses to these questions together suggests that a large proportion of the public of Scotland felt that their views were taken into account in some way during the pandemic.

How do these attitudes vary between sub-groups?

There was some variation by age with regards to how good or bad people felt the Scottish Government had been at listening to people’s views about how best to handle the pandemic. As shown in Figure 3.1, those aged 65 and over were most likely to think that the Scottish Government had been ‘very good’ at listening to their views (21%), with those aged 35-54 being least likely (9%).

Figure 3.1: Percentage who think the Scottish Government had been ‘very good’ at listening to the views of people like them by age
The bar chart in figure 3.1 shows that 12% of those aged 16-34, 9% of those aged 35-44, 9% of those aged 45-54, 16% of those aged 55-64, and 21% of those aged 65+ think that the Scottish Government had been ‘very good’ at listening to the views of people like the respondent.

Base: All respondents

The level of social trust or support that individuals had was also associated with how they felt about the Scottish Government listening to their views on how to best handle the pandemic. Around half (47%) of those who agreed or strongly agreed that ‘there are people in the area I can turn to for advice and support’ felt that the Scottish Government had been ‘very/fairly good’ at listening to the views of people like them. In comparison, 33% of people who disagreed or strongly disagreed that ‘there are people in the area I can turn to for advice and support’ felt the same way.

As reported in Figure 3.2, around five in ten (49%) of those who felt that ‘most people can be trusted’ also felt that the Scottish Government had been ‘very/fairly good’ at listening to people’s views, while just under four in ten (38%) of those who felt that they ‘can’t be too careful in dealing with people’ felt the same way.

Figure 3.2: Percentage of those who think that the Scottish Government have been ‘very/fairly good’ at listening to the views of people like them about how best to handle the pandemic by level of trust in others
The bar chart in figure 3.2 shows that 38% of those who felt that they ‘can’t be too careful in dealing with people’ and 49% of those who felt that ‘most people can be trusted’ think that the Scottish Government have been ‘fairly good’ or ‘very good’ listening to the views of people like the respondent about how best to handle the pandemic.

Base: All respondents

To what extent did the Scottish Government have the interests of people like themselves at heart?

Respondents were asked whether they felt that the Scottish Government had the interests of people like themselves at heart during the pandemic. Six in ten (60%) felt that the Scottish Government had the interests of people like them at heart ‘a great deal/quite a lot’, 23% said ‘somewhat’ and 17% said ‘not very much/not at all’. A breakdown of responses to this question is outlined in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3: During the coronavirus pandemic to what extent, if at all, would you say the Scottish Government had the interest of people like yourself at heart?
(%)
A great deal 35
Quite a lot 25
Somewhat 23
Not very much 12
Not at all 5
Don’t know 0
Prefer not to answer 1
Weighted base 1130
Unweighted base 1130

Base: All respondents

How do attitudes vary between sub-groups?

There was some variation by age evident in whether people felt the Scottish Government had their interests at heart during the pandemic. As shown in Figure 3.3, 48% of those aged 55-64 and 42% of people aged 65 and over felt that the government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal’, compared with 23% of 16-34-year-olds.

Figure 3.3: Percentage of those who feel that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal’ during the pandemic by age
The bar chart in figure 3.3 shows that 23% of those aged 16-34, 28% of those aged 35-44, 37% of those aged 45-54, 48% of those aged 55-64, and 42% of those aged 65+ felt that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal’ during the pandemic.

Base: All respondents

Where people lived was also associated with how they responded to this question. Fifty-seven per cent (57%) of people living in urban areas thought that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal/quite a lot’. This proportion was higher (65%) for those living in rural areas.

Again, the level of social trust that individuals had was associated with these issues. Around two-thirds (65%) of those who agreed or strongly agreed that there were people they could turn to for advice and support in the area felt that the government had their interests at heart either ‘a great deal/quite a lot’ during the pandemic. In comparison, around one third (30%) of those who disagreed or strongly disagreed there were people they could turn to for advice and support felt the same way (as shown in Figure 3.4).

Figure 3.4: Percentage of those who think that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ during the pandemic and to what extent they agree that there are people in the area that they can turn to for advice and support
The bar chart in figure 3.4 shows 30% of those who ‘disagree’ or ‘disagree strongly’, 46% of those who ‘neither agree not disagree’, and 65% of those who ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they have people in the area they can turn to for advice and support think that the Scottish Government had their interests at heart ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’.

Base: All respondents

Sixty-nine per cent who said ‘most people can be trusted’ felt the government had their interests at heart during the pandemic ‘a great deal/quite a lot’ (69%), compared with 45% of those stating they ‘can’t be too careful in dealing with people’.

During the coronavirus pandemic did the Scottish Government make its decisions regardless of what people like themselves wanted?

Respondents were asked whether or not they thought that the Scottish Government made decisions regardless of what people like themselves wanted during the coronavirus pandemic. As shown in Table 3.4, 15% thought that the Scottish Government made its decisions regardless of what people wanted ‘just about always,’ 37% said ‘most of the time,’ 33% felt that this was the case ‘only some of the time’ and 12% said ‘almost never.’

Table 3.4: During the coronavirus pandemic would you say the Scottish Government made its decisions regardless of what people like yourself wanted?
(%)
Just about always 15
Most of the time 37
Only some of the time 33
Almost never 12
Don’t know 2
Prefer not to answer 1
Weighted base 1130
Unweighted base 1130

Base: All respondents

This finding that over half (52%) felt that the Scottish Government made its decisions regardless of what people wanted ‘just about always/most of the time’ shows what appears to be a more negative view of the handling of the pandemic, compared with responses to whether the Scottish Government had the ‘interest of people like yourself at heart’ and whether they understood the impact of restrictions on people’s lives. A potential explanation could be that most of the public feel that the Scottish Government were taking their interests into consideration but that does not mean that they necessarily wanted such decisions to be made. For example, the public may believe that restrictions on their movements and how many people they could socialise with were put in place ‘with their interests at heart’ but they might not have wanted to experience such restrictions.

How do these attitudes vary by sub-group?

There was variation in attitudes towards whether the government made its decisions regardless of what people like themselves wanted and whether they had someone they could turn to in the area for advice and support. As shown in Figure 3.5, 13% of those who agreed or strongly agreed that they had someone to turn to for advice and support in the area felt that the Scottish Government made its decisions in this way ‘just about always’. This figure increased to 35% for those who disagreed or strongly disagreed that they had someone to turn to for advice and support in the area.

Figure 3.5: Percentage of those who feel that the government made its decisions regardless of what people like the participant wanted ‘most of the time’ by extent of agreement that there is someone in the area they can turn to for advice and support
The bar chart in figure 3.5 shows that 13% of those who ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’, 16% of those who ‘neither agree nor disagree’ and 35% of those who ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ that there are people in the area they can turn to for advice and support feel that the government made its decisions regardless of what people like themselves wanted ‘most the time’.

Base: All respondents

Eighteen per cent (18%) of those aged 65 and over thought that the Scottish Government made its decisions regardless of what people wanted ‘just about always’. For those aged 16-34, the proportion of those who thought the Scottish Government made its decisions in this way ‘just about always’ decreased to 12%.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

Back to top