Misperceptions of Covid persist in UK and Europe

Significant minorities of the public in the UK and other European countries still hold misperceptions related to Covid-19, according to a new study.

Conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London as part of a European Commission project on public trust in expertise, the research is based on survey data from more than 12,000 people in six country. He finds :

  • One in seven (15%) people in the UK still say they don’t believe almost all scientists agree vaccines are safe – although three-quarters (74%) agree this is true, higher than the average of the countries surveyed (69%). People aged 55 and over in the UK (86%) are more likely than those in younger age groups (67%) to believe the scientific consensus on vaccines.
  • A third (33%) of the UK public believe the government is exaggerating the number of coronavirus deaths, but a majority (54%) say this is wrong. In Poland, where this belief is most widespread, 43% believe the government is inflating Covid deaths, while at the other end of the spectrum, 24% believe so in Norway.
  • One in six UK adults (17%) say it is true that the symptoms most people attribute to coronavirus appear to be related to radiation from the 5G network. This rises to one in four (26%) among 18-34 year olds. But overall in the UK, seven out of 10 people (70%) think this statement is false – exactly the same as the average of the countries surveyed.

The six countries included in the study – the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Poland – were selected to reflect a range of different contexts across factors such as location in Europe, population size, GDP levels, political structure and levels of trust. in institutions, as measured in other studies.

There are still high levels of concern about the impacts of the Covid crisis

The research also looked at people’s concerns about the effects of the pandemic, finding that two-thirds (67%) of people in the UK say they are concerned about the impacts for future generations.

This concern crosses age lines, with the oldest respondents (67%) being just as likely as the youngest (66%) to say they are worried about the effects on future generations.

And in the other countries surveyed, high levels of concern remain about the legacy of the coronavirus, ranging from 53% of people in Norway who are worried about its generational impacts, to 77% of those in Italy.

In fact, of the six countries included in the study, Norwegians appear to be the least concerned about the impacts of the pandemic on a range of measures. For example, 49% say they are worried about the impact of the Covid crisis for them personally, compared to an average of 67% in the countries surveyed. And 66% of the Norwegian public are worried about the impacts of the pandemic for humanity in general – notably below the national average of 80%.

The results of this research were produced as part of PERITIA, an EU-funded project that aims to help citizens and policy makers understand trust in science and identify trustworthy expertise.

Professor Bobby Duffydirector of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said:

“Although the pandemic has lasted much longer than many expected, it has not been enough to convince everyone of some established facts about Covid-19 and the response to the virus. In the UK and other European countries included in this study, there is a stubborn minority who still question not only the scientific consensus on vaccine safety, but also government reports of Covid deaths, while around one in six still believe in the debunked conspiracy theory of a link between 5G and the coronavirus. Building trust in expertise, so that people are able to recognize and accept reliable information, is crucial during a public health crisis and should be a priority for policymakers and scientists if we are to better cope. to future threats.

Inquiry Details

This survey was conducted using Savanta’s proprietary online panel in the UK and similar panels from their network in other countries. Quotas were set to ensure sufficient responses in each country in terms of age, gender, region, education and income. Once data collection was complete, weights were applied to the observations to create a representative sample of the population in terms of age, gender, region, education, and income. The sample sizes were: 2,017 in Germany; 2,030 in Ireland; 2,044 in Italy; 2,045 in Norway; 2,168 in Poland; and 2,042 in the UK. Data was collected directly from respondents via a self-completed online survey. The dates of the fieldwork varied from 4e-19e January 2022.


The PERITIA project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 870883.