Did GolfGate influence Public Sentiment?
8 min read.
As to be expected, the most engaged with news story in August, was the announcement that average weekly COVID-19 case numbers were increasing, and therefore the Irish Government were putting in place further COVID-19 restrictions until the 13th of September. Despite receiving an immense level of coverage, GolfGate does not appear in this month’s top five news stories, according to the stories which the public score in terms of importance, and inform the Core Cultural Index.
84% of adults were aware of further Government restrictions and increased COVID-19 cases, and 83% of this group said it was important or very important to them. As a result, this news story scored 72.0 on our Cultural Index, fractionally ahead of the second most significant story, Storms Ellen and Francis hitting Ireland (71.4).
The third story in August’s Cultural Index was the chemical explosion in Beirut which took the lives of more than 170 people. Given this was a global story, shared widely on social media, it had a high awareness score of 86% – with a Cultural Index of 68.9.
Another COVID-19 story was the lifting of restrictions in Kildare (64.3), which 84% of people were aware of, but only 68% said was important to them. Those living in the county were, expectantly, more likely to say it was important to them.
Racism, Conspiracy and COVID-19.
As previously reported in the Cultural Index, the continued racial tension in the US is not being ignored by the Irish public. In particular, Young Adults (under 40 year olds), who are digitally connected to stories from the United States, are aware of the racial disputes taking place. While 63% of Irish adults say the unrest in the US is important to them, 73% of Young Adults say these events are important to them. This generation understands the impact of racism in society, and are following these events closely.
Our emotional sentiment analysis showed that 35% of Young Adults were ‘sad’ and a further 24% were ‘angry’ about the unfolding events.
Part of the online discussion on race in America is fuelled by conspiracy theorists, and locally at home, conspiracy alt-right groups have also influenced people attending anti-mask protests in Dublin. Again, Young Adults were more engaged with this news story than other age groups. 57% of people said this was important to them personally, because they were concerned about the spread of COVID-19.
Over half of adults are very or extremely concerned about the COVID-19 situation in Ireland, and this goes towards explaining the outrage over the Oireachtas Golf Society event. 75% – 80% of adults were aware of the various stories which developed as a result of GolfGate.
Media commentary on radio and in print highlighted the disbelief at public figures gathering in large numbers ignoring public health guidelines during a pandemic. 60% of people said it was personally important to them that the EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary resigned, but 20% of people said it was not important to them at all.
In terms of sentiment, 37% of those aware that the event took place were angry, 32% said they were disgusted and 11% felt contempt. So did GolfGate impact our confidence in the authorities leading us through this pandemic?
Confidence in the Government’s handling of COVID-19 continues to decline, however, those who were aware of GolfGate and angered or disgusted score the Government’s handling the same as those who were not.
However, GolfGate has compounded people’s belief that NPHET and HSE are doing a good job with public approval of public health experts approval above 65%, with only a slight weekly decline. Those who were disgusted by GolfGate are more likely to approve of how public health authorities are handling the COVID-19 situation.
As schools returned in recent weeks and a Government long-term plan to be announced across the week of 14th September, we are at a key tipping point in public sentiment.
The largest group of people in Ireland are those who are optimistic about overcoming COVID-19 (44%), but one-third is uncertain about the future and this will, over time, feed into consumer confidence and behaviour.
While many households have been negatively impacted, many are financially secure and saving more. As Ireland now enters another recession, providing incentives and confidence to these households will be key to an economic recovery.
With over 1.7 million people who are optimistic and pragmatic about overcoming COVID-19, there remains to be hope, but everybody now has a role to play
– which rules out golf dinners.