Responding to COVID-19, governments implemented large-scale economic and social policies of unprecedented scale. This highlighted the state's capacity to guarantee economic and health security, and affected demographic groups that are less commonly beneficiaries of state support. We hypothesise that exposure to the pandemic and these policy responses caused change in attitudes to the role of government in the economy and redistribution. We test this expectation using data from the (2014–present) British Election Study panel, together with a unique panel survey fielded to existing BES respondents in April and September, 2020. We find virtually no evidence of any effect on ideological beliefs. Moreover, using a survey experiment, we find exposure to cues linking the pandemic to greater roles for government has no impact on ideological beliefs. We conclude that such elite rhetoric, even if it had been present in the field, would not have yielded ideological change.