FEATURE10 January 2018

Anxiety and uncertainty sum up nation’s mood in 2018

Brexit Features Public Sector Trends UK Youth

More than eight in 10 people ( 81%) think the British public is currently feeling anxious about the future and that society feels very divided, according to research from BritainThinks.

Gloomy outlook_crop

Research from the insight and strategy agency portrayed a bleak picture, with Brexit continuing to highlight society’s divisions, the young fearful and despondent about their prospects, housing and the NHS becoming increasing focuses of concern and little faith in current political leaders to sort things out. The royal family was the only thing mentioned as being something Britain could be proud of.

The five key points from BritainThinks’ report The Year Ahead were:

  1. The nation is feeling anxious and uncertain about the year ahead
  2. Younger people’s outlook is particularly bleak
  3. Brexit continues to be a worry and concerns about the NHS and housing are on the rise
  4. Theresa May’s reputation was devastated during 2017
  5. Jeremy Corbyn’s strength comes partly from May’s weakness but also his heartland issues are rising up the agenda.

Eighty per cent said something needs to be done to bring the country together with the majority of young people (under 34 year olds) and just over half of ( 45+ age group) saying it is likely that the UK will become more divided in 2018.

The bleak outlook for younger citizens was highlighted in the finding that 71% of respondents agreed that hard work no longer delivers the rewards that it should. The sense of injustice and resentment of older generations and those considered ‘benefit scroungers’ was strong among the young.

Older people feel more positive, especially as income and housing issues are less prevalent for them, but have abstract worries, especially for younger family members. Nostalgia for a past idyll is strong.

And although negotiations on the UK leaving the EU continue, housing and homelessness ( 74%) and the NHS ( 70%) are ahead of Brexit ( 63%) and the economy ( 56%) as issues facing the UK that the public feel pessimistic about in the coming year.

Politically, there is little desire for another referendum or vote on the final Brexit deal. Theresa May is seen as weak, unstable, stubborn and a Thatcher-wannabe. In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn is seen as strong, confident and grounded by some, although others view him as naïve and untrustworthy.

His strength is partly relative to May’s weakness and crucially, neither is viewed as a person they want to be leading the country.

Deborah Mattinson, BritainThinks founder said: “The Tories are treading water as long as [May] stays leader. There’s still not a very clear view of [Corbyn]; what people say about him is still diverse. You could say that’s an advantage but it may be problematic.”

BritainThinks conducted qual and quant research to determine the mood of the nation. It involved focus groups in Watford – one made up of younger people ( 18 – 30-year-olds, more typically Labour leaning) and one of older ( 55+ and generally Conservative leaning).

From the issues raised in these focus groups, specific questions were then put into quantitative research, involving a national poll of more than 2,000 nationally representative, 18+ year olds between 5th and 7th January.