A greatly divided
- but united -
The British Social Attitudes
With the Brexit process far from concluded and new global challenges creating future uncertainties, this year’s British Social Attitudes survey finds a country that is at the same time growing together and growing apart.
Our latest report exposes new divisions in opinion towards politics, gender, work, welfare and climate change.
Yet despite these divides, Brits are in many ways standing together.
We trust each other more than ever, we want the government to look after those who most need help, the youngest and oldest generations are increasingly in agreement on some social issues, and people in England are less likely to describe themselves as “English, not British”.
Brexit may have made us a country divided, but in many ways we are more united in our attitudes than before.
Work and welfare
Benefits and wages
As the shape of the labour market changes, a clear majority favour the government helping those who need it most.
70% think the government should top up wages of low-earning single parents, 58% think they should top up the wages of low-earning working couples with children, and 71% want the minimum wage increased.
Over half of people (56%) think that cutting welfare benefits would damage too many people's lives. Support for an increase to unemployment benefits is also the highest it has been for 15 years, with 20% saying the government should spend more.
There are vivid age divides here, with particularly strong support among young people aged 18 to 25 for topping up wages; 67% want the government to top up low-earning working parents wages, compared with 46% of respondents over the age of 65.
Automation and technology
On the whole, Brits accept that the robots are coming, but are not worried about the threat automation could pose to their own jobs.
75% of respondents believe that machines or computers will be doing the jobs of humans within a decade, but only 10% of workers think this poses a threat to their own job.
Income has an impact on levels of concern, with 6% of workers in the highest income quartile saying they are worried that their jobs could be threatened, compared with 16% workers in the lowest income quartile.
Younger people display the least concern, despite facing the reality of a labour market evolving at pace in response to technology.
Sexism and unsolicited comments
Our findings point to widespread agreement on a number of gender issues.
93% of Brits say sexist online bullying towards women is wrong, and 85% say the same about sexist online bullying of men.
Just 8% of the population think it is rarely or never wrong for a stranger in the street to tell a woman that she “looks gorgeous today”. 57% say it is always or usually wrong and 27% think these comments are sometimes wrong.
A clear age divide is present in views on whether such comments are acceptable – 61% of people aged 18 to 34, compared with 49% of people aged 65 or over, think this behaviour is wrong. Men are more likely than women to say this.
72% of Brits disagree with the view that “it is a man’s job to earn money and a woman’s job to look after the home and family”, up from 58% in 2008.
38% of Brits think these mothers should work part time, down from 43% in 2012. 7% think full time is the best option compared with 5% in 2012. Those with no formal qualifications are twice as likely as graduates to say that a mother of a pre-school child should stay at home.
Brexit has deepened age and education divides in views of Britain’s membership of the EU.
49% of people aged 55 or over and 54% of those with no formal qualifications want to leave the EU, compared with 23% of those aged 18 to 34 and 19% of graduates.
Despite these divides, the EU referendum hasn’t led to a rise in English nationalism. 13% of people in England describe themselves as English, not British - the lowest level since 1997. The most popular category remains “Equally English and British” at 41%.
The General Election
The 2017 General Election saw the largest ever age divide in British electoral politics.
Labour secured 62% of the votes of 18 to 34 year-olds against 22% for the Conservatives. The Conservatives won 55% of voters aged 65 or over compared with 30% for Labour.
The educational divide was not quite as pronounced, but Labour for the first time was more popular amongst those with degrees than those with no formal qualifications.
93% of Brits believe that the world’s climate is definitely or probably changing.
However, 25% of people are very or extremely worried about climate change. 45% are only somewhat worried, and 28% are either not very or at all worried about it.
31% of 18 to 34 year olds are very or extremely worried about climate change compared with 19% of over 65s.
35% of graduates are very or extremely worried about climate change, compared with 20% of those with no qualifications.
Despite the young and educated being most worried about climate change, those aged 18 to 34 are less likely to report doing things to save energy.
Despite our divides, we are more trusting of each other.
54% of Brits believe that people can be trusted, the highest level since 1998 which stood at 47%.
People with degrees (64%) and in managerial or professional social classes (63%) are more likely than those with few or any formal qualifications (42%), or in routine or manual jobs (41%), to say that on the whole they think other people can be trusted.
The research also finds that higher social trust is associated with having a larger social network.