BritainThinks Blog: The Mood of the Nation in 2018

January 11, 2018

The mood of the nation is bleak. Ongoing Brexit uncertainty, rising levels of concern about housing and the NHS, and a lack of confidence in Theresa May mean that the nation is feeling anxious and pessimistic about 2018.

BritainThinks recently conducted research to understand how the public is feeling about the year ahead, running focus groups with swing voters in Watford – one with Labour-leaning, 18-30 year olds, and one with Conservative-leaning voters aged 55 and over - and a nationally-representative poll of 2,000 people. The research taught us five important lessons:

  1. The nation is feeling anxious and the year ahead is characterised by uncertainty: when asked to describe the mood of the nation our focus group participants painted a universally gloomy picture of uncertainty, anxiety and division. Survey respondents agree; 81% say the public is currently feeling anxious about the future, and 80% feel something needs to be done to bring the country together.
  2. Younger people’s outlook for 2018 is particularly bleak: financial concerns were top of mind for the younger people we spoke to, who are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet – something that is expected to continue into 2018, with 87% of the public expecting the cost of living to increase. They cannot physically work any harder, with some doing several jobs, and as a result are feeling a sense of injustice at being excluded from just reward unlike older generations or the ‘benefit scroungers’ who they feel are getting a better deal than they do, especially with regards to housing.
  3. Brexit continues to be a worry, while concerns about the NHS and housing are on the rise: housing and homelessness and the NHS are top of the list of issues that the nation is feeling pessimistic about for the year ahead. Brexit is also a concern and just 30% feel it is likely that negotiations will go well this year. Another vote is not welcomed, however, for fears that this would slow down the process and extend the period of uncertainty even more.
  4. Theresa May’s reputation was devastated during 2017 and expectations are low for 2018: our focus group participants described May as weak, unstable and stubborn – a ‘Thatcher wannabe’ who lacks strength or a vision of her own.
  5. Jeremy Corbyn’s position appears to be stronger, but there’s still a feeling of ‘none of the above’: views of Corbyn are mixed; he’s seen as strong, confident and grounded by some – and not just young people – while others describe him as naïve and untrustworthy.

Crucially, much of his successes are relative to May’s very poor position and are also the result of traditionally Labour issues, such as housing and the NHS, rising up the agenda.

However, questions about Corbyn and anxieties about his ability to deliver remain, and as a result for many it is a case of ‘none of the above’.

Lucy Morrell, Research Lead

The Year Ahead Breakfast Briefing Slides 09 01 18 PDF