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Fractious and fearful: Most Britons see other Brits who disagree on Covid as threat to country’s future

  • Community spirit dwindles as nation battles through final stretch of full lockdown – Covid disagreements lead to suspicion of neighbours and fallouts over vaccine views
  • Rifts over rules fuel mental health problems in majority of Brits, from anxiety or trouble sleeping to panic attacks
  • Pandemic piles pressure onto a nation already dealing with divisive changes – but many still say it’s made them realise the importance of community
  • To help communities with different views come together, Engage Britain launches UK’s first national drive putting people in charge of tackling the country’s biggest problems
Press release infographic (Feb 25 2021)

New analysis out today reveals a fractious and fearful nation battling through the final stretch of lockdown, as over half (56%) of Britons say other Brits who disagree on the Covid rules are a threat to the country’s future.

As new charity Engage Britain launches a national drive to help bring communities back together and put people in charge of tackling Britain’s biggest problems, it polled over 2000 adults on how different views on Covid, such as taking the vaccine or lockdown restrictions, are impacting the nation.

As the prolonged pandemic piles pressure onto a nation already dealing with divisive changes, the community spirit Britain summoned at the outset shows signs of fading. Nearly as many Britons said they’ve become more suspicious of people in their community with a different approach to the rules (23%), as those who think their community is pulling together (26%).

The vaccine rollout has put a strain on friends and families too, with one in 20 people (5%) having bust ups with loved ones over their views on taking it.

And disagreements are directly fuelling mental and emotional problems for most Brits (59%), who agreed their mental health had been affected due to other people’s compliance with the rules and restrictions. Some of these problems included increased anxiety (31%), trouble sleeping (21%), with one in 20 even reporting panic attacks.

But despite fractures and strains, nearly one in three (31%) believe the pandemic has made them realise the importance of community. And ordinary Brits coming together in Covid’s wake will be crucial to our future success, according to Engage Britain.

As the nation looks to rebuild, the charity is launching a national drive to bring together Brits from all walks of life, drawing on different views and experiences to find answers to Britain’s biggest problems. The first issue ordinary people will tackle is their biggest worry – health and care.

Following Engage Britain’s comprehensive analysis with the British public, including discussion groups and a series of major polls before and during the pandemic, health and care consistently came out as the public’s number one concern. Their biggest issues are getting the right access to health and care services and funding them properly.

The national drive will kick off with 100 online conversations in communities up and down the country, where thousands of Brits can have their say on health and care. Then a panel of ordinary people will make decisions about priorities and engage with professionals like doctors, carers and nurses, to make plans for change. The end goal will be to get the public’s plans put into practice so everyone can get the health and care they need.

Engage Britain Director, Julian McCrae, said: “The pandemic is piling a mountain of pressure onto a nation already dealing with huge changes which split families and communities across the country. It’s desperately sad to see this causing anxiety, suspicion and sleepless nights for so many of us.

“This could be a dangerous moment for the country, if we don’t find a way to pull together. With so much at stake and things feeling out of our control, it’s hard to see past the stress of disagreements – but they can actually make us stronger. As we recover from this crisis, the public needs to have more of a say in the things that matter to them, using their different views, ideas and experiences to rebuild Britain.

“For too long we’ve relied on our political system to make decisions which affect the lives of millions, but which are all too often taken without talking to them about it. Noone knows more than ordinary people what it’s like to live in Britain today. That’s why we’re asking people from all walks of life to come together and have their say on how to make life better for everyone after some of the toughest times our country’s ever faced.”

Anyone can make their voice heard on how to build better health and care in Britain by taking part in an open conversation at


Notes to editors

Media contact

Freya Barnes, Head of Media 0203 953 6329 /

Quotes from Community Conversations

I think as well like having conversations like this, especially talking about things that are important, is a really good start because it means that people aren’t speaking on behalf of other people when they don’t have really any idea about how these people live their lives. So for example, people who have had people close to them suffer with their mental health. No, I guess have had some idea of what that would be like. Whereas a lot of homes, a government and like MPs, love to speak on behalf of people that they have really no understanding of.”

There’s often frustration that the public doesn’t have a say in what goes on. Because they understand what the particular needs of a locality are better than any professional.

We know that children living in deprivation are far more likely to experience mental health difficulties, poor physical health, diabetes, heart disease, oh, my God, the list goes on substance abuse, the data is there. And I you know, I get a bit tired, if I’m honest, of, you know, there’s another report comes out, or there’s another this or another that or another, you know, governmental focus group, we’re going to talk about this stuff. You know, we’ve known this forever.

Let the public decide! This is their money, that look we have got 50 pence, we’ve got two pence, you want this or you want this or you want this?


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Survey methodology
  • Survey commissioned by Engage Britain and conducted by Yonder to investigate public attitudes towards COVID in the UK
  • The survey asked seven questions about people’s experience of COVID and division to a nationally representative survey of 2,128 UK adults, with fieldwork conducted 5 – 7 February 2021
  • The survey asked: “To what extent do you agree or disagree that Britons who have opposing views on the coronavirus rules and restrictions are a threat to the country’s future?”; 56% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed, 16% disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 28% didn’t know or neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • The survey asked: “Thinking about the impact of Covid-19 on your community, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements”. 23% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with “I am more wary or suspicious of people in my community who have a different approach to the coronavirus rules and restrictions”; 26% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with “My community has pulled together more in this crisis than ever before”; and 31% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with “Covid-19 crisis has made me realise the importance of my community”.
  • The survey asked: “Thinking about the impact that Covid-19 has had on your relationships with your friends, family or loved ones over the last few months, to what extent would you agree or disagree with the following statements”. 5% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with “I have fallen out with friends, family or loved ones because of their views on taking the vaccine”.
  • The survey asked: “Thinking about reports and your own experience of the public’s compliance with the coronavirus rules and restrictions, what effect if any has this had on your mental health and wellbeing”. 59% reported one or more negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. In choosing as many answers as they wished from a list of effects on mental health 36% said they experienced feeling low, 31% said they experienced increased anxiety, 28% said they experienced increased stress, 21% had trouble sleeping, 19% had withdrawn from others and 6% had experienced panic attacks.
  • Engage Britain carried out extensive research on public attitudes in Britain to identify the biggest challenges the public believed the country is facing. This included working with BritainThinks and holding discussion groups with Ipsos MORI. Health and care consistently came out as the public’s biggest concern. Other issues the public consistently highlighted included poverty, education and immigration.
About Engage Britain

Engage Britain brings together people from all walks of life to tackle our country’s biggest challenges – because no-one knows better than ordinary people what it’s like to live in Britain today.

Through combining different views, knowledge and experiences, Engage Britain supports people living in Britain to develop and test new ideas to find answers to our problems – ones that reach across divides, improve lives and make our country a better place to live.