Here’s what people have said so far about the challenges facing Britain.
422,031 votes have been cast agreeing or disagreeing with challenges put forward by others.
5,187 of you participated in the online conversation.
1,085 challenges have been put forward as things that need tackling in order to help make Britain a better place to live.
A national conversation
We ran a mass online conversation involving more than 5,000 people. Members of the public could put forward their views on the challenges facing the country, and say whether they agreed or disagreed with other people’s views. People collectively voted more than 400,000 times on over a thousand submitted ideas.
The graphics below show some patterns about what ideas people agreed and disagreed with. Each idea is represented by a dot plotted along a single line. The further to the right of the line an answer is, the greater the level of either agreement or disagreement it received. Those answers to the left were more divisive. You can explore the data yourself by selecting or hovering over the dots, and decide what you think is important.
We share priorities on a variety of challenges
Members of the public identified a whole host of challenges we need to tackle as a country. These include how the nation responds to COVID-19; reform of the health service; concerns around poverty, immigration and racism; the state of education across Britain; and crime. Within each of these areas, people shared opinions and views with each other with a fair degree of complexity.
Take an area like reform of the NHS. Most people agree that the NHS should get more funding (the amber dot, hover over it to see the exact wording and levels of support), with a minority disagreeing. But virtually everyone agreed with the idea that the NHS needed more funding, so long as consideration is given to how that additional resource can be better managed (the green dot).
Some of the answers with the highest level of agreement in the entire conversation were about the need to properly fund social care and improve the connectivity with the NHS (the green dots).
Similarly when it came to COVID-19, almost everyone agreed with the idea of providing continued support to the unemployed to help them get back to work, and that more focus should now be given to reducing pollution and improving the environment in the wake of the pandemic. But there was also a sense of fatalism on this – there were high levels of agreement with the idea that after the lockdown “pollution will bounce back”. Politicising the COVID-19 response, for example suggesting that the government is directly to blame for the death of healthcare workers, divided opinion.
More generally, bringing party politics into an answer was a surefire way to make it more divisive regardless of the topic. Four people submitted answers that expressed the importance of reallocating power and resource away from London. The most divisive of the four was the answer that used the government’s “levelling up” language.
Interestingly, the answers relating to the environment that were most widely agreed with tended to be grounded in people’s experiences of their local areas and neighbourhoods. Some of the issues raised that were more systemic in nature were still agreed with by a sizeable majority of those that voted, but had higher numbers of people who “passed”, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the answer given.
When it came to views relating to the economy and the financial system, there was also a breadth of opinion. The statements submitted by people that attracted the most agreement were mostly related to increasing taxes on big businesses, or clamping down on tax avoidance. Those that raised the need for more quality, fair-paying jobs were also widely agreed with.
There was agreement on a range of challenges related to poverty. Answers that attracted the most agreement tended to be around the need to better support people in working poverty and provide them with a living wage.
On the challenges facing the benefits system, someone suggested that the welfare state should be abolished altogether, and that generated lots of opposition (the red dot). But perspectives from members of the public which acknowledged benefit fraud as an issue, whilst emphasising the importance of welfare for the most vulnerable, attracted much more widespread support (the green dots)
There were other areas where there was near complete consensus of opinion. In education policy, people agreed with the need to put more focus on skills and training, rather than traditional academic routes. There was also considerable support for more affordable homes and local authority housing. And people agree with the principle of shared best practice from local areas when it comes to tackling knife crime and gang violence.
One of the most divisive areas proved to be people’s views on immigration. But even here, challenges were put forward which were capable of garnering significant support from across those that participated. Strong statements from both sides of the debate gained relatively little agreement – for example “we should stamp out immigration because these people are taking our jobs and our benefits” or “immigrants are welcomed whatever the circumstances” (indicated in red). But 69% of people agreed with the challenge put forward by one individual who said that “controlled immigration is best”, and just 16% disagreed. And “we need a clear considered and compassionate immigration policy” got 75% agreement (both are indicated in green).
During the online conversation, the Black Lives Matter protests began around the world, which generated many statements relating to the police and racism. In this area, most people disagreed with the contention that “England will always be a racist country”. The suggestions that were most agreed with were those that encouraged constructive dialogue. One person advocated an open conversation about racism “from all perspectives” so that we can better learn how to tackle it. There was also widespread agreement that the government needs to improve its engagement with marginalised and poor communities.
Unsurprisingly, there was still a lot of division over the direction of our future relationship with the EU and whether Brexit should have happened. But a challenge that really united opinion was one that emphasised a need to focus on the future: “Set a clear vision for what post Brexit Britain will be. What are our ambitions? Potential strengths? Opportunities? Our quality of life?”.
What this suggests overall is that the British public is willing and able to discuss and debate complex policy areas. That, while Brexit and COVID-19 remain relevant, we need to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the other issues that are of concern to thousands of people across the country. And that, within these areas – health, education, poverty, crime, racism, and even immigration – there are both strongly held, and strongly shared views.
There’s a high correlation between key issues
During the online conversation, some issues correlated with each other. This means that how someone votes on one issue indicates how they might vote on another. Interestingly, the highest correlation was between COVID-19 and politics. These, in turn, correlated with how people voted on issues like immigration, Racism and the EU.
This is likely because lots of comments about Covid referenced the government’s handling of the pandemic. Politicising Covid in this way made it much more divisive along the social liberal-social conservative axis.
The prevailing narrative on “culture wars” often groups these topics together with other issues around identity.
While identity issues like those relating to LGBT+ people, gender and disabled people did all correlate with each other, they did not correlate with the group of issues around Racism, the EU, COVID-19 and politics.
Some of the debates that took place alongside the online conversation were also reflected in how issues correlated. Racism and history were highly correlated as a result of the discussions prompted by the Black Lives matter protests.
Even on divisive issues, most of us are balancers
Polis can identify groups of people who share similar opinions. The strongest patterns in the data are around how people see the challenges of Brexit and immigration. Two groups are relatively familiar – we refer to them as “socially liberal” and “socially conservative” as a useful shorthand. The third group, which we refer to as “balancers” (borrowing from British Future’s work on public attitudes towards immigration), was the largest and held views that combined elements of the socially liberal and socially conservative thinking.
The socially liberal group had very clear views on a set of questions.
Likewise, the socially conservative group had clear views, often the opposite of the socially liberal group.
The demographics of these groups were as you might expect. The “socially liberal” group was predominantly young, university educated and lived in urban areas. The “socially conservative” group was older, less likely to be university educated and largely from small towns or suburban settings.
However, most of us do not hold views that fit into either of these groups. The largest group by far was the “balancer” group. This group was defined by their responses to more nuanced positions.
The balancer group was split on whether they think Brexit will be good for Britain, but a majority have accepted it now that it has happened. They were also divided on whether immigration is a good thing, but nearly all agreed that it needs to be controlled and backed the introduction of a points-based system. They tended to agree with statements pointing out the problems with racism in Britain. They were undecided on whether they supported the current government, but do think they mishandled COVID-19.
When people were clustered into groups for just the representative sample and just the Facebook sample respectively, they were shaped by the same divides that drove the groupings for the entire exercise – immigration and Brexit.
And social liberals and social conservatives were much more present online than they were amongst the general population.
Each group represented about 6% of the representative sample we asked to participate in the exercise, but 16% of those who participated in the wider conversation were social liberals and 10% were social conservatives.
People who came in via Facebook were much more likely to be in those groups than the balancer group.
They also responded to more statements on average, despite having no financial incentive to do so (112 for Facebook compared with 95 from the representative sample).
This is a particularly important finding as it indicates that the range of opinions expressed on social media are unlikely to reflect those of the broader British public.
You can explore the relative sizes of the groups yourself by clicking the arrows on the graphic below.
And although the three groups were fundamentally different in how they viewed Brexit and immigration, there are still a number of challenges that we all prioritised regardless of which group we fell into.
Tell us what you think about the challenges facing our country today
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