COVID-19 is no longer the sole leading concern for Britain

The October 2021 Ipsos Issues Index reveals that COVID-19 has fallen to become one a set of leading issues for the nation, rather than its biggest concern.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight
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  • Three issues jointly lead public concerns this month: COVID-19, the economy and Brexit
  • Concern about COVID-19 falls ten percentage points from September
  • Worry about the NHS and the environment are also close to the top of the public mind

The October 2021 Ipsos Issues Index reveals that COVID-19 has fallen to become one a set of leading issues for the nation, rather than its biggest concern. Around one quarter of the public express concern about five issues: Brexit, COVID-19, the economy, pollution and climate change, and the NHS.

Fieldwork was conducted from 1 – 9 October, covering a period when the country was experiencing petrol shortages.

There has been a significant decrease in the proportion who see the pandemic as a big issue for Britain; this month 27 per cent mention it, down ten percentage points from the score of 38 per cent in September. There has been a similar drop in the number of people who consider COVID-19 to be the biggest single issue for Britain, which stands at 13% compared with 21% last month.

Over the same time, concern about Brexit has risen by eight percentage points to 28 per cent this month, making it jointly the biggest worry for Britain. It is also jointly considered to be the single biggest issue for the country; 13% say this, which is the same score as COVID-19 this month.

Worry about the economy and pollution also feature close to the top of public concerns on scores similar to September (26% and 24% respectively). Worry about the NHS has fallen seven points since last month, but on 23% it remains one of the leading issues for the country.

One in ten of the public mention petrol prices and availability as a major issue for the country (10%), which is the highest level of concern about this issue since October 2013, when petrol prices were last as high as they are currently. However this is a far lower score than was recorded during the petrol drivers’ strike of 2000: in September of that year 31% mentioned issues around fuel as the biggest issue for Britain.
Top ten for October 2021

On 28%, the score for this month’s biggest issue is one of the lowest in the history of the index. 

The last time public concerns looked like this was in December 1990, when defence and issues around local government and council tax were the joint-biggest issues on 29%, followed by the NHS (24%), economy (23%) and unemployment (22%).

Part of the reason for this is the fact that, aside from COVID-19, different groups of people are prioritising different issues:

  • Brexit is seen to be a far bigger concern by Labour supporters over Conservatives (35% vs 17%), as well as by those in social grades AB and C1 over C2 and DE (respectively: 38%, 35%, 22% and 15%).
  • Concern about climate change is centred in the south of England and London (33% and 31%, compared with 24% overall), as well as being a bigger worry for social grades AB (34%) and those in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups (31% and 35%).
  • There is a sharp age gradient for concern about the NHS, with 35% of 45-54 year olds mentioning it as a worry, compared with just 10% of 18-24 year olds.

Chart showing concern about Brexit by demographic groupsMike Clemence, a researcher at Ipsos, said:

This month’s Index shows a wide divergence in what Britons consider to be the biggest issue for the country, with the pandemic now just one of five concerns rather than being the clear frontrunner.

While concern about COVID-19 is reasonably similar across the country, we see wider variation in who is most worried about other key issues like Brexit, climate change and the NHS


Technical note

Ipsos's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,001 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The answers are spontaneous responses, and participants are not prompted with any answers. 
Ipsos's telephone omnibus was used for this survey. Interviews were conducted between 1 and 9 October 2021 across Great Britain. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight