Ipsos Issues Index: October 2020

The October 2020 Ipsos Issues Index shows that pre-lockdown, public concern about Coronavirus held steady, while worries about poverty and inequality rose up the public agenda

The author(s)
  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight
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  • Seventy-three per cent of the British public see coronavirus as one of the biggest issues facing Britain
  • One in five mention poverty and inequality as a major concern (18% - up 8 points)
  • Just three per cent mention crime as an issue for Britain, the lowest level recorded since 1974

The October 2020 Ipsos Issues Index shows public concern about Coronavirus remaining at a high level. Seventy-three per cent mention it as a major issue for Britain, down from 77 per cent in September. Fieldwork finished on 29 October, two days before the announcement of a second lockdown in England.

The proportion of the public who mention Brexit as a big issue has fallen to 45 per cent this month, from 51 per cent in September – however this remains almost twice the level of concern recorded in April this year (26%).

There has been a significant rise in the proportion who see poverty and inequality as a big issue for the country; 18% mention it as a concern, an increase of eight percentage points since September.

Other concerns are at historically low scores this month – most notably crime. Just three per cent of the British public mentioned crime as a major issue for Britain in October. This is a new lowest level of concern on this topic in nearly 50 years, since the Issues Index began in September 1974.

What do you see as the most/ other important issues facing Britain today?Concern about poverty and inequality has risen significantly this month, coinciding with the debate to extend provision of free school meals for low-income households over the half term school holidays. Some groups are particularly likely to mention this as a big issue:

  • Younger people are more concerned: 31 per cent of 18-34 year olds mention poverty/inequality as a big issue for Britain, making it their third-largest issue behind Covid-19 (62%) and Brexit (35%).
  • There is a significant political divide, with 27 per cent of Labour supporters seeing this as a major concern compared with nine per cent of Conservatives
  • Public sector workers are also more likely to see poverty/inequality as a worry; 26 per cent mention it compared with 18 per cent of those working in the private sector

Age and social gradeMike Clemence, a researcher at Ipsos, said:

The proportion of the British public who see Covid-19 as a big issue remains at the same level we saw in the summer, although we closed fieldwork before the announcement of a new lockdown in England which may have shifted the dial since then.
We’ve seen some interesting shifts beneath the headlines this month. Firstly, we have seen a rise in concern about poverty and inequality, especially among young adults and Labour party supporters, which may be tied to the debate over extending free school meals during school holidays.
Secondly, public concern about crime has fallen to a truly historical low. Three per cent of the country see crime as a major issue, which is a level we’ve not recorded in the nearly 50-year history of the Issues Index.

Technical note 

  • Since May 2020 the Issues Index has been conducted over the phone; lockdown conditions mean face-to-face fieldwork is currently not an option for public opinion polling. Mode effects should be kept in mind when comparing the new data points with previous months.
  • Ipsos's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,020 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 22 and 29 October across Great Britain. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
The author(s)
  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight

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