Britons less likely to say they're materialistic than most other countries

A major Ipsos MORI survey of over 16,000 people across 20 countries shows that the British public are among the least likely to see themselves as materialistic.

A major survey of over 16,000 people across 20 countries shows that the British public are among the least likely to see themselves as materialistic.  They are also less likely than the global average to feel under pressure to make money or be successful.  Ongoing worries about the economy and living standards mean optimism about the future of the country is low. But consistent with the view that money isn’t everything, we are relatively optimistic about ourselves and our families over the next year.

Ipsos MORI’s new Global Trends Survey data finds that only 16% of the British public say they measure their success by the things they own, down from 20% in 2008 – this puts us in the bottom three globally, with only the Spanish and Swedish less likely to agree. There are stark differences across countries  – 71% of respondents in China agree that owning things is a measure of their success, as do 58% in India (although online survey results in developing countries should be viewed as representative of a more affluent and “connected” population).

But the proportion of the British public who feel under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money has risen significantly during the recession, from 27% in 2008 to 39% in 2013. This still places us slightly below the 46% global average. We feel under less pressure than those in emerging markets and North America, but under more pressure than some of our European neighbours, including the Italians and the French.

Other recent Ipsos MORI surveys show our increasing concerns about living standards.  This is reflected in this new international survey, where the public remain relatively pessimistic about Britain over the next year (just 25% of us are optimistic). However, most Britons are optimistic about themselves and their families over the next 12 months (61%), in line with the global average (59%).

Looking across countries, optimism about the country’s prospects is highest in India (53%), Canada (47%) and Australia (47%), while Spain (12%), Italy (10%) and France (9%) are the least optimistic.  The same three European countries are in the bottom five on personal optimism, with Japan (40%) and South Korea (39%) even lower.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of the Social Research Institute, Ipsos MORI, says:

“As the country emerges from recession, the British public’s concern about the national economy has fallen. But worries about our personal finances persist, and we are feeling under more pressure to make money. Yet we do not like to see ourselves as measuring success by the things we own, perhaps because we have more possessions to begin with. It is certainly the case that a materialistic outlook is much more common in emerging markets. And the fact that most Britons remain optimistic about their own lives suggests that we may actually believe that money isn’t everything.”

Technical note:

  • Ipsos Global Trends Survey of 16,039 adults across 20 countries (1,000 GB), online, 3-17 September 2013. Data is weighted.

Further data:

 I measure my success by the things I own
   Agree
 China  71%
 India  58%
 Turkey  57%
 Brazil  48%
 South Korea  45%
 Poland  39%
 Average  34%
 France  34%
 South Africa  33%
 Russia  32%
 Argentina  29%
 Belgium  28%
 Germany  27%
 Australia  24%
 Japan  22%
 Italy  22%
 US  21%
 Canada  20%
 Great Britain  16%
 Spain  15%
 Sweden  7%

 

 I feel under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money
  Agree
 China 68%
 South Africa  66%
 Russia  66%
 India  60%
 Turkey  53%
 South Korea  52%
 Argentina  49%
 Canada  49%
 Average  46%
 US  46%
 Brazil  44%
 Poland  42%
 Germany  40%
 Australia  40%
 Great Britain  39%
 Belgium  36%
 Spain  36%
 France  33%
 Japan  29%
 Italy  28%
 Sweden  26%

 

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the following: [individual country]?
  Agree
 India 53%
 Canada  47%
 Australia  47%
 China  46%
 Sweden  45%
 Argentina  41%
 Brazil  39%
 Germany  35%
 Russia  34%
 Average  32%
 South Africa  29%
 Japan  28%
 US  28%
 Turkey  28%
 Great Britain  25%
 Belgium  23%
 South Korea  21%
 Poland  19%
 Spain  12%
 Italy  10%
 France  9%
Looking ahead to the next 12 months, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the following: [you and your family]?  
  Agree
 South Africa 75%
 Brazil  74%
 Sweden  73%
 Canada  71%
 Argentina  71%
 India  71%
 US  68%
 Australia  65%
 Russia  65%
 Great Britain  61%
 Average  59%
 Belgium  57%
 China  56%
 Poland  55%
 Germany  51%
 Turkey  51%
 Spain  51%
 France  49%
 Italy  47%
 Japan  40%
 South Korea  39%

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