Welcome to Ipsos MORI’s 2013 Almanac. As usual we’ve brought together a spread of statistics and analysis as the year closes. The British are far more cheerful than at the start of the year, when 61% still expected a double-dip recession. During 2013, concern about the economy has gradually receded, and is now the lowest it has been since Spring 2008, before the crash. But while the public and most commentators now agree that a recovery is happening, the debate has moved to what kind of recovery, with record levels of public concern about poverty, low wages and the cost of living. The shift in debate helped Ed Miliband and the Labour party recover some of the ground they lost in 2013 – as we go to press they are six points ahead of the Conservatives, but still a halving of their lead in January/February, with UKIP a wildcard for the Conservatives. The much maligned public sector managed another year without meltdown, despite large reductions in some areas – for example 35% in local government over this parliament. So far public perceptions of a host of services have held up well, with potholes in our roads being the number one result of austerity for most people. Users of services for the elderly – a tiny minority – are most critical, but most of us say we have not really noticed any changes so far, despite being worried about the years of cuts to come. Our adoption of new technology marches on – the mobile phone is now middle-aged at 40, and SMS messaging is 21. In a year where most British have a smartphone or tablet, we look at how we’re using these technologies in 2013 – and how this will change in the next few years. Some things don’t change. One is our respect for certain key British institutions. If trust in Parliament is in decline, our respect for the Monarchy, and love of the NHS, both of which were again celebrated in 2013, are holding up well, and we explore their prospects here. For some, the Monarchy’s future now looks more assured than that of the NHS. Finally, how human beings make decisions and our biased perceptions about the world around us are two of our favourite topics. One of the problems for anyone running this country is the fact that we tend to focus, helped by our media, on things that worry us. As we explore here, the British massively over-estimate the number of teenage pregnancies, the amount of crime, and think a quarter of the population are Muslims. As Nate Silver tells us in this edition, most people are poor at numbers of all kinds (we found the British almost rejoice in this). Inside we look at why most decisions we make are unconscious, and what all this means for anyone running a business, developing new products, producing marketing or advertising.
Last year I said “most of us are too pessimistic about the future of the country”, and if anything, I think 2013 confirmed that. The key question is what sort of country we want to be.
Chief Executive Ipsos MORI