Welcome to our round up of 2017. This year Britain has been portrayed as divided, split between the ’haves’ and the ’have nots’, Millennials and Baby Boomers, Brexiteers and Remainers, ’Somewheres’ and ’Anywheres’, or the experts and the rest.
We in the UK are not alone in experiencing uncertainty about the future, as the pace and reach of change accelerates. Our 2017 Global Trends Survey this summer found one of the starkest themes is the underlying sense of fragmentation across many spheres of life and an increasing disillusionment with how the world is. This is epitomised by a wave of populism and a feeling of ’being left behind’ experienced by huge numbers across every continent. This is a genuine global crisis of elites. In every country we study, the majority view is that the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.
In Britain, recent upheavals have crystallised divides that have existed for some time, including a deep generational divide, which we examine in this edition, divisions over our social and economic priorities, competing views about Britain’s role in the world, and threats to people’s sense of identity, among others. These differences led to an unexpected and equivocal result in the 2017 General Election, with no one party winning an overall majority across the UK, and a shift in the political landscape, particularly in Scotland.
But as 2017 ends, despite these very different views about the challenges we face and the future direction of the country, there are still things most of us do agree on – which we should remember.
There is still a distinctly British outlook and a set of shared values. Respect for freedom of speech, along with respect for the law, and the ability to speak English are still widely shared. We all value our sense of humour (and need to!). Across generations, acceptance of same-sex relationships, abortion and pre-marital sex is growing. We are increasingly socially liberal, but remain tough on crime: 80% also agree the government should have the right to keep people under video surveillance in public areas and 70% think the government should be able to stop and search people in the street at random.
Despite their own problems, British institutions still unite us, and we choose more of them when asked what makes us proud, than any other English speaking country. Our pride in the NHS is a unique facet of British identity and it receives near universal support. Some 95% of people say they respect the UK armed forces. Seven in ten (71%) want to keep the monarchy (only 18% are republicans). We are also proud of our history, with 43% of people saying this makes them proud to be British, coming second only to the NHS (50%). The vast majority aspire to be home owners, regardless of whether they currently are, or think they can be.
Overall then, despite all the political upheavals and uncertainty in recent years, Britons have a shared sense of values and a shared set of attitudes about what we think we should be proud of. Only 13% of us would rather be a citizen anywhere else.
As we struggle with pressure on real wages, austerity in the public sector, rapid technological change and disruption and fractured politics, there’s still much that unites us. Above all, British people want to be allowed to feel good about the country and themselves – brands and institutions that understand that will succeed in 2018.
A peaceful Christmas and happy New Year to you and your families.