Ipsos MORI Issues Index: 2018 in review

Our analysis of 2018 Issues Index data shows concern about Brexit rising further to become the clear biggest issue for Britain, and a sizeable increase in public worry about crime since 2017

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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  • Across 2018 the biggest issue facing Britain was Brexit, mentioned by over half of the public (53%) 
  • Concern about the NHS has fallen slightly since 2017 and it is now in second place (45%)
  • Worry about crime has risen by seven percentage points since 2017; at 19% it is now joint-third with immigration 


Aggregated data from across 12 waves of the Ipsos MORI Issues Index shows that over half (53%) of the British public are worried about Brexit, making it the biggest issue facing the country during 2018. Rising by seven percentage points since 2017 it has replaced the NHS as the nation’s chief worry, with four in ten of the public naming it as the single biggest issue for Britain (39%).

However, healthcare and the NHS remains a major national concern – over 2018 45% named it as a pressing worry, broadly the same level as in 2017 when it was the biggest issue for the country (47%). For some groups, including women, Labour supporters and those in social grades C2DE, issues related to the NHS are as important a concern as those around Brexit and the EU. 
Issues Index - 2018 top tenOutside of this top two, Britons rate six other issues as near-equally important for the country. Three of these – housing, education and poverty/inequality – remain at levels broadly similar to those recorded in 2017, but the other three show greater movement:

  • Immigration: Concern on this topic has continued to fall, furthering a trend that began in 2015 when immigration was the biggest issue facing the country. Despite a seven-percentage point drop since 2017 this remains the joint-third largest issue for Britain
  • Crime/law and order: Public worry about crime has risen seven percentage points since 2017, reflecting a series of spikes in concern across the year. During November 2018 concern reached 26% – the highest score in seven years
  • The economy: The proportion who see the economy as a major concern continues to decline gently; 18% in 2018, down three points from 21% in 2017

Concern about the NHS and Brexit

While Brexit and the EU is the clear biggest issue nationally, there are splits about its importance over the NHS between key demographic subgroups. Among men, Conservative party supporters and those in social grades ABC1, Brexit is seen as a bigger issue for the country by margins of more than ten percentage points. However among their counterparts – women, Labour party supporters and those in social grades C2DE – both issues are considered equally important.

Brexit and NHS - head to head comparison

National Concerns

The national order of concern is reflected across nearly all nations and regions of Britain- Brexit is the biggest issue, followed closely by the NHS:

  • Brexit is the clear biggest issue in nine of eleven nations and regions – it is six or more percentage points ahead of the NHS in Scotland, Wales, London, the south east and south west, east of England, West midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and the north east of England.
  • In the remaining two regions – the East Midlands and north west England – these top two issues are closer together. In the former, both issues are considered a big concern by 44%, while those in the north west put the NHS ahead of Brexit as a national concern (52% to 48%).
  • In Scotland public concern about Brexit is higher than the British average, with 59% naming it as a big issue (compared with 53% overall). Scots are also more likely to name social care and looking after an ageing population as a worry (16% to 11%), but less likely to be concerned about immigration, crime and housing.
  • Brexit is also the biggest worry in Wales, although concern is close to the national average (55% vs 53%). Welsh concerns about the NHS and immigration are both slightly above the British average (50% to 45% and 22% to 19% respectively), while worries about housing, crime and poverty/inequality are lower.
  • Londoners are significantly more concerned about housing. Twenty-eight per cent name it as a worry, ten percentage points higher than the national average, making it the clear third-largest issue for London. Concern about crime in the capital is elevated too, with 24% citing it as an issue (compared with 19% nationally).

Political Divides

As noted above, while people across nearly all demographic groups are agreed on the two top issues of the country, they differ in the emphasis they give to them. This is also true of supporters of the two main parties, as well as Liberal Democrats and non-voters. 

For supporters of the Conservative party Brexit is the clear biggest issue – two thirds name it as one of the biggest issues for the country (66%) and half say it is the single biggest issue (51%). While fewer see the NHS as a big issue (49% overall) it is important to note that this is still higher than the proportion of the general public who see the NHS as a worry (45%). Conservatives are far more likely to see immigration as an issue than the British public, or supporters of other political parties, (28%, compared with 19% nationally), and crime and defence/terrorism complete their top five issues.

Labour party supporters see Brexit and the NHS as equally pressing issues for Britain. Half name them as one of the biggest issues for the country (51% and 52% respectively), although while 36% name Brexit as the single biggest issue, far fewer (15%) say the same about the NHS. The next-most important issues for Labour supporters are Poverty/inequality (23%), housing and education (both 22%). The proportion who see immigration as a concern is half that of Conservative supporters (15% compared with 28%).

Liberal Democrat supporters are highly concerned about Brexit, with 73% naming it as one of the biggest issues for the country. They are also more likely to name the NHS as a concern than the wider public (54% compared with 45%). Yet while they follow the Conservative party in the ordering of their top two issues, they share the remaining three issues in their top five with the Labour party – education, housing and poverty/inequality.

Those who say they would not vote see Brexit as a larger issue than the NHS – 44% say the former is a big concern for the country, and 38% name the latter, although both are below their national averages. Crime and immigration are their next-biggest issues (matching the national picture), followed by housing 
Top five issues by political preference

See more of Ipsos MORI's long-term political and social trends here.

Technical note

Ipsos MORI's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. For the 2018 aggregate data from the twelve waves of the study carried out in 2018 were combined: across this period Ipsos MORI interviewed 12,053 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The answers given are spontaneous responses, and participants are not prompted with any answers.
Ipsos MORI's Capibus vehicle was used for this survey. Interviews were conducted face-to-face and in-home across twelve monthly surveys carried out in Great Britain. Data are weighted by month to match the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Ipsos Public Affairs, UK