Issues Index: The five tribes of Brexit Britain

A new segmentation of 2017 Issues Index data reveals a five-way split in public views on the most important issues facing Britain

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Anna Sperati Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Over the past few years, Britain has found more to worry about. Our monthly Issues Index poll has tracked the priorities of the British public since 1974, and as public worry about the economy – all-consuming during the economic crash – has petered out, the number of concerns listed per person has risen.

But while Britain is united in concern, we are divided on what is worth worrying about. Different sections of the population have very contrasting ideas of what Britain in the 21st century should stand for, and which problems it should address.

These dividing lines replicate themselves in our data. Aside from the perennial exception that is the NHS, people tend to focus on some of the key issues facing Britain – Brexit, immigration, the economy and education – at the expense of the others. These disagreements mean that we can use statistical analysis on this year’s Issues Index data to segment the British population into well-defined groups.

The result of this analysis is five “tribes”, connected by their increased likelihood of selecting particular issues. Their details are below:

The five tribes

Young Urban and Unengaged (28% of the public):

Members of this group are younger, more urban-based and more ethnically diverse than the wider population. They have diffuse concerns – no single issue preoccupies them. However they are the group most likely to worry about unemployment, and they also rate the NHS, housing and unemployment fairly equally among their biggest issues.

Bothered by Brexit (26% of the public):

Slightly older than average, members of this group are more middle class, and much more male than the British public overall. Group members have a fixation with Brexit; they are far more likely to mention it than any other issue.

Groups associated with Leave (men, 55+) and Remain (Scots, ABs) are both over-represented; they may disagree on why Brexit is a big issue.

Traditional Misgivings (21% of the public):

The oldest and least ethnically diverse grouping, they are more female than male and the most likely to have no formal qualifications. The NHS is their top issue, but what makes this group stand out is their heightened concern with immigration. Immigration is also most likely to be seen as the single biggest issue facing Britain by this group.

Public Service Worriers (21% of the public):

Two thirds female, this group are strongly middle class, and over half hold a degree.This group are highly likely to worry about the NHS, as well as education – in addition to being concerned about Brexit. Brexit may be their biggest single issue, but they are also more likely than average to say the NHS or education.

The Hyper-Concerned (4% of the public):

Another middle class grouping, a high proportion have a degree. This group is also the most suburban or rural-based and middle aged. This small group are highly likely to worry about most issues. More than 70% will mention NHS, Brexit and education as issues. The single biggest issue for this grouping is Brexit.

Technical Note

The Issues Index
The Ipsos MORI Issues Index is a regular poll that has run since September 1974, and has run monthly since the early eighties. Every month, we interview a representative quota sample of around 1,000 British adults aged 18 and over using face-to-face interviewing. Data is then weighted to match the British population profile.

Participants are asked two questions – the first asks what they believe the biggest single issue facing Britain is, and a second asks for other big issues they believe are facing the country. The question is asked unprompted, and interviewers code responses to a list of potential issues.

This analysis uses data from the first nine waves of the issues Index over 2017, covering January to September. Over this time period 8,969 interviews were conducted.

Latent Class Analysis

Participants were classified using Latent Class Analysis (LCA), a statistical technique which identifies clusters of people who share similar values or behaviours. This is a probabilistic model-based approach, taking advantage of the binary nature of Issues Index questions to estimate the probability of group membership for each participant, and then assign them into clusters.

The figures associated with issues for each group are probabilities – for example in the “Bothered by Brexit” grouping there is a 0.81 probability that any given member will mention Brexit. This is interpreted as an “81% chance” of selection.

By contrast, the demographic figures describing each group are percentages; as participants are assigned to a group, it is possible to look at the overall balance of demographic characteristics within each segment.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Anna Sperati Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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