People and places: Public attitudes to beauty

This study was commissioned by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to provide a basis for examining how people relate to the places where they live.

This study was commissioned by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to provide a basis for examining how people relate to the places where they live. Recognising the Government’s commitment to promote a Big Society, the project uses the idea of beauty as a stimulus for debate about the quality of the local environment and how best to involve people in shaping the look and feel of the places where they live.

Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute chose to use a multi-layered approach so that we could engage the public at a variety of different levels. We were conscious from the outset that beauty was a subject worth exploring with people using different techniques, and by doing so, we would be able to provide a representation of public opinion grounded in several sources. Homing in on Sheffield as an area of recent regeneration and ‘beautification’, we ran six ethnographic interviews and hosted a day of qualitative discussion groups with 60 members of the public. To provide context to the set of local findings generated by this qualitative phase and to further explain differences between groups of people, we ran a national omnibus survey of 1,043 adults across England.

By engaging the public at an individual level (through ethnographies), a communal level (through rolling discussion groups) and a national level (through a survey), we were able to draw conclusions that represent a broad cross-section of the public’s attitudes.

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