Women and remain voters are the most compassionate Britons

A new report based on an Ipsos MORI survey has found that 60% of people think Britain has become less caring in the last 10 years, while only 8% of people believe Britain has become more caring.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Shepherd Research Director
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  • 60% of people believe Britain has become less caring over the last 10 years
  • The Kindness Report reveals top 5 factors that predict how compassionate we are: being female, voting Remain, living with others, being under 35 and voting Labour
  • Income, social class and location don’t matter when it comes to how kind we are

A new report has found that 60% of people think Britain has become less caring in the last 10 years, while only 8% of people believe Britain has become more caring. 

The Kindness Report: A snapshot of Compassion in Britain is based on a national survey of compassion in Britain, carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the UK-based charity Action for Happiness, with supporting statistical analysis at the Centre for Economic Performance (part of the London School of Economics and Political Science).

The report found that the top 5 factors most strongly predicting high levels of compassion are being female, voting Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, living with 3 or more other people, being aged under 35 and voting Labour at the 2017 general election. Income, social class and location don’t really matter when it comes to how compassionate we are; likewise, levels of education and employment status do not have a statistically significant effect.

Professor Richard Layard (London School of Economics) said:

These findings are remarkable. Although our nation seems increasingly polarised and people think kindness is in decline, it's encouraging to find that younger people feel the importance of showing compassion and may in fact be kinder than their elders. And as more women achieve the recognition and influence they deserve in our society, their greater compassion should be a stronger force for good. It’s vital we do more to promote compassion in our politics, institutions and communities.

Dr Mark Williamson, Chief Executive of Action for Happiness said 

Kindness is the foundation for a good society and benefits us all. Investigating kindness across Britain, this research shows that where we live and how much we earn don’t divide us; yet our political differences do. There’s a real link between how we vote and how much we care about others. To create a better society, we need to see beyond our divisions and unite around what we have in common. We’re happier when we help each other.

The Ipsos MORI survey measured compassion using the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale (SCBCS), an internationally recognised and validated scale. Respondents were given 5 statements relating to compassionate behaviour and asked how true the statements are of their own behaviour on a scale of 1-7. The overall Compassion score is the average of these 5 responses, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of Compassion.

The research involved 2,237 adults aged 16-75 in the UK and was carried out between Friday 23rd and Tuesday 27th August 2019. The sample obtained is representative of the population with quotas on age, gender, region and working status and weighted to an offline nationally representative population. To determine what predicts high levels of Compassion, regression analysis was used to identify which factors are most statistically significant, when controlling for all other factors; and also which factors are not significant. 

Compassion: Top 5 factors

Coefficient

Being female (vs Male)

0.128

Voted remain in EU Referendum (vs Leave)

0.116

Living with 3+ people (vs living alone)

0.105

Aged under 35 (vs Aged 35 or over)

0.102

Voted Labour in the last General Election (vs Conservative)

0.083

Nearly half (48%) of Labour supporters agree they would rather engage in actions to help others than help themselves. In comparison, only one in three Conservative voters (34%) identified with this.

A majority of Conservative supporters say they feel compassion with people, even if they don’t know them (56%) and can feel a great deal of compassion for a stranger going through a difficult time (53%). However, this doesn’t necessarily translate into action as just two in five (40%) Conservative supporters say helping others is one of the activities that provides the most meaning to their life, compared to three in five (58%) Labour supporters.

Jennifer Nadal, co-founder of Compassion in Politics said: 

This report is a timely reminder that our values are intertwined with our politics. Although it’s no great surprise that women have higher levels of compassion, this amplifies the urgent need to transform our hostile political environment, where female MPs in particular have been subjected to unacceptable threats and intimidation. We need our political leaders to adopt a cross-party culture of compassion and set the tone for kindness and tolerance right across society, regardless of political affiliation.

Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos MORI, said:

What is striking is that the majority of us feel society is becoming less kind that in the past.  This reflects our divisions, highlighted in the media, and how we feel as a society. So we think we are less kind – but actually charitable donations rise each year, and the British report feeling happier than in the past

Technical Note

  • The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Action for Happiness. It surveyed a nationally representative quota sample of 2,237 adults in the United Kingdom aged 16-75 using its online I:Omnibus between Friday 23rd and Tuesday 27th August 2019. 
  • Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age within gender, government office region, working status and social grade.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Shepherd Research Director

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