‘Age of outrage’ to blame for national gloom: new research

Political division is stoking national pessimism, a new study by Demos and Opinium Research shows today.

In research that explores British people’s optimism about eight different domains of our national life, political division was the clear outlier – with fewer people reporting feeling optimistic about this issue than any other.

Less than a quarter of men and just 14% of women say they are optimistic about the levels of political disagreement and division in Britain today. Far more people were optimistic about the prospects of younger generations – an area conventionally associated with pessimism – and about the impact of technology on our working and consumer lives.

The polling demonstrates that the oppositional nature of our political debate does not reflect the values and judgements of the majority of our citizens. The majority of UK adults (76%) want to see politicians of different parties collaborating more to solve the issues the UK faces.

Generally, people have a broadly good or neutral opinion of those who disagree with them politically. The public are more likely to think that people who vote for a particular party have good motivations than bad motivations for doing so, with the exception of people who vote for UKIP and the SNP.

“We’re living in an age of outrage, and it’s having a profoundly negative impact,” commented Demos Director Polly Mackenzie. “If we want to rebuild a sense of common purpose and optimism in the United Kingdom, we need to find a new way of doing politics, that’s in keeping with the values of collaboration and compromise our citizens value.”

The Demos Optimism Project will be launched on Thursday evening at an event with George Freeman MP, the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush, Demos Director Polly Mackenzie and Adam Drummond, Head of Political Research at Opinium. Tickets are available for members of the media.

The full report and tables are available on an embargoed basis on request. The key data is included below. Opinium conducted an online survey of 2005 nationally representative UK adults between 1st and 4th May 2018, and held an online focus group (pop up community) with UK adults on April 20th and 21st 2018.

Quotes from research participants include:

“Ultimately everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is vital we listen to each other’s

views. I believe it is just as vital to challenge views and question people appropriately on

their opinions and a debate is healthy.” – KE

“I voted Remain and my partner voted leave, while I don’t agree with her opinion, I

respect it. I tried to argue my case to her before the vote and vice versa. It was a healthy

debate an in the end we just decided we don’t agree.”. -SD

“There have been many instances where I have changed my opinion based on a good

argument (not a row) and have accepted that my view was probably wrong. “- BC

I don’t think these problems are going to be solved by politicians anytime soon because

politicians are inclined to exaggerate differences to [shore] up votes rather than bring people together.” GC



Caitlin Lambert, Press Officer, Demos

[email protected]

0207 367 4200 | 


About Demos: Demos is the UK’s leading cross-party think tank, with a 25-year heritage of championing people, ideas, and democracy. We produce original research, publish innovative thinkers and host thought-provoking events.


About Opinium: Opinium is an award winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on the pulse of what people think, feel and do. Creative and inquisitive, we are passionate about empowering our clients to make the decisions that matter.