New research finds social fractures caused by Covid-19 are more divisive than Brexit

  • A new poll from think tank Demos finds that Covid-19 is causing deeper social divides than Brexit, with more than half of mask wearers in Britain (58%) having severely negative attitudes about people not wearing masks.
  • The nationally representative poll of 10,000 Britons also finds that the vast majority of people who did not break lockdown rules say they hate, resent or think lockdown rule breakers are bad people.

New research from the cross-party think tank Demos has found that Covid-19 has now caused deeper social fractures than Brexit. The poll finds that over half of mask wearers in Britain (58%) have severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers, and the vast majority (68%) of people who did not break lockdown rules have strong negative views about lockdown rule breakers. 

In comparison, only 33% of people who did not vote ‘Leave’ in the 2016 EU Referendum resent, hate, or think people who voted for Brexit are bad people, and 26% either admire, respect or think they are good people. Leavers are even less resentful of Remainers, with 33% of people who didn’t vote ‘Remain’ saying they feel positively about Remain voters, and only 20% saying that they feel animosity towards them.

Demos has also found that Covid-19 has had a net negative impact on a range of factors in people’s lives, including job security and mental health. Demos’ work shows that alongside people’s anxiety about the future, there is ambition among the British people for the UK and how we live, how we work, and how we support each other.

Demos also finds:

  • Divisions still remain from the early days of the pandemic, with six in ten of those who did not stockpile essentials (60%) saying they hate, resent or think stockpilers are bad people.
  • There is real concern about the increased prevalence of fake news, including around vaccines and online fraud – 54% of people think it has got worse, whilst 9% think it has improved.
  • The pandemic is seen by parents as being a bad thing for their kids’ education (51%), whilst being a good thing for their relationship with their children (63%).
  • People want greater flexibility regarding their place of work, with a balance between working from home and from an office or elsewhere. The proportion who would like to always work from home (19%) is higher than the proportion who did so before the pandemic (11%), but lower than have been doing so during it (25%).
  • People perceive themselves to put greater importance on a range of issues now than they did before the pandemic, including access to green space, national self-sufficiency, air pollution, and social care issues.

Commenting on the findings, Polly Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Demos, said:

“In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has helped communities, neighbours and wider society come together. But our new research has found that there is also a more concerning picture that has arisen. The social divisions caused by the pandemic are stark, but we must work to ensure that these divisions don’t fracture society in the long-term. 

“Our project, Renew Normal, wants to hear from people up and down the country about their views on how Britain should build back from Covid-19. We hope that bringing people together for a national conversation to shape Britain’s future will help heal the divides, find common ground and take forward the best of the community spirit gained through the health crisis.”

From the polling, Demos have identified eight areas where people want to see change as the UK builds back from the pandemic. The next step for the People’s Commission on Life After Covid-19 will focus and look further at these eight modules:

  • Our daily lives
    • Community networks and volunteering
    • Green spaces and the local environment
  • Our working lives
    • Where we work
    • National resilience and self-sufficiency
    • The social contract
  • The social contract
    • The role of low paid workers
    • Reducing inequalities
  • Life online: 
    • Fake news and misinformation
    • Living well online




Demos conducted a nationally representative survey of 10,061 UK adults aged 18+ online between 31 July – 7 August 2020. Data are weighted to the profile of the population. Demos asked a series of questions, informed by the first phase of the Renew Normal project, probing around changes in attitudes and experiences related to the pandemic, and whether these were for the better or for the worse.

Media Contact

Josh Tapper, Communications Officer, Demos

Email: [email protected]

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Demos is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.