What Next? Priorities for Britain

A nationally representative poll of over 10,000 people from Renew Normal: the People’s Commission on Life After COVID-19 has looked at the impact the pandemic has had on people’s lives and how people’s attitudes have changed. We found that the nation is divided on their experiences and attitudes.

Overall, Covid-19 has had a net negative impact on a range of factors in people’s lives, from job security to mental health, but a substantial minority reported positive impacts on every topic. There were also some areas where people were more likely to report improvements to their lives: connection to their local community, to friends and family and – for parents – relationships with children.

Middle class people were by far the most likely to report upsides from this crisis. For example, 22% of those on incomes of less than £20,000 felt their spending habits had improved, rising to 37% of those on incomes of more than £50,000. More than a third of those in social grade A said they felt happier, compared to just 18% of those in grade E. We also found that people perceive themselves to now put greater importance on a range of issues, including green space, self-sufficiency, and air pollution.

Covid-19 has also created sharp social fractures between groups who take a different view about the appropriate personal or policy response. Our findings show that the social divide on the key questions associated with Covid-19 – such as mask wearing or lockdown rules – is now deeper than the divide over Brexit.

Demos also finds:

  • Over half of mask wearers in Britain (58%) have severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers.
  • The vast majority (68%) of people who did not break lockdown rules have strong negative views about lockdown rule breakers.
  • 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%).

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 role of low paid workers
    • Reducing inequalities
  • Life online:
    • Misinformation
    • Living well online

Read the full report.

Explore the full results of the poll.

Get involved in the next stage of the project.