Britain’s voters are gloomy about their immediate prospects, with the ongoing pandemic and cost-of-living crisis plaguing the country – according to extensive analysis by research group BritainThinks.
The company conducted a poll of more than 2,000 people to ask how they feel about the country and their own prospects, backed by voter focus groups in six places.
The survey found that 38 percent of people felt positive about the future, while 55 percent were negative.
Less than a third of respondents believed that Britain would be a better place to live in 10 years.
Optimism seems to be one of the main dividing lines between supporters of the two main parties, with 57 per cent of those who supported the Conservatives in 2019 feeling optimistic towards 26 per cent of their Labor equivalents.
There are widespread concerns about the cost of living, economic growth and the prospect of some shortages of goods in the winter – caused by a combination of Brexit and wider global supply issues.
While 34 percent felt optimistic about the economy over the next year, they were surpassed by the 59 percent who felt pessimistic.
Raphael Malek, research director at BritainThinks, said there was little confidence in the government’s ability to steer the country through its current challenges.
“After a surge in optimism in the summer as the restrictions lifted, the public mood darkened again – almost back to the depths we saw in late 2020,” he said.
“There is still considerable uncertainty about the pandemic (even before the news of the Omicron variant), growing concern about the cost of living and deep concern about the pressure the NHS is facing.”
The research was done before Omicron became the dominant coronavirus strain.
There are overwhelming expectations of further price increases, reflecting increases in energy bills – caused by a rise in wholesale gas prices – and broader inflation. About 94 percent of those surveyed expect the cost of living to rise next year.
That feeling of gloom has also crept into people’s feelings about the NHS, with 53 per cent feeling pessimistic about the health service and only 40 per cent optimistic. Nearly half of respondents expected another Covid-19 restriction, despite the fact that the vast majority of the public had at least two stab wounds.
Elsewhere, a majority of those surveyed said they were pessimistic about national unity, expected the UK to become more divided next year, and thought British values were declining.
Speaking to a focus group of middle-aged voters from suburban Greater Manchester, Joanne said she felt “pessimistic, depressed and uncertain” about the country’s prospects.
“Electricity (bills) is rising, everything is going up, but wages are going down,” she said.
Tim, a delivery manager, told the group he was concerned about tax increases, price increases and the possibility of another Covid restriction. “They said the minimum wage is going to rise in April, but I think price increases are going to be a lot more than that,” he said. “Gas and electricity bills are rising and can wipe it all out, increase national insurance, they have frozen personal allowances, it’s going to take a bigger share of your wage.”
Tim said his life was “stressful” with an ever-increasing workload and dealing with people who were afraid of Covid.
At a focus group aged 55 and over in South Wales, retired police officer Dean said he thought the pandemic would cost ‘a fortune in the long run.
“We will all have to pay a price, we have spent a hell of a lot of money as a country, and taxes, fuel prices, everything is going to go up,” he said. “We’re just going to have good shafting.”