Welcome to our review of 2018, a year filled with seemingly unending arguments about Brexit – and potentially one of many to come. Overall, the British remain personally upbeat, with the ONS recording rising personal happiness, and (perhaps) record employment contributing to this. Yet the public are anxious about the state of the country as a whole. They are negative about Brexit’s impact on their own finances and the country’s. There is record concern about poverty and inequality, and 62% say they would pay more taxes to end austerity. There’s a widespread feeling that the young face an uncertain future. Most of us think we have a housing crisis in Britain. Economic confidence is the lowest it’s been since 2011.
However, it’s nearly Christmas, and so I’m going to focus on the positives. The first is that, in 2018, Britons continue to believe we have more that unites us than divides us. While 61% believe people these days are angrier than in the past, they are actually less likely to think so than before the Financial Crash in 2007, when 72% believed everyone was getting angrier.
We may be divided into ‘Anywheres’ or ‘Somewheres’, but most of us still trust each other and experts – if anything more so than in the past. Our Annual Veracity Index has found no collapse in trust in our politicians – it’s just as low as it was back in 1983 when we first asked the question. In fact, trust in most professions, including journalists, has been rising over the last decade (apart from the clergy, who have fallen from grace).
British institutions such as the monarchy, BBC and armed forces remain popular. Nearly all of us (87%) thought the NHS was a good thing as it celebrated its 70th birthday this summer, while the BBC got record audiences for its new dramas, like The Bodyguard. The Royal Wedding in May showed how traditional British institutions are adept at modernising themselves – this year 87% of us are favourable to Prince Harry, 85% to the Queen herself.
While our innate predilection for immediate threats and bad news stories has helped us survive for thousands of years, in general things are better than we think they are (without being complacent!), just as our Perils of Perception studies show.
Globally, our reputation among the public is holding up in the National Brand Index Study – the UK remains one of the most well regarded countries on the planet. We may still shoot ourselves in the foot, but there is still a lot to be positive about.
We have chosen some of the ‘Words of Year’ for 2018 to feature on the front cover of this edition. These words – ‘singe-use’, ‘vegan’, ‘MeToo’, ‘whitewash’, ‘plogging’ (the practice of picking up litter while out jogging) – illustrate our desire as a nation to change and improve the things around us. Maybe the world isn’t going to hell in a handcart after all.
We’re not content to rest on our laurels here, either. This year our Almanac tackles topics as diverse as the NHS at 70; the financial sector in the wake of ‘Open Banking’; how brands can best use Siri, Alexa and Google Home; the rate at which women are taking their place at the boardroom table; whether our high streets really are on their last legs; and if the youth of today are more mild than wild.
All that remains for me is to wish you and your family our best wishes for Christmas and for 2019 – which we will be scanning, analysing and measuring as ever! Next year will undoubtedly hold even more surprises, but I hope it’s a good one for you and yours.
Chief Executive, Ipsos MORI