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2017: a year of pessimism?

Britons are not optimistic about their own standard of living and personal finances, and it is common for us to worry about what 2017 will bring the country and the world.

The first month of 2017 has seen some glimpses of good economic news (including encouraging GDP growth in the UK[i] and in the euro area[ii]) but the British public appear to be fairly pessimistic regarding 2017 according to Populus research at the start of the year.

    • Less than a third (29%) of adults think 2017 will be better for their quality of life than 2016, but just 19% say it will be worse. Half (48%) say it will be neither better nor worse.

    • A quarter (26%) say 2017 will be better than 2016 for their personal finances, but more (28%) say 2017 will be worse. Those more pessimistic respondents echo the findings of a recent Resolution Foundation report, which warns that “fast rising inflation this year has brought this all too short mini-boom to a sharp halt as pay rises have not kept up”.[iii]

    • There is even more pessimism around the state of the country and the world. 44% say that 2017 will be worse than 2016 for the country, and half of Britons (50%) say 2017 will be worse for the world than 2016.

    • And the research suggests some differences between different demographic groups: younger people and Britons in the AB social-economic group are, for example, more optimistic than those in the DE social-economic group or those aged 55+.

Figure 1: Do you think 2017 will be better or worse than 2016 for…?

As figure 1 shows, a minority of Britons expect 2017 to be better than 2016 for their quality of life, but a smaller proportion think it will be worse than 2016 (29% vs. 19%). There is more pessimism surrounding Britons’ personal finances: 28% say 2017 will be worse than 2016, and just 26% say it will be better. The most amount of pessimism is reserved for 2017’s impact on the country (44% say 2017 will be worse for the country than 2016) and on the world (50% say 2017 will be worse for the world).

Figure 2 shows how men are less optimistic than women about 2017’s impact on quality of life and on personal finances: the quality of life NET score (the percentage saying 2017 will be better, minus the percentage saying it will be worse) for men is +6%, compared with +14% among women. And men are more likely to be pessimistic than optimistic about 2017’s impact on their personal finances (-8% NET score, compared with +3% among women). There is, however, less difference between the views of men and women on less personal issues – both men and women are generally agreed that 2017 will be worse than 2016 for the country and the world.

Figure 2: Do you think 2017 will be better or worse than 2016 for…? [Showing NET scores: Better-Worse, by gender]

Figure 3: Do you think 2017 will be better or worse than 2016 for…? [Showing NET scores: Better-Worse, by age]

Interestingly, there does not seem to be a significant link between optimism about 2017 and social-economic group (figure 4). While those in the DE group (often in low-skilled, manual jobs or unemployed or relying on a state pension) are much less optimistic than the rest of the country as a whole, there is relatively little difference between the views of those in the AB group (often professionals and white collar managers) and those in the C1 or C2 groups (including administrative, clerical, skilled manual and administrative occupations). An issue on which those groups do differ is 2017’s impact on the world: people in the AB group are more likely than those in the C1 and C2 groups to predict that 2017 will be worse for the world than 2016.

Figure 4: Do you think 2017 will be better or worse than 2016 for…? [Showing NET scores: Better-Worse, by social-economic group]

Methodological note

Populus interviewed 1,025 adults (18+) in Great Britain online on 6 January 2017. Data were weighted in order to be demographically representative of adults in Great Britain. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

View data tables – Populus – 2017 survey

[i] Source: ONS data, accessed 31 January 2017, https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/grossdomesticproductgdp/bulletins/grossdomesticproductpreliminaryestimate/octtodec2016

[ii] Source: Eurostat data, accessed 31 January 2017, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7844044/2-31012017-AP-EN.pdf/61446dd7-81ce-4345-9848-d568238ec26f

[iii] Source: Resolution Foundation, accessed 31 January 2017, http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/press-releases/uks-mini-living-standards-boom-ends-as-inflation-starts-to-bite/

 


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