YouGov regularly tracks public opinion on social mobility and according to their last three years of data, young people especially think that equality of opportunity in the UK is on the decline.
The trend is DRAMATIC…
In January 2022 68% of 18-24 year olds thought that their life chances were ‘broadly determined’ by their parents socio-economic background – this is up from 59% when asked the same question in August 2019.
Only 13% of 18-24 year olds said there are equal opportunities in January 2022, down from 23% in August 2019.
In just two and a half years, these are pretty large changes in opinion with lots more young people supporting the view that social class has an impact on life chances.
Interestingly the trend for all age groups is much more stable…
This suggests that young people’s views are shifting away from older people’s – meaning there is an increasingly different perception in life chances.
NB this survey tells us nothing of the actual social reality – it doesn’t tell us which perception is correct – I’m inclined to think this radical change is down to the restrictions placed on society due to the government’s chosen response to Covid-19 (‘Lockdown’ and school closures).
Maybe those 18-24 year olds are more in touch with younger people who were hugely impacted by these restrictions and this is them expressing that difference.
Whether or not there really has been such drastic reduction in equal opportunities for young people we will have to wait many years to find out, unfortunately.
However I am reasonably certain that equal opportunities haven’t improved over the last three years!
Attitudes to family life in the UK and Europe have become more liberal in the last decade
Attitudes towards family life have become more ‘postmodern’ and less conservative between 2006/07 and 2018/19.
According to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey which measures ‘family values’ by five questions about whether individuals approve or disapprove about different aspects of family life:
remaining childless (disapproval fell from 8% to 6% in the last ten years)
cohabitation (disapproval fell from 14 to 8%)
having children while cohabiting (out of marriage) (21 to 12%)
Being in full time work with children under three (20 to 11%)
Divorce with children under 12 (disapproval fell from 28% to 16%)
What this shows us is that individual values about family life have become more Post/ Late Modern over the last decade – many of these indicators suggest more individualisation, more support for freedom of choice and (surprisingly) divorcing even with children.
There is also a clear shift away from New Right views with increasing support for cohabitation (rather than marriage) being a suitable family arrangement for raising children.
Older generations dying explain this shift in values
The British social attitudes survey analyses their findings by comparing family values across five generations – split as follows:
Born 1901-1927 – the Greatest Generation
Born 1928-1945 – the Silent Generation
Born 1946-1964 – the Baby Boomers
Born 1965-1980 – Generation X
Born 1981-1996 – Millennials
Born 1997-2012 – Generation Z
Unfortunately this shift towards more liberal family values hasn’t occurred because of (older) people changing their minds and become more tolerant of family diversity, rather it’s because the older generations have died and their traditional family values have died with them.
This is best illustrated if we compare the family values of the oldest and youngest generations:
In the 2006/07 survey there were still large numbers of the ‘Great Generation’ alive (those born between 1901 and 1927) who had VERY conservative values about the family, however by the 2018/19 survey the youngest member of this generation would have been 91 and the oldest 117, resulting in insufficient numbers for a representative sample, hence this generation disappears from the survey results by 2018/19.
While for Generation Z who would have been too young to take part in the survey ten years ago, they now appear in the latest results, albeit in small numbers (because some would still be too young!) and these have much more liberal attitudes.
You can also clearly see the shift towards more liberal values more generally in the chart above.
One final thing to think about is the changing attitudes to working with young children – more people probably think this is OK because they know people increasingly HAVE to work to pay the bills, so it’s not as if this is a matter of choice for most parents with younger children!
Changing European Family Values
The report also compares changing attitudes to family life to changes in other countries in Europe:
Family values are getting more liberal in EVERY European country except Sweden (but that had VERY low disapproval ratings to start with!), suggesting this is a regional trend, although other countries started from a ‘higher base’ of more conservative family values.
Signposting and Related Posts
This post has primarily been written for students of A-level sociology and is relevant to the families and households module.
It seems to be valid evidence showing a shift towards postmodern values and away from new right views on the family and it is also relevant to marriage and divorce and family diversity topics as these trends help explain the decline in marriage and increase in divorce – they show that more people think it’s acceptable to not be married before starting a family and OK to divorce even if you have younger children.
How valid are Mori’s survey’s as an indicator of the social problems facing Britain today?
Brexit, the NHS and Crime were the three most important
issues facing Britain in 2019, according to a recent poll conducted by Mori.
The following percentages of people responded that the
issues below were ‘important’:
The Common Market/Brexit/EU/Europe – 65%
NHS/Hospitals/Healthcare – 36%
Crime/ Law and Order/ Anti-social Behaviour –
Education/ schools – 21%
Poverty/ Inequality – 17%
Housing – 15%
Pollution/ Environment – 15%
Economy – 15%
Lack of faith in politics/ politicians/
government – 15%
Immigration/ immigrants – 10%
The above results come from Ipsos Mori’s ‘issues’ index/ poll, which is carried out every month, but at time of writing the September results are most up to date published version.
These results are based on a sample of 1027 adults aged 18
or over and it asks respondents to basic questions:
Q1 – what is the most important issue facing Britain today?
Q2 – what are other important issues facing Britain today?
The above results are a combination of the responses to Q1 and Q2. As I understand it these are open questions and there is no prompting from the person administering the survey.
Analysis of these results
It’s no surprise that Brexit came out on top as the main
issue facing Britain in 2019. NB if you look back at previous polls in preceding
months, the results are similar, so the end of year 2019 issue review will no
doubt show something quite similar to this September poll when it’s published
later in the year.
Brexit hasn’t ‘stolen’ the importance of other issues either
– if you take a long look back, before Brexit was on the agenda, the
percentages for the next most important issues other than Brexit were mostly
around the 10-40%s.
What’s interesting is how few people think anything other
than Brexit and the NHS are ‘issues’ at all – even the third most important
issue, Crime etc. is only regarded as an ‘issue’ by 22% of the public, and the
topic closest to my heart, and no doubt most other sociologists’ – poverty and
inequality – is only seen as an issue by 17%, or around 1 in 6 of the
population – it’s no surprise Labour had such a dismal 2019 election results
based on this!
If people are taking this poll seriously, then the British
public seem to be pretty upbeat about what’s occurring in the UK at the moment,
seeing an absence of social problems?
The following ‘issues’ have been growing as concerns over recent years….
There are quite significant differences in results by age and social class – the environment and housing come out much higher for younger people and crime and immigration higher for older people. Concern over immigration is twice as high for the lower social classes as it is for the higher social classes. Check out the later part of report for more details.
I’m very surprised mental health isn’t in the list, perhaps people don’t regard this as a ‘social’ problem?
Are social issues the same as social problems?
Common sense tells me that when people say something like
Brexit or Crime is ‘an important issue’, they are really saying that’s it’s a
problem, or a potential problem – that is something that is doing harm to
society and needs something doing about it.
However, this remains an assumption on my part. There are issues
of subjectivity with the interpretation of the word ‘issues’, sort-of pun entirely
If this is the case, and people are reading ‘social problems’
when they read issues, it’s worth noting how few people think there are problems
A few thoughts on the methods involved with this poll
This is research on opinions at its most very basic – a basic open question survey with two questions and the responses coded into ‘said it was an important issue’ or not.
We do get some very clear results from this survey, but as
mentioned above, these are very general results and there could be a whole
range of different meanings and opinions behind them. 65% of people might think
Brexit is an important issue/ problem that needs something doing about it, but
there’s no indication here of why they think it’s important or what should be
done about it!
There are some validity concerns over the way the researchers have grouped some of the issues – why lump the three ‘Brexit’ and ‘Europe’ issues together but not put ‘drugs’ with crime for example? And why not put all of the economic type issues into a category called ‘money’. Also, ‘ageing population’ could be combined with the NHS issue as the two are fundamentally related.
Possibly the ‘Brexit’ issue has been exaggerated because of invalid grouping of anything to do with Europe being put in one category?
I also think ‘crime’ could be broken down into different types of crime. It’s much more general compared to say ‘housing’ for example.
It will be interesting to see what happens to public opinion on social issues/ problems in 2020 now that ‘Brexit’ has kind of been resolved and we have a majority Tory government in place.
Hopefully World War Three won’t replace Brexit as the most significant issue facing Britain this year!
According to a recent poll (1) of 1000 people, one in five Britons have considered going vegan, which is 20% of the population.
But how many of these people have a genuine intention of going vegan? Possibly not that many…..
Firstly, if someone’s asking you questions about veganism, there is going to be a degree of social pressure to state that ‘you have thought about going vegan’…. so social desirability is going to come into play here!
Secondly, vague questioning doesn’t help… the ‘I’ve considered going vegan’ response covers everything from ‘I’m definitely going Vegan in January’ to ‘I thought about it once, but really I’ve got no serious intention of giving up meat’.
Finally, there’s the problem that 1/3rd of the general population seem confused as to what veganism entails…. 27% think vegans can’t eat fruit (God knows what they think a vegan diet consists of!), while 6% think it’s OK to eat fish if you’re a vegan.
Men are enjoying more leisure time than they did 15 years ago, while women have less. according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics.
In 2015 Men spent 43 hours a week on leisure activities, up from 42.88 hours in 2000. In the same period, women’s leisure time fell to 38.35 hours, from 39.24 hours.
NB – it doesn’t matter what age group we’re taking about, men have more leisure time than women (unlike the pay gap, which ‘switches’ in the 20s and 30s.)
Over a 40 year period, this means that men have 9672 more hours of leisure time than women, or just over 600 days (calculated by diving the original time by 16 to reflect the number of waking hours in a day), or getting on for 2 years….
I want to blame this on the X box, but other surveys suggest that one reason for this is that women spend more time caring for adult relatives than men.
This is good evidence supporting the view that the gendered division of labour is still not equal, in fact it’s suggesting the trend towards equality is reversing!
According to the latest police recorded crime figures there has been a significant increase in crime in the last year:
Gun crime has increased by 27%
Knife crime has increased by 26%
Robberies have increased by 25%
Stalking and Harassment have increased by 36%
At first site, what’s interesting about these figures is that they not only demonstrate a radical increase, but this abruptly reverses the recent trend in declining violent crime:
However, these figures may not actually give us a reliable picture of the actual change in violent crime because of ONE simple fact: police forces in England and Wales are facing significant budget cuts, and so there may have been a more concerted effort on the part of the police to detect and record crimes over the last year – if crime can be shown to be going up, then this can be used as evidence to not cut police funding.
Then there’s the possibility that the public may be reporting more crimes – the ability to report online, for example, makes it easier to do so, and where harassment crimes are concerned, this may be due to a wave of recent campaigns such as the Everyday Sexism blog, to raise awareness of the fact that such behaviour is not acceptable.
British Crime Survey, based on accounts by victims, shows that crime is still going down, and this is generally regarded as a much more valid way of measuring the extent of crime in England and Wales than police recorded crime, as the BCS removes the subjectivity-bias of the police in investigating and recording crimes: