A four-year study testing the emotional temperature of the nation through the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and through the coronavirus pandemic has revealed glimmers of hope after testing times.
Led by Newsworks and conducted by Tapestry and Flamingo, the research saw 3,000 people questioned in streets, pubs and homes across the nation – and of course online during lockdowns.
From Dundee to Southampton, individuals were asked about the divisions in society, their hopes for the future, the role of community and what media and news brands they relied on to stay informed.
Really Bright Media supported the team, filming the chats on the streets, and in homes and venues.
The results reveal a nation that has become polarised over recent years, with 74% of those surveyed admitting they had stopped listening to each other amid a backdrop of Brexit and the pandemic.
But what stands out is that 75% of those surveyed more than once over the period have now vowed to make a more concerted effort to listen to and understand different perspectives.
The methodology of carrying out this research over such a substantial period of time and indeed of revisiting those already surveyed in the earlier stages is key to the findings and the shift in attitudes.
Aptly named Come Together, the study found that previous intolerances have been set aside, with eight out of 10 people wanting to reunite as a nation in spite of these differences.
Two-thirds of respondents said they used a variety of news sources to help them make a more informed and rounded view and 61% said news brands helped to promote important campaigns, such as Marcus Rashford’s free school meals initiative.
The study found a big rise in people now identifying as Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English, rather than being from the United Kingdom or Great Britain – soaring from just 5% in 2017 to 26% at the end of 2020.
When asked what Britishness meant to them, 57% of respondents answered the NHS, with the Queen and “going to the pub” also among the top 10 symbols of identity.
Denise Turner, insight director at Newsworks, said: “After a tumultuous couple of years, our research shows us that it is now more important than ever to listen to each other and embrace our differences.
“After all, a greater understanding of different opinions makes for a well-oiled democracy, which can only be a good thing. News brands play such a vital role in encouraging and facilitating this, which is recognised in this study and tallies with the strong growth in readership and the increasing value people place in trusted journalism.”
The research, carried out just after the Brexit result right up to and including the pandemic, revealed that two-thirds of Brits are now cautiously optimistic about the future as the vaccine rollout continues at pace and the prospect of seeing friends and family again becomes a reality.