Priorities for Britain

We conducted a nationally representative poll of over 10,000 people in the UK to find out more about people’s changes in attitudes and experiences related to the pandemic, and whether these were for the better or for the worse.

Below you can explore some of the ways Covid-19 has impacted people very differently, and find out Britain’s priorities for change as we moved forward.


Overall, Covid-19 has had a net negative impact on a whole range of factors in people’s lives, from job security to mental health. But a substantial minority reported positive impacts on all topics. There were also some areas where people were more likely to report improvements to their lives: connection to their local community, to friends and family and – for parents – relationships with children.


These are the areas where people reported the most negative impact: 36% of people said their job security was worse - only 9% said it had got better


of people said their financial situation was worse - 17% said it was better.


of people said their stress levels had increased - 13% said they had decreased.


of people said their mental health was worse - 12% said it had improved.


of people said their prospects for the future had deteriorated - 13% said they had got better.


of people said they had been more lonely - 11% said they were less lonely during lockdown.


of people had been more isolated during lockdown - 9% had been less isolated.

Many thought this period would be a great leveller, as we were all locked down together. This didn’t happen – the poorer you were before the crisis, the more likely you would be to struggle during it.

Slide right to see what we found.

22% of those on incomes of less than £20,000 felt their spending habits had improved, rising to 37% of those on incomes of more than £50,000.

17% of those earning less than £20,000 said they had eaten better, compared to 27% of those on incomes of more than £35,000.

40% of those in social grade A were exercising more, compared to just 21% of those in grade E.

In social grade A, 27% said their finances had improved, while in social grade E, only 12% felt the same.

Families in the highest social grade reported almost the opposite result to the population at large. 45% said lockdown had been good for their children’s education, and only a quarter said it had been bad.

More than a third of those in social grade A said they felt happier, compared to just 18% of those in social grade E.

New Social Fractures

We asked people to tell us how they felt about people who disagreed with them on a number of current political issues, both associated with Covid-19 and more broadly. Our findings show that the social divide on the key questions associated with Covid-19 – such as mask wearing or lockdown rules – is now deeper than the divide over Brexit.


Of mask wearers have severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers


Of lockdown supporters have strong negative views of lockdown opposers


Of people who did not break lockdown rules have strong attitudes views of lockdown rule breakers


Of people who clapped for the NHS have severely negative views of non-clappers


Of people who did not stockpile essentials have strong negative views of those who did stockpile

Attitudes to low paid workers

The public have a more positive attitude to low paid key workers than they did before, but the plurality hasn’t seen a change: 28% say attitudes have improved, 18% say they have got worse, while 46% report no change.

People perceive themselves to have shifted their views a little on the importance of key workers. 94% say they think low paid workers have been important during the pandemic, compared with 84% who said they thought these workers were important beforehand. 68% say key workers have been “very important”; only 40% say they believed this before the pandemic.

Women were more likely than men to say low paid workers have been very important during the pandemic (71% vs 65%); people in the lower social grade E were also a lot more likely to say this than the people in the higher social grade A (72% vs 54%); whilst retired people (80%) were a lot more likely to say these workers have been very important than homemakers or students (64%, 65% respectively).

People earning £50k+ were less likely than those earning up to £20k to say they valued low paid workers. This difference has vanished during the pandemic, with a similar percentage at both income levels thinking low paid workers were very important. However, it is likely we will see regression: those earning over £50k were 11 points less likely to think low paid workers will be very important after the pandemic.

Looking to the Future

The primary goal of conducting this survey was to identify the areas of policy in which positive change could emerge from the crisis – either because new options had been tried, and worked well, or because people’s perspectives about what matters had changed.

We asked people how they had changed their minds, and we compared how much people cared about a range of issues now and what they said they cared about before the crisis.

We found that people up and down the UK perceive themselves to now put greater importance on a range of issues, including access to green space, national self-sufficiency, air pollution, and social care issues.

Now you have told us the areas you want to see change as we build back from the pandemic, the next steps of Renew Normal will focus on the eight topics below, fitting into four clear categories: Our daily lives, our working lives, the social contract, and life online.

Community networks and volunteering

There has been a substantial shift in people’s experiences during lockdown, there is new infrastructure in place, and the public reported a strong desire to see more volunteering in the future.

Green spaces and the local environment

This topped the poll when it comes to a shift in what people value most. There may be an opportunity to improve access for all, and this should see improvements in wellbeing and mental health.

Where we work

The shift to more widespread home working has been one of the most obvious and dramatic changes during the pandemic. It has huge knock-on consequences for town and city centre economies. And our survey demonstrated there is substantial appetite for lasting change.

National resilience and self-sufficiency

Our survey showed that the issue of Britain’s ability to be self-sufficient for essential goods and services is of huge importance to the public in the light of the pandemic, and its salience has substantially increased.

The role of low paid workers

The pandemic demonstrated to many people the importance of low paid workers in our economy, and while there is some sign of regression, there is nevertheless a substantial number of people who believe their change of heart will be long lasting.

Reducing inequalities

Our survey suggested a small, but meaningful increase in the number of people who are concerned about a range of inequalities including on health, race, and education.


Our survey reported a substantial shift in public attitudes about the importance of this issue, which may become even more salient if and when a vaccine emerges. This may open new areas of public policy debate.

Living well online

This is an area where people’s habits changed very dramatically, and there is clear evidence that people will not shift fully back to the way things were. We will explore public attitudes to the implications of this shift.