Impact and influence
The British Social Attitudes survey has been tracking the big policy issues since 1983. These are just a few examples of how public opinion, and the British Social Attitudes survey in particular, has interacted with policy over the years.
The Health Service
In 1997 the BSA reported that satisfaction with the NHS had reached an all-time low with only a third of the population (34%) happy with the health service overall. The Blair Government responded to this dissatisfaction with unprecedented increases in health spending. The public responded: satisfaction with the NHS grew steadily until 2010, peaking at 70%.
Opposition to same-sex relationships peaked around the time of the HIV/AIDS scare in the mid-1980s. BSA showed that public attitudes then changed dramatically over the next 30 years. As attitudes changed, so government legislation has followed. In 2000 the proportion of people saying that same-sex relationships are wrong fell below 50% for the first time. We subsequently saw Labour pass legislation that lowered the age of consent from 18 to 16 (2000), provided equal adoption rights (2002) and introduced civil partnerships (2004). By 2014 those opposed to same-sex relationships dropped to under 30%. The same year, the Coalition government legalised same-sex marriage.
The independence referendum
British Social Attitudes and its sister survey Scottish Social Attitudes were instrumental in providing impartial information about public attitudes during the campaign leading up to the referendum on Scottish Independence. They allowed us to understand the motivations of voters in Scotland and the likely reactions of the public in England and Wales. The Yes and No campaigns drew on the findings in shaping their campaigns as it became clear from our data that the potential impact of independence on the Scottish economy was the overriding factor in people’s voting intentions.
Trust in Government
British Social Attitudes has been tracking public trust in Government since 1986 and has shown a steady decline, with the biggest falls coinciding with government scandals, including the cash for questions affair in 1994 and the expenses scandal in 2009. Numerous attempts have been made by successive Governments to reverse this decline, but nothing has been successful to date. Today only 17% of people trust the Government to put the needs of the country ahead of their party.
During 2014 the British Social Attitudes survey was discussed in 965 individual media articles, including over 100 in the national print media, 80 pieces in consumer and business magazine and 650 online at an Advertising Equivalency Value (AVE) of £5.4m (calculated by Precise media).
Coverage is still coming in for 2015, but British Social Attitudes has already had a number of big media moments.
January 2015, Attitudes to the NHS: The Guardian
March 2015, The Policy Mood in Britain: BBC Online
March 2015, British Social Attitudes 31st report: BBC Question Time
April 2015, Attitudes to Gay Marriage: The Daily Telegraph
May 2015, Religious Affiliation in Britain: The Mail on Sunday
August 2015, Views on Religious Extremism: The Independent
Find out more
If you’re interested in funding some BSA questions please contact:
Miranda Phillips (email@example.com, 020 7549 7041) or
Liz Clery (firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7549 7071).