The Public's Top Concerns

People reading newspapers on the London underground

The Public's Top Concerns

Armed with our latest batch of data, this week we're exploring the public's most pressing concerns. What will their priorities be after the past few months of political, social, and environmental turbulence?

Ben Roberts

The UK has been subjected to more tumultuous politics in the past year than any other time I can recall. Policies are shifting wildly, the revolving door of 10 Downing Street continues to spin, and I haven’t heard the phrase U-turn said so often in my life. To make this worse, it’s occurring over the backdrop of some incredibly concerning trends, with rising prices and record temperatures, to say nothing of the ongoing war in Ukraine. One cause for concern that the public are feeling more confident about, thankfully, is COVID-19. For the first time since we began tracking it, we’ve seen worry about this issue fall out of the public’s top five biggest concerns, with only 26% of the public calling it one of their most concerning issues.

But there’s no calm to be had as this figure drops off. Other issues have swiftly become national priorities, with the sector operating at a crisis level to counter them and hoping for new waves of public support to do so. Therefore, now is the perfect time to investigate what we can expect the public’s top areas of concern to be, and to determine why certain issues are receiving more attention than others. Below we’ve listed the top three from the July period – for CAM subscribers, this data will be released in its entirely shortly.


3. Personal Financial Security

Personal finances are currently the public’s third biggest issue of concern, with one in three members of the public (33%) calling it one of their top issues. It’s unsurprising that this would be on people’s minds: the cost-of-living crisis is seeing prices rise at an alarming speed, and we’re being told to be poised for continual rises in our inflation rate.

While in January 2020 only 24% of the public believed in prioritising the economy over the environment, this figure has increased to 38% this summer. This demonstrates the public’s increasing hope for political action to be taken, with economic concerns rising higher than pre-pandemic levels. This will almost certainly continue to be reflected in donation figures, which has seen a drop of 7% between April and July as we approach a record low for giving.


2. Climate Change

Second highest in our most recent round of research, 41% of the public consider the climate crisis to be a top area of concern. This summer saw the UK experience a record-breaking heatwave, and this issue seemed closer to home than ever before. In fact, while in 2011 we had 38% of respondents believe they were seeing the effects of climate change in their region, this summer the figure had risen to 64%. The heatwave we experienced has clearly opened many people’s eyes to the realities of climate change, but those that we surveyed expressed strong feelings of powerlessness about this issue. Clearly, during a period where even making ends meet is a difficulty for so many, trying to act against climate change may seem insurmountable. It falls to environmental charities to respond to these feelings and bolster support through impassioned campaigning.


1. Quality of NHS Services

A top worry for 48% of the public, quality of NHS care is the current leader in issues of concern. For the majority of people, concern over the pandemic has mostly passed. However, one of its impacts was that it allowed the public to witness the NHS at its most strained and has undoubtedly raised concerns about wider NHS care. In fact, the pandemic saw public trust in the NHS at a high, but it has since fallen victim to the wider trend of public distrust for large institutions. While in April 2020 85% of the public claimed to trust the NHS a lot, in April this year only 67% said the same, the biggest slump in the past decade. This matches lows in trust for police, the government, the Royal Mail, and supermarkets, and is likely in part a symptom of political disgruntlement.


So, what’s to be done about these concerns? Foremost is the need for more positive media surrounding charities. Positive messaging overall is not as widespread as would be ideal, with only 25% of the public remembering having heard or seen charities in the media recently, down from 35% in April. Shockingly, 8% of respondents said that their view of charities was skewed negatively from the media they encountered. It’s likely that this comes from culture war allegations flying and the public feeling unable to donate.

To buck the trend towards reduced trust, charities must try to tap into the public’s concerns - particularly if they are going to boost donation figures in the coming year. Delivering hopeful messaging which will address the worries that the public are facing will be the first step towards a smooth recovery for the sector, even amidst these turbulent times.

This data will be released in its entirely to CAM subscribers shortly. If you're interested in seeing more of our sector data, download more information on CAM below.

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