As seen on Henley Mail from the Henley Centre Headlight Vision…The HC annual Planning for Consumer Change survey has been tracking British attitudes and values for over 20 years. One question asks people whether they believe that the quality of life in the UK would best be improved by putting community interests before their own or by looking after themselves first.
Last year, for the first time in a decade, individual interests rose above those of the community.
But HC have now released more data behind the headline figures, and it makes for even more interesting reading. I’m not a huge fan of demographic segmentation but there is no doubt that affluent people (ABC1’s) are more likely than the less affluent (C2DE’s) to believe that the quality of life for everyone is best improved by looking after the communities interests and that, whilst we’ve all become more individualistic, the richer amongst us have generally been better at holding onto a ‘bigger picture’ belief in community.
This, says the HC, is backed up by findings in qual research which express the trend that low income people in the UK are increasingly expressing their desire for self-reliance – with a version of individualism that is about taking care of your own, earning enough to keep your own.
People’s versions of community also seem to be pretty different. We know from our own studies into mass-market women that they do care about what happens in the community, but often as it effects them and their immediate family. They are busy getting on with it, making ends meet. At the same time, HC suggest that higher income groups are more open to the seemingly divergent trends of a new ‘internationalism’ (consumer propositions and trends influenced by overseas cultures) and the ‘new local’ (locally sourced produce, NCT classes, homogenous local enclaves).
It’s interesting to speculate about the drivers of this. I can’t help but feel that as well as the political ramifications of this (HC speculate that lower income groups gave up on the New Labour promise up to five years ago), it is also indicative of differing responses to broader security based concerns. The world simply doesn’t feel as safe any more, and the threat is more immediate – in fact it can be right around the corner. Whilst the more affluent are still willing to maintain liberal ideals, they are equally still defaulting to the safety of people just like them. The less affluent are busy trying to protect their own and avoid the day-to-day hassle on the streets. It’s also interesting that even though this seems to highlight the continuing wide differences in attitudes and motivations between different social groups in the UK, we are all actually heading in the same direction – towards a more individualistic national culture.