A spotlight on highly impactful reporting and campaigns by our clients UnHerd and Onward. UnHerd's deep dive into the state of British culture and a groundbreaking report on trust in local areas by the think tank Onward.
At the end of January, Freddie Sayers, Executive Editor of UnHerd, launched UnHerd Britain 2023 – a major series investigating the underlying cultural controversies that shape today's social and political divisions and alliances. (For the uninitiated, UnHerd is a news website focused on politics, philosophy and culture.)
Focaldata had worked with Freddie and his team on a similar study back in 2019. This time, UnHerd partnered with Focaldata to run a poll on our platform of 10,009 people across the country asking about ten key statements covering Brexit, gender, political disillusionment, conspiracy theories, climate change, immigration, the monarchy, lockdowns and the economy. We then used multi-level regression and post-stratification (MRP) to model the results in local areas. This allowed UnHerd to map out the each statement down to constituency level – and produce some fascinating insights into how British public opinion is evolving.
To date UnHerd have published results for Brexit, gender, conspiracy theories, immigration and the cost of living. One of the eye-catching results from the data was that only three out of 632 constituencies did not regret Brexit. Our Chief Research Officer James Kanagasooriam commented on the Brexit data: “The dovetailing of the Brexit divide and the country’s left-right axis has been ongoing for some time, but only with the receding waters of a depressed conservative vote has this pattern become so visible. The leave vote is fading and becoming less distinct from the conservative vote.” UnHerd have made all this data available, allowing anyone to see results for their constituency and how that compares to the national result – a unique resource that's helped to shape the public debate over the past month.
The think tank Onward partnered with Focaldata on their recently published Good Neighbours report studying neighbourhood trust in England. This included the first "trust map" of the country. The research was designed to help policymakers identify the causes of trust in communities. We worked with James Blagden, Head of Politics & Polling who leads Onward's Future Politics programme, and Will Tanner, who recently left Onward to become Deputy Chief of Staff to Rishi Sunak in No.10. Using our platform, we ran a poll of 42,696 people in England in 2022. By our estimates, this was the largest poll of its kind last year. We then completed an MRP analysis to produce average levels of trust in all 6,791 neighbourhoods in England – the first time (we're aware) that such granular local-level modelling has been done in the UK.
Ecclesall in Sheffield has the highest levels of trust. 62.11% of residents say they always or usually trust others and 32.71% say you always or usually can’t be too careful – a net trust score of +29.39%. Laithwaite and Marsh Green in Wigan came bottom with a net trust score of -38.36%. The data also showed extreme variation within local areas. Sheffield is the most unequal local authority in England, with net trust scores ranging from +29% to -31%.
In London, when travelling across north London from Finchley to Golders Green to Tottenham, the proportion of people who say they trust others similarly almost halves.
The study also found a strong causal link between levels of trust and low levels of antisocial behaviour plus links to urban density – less built up and rural areas likely to be more trusting than others parts of the country. Onward's report was covered by the Times in a detailed report (with some great interactive charts) and presented to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up.
This all contributes to a wider theme emerging about localism and the "local era" – something our Chief Research Officer James has written about recently (also in the Times): "Our pessimistic national story might be beginning to fragment into a thousand more positive ones. The era of local can benefit us all, encouraging voters to think a little harder in the ballot box, scrutinise their local leadership more closely and celebrate the diversity of opinion within society and within individuals."
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