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Renew Normal commission reveals stark coronavirus divide in finances and attitudes

A third of respondents to a major new survey have said their financial situation has worsened as a result of the pandemic, though some say their spending and saving habits have improved – and the poll also suggests issues related to coronavirus are proving more divisive than Brexit.

Cross-party think tank Demos carried out the poll of a nationally representative sample of over 10,000 UK adults as part of its Renew Normal project – you can read the full results and report on the Renew Normal website.

Renew Normal aims to engage with the public about how coronavirus has changed life in the UK, and to find solutions for how society can best be rebuilt afterwards – founder and chair Martin Lewis is one of the project's expert commissioners.

Findings from the survey show stark divisions within society on a whole host of issues related to coronavirus. For example, the majority of respondents who wear face masks or adhered to lockdown rules had strongly negative views of those who didn't do the same – whereas only a minority reported feeling strong resentment towards those who had voted differently to them in the EU referendum.

There was also a financial divide, as just over a third of respondents reported that their financial situations had got worse during the pandemic, with those on lower incomes more likely to be negatively affected.

For full info on everything to do with the pandemic, from travel to employees' rights, see our Coronavirus Help section.

What did the poll find?

The Demos poll explored a wide range of issues relating to coronavirus, including some of the ways people's finances have been affected. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Just over a third (35%) said their financial situation had got worse. By contrast, only 17% said their finances had improved – though almost half said overall there had been no change.

  • Almost a third (30%) said their personal spending and saving habits had improved during the pandemic. This was higher than the 22% who said their spending and saving habits had got worse.
  • The better-off appear to have weathered the pandemic better financially. Those who already had a higher household income were more likely to report an improvement, both in their finances and spending and saving habits.

    For example, 27% of those in the highest social grade reported an improvement in their financial situation during the pandemic, compared to just 12% of those in the lowest social grade.

    And 37% of those with a household income of more than £50,000 said their personal spending and saving habits had improved, compared to 22% of those with household incomes of less than £20,000.

  • More generally, coronavirus has created "sharp social fractures", with disagreements on issues such as mask-wearing or lockdown rules now "deeper than the divide over Brexit". For example, the poll found over half (58%) of mask wearers have severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers, and the vast majority (68%) of people who did not break lockdown rules have strong negative views about lockdown rule-breakers.

    This is compared to data which shows only 33% of those who did not vote 'Leave' think those who did are bad people, and only 20% of those who didn't vote 'Remain' saying they feel animosity towards those who did.

  • However, strong divisions over coronavirus weren't reflected in people's attitude to Government support schemes put in place during the pandemic. Just 5% of those who hadn't accessed these schemes said they felt resentful towards those who had.

What do the researchers say?

Commenting on the findings, Demos chief executive Polly Mackenzie said: "In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has helped communities, neighbours and wider society come together. But our new research has found that there is also a more concerning picture that has arisen. The social divisions caused by the pandemic are stark, but we must work to ensure that these divisions don't fracture society in the long term.

"Our project, Renew Normal, wants to hear from people up and down the country about their views on how Britain should build back from Covid-19. We hope that bringing people together for a national conversation to shape Britain's future will help heal the divides, find common ground and take forward the best of the community spirit gained through the health crisis."

You can find out more about the project, and how you could get involved, on the Renew Normal website.

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