YouGov and the V&A reveal how Britons feel about the future

YouGov and the V&A reveal how Britons feel about the future
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Segmentation analysis show the six groups Britons split into over their attitudes to the future

When you think of the future, does your mind conjure images of humanity’s sunny advancement or its grim decline?

A new partnership between YouGov and the V&A for the “The Future Starts Here” exhibition, examines how Britons feel about the future. The exhibition runs until early November before being taken on a global tour.

YouGov conducted research asking the public ten questions covering four categories: optimism vs pessimism; feelings of powerfulness vs powerlessness; technophobia vs technophilia; and disruption vs continuation (i.e. whether people think the future will be very different or much the same). Six distinct attitudinal groupings emerge which we examine below.

The exhibition brings together more than 100 objects to show how the path of humanity’s near future might be shaped. The objects are used to pose questions such as “what makes us human?”, “does democracy still work?” and “should the planet be a design project?”. YouGov will explore these issues and will release the findings over the course of the exhibition.

You can read more about the exhibition and buy tickets on the V&A website.

THE SIX GROUPS

Excluded Pessimists (21% of the general population)

Alone among the six groups, the Excluded Pessimists do not feel they have a good idea of who and what drives change in society. Half of this group also say they find it impossible to keep up with the pace of change. It seems no coincidence, therefore, that Excluded Pessimists are the group least likely to feel that people like them have the power to help shape the future.

Their outlook on society’s future is generally pessimistic. Two thirds expect UK society to be worse in 20 years’ time and the group has high levels of distrust for those with the most power to shape the future.

They are less negative about technology’s future: the majority consider technological progress to be a force for good.

Well-informed Worriers (13% of the general population)

Well-informed Worriers tend to be on top of what is going on in the world, with the vast majority saying they can keep up with the pace of change and have a good idea of who and what causes it.

However, they don’t like what they see and are the most pessimistic of all the groups. They are the joint most likely to think that UK society is going to get worse, the most distrustful of people in charge, and the most likely to think that communities will become less connected. They are also the group most likely to believe technological and social changes will have a negative impact on them personally over the next 20 years. The majority also feel that people like them don’t have the power to help influence the future.

Almost to a person they do not believe that there is a technological solution to all of humanity’s problems, although they are fairly agnostic on whether or not technological progress is a force for good or bad.

Insulated Stragglers (17% of the general population)

Insulated Stragglers are the oldest of the six groups (57% are aged 55+) and the most female (also 57%).

While the majority feel they have a good idea of who and what drives change in society, they are also the group most likely to say that they find it impossible to keep up with the pace of this change.

While Insulated Stragglers tend to have a relatively pessimistic outlook – they overwhelmingly think UK society is going to get worse and have low levels of trust in those entities with the most power to shape the future – they are also the group most likely to feel like change over the next 20 years won’t have any impact on them personally.

All-round Optimists (22% of the general population)

The All-round Optimists is the most consistently positive of the six groups. They are the most likely to believe that technological progress is a force for good, that communities will become more connected in the near future and that changes over the next 20 years will have a positive impact on them personally. Similarly, only a minority believe that UK society will get worse over the next two decades.

They are also the most likely to feel they can keep up with the pace of change, and that they have a good idea of what and who drives change in society.

The only thing All-round Optimists are negative about is those in power. The majority distrust the people and organisations with the greatest ability to shape the future. Despite their overwhelmingly belief that technological progress is a force for good, they are highly sceptical that it can provide a solution to all of humanity’s problems.

Empowered Hopefuls (13% of the general population)

Empowered Hopefuls are the youngest of the six groups, with 42% being below the age of 35. They are the most optimistic about the future of society and are the most likely to feel that people such as themselves have the power to help shape the future. They are also the least distrustful of those entities that they believe have the most power to influence the future.

However, this group tends to be divided about technological issues. While few Empowered Hopefuls tend to think technology is actively a force for bad, they split over whether it can solve all of mankind’s problems. They are also divided over whether or not technological and social changes will make communities more or less connected.

Tech Disciples (14% of the general population)

The Tech Disciples group is male-dominated (62% are men). They are the most likely to believe that there is a technological solution to all of humanity’s problems and they consider technological progress to be a force for good. They also have the strongest early adopter tendencies.

They have high levels of awareness and empowerment, with the majority keeping up with change and they believe they have a good idea of what and who drives change in society. The majority also think that people like them have the power to shape the future.

Despite their optimistic view of technology, Tech Disciples are social pessimists: they are the joint most likely group to expect UK society to become worse over the next 20 years and have high levels of distrust of those with the most power to shape the future.

Photo: Getty

See a chart breakdown of how groups responded to each of the ten questions here

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