Just days after Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to initiate his ‘Big Society’ campaign, it seems most do not know much about the ideas but are prepared to support many of the principles behind them. Put simply, while most people do not know much about the campaign, when specific proposals are explained, people are actually more positive than ambivalent.
Levels of knowledge
The ‘Big Society’ campaign has been outlined as a series of plans addressed to narrow the role of central government and to ‘encourage people to become more involved in their communities and local public services’.
Only one percent claim to have a ‘great deal of knowledge’ on the ‘Big Society’ compared to 37% who say they have ‘no knowledge’ of the campaign. Interestingly, men claim to be more knowledgeable than women – on a scale from 0 to 10 (where 0 stands for ‘no knowledge’ and 10 means ‘a great deal of knowledge’), 37% of men place themselves on number 5 and above, compared to just 24% of women. Over 55s are also more likely to consider themselves knowledgeable on the topic: on the same scale, 34% of this age group place themselves on number 5 and above, more than any other age category. In sum, most people don’t have more than a general idea, if at all, of what Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ might look like.
Interestingly though, when prompted on two specific aspects of the ‘Big Society’ plans, support among the public is generally high. 44% either agree or strongly agree with the proposals to establish a ‘Big Society Bank using money from unclaimed bank accounts to fund community activities, such as the National Citizen Service, to encourage 16 year-olds to help out in their communities’, compared to just 16% who disagree.
However, if we look specifically at those within one of the ‘most knowledgeable’ groups, the over 55s, they actually emerge as more critical of the proposals than their counterparts: 21% of the 55 plus group either disagree or strongly disagree with the ‘Big Society Bank’ idea, compared to an average of 14% across all other age groups.
A further proposal which calls for ‘an annual Big Society Day to celebrate neighbourhood groups’ similarly divides opinion – while the idea is generally popular, with 37% supporting it, compared to 15% who actively oppose it, men are more sceptical with only 33% supporting the plans compared to 40% of women.