Has COVID-19 changed the way communities behave?

To help councils with their thinking and to shape a narrative that will resonate locally, we commissioned BritainThinks to research how the pandemic has changed public opinion and behaviour, and what matters most for them.

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Everyone’s life has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many this has resulted in well-worn patterns of behaviour turned upside down, with livelihoods suspended or transformed, social ties restricted, and children taught from home. For others, their daily lives have not changed dramatically, even as they strive to keep safe.

Councils have been working tirelessly to support their communities through these challenges. Now, as the vaccine begins to roll out, we can at last consider how local areas could recover.

To help councils with their thinking and to shape a narrative that will resonate locally, we commissioned Britain Thinks to conduct qualitative research with 50 participants from across the country to better understand how the pandemic has changed public opinion and behaviour.

This fascinating research explores changes in behaviour since the first lockdown, the local issues residents are most concerned about and the ways councils can encourage greater public involvement.

Key findings:

  • Perceptions of local areas and feelings of belonging are driven by long-standing factors. For most, these remain unchanged by the pandemic which has instead typically reinforced existing views.
  • The behaviours that have most universally changed as a result of the pandemic are those directly connected to Government restrictions. A strong desire to ‘get back to normal’ means that many do not want these behaviours to ‘stick’ in the future and the idea of the pandemic as an opportunity to do things differently is therefore not intuitive.
  • Beyond this, behaviour change in the local area – in relation to leisure time, shopping, travel and civic participation – is highly varied, with many feeling life hasn’t changed much at all. Those who have seen more change are more open to sticking with them in the future, particularly where they are motivated to do so.
  • Many feel engaging in civic participation is out of reach because a lack of knowledge or lack of trust that it will effect genuine change. There is interest in hearing more, particularly in relation to how citizens can a) have a say in consultations, and b) participate online to overcome some of the barriers to getting involved.

Download the entire report

Coronavirus diaries

In April last year, BritainThinks launched the Coronavirus Diaries, a unique programme of research to deliver insight into the national mood during Covid-19. As part of the study, they recruited 50 people in the UK from different geographical locations, lifestyles and backgrounds to complete a weekly activity tracking their mood, news consumption and views on the Government.

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