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Communities more divided post-2016 but charities seen as unifying force, new research finds

27 August 2019

Nearly a third of people (31%) in the UK think that their community is more divided than it was three years ago, but a clear majority think charities play an important role in society, according to new polling that asked people to gauge how their attitudes towards charity and their community have changed since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) asked respondents to consider how their attitudes may have shifted over the last three years in relation to a range of questions, including their sense of community cohesion, whether they were more inclined to volunteer, donate to international charities, take part in a public demonstration or participate in a social or political cause.

An overwhelming 88% said they believe it is important to help others but only one in five (21%) think there is a strong sense of community in the country.

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Other key findings include:

  • Only 30% believe people are good at looking out for others
  • 65% think Britain is too unequal and 63% identified making money as what they thought was other people’s top priority
  • A majority of 69% agreed with the statement that charities play an important role in society
  • But only three in 10 people (31%) think charities have a strong role to play post-Brexit
  • Four in 10 people (37%) do think charities can help to heal social divides
  • 43% felt charities they could improve community cohesion

While most people have donated money to charity in the last year (59%), when asked if they were more inclined than three years prior to donate to international charities, 51% disagreed. By contrast, 39% agreed that it was more important that government fund charities in their local area.

Susan Pinkney, Head of Research with CAF, said of the findings:

“We are seeing a very mixed picture across the UK, with a clear sense that people are feeling wary about how their communities are reacting to the debate in the country since 2016.

“There remains a strong willingness to step in and help others, but it is tempered with concerns about wider cohesion locally and worries about inequality in general.

“We are buoyed to see the continued support for the role that charities can play in bringing people together and healing social divides.” 

Notes to Editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Online interviews were conducted with 2,192 people between 19 June-1 July and 18-23 July. Interviews are nationally representatives of people aged 16 and older and are weighted to sex, age, region and social grade.


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