Critical Eye Investigation…cost of living crisis Part 3

PART 3: “I feel like the government don’t care”

This is part 3 of our Critical Eye Investigation on…cost of living series of blogs. Click here to read part 1, where we take an overview of our new market research looking at the cost-of-living crisis. Click here to read part 2, where we dive into differences between groups and their impact on spending at supermarkets and subscription services. 

Here, we’ll take a look at the more general assumptions and perceptions people have about when the cost-of-living crisis started to take effect, and who is to blame.

Having taken a look at the cost-of-living crisis impacting people’s relationships with spending on a micro-level, it is helpful to take a step back and try and consider how people view the crisis at a macro-level. As a starting point, when did the cost-of-living crisis begin? It feels like something that’s been in the news for a while, but hard to put a specific time on.

So, we decided to ask our nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK adults when they think it started, and this is what they said (with some contextual notes on significant events of that time):

Over half of our respondents felt the crisis started at some point between the Spring and Autumn of 2022, with responses peaking in Autumn 2022. Interestingly, we found few significant differences in this perception by different groups, whether they were impacted more or less by the crisis. 

This broadly tracks with other events we would assume to have an effect. Inflation peaked at 11.1% in October, the pound reached its weakest point since the mid-80s at the end of September, and news of mortgage rates and energy bills increasing were all across the news. It is interesting, however, that a fifth of people say the crisis started before 2022, suggesting a sizeable amount of people feel it is actually a cost-of-living permacrisis.

Whilst the shape of opinion is the same for everyone for when the crisis started, the same is not the case for why the crisis started.

Overall, most people think the UK government or the War in Ukraine is responsible, with more long-term events like Covid-19 and Brexit further behind.

However, there were noticeable differences between groups in the willingness to blame the government or war in Ukraine. Scottish adults were more likely to blame the UK government than English adults. Younger people were more likely to blame the government, whilst older people were more likely to blame the war. 

Most importantly, the people who are feeling the impacts of the crisis the most perceive the cause of the crisis differently from those who are feeling them the least. Those who gave the highest crisis impact scores (8-10/10) present an almost mirror image to those who gave the lowest (1-4/10).

It’s hard to say for sure why this might be, but it seems that those who experience the cost-of-living crisis from a further distance are more likely to ascribe its cause to an event happening at a further distance away from them. Meanwhile, those who experience the crisis as part of their daily lives are more likely to associate it with something that features much more obviously in their lives.

Across these 3 blogs, we’ve explored data we collected on the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd of January 2023. It represents a snapshot in time, capturing a UK population that finds itself tangibly impacted by a cost-of-living crisis. 

Economic forecasts suggest inflation should reduce significantly by the end of the year, meaning that with any luck there will be easier times ahead for people. However, until then we should all be aware that almost every audience any organisation is speaking to has been impacted in some way, and businesses will fail to recognise this at their peril.