United Kingdom

Credit Suisse Progress Barometer 2019

Credit Suisse

The Credit Suisse Progress Barometer measures the desire for progress in society, politics and economy around the globe.

For this year’s edition, 16,000 citizens in 16 different countries on six continents (all except Antarctica) were interviewed and asked to share their views.

The questionnaire for the Progress Barometer was developed and launched in Switzerland in 2018 and taken to a global level in 2019. gfs.bern worked with local experts to ensure that the concept and questionnaire were adapted to reflect the context and characteristics of each country individually.

At the heart of the concept are 30 statements referring to 10 aspects of progress in society, politics and the economy in each case. For each of these aspects respondents were asked to indicate whether – in their opinion – the wheels of progress should move much faster (indicating desire for progress) or whether they should stop and be reversed (indicating aversion to progress).

This index allows opinions on progress within a country to be compared by looking at the areas of politics, society and the economy separately. Moreover, it also provides the opportunity to compare the 16 countries included in the study, thus helping us understand the readiness for progress around the world.




The process of adapting the questionnaire to each country brought to light how subjective progress as a notion is and how dependent it is on personal opinion and cultural background. Progress in one particular area can be viewed very favourably in one country, whereas in another country it might be seen as quite problematic. Progress is also not always seen as positive. The political zeitgeist, for example, suggests an increase in political polarization for the future – a development that many citizens would definitely prefer to reverse.

In addition to collecting information on where the citizens want their country to go in the future, the Progress Barometer also looks at the past and how citizens evaluate the changes their country has seen in the last ten years.

This cockpit is a portrait of how progress is seen in the United Kingdom in 2019. Readiness for progress is discussed for the areas of politics, society and the economy – as well for the country overall. The 30 items used to calculate the progress indices are displayed in a progress map showing readiness for progress on the x-axsis and the unanimity with which this progress is demanded on the y-axsis.

For methodological information, please consult the info box at the end of the cockpit.

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Among all the 16 countries surveyed, the UK has a comparatively low desire for progress (12th of 16) but would prefer to maintain the status quo in many respects. This is particularly true for developments in the area of politics. When it comes to moving things forward, the UK is more open regarding social and economic issues.

Progress map UK

In contrast to other countries, where the main dynamic is clearly set on progress, the UK makes quite a clear distinction between issues, where some people want to see certain things progress faster, while a majority want to see other developments reversed.”

E-Mobility and gender equality are issues that literally transcend nations in terms of citizens‘ willingness for progress. They are accordingly also at the forefront of where people in the UK want to see things moving faster in the future. These two areas are not only the issues where the desire for progress is biggest (position on the X-axis), they are also ranked highest in terms of consensus amongst respondents (Y-axis). With regard to these two issues, UK citizens also desire more progress when it comes to expanding the existing underground transport and granting equal rights to gay people.

UK citizens seek a greater sense of purpose in their work and are willing to embrace lifelong learning to stay competitive on the job market. Because of a more modern working environment, the UK also shows a desire for a better reconciliation of work and family by expanding public childcare. Depending on the employment status of the parents, the cost of (external) childcare can be amongst the highest of all the OECD countries.

The UK is clearly interested in remaining an attractive location for business, international companies and talents: Despite current discussions about a „No Deal Brexit“, free trade and the further influx of foreign experts are areas where Britons want to see continued progress. At the same time, they want to avoid dependence on international agreements. The UK should also keep corporate taxes low while dialing back on regulations and spending more (taxpayers’) money on research. Compared to the other 15 countries, the UK enjoys an average ranking when it comes R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP.

Compared to the other 15 countries surveyed, the UK is particularly critical of the trade-off between media diversity and reliability of information. It is said that the Brexit referendum is one of the first events where the possibility of influencing public opinion via the internet, especially social media, has properly been explored. The past months and years of political turmoil have put quite a strain on the image of politics in the UK; accordingly, one of the three developments where people in the UK are most averse to progress is the polarization of politics.

The outsourcing of production is viewed very critically, as is the transition away from the production of goods and agriculture to a more service and knowledge-based society. The redevelopment of agricultural land to extend infrastructure and cities is an area where people would like to see developments reversed.


Desire for progress in the UK

UKs self- assessment of progress

When asked how they would rate progress in their country, 42% of people in the UK are of the opinion that their country is currently very progressive or somewhat progressive when it comes to economic issues, while 40 % think the same of social progress. Only 25% – together with Chile the lowest share of all countries surveyed – think the UK has been progressive in the area of politics.

Like most other western countries in this year’s Progress Barometer, the desire to see things moving faster in society, politics and the economy is less pronounced than in other parts of the world. It ranks 12th out of the 16 countries surveyed.

People in the UK display a slight desire for progress both in society and  on economic issues. In terms of political developments, on the other hand, they do not want see things either progress of move backwards, but prefer instead to preserve the status quo.

Future prospects

A majority of UK respondents are optimistic (or partially optimistic) about their own future (75%). When it comes to the prospects of their children, however, there is greater pessimism: 62% agree with the statement that there is a risk their children will be less well off than they are now. Half (50%) of respondents also fear that their social and economic status is under increasing pressure and only about one-third of the population (27%) is very confident or quite confident that they will have sufficient resources to live comfortably in retirement.

Battle against climate change

73% of the UK population would like more government intervention to discourage companies from polluting the environment. Seventy-three percent also want a greener economy versus 18% who think the economy should focus solely on growth. Meanwhile, 67% of UK citizens take the view that people should return to living in harmony with nature. While this is a clear majority, it is still below the average of all 16 countries surveyed (77%).

Assessment of past 10 years

An absolute or relative majority of the population in the UK perceived a deterioration in various aspects of life in the UK, Including national security (43%), social security (57%), the stability of economic relations (50%), the people’s participation in decision-making (48.2%) and, most of all, national unity (66%). On the other hand, clear progress is seen when it comes to sustainable technologies (50%).

Social cohesion

In the UK, 68% of respondents think that only a small minority is getting richer, while the rest of the population is not benefiting from developments. 64% percent also agree that the government should do more to reduce this inequality between rich and poor. While these numbers are high, they are still average compared to the other 15 countries.

Political situation

The UK is effectively unable to move ahead as a nation until a path forward has been agreed on how to deal with Brexit. Despite this, only 50% of all voters think problems could be solved better without political parties than with them. This is below the average of the 16 countries surveyed. On the other hand, the proportion of people who think political sovereignty should be shifted to supranational bodies because of a globalized economy is well below average at 39%.

Methodological information

on behalf of: Credit Suisse

basic population: UK citizens with the right to vote

fieldwork: Cint AB

surveying: online panel

survey period: 20.09.2019-18.10.2019

sample size: min. 1000 per country, UK (N=1025)

margin of error: at 50/50 (and 95 percent probability) UK (± 3.1)

quota characteristics: age/gender interlocked

weighing: age/gender

survey duration: average survey time in minutes in the UK = 13

Progress Index and Items:

Respondents were asked the following question: „For each of the areas below, assess the current development and imagine this development as a wheel that turns. For each case, decide whether the development should be accelerated or reversed.“ Ten statements asking about a development in society, economy and politics each were surveyed in all 16 countries. The adaption of these items to best suit the countries context were made in cooperation with local experts.

The following items were surveyed in the UK:

Progress items economy:

service-based society: The UK produces fewer goods and is turning into a service-based society.
digitalization: Digitization/robotization makes our working lives easier and more efficient, but it also makes traditional professions redundant.
free trade: The trade of goods is getting freer and more global.
lifelong learning: You have to do regular on-the-job training in order to keep up.
production outsourced: Many aspects of production are moved abroad.
low corporate taxes: Because of low corporate tax rates, many international companies move their head offices to the UK.
influx foreign experts: The UK needs more and more experts from abroad.
tax money for research: To strengthen the UK as a research location, more taxpayers‘ money is spent on research.
development of agricultural land: Growing cities and major industrial and infrastructure projects mean that more and more agricultural land is being developed/Major infrastructure projects and ideas means that more and more cultivated land is built on.
e-mobility: Electric cars allow even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances./Mobility with electrically powered cars allows even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances.

Progress items society:

gender equality: Gender equality is promoted in all areas of life.
urban-rural contrast: People living in big cities and in small towns in the rural areas have fewer and fewer interests in common.
gay rights: Gay couples increasingly enjoy equal rights in all areas of life.
fewer independent media: There are fewer and fewer independent media outlets in the UK.
expansion public childcare: Public daycare and childcare services are being expanded.
increase life expectancy: Advances in medicine means that we are healthier into old age, but at the same time we’ll have to work for longer.
professionalization voluntary work: Many areas of society that used to function on a voluntary basis are now being professionalized.
migration transforms society: Immigration transforms the composition of societies./Transmigration transforms the composition of societies.
sense of purpose in work: People increasingly look for passion and meaning in their work.
swarm intelligence: Thanks to the internet, society as a whole gathers more knowledge than individual inventors or experts.

Progress items politics:

underground transport: Some have suggested shifting transportation to an underground road or rail network to ensure that the UK retains ist beautiful landscape.
increase in pension deductions: Wage deductions for pensions are increasing because people are living longer.
increase in development aid: The UK’s contributions to global development cooperation are increasing.
dependence on international agreements: When it comes to its global market position, the UK is increasingly dependent on international agreements with other countries.
individualization and self fulfillment: With increasing individualization, social pressure diminishes and everyone can live by their own values.
regulation increase: More and more everyday things are becoming more strictly regulated./The state ensures that many parts of life and work are clearly regulated.
transition to knowledge based society: The UK is turning into a knowledge-based society and is spending less on agriculture and instead more on universities and higher education.
accessability trough social media: People can organise themselves spontaneously via the internet and force policy-makers to become more accessible to the public.
polarization: Politics is becoming increasingly polarised and cooperation between the parties more difficult.
media diversity vs. reliability: While more and more sources of information are available to form a political opinion, the facts become less important.