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Brexit Tracker Findings Q3 2018

Introduction

Which? is currently undertaking a programme of research to capture consumer views of Brexit. As part of the research program, our nationally representative quarterly Brexit tracker survey asks people about their perceptions and attitudes towards the consumer landscape in relation to Brexit. Since September 2017, four waves of this research have been carried out. This article focuses on the results from the latest wave in September 2018, and the change in views over the last twelve months as the negotiations progress.

Perceived impact of Brexit

Concern about Brexit has grown over the last twelve months, with six in ten (62%) worried about it in September 2018, compared to half (51%) last year. When thinking about the impact of Brexit on their household so far, a third (32%) said they had experienced a negative impact, a ten point increase since September 2017 (22%). More than half (56%) said they had felt no impact, and less than one in ten (7%) had seen a positive impact.

Then thinking about the future, the September wave saw a rise in the proportion of people that thought they will be worse off financially after the UK leaves the EU, with nearly half expecting to be worse off (47%) compared to four in ten (39%) twelve months ago. In contrast, only one in six (17%) expected to be better off financially. Since September 2017, there has also been an increase in the proportion of people that think Brexit will have a negative impact on the economy, with more than half believing the UK economy will be worse off (53% Sept 2018 vs. 42% Sept 2017). The proportion that believe the UK economy will be better off after it leaves the EU has also declined in the last twelve months, with just a quarter now expecting a positive impact (25% Sept 2018 vs. 37% Sept 2017). Explore the data further.

Perceived impact of Brexit on prices

The survey asked whether people thought prices for a selection of goods and services had been impacted by Brexit already, would be in the future, or would see no Brexit related impact. Most people thought that the prices of many consumer goods and services have, or will be impacted by Brexit. The highest of these were food, and holidays for which 71% and 69% respectively were thought to either have already been affected by Brexit, or would be in the future. See all the items here.

There are two observable trends taking place in terms of perceived impact on prices. For some consumer products and services, there has been an increase in the proportion of people who anticipate a future impact, shown in the first graph below. This suggests more consumers are anticipating the prices of a wider range of products to be impacted by Brexit, and tallies with the observation that more people are also anticipating Brexit to broadly have a negative impact on them.

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Another trend is a change in attitude towards the impact of Brexit on the prices of products that already have a high level of perceived impact. For food, non-food groceries and travel abroad, the proportion of people who think Brexit either has or will impact the prices of these sectors are unchanged. However, there has been a decrease in the proportion of respondents who think the impact has already happened – and a corresponding increase of the view that the impact will happen in the future.

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Consumer Rights

When asked about eight specific consumer rights that could be maintained, removed, or enhanced in the EU Withdrawal Bill, one in four (25%) say that none of them would affect their household if they were removed. The four most important rights for consumers are protections when buying goods and services, as well as having access to healthcare when travelling in the EU. The importance of maintaining compensation for delayed or cancelled flights within the EU has grown within the last twelve months (70% vs. 76%). Explore the data further.

Safety

The majority expect safety standards of various consumers goods to be maintained once the UK leaves the EU. However there has been a modest increase in the proportion of people that expect there to be a decline in safety standards across various sectors. For example, the proportion expecting a decrease in food safety standards has grown steadily, with one in five (19%) expecting lower standards compared to around one in ten in September 2017 (12%). Explore the data further

Engagement with Brexit

Engagement around the topic of Brexit has generally increased over the last year. In September 2018, six in ten (63%) consumers discussed the topic with their peers at least once a month, compared to half (51%) twelve months ago. Despite discussing the topic more frequently, half (50%) claim they still don’t have much knowledge of the process of Brexit.

Worry about Brexit

UK wide, the proportion of people who say they are worried about Brexit increased sharply since September 2016 when 39% stated this was something they were either fairly or very worried about. By September 2018 this was 62%, with some particularly interesting shifts by age group and by region/country.

In September 2016 around one in three people in Wales or the regions of England said they were worried about Brexit, with significanltly higher proportions found in Northern Ireland 55%, Scotland 52% and London 47%. By September 2018 Wales had the highest proportion of Brexit worriers (68% from just 30% in Sept 2017), and over 60% of people in several English regions are now as likely to be worried by Brexit - similar proportions to  Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Age group: 65 years old and older

Worry about Brexit among consumers aged 65 years or older has grown in the last two years. More than six in ten (61%) of those aged 65+ now say they are worried about Brexit, a rise of 34 percentage points since we first asked the question* in September 2016 just after the referendum vote, and 18 percentage points more than a year ago.

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Consumers aged 65+ are also becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that Brexit might have. In September 2017, over half (52%) of 65+ believed that the UK economy would be better off after leaving the EU, however this proportion has reduced to less than four in ten (37%) in September 2018. Nearly half (46%) of 65+ now expect the UK economy to be worse off compared to almost a third (31%) one year ago.

There has also been a negative shift in attitude among the 65+ regarding the expected impact on household finances after the UK leaves the EU. In September 2017, three in ten (30%) over-65s expected to be financially better off after the UK leaves the EU, however one year later, this proportion has reduced to less than two in ten (18%) expecting to be better off.

In addition, a third (33%) of those aged 65+ said that removing eight specific consumer rights would not affect their household. Despite this, 65+ are more concerned about access to healthcare when travelling in the EU compared to other age groups, with over a quarter (27%) saying this would affect them if this right was removed.

Engagement in those aged 65+ has increased over the last twelve months. Around six in ten (57%) now discuss the topic of Brexit with their peers at least once a fortnight, compared to nearly four in ten (37%) twelve months ago. Almost half (46%) of 65+ now discuss the topic of Brexit at least once a week, and over half (52%) claim to be knowledgeable about the process of Brexit. In September 2018, two thirds (65%) of 65+ said they had heard of the series of papers the Government provided with advice about what to do if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

* The Which? Consumer Insight Tracker website is updated every two months, and is designed to gauge attitudes on consumer worries, trust, financial distress, spending intention, satisfaction, and trust in public markets. The nationally representative sample of around 2000 respondents is collected by Populus every two months on behalf of Which? through an online survey.

Age group: Under 25s

Our research shows that in September 2018 two thirds (65%) of consumers under the age of 25 years were disappointed by the outcome of the referendum - which makes them the most disappointed of all age groups. The under-25s are also the most concerned about the impact of Brexit on the economy, with six in ten (61%) expecting that the UK will be worse off after leaving the EU, and half (52%) expecting to be financially worse off. From the under-25s, just one in six (16%) are positive about the UK economy after it leaves the EU.

Despite being the most concerned age group in relation to Brexit, our research indicates that under-25s are now discussing it less frequently than other age groups, with three in ten (29%) discussing Brexit with their peers at least once a week. The proportion of under-25s that are disengaged has risen slightly over the last twelve months, with a fifth (18% vs 14%) never discussing the topic with their peers. Explore the data further

Brexit Consumer Segmentation

After the first wave of the Which? Brexit tracker survey in September 2017, we carried out a segmentation using a range of consumer attitudes towards Brexit. Four distinct segments were identified: ‘Engaged & Concerned’; ‘Resolute Optimist’; ‘Hopeful Pessimist’; and ‘Distant & Disengaged’.

In September 2017 the largest group, Distant and Disengaged, made up a third (34%) of the population. This group is primarily characterised by their ambivalence towards the process and limited knowledge of Brexit issues. Over the last year, the size of this group has reduced slightly, with three in ten (29%) consumers falling into this category, indicating increasing engagement regarding Brexit issues.

The Hopeful Pessimist group made up just over a quarter (28%) of the population in September 2017. Their level of engagement with Brexit in the media and frequency of discussing Brexit is in line with the average, as is their claimed level of knowledge about the topic. They are fairly pessimistic about the impact of Brexit, however see new non-EU trade deals as an opportunity rather than a risk. The size of this group has remained relatively consistent over the last twelve months with three in ten (30%) consumers now falling into this group.

The Resolute Optimist group made up a quarter (26%) of the population last year. This group is characterised by their profound optimism towards Brexit and its impact. The size of this group remained steady until September 2018, when there was a slight decrease (23%).

Engaged and Concerned were the smallest group identified and made up just over a tenth (12%) of the population in September 2017. This group is characterised by its pessimism towards Brexit and its impact, as well as feeling extremely knowledgeable about the process and talking about it regularly. The size of this group has seen a substantial increase since the start of the year, and now comprises of nearly a fifth (18%) of the population.

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