(Pretty) new research into public opinion and attitude – a digest of free sources

I’ve been asked to sketch out a plan for a couple of workshops in communications, reputation and public relations research.

As part of the prep, I’ve been researching free sources of data on public opinion and attitude (as opposed to stats on our behaviours) that might help PR or communications practitioners:

  • Benchmark their own studies against a larger or different population
  • Improve research design (as a source of sample questions)
  • Craft campaigns

During the workshops (as they stand) I will be taking students through some of these in much more detail, but there are so many that I thought it might be useful to list some here.

Attitudes – general

Every year the British Social Attitudes Survey asks 3,000+ people what it’s like to live in Britain, exploring their social, political and moral attitudes. It’s a big study with a long history that looks at attitudes to issues as diverse and important as health, welfare, immigration and transport.

The Office for National Statistics is a treasure trove of public opinion surveys, but only a minority study attitudes (distinct from behaviours).  These include our attitudes to policing and the communities we live in over time. 

Media consumption

Ofcom’s annual communications market reports examine trends in media consumption and attitudes as well as industry revenue and market share data. It is usefully split into different age groups. Their consumer experience reports measure the choice, price and range of products available to consumers, take-up and awareness of media use, as well as attitudes to comparing, switching and protection.

Political opinion – general

Quite a few of the bigger polling companies publish research archives online and these can include recent studies with respectable respondent numbers, intelligent sampling and sound analysis. The topics range from royal babies to housing costs but the most common are studies into our political predilections. They include:

Angus Reid Global (UK research)

I think I’ve commissioned research from all of these at some point in the past. They are all members of the British Polling Council, incidentally. (Which has a handy FAQ on public polling on its website.)


The Edelman Trust Barometer is an international instrument that examines the trust placed in politicians, media and business (to name a few) by 31,000 respondents from 27 countries. Most of the analysis focuses on global results but Edelman’s UK site includes a press release on in-country results.

Energy and Climate

The Department of Energy and Climate Change set up a tracking survey in March 2012 to better understand the UK public’s attitude to energy and environmental issues. There have been five waves of research so far. The research forms part of the TNS omnibus survey, which uses a random location sampling methodology and results are weighted. Roughly 2000 UK adults are surveyed each week.

Social Mobility

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published new research into public attitudes to social mobility issues in June 2013. This was another TNS/BMRB omnibus piece of work.

Labour market information

Even though this isn’t strictly an attitudinal study, I’ve thrown this one into the pot because I lecture on it from time to time and it’s so incredibly useful.  For anyone interested in UK demographic information the Nomis wizard tool is, excuse the pun, magic. It includes the detailed breakdown of Census 2011 data, down to ward and postcode level (in most cases), allowing researchers to answer such esoteric questions as ‘How many people born in Poland have access to a van in this parish?’. It’s also the portal which allows researchers to mine the Annual Population Survey (a residential labour market survey focusing on qualifications and economic activity, among other things) and the annual survey of hours and earnings.

Please do comment or share if you know of other national (or regional?) studies that might be useful for comms bods. Thanks in advance.




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