One in three say we ‘help each other’
Community spirit in neighbourhoods, England & Wales
People’s perceptions of their local neighbourhood give an indication of the strength of community spirit and neighbourliness.
In 1984 the proportion of respondents to the British Crime Survey who perceived their neighbourhood was one in which ‘people go their own way’ or one where people ‘help each other out’ were broadly similar, roughly 40 per cent each. However, in 1992 there was a sharp increase in the proportion who perceived that people ‘mostly go their own way’, to 49 per cent. At the same time there was a corresponding fall in the proportion who thought that most people ‘help each other’ to 31 per cent. This illustrates a possible decline in community cohesion.
Since 1996 the proportion who perceive that people in their neighbourhood ‘help each other’ has risen slowly again to 36 per cent, while those where people are perceived to ‘go their own way’ remained stable.
Another indicator of social capital is social trust. This declined from the late 1950s to the early 1980s and then stabilised. In 2000, 45 per cent of adults interviewed in the British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) agreed that ‘most people can be trusted’. The BSA also identified a fall in political trust between 1974 and 2000. In addition, the turnout for the 2001 UK general election was 59 per cent – the lowest turnout for any post war general election.
Some forms of political participation have increased in recent years, with a peak in political involvement in the early 1990s. In 1986, 34 per cent of people said they had signed a petition, this rose to 53 per cent in 1991 and then fell to 42 over cent in 2000. Over the same period the number of people who had gone on a protest or demonstration steadily increased to 10 per cent in 2000.
Sources: British Crime Survey, Home Office British Social Attitudes, National Centre for Social Research
Notes Since 1984 the British Crime Survey has asked adults in England and Wales the following question: In general, what kind of neighbourhood would you say you live in? Would you say it is a neighbourhood in which people do things together and try and help each other or one in which people mostly go their own way?