The importance of differences between generations is clearly not new. Karl Mannheim published his seminal work “The Problem of Generations” in 1928, which outlined how formative experiences are vitally important to setting views, and how the strength of links between contemporaries will grow as ties between generations within families weaken. This was something of a break from the orthodoxy, but looking at modern societies, it seems incredibly prescient.
More recently this generational perspective has taken a particular twist, with a surge in studies focusing on the likelihood of increases in intergenerational inequality and conflict - mostly driven by concern about the burden placed on future generations by the good fortune of baby boomers.1
It is also arguable that a generational focus is increasingly relevant due to the accelerating pace of change in many spheres of life (not least in technology and social media) bringing cohorts together and emphasising the distance between generations.
But in the focus on boomers, and how those following are facing a much tougher time, there’s been relatively little attempt to understand how values and opinions vary across the full range of generations. In particular, perhaps too little attention has been given to how distinct the pre-war generation are, how central they’ve been to stability in measured public opinion – and how much their influence on aggregate views is declining.
Ipsos MORI will be examining this generational perspective, drawing on a number of data sources starting with the British Social Attitudes Survey.2
1 For example: Willets, D. (2011) The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took their Children's Future - and Why They Should Give it Back; Howker, E. & Malik, S. (2010) Jilted Generation; Beckett, F. (2010) What Did The Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us?
2 We would like to thank NatCen, in particular Alison Park, for providing access to the BSA data.