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What did The Great British Public worry about in 2015?

Key findings

  1. Terrorism
  2. Homelessness
  3. Mental health
  4. Climate change
  5. Feminism
  6. Refugee migrant crisis
  7. Animal welfare (incl. Cecil the Lion)
  8. Women in Sport (incl. This Girl Can)
  9. Loneliness
  10. NHS Weekend Working (incl.1minWorkJeremy)
  11. Gender pay gap
  12. Sexism (incl. #distractinglysexy)
  13. Obesity/Sugar Tax
  14. Body image (incl. Beach Body Ready)
  15. Food waste (incl. War on Waste)

The British public were most concerned about terrorism last year, according to an analysis of social media and national newspaper content carried out by communications agency Forster. As we left 2015, the November 2015 Paris attacks were frequently discussed, and Paris also grabbed headlines at the beginning of 2015 following the massacre at the office of Charlie Hebdo in early January, naturally fuelling debate about terrorism in this country. This is a social issue that is likely to remain top of people’s minds throughout 2016.

Other key social issues last year were feminism, homelessness, mental health and climate change. Before the online revolution, such social issues did not excite as much public discussion, but social media sites such as Twitter mean that is now easy to publicly air personal views about politics and society.

Discussing the topics that fired debate last year and the ways this debate was realised, George Ames, head of activation at Forster Communications, says: “2015 was another year jam-packed with campaigns to inspire action, issues to make our blood boil and clever ideas to get us to sit up and pay attention. It’s interesting to see the growing trend for issues capturing attention on Twitter first, leading to mainstreaming and amplifying in national news. Good examples of this are with #IminWorkJeremy, #BeachBodyReady, #DistractinglySexy and Cecil the lion, all achieving top 15 rankings.

“Feminism, homelessness, mental health and climate change have all achieved top five placements, showing how important these topics have become in our day-to-day life. They are no longer just the territory of campaigns and rabble rousing, but more established constants that as a nation we are demanding debate around.”

Ames outlines how momentum builds after a discussion gets started either through traditional or online media: “The relevance to a person, be it a political leaning, or an issue that relates to their lifestyle is the ‘active ingredient’ that sparks the first engagement. For momentum to snowball audiences need to feel a community building, trusted voices to support, action to be easy and a reward to be available. The more momentum builds, the more realistic the end goal seems and the issue in question ignites beyond the first wave of social media.”

Brands have a key part in joining in debates and influencing public sentiment believes Ames: “The business role of leading change shouldn’t be underestimated either - something we will see more of in years to come. Whilst awareness does not necessarily translate to action, loneliness has earned its space in the top 15 in part due to the John Lewis advert and its partnership with Age UK. As thoughts turn to 2016, this is reason for partnership managers to consider charity corporate partnerships not just as funding opportunities, but more as powerful partners for driving change.”


Forster used media search engine, Lexis Nexis to identify the number of articles including the phrase or categorised under each of the major social issue topics over the past year in UK national newspapers from 1 January 2015 to 3 December 2015. This was replicated for Twitter conversations using social media listening tool, Sysmos. The two results were then added together to develop the list.

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