UK Anxiety Index – The Riots: Young people hold the harshest views on rioting

Share Article

Riots Survey commissioned as part of JWT’s Anxiety Index, which seeks to understand the main worries of consumers around the world

Anger, shock and disgust. These were the most common initial reactions to the riots that took place in London and across the UK in early August, but it may come as a surprise to discover that some of the harshest judgements on the rioting come from young people themselves, according to a survey conducted by JWT London, one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies.

When asked about the riots and their feelings towards young people in their own community, sympathy levels were lowest among 18-34 year olds. Just 28% said that they worry for other young people, compared with 52% of the over 50s. Young people are also championing harsher penalties for their rioting peers, with 43% suggesting that the punishments of those convicted were not harsh enough, compared to 34% of the overall population.

And after the media hype about the role that social networks played in organising the riots, 64% of young people agree that social networks should be restricted in the future to prevent them being used in a negative way.

So why are young people taking such a firm view? Tony Quinn, Head of Planning at JWT London, suggests that they’ve had enough of their unfair reputation: ‘Young people are fed up with the marginal few who participated in the riots undermining their voice in society. Youth are usually the drivers of social change, but protests are now being overshadowed by violence.’

Indeed, young people seem to be more fearful as a result of the riots than older generations; 41% of 18-34 year olds say they feel less safe on the streets where they live than before, compared with 17% of over 35s. Little surprise, since 91% of all respondents expect that rioting will happen again. But will participation be lower for future demonstrations, such as the student protests on the horizon for Autumn 2011? 35% of 18-34s now say they would be too scared to attend a protest, compared with 26% of 35-50s and 24% of over 50s.

Less surprisingly, perhaps, support for the coalition government has been dented more significantly among young people than older generations and, though they still feel that it is primarily the government’s responsibility to address the root causes of the rioting (53%), they also feel that the onus is on young people themselves to solve the problem (42%). A far cry from rioters and anarchists, this is a generation in which the majority of young people care about the future of society and are prepared to shoulder some responsibility.

Meanwhile, there is an opportunity for brands to step in and help. 68% of young people say they feel more positively towards the brands that helped with the clean up, such as Sainsbury’s, M&S and Starbucks. Many of them also feel that brands could play a role by sponsoring youth initiatives, facilities and programmes in communities (58%), providing training opportunities to deprived kids (46%), and facilitating the involvement of young people in their local communities (38%).

The Riots Survey was commissioned as part of JWT’s Anxiety Index, which seeks to understand the main worries of consumers around the world. According to the latest report, anxiety in the UK is at a two year high, primarily driven by the state of the economy and cost of living.

Notes to Editors: JWT surveyed 300 British consumers in August 2011 using our bespoke UK SONAR research panel.

To view the full Anxiety Index visit


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Lucy Barrett