Heatmap of attitudes to necessities by groups, UK, 2012

Is there a consensus among different groups in the UK as to what items and activities are necessities? This table looks at attitudes to the adult and child items and activities looking at the views of the whole sample and different groups within the sample for the UK as a whole.

In the left hand column adult items and activities are shaded dark grey and child ones light grey. Colour gradients have been applied to the other columns to reflect the percentage of each group that thinks that item is ‘necessary’ going from red for 100% support to green for 0%. So where 100% think an item is ‘necessary’ it is shaded deep red; this gradually changes through orange to yellow to green as the percentages decline; and is the deepest green when 0% think the item is a necessity. So looking at the table as a whole, the more uniform the shading across all groups, the more agreement there is between different groups. Outriders stand out because they are coloured differently (more red if a higher proportion in the group think the item a necessity and more green if a lower proportion do).

The second column gives the views of the overall sample; the others of groups within the UK sample (with the exception of the last two columns on political affiliation which are GB only). By comparing any particular group with the views of the whole sample you can see any item or activity which that group thinks to be a necessity but not the sample overall and vica versa.

You can sort the table by the preferences of the overall sample or by any of the groups. This enables you to see items and activities where the views of the chosen group are different from other groups.

You can also choose to look at items and activities that just apply to adults and those that just apply to children. And you can filter by category which includes items and activities and also a range of other types such as food, clothing and social (some items and activities are in more than one of these catgeories).

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Adult Items and Activities
Child Items and Activities
Age Group:
Source: PSE UK, Necessities of life survey, 2012


The 2012 survey found that there was a very high degree of consensus about what constitutes a minimum living standard.  For all the groups by which the analysis has been broken down, there are overall very few instances where the majority of one group considers an item a necessity which is not also seen as a necessity by all other groups.

The previous studies (Breadline Britain 1983 and 1990, PSE 1999 and PSE NI 2002/3) also demonstrated a high degree of homogeneity in public perceptions of what constitute the necessities of life.  It is important for this 'consensual' approach to measuring poverty that there is widespread agreement across all groups in society. If the surveys did not find a high degree of consensus then the interests of minority groups could end up being overlooked if they are not shared by the majority.

In the 2012 survey we do indeed see a very high overall level of agreement. Across gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, health, employment status, occupation, nature of work, education level, dependent children, housing tenure, and income level, there are very similar views on the relative importance of different items and activities. Items seen by high proportions of one group as a necessity are likely to be seen as a necessity by similarly high proportions of all other groups and conversely those ranked lowly by one group will be ranked lowly by all other groups.

Even among those with different political affiliations, there are very few differences. Comparing Conservatives versus Labour supporters (the percentages for these groups are for Great Britain only and not the UK) we find their views are extremely similar.

Differences between groups can be explored in more detail in the Scatterplots of attitudes to necessities by groups.

For further commenary see Facts and Findings 3: What do we think we need?  We will be publishing detailed working papers anaysing these findings shortly.

Survey details

The ‘Necessities of Life’ survey was carried out between May and June 2012 and is based on a sample of 1,447 adults aged 16 or over in the Britain and 1,015 in Northern Ireland. The survey was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in Britain and by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in Northern Ireland as part of their Omnibus surveys.