UK survey of expectations released

The munificent overlords at Rough Guides world HQ have paid for a survey of UK public opinion about the future ‘n’stuff…   Here’s the press release which went out yesterday, for the record. There’s more to say about the comparisons with the (larger) US survey earlier this year, I think, but I’ll save that for another time.

London, 4th November 2010
EMBARGOED 0.01 5TH NOVEMBER 2010
Future looks rosy to UK’s youth according to new survey


Over two-thirds (67%) of young adults between 18 and 24 are optimistic about their own future and that of their family according to the results of an online YouGov survey about expectations of life in 2050. The survey was commissioned by publisher Rough Guides to mark the publication of The Rough Guide to the Future.

18 to 24-year-olds were also the age group most optimistic about the future of the UK for the next 40 years (47%) and the most optimistic about the future of the UK economy, with 43% imagining the UK economy will be stronger in 2050 than it is today. This compares with just 28% of 45-54 year olds and 30% of 55+ year olds believing the economy will be stronger.

Imagining Life in 2050

When it comes to predicting how life will be in 2050, the survey reveals a mixed vision of some technological and scientific break-throughs, combined with fears about the environment and a resignation that we’re all going to have to work a little longer.

79% of respondents believe we will have to work beyond our 70thbirthdays before retiring. But we will perhaps be helped by medical advances with 81% believing scientists will be able to replace damaged or failed organs using stem cell treatment. This contrasts starkly with just 36% believing we will find a cure for all cancers. 53% of people believe that computers will be able to converse like humans, and 45% think ordinary people will be able to travel in space.

Further breakdown of likelihood of scenarios in table below.

The end of newspapers?

Reassuringly for some, and perhaps surprisingly for others, despite the current hype around iPads, kindles, apps and firewalls, only just over half (58%) of all UK adults with internet access believe that paper editions of newspapers will not exist by 2050, with 25-34 year olds the least likely of all to believe in the demise of print newspapers (53%).

Americans more optimistic than Brits

Comparisons with a similar telephone study carried out in the US in April 2010[1] reveal that on the whole Americans are a lot more optimistic about their own futures (64%) and that of their country (62% optimistic about future of the US) than adults in the UK where only half (50%) are optimistic about their own future, and just 35% optimistic about the future of the UK.

World war more likely for Americans

In spite of the above, when envisaging life in 2050 a significantly higher percentage of those in the US believe another world war will happen by 2050, with a majority of Americans (58%) believing there will probably or definitely be another world war, compared to just 33% of those in the UK thinking another world war is likely.

Adults in the UK and US from the two studies are in agreement over the environment, with approximately the same percentages, 77% and 72% respectively, forseeing that the world will face a major energy crisis and 65% UK adults  and 66% US believing that the Earth will get warmer due to global warming.

Author of the Rough Guide to the Future, Jon Turney, commented “There is a lot of food for thought here. I’m intrigued that young people are more optimistic overall, even though they are less inclined to believe in several kinds of technological advance. Maybe the older people have seen more technological change, but don’t find it an improvement. We can only speculate.”

In the next 40 years…

Probably/Definitely will happen % Probably/Definitely won’t happen % Don’t Know %
We will find a cure for all cancers 36 54 10
Scientists will replace damaged or failed organs using stem cell treatment 81 8 10
Ordinary people will travel in space 45 47 8
We will find evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe 31 54 14
Paper editions of newspapers will no longer exist 58 34 8
Computers will be able to converse like humans 53 34 13
Earth will get warmer due to global warming 65 23 12
The world will face a major energy crisis 77 15 9
There will be another world war 33 49 17
Most Britons will have to work beyond their 70th birthday before retiring 79 14 6

Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact Viv Watton on 0207 010 3720 or vivienne.watton@uk.roughguides.com. Jon Turney, author of The Rough Guide to the Future is available for comment.

The survey was commissioned by Rough Guides to mark the publication of The Rough Guide to the Future, by Jon Turney, published 1st November 2010, £13.99.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2164 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd – 25th October 2010.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Further results and statistics from the survey are available on request.


1 Life in 2050, conducted by The PEW Research Center, http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/625.pdf

For further information please contact Viv Watton on 0207 010 3720 or 07801 665055 or vivienne.watton@uk.roughguides.com.
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One Comment on “UK survey of expectations released”


  1. […] a mean happiness score of 7.45 out of 11. Young people do not seem unduly pessimistic either, with two-thirds expressing optimism about their […]


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