Buckingham Palace with crowds on the Mall

Measuring the mood of the nation: with lives and livelihoods both under threat at present, the mood of individuals has become a major topic of discussion.  When it has been under focus before, economic factors have been the main driver in how people have been feeling, and the public mood has taken quite a while to shift.

One such case was the MORI ‘Mood of the Nation’ Index, which ran from June 1993.  During the early 1990s recession, MORI found that the problems among those describing themselves as unhappy were largely economic ones – notably, not having enough money and unemployment.  Its tracking led to the observation in its monthly ‘British Public Opinion’ report that: “In Britain and all across Europe there seems to be a rising tide of pessimism and unhappiness”. 

The new Index (initially called the ‘MORI Misery Index’) combined two regular monthly tests of public confidence, the Economic Optimism Index and the Fear of Redundancy Index. 

Young adults, DEs and Scots were the most pessimistic groups.  Against a national Index of 33%, they scored 40% or close to it.  Conversely ABs, southerners and over 55s were the least miserable.


‘British Public Opinion’* carried monthly updates on the Index*.  Over the following 12 months there was little variation in the overall measure, which remained within the range of 30% to 35%.  The demographic and geographic biases also remained consistent.

It was three years before the Index showed the nation starting to become happier, as optimism about the economy reached a four-year high.  Tony Blair and New Labour were able to tap into this, and swept to power in 1997.   

With public health fears so significant at present, and economic concerns suddenly much greater for many, it will be interesting to see whether measures that track the public mood show much greater short-term volatility.  It seems likely that they will.


*The Archive (www.amsr.org.uk) contains a wide range of valuable material that is free to access. This information may be found in the Archive under ‘MORI British Public Opinion’.

Post added May 21st, 2020


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