Our latest Trajectory Trends Breakfast saw CEO Paul Flatters deliver a presentation on the current state of a trend we first identified in 2012 – the New Morality.

The New Morality was coined to describe for a series of developments we noticed in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis; notably a greater focus on boardrooms following a vast range of institutional scandals and the emergence of a more inward looking consumer mindset as the effects of the recession hit home.

The chart above shows the combined responses to the question “What would you say is the most important issue facing Britain today?” and “What do you see as other important issues facing Britain today?”, from the Ipsos Issues index. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, a hierarchy of issues formed with regard to the economy/economic situation, pollution/environment and Immigration;

of the three, immigration was deemed the most important, followed by the economy and pollution/environment.

With the economy strong, people could seemingly ‘afford’ to care more about global issues such as pollution and the environment, with pollution/environment surpassing the economy in terms of importance among Britons. This small movement pales in comparison to the spike in importance of the economy in the wake of the financial crisis, however the magnitude of the growth, and subsequent decline, was significant; from 1 in 5 people naming pollution/environment as an important issue in 2006, to 1 in 20 during the recession.

So that was the New Morality; a self-preservation society, shaped by a global financial event, suspicious of the institutions that caused it and those like them.

What does the New Morality look like in 2017?

It’s difficult to talk about far-reaching sociodemographic trends in the Western world without bringing up the recent political events in the United States and America, with the morning’s discussion quickly turning to political polarisation, echo chambers and alternative facts. These events and topics are perfect illustrations of the New Morality in action.

As scrutiny of institutions and governments increased, almost no institution or organisation was immune, and many skeletons were discovered hiding in closets. Now, trust in the establishment has faltered and politics is incredibly polarised. The phenomenon of echo chambers and the primacy of belief in what one feels to be true, rather than that which can be proven with facts, has left society vulnerable to ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’; mistruths designed to confirm our suspicions rather than challenge or inform our beliefs. Muddying the waters further, the media is not without its demons; much has been written about links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but it’s easy to understand why many wouldn’t trust CNN to challenge the administration after their political commentator Donna Brazile leaked two debate questions to Hilary Clinton’s campaign during the democratic primary.

This is the brave new world of the New Morality, with continued financial recovery complicated by polarised politics and a challenging relationship with the truth. Over the next few years, this polarisation will continue as the economic trends that have led to a lost decade (or more) of growth continue to drive our experiences, and the political divisions in society deepen.