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The latest permanent tsb Reflecting Ireland research reveals the strong sense of community in Ireland. 65% feel there is a strong community spirit in the areas they live which is also reflected in their relationships with two thirds saying they know their neighbours well. 29% also believe that the pandemic strengthened community bonds further. 

However, rising house prices are forcing many Irish Consumers to limit their options with almost half (47%) of people in Ireland unable to afford to live in their preferred community while 35% cannot afford to live in the area they were raised.

Unsurprisingly, age is a distinguishing factor with younger people under 35 having a more limited range of options with 60% of under 35’s saying that they cannot afford to live in their preferred community. Concerns over the cost of living and wider economy continue to grow with consumer sentiment now at levels of negativity not seen since the financial crisis of over a decade ago with 60% feel they’re worse off than this time last year (up from 30% at the start of the year) and 50% expect to be even worse off next year (twice as many as in January).

Reflecting Ireland is a quarterly research series from permanent tsb which examines topical issues.  The research was undertaken by Kantar in July 2022 amongst 1,000 adults.

Key findings in respect of Cost of Living include:

  • The cost of living situation is now causing significant worry across all types of consumers and at all income levels. For the first time, the survey has shown that even those on higher incomes are now beginning to fear the effects of significant increases in the cost of living.

  • Just 1 in 10 consumers expect the economy to improve over the next year, with 2 in 3 saying it will get worse.

  • Overall consumer sentiment has reached negative levels that have not been seen since the financial crisis of over a decade ago.

  • The survey also showed that consumer feelings of negativity (62%) are at the highest level since this rating was introduced in 2017, with a sense of anxiety (23%) dominating attitudes. In addition, pessimism (14%) outweighs optimism (12%) for the first time.

  • The one silver lining in the research is that young people appear to be more optimistic than older age groups. Those aged 18-24 bucked the trend of most age groups expecting to be worse off, with 47% of this age group saying they expect to be better off next year, with only 20% saying they will be worse off.

  • The latest survey also finds that rising house prices are making it more difficult for people to buy in their preferred locations. Almost half (47%) of people say they are unable to afford to live in their preferred community (versus 28% who say they can). 35% say they cannot afford to live in the area in which they were raised (versus 39% who say they can).

  • Unsurprisingly, age is a distinguishing factor with younger people having a more limited range of options (60% of people aged under 35 say they cannot afford to live in their preferred community).

The research also examined the public’s attitudes to “community” where key findings included:

  • Two thirds of respondents (65%) feel there is a strong community spirit in the area they live in, with only 15% feeling this is not the case. 65% of people said they know their neighbours well.

  • When considering the factors that define a good community, people helping each other out (78%) rates most highly, followed by people looking out for vulnerable neighbours (75%) and a sense of physical security (73%).

  • There is some evidence of a say-do gap when it comes to community participation. While 69% of people say it is important to participate in community, only 49% do so actively. A lack of time may explain this, with 3 in 4 people saying being too busy is the main barrier to creating a strong sense of community.

  • In terms of urban versus rural access to key services, 77% of people in urban areas rate broadband access as excellent or good versus 55% in rural areas. For transport, this is 63% v 29% while access to medical facilities is 52% v 32%. However, when it comes to having a strong community spirit where we live, 74% of those from rural villages agree versus 58% of those in towns and cities.

  • Sport is a central outlet in how people engage with their community. Two-thirds (65%) say access to sports clubs is excellent or good where they live, with 32% actively participating in these clubs and 26% showing support by volunteering. Engagement with sport is particularly strong among the under 34s, among adults who have children and among those living in newly established areas.

  • Almost a third of us (29%) believe the pandemic strengthened our community bonds, almost half (47%) believe it didn’t have any impact and 17% believe it weakened them.

Commenting on the research, permanent tsb Head of Corporate Affairs Leontia Fannin said:

“We’re clearly looking at some difficult months ahead for consumers and the increased levels of concern show that people are preparing for a difficult winter.

“While that is the major takeaway from this edition of the research, it is encouraging to see the strong community ethos that still exits.   It is encouraging that people are expressing such strong and positive views about their links to their communities.”

“Our research shows the significant commitment and attachment that many people have to their local communities, as well as strong signs of looking out for each other and volunteering with community groups. This is an important and welcome development at a time when the economic picture is less favourable than in the past.”

Behavioural Scientist Claire Cogan said:

 “Our research shows that the continuing rise in the cost of living is weighing heavily on people’s minds, and that negative sentiment is on the rise as more people are worrying about their personal financial circumstances. At a time like this, being part of a strong local community offers much needed support and boosts our resilience. It’s good to see that two thirds of us feel there is a strong sense of community where we live - this will help us through the tough months ahead.”

Planning Director at Kantar, Robin McGhee, said:

“This study into community is propitious: at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is severely testing everyone’s emotional and mental stamina, it is natural we should seek solace in the communities that nurture us. There are so many aspects to community that enrich our lives and bind us together, but we can see the vital importance, in particular, that sport plays- it is a universal language of connectedness and local identity.”

Download the full Reflecting Ireland report here. 

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