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Opinion: Social Cohesion Weighing on Consumer Mindset

Sonya McGuirl, research director, Core Research, looks at some of the findings from its latest Consumer Mindset report

The consumer mindset in May 2024 is complex, with seven different cultural stories attracting attention and deemed important to the Irish public; whereas last month we saw one leading story in relation to Gaza. These topics range across local and global issues such as homelessness, rising road deaths, Stardust enquiry, immigration protests, as well as in relation to Palestine and Iran.

These are against a backdrop of a changing political landscape in Ireland with a newly established Taoiseach, and politicking for council and European elections, covering a mix of local and international agendas.

There has also been a rise in reporting on immigration, street violence, waiting lists, and the housing crisis, with seven in ten people feeling Ireland’s general response to social issues is deteriorating. Six in ten people feel care and respect towards each other is ‘getting worse’. This perceived worsening of social cohesion maybe impacting overall consumer confidence.

Consumer Confidence Declining Again

Our research analysis reveals a further decline in the Consumer Sentiment Index (from the Credit Union in partnership with Core Research) for the fourth month in a row, yet ahead of where it has been for almost two years. While inflation is below 3%, almost one in two people are still concerned about the cost-of-living, with different parts of society impacted in different ways.

Despite an overall relatively stable economy, near full employment and reducing inflation rates, many still perceive economic elements as “getting worse.” with one in two saying their own personal finances are decreasing.

A sense of autonomy and empowerment is important in driving much-needed levels of optimism across various areas of people’s lives. The areas where people feel they have a sense of control – internal factors such as social connections, state of mind, fun and joy – are generally seen to be “getting better.”  In contrast, the areas where people feel they lack control – external factors such as the economy and response to social issues – are getting worse, even more so this month.

Being in control of certain aspects of life and driving one’s own destiny has led to sustained positivity on internal factors in this month’s Direction Score, offset by the external factor Direction Score declining further. While consumers are seeing their own internal self-determined factors improve, it is the world outside of their control that continues to be perceived as worsening.

The Influence of Media on Our Mood

Another external factor that can impact internal aspects, such as state of mind, is the type of media consumed; there is a wide variety of media available and many draw information from various sources.

Our new analysis reveals the connection between the news people read, view and watch online and their attitudes towards specific social and political issues like housing, healthcare, workers’ rights, tax, wealth, business growth, as well as immigration, traditional values, climate action, inequality, and personal responsibility.

What does this mean for brands? Getting into the mental headspace, when there are a lot of competing issues at a local and global level, will be a challenge. As mentioned in our previous Mindset Reports, providing some levity for consumers by “emphasising positive impacts on their lives” will help; fundamentally, brands need to deliver what customers need, when they need it, as a way to ease the everyday, to remove any barriers in the customer journey and avoid points of friction – there are enough of those in our lives, which we have limited control over.

A full copy of the latest Consumer Mindset report can be downloaded HERE

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