This news release describes the results of the Bank of England’s latest quarterly survey of public attitudes to inflation, undertaken between 11 and 17 May 2021.
Please note, the Government’s social distancing guidance meant that face-to-face interviewing was not possible for the surveys conducted since May 2020. These have been conducted online instead. This change resulted in a methodological break in the series in May 2020. For example, the proportions of respondents who answered “Don’t know/ No idea” to the May survey’s questions declined substantially. That perhaps reflected the design of the online questionnaire, where the option of “Don’t know/ No idea” appeared only if the respondent tried to move onto the next question without giving an answer. In the surveys since August 2020 however, the option of “Don’t know/ No idea” appeared in the same showcard as the other options. The proportions of respondents answering “Don’t know/ No idea” returned to more usual levels for most questions in the August 2020 and subsequent surveys.
These mode of collection changes mean caution should be taken when making comparisons across the latest four surveys and May 2020 and with previous vintages, which were based on face-to-face interviews.
More details about the methodology applied in the surveys since May 2020 can be found in the ‘Methodology and notes – Online survey’ attachment and that of previous surveys in the ‘Methodology and notes – face-to-face survey’ attachment.
Highlights from the Survey
Question 1: Asked to give the current rate of inflation, respondents gave a median answer of 2.5%, unchanged from February 2021.
Question 2a: Median expectations of the rate of inflation over the coming year were 2.4%, down from 2.7% in February 2021.
Question 2b: Asked about expected inflation in the twelve months after that, respondents gave a median answer of 1.9%, down from 2.2% in February 2021.
Question 2c: Asked about expectations of inflation in the longer term, say in five years’ time, respondents gave a median answer of 2.7%, down from 2.9% in February 2021.
Question 3: By a margin of 41% to 13%, survey respondents believed that the economy would end up weaker, rather than stronger, if prices started to rise faster. This compares with margins of 49% to 10% in February 2021 and 49% to 9% in November 2020.
Question 4: 45% of respondents thought the inflation target was ‘about right’, up from 44% in February 2021. The proportions saying the target was ‘too high’ or ‘too low’ were 31% and 10%, respectively, in May 2021.
Question 5: 26% of respondents thought that interest rates on things such as mortgages, bank loans and savings had fallen over the past 12 months, compared with 33% in February 2021 and 38% in November 2020. Meanwhile, 23% of respondents said that interest rates had risen over the past 12 months, compared with 22% in February 2021 and 20% in November 2020.
Question 6: When asked about the future path of interest rates, 37% said they expected rates to stay about the same over the next twelve months, compared with 35% in February 2021. 39% of respondents expected rates to rise over the next 12 months, up from 35% in February 2021.
Question 7: Asked what would be ‘best for the economy’ – higher interest rates, lower rates or no change – 23% thought rates should ‘go up’, up from 22% in February 2021 and 21% in November 2020. 11% of respondents thought that interest rates should ‘go down’, down from 14% in February 2021 and 15% in November 2020. 41% thought interest rates should ‘stay where they are’, up from 39% in February 2021 and 35% in November 2020.
Question 8: When asked what would be ‘best for you personally’, 32% of respondents said it would be better for them if interest rates were to ‘go up’, up from 31% in February 2021. 16% of respondents said it would be better for them if interest rates were to ‘go down’, down from 18% in February 2021.
Question 14: Respondents were asked to assess the way the Bank of England is ‘doing its job to set interest rates to control inflation’. The net satisfaction balance – the proportion satisfied minus the proportion dissatisfied – was +24%, down from +25% in February 2021, but up from +20% in November 2020.