Almost half (47%) of Britain’s adult population believes that cities will become more important to the UK economy but the same proportion say that they will become less liveable over the next 50 years (47%), a new survey on attitudes to cities – and in particular the challenges cities are expected to face in 2065 – finds.

The survey also finds that only 17% of adults overall (18% if living in an urban area) agree that it is generally easier for people to have a good quality of life if they live in a city rather than elsewhere in the UK.

The survey questions were developed by Ideate Research with Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of its 10th Anniversary Debates: The Way We Live Now; Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) as part of its Festival of the Future City programme; and YouGov.

Overall, there is very little difference in opinion regarding cities between the British public as a whole compared with those living in urban areas. There are also relatively few differences in opinion between those living in urban areas compared with rural ones.

Among other findings are:

• 56% of adults agree that surrounding areas benefit from a UK city’s economic success rising to 62% amongst those living in London and 63% within social grades ABC1 (compared with 49% in C2DE).
• Around a quarter of adults (23%) agree that immigration from other countries to UK cities is generally beneficial for the city’s existing population (48% disagree). In contrast, a higher proportion of adults (30%) believe that immigration from other countries to UK cities is generally beneficial for the UK as a whole (44% disagree).
• Around two-fifths (38%) agree that the UK Government is right to want to give more powers (eg legislative, tax-raising powers ) to cities, which could mean having an elected mayor for the area.

Looking to the future:
• Around half of adults (47%) agree that UK cities will become more important to the UK’s economic prosperity in the future; only 10% disagree.
• A third of adults (34%) agree that UK cities need to grow at a faster pace than they are currently in order to meet the future needs of society.

Almost half (47%) of British adults think UK cities in 50 years’ time will be less ‘liveable’ than they are now. The five most commonly cited challenges for cities over the next 50 years are:

• Overcrowding (eg housing shortages) (71%)
• High demands on health services (62%)
• Road congestion (57%)
• Loss of green spaces (50%)
• Poverty/ income inequality (48%)

All age groups cited overcrowding as the biggest challenge.

There is difference in opinion amongst those living in rural areas when it comes to the biggest challenges; these respondents were more likely to say road congestion (65% rural vs 56% of those living in urban areas), ageing population (51% vs 44%, respectively) and terrorist threats (42% vs 36%, respectively)

Andrew Kelly, Director of BCDP and the Festival of the Future City said today:

The future is urban. Within 35 years nearly 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. It’s essential we get cities right for all citizens now and in the future. Our Festival of the Future City aims to inspire wide thinking and debate about the future of cities. The findings from the YouGov research and the work of AHRC will feed into these debates and should become influential in debates about cities in the years to come.

The Festival of the Future City, which has over 60 events and 150 speakers, takes place in Bristol Tuesday 17 to Friday 20 November 2015. It opens with a launch evening in which Sir Mark Walport (Government Chief Scientific Adviser) will deliver a lecture on the findings of the Foresight Future of Cities programme followed by a panel discussion on Future Cities For All – one of The Way We Live Now national debates marking ten years of the AHRC.

Download the PDF of the press release including notes to editors and full summary of findings.