• Age does not necessarily correlate with levels of involvement with local issues.
  • Only 24% of the UK population are actively engaged with projects that impact in their local area.
  • Younger people are more likely to engage with projects as a result of increased use of digital.

Copper Consultancy has today (28 July 2022) released the second of three reports in its Attitudes series. The new report looks at the impact of age on levels of engagement in infrastructure projects and shows that the correlation between age and engagement is not as strong as expected.

A common assumption in the infrastructure industry is that individuals who typically engage with planning applications and consultations are from an older age demographic. However, Copper’s research, informed by a nationally representative survey of 4,004 people, tells a different story.

The report “Does age matter?” found little correlation between the age of individuals and their level of engagement with projects impacting their local area. Around 40% of people between the ages of 16 and 45 say they would get involved if there was a problem in their local area – this dropped to around 30% for older age demographics.

In fact, younger demographics were more likely than older people to consider themselves an active member of their local area. This was further evidenced when respondents were asked how often they take part in local consultations. Over 50% of people aged between 16-24 said they had engaged with consultation about local services or issues in the last 5 months, for individuals over 55 this fell to 14.61%

Increased engagement from younger age groups is an encouraging sign for our industry, but Copper urges caution to those considering pivoting towards wholly digital consultation.

The uptake of digital communication methods, like virtual meetings and consultation spaces, following the pandemic has increased the number of engagement tools at our disposal, but digital is not a panacea for low levels of engagement. Providing engagement opportunities for younger demographics to engage through digital means needs to be one element of a multifaceted approach to engagement – a one size fits all approach could lead to a lack of representation of older people in the built environment.

Annabel John, Strategic Communications and Creative Director at Copper Consultancy said: “Our new report shows the link between age and involvement with projects is not a strong as we previously thought. This shows the value of using data and statistics to uncover deeper insights into the various audiences we engage with.

“Our insight suggests projects should combine digital engagement and traditional approaches to achieve greater reach. In doing so, we can encourage better inclusivity and representativeness of the views and opinions we collect during the application and consultation process.”

Copper Consultancy is constantly seeking to build an even deeper understanding of the infrastructure industry by investing time and resources to understand how people think and feel about the built environment that serves them.

Copper’s ‘Attitudes’ series of reports are designed to take a deep dive into the UK population to better understand audiences and help clients create the legacy that projects wish to leave behind.

You can read the full report here.