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Disengaged Battlers

Who are Disengaged Battlers?

(8% of the British public)

Disengaged Battlers tend to feel unheard, left out of society and disillusioned. They tend to hold left-leaning views on the economy and meritocracy, but more centrist/right-leaning views on some cultural issues…

A relatively young segment, Disengaged Battlers are typically urban and, although educated to a medium level, they tend to be financially insecure.


The table below highlights what an ideal UK looks like for this segment, as well as the issues that are most important to them, the messengers they trust, and their preferred news sources.

Ideal UKMost important issues (Feb)Most important issues (Sept)Trusted messengersMost read news sources
1CompassionateHealthcare and the NHSHealthcare and the NHSDavid AttenboroughBBC
2Environmentally friendlyBritain leaving the EUThe economyClimate scientistsNone of the above
3HonestThe environment and climate changeBritain leaving the EUEnvironmental charitiesITV

I feel like if you do the right thing, go to work and everything and pay your taxes, we don’t really get anything back for it. I don't know, the prescriptions go up every single year and you don’t necessarily get a pay rise with inflation to cover these extra costs.”

They see inequality as a big problem, and are the most likely to be working class, according to national socio-economic grades. Traditionally viewed as part of the core Labour base, this segment can no longer be relied on to vote Labour, or indeed to vote at all.

Disengaged Battlers have left-leaning views on the economy (supporting broadly redistributive policies) and meritocracy (doubting that people ‘get what they deserve’ from life). But this segment may hold more centrist/right-leaning views on some cultural issues, with a majority (54%) agreeing that people nowadays have become too sensitive about things to do with race. While they are more likely to see the positive effects of immigration (46%), a sizeable proportion disagrees (25%). 

Disengaged Battlers do not feel represented or heard, with 87% believing that politicians don’t care about people like me (the highest of any segment), and 83% agreeing that the system is rigged to serve the rich and influential. Compared to Disengaged Traditionalists, this segment is twice as likely to think that there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor.

The majority of Disengaged Battlers say there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor

The majority of Disengaged Battlers say there’s one law for the rich and one for the poor

Feeling left out of society and disillusioned, this segment is the least likely to say that people in the UK are kind, and they have low trust in people generally. They are the most likely to feel lonely and to say they are facing life’s high points and low points alone, and are the least likely to feel part of a community.

A construction worker guides an access platform as it is lifted onto the roof of a new building in London

I prefer my own space. I prefer being on my own.”

For me, I just want to feel safe in my community. I don’t need to chat with all my neighbours and be friends with them. As long as I feel safe, that’s enough for me.”

But, although they are pessimistic and disinclined to trust institutions, they are nevertheless resilient and cannot be described as fatalistic, believing that the ideal UK should be fair, honest and environmentally-friendly. 

Only a minority of this segment are proud to be British, with some embarrassment or hesitation around the negative stereotypes and connotations this brings. The defining feature of this segment is arguably their low engagement with politics and political parties, with the highest rate of non-voting in local and general elections, and on Brexit.

The two ‘Disengaged’ groups are the least politically engaged

The two ‘Disengaged’ groups are the least politically engaged

They are fed up with political infighting and the feeling that they have to choose sides, and are frustrated about their powerlessness.

Personally, I don’t define myself as left or right, but I have political ideals that I’ll stick to. But that’s not something I’d bring up. I don’t see myself as either way and I don’t think I would ever describe myself as such.”

Everything is so partisan at the moment. People are either on one side or the other and you’ve got to pick a side. You can’t drift between the two. You either pick a side or you just stand on the edges and don’t get involved.”

Disengaged Battlers on climate change

Compared to Progressive Activists and Civic Pragmatists, Disengaged Battlers are less worried about climate change (and other environmental issues, including air pollution, plastics and deforestation). Most closely resembling Backbone Conservatives in their concern about environmental issues across the board, they are nonetheless always more engaged – often by a considerable margin – than Disengaged Traditionalists, with around 55% of this segment saying they are ‘extremely worried’ or ‘very worried’ about climate change, and an additional 26% who are ‘somewhat worried’.

Disengaged Battlers are closer to right-leaning groups on ‘worry’ about environmental issues

Disengaged Battlers are closer to right-leaning groups on ‘worry’ about environmental issues

However, Disengaged Battlers come closer to Progressive Activists and Civic Pragmatists in their understanding of the scale and urgency of the problem. They are the third most likely to believe that climate change is real and is caused by human action (72%, compared to 69% average) and that climate change requires urgent, radical action (59%, compared to 49% average).

We just had a record-breaking heatwave in the UK. That’s not normal. So, I think the longer that we ignore that, it’s just going to get hotter, it’s going to get weirder, there’s going to be flooding.”

Perceived political indifference to their needs and interests colours most other findings, placing them alongside Disengaged Traditionalists in their lack of ‘pride’ in protecting the environment and lower concern about our ‘throwaway culture’. They are also less likely to agree that community spirit can be built through working together to protect the environment and are the most likely to report feeling ‘no emotions’ about climate change. In short, they are unpersuaded by rhetoric suggesting they should ‘do their bit’, because this would imply a social contract with institutions and other segments in society that they feel hasn’t been honoured. 

Shovelling soil into a lorry as part of a construction project

It follows that Disengaged Battlers report the second lowest engagement in personal actions to address climate change (after Disengaged Traditionalists), as well as being the segment most likely to agree (53%) that there’s no point trying to protect the environment because big companies and other countries will keep polluting. Only 8% would sign a climate change petition or vote based on climate considerations.

The two ‘Disengaged’ groups show lowest agreement with statements about pride, working together to protect the environment, and reducing waste

The two ‘Disengaged’ groups show lowest agreement with statements about pride, working together to protect the environment, and reducing waste

Trust – or rather a lack of it is a defining characteristic of this segment. From a list of potentially trustworthy sources on climate, they are the most likely segment to select ‘none of these’ as a response. They have generally low levels of trust (regardless of source) when it comes to climate change, lower than Progressive Activists and Civic Pragmatists. But, of all sources, as a non-partisan, non-judgemental spokesperson, David Attenborough is the most trusted, followed by climate scientists and environmental charities. Clearly, there is still a great deal of work to be done to bring Disengaged Battlers into the climate conversation. 

The changes forced into focus by Covid-19 offer a window of opportunity to better engage this segment, and there is an appetite for it, but sensitive and considerate messaging will be the key to success as the peer-to-peer norms and social signals among this group are likely to be pulling in the wrong direction.

I remember having a conversation with my mum a few weeks ago and I was trying to say to her about why I wasn’t doing something or why I was trying to recycle something. She was just like, ‘for god’s sake, it doesn’t matter’. And it’s like, no, it really does. It really does. I know that this is just one thing and that one thing doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But if a million people are doing that one thing then we’ve got a big f**king problem.”

For Disengaged Battlers, climate action needs to be fair and equitable. The most likely to be unemployed or in unstable, low-paid work, they are the most likely to say that a benefit of cutting carbon emissions would be to create jobs and prosperity. They are likely to be receptive to credible messaging around the concept of a ‘just transition’, as long as it doesn’t place an unfair burden on those largely without the means or the agency to effect change themselves.

Engineers working on a turbine on the Gwynt y Mor offshore wind farm in North Wales

All of climate change is a Catch-22 situation. The people who have power to change, either big conglomerates or big companies, it’s not in their financial interests to do so. And the little people like you and me, we haven’t got the power to do anything other than our own little bit. So, it really is very, very frustrating.”

... the reality is, to buy things without plastic on is something that’s really reserved for middle class people. Because if you go to the supermarket, everything’s wrapped in plastic that you can’t recycle. And it’s lovely to have this idea that we’re going out with our cotton eco tote bags and picking up our fresh veg that’s laid out still with the mud on it, but that’s something that really is only applicable to people with the money to buy those kind of products ... I don’t see how it can ever change unless it’s changed on some higher level.”

I agree about the whole class thing because it does come down to money ... I don’t have a lot of money but I’d rather pay more and make sure that our planet isn’t destroyed.”

About putting a bigger tax on flying, people who can afford it, it’s not going to affect them. They’re just going to be spending more money but they don’t give a s**t.”

NEW: Climate policy support and involvement

Biggest Issues (after cost of living and NHS)

  • Poverty and inequality
  • Climate change & the environment
  • Taxes

Most worried that climate change might…

  • Harm nature and wildlife
  • Cause my bills and other costs to rise
  • Have a negative impact on my children’s futures

Reasons to not participate in consultations

1) I don’t trust MPs so don’t want to engage with them

2) I’m not that interested in the topic

3) I don’t trust my local councillors so don’t want to engage with them

Reasons to participate in consultations

1) Don’t know

2) It’s important that local people have a say in things that concern their local area

3) It’s nice to hear others’ opinions and discuss with them

Three ways to engage Disengaged Battlers in climate policy change

  • Talk about how the climate transition will be fair to them, and can make things better here and now: communications with this segment should focus on the specific benefits to their lives of a particular policy, in particular how it will be fair to them.
  • Build trust: distrust in big change and the motivations of elites is high among this segment. It’s a good idea to ‘pass the mic’ to everyday people who will feel authentic to this segment. 
  • Raise awareness: Disengaged Battlers often say they ‘don’t know’ about climate policy questions. Find new ways to engage and inform, in particular about policies or changes that may help them with wider concerns, like costs. 

See the Seven segments 2024 overview here.

Climate change is an important problem but less immediate than cost of living concerns 

The cost of living crisis has had the most severe impacts on Disengaged Battlers, the most economically vulnerable segment. For them, climate change is an important problem that needs solving but it feels less immediate in their everyday lives. 

Disengaged Battlers don’t have the privilege of long-term thinking when they are struggling day to day – they don’t want a 10 year plan, they want a “right now” plan – and want to know how the climate transition can make things better in the here and now. 

They do not doubt that investing in renewable energy could reduce their cost of living in the long-term, but are looking for solutions that will lower their bills in the short term as well.

Also environmental issues - what's happening there? It seems like it was so big and then obviously with COVID and everything sort of changed. That's something I'd like to talk about. It's quite questionable what the SNP is actually doing.”

Kirsty, Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

Stop wasting countless money on absolute nonsense and help the people that need the help and be honest instead of lying through their teeth and picking the fights with each other and contradicting each other just to score points.”

Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

Like in Stevenage, half of the shops have shut down because they can't afford it. The government aren't going to take a pay cut are they? Let's be brutally honest. They're living their high lives, but there's businesses that are struggling and it's not fair.”

Disengaged Battler, Stevenage

Importance is placed on policies that could benefit their lives in the here and now and not exacerbate inequalities

Disengaged Battlers say the government should prioritise protecting nature & the environment, availability of food, energy efficiency in homes, and reliable public transport for all.

Perceived most important and least important issues the UK government could prioritise relating to the environment and climate change for Disengaged Battlers


Note: These results for Disengaged Battlers are based on a smaller sample, so should be interpreted with caution.

Feelings of unfairness influence what policies Disengaged Battlers think should be prioritised

This segment is tackling high distrust in the system, as well as strong perceptions of unfairness. Disengaged Battlers are among the least likely to think that public transport and home heating policies to transition away from fossil fuels will be fair to them – policy areas they think the government should prioritise

So that means me having to buy a whole new car that I probably can't afford anyway, just to be able to drive to a place of work and your wages are not going up either. So whichever way it is, our energy prices are going to go up, food is going to go up because of costs on the trucks coming into the country or the air. So everything is actually at a cost to us. So I find it very frustrating.”

Disengaged Battler, Stevenage

Increased fossil fuel profits at a time when Disengaged Battlers have most felt the inflation squeeze over the last few years have also fueled their sense that the system is unfair, and contributed to their distrust more generally. Distrust in politics and large companies to do the right thing are a barrier to this segment engaging with the positive potential of the net zero transition.

Whoever the minister is for the environment and the energy and stuff, his previous job was working in PR for big oil and gas companies and I just think why is he the energy minister? … And when they first came into power, they had said all these things that sounded great and they were going to do for the environment. We've yet to see anything. Now I know obviously we've had turmoil, but to me why would you make somebody who used to work for these big companies, the environmental minister, I just don't get it.”

Disengaged Battler, Glasgow

Engaging Disengaged Battlers

Build trust with this segment by really listening to them and showing how the benefits of climate action will genuinely benefit ‘people like them’. Show relatable people in diverse green jobs and avoid pushing a middle class environmentalist lifestyle, which is not aspirational for this segment.

Key takeaways

Avoid ‘middle class’ narratives around lifestyle changes 

Although Disengaged Battlers share a left-leaning economic worldview with Progressive Activists and Civic Pragmatists, they are a very different segment. Differentiating them from middle class environmentalism is critical: they don’t regularly do many of the things that campaigners often tell them not to do (e.g. flying). They rightly recognise that lifestyle changes are more possible (and more impactful) among high-earning, high-consuming segments like Established Liberals and Backbone Conservatives.

Show relatable people in diverse green jobs 

Job security and worries about unemployment are central to Disengaged Battlers. They are an ally for progress on climate but they have yet to see proof that the transition will include them, and their support hangs somewhat in the balance. Focus on tangible, everyday concerns and actual job opportunities not just in ‘industry’ but in other sectors, too (e.g. retail, hospitality). Messengers and imagery are critical components: show this segment that the benefits are for ‘people like them’ by making sure every aspect of your content is familiar, relatable and local.

Talk about fairness not justice

The need for a ‘fair’ transition is clear for this segment. In previous Climate Outreach testing, the imagery and language of ‘justice’ has not resonated well across the political spectrum (only Progressive Activists and Civic Pragmatists are likely to gravitate towards this kind of phrase). The framing of ‘fairness’ may work better for Disengaged Battlers: fairness is about doing right by everyone involved; justice, by contrast, may imply wrongdoing in the past that must be atoned for. 

Be clear on corporate responsibility but avoid simplistic ‘blame’ messages 

Grounded in a belief that everyone should play by the rules including the wealthy and powerful messages that clearly point to corporate responsibility and accountability in climate actions will resonate well. But Disengaged Battlers don’t necessarily want to hear who they should ‘hate’ or be angry at. Research carried out in Alberta, Canada, which brought the voices of the oil and gas industry to the fore of conversations about energy transition, found that, among a comparable ‘working class’ group in Canada, simplistic ‘blame’ narratives were less engaging than focusing on practical pathways around employment and development.

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