The research was conducted by Ipsos Mori for Pew Research Center. Focus groups were designed to try and understand how people in the UK and the U.S. feel about globalization and how this relates to their views about their communities and their country. The analysis presented in this report is intended to provide insight into these topics and is not meant to be an exhaustive representation of public opinion on these topics or of particular demographic groups, cities or countries.

About the groups

We conducted 26 focus groups across the United Kingdom and United States in the fall of 2019. In the UK, four groups each were conducted in London, Birmingham and Newcastle, and two groups were conducted in Edinburgh, Scotland. These groups took place Aug. 19 to 29, 2019. In the U.S., four groups each were conducted in Seattle, Houston and Pittsburgh from Oct. 28 to Nov. 20, 2019. Participants were recruited using a screening questionnaire designed by Pew Research Center. All participants were given financial renumeration for their time.

Each group except one consisted of eight adults (one group in Birmingham consisted of seven) coming together for roughly an hour and a half for a discussion led by a professional moderator using a discussion guide including questions related to (1) local community, (2) the nation and (3) globalization developed by Pew Research Center.1 All focus groups required participants to have at least some interest in politics, and all groups contained a roughly even mix of men and women and a range of age groups. Focus groups were sorted with regard to race and ethnicity, educational background, geographic location and political affiliation and orientation. In the UK, respondents were asked to place themselves on a left-right political ideology scale that ranged from 1 (very left) to 7 (very right) as well as to indicate whether they supported “leave” or “remain” in the 2016 Brexit referendum. In the two groups held in Scotland, all participants were “remain” voters and divided on the basis of whether they supported Scottish independence or remaining part of the UK during the 2014 referendum on the issue.

In the U.S., participants were sorted into groups based on educational background and partisan self-identification. Potential participants were asked whether they considered themselves a Republican, a Democrat or an independent. Those who said “independent” were subsequently asked whether they leaned more toward the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. Groups labeled “Republican” or “Democrat” were composed of a mix of people who identified with that party or leaned toward it. Groups labeled “independents and weak partisans from both parties” were comprised of a mix of independents, some who stated they were pure independents and some who leaned toward either the Republican or Democratic Party. In these groups, a minimum of three participants had to report that they were equally likely to vote for Republicans and Democrats, that there was at least some likelihood of them voting for another party for president, or that they voted for a different party in the 2018 midterm elections than they did in the 2016 election.

A question that measured identity attachment was also used in both countries to help allocate participants into the groups. In the UK, potential participants were asked to what degree they identified with their local area, their city, with England or Scotland (depending on the location of the group), with the UK, as European, or as a global citizen, each using a 10-point scale, where 0 meant not at all and 10 meant very strong identification. People were then recruited into different groups based on whether they gave higher values to being European or a global citizen or whether they gave higher values to local areas or their country. In the U.S., potential participants were asked whether America’s openness to people from all over the world is either “essential to who we are as a nation” or “makes us risk our identity as a nation.”

Groups were formed based on the following criteria in each country:

City Political orientation (1-7) Brexit/Scottish independence position Geographic identity Ethnicity Education
London Right (6-7) Leave British/English predominant White British Undergraduate degree and above
London Right (4-5) Remain Global citizen/European predominant White British Undergraduate degree and below
London Left (3-4) Remain Global citizen/European predominant At least two Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) participants per group Undergraduate degree and below
London Left (1-2) Leave British/English predominant At least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and above
Birmingham Right (6-7) Leave British/English predominant White British Undergraduate degree and below
Birmingham Right (4-5) Remain Global citizen/European
predominant
White British Undergraduate degree and above
Birmingham Left (3-4) Remain Global citizen/European predominant At least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and above
Birmingham Left (1-2) Leave British/English predominant At least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and below
Newcastle Right (6-7) Leave British/English predominant White British Undergraduate degree and above
Newcastle Right (4-5) Remain Global citizen/European predominant White British Undergraduate degree and below
Newcastle Left (3-4) Remain Global citizen/European predominant At least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and below
Newcastle Left (1-2) Leave British/English predominant At least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and above
Edinburgh Left (3-4) Remain/ Scottish independence Edinburgh predominant Aim for at least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and below
Edinburgh Left (3-4) Remain/ Remain part of the UK Edinburgh predominant Aim for at least two BAME participants per group Undergraduate degree and above
City Party self-identification International orientation Urbanity Ethnicity Education
Houston, Texas Republican Risk losing identity (somewhat/strongly agree) Rural White Non-college educated
Houston, Texas Independents and weak partisans from both parties Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Mix urban/suburban Hispanics, mix first/second generation A mix
Houston, Texas Independents and weak partisans from both parties Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Suburban White A mix
Houston, Texas Democrat Openness is essential (Somewhat/strongly agree) Urban White A mix
Seattle, Washington Independents and weak partisans from both parties Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Suburban White A mix
Seattle, Washington Republican Risk losing identity (somewhat/strongly agree) Rural White Non-college educated
Seattle, Washington Democrat Risk losing identity (somewhat/strongly agree) Urban White A mix
Seattle, Washington Independents and weak partisans from both parties Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Mix urban/suburban Asian American, Pacific Islander, mix first/second generation A mix
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Republican Risk losing identity (somewhat/strongly agree) Rural White Non-college educated
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Democrats Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Mix urban/suburban Black A mix
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Independents and weak partisans from both parties Mixed (somewhat agrees from both sides, neither agree nor disagree) Suburban White A mix
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Democrats Risk losing identity (somewhat/strongly agree) Urban White A mix

Data analysis

The conversations among group participants were video-recorded and transcribed, and final data sent to Pew Research Center was anonymized, stripping any personally identifying information. To analyze the focus group transcripts, Pew Research Center researchers utilized a multi-step method of data reduction to analyze the text of the transcripts. If there appeared to be an issue in a transcript, researchers utilized the video of the focus group to correct inconsistencies between the transcript and the video.

First, researchers entered short-form text from the transcripts into a spreadsheet where each column corresponded to a discussion guide question and each row corresponded to an individual participant in a group. Staff entered short-form text deemed relevant to each discussion guide question into the appropriate cells, either with a verbatim quote or a paraphrase of one. If a particular respondent did not discuss the topic, the corresponding cell was left blank. A separate row of “coder’s notes” was created for researchers to note any particular patterns or themes within the group. Paraphrased text or direct quotes that captured themes which occurred across multiple questions were also bolded and color-coded accordingly.

Data reduction process
Thematic coding legend – UK Thematic coding legend – U.S.
Crime/violence Crime/violence/drugs/opioid epidemic
Welfare system/abuse of welfare Not contributing to the system/not paying taxes
British/English manners/morals/values American values
An unfair system to people like me An unfair system to people like me
Being called racist Being called racist
Sense of loss/back to how it used to be Sense of loss/back to how it used to be
Behavior of immigrants Behavior of immigrants
Rootedness Rootedness
Trade Trade
Multiculturalism/celebration of diversity High cost of living/impact of industry growth
Dissatisfaction with political class/state of things/direction Inequality/corporate greed/“haves and have nots”
Perception of Brits/Americans abroad Technology/technological advancement
Polarization/division Views of Americans abroad
Public services/infrastructure/public support America first/domestic vs. foreign priorities

A number of quality control checks were conducted during this data entry phase. To ensure the spreadsheets would capture the key points from the full transcript, researchers initially coded the same transcript as a calibration exercise. From there, they each proceeded to enter data from each group’s transcript separately, having their work checked by one other researcher for accuracy. This process ensured that researchers were both capturing as much relevant information from the transcripts as possible and that they were extracting similar information to one another to ensure consistency. No researcher entered data for more than eight transcripts. These spreadsheets were then combined into one “master spreadsheet” for each country.

Based on these master spreadsheets, researchers analyzed not only the key themes discussed, but also how they differed across the groups. As part of this process, comments were analyzed at the group level. This meant that whether an opinion was raised by only one respondent in a group or by many, it was considered a theme raised in that group – and researchers focused on which groups raised (or didn’t raise) certain themes, rather than which individual respondents contributed them to group discussion. Researchers also took particular care to focus on whether topics or themes came up at all, rather than the frequency with which they came up, noting any and all perspectives offered.

While we do highlight sentiments expressed by individual participants in the report, they are meant to be representative of the themes discussed in the group more broadly. Nonetheless, quotations are not necessarily representative of the majority opinion in any particular group, city, or country. Quotations may have been edited for grammar, spelling and clarity.