One in six receive online abuse – with sexism, racism and homophobia fuelling trolls

19 October 2018

Poll follows #TogetherAgainstHate campaign aimed at raising awareness of online abuse

  • One in six people receive online abuse while one in 20 have sent hateful comments
  • Abusive, sexist, racist and homophobic posts most common types received
  • Lack of reaction allows hate to fester as a quarter of recipients fail to report posts

One in six (15%) people online have had a post on social media aimed at them that they found offensive, according to a new poll revealing the impact and extent of online trolling.

The online research from Nationwide Building Society1 follows on from the recently launched #TogetherAgainstHate campaign, fronted by Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain. The organisations teamed up with Channel 4 last month to broadcast a primetime ad break takeover during the latest series of Gogglebox. Using the brands’ original adverts, the break featured a selection of genuine, cruel social media posts aimed at the actual real people cast in those ads. The advert can be seen here

It shows the scale of social media abuse is significant, with one in six (15%) people having experienced it first-hand. Conversely, one in 20 (5%) people admit to having aimed offensive posts at someone, rising to more than one in ten (12%) of those aged 18 to 24.

The research, which polled more than 2,000 adults, revealed the levels of abuse, the impact it causes and where it originates:


  • Close to a fifth (18%) know family or friends who have been victims of online abuse.
  • Around two thirds (65%) of offensive posts received were considered abusive.
  • One in six (15%) posts were considered sexist, 12 per cent homophobic and 11 per cent racist.
  • Just under a fifth (19%) of men have received abuse on social media, compared to 12 per cent of women.
  • A fifth (20%) of people in Yorkshire and the Humber and in the East of England have received abuse on social media, the highest levels in the UK.


  • More than half (53%) of victims expressed anger, while 46 per cent were left upset over the posts.
  • 47 per cent blocked the account, 33 per cent reported the abuse and seven per cent reported the account or the post to the police.
  • However, one in four (25%) did nothing, while seven per cent of people deleted their own accounts.
  • One in five (20%) say their online trolling was a one-off, lasting only a few minutes.
  • However, one in ten (10%) said it lasted longer than a month.
  • Women tend to feel more upset by these comments than men, at 57 per cent vs 38 per cent.
  • While hateful posts leave most angry, 13 per cent are left confused while 15 per cent of victims feel indifferent, with men more likely to feel this way than women (21% compared to 7%).

Origin of abuse:

  • More than half (51%) of those who have received an offensive post say it came from a stranger.
  • Around one in six (14%) received an abusive post from a friend and seven per cent from a work colleague.
  • Six per cent of victims received an abusive post from a family member, the poll shows.
  • One in 20 (5%) people admit to having aimed offensive posts at someone, rising to more than one in ten (12%) of those aged 18 to 24, compared to one per cent of those aged 55 years old and above.

Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer, comments: “The growth in popularity of social media platforms has had a number of unintended and unexpected consequences. One of these has been the phenomenon of trolling and online abuse. Our survey shows the impact that this has had on people. It also shows how many do nothing in response to the hatred coming their way.

“In any other part of life, ignoring something bad and hoping it will go away doesn’t tend to work. By turning a blind eye to online hate, I worry that we are condoning a world where hatred and bigotry is okay and where people feel it is acceptable to say things in a post which could have them arrested on the street.

“I do believe that it’s up to all of us to take a stand. Only by breaking the silence can we attempt to tackle what is becoming a growing societal problem.”

Notes to Editors:

1All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2011 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th - 13th May 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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