Britons 'less willing to pay for taxes to help others'

People in the street The survey suggests people are less willing to blame the state for poverty

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Britons are less willing than ever to pay higher taxes to support the National Health Service, schools or the environment, a new survey suggests.

The National Centre for Social Research's 28th annual British Social Attitudes report also found increasing numbers blaming poverty on "laziness".

The BBC's Home Editor Mark Easton said it was a move towards "more emphasis on individual responsibility".

He said Britons were becoming increasingly "judgmental".

Mr Easton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The proportion who think we should pay (more) taxes to improve health and education and social benefits is only 30% in England, 40% in Scotland. A decade ago it was 60% in both nations."

The survey suggested 54% believed social security benefits were too high and discouraged people from finding jobs, up from 35% in 1983 when the study was first carried out.

Of the 3,297 people questioned this year, 63% believed parents who "don't want to work" were to blame for children living in poverty.

Editor of the study, Alison Park: "We don't see much evidence of people being willing to work together"

Penny Young, chief executive of the National Centre for Social Research, said: "In a time of economic austerity and social unrest, the big question coming out of this year's report is whether we really are in it together, or just in it for ourselves?

"An emerging sense of self-reliance may take the government some way toward its vision of a more responsible society, but an emphasis on individualism, not Big Society collectivism, may present as much of a challenge as it does an opportunity."

Although 75% of those questioned felt the gap between rich and poor was too large, only 35% believed the government should do more to redistribute income.

There were also contradictions in the survey. While most people agreed there was a nationwide housing shortage, 45% opposed building new houses in their areas - a figure that rose to 58% in outer London.

Mark Easton said: "Britain has long been the most judgmental of the needy in Europe.

"One would expect that when the economy goes down people become a little less judgmental of those in need but this year's report finds 26% of people feel poverty is the result of 'laziness' or 'lack of willpower'. In the mid-1990s that figure was down to 15%."

What the survey says


Source: National Centre for Social Research

He said there had also been a significant change when it came to the environment.

"The proportion of people willing to pay higher prices for green policies, for the sake of the environment, that has fallen from 43% a decade to 26%," said our correspondent.

Mr Easton said many people were "pulling in their horns" in the midst of the recession.

The survey, which was conducted with a series of interviews with a random sample of adults in different parts of the UK, found the TV debates and social networking during last year's general election failed to make much difference to the public.

Only 26% of people who said they had little interest in politics watched the debates between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, compared with 74% of those who were keen on politics.

The survey found only 47% of the 18 to 34-year-olds interviewed voted last year, almost unchanged to the proportion who voted in 2005 or 2001 and far lower than the 73% turnout in 1997.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I think people would pay higher taxes if they weren't brought in by stealth. It's the complexity and unprogressiveness of taxes that angers people.
    I think most people would be willing to pay a little extra on income tax if other taxes were reduced or scrapped.
    i.e. bring VAT back down to 15%, reduce fuel duty by 5p a litre and add 1.5% to income tax.
    Same tax generated, fairer distribution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    The 51st state here we come. You fools!

  • Comment number 166.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Why should I pay more into the NHS, if people are MOSTLY responsible for their illnesses/diseases, due to lifestyle choices? Why should I bail out weak-willed,selfish,smokers,drinkers,obese,lazy,vegetable/fruit hating people? No I'm not paying more. If I can live healthy, maintaining an ideal weight for my age, height & gender, NOT smoke, NOT drink & eat only fruit/veggies. So can everyone else!

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Is it any wonder that the working man woman is sick to death?
    While they work every hour under the sun to keep it together.!
    The Benefit Culture Blossoms..
    The Rapacious Liberals wish to steal even more!

    Ask yourselves this ... Benefits to increase 5 %
    Will the working stiffs get a increase ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    If as a society, our aim is to live as long as possible, then we will always have a problem. The circle of life. If we could live to 200 would we? bearing in mind most human bodies start to fall apart in the 50's, medical treatment keep us going, 1 in 3 getting cancer. pills for this and that. When we all live past 100 as a routine, then we shall see what real problems are thrown up

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    @108.Rufus McDufus

    "I'm willing to bet £5000 of my tax goes to the NHS every year."

    Contributions to the NHS come from NI, don't they? If you're contributing £5,000 in NI towards the NHS then you're probably being paid well over £50k. The average wage in this country is probably around £26k, and so the average contribution towards NHS will be around £2,500. Please correct if I'm wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    This is a very heartening study, people are understanding. It is repellant how out of control spending was over 13 years. Free homes and cash, children as a benefits pyramid scheme, all to bribe voters. The worst part: the interminable, smugly moralising, "holier than thou" Guardianista attitude as they dismantled hardwork ethic and installed a sense of entitlement in the least deserving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Reform financial system to debt free one. Overhaul education syst to break down private/state divide. Unemployment syst makes peop dependent/depressed/dis-enabled so citizens income a better idea say 4K for anyone earning 0-15K? = £15billion per yr? Huge amount of state bureaucracy/other probs reduced. Problem solved? well cd be....why not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Read comment 15 which sums up the type of person we have in this country.
    The job centres are complicit in this attitude and actually advice people not to take jobs if they will not be significantly better off working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    I would be willing to pay more in taxes for improvement on all these benefits that the UK people get, if they TRULY NEED them. The main issue isn't the amount of money paid in but how authorities payout so easily. Tougher checks need to be put in place on those claiming, before money is handed to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Judgemental? Damned right I'm judgemental. Free education (pre-uni), free health, subsidised or free housing, etc., etc. and for what? A large self-made underbelly of stupid, idle and often aggressive layabouts who were taught that attitude by their similarly socially challenged parents. Far from perfect, many still believe in continual study and work ethics to survive and prosper. Bah! Humbug!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    It makes me pretty sick to my gut when myself and my partner work our guts out, for our own 1 bedroom flat whilst her work shy, completely fit & healthy sister 'accidently' got pregnant, so now gets a 2 bedroom flat, all the heat she could want, all the food she can eat, a flat screen TV ... at our expense! For doing nothing! After a year in office the g'ment are still pandering to these parasites

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    129 slouching

    "I am so sorry that your plight is not recognized by the quasi-fascists who have responded here this morning."

    So what are you on? JSA? Income support? Council tax and housing benefit? Tax credits, pension credits, disability, free school meals, free prescriptions? Which? This quasi-fascist (a.k.a. working, fed up, taxpayer who does NOT get more out than he pays in), wants to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    My friends sister heard from a woman at the bus stop that someone was getting 10 million pounds a year for signing on.

    IT'S THE 1 % !

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    @112.jack sparrow

    ' Why should we pay more taxes to help the less well off. '

    Uhm, so we don't end up with inner city no-go gun slinging ghettoes?

    Every City in the U.S. has one..........the same U.S. that is the bastion of the Hard working, free market Capitalism that hates the welfare state so very much.

    How many locks are you prepared to hide behind in order to protect and enjoy wealth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    More Tory propaganda.
    There just trying to set the agenda for privatisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I hated being on benifits so much. I now work three part-time jobs and am still only a little bit better off than i was before..The goverment need to reduce benifits in my opinion and increase the minium wage. This would surely make more people willing to take any job..But when they increase benefits and freeze tax credits that dont seem to be encouraging anybody..

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    It shoulkd be down to the individual to pull themselves up by their own hard work. No hard work, no money. It is that simple. Work must be made to pay. Benefits aka the dole must not be a lifestyle choice. The max paid by the taxpayer for rent should be £500 per month. Anything else is just profligate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I always wonder how these questions are asked

    1. Would you like to pay more tax?
    2. Do you believe the workshy get paid too much?
    3. Would you like a better NHS?

    Ask those questions in that order and you'll get the answers for your arguments.


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