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 388.

    There are those who genuinely need it, and those who look to abuse it.

    I think it's fair to say the majority of people oppose the abusers, whilst having no problems with the genuine claimants.

    People who claim everyone on the welfare is a genuine candidate are clearly deluded, or haven't lived in the real world. The same can be applied to those who hold the opposite viewpoint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    272. Si5
    To answer 233.PH73.....If we had the same amount of money that the top 1% have, I'm sure most people would be glad to pay the tax. Sounds like the comment comes from a guy who is part of the problem....the 1%."

    I wish I was! I'm just stating some facts to add balance to the argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Someone who is earning £25k a year pays about £7916 a year in income tax. Thats about £21.68 a day.

    Facts about how that gets distributed:
    The Unemployed = 16p per day
    Overseas Economic Aid = 18p per day
    The Courts = 25p per day (Judges)
    Top Level Government = 36p per day (WoW)
    The military = £1.07 per day (do we intefere to much?)
    Public Debt Management = £1.22 a day (caused by bankers)

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Its the same old story from these people, the government this, the government should help us, why are they not doing this for us?

    It is time for people to take responsibility for their own lives. Why should I be tolerant of people who bring little or nothing to society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Bunch of I'm alright Jack's who will complain vociferously when/if they are made redundant or need no-longer-on-the-menu NHS treatment.

    The real issue is not that there is too much tax going toward our most important public services, it's that it is mispent and hidden by Governments of all colours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    The very fact that your pages are full of employed, smug, self-righteous, self-pitying and indifferent people decrying those who can't find work or are living in poverty explains a great deal about the mess we're in. They seem determined to drag us back to Dickensian England, to allow the world's poor to starve, sicken & die whilst exploiting their workforces, and to create a police state at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    370 PH73
    "It's hard, but you do have to ask why haven't 462000 more of the current unemployed found a job?"

    This is a misunderstanding of labour market statistics. These vacancies are ALL being filled by otherwise unemployed people, but as fast as they are being filled, more unemployed are taking their place, and more vacancies are being added! Simple maths is not enough to get this concept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    370 From first applying for actually being offered a specific job can take several weeks. You generally have to go to an interview first, sometimes 2, before anyone is offered the job. I guess this could account for the slight discrepency in figures you mention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    We've become a seflish society. Everyone seems to be on the make & on the take. The mantra for living in the UK in 2011 is extract whatever you can from the system for personal gain. From footballers & bankers to politicians & rioters.

    And the strange thing is, these makers/takers are STILL miserable! They're too busy troughing to realise that selfishness is the OPPOSITE of happiness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    The NHS should be checking who is entitled to free healthcare at the point of entry to the system.

    Too many foreigners are using the NHS for free. Some even come here on 'Healthcare Holidays'.

    France charges us for every UK citizen using the French healthcare system but yet we fail to properly charge them back. We are undercharging by hundreds of millions p.a.

    Another Labour legacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    This is scary. Looks like the mean-spirited I'm alright Jack Daily Mail attitude is winning. I just hope that those people who blame poverty on "laziness" don't find themselves out of work any time soon. You might be in for a shock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    I think we have become jaundiced with how successive governments squander our tax dollars. There is no accountability and when they run short they up our taxes. Lazy people. At the other end of the spectrum, we are tired of scroungers who are a liability to society. Catching these people out is key to reducing waste on resources that should go to those who genuinely need our help and support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    360 steve

    "-We pay the Windsor clan enough.."."

    Her Majesty is quite welcome to the 65p per year I contribute.. But if it makes you feel better, I'll buy a can of Coke (65p) for the woman down the road, who lives in a brand new 3 bed Housing, has 4 kids and openly admits she gets £12,000 a year in benefits and never worked a day in her life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Is it any wonder that people feel like this? I feel that I am constantly being lied to by politicians (of all parties), that even though I pay my taxes I don`t matter and that my views, which I share with many others, are ignored. We are told the country is broke but money is being found for all sorts projects, £1billion for climate change in Africa? why not spend that for the benefit of Britan?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    "more emphasis on individual responsibility" sounds like the BBC are putting the spin on this report that the right wing press and other media have been subliminally and not so subliminally flooding the population with for the last many years.
    "May the devil take the hindmost" might be a balancing comment.
    It appears that they have succeeded in creating a society of sociopathic individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    How about:

    No taxation without representation.... (Wait for it).... in the workforce!

    Let’s get the unemployed out earning their 'benefits' by working for the National Interest.

    Tax payer gets value for money. Benefits recipient gains pride and sense of purpose.

    Everyone is a winner!

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    we live in a country where a significant amount of the public have always been "greed is good" spouting "aspirational" thatcherites and little englanders, so their scrooge-like classist prejudice is unsurprising. i hope that when disharmony and strife hits them they won't expect any compassion. let them reap what they sow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Yup - the sight of a hugely fat man who buys chox by the bag full and smokes like a chimney up a ladder clearing his gutters whilst claiming incapacity benefit (complete with mobility car) makes me seethe!
    Admittedly this isn't everyone, but its enought to anger the rest of us keeping them!
    The money should be for those in NEED not those too idle to work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    "353. JGB
    ONS Labour market statistics: November 2011:
    Total vacancies in UK from August-October: 462,000.
    No. Unemployment People August-October: 2.62million.

    Results of the poll indicate people who answer surveys about how lazy the unemployed are should do some maths."

    It's hard, but you do have to ask why haven't 462000 more of the current unemployed found a job?

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    My Mum bought her house. As she has arthritis, she has claims which amounts to just less than £800pm. Her boiler has just broken down and she has been told she cannot have fixed (£600) on the Warm Fronts scheme until April next year. She is what I would call a vulnerable person and yet the 'welfare state' seems unwilling to help. Because clearly she's a benefit scrounger. Like all of 'em.


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