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 408.

    Coming from S Africa originally where if you are jobless & have no money its likely to be gameover I think that the concept of the NHS &JSA are great.I've been living &working over here 4 12 years now & never needed either so far but its reassuring to know that should I NEED those services they are there.Get out there & get work if you can so that the system can look after those with genuine need!

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    344 - well said Gemma

    do something yourself instead of DEMANDING that other do it for you

    but far too many exploit the 'poor me' scenario instead of getting off their butts and doing something about it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Getting a bit tired of these labeling tactics employed by the far-left when they have nothing else to back up their reasoning. If you don't want to work 40-hour weeks to pay for a non-worker to live in better conditions than you, you're 'selfish'. If you don't like uncontrolled immigration, you're 'racist'. If you don't appreciate the NHS budget being spent on plastic surgery? 'Misogynist'. Yawn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Our country is covered in litter in parts and we have a huge unemployed sector - can we not combine the two and pay them a better rate for doing some work? It would give them some dignity and make the rest of us feel we are getting something for our money.
    Before the righteous left start - I DO NOT MEAN THOSE WHO ARE SICK OR ELDERLY! Just those who are capable of doing work for extra money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    The problem stems from not having paid (and/or collected) enough taxes for the last 30yrs. Giveaways and political promises have led to increased borrowing. Market forces have not delivered what we wanted/needed. Privatisation and banking deregulation has only delivered massive profits for the 1% and deepening divisions amongst the rest. Markets will never deliver a Good Society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    How many people on here know that for the past 30 years, govts and central banks have deliberately created at least 5.5% unemployment just to control inflation. It's in every economics text book - it's called the NAIRU. So the unemployed cannot be entirely to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.


    "They're too busy troughing to realise that selfishness is the OPPOSITE of happiness!"

    Odd, I thought the opposite of happiness was unhappiness and the opposite of selfish was selfless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    @386. RichardC
    thanks - do you have a source for that? Quite damning, and a great way to counter those who think all our problems are caused by the welfare state.
    @locust - most of the envy I see on HYS is envy of people down the road 'on benefits who got more than I have'.
    @357. Ian - but at the same time you are ok to fork out for the rich to have their lifestyles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Same old fodder as per usual,some go along with it and sum can see right through it,change the story of DIVIDE & RULE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Judgmental? In a democratic society, with compulsory taxation, I think there is the right to have an opinion. Furthermore, it follows that the presumption of 'comfortable social security for all' is equally 'opinionated'. Interest and debate in social and political issues is healthy, and should be encouraged; not judged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    It's wonderful to see the headlines in the Mail, Express and Sun have finally got the masses believing that life on benefits is easy.

    That education or health cover shouldn't be free at the point of contact.

    I read somewhere that once you get 10% of the population to believe a lie it becomes the truth.

    That's what happened in the austere times in the 30's and look where that lead us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    364. I love Tuesdays

    You will find most of the anti-immigration people who post on here comes from many of the Labour voters/supporters, ironicly as thats the party who has never controlled it.

    But as other people have commented, all those immigrants are working hard here but yet our people dont seem to want those jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    386. Please provide a source for those figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    RichardC you have no idea of how deficit/debt works. Bankers caused the CREDIT CRUNCH not the OVERSPENDING of the last govenment. Spending BY DEFINITION is caused by govermnet spend. That is spend on welfare. The PDM is caused by budget deficit which causes greater total debt. If we cut spending (1/3 is welfare) then defecit becomes surplus & debt/interest fall. Get your facts right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    60 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

    -----5/6 in a 3 bedroom house or 2 in 8 palaces I think I know whose getting the better benefits mate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    @ 123 Ray Peel 2 Hours ago

    I'm sorry but I find it hard to believe that you know families of 3 generations that have never worked and are scroungers -

    For a start welfare/dole/J.S.A, the benefits system was not introduced until 1911, and the N.H.S. was not introduced until after WWII, 1948 - does this family have a life expectancy of 30 years or less per generation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Such a shame The National Centre for Social Research's woke up so late and only after Labour, has managed to create a "new " social class of happily breeding scroungers living on benefits and taxpayer money, moreover, there are literally generations (including immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh) who have never worked! They definitely do not belong to "squeezed middle"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Freeze benefits of people who have not worked for at least six months in the past three years but continue to increase benefits in line with inflation for those who have. Pay the higher rate to the first group if they put in 20 hours of work a week with a charity or civic improvement organisation. In time, inflation will incentivise participation in paid or unpaid work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    More Divide and Conquer tactics from the right. First it was Public v Private Sector pensions.Now its back to the 'scroungers'. It all deflects from the real issues - a tiny % of the population grab a disproportionate amount of the UK wealth. Its not about hard work. I know nurses who work extremely long hours and young soldiers endangering their lives. They receive a pittance! But bankers...

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    365. locust
    "all i'm hearing yet again on HYS is the politics of envy - i don't HAVE therefore i begrudge those that do and its my divine right to whinge/steal to address my perceived sense of injustice"

    Somehow I suspect your condemnation of the politics of envy won't extend to condemning those who whinge about public sector pensions....


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