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 668.


    What rubbish ! Everyone has food, clothes, and a roof over their head so"

    What are you talking about? Estimated by charities up to 1 million people in Briatin are homeless. Now. Never seen a Big Issue seller?

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    656 Should read 'RichardC couldn't agree more'.
    As Mayna says what is wrong with welfare is the expectation some have. The concept of a safety net only for those in extreme NEED only, (not 'want'). Also Mayna, many of the so called 'idle rich' were the great reformers of their day; Lord Shaftsbury et al. The poor pre-reform couldn't have changed things for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    @657. PH73
    yes, I know that's what you mean, I was just surprised you didn't think that any British child was worth the derisory amount that the government was paying them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    The Government has provided us with all kind of benefits. Now with the emergence of the East (China most notably) we now need to make our economy more competitive. We have benefited from this world whilst people in China have suffered. Now people in China are reaping the rewards of their hard work. We now need to show the same work ethic as in China, otherwise our standard of living will suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    655 Stunned

    I remember the 1970's, I'm guessing you don't. Too many don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    whilst idle scrounger get money - my parents - both in their 90's get no help for social care because they are 'rich' - they have to pay for everything

    something is way wrong with the system!

    dad paid into the 'system' for 70+ years and when he needs help gets nothing

    yet the 'fatty' with multiple kids/fathers gets the lot - something seriously wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    "prior to social reform"

    Neither agreeing nor disagreeing with you, but remember the "idle rich" as some may call them by being "idle" had time to research science and medicine to give us the advantages we now have - so things are not black & white - old way bad, new way good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    The problem is means testing it will cost more than it saves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    A really interesting report, particularly as it suggests that we are increasingly unlikely to offer support (mutual or otherwise) to neighbours/strangers. There are some things that must stay a shared responsibility, reducing loneliness being one of them.

    Hopefully the Beeb won't mind me sharing our blog on this report!

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    Comment number 641. Bemusedagain
    14 Minutes ago

    The introduction of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), by the Conservative ...

    That is agross misrepresentation. You had to be in reciept of Incapacity Benifit before you could even think about claiming DLA. DLA was not paid to everyone ion IB, only the more serious. Or are you suggesting theat Incpaity Benifit should nat be paid. ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    655........Every British child or child living in Britain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    "647. Muatadread

    I think what he meant by means tested is that you get it regardless of how much you earn ,if it was not given to people who do not need it then the needy ones may get more than this "meagre" amount"

    That's obviously what I meant - thank you. Stunned_Silence - at least read properly before starting your left wing diatribes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    643 RichardC Couldn't agree. People forget what we had prior to social reform; as you say small children sent to work up chimneys & down coal mines, literacy only for a priveleged few, a booming slave trade, private medicine only, which few could afford, people sent to the workhouse because they were disabled & destitute, small children forced to beg. Do you really want to go back to that?

  • Comment number 655.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    This is a ridiculously tiny survey of only 3,297 people. It cannot be held up with any degree of credibility as evidence of the changing views of the entire population of the UK. A survey using such small numbers relating to national issues is pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    If "social security benefits" are intended to feed, cloth and provide a "roof" to live under as the least anyone can expect, is it not then the definition of what the minimum requirement of each of these that needs to be defined? What is the difference between a dorm and a palace, thy are both a "roof" over you head. So I suggest it is the expectations and not the idea that is the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    Gordon - who cares about the Americanization/ Amercanisation :-). This is a place for viewpoints not English Lessons!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    It's probably not the case that we are generally less willing, it is surely because millions of us simply no longer the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    The best person to spend my money most wisely, econmically, and to seek for the most value, is not the government, councillors or EU bureaucrats..... IT IS ME.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    I am sure people will agree with this.We get 1 life and so,it would be nice if your life and everybody elses lives were equal and fair?


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