Britons 'less willing to pay for taxes to help others'
- 7 December 2011
- From the section UK
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.
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%."
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.