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 728.

    "722. RedRebel54
    Mayna. We as a society allow them to operate under favourable conditions, even to the extent that wages are kept artificailly low so they can maximise profits."

    You really shouldn't believe everything your union sends you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.


    Stuart, I dont mean to be unsympathetic, having had a traumatic episode myself this year, but when you say its no fault of your own, you're partially right. The circumstances that led to it are probably not your fault. But how long you stay in that place is down to you and no-one else. You have to get yourself out of that place, it is not the state's responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    Red Rebel
    Afraid wages are not artificially low; they are atrificially high! And keep that money for generations. We cannot compete with far east where wages ARE low. Would need to scrap wage floor and remove employment red tape to compete in manufacturing. And that is a whole other can of worms!

    Al Gore.
    Evil Banker. What else? ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    "the very least they can do is pay what they owe in taxes"

    but they ARE paying their taxes, the fact that they may not be paying what YOU want them to is irrelevent, they are paying what they legally are obliged too - now, is that not a thought worth thinking on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Thats why camerons big society is so out of touch.People are going the other way and keeping to themselves and its getting worse since the cuts

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    @682 'locust'. Are you trying to tell us that an infestation of insects that roam the world, feeding of those who work and save, is the 'right' way to go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    Mayna. We as a society allow them to operate under favourable conditions, even to the extent that wages are kept artificailly low so they can maximise profits. If they insist on paying themselves 150 times more than their lowest paid employee, the very least they can do is pay what they owe in taxes, rather than hoarding it all for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Its been accurately said over the last few decades that Britain IS in reality just a little USA. Greed, corruption, self interest, intolerance abound in what is surely the most unchristain society in Western Europe. However I believe the media has done more to influence people in this direction than anything else. Hard faces Brits will one day regret this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    697. commonsense101
    and regarding huge risks: we just ended up in a crisis because of people taking them. So maybe if the rewards are smaller, that is actually good?

    @695. Mayna
    That is up to the social scientists to determine. Same as the answer to 'who is poor'.

    Bottom line is, we are in crisis, 'we are in this together' and everyone needs to chip in as much as they possibly can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    OK we are all in this together, really means everyman (or woman ) for themselves and the devil takes the hindmost.
    What a wonderful nation we have become where there really is no such thing as society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Stunned Silence
    Because they take risk. Also the VALUE of a worker is set by the market and supply/demand. In comparison you cant put value on weath creator/initiator. Take founder Carphone Warehouse. He has created huge, mass jobs, mass tax. He should just be paid 2/3x one of his salesmen? NO!!! That does NOT reflect his contribution.He is a huge asset and gives WAY more than sum of wealth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Or only A existed. Plenty of sole traders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    708 - you are correct but the argument for me is that if the idle, it's not worth my time to work, types were booted out of the benedit system. Less single mothers paid to produce children. Less child benefit paid to those with large families. There would be more for that elderly lady who is in dire need. Surely that is the crux of the matter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    6 Minutes ago

    That would a be a no. Not all of them have roofs over thier heads. Have you never been into a city at night? Never seen any human beings sleeping in doorways, or subways? Do you think that's a 'lifestyle' choice? What do you think that organisations like Shelter are doing thn, maing it up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    Some of my neighbours are on benefits some of them work. All the properties are the same. As a rule of thumb the more expensive the car the less friendly people are.
    Staggers me that as soon as someone gets a Range Rover or BMW they won't speak to people who haven't got one.
    Weird isn't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    My wife and I work, we aren't rich and struggle to save and we both feel that we are paying for everyone else already, we'd love a 5% increase in our income too!

    We see people who are "Poorer" than us without jobs smoking, drinking and not curbing their spending and living in brand new social housing.

    We'd like someone to think about us for a change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    "709. Stunned_Silence
    what you say works really well in theory, not well in practice.
    if A, B and C worked together to generate wealth, why should A take massively more than B or C just because A was the boss? Or the investor? I can understand A taking a little more than B or C, even 2 or 3 times more, but not 20 times more."

    Simple - B & C, without A, would not have achieved the same outcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    705 We'll take one point at a time. It was YOU who suggested the 'idle rich' were blameless - I previously stated why they were not. However, idleness is a relative term and you have to ask whether the rewards are proportionate. The post I responded to was 697 concerning risk/benefit, only one of which could be applied to bankers. in response I happen to be on leave at the moment. What about you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    "but does that make up the shortfall?? Hardly"

    but without the "thought" to look beyond the obvious what questions and revelations do we miss? What if that "rich" person runs a company, employee taxes may exceed anything he would have paid personally, plus without his employment they would draw against staet benifits potentially costing more than he saves by an accountant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    @697. commonsense101
    what you say works really well in theory, not so well in practice.

    if A, B and C worked together to generate wealth, why should A take massively more than B or C just because A was the boss? Or the investor? I can understand A taking a little more than B or C, even 2 or 3 times more, but not 20 or 30 times more.


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