Home Editor Mark Easton
Labour and the Tories have both made choice a central element of their policies for health and education. We asked MORI to conduct a national attitude poll to see whether people like the idea.
The survey portrays a country still deeply wedded to the basic principles of the welfare state. When asked whether health and education should be funded by the taxpayer and be free at the point of delivery, 61% of those polled said they strongly agreed and 24% tended to agree with that idea.
But the poll also suggests that people are prepared to accept the idea of choice and the language of the private sector to describe delivery of public services. 79% of those polled said they want public service providers to start treating them as customers.
Asked what they thought more choice would do to the NHS - would it benefit everyone, or just the better-off and better-educated? - three out of four respondents said more choice would benefit everyone.
Lower socio-economic groups seem keener on choice than middle-class voters. It's a similar picture for education - and although not quite so enthusiastic here, 59% still think choice will push up standards for all state schools.
However, around half of those polled said they'd be happier to pay more tax to ensure a good quality hospital near their home. And people are still uneasy about profit-making companies actually delivering public services. Thirty-seven percent said they shouldn't be involved in service provision under any circumstances.
As for Conservative plans to use public money to subsidise private health care or education, the poll suggests the Tories have a big job to do in winning over the voters. Seventy percent oppose the idea for hospitals, eighty percent for schools.
Click here to download and read the MORI report.
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