Socialist Worker

Sources of hope in attitudes survey

Issue No. 2232

The right wing papers have used the latest British Social Attitudes survey to suggest that Britain has become more Thatcherite.

This is because support for the idea that the government should spend more on benefits has declined from 58 percent to 27 percent in the last 19 years.

Only 36 percent of people believe that the government should redistribute income from the better off to the less well off—down from 51 percent in 1989.

These findings means that the coalition government’s policies are being presented as being broadly in line with the public’s feelings.

But the situation is much more complicated. While sympathies with those on benefits seem to have eroded, that is no surprise after 30 years of government and media attacks on them.

And the report points to “the reluctance of parties on the left to talk positively about redistribution, which has become synonymous with an ‘Old Labour’ ‘tax and spend’ approach.”

Labour’s failure to put the case for the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor has given more space for right wing ideas.

Despite this, 78 percent think that the gap between those with high and a low income is too large—up 5 percent since 2004.

People also think that the chief executive of a large company should earn only six times more than an unskilled factory worker.

And the survey found that satisfaction with the NHS was at an all time high.

Trust in key institutions, such as the police and the media, has fallen over the last 25 years. Trust in the banks declined from 90 percent in 1983 to just 19 percent in 2009.

Overall, the survey shows that there is solid ground on which to continue building a movement to resist the government’s agenda.


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What We Think
Tue 14 Dec 2010, 17:30 GMT
Issue No. 2232
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