NEWS22 September 2022

Demand for economic intervention remains high, finds NatCen

Brexit Cost of Living Inclusion News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – The public will face the cost-of-living crisis with as much appetite for government intervention in the economy as it had during the pandemic, according to the latest British Social Attitudes report from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).


The report said 52% of the British public felt the government should increase taxes and spend more on health, education and social benefits at the end of 2021, similar to figures from 2020 and 2019.

This remained at high levels among Conservatives, with 46% of Conservative supporters supporting increased taxation and spending, and 61% of Labour supporters also backed the policy.

Almost half ( 49%) believed government should redistribute income from the rich to the poor, the report said, up 10 percentage points from 2019, while 27% disagree.

The findings of the survey, which has run annually since 1983, are based on a sample of 3,000 individuals from across the UK.

The report also says that 67% of respondents felt that ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth, a 10 percentage point rise since 2019.

There were relatively few differences between north and south England when it came to attitudes towards areas such as welfare spending, with more than half of people in both the south ( 56%) and the north ( 61%) classifi­ed as economically left-wing.

Around a quarter of respondents ( 26% in England and 24% in Scotland) said they did not get the medical treatment they needed during the past 12 months due to long waiting lists.

The report found that 55% of people in Scotland and 51% in England said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve the level of health care for everyone in the country.

Social divides on ‘culture war’ issues were also present, the report says, with 79% of social liberals and 65% of Remainers believing migrants have a positive impact on the country’s culture, but only 25% of social conservatives and 22% of Leavers expressing this view.

Six in 10 Remainers think that equal opportunities for black and Asian people have not gone far enough, according to the report, while 23% of Leavers agree.  

There were also growing constitutional challenges, 51% of Britons in favour of electoral reform with 44% in favour of maintaining the current status quo.

For the first time, Northern Irish support for being part of the UK slipped below half ( 49%), and support in the province for Irish reunification increased from 14% in 2015 to 30% in 2021. 

Meanwhile, 49% in Britain now believe Northern Ireland should be part of the UK, almost twice as many as in 1998 ( 26%).

Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen, said: “The findings of our survey certainly suggest why Britain might appear divided, buffeted, and ‘broken’.

“A new gap on attitudes to welfare and social issues has opened between the capital and the rest of the country. And divisions over ‘culture war’ issues could potentially become part of our politics, thereby helping to perpetuate the Brexit divide.

“True, the gap in attitudes between the north and the south of England appears to have narrowed, while people still have faith in having a tax-funded NHS that is free at the point of use. But the new government faces a particularly formidable challenge in bringing Britain together.”

Gillian Prior, deputy chief executive at NatCen, said: “Our annual survey suggests the public faces the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ with as much appetite for increased government spending as it had during the pandemic.

“Recognition of inequalities in Britain is at a level not seen since the 1990s, with people more willing than they were a decade ago for government to redistribute income from the better off to the less well-off.”