Patrick Butler, in the Guardian, reports on an annual survey which finds a ‘dramatic softening in attitudes’ even before Covid pandemic. October 2020.
Public support for more generous welfare benefits is at its highest level for more than two decades, amid new evidence that societal views on social security and immigration are becoming significantly more liberal, according to the latest annual barometer of British social attitudes.
The findings, which come as pressure rises on the government to retain the £20-a-week Covid-19 top-up of universal credit, indicate that seemingly entrenched popular views on benefits – that they create welfare dependency and encourage “shirking and skiving” – are melting away.
More members of the public now agree with the statement: “benefits are too low and cause hardship” than those who believe benefit levels are too high and discourage work, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, reversing a hardening of views on social security that dates back to the late 1990s.“The dramatic softening in attitudes towards welfare in recent years strongly suggests the public may prove sympathetic towards more generous welfare benefits for people who lose their jobs because of the pandemic – especially if there is a substantial increase in the level of unemployment,” said Gillian Prior, the director of surveys at the National Centre for Social Research, which carried out the study.
The research, which involved face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 3,224 British adults between July and October last year, suggests there was an appetite for a more generous benefit system even before the pandemic. Since March, the number of people on universal credit, the main welfare benefit, has doubled to 6 million, with more expected as furlough support ends and unemployment rises.
The survey also reveals a softening of views on immigration, despite the centrality of the issue to the Brexit vote four years ago, and increasingly hostile rhetoric from the government around cracking down on the numbers of migrants and taking tighter control of the UK’s borders.
The proportion of British people saying immigration “enriches cultural life” has increased from 26% in 2011 to 46% in 2019, the survey found. Over the same period, the proportion who believe immigration is “bad for the economy” has fallen from 43% to 15%.
About Patrick Butler : https://www.theguardian.com/profile/patrickbutler