Assuming the worst: public attitudes to poverty ~ Has middle Britain really became more Scrooge-like over the recent past?



The Guardian

It is a factoid universally acknowledged that a voter in possession of a good job must be in search of a scrounger to bait. Such is the settled reading of public opinion on benefits, not only inside No 10 but also within Labour’s Blairite wing.

When the government’s own figures revealed last week that George Osborne‘s benefit squeeze will plunge 200,000 children into poverty, the political class just rolled its eyes in salute to the electorate’s supposedly ungenerous mood.

To the proudly hard-headed party operator, the Bishop of Liverpool’s warnings about inner cities facing “atrophy and death” only underline that the cause of welfare entitlements is now the exclusive preserve of the professionally unworldly.

There is something in the view that middle Britain became more Scrooge-like over the recent past.

Until the 1990s, British Social Attitudes used to find that the majority feared that inadequate benefits were causing hardship. Such concerns, however, steadily gave way to a view of jobseekers as subsidised layabouts, a view that by 2011 the BSA records as prevailing by a crushing three-to-one margin.

Campaigners can point indignantly at the £71 a week the unemployed are expected to subsist on, and can point out, too, that the hardening of hearts took place only after New Labour aped Tory language about families who won’t play by the rules – yet none of this makes their job easy.

A Guardian/ICM poll registers a narrowing of Labour’s overall lead but also heartening signs that the tide may be turning on welfare – and that the poor-bashing right may have overplayed its hand.

Mr Osborne is legislating to decouple benefits from living costs, on the basis that this is only fair, seeing as workers’ wages are also being squeezed.

So confident were the Conservatives about the appeal of this argument that they have plastered it on billboards.

Our poll, however, suggests that only 36% of voters agree.

A majority of 58% agree instead with the case Ed Miliband has been making about the unfair effect on workers whose pay is topped up by tax credits.

Disregarding warnings from New Labour ultras about a Tory trap, the Labour leader has bravely opposed the Osborne assault full-on.

Airy promises to cut welfare without spelling out how always poll well. But since the Osborne plan was set out in December, other surveys with different questions have also found far greater resistance to his specific proposals. And if the introduction of the universal credit fails to go smoothly, 2013 could be a year of great turmoil that sees the debate about welfare move away from slogans about skivers and towards questions of ministerial competenceand the conventional Westminster wisdom that says the Tories can only win on welfare would then come entirely unstuck.




5 thoughts on “Assuming the worst: public attitudes to poverty ~ Has middle Britain really became more Scrooge-like over the recent past?

  1. Christopher says:

    While it’s true there has been a bit of an ‘us and them’ mentality, fueled by the ConDems and daily rags like the Sun and Mail, having read hundreds of comments online I think people are starting to wake up and smell the bullshit. And it’s only a teeny tiny minority who have anything to say in favour of the cuts, spouting the same old rhetoric about ‘something for nothing’..yawn…

    Maybe it’s because they know people close to them that these cuts are hurting? or they are worried that their own job isn’t that secure so what will happen to them if they find themselves in need of support?..Or maybe they are finally realising that unless you are one of the 1% uber rich no-one is safe from Osbornes Hatchet?

    Whatever the reason I think the Tories have shot themselves in the foot big-time by demonising the least able in society, and the quicker they are ousted the better..The only problem is, are Labour any better?

  2. Anna Hayward says:

    I definitely agree with Christopher. Perhaps 1 in 6 people are disabled and are seeing desperately needed benefits and support cut, and increasing the burden on their carers (if they have them). Then there are the young people who leave school or university and can’t get work, and the older people made redundant, highly skilled but unable to find work. I doubt if there is a family in the country unaffected, except the few millionaires who can skew things in their favour. Being in favour of welfare cuts when its a nebulous concept affecting people you don’t know is one thing, but once voters see it is affecting them, I doubt they’ll be so gungho.

  3. says:

    The DWP must give back all the money they have stolen from disabled benefit claimants just because they did not report their savings to the DWP, we need to decriminalize the mistake of not reporting savings to the DWP the Government are cynically searching out all, benefit claimants bank accounts and data matching them with HMRC and DWP records.

    This is just legalized rape of the benefit claimant shame they are not tracking down the tax dodgers such as tesco, Fortnam and masons, Google, Mattalan, amazon the list goes on

    The level of money one can have in savings is pitifully low because of means testing of income support/ESA

    people should be able to have a much higher lever of saving before they fall foul of means testing I suggest £25,000 instead of a paltry £6,000

    It is a criminal act for the DWP to accuse a person of a crime when all they have done is save the money they are lawfully entitled to have.

    Once again we are seeing these agencies (DWP, HMRC,)going after the poorest people but leave the rich alone it is utterly sick.

    The banks meekly comply with requests for our bank account statements made by job center plus

    if a bottom could have one cheek the banks and the Government would be two sides of the same cheek.

  4. Dissabled dave says:

    Yet while the unemployed are supposedly living in luxury on £71 per week – £3,700 per year the – MPs are claiming that £69,000 a year is not enough to live on. Perhaps MPs should be told go to the shops where the unemployed are getting all of their luxuries from? Personally I would like to see MP’s pay set at whatever benefits they could claim if they were unemployed

  5. Charlie Hawkins says:

    In Scotland we have a labour leader who claims :She will stop the something for nothing culture,she also claims free prescriptions and university fees are unsustainable i sincerely

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