Steady decline in public support for welfare

Public support for the benefits system has been in steady decline in recent decades, according to a report from the polling organization Ipsos MORI. The report looks at contemporary public opinion towards the five 'giant evils' identified in the 1942 Beveridge report – want, idleness, ignorance, squalor and disease. It highlights the findings of its own recent work as well as referencing those of other studies.

Key points

  • The proportion of the general public agreeing with higher government spending on benefits for those in poverty, even if it means higher taxes, fell from 55 per cent in 1987 to 27 per cent in 2009. Those disagreeing rose from 22 per cent to 43 per cent. These trends reflect a steady decline in support for the benefits system, with little variation under different governments.
  • More recent survey work in 2012 found 84 per cent of people agreeing that stricter tests are needed to ensure people claiming incapacity benefit are genuinely unable to work. 78 per cent agreed jobseekers should lose some of their benefits if they turn down work they are capable of doing, even if the job pays the same or less than they get on benefit. 62 per cent agreed people on benefits should have their payments capped if they choose to have 'many' children. 57 per cent agreed people who receive higher housing benefit because they live in expensive areas should be forced to move into cheaper housing to bring down the benefit bill.
  • Also in 2012, a survey found just 13 per cent of people describing poverty and inequality as the most important issue facing society – in eighth place, well behind issues such as the economy (55 per cent), unemployment (33 per cent) and the NHS (20 per cent).

Source: Suzanne Hall, 21st Century Welfare: Seventy Years since the Beveridge Report, Ipsos MORI
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