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RSA/Populus Future of Britain survey

  • Think-tank warns health and social care should not dominate public spending increases in the 2020s at the expense of early years investment; better quality jobs; and investment in skills and infrastructure. 
  • Stark divide between under-45s and over-45s on tax increases and the size of the state.
  • Young want to see more reform and greater use of volunteers to tackle social care gap, while older voters back rises in general taxation.

Traditional left-right politics is being flipped on its head, a new poll suggests, as under-45s back lower taxes and a smaller state, despite overwhelming voting for Labour in the last election, while Conservative-leaning voters over-65 back higher taxes and spending.

The Future of Britain survey for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), based on a weighted online poll of 2,096 UK adults, finds that:

  • Support for higher taxes and public spending is dominated by older voters. Overall 41% support higher public spending funded by higher taxes, 14% tax cuts/spending reductions and 24% about the same. However, support for higher taxes falls to 33% of 18-24 year olds and 30% of both 25-34 and 35-44 year olds, while 54% of over-65s prefer higher spending and taxes.
  • On social care, over-65s likewise back tax rises to plug the looming gap, while young generations prefer service reform and greater use of volunteers: Overall 35% of voters back meeting social care demand through higher taxes, with 22% preferring the greater use of volunteers/service reform. Among the over-65s, support for higher taxes rises to 54%, but further reform and the use of volunteers is the top preference of 18-24 year olds and those 35-44, and joint highest for those aged 25-34.
  • Young people do not equate ‘fairness’ with ‘redistribution’: The RSA warns that although people of all ages prioritise tackling inequality, there are substantial differences in how they think social justice is best achieved, with younger people leaning away from traditional left redistribution and towards volunteer-led social action and equal opportunities: 44% of 18-24 year olds see fairness in terms of equal opportunities regardless of gender/race/sexuality, compared to 31% of those over-65; while just 16% of 18-24 year olds see redistribution of wealth as equating to fairness, compared to 23% of 35-44 year olds, 27% of 45-54 year olds, 26% of those 55-64, and 23% of those over 65.

The RSA argues further spending increases could make divisions worse if future uplift is dominated by mitigating ill-health, instead of prevention, skills investment, climate change adaptation and economic security amid a ‘decade of disruption’. The Resolution Foundation has forecast an annual increase of health and social care expenditure together of 2.8% of GDP by 2037.

 

Although the largest group of people support higher taxes, almost six-in-ten either disagree, don’t know or want to see things remain the same.

TAX AND SPEND: Which of the following best reflects your views​?

 

18-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65-plus

Weighted average

“We should raise taxes and increase spending on public services”

33%

30%

30%

42%

46%

54%          

41%

“The current balance is about right”

30%

23%

25%

25%

22%

22%

24%

“We should cut taxes and reduce spending on public services”

19%

21%

17%

12%

13%

8%

14%

Don’t know

17%

25%

28%

21%

19%

15%

21%

 

Likewise, those aged 45 or older are sigificantly more likely to back tax rises to plug social care, while younger voters back reform and greater use of volunteers:

SOCIAL CARE GAP: Which one of the following, if any, do you think should be adopted as a solution to social care funding?

 

18-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65-plus

Weighted average

Increasing taxation

23%

22%

24%

37%

39%

54%

35%

Greater means testing

14%

21%

18%

12%

12%

11%

15%

Cuts to other areas of public spending

12%

10%

9%

6%

3%

4%

7%

Greater use of volunteers/reform

35%

22%

27%

20%

25%

14%

22%

None of the above

17%

26%

22%

25%

20%

16%

15%

 

Meanwhile “inequality” and “isolation” are replacing “idleness” and ignorance” as the modern ‘giants’ facing society, the Populus poll finds.

While inequality features highly the list across all ages, as does isolation, different age groups have different priorities in other areas as modern giants.

NEW FIVE GIANTS: Which, if any of the following, do you think we should focus on over the next decade to make our country a better place to live? [Please select up to 3 options]

 

18-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65-plus

Total

Climate change (48%)

Inequality (55%)

Inequality (49%)

Inequality (53%)

Ageing society (61%)

Ageing society (72%)

Inequality (49%)

Inequality (46%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (36%)

Ageing society (40%)

Ageing society (51%)

Inequality (50%)

Inequality (44%)

Ageing society (49%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (37%)

Climate change (36%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (39%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (37%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (37%)

International relations/Brexit (43%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (35%)

Technology (27%

Ageing society (29%)

International relations/Brexit (34%)

International relations/Brexit (32%)

International relations/Brexit (33%)

Climate change (33%)

Climate change (35%)

International relations/Brexit (24%)

International relations/Brexit (28%)

Climate change (33%)

Climate change (31%)

Climate change (32%)

Isolation/mental ill-health (28%)

International relations/Brexit (33%)

 

The RSA argues greater use of citizens' assemblies and other deliberative democracy methods is needed to determine the future, not least at younger generations will be paying for any increases in spending - and likely to prefer increasing spending on their political priorities, such as climate change. 

 

Ed Cox, director of public services and communities at the RSA, said:

“The NHS can’t afford to keep mitigating our failure to invest in what leads to good health: a welfare system that promotes economic security; investment in early years, education and skills; and better quality jobs for all.

“The public is open to a conversation on public spending, but aside from a shared commitment to tackling inequality, there is neither a clear consensus on tax increases nor agreement on how any extra money is spent. The younger generations who’ll pay for increased spending see climate change and technological adaptation as greater challenges than the ageing society. 

“These challenges require us to think more creatively about how we involve citizens in decision-making, as well as enabling people to take a much greater role themselves in tackling inequality and social injustices.”

ends

 

Contact:

For more information, contact: Ash Singleton, RSA Head of Media, ash.singleton@rsa.org.uk, 07799 737 970.

To arrange a live or pre-record interview, contact:

 

Notes:

Survey methodology

Populus interviewed 2,096 respondents aged 18+ online between 15 and 16 October 2018. Surveys were conducted to a UK audience with quotas set on age, gender and region and data weighted to the profile of all UK adults.  Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For further information visit www.populus.co.uk

 

 

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