What a time to launch the 34th British Social Attitudes report. A snap election has produced a result few expected, a hung parliament, a year on from Britain voting to leave the European Union. It’s left us speculating on what the people really want from their politicians.
There has been much discussion about what was behind the Brexit vote and the General Election result. Commentators have speculated about a number of different fault lines: class, left versus right, social liberalism versus social conservatism, young versus old, to name a few.
The National Centre for Social Research’s British Social Attitudes report is uniquely placed to look beyond the hastily formulated narratives and eye-catching headlines, dealing as it does with trend data collected over 30 years to the highest social research standards. In this year’s report there are fascinating chapters on tax evasion and benefit manipulation, Brexit, immigration, the role of government in the economy, a range of personal issues, and civil liberties.
British Social Attitudes shows us that while age and education do increasingly divide people in their views on immigration, when it comes to personal moral issues we find that older people seem to have adopted the views of their children.
While over time more and more of the public seem to be taking the attitude ‘live and let live’ in the private sphere, BSA tells quite a different story when it comes to public attitudes towards protecting national security. Here we see a long-term increase in a trend of conservatism, with the public favouring stronger state powers to tackle terrorism, even at the expense of individual rights.
In this year’s report we also see the British public reacting against austerity – there are clear signs of increased support for a government that is more generous with its spending. For the first time since the financial crisis, more people, 48%, say they want higher taxes to pay for more spending on health, education and social benefits than want it to stay the same, 44%.
So once again, British Social Attitudes provides essential reading for anyone who wants to find out where the public really stand on today’s most important issues.