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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published new polling analysis, entitled Stepping up: public attitudes to addressing the cost of living crisis, which reveals what the UK public thinks about the role of welfare for tackling the cost of living crisis.

Public support for using the benefits system to maintain living standards is very high, and the public believes financially vulnerable groups have become worse off during the pandemic, whereas those on higher incomes have become financially better off. The public is split, however, over whether current support is sufficient for benefit claimants.

The new polling analysis comes after the Spring Statement, in which the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, decided not to increase the value of benefits such as Universal Credit in line with rising inflation, which will lead to a real terms decrease in the income of claimants. It is part of Bright Blue’s ongoing project on social security after Covid-19. 

Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“While inflation is projected to peak at over 8% later this year, benefits are only being increased by 3.1%, despite the rising costs of fuel, food, and childcare. The additional £500 million for the Household Support Fund is a measly sum that does not come close to addressing the gap between rising costs and the falling value of support.

“The Chancellor needs to stop being allergic to welfare, recognise the effectiveness of the Universal Credit system, and bring forward the next uprating of the benefits from April 2023 for a far more substantive, effective, and targeted intervention.”

The main findings from this analysis are:

  • The vast majority of the public thinks that the Government has a key role to play in maintaining standards of living for those on the lowest incomes. 72% of the UK public supports the idea that “benefit payments should be sufficiently high to allow people to pay for their costs of living, such as housing payments, buying essential food and heating their homes” and 67% of the public supports the idea that “it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that all people have financial support to meet their basic needs”.
  • There is a cross-party voter consensus supporting these principles, including among 2019 Conservative voters. 83% of 2019 Labour voters support both statements. Meanwhile, while 2019 Conservative voters are less likely to agree, a majority still express support, with 68% supporting the idea that benefit payments should be sufficiently high to allow people to pay for their costs of living and 55% supporting the idea that the Government is responsible for ensuring people meet their basic needs.
  • There is widespread perception among the UK public that the finances of vulnerable groups have become worse off since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. On whether the following groups have become worse or better off financially (better – worse): low-income working parents (-54%) and those on lower incomes generally (-53%) have the lowest net score among the whole UK population, though those with long-term health problems (-45%) and those who care for them (-43%) are also seen to be significantly worse off than before the pandemic. Those on higher incomes are perceived to have become better off financially (+27).
  • There is a cross-party voter consensus that finances of vulnerable groups have become worse off since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. While 2019 Labour voters are more likely than 2019 Conservative voters to think vulnerable groups have become worse off, with those on lower incomes (-73%) and low-income working parents (-72%) receiving the lowest net scores, 2019 Conservative voters are more likely than not to think that vulnerable groups have become worse off than better off, especially those with long-term mental health problems (-45%), those who care for them (-45%) and low-income working parents (-43%).
  • The UK public are divided on whether a ‘typical benefit claimant’ receives sufficient or insufficient support from the Government with their regular expenses. UK adults perceive benefit payments as either less than sufficient or sufficient at roughly equal rates, with a significant proportion also reporting ‘don’t know’.
  • The Government support with utility bills is the most likely to be seen as less than sufficient. 43% of the UK public believe that support with utility bills is less than sufficient. Support with housing costs is the most likely to be seen as sufficient (35%).
  • For all types of costs polled, 2019 Conservative voters are more likely to see benefit payments as sufficient, while 2019 Labour voters are most likely to see them as insufficient. Both 2019 Conservative (33%) and 2019 Labour (61%) voters are the most likely to see support with utility bills as less than sufficient out of all costs polled, but the large gap shows that 2019 Conservative voters are much less likely to think that the support is less than sufficient.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact Joseph Silke at joseph@brightblue.org.uk or on 07948 420 584.

  • Bright Blue’s new analysis is entitled Stepping up: public attitudes to addressing the cost of living crisis. This analysis is part of a major Bright Blue project on social security, supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation and Trust for London. Bright Blue retains editorial control of all its outputs.
  • The figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Opinium, based on a nationally representative sample of 2,008 UK adults. Within this overall sample, there are unweighted subsets of those who have voted for the Conservatives (672), Labour (494) and Liberal Democrats (178) in the 2019 General Election. The polling was conducted between 28th January 2022 and 3rd February 2022.