Benefit cuts: Government support relies on keeping people in the dark
The government should perhaps be a little more cautious over the level of public support they believe they enjoy for welfare cuts. We’ve got a new YouGov poll out today, which has found that those supporting the government approach are more likely to be those currently in a position of ignorance on the issues.
YouGov asked people a series of questions to gauge their understanding of, and attitudes to, the UK welfare system. The results were interesting in themselves. For example, on average people thought that:
- 41% of the welfare budget went on benefits to unemployed people (it’s actually 3% of the budget)
- 27% of it is claimed fraudulently (the government’s own figure is 0.7%)
- an unemployed couple with two school-age children would get £147 in JSA (over 30% higher than the real figure of £111.45)
They then placed the respondents in three groups, by how correct they had been in their quiz answers, and compared this to attitudes. Interestingly, those who had the least accurate picture of welfare, had by some way the most negative attitudes toward the system and recipients. 53% of the least accurate group believed benefits were too generous, compared to 31% of the group who had the most accurate understanding.
Even more of a concern for Iain Duncan Smith and his colleagues, though, could be that once people find out more, their support can shift. The poll respondents believed three to one (64% to 21% – less the don’t knows) that the benefit cap will mainly hit the unemployed. When they were told that it would affect low-paid workers, majority support for it turned to majority opposition. Amongst those with the least knowledge, 54% support for the cap falls to 32%.
And for the stats geeks, you can find more of the poll results here (Excel workbook)