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Public attitudes to poverty and welfare 1983-2011

TMitchell_130302_9748-2
Researchers: Liz Clery
Published: April 2013

Aim

We wanted to explore how far patterns of change in public attitudes to poverty and welfare relate to, and can be explained by, political and economic developments and experience both at the individual and societal level over the past three decades.

Findings

  • Expectations of, and views poverty have become more negative in periods of recession.
  • The public is now more likely to attribute poverty to societal factors than individual factors. 
  • However, with the exception of attitudes to recipients of unemployment benefits, the relationship between economic circumstances and attitudes to welfare appears to have weakened over time. 
  • Those over 65 are now less likely to recognise significant levels of poverty in Britain and more likely to explain poverty on the basis of individual factors than societal.
  • The convergence of the views of different political party supporters and across age groups has meant that the British public appears more united and homogenous in its attitudes to poverty and welfare.

Method

This was a secondary analysis of British Social Attitudes data. Long-standing measures of public attitudes to poverty and welfare were mapped against both the political parties in power and UK experience of recession. Analysis was undertaken for the public as a whole, in addition to sub groups defined by age, political party identity and social class.

Read the report

View data tables