New polling shows majority of people think that benefits should rise with inflation

December 13, 2012 2:48 pm

The latest polling from Ipsos-Mori will raise a few eyebrows in Westminster – especially in the Treasury – after it reveals that the vast majority of the population (59%) back benefits rising with inflation – with 10% even backing benefits rising beyond inflation.

By contrast, only 11% think that benefits should not rise at all and just 16% agree with the Chancellor that they should rise by less than inflation. Let’s see that as a chart:

A9_5iThCIAAdK5T.jpg-large

This may leave Osborne in a more difficult position than he imagined if he wants to paint Labour as being in the minority on benefits…

  • Serbitar

    I’m not surprised one whit. It backs up exactly what I have discovered myself as far as the innately decent and greathearted British people go. What does surprise me is the wilful ignorance of people like George Osborne and Liam Byrne who convince themselves that the opposite is true, i.e., that the British are avaricious and careless in respect to the hardship of their fellow citizens, and that some sort of political mileage might be had by remorselessly scapegoating the poorest, least influential, and most helpless in society.

    Would that all politicians were as enlightened and compassionate as the electorate.

    • Amber_Star

      Serbitar, I completely agree with you. I am really heartened by this poll & I hope it continues to be the way that UK citizens feel about social security.
      I’m sorry to say that my good feelings about it didn’t stop me engaging in a bit of triumphalism over the nay-sayers in our Party! I’m sure the Eds will show more restraint & simply let the polling speak for itself.

    • Hugh

      Those innately decent and greathearted British people also believe (in the same survey) that welfare claimants are either being asked to do about the right amount (29%) or too little (34%) in response to the crisis, against only 28% thinking they are doing too much. I’m not sure, politically, that Liam and George are as wrong as the post might suggest. It’s low earners the sympathy is behind.

      It’s also striking that that so many think pensioners are being asked to do too much (42%, with only 16% too little). I’m not sure the stats really back that up.

      • Serbitar

        I would be interested in hearing what people think benefit claimants should be doing that they’re not actually doing or being forced to do at present.

        Whatever it is I find it hard to believe that reducing their already paltry income – a maximum of £71.00 per week for the over 25s which is equivalent to 11 hours on the highest minimum wage – can be given serious credence. It is arithmetically ridiculous to compare low rises in wages with real terms cuts in benefits because the two are not even remotely comparable in magnitude: a 1% increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance would give an unemployed individual no more than a 71p a week below inflation increase, whereas somebody working 39 hours on the maximum minimum wage would get 39 x £6.19/100 = £2.41 per week increase which is more than THREE times the amount the benefit claimant received. It is perverse to claim that any parity exists between wages and benefits because their baselines are not fairly comparable.

        Laying aside the cruelty inherent in impoverishing a minority of citizens already very hard pressed, cutting out of work benefits has other adverse effects that nobody seems to have noticed. For example, impoverishing the unemployed to the extent that the Coalition intends will hamstring their ability to actively seek work and improve their lot by getting into work. As the people affected spend more and more of the money previously allocated to them for living costs on more expensive food and utility bills plus Council Tax (which even Margaret Thatcher catered for when she introduced the Community Charge by giving benefit claimants an increase specifically earmarked to help them to pay their individual Poll Tax bills) and possibly having to subsidise their rents (because of the bedroom tax and the fact that Housing Benefit will also not be uprated enough to keep pace with rising rents, which the Tories promised would fall as soon as the benefit cap was introduced) they will have less and less to spend on transport, clothes, telephone, internet, stationary and stamps etc., which will absolutely stymie their ability to contact employers and apply for jobs. It is hard for some people to grasp the counterintuitive nature of this situation because if you cut benefits to claimant too far don’t drive them into work but render them too poor to seek or to secure work which won’t help anybody – not them, not us, nor the country generally.

        (Repeatedly targeting out of work benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance won’t make much of a difference in reducing overall welfare spending either since Jobseeker’s Allowance accounts for less than 3% of the welfare budget in toto.)

        I could go on but I haven’t got the time at present. Suffice it to say that Osborne’s strategy, such as it is, will unravel from April 2013 onwards when the real welfare cuts bite hard. I am so very sorry that so many people will have to suffer such unnecessary pain and distress as the Tories refuse to admit defeat and try to save face by initiating even more blood letting before the end.

      • Serbitar

        I would be interested in hearing what people think benefit claimants should be doing that they’re not actually doing or being forced to do at present.

        Whatever it is I find it hard to believe that reducing their already paltry income – a maximum of £71.00 per week for the over 25s which is equivalent to 11 hours on the highest minimum wage – can be given serious credence. It is arithmetically ridiculous to compare low rises in wages with real terms cuts in benefits because the two are not even remotely comparable in magnitude: a 1% increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance would give an unemployed individual no more than a 71p a week below inflation increase, whereas somebody working 39 hours on the maximum minimum wage would get 39 x £6.19/100 = £2.41 per week increase which is more than THREE times the amount the benefit claimant received. It is perverse to claim that any parity exists between wages and benefits because their baselines are not fairly comparable.

        Laying aside the cruelty inherent in impoverishing a minority of citizens already very hard pressed, cutting out of work benefits has other adverse effects that nobody seems to have noticed. For example, impoverishing the unemployed to the extent that the Coalition intends will hamstring their ability to actively seek work and improve their lot by getting into work. As the people affected spend more and more of the money previously allocated to them for living costs on more expensive food and utility bills plus Council Tax (which even Margaret Thatcher catered for when she introduced the Community Charge by giving benefit claimants an increase specifically earmarked to help them to pay their individual Poll Tax bills) and possibly having to subsidise their rents (because of the bedroom tax and the fact that Housing Benefit will also not be uprated enough to keep pace with rising rents, which the Tories promised would fall as soon as the benefit cap was introduced) they will have less and less to spend on transport, clothes, telephone, internet, stationary and stamps etc., which will absolutely stymie their ability to contact employers and apply for jobs. It is hard for some people to grasp the counterintuitive nature of this situation because if you cut benefits to claimant too far don’t drive them into work but render them too poor to seek or to secure work which won’t help anybody – not them, not us, nor the country generally.

        (Repeatedly targeting out of work benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance won’t make much of a difference in reducing overall welfare spending either since Jobseeker’s Allowance accounts for less than 3% of the welfare budget in toto.)

        I could go on but I haven’t got the time at present. Suffice it to say that Osborne’s strategy, such as it is, will unravel from April 2013 onwards when the real welfare cuts bite hard. I am so very sorry that so many people will have to suffer such unnecessary pain and distress as the Tories refuse to admit defeat and try to save face by initiating even more blood letting before the end.

        • Hugh

          That’s all interesting, and I agree with some of it, but it doesn’t really constitute a response to my point. Indeed your second paragraph rather suggests the recent changes actually accord with the public’s sens of what should be happening more than people realise.

          • Serbitar

            When I say there is no comparison between benefits and wages I mean that they represent two things, like fish and fowl, that are too different to be compared one with the other in any meaningful fashion.

            Benefits represents minimal amounts that society considers an individual needs in order to live adequately in our society: benefit levels represent minimal safety levels below which no one is allowed to fall in a civilised society.

            Benefit levels are not calculated based on the skill or personal worth or circumstances of an individual (beyond declared assets) but on how much any person requires to survive in an acceptable fashion based on the cost of living. If you want to keep mentally and physically healthy and active you need to consume a reasonably healthy diet, have shelter, clothe yourself, drink, bathe and so on and so forth, whether you’re working and earning or non-working and living on benefits. Benefit levels represent the minimum amount that society has agreed that people need to do this, i.e., the lowest possible level that any British citizen is allowed to fall because the suffering that would result if the level was lower would be unacceptable in our modern and supposedly civilised society .

            Wages are more variable and awarded based on the knowledge, skills, abilities, expertise and other qualities or luck(!) of different individuals. Society has again set a baseline and decided that no one should work and receive less than the minimum wage for their labours. Until recently wages always rose well ahead of benefits, which is why the uprating of benefits was decoupled from increases in wages, and are generally much higher than floor-level benefit levels anyway or made so via in work top-ups like Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

            So you cannot fairly compare benefits with wages because benefits represent minimum incomes citizens need to receive in order to survive in our society based on the cost of living. Such minimum incomes never change in real terms and can only ever increase in line with inflation (or above inflation if you factor in the increase in the cost of energy and suchlike) and so if you do not increase benefits in line with inflation what you are actually doing is consciously lowering legions of people, already living on the margin, into unprecedented levels of poverty that would formerly have been considered unthinkable and barbaric.

            In my opinion it is entirely wrong to seek to make the poorest of the poor, already living lives of quiet desperation on the brink, even poorer than they are already simply because their better off “hard working” peers aren’t getting richer in the way they came to expect. Paying a little more tax won’t kill me but cutting benefits in the way that Osborne proposes will without a doubt kill many and make life all but unendurable for others, all to no good purpose.

            It is cruelty for cruelties sake.

          • AlanGiles

            Totally, 100% correct, and I agree with every word you’ve written. Like Dave Stone wrote yesterday, I live in a fairly prosperous area (Havering) and we, too, have a food bank in the borough. The modern equivalent of the soup kitchen. Another point worth mentioning is that for the many people on JSA who live alone, they suffer even more at the supermarket, because of the number of BOGOF offers, or multi-buy offers.

            I am not on my uppers, so I have no personal axe to grind, but as I live alone (apart from the animals), I see prices rise each week, and buying small quantities is much more expensive. I doubt that politicians would know this, since so many of them benefit from the maximum amount of “food allowance” they can claim, which is a lot more each month than a months JSA payments

          • Serbitar

            I never thought I would live long enough to see such things nor imagined that any modern Conservative administration would be so willing to stoop quite so low as this one has (with the support of the Liberal Democrats of course). Just goes to show you doesn’t it?

          • Hugh

            I have not compared benefits with wages – fairly or otherwise; I’ve simply told you what is in the survey. And that survey suggests, I’d argue, that there’s not a massive amount of support for the idea that the cuts on benefits affecting the unemployed are too harsh, but rather that the low paid are being made to suffer overly.

            That may, as you say, be wrong – in which case perhaps our politicians for once could try to change people’s minds through persuasive argument. However, I see no particular point in denying what the polling is saying about what people currently think. I also have less faith than others that Labour is actually making that argument at the moment. Certainly Labour has not been making the argument you outline, but rather has been focusing on the cuts to low paid earners (who were hit, but not as much as the out of work).

            To argue that Labour has already won the argument on welfare therefore strikes me as premature.

          • Serbitar

            I don’t believe that Labour have made an effective argument in favour of comprehensive social security yet, which is a great pity. From April next year up until and beyond the next election Dickensian days will bloom exorbitantly and when Universal Credit falters and eventually fails completely social security (along with education and the health service) will reassert itself as a paramount concern.

          • JoeDM

            Income is income is income.

          • Dave Postles

          • Serbitar

            Poverty is poverty is poverty.

        • aracataca

          Little to disagree with here except to say that the PLP will be whipped to oppose Osborne’s move in Parliament so we are mounting a de facto challenge to this crude and spiteful proposal.

  • Amber_Star

    I just popped over to UK Uncut to give Rob Marchant the good news! Now, who wants to tell Dan Hodges? ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/anthonypainter Anthony Painter

    Very interesting. I felt there was a framing issue in the YouGov question which I pointed out in my piece on Sunday: http://labourlist.org/2012/12/can-miliband-beat-osborne-on-welfare/

    “Today’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times would seem to lean in the direction of the conventional political wisdom: that this is not a smart short or long term political move by Miliband. 52% think that George Osborne’s three year, 1% increase for most benefits is either right or too generous (19% favour a cash freeze). A third of Labour voters are in this camp. 35% of the total are against the real terms cut.

    Open and shut case? Not quite. Firstly, if you look at the wording of the YouGov question it specifies benefits and doesn’t mention tax credits. My hunch is that people don’t see tax credits as benefits. Humans are conditioned with deep loss aversion. If you ask them about a loss of credits that will hit them rather than other people then the polling result could be very different. There is a framing issue here.”

    I suspect the specification of Child Benefit here is what swung this poll in a different direction. Just goes to show that the politics of this are not clear cut. Osborne has structured this is way that makes the politics murky (whatever you think about the real terms cuts themselves in terms of their impacts on both the vulnerable and those on low incomes).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 Graeme Hancocks

    Interesting. I always felt that Osborne’s crude polticking would be seen through eventually. Looks like the British public may have taken took less than two weeks. It is all a game to Gideon….he must think people are stupid.

  • Michael Murray

    The Friedmanite Right always use a crisis to destroy the Welfare State and socialism: cf Chile, Argentina, Thatcher. But this poll suggests that the Welfare State, because it has been embedded in this country’s life for so long might be more resilient than the callous, Tory hard hearts think.

  • JoeDM

    But what answer would you get from “Should benefits rise faster than earning?”?

    • MonkeyBot5000

      Same as if you asked, “Is it fair that the share of the wealth we produce that goes to the lowest 50% of earners has dropped by 25% over the last 30 years?”

    • Serbitar

      Benefit increases have nothing to do with earnings any more. That linkage was broken in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party and the Labour Party never saw fit to restore it during their time in office when wage increases generally well outstripped inflation. Over the last 30+ years out of work benefit levels have steadily fallen, relatively, dropping from about one-fifth to one-tenth of average earnings. So the question shouldn’t be “Should benefits rise faster than earning?” but “Why have benefits fallen so far behind earnings?” and “Shouldn’t benefits be higher?”

  • AlanGiles

    When Maria Miller was a minister for disabilities, she, like so many of her predecessors and replacements did a lot of damage to the very people they are supposed to be “responsible” for. Can’t have people abusing public money, can we Ms miller?

    Now this greedy and stupid woman stands accused of “doing a McNulty”. If – as she should be – she is found to have charges to answer in the courts, I am sure she will see this verdict handed down this morning some comfort:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-20725315

    Of course the big question is, how can somebody be found guilty by a jury of 15 offences and NOT have a (criminal) conviction?.

    we’re all in this together, you know :-)

    • Serbitar

      Miller is a dreadful, ambitious little shrew. Apparently she was the one who dreamed up the idea to strip social security from drug takers and alcoholics if they failed to get treated for and cured of their addictions. Nasty or naive? Draw your own conclusions.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Newsflash….
    It has also emerged that people on benefit are actually human beings and have turned out not be an underclass of a sub-spieces.

    • Serbitar

      Whereas the exact opposite is true in the case of most modern Tories…

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Newsflash….
    It has also emerged that people on benefit are actually human beings and have turned out not be an underclass of a sub-spieces.

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