Poll finds mystery meltdown of state aid

A survey of public attitudes towards the welfare state showed high levels of support for increasing pensions and other benefits, though Reader's Digest, which commissioned the study, sought to present the findings as evidence of a welfare "crisis".

The monthly magazine, part of an American conglomerate publishing in 48 countries, claims a UK readership of 6.1 million. It said the data proved the welfare state was destined for "meltdown".

Using language remarkably similar to that of the Tory front bench, Russell Twisk, the editor, said: "There is widespread public awareness of crisis."

However MORI, which interviewed a national sample of some 2,000 people in July, told a different story. The opinion-poll organisation said the survey showed only that the public was divided over the amount spent on welfare benefits. A majority of people thought the levels of pensions, child and unemployed benefit were either too low or about right.

There was support for reform in certain areas, for example "workfare", or linking payment of the dole to work requirements. Equally, there was support for unconditional increases in universal benefits.

When they were told spending on welfare and social security was running at pounds 90bn a year, or about a third of all public spending, nearly two-thirds of the public responded that that seemed either too little or was about right. Only a third said it was too much.

Not surprisingly, more Tory than Labour supporters thought too much was spent on welfare. MORI confirmed what the annual British Social Attitudes and other surveys have found: "While in theory many would like the expending on state subsistence to be minimised, in practice it is accepted legitimate claimants should not have their benefit lowered."

Most people thought old-age pensions were inadequate. Understandably, given how far they are from retiring, a higher proportion of teenagers and young adults thought the state pension for a single person of pounds 61.15 a week was right.

Gordon Brown, the shadow chancellor, who wants to cut child benefit for the better-off, may take comfort from the finding that, by a slight majority, Labour supporters favour limiting child benefit to those with low incomes.

Labour is also likely to pay special attention to MORI's consistent finding that Scots consistently favour higher levels of welfare payment: would they continue to be as generous if the entirety of such payments had to be met from Scottish taxes?

Proposals for changing or even expanding benefits won support. More than 85 per cent of people thought there should be tax concessions to women who stayed at home to look after young children. A clear majority thought the long-term unemployed should have to do community or other work to qualify for the dole; the region with most resistance to the idea was the North-east.

More than three people in five rejected the notion that state pensions should be limited to those without an adequate private pension, though MORI noted that attitudes towards pensions among the young were hard to measure, since many had not thought about them.

There was strong support for tough action against social-security fraud, though that turned out to be based on exaggerations of how much is lost.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing