Voters 'brainwashed by Tory welfare myths', shows new poll - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Voters 'brainwashed by Tory welfare myths', shows new poll

Survey shows public ignorance of the level of benefits and who gets them

Ministers were accused of demonising benefits claimants in an attempt to justify their controversial decision to increase most state handouts by less than inflation.

Polling commissioned by the Trades Union Congress suggests that a campaign by Tory ministers is turning voters against claimants – but only because the public is being fed "myths" about those who rely on benefits.

The criticism comes before a crunch Commons vote next Tuesday on the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, which will ensure that most benefits and tax credits will rise by only one per cent for the next three years. Labour, which will vote against the measure, tried today to answer Tory claims that it is "soft" on scroungers by announcing a "tough love" plan to force adults who have been out of work for more than two years to take up a government "job guarantee" or lose their benefits.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, has spoken about "the shiftworker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits". Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has highlighted figures showing that benefits have risen by almost twice as much as earnings in the past five years. According to YouGov, four out of 10 people think benefits are too generous and three in five believe the system has created a culture of dependency. However, people who know least about the facts are the most hostile towards claimants. More than half of those who are "least accurate" about the system think benefits are too generous, while fewer than one in three (31 per cent) of those giving the "most accurate" answers agree.

Mr Osborne's decision to cap most benefit rises at one per cent is supported by 48 per cent and opposed by 32 per cent. But, by a margin of three to one, people think the squeeze will mainly hit the unemployed. When told it will also affect low-paid workers receiving tax credits, people oppose the move by 40 to 30 per cent. Only one in four people believe benefits should go up by less than wages or prices, while 63 per cent want to see them linked to wages, prices or both.

Frances O'Grady, the TUC General Secretary, said: "It is not surprising that voters want to get tough on welfare. They think the system is much more generous than it is in reality, is riddled with fraud and is heavily skewed towards helping the unemployed, who they think are far more likely to stay on the dole than is actually the case. Indeed if what the average voter thinks was true, I'd want tough action too.

"But you should not conduct policy, particularly when it hits some of the most vulnerable people in society, on the basis of prejudice and ignorance. And it is plainly immoral to spread such prejudice purely for party gain, as ministers and their advisers are doing, by deliberately misleading people about the value of benefits and who gets them."

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, accused ministers of resorting to "smears" by claiming they are targeting the workshy and benefit scroungers when two-thirds of those affected by the cap are in work.

Mr Balls announced that Labour would raise £1bn by limiting tax relief on pension contributions to 20 per cent for those on more than £150,000 a year. This would fund a "compulsory jobs guarantee" for the 129,000 adults over the age of 25 who have been jobless for more than two years, a move that would later be extended to those on the dole for more than a year.

Writing on the PoliticsHome website, Mr Balls said: "A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support those who cannot, but those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits – no ifs or buts. Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works, not divisive, nasty and misleading smears from an out-of-touch and failing government."

Ministers insist there is strong public support for reducing the welfare bill, saying the TUC had failed to produce an example of the Government misleading people. Mr Osborne hit back at Mr Balls, accusing him of making uncosted spending commitments because he had already announced plans to spend the same £1bn on reversing cuts to tax credits.

A government source said last night: "It beggars belief that Labour's union baron backers think people are stupid for daring to suggest the benefits system needs reforming. If Labour seriously thinks stopping households receiving more in benefits than families earn going out to work is prejudiced and ignorant, it is completely out of touch."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
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

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week