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IEA Paragon Initiative Polling

Poll of 2,000 British adults for the IEA on attitudes to public services and the role of government

  • The British public does not feel influential over decisions made by the UK government (77% say they have not very much influence or no influence at all) and over several the types of services provided by the government (schools, hospitals, public transport).
  • Two thirds of Britons (65%) say that the most important consideration for public services should be quality; only 9% say it should be whether they are run by a private company or the state. Although 45% of Britons agree that health and education services should not be run by private companies under any circumstances, a majority of the public say they ‘do not mind’ if this is done in specific examples provided, such as if these services are free at the point of use (56%) or if they are delivered the same quality at a lower cost (55%).
  • The public is divided about the balance of power between local and UK government in services and spending. For example, similar proportions believe that local and regional governments should have more power over the spending and organisations of public services (42%) and that these powers should remain with the UK government (41%). This is also reflected in the finding that, when given a list of services and regulations, most Britons think the UK government should be ultimately responsible for some (welfare benefits – 69%, hospitals – 61%) and local councils for others (roads – 66%, public transport – 65%).
    • However, Scottish adults show a preference for devolution both when answering hypothetical statements about the balance of power, and when favouring ultimate responsibility for several services with the Scottish Parliament rather than the UK government or local council.
  • A large majority of Britons (88%) agree that it’s important to have a welfare state to provide a safety net for anyone that needs it; however, three quarters of the public (75%) believe that the welfare state requires substantial reform to cope with challenges such as an ageing population and three in five (61%) think that the welfare state, as we know it today, will not exist in 50 years’ time.
  • Two in five Britons believe politicians make decisions based on party loyalty (43%), and a third say they make decisions based on their own interest (32%); less than one in ten say politicians make decisions based on what’s best for the country (8%) or constituents (6%).
  • A large majority of Britons see policy making as ineffective: four in five agree that too often laws and regulations fail to achieve what they are meant to (80%), or that laws and regulations often create new problems even if they are introduced with good intentions (79%). The public also tends to see policy making as biased, with three quarters (74%) agreeing that often politicians propose new legislation to favour certain groups.

Date Published: 28th October 2015

Categories: GB | Media | Politics | Public and communities | Public Sector | Social

Client: IEA


ComRes interviewed 2,068 British adults online between 21st and 22nd October 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults in Great Britain aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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