The 2021 British Social Attitudes survey found that the majority of UK public hold liberal views on issues such as race and sexual identity
Turns out the British public aren’t so bad after all: a new poll has found that the majority of people have socially liberal attitudes towards issues such as racial equality, immigration and sexual identity.
The 2021 British Social Attitudes survey, conducted between 16 September and 31 October 2021, consisted of 6,250 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. According to the poll, public opinion in Britain is becoming increasingly inclusive – in spite of right-wing politicians and media fanning the flames of so-called ‘culture wars’.
“As a country we are as liberal as we have been at any point since this survey started in 1983,” said the political scientist Sir John Curtice, a senior fellow at the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the organisation which carries out the survey.
The survey also found that the public support for increased taxation and public spending has risen to 52 per cent. Two thirds of people agreed that ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth, an increase of ten percentage points since 2019. Plus, support for redistributing income from the rich to the poor in order to create a more egalitarian society was at its highest level for nearly 30 years.
“Our survey suggests the public faces the cost of living crisis with as much appetite for increased government spending as it had during the pandemic. Despite the marked increase in public expenditure during the pandemic, support for increased taxation and spending is relatively high, even among Conservative supporters,” said Gillian Prior, NatCen’s chief executive.
The survey also asked questions about national identity, race and immigration. Just 34 per cent agreed with the statement that Britain is “a better country than most others” – down from 54 per cent in 2013. And while 42 per cent of people agreed that immigration “was bad for the economy” in 2011, this fell to just 20 per cent in 2021. On top of this, 45 per cent of people also agreed that equal rights “had not gone far enough” for Black and Asian people, up from just 25 per cent in 2000.
When it comes to gender equality, about 64 per cent of people thought rights for transgender people “had not gone far enough” or were “about right” – compared with 34 per cent who believed they had “gone too far”.
Worries over the climate crisis are also increasing, with 40 per cent of respondents saying they were “very concerned” – almost double the proportion in 2010. More than half of people said they were willing to pay to protect the environment, either through higher prices, taxes or taking a cut in living standards. Just 6 per cent denied there had been any decline in the environment.
These findings beg the question: why the fuck have we been lumped with an especially right-wing bunch of Tories for over a decade? Well, it’s largely down to the voting system: first past the post makes things a lot easier for the Conservatives to gain power. As there are more popular progressive parties (Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems, the SNP, etc) than there are popular conservative parties, the progressive vote is often ‘split’ in a way that doesn’t happen with the conservative vote.
But thankfully, the poll also found that there was majority public support for the introduction of a proportional representation system for voting MPs into the House of Commons – for the first time since the survey began in 1983. 51 per cent favoured reform, up from 27 per cent in 2011.