Half of Brits say nobody should be a billionaire

Christien PhebyContent Manager
Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
November 16, 2019, 7:00 AM GMT+0

Over three quarters of Brits want to raise taxes for the richest of the rich – but more than eight in ten believe they’d just find a way to avoid paying

Last month, Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s general election campaign with a pledge to take on the UK’s billionaires – while backbench MP Lloyd-Russell-Moyle argued that billionaires shouldn’t exist at all in a recent radio interview. It’s a message that’s been met with resistance, controversy, and accusations of class warfare.

But new YouGov polling reveals that anti-billionaire sentiment is broadly popular among Brits: although 35% say it’s possible to truly deserve entry into the UK’s Three Comma Club, half (51%) believe that nobody should have a billion pounds under any circumstances. Over a third (37%) also consider an increase in the number of billionaires to be a sign that society is getting worse, versus 14% who consider it a sign that society is improving.

Most Brits support a billionaire tax hike…

It’s no surprise that this is a more widely-held attitude among Labour supporters: over two-thirds (67%) claim billionaires shouldn’t exist, compared to 39% of Conservatives, 52% of Lib Dems and half (50%) of those who intend to vote for the Brexit Party. In fact, supporters of all parties other than the Tories are more anti-billionaire than pro.

That said, while Conservatives are more convinced that those with a billion pounds deserve it, there’s a clear majority for raising their taxes among supporters of the four largest parties.

More than 9 in 10 Labour supporters (92%) think we should increase billionaire contributions to state revenues, and 86% of Lib Dems, 76% of Brexit Party backers, and 70% of Conservatives agree.

What’s more, over two thirds of all respondents think the richest of the rich don’t pay all the tax they owe – and 88% support the government taking action to ensure they do.

…but they’re not sure billionaires will pay up

However, Brits aren’t convinced that this action would have the desired effect. Only 5% say billionaires would fulfil their legal obligations in the event of a tax hike, while eight in ten (83%) say they’d avoid paying the extra money. As for how they’d go about it, just under half (48%) believe the wealthiest Brits would go abroad, while over a third (35%) think they’d find some way to dodge taxes without leaving the country.

Even Brits who support raising billionaires’ taxes worry that it could be a pyrrhic victory: 46% say it’s likely they’ll go abroad and 40% believe they intend to stay but not pay. Recent reports have suggested that the super-rich plan to move out of the UK if Labour wins the 2019 General Election.

Nonetheless, there’s wide agreement that the wealthiest aren’t contributing what they should. Two thirds (66%) of those who believe that billionaires can deserve their money support raising their taxes and 89% want the government to take action to ensure they pay their taxes.

Going after the uber-rich is consistent with Labour’s ongoing efforts to turn the 2019 vote into a referendum on elites. It’s an intentionally divisive strategy, but with a clear majority of Brits wanting to rein in billionaires and raise their tax rates – whether they think they deserve their wealth or not – it’s one that could pay off.

Image: Getty

See the full results here