Brits reject idea of state advice

August 20, 2012, 3:05 PM GMT+0

What to eat, getting a job, providing a pension…report shows Britons prefer to make own plans

By large majorities the British public reject many aspects of the 'nanny state' and prefer to make their own decisions, reveals a briefing paper based on a YouGov poll commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), to ascertain people’s reactions to various aspects of governmental activity.

Written by the ASI President, Dr Madsen Pirie, the paper is called 'Britons Say No To Nanny', and explains Britons' viewpoints on how much advice or intervention the Government should provide when it comes to eating and drinking, personal decisions, pensions, getting a job, and housing. The report also shows that significant numbers of the population would like to run their own business at some point.

Food, drink and personal decisions

Statement 1: Government should provide advice on what foods people like me should eat and how much to drink.

Across all groups, people in Britain do not think that the Government should do this, with many more disagreeing than agreeing with the statement.

  • 48% disagree
  • Only 22% agree with this
  • Disagreement is strongest among older people, with those aged 60 or over disagreeing by 57% to 20%

All regions of the UK concur in disagreement to this statement, as do supporters of all three major parties.

Statement 2: Politicians and civil servants are well-equipped to make personal decisions on my behalf.

  • Nearly two out of three Britons (65%) disagree with this statement, and fewer than one in ten (9%) agree that politicians are well-equipped to make personal decisions for them
  • Disagreement with the notion that politicians and civil servants are competent to choose for us is high among all categories, all ages and across all regions of the UK
  • Strongest disagreement to the idea comes from those aged 60 or over (73% disagree, 9% agree) and in Scotland (71% disagree, 8% agree)

Although some commentators claim that people in lower social groups are unable to make wise decisions for themselves, disagreement with decisions by politicians and civil servants is slightly higher among group C2DE (67% to 8%) than among those from group ABC1 (64% to 9%).

Saving for my own pension

Statement 3: I think most of my retirement pension will probably come from a pension fund I have saved myself.

Well over half of people in Britain think that their pension will come from their own savings.

  • 51% agreed, while 22% disagreed
  • Among Tories the agreement was ever higher (61% to 19%)

Those who agreed easily outnumbered those who disagreed in all categories, age groups and regions.

  • One of the biggest margins is among 25-39 year-olds, with 60% agreeing and only 13% disagreeing

Getting a job myself

Statement 4: It is up to me, rather than the government, to secure myself a job.

Plainly, people in Britain think that getting a job depends on their own efforts, not those of the Government.

  • 71% of Britons agree with this position, versus only 7% who disagree.
  • The biggest margin is among Liberal-Democrat voters (86% to 4%), but supporters of the three parties agree, as do all age-groups and all regions of the country.
  • The figures for people in the North (72% agree, 8% disagree) are very similar to those for Londoners (71% to 7%).
  • The lowest agreement level is in Scotland, but even here 61% agree and only 11% do not.

Social group ABC1 (75% to 5%) are somewhat more in agreement than those from group C2DE (63% to 8%).

Views on housing: along party lines

Statement 5: The Government has a duty to provide secure housing for people like me.

Views on whether it is part of the Government’s job to make secure housing available break along party lines.

  • Only 21% of Tory voters agree with this, but 48% disagree.
  • It is the opposite among Labour voters, where 55% agree that it is the Government’s duty, and only 16% disagree.
  • Liberal Democrats tended to disagree (39%) rather than agree (32%).

This might reflect the fact that a larger proportion of Labour voters might already be in social housing or on waiting lists for it.

Running my own business

Statement 6: At some stage I would quite like to run my own business instead of working all my life for other people.

Despite the recent financial crisis and the economic downturn, the desire to run their own business at some stage is high amongst young people.

  • Of the 18-24 age group, 49% agreed, versus 27% who did not.
  • Among 25-39 year-olds some 44% agreed that they would like to run a business, versus 30% who disagreed
  • Among the two oldest age groups a majority do not agree, perhaps because many of them are beyond the stage where they might reasonably do so

The paper’s author, Dr Madsen Pirie, welcomes the poll’s findings. He says: "They confirm that, despite recent economic troubles, there is still considerable self-confidence among the British, coupled with a determination to make decisions for themselves instead of having them imposed by politicians and bureaucrats."

Dr Pirie particularly welcomes the finding that large numbers of young people aspire to running their own businesses.

He comments: "It is new businesses that create the jobs and the future wealth of the nation, and this is a very positive indicator for the nation’s future well-being, as well as that of the young people themselves."

See the survey details and full results here

Go to the Adam Smith Institute