Public views on the economic state of Britain

Dr Joel Rogers de WaalAcademic Director, YouGov
July 16, 2012, 11:00 AM GMT+0

Britain in a state of poorly regulated, manufacturing decline, say many voters

Between the 1st and 2nd July 2012, a nationally representative survey of 1748 GB adults was conducted by YouGov in collaboration with Professor Andrew Gamble, Umberto Marengo and Tom Barker at Cambridge University. The results supported a research paper presented on Monday 16th July at the inaugural conference of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) on ‘The British Growth Crisis: The Search for a New Model’.

British voters say the government is getting it wrong on regulation

  • Nearly half of Britons (48%) say there is too much UK government regulation of small and medium sized businesses.
  • Nearly half (46%) also say there is too little UK government regulation of corporations.
  • Over two thirds of Britons (69%) think there is too little UK government regulation of financial services (perhaps unsurprisingly in the current climate).

Public opinion on regulation shows significant cross-party consensus, with majorities or pluralities in agreement in each case

  • There is too much UK regulation of small and medium sized businesses, say 60% of Conservatives, 40% of Labour and 49% of Lib-Dems.
  • There is too little UK regulation of corporations, say 42% of Conservatives, 54% of Labour and 52% of Lib-Dems.
  • There is too little UK regulation of financial services, say 68% of Conservatives, 73% of Labour and 75% of Lib-Dems.

While much of the British public sees manufacturing as vital to long term economic health, many voters are also pessimistic about the survival of British manufacturing overall. Opinion is uncertain about the future role of financial services

  • 63% of Britons believe the UK will not be in the top 10 manufacturing nations in 10 years’ time.
  • 47% believe the share of the UK economy generated by manufacturing will significantly reduce.
  • Yet a majority of Britons think manufacturing will still be among the most important industries for growth in the short term (next 2 years) and long term (next 10-20 years).
  • Brits are divided over the future role of financial services: 28% think they will get significantly smaller over the coming 10 years while 23% disagree.

The British public vastly overestimates the size of the financial services sector in the British economy

  • When asked to guess what percentage of the UK’s overall economy is made up of financial services, the average estimate from respondents was 45% — nearly half the country’s entire economic output.
  • This compares with an actual figure of approximately 10% of GDP (based on the most recent figures from 2011).
  • Respondents also significantly overestimated the size of the British financial services sector in comparison with manufacturing.
  • When asked to guess what percentage of the UK’s overall economy is made up of manufacturing, the average estimate from respondents was 30% — the reality is approximately 11% of GDP (based on 2009 figures).

In other words, while voters tend to overestimate the size of both sectors, they also believe that financial services play a much larger role in comparison with manufacturing than is really the case in the British economy.

Overall public opinion supports cutting spending less, but there are also predictable differences across party lines

  • 47% of the British public overall thinks the government should cut spending less, 23% that they are getting the balance about right and only 13% that there should be more cuts.
  • Conservatives continue to support the government line on cuts: 54% of Conservatives think the government is getting the balance right on cuts and 26% that they should cut more.
  • Lib Dems are divided: 33% think the balance is about right and 38% say they should cut less.
  • Labour are strongly against: 76% think they should cut spending less.

This article originally appeared on the YouGov-Cambridge site

See the full survey details and results here