Major landscape poll finds strong shift in public attitudes towards tax
Council Tax is second biggest financial worry for UK families after rising utility bills
Big majority think last ten years of higher public spending has been used badly
63% think Ministers lack the experience, competence and knowledge to run public services
Each year, before the start of the party conference season, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) surveys public opinion on our key issues of taxation, spending and better government. The YouGov poll of more than two thousand adults shows big support for lower taxes and strong scepticism of the ability of politicians to manage public services.
You can view a PowerPoint slide show presentation of the main poll findings HERE (PPT, 490k)
(N.B. If you do not have Microsoft PowerPoint, you can still view the presentation by downloading the free MSN PowerPoint Viewer here)
On tax and waste:
Tax features twice in the top five financial worries for British families, with 61% saying the level of council tax was a major financial worry, just behind the cost of utility bills (65%). More than a third (37%) said the rising tax burden was a major financial worry.
A super-majority (77%) of people thought that a fair rate of tax was a quarter of an average household’s income or less. The actual figure for 2006 is 35 per cent.
70% believe they are paying more tax or significantly more tax than in 1997 and only 1 in 10 think they are paying "about the same".
Two-thirds believe that the Government spends too much and therefore taxes were too high. A massive majority of Conservative identifiers (85%) think the government spends too much and therefore taxes too much, but so do half of Labour voters.
A massive majority (79%) think taxes will be higher in three years time than they are now. A mere 2% think taxes will be lower.
A clear majority (53%) think that the government wastes one in every five pounds it spends (more than £100 billion last year).
Council tax has doubled in a decade and is seen as the most unfair tax. The BBC licence fee is seen as the second most unfair tax, followed by inheritance tax. Business taxes and duties on alcohol and tobacco were seen as the fairest taxes.
Of the different types of tax cuts, the most popular tax cut was to lower council tax. There was also strong support for increasing the tax-free personal allowance – a tax cut that benefits all earners but would also take the poorest out of tax altogether. The least popular tax cut was reducing business taxes.
When asked how they would spend a £1,000 tax cut, the most popular option was using it to pay off credit cards and reduce debt. When savings, reducing debt and topping-up a pension are combined, they amount to 54% - with people clearly favouring investing in their own future over spending now.
On government and politicians:
Public scepticism about tax is matched by the view that the present system of government in Britain does not work well. Only 1% agreed that the present system "works extremely well and could not be improved". 62% thought that the present system of government could be improved quite a lot or needed a great deal of improvement. A third thought it could be improved in small ways but mainly works well.
Almost two-thirds (63%) think that few if any senior politicians have the necessary experience, competence and knowledge to run public services, with just 12% thinking that senior politicians do have the necessary skills.
Almost half (49%) think that politicians should not even be involved in setting overall policy on education and health services. This coincides with a similar question in last year’s TPA conference season poll where 60% agreed that "Schools and hospitals are too important to be run by politicians who run things badly..." (ICM, August 2006)
There is even stronger resistance to the practice of politicians attempting to manage the day-to-day delivery of education and health, with 73% saying they should not be involved.
Lessons for the parties:
Two-thirds (65%) think the extra money government has spent on health and education over the last decade has been spent badly, against less than a fifth (19%) who say it has been spent well. More Labour voters think the money has generally been spent badly than spent well.
A clear majority (54%) think the government has got worse at spending taxpayers money over the last decade, with only one in ten (11%) saying it has got better.
When asked what they think causes wasteful spending, big majorities blame bureaucracy (62%) and the habit of constant changes, reorganisations and re-branding (66%).
A super-majority (82%) oppose any increase in the tax burden - a major shift from the 1990s when more supported tax increases to generate extra investment for public services. Now, only 6% would like to see taxes rise and 38% think they should be held at their present level but not rise any further. With this level of opposition, it would be almost impossible for any party to run on a tax-raising platform at an election and win.
The fact that the two main parties now have identical commitments on tax and spend policy is at odds with 44% of the electorate who want the party they support to reduce taxes. This includes 61% of Conservative identifiers compared to less than a third (29%) who want the Party to hold taxes at their present level (the current Conservative Party position).
40% of respondents said a signed public pledge not to increase taxes would make them more likely to vote for their preferred Party, and only 5% said it would make them less likely. A majority of Conservative identifiers (53%) would be more likely to vote for the Tories if they signed a tax pledge.
Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:
“We are entering a new phase in British politics. The public are warming to tax cuts because of the poor returns to higher spending on public services and a strong belief that there are significant amounts of waste in government. Scepticism about the competence of politicians to manage public services has never been so high. Voters want better government and lower taxes and the party that adopts this modern agenda will reap the electoral rewards.”
Notes to Editors:
For more information on the YouGov poll, please call the TPA’s Campaign Director Blair Gibbs on 07790 908 860 or at [email protected].
Established in 2005, The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) is Britain’s independent, grassroots campaign for lower taxes and better government. To find out more about the TaxPayers' Alliance or to download the poll and our analysis, please visit www.taxpayersalliance.com. You can view a PowerPoint slide show presentation of the main poll findings HERE (if you do not have Microsoft PowerPoint, you can still view the presentation by downloading the free MSN PowerPoint Viewer here)
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,162 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th-30th August 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council. Further information at www.yougov.com. The full poll tables are available upon request.