After seven years of Conservative government-led austerity, a new survey suggests that public sentiment in the U.K. could be changing gears, with support for a tax more, spend more economic model at its highest in a decade.
According to the British Social Attitudes survey, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research, 48 percent of respondents wanted increased taxation to allow for greater spending, four percent more than those who wanted to continue with the status quo.
But while this is the first time since the financial crisis of 2007-8 that a higher tax, higher spend fiscal policy has received such backing, the survey result does not necessarily reflect a total U-turn in public sentiment. The figure falls short of its highs in the 1990s; 63 percent in 1998 and 65 percent in 1991.
Spending public money on health and education remained at the top of respondents’ priority lists.
Alex Greer, research and communications officer for think tank Open Europe warned against drawing clear cut parallels between individual issues featured in the British Social Attitudes survey and the U.K. General Election campaign just gone, in which the Conservative party lost its overall majority while support for the anti-austerity Labour party surged.
Greer pointed out that the survey result “does not represent an historic high” in support for more taxation and spending, though it did reflect “an electorate that was pulled between different pictures” at the General Election.
The British Social Attitudes report also indicated that the U.K.’s euroskepticism had increased since the Brexit vote. After the referendum on European Union membership, roughly three quarters of respondents thought that the U.K. should either leave the EU or if it stayed within the bloc, the institution’s powers should be reduced.
“This represented an increase of 11 points in the proportion (or those surveyed) feeling that way as compared with 12 months earlier,” the report said.