As the consequences of the sensational resignations of Brexit secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson threatened to tear apart Theresa May’s government, a new British Social Attitudes survey finds that Britons are now more united than ever.
The survey, the longest-running public opinion poll in the country and a gold standard of British attitudes found that while Brexit might cost us another government, it has also tempered the public’s attitudes towards immigration, with just 17 percent of Britons believing that immigration would have a negative impact on the economy while over 40 percent believe it would actually enrich Britain’s cultural life.
It seems attitudes towards unemployment benefits are also softening; a majority of the public (71%) believe the minimum wage should be increased, 70% support government top-ups for single parents and 20% feel the government should spend more on welfare for the unemployed – numbers that are at their highest in 15 years.
The survey also found that Labour has far more support among younger voters, while the Conservatives still court older voters. With news this week that Theresa May has hired Kit Malthouse as her Housing Minister – her fourth minister in just two years – a key strategy will be on how to attract these voters to the party through more affordable housing. As homeless charity Shelter identified last year, housing is one of the key indicators of how people vote: young people, denied access to the housing ladder overwhelmingly turned to the Labour party at the last general election. Housing will therefore be the key to turn the youth vote for the Conservatives.
Finally, according to the survey the public are not as concerned about climate change and automation technology replacing their jobs as much as the “experts who work on them” are. While the introduction of automation in the labour market could result in mass unemployment, only 1 in 10 of those surveyed were concerned about the threat it posed to their own jobs. Similarly, only 36% believe climate change is caused by human activity, despite warnings from experts that humans are the major cause.
On a more positive (and slightly lighter) note, the percentage of people who believe that others can almost always or usually be trusted has remained constant, standing currently at 54%.
In 2016, amidst the campaign to leave the European Union, the then justice secretary Michael Gove claimed that British people did not trust experts. If the results of the new British Social Attitudes survey are anything to go by, it seems Gove might have been right: we might not trust experts – but we certainly trust each other.