A YouGov poll for the Fabian society suggests that on average people think the Prime Minister should be paid a salary of £135,000. This is lower than Gordon Brown achieved receives (the PM’s salary is about £187,000) but was higher than the salaries people thought fair for every other group YouGov asked about.
They thought a fair wage for the managing directors of top companies should be around £120,000 – obviously far, far less than the direcctor of a real FTSE 100 company would be paid. Next was best selling authors, who on average the public though should be paid £80,000. GPs were on £70,000 – again far less than the actual average salary of a GP, which is now supposedly just over £100,000. The gap for Premiership footballers was even larger – the public though they should be paid around £62,000, in reality the average is supposedly £676,000. The average wage people thought appropriate for secondary school headteachers was £52,000, lower than their real average of around £63,600.
For the occupations with lower wages that that, the salaries people thought fair were generally above what people actually earn. People thought a police constable should earn around £29,500, compared to around £26,000 in reality, an experienced nurse £33,000 (compared to £26,000), plumbers £28,500 (apparently £24,000), bus drivers £22,500, supermarket check out workers £15,000 (on average apparently £12,000), fast food restaurant workers £14,000.
Does it mean anything? Thinking it would be fair if X got paid more and Y got paid less doesn’t mean we’d actually like to see it enforced. People almost always say nurses are underpaid for the contribution they make, but it doesn’t necessarily follow they’d like to see the cuts in budgets elsewhere or the higher taxes overall that would be required to give them all the big pay rise they think they deserve. The vast majority of people think footballers are overpaid, but I suspect few fans would want to see an enforced salary cap and the resultant flow of premiership stars to foreign countries.
More to the point, I suspect what it is partially reflecting that people on average salaries don’t have a particularly good idea of just how much those at the top of the salary scale earn, or how little those at the bottom take home.