Ipsos MORI have a new survey for the Economist, exploring attitudes to several areas of the new government’s programme.

On nuclear power stations, 59% supported the building of new nuclear power plants to replace those at the end of their useful lives. This was a question that MORI had asked regularly in the past, and was the highest level of support for new nuclear power stations they’ve found so far – the first time over 50% of people supported it. The national citizen’s service programme also met with support. 82% supported a voluntary programme, 80% a compulsory programme (MORI used a split sample to compare attitudes towards whether it should be voluntary or compulsory, but given the sample size the difference is not significant). A majority (60%) also supported the idea that people who refuse a job offer should not be allowed benefits.

MORI also asked about a series of possible ways of saving money. The most popular was ending tax credits for those earning over £50,000 a year, which was supported by 68% – not a hugely surprising finding, taxes (or cuts) that only affect people richer than the respondent are eternally popular. 55% supported the idea of getting voluntary sector organisation to run more training programmes, and 50% supported outsourcing them to the private sector. Much less popular was raising the state pension age (opposed by 60%) or increasing tuition fees (opposed by 62%). On Child Trust Funds, 28% thought they should be abolished altogether, 42% that they should be restricted to only the poorest families.

Perhaps most interesting though were attitudes towards the “big society”. For the actual phrase “Big Society”, 42% of people said they heard about it, but of that 42% only 31% said they knew a great deal or fair amount about it. A third said they’d heard about it, but knew nothing about it. Questions about the thinking behind it revealed divided feelings, 64% of respondents agreed with the statement that the government had tried to do too much, and people should take more responsibility for themselves. However, they also feared that the government may end up doing too little – 50% agreed with the statement that “I am worried that government and public services will do too little to help people in the years ahead”.

People were also less than happy with some of the inevitable consequences of devolving more power to local communities. Asked if NHS services should be same everywhere in Britain, 81% agreed with only 18% thinking people should be able to decide themselves how they are delivered in local areas. This is a paradox we often see in polls on devolving powers locally – ask people if they want more power devolved to local areas, they say yes. Ask if they want the services to be different in different areas – the natural conesquence of this – they say no. It isn’t just because of the unique importance of the NHS either. MORI asked the same question about recycling, and 70% still thought it should be the same everywhere in Britain, with only 29% saying people should be able to decide how it is delivered in their local areas.

MORI also asked directly how many people would like more involvement in how their local schools and hospitals are run. Only between 9-13% said they were actively involved or would like to be, with between 12% and 22% saying they would like more of a say. This seems small, but it’s worth remembering that the concept doesn’t actually need everyone to be a school governor, etc, they just need enough people to get involved to make a difference. The question isn’t whether everyone wants the hassle of involving themselves in decisions over local public servivces – it’s whether they are happy or not for those decisions to end up in the hands of other local people, organisations or businesses rather than Whitehall and Westminster.

897 Responses to “Ipsos MORI on the Big Society”

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  1. @Howard,

    “It’s not ‘Labour’s current economic policy’ it’s Keynes’ from a long time ago.

    If we get another further recession in Italy, Spain, UK, Greece, Netherlands ……….. need I go on?.”

    I know. I was merely commenting on the position taken by the Economist magazine. :-)

  2. @ COLIN

    Thanks – I will investigate further. 8-)

  3. old nat is right about polling in Scotland. There is no hard information other than elections to go on.
    However observers furth of these airts as we say might want to consider a few things (keeping in mind that I am a Labour councillor)
    The current snp policy is to keep the £ then eventually move to the Euro ie we will be initially borrowing in a foriegn currency over which we have no power.
    I think Scots are likely to be worried about that and hesitate to use a protest vote in that direction.
    The mood within the snp seems to be one of introspection following a difficult election for them.
    Linking to the last thread, the Dutch example of difficulties for the traditional centre-right was raised. Howard was right to link this to generational change and a perception of stuffiness. The Dutch example is part of a wider change particularly affecting Northern protestant nations.
    This surely helps to explain the perennial difficulties of the Conservatives in Scotland where the snp offer a folksier populism. But now the same is true of Northern Ireland where the pro-Conservative official unionists were eliminated in favour mainly of again a folksier brand of populism.

  4. @Amber

    City motorway

    Oh how much more we have in common than I thought. What do you think of the new one that will carve through Aberdeenshire? Speed people on to Crump’s golf course?

  5. @ Howard

    Does argh!!!!!!!!! cover it :-(

    Whenever I drive to Aberdeen, I gasp in awe as I come off the bend in the road that reveals this stretch of coastline.

    I am shocked at the motorway plans – & they are actually considering extending the commercial development allowed in this area too!

  6. @ Garry K

    I’ve just read the BBC article about David Laws. I am surprised to say the least.

    This is not really an appropriate place to discuss further, however – except to say, I think it will be damaging for the Dems & a bonus for the Tory right wingers.

  7. @Amber,

    “Whenever I drive to Aberdeen, I gasp in awe as I come off the bend in the road that reveals this stretch of coastline.

    I am shocked at the motorway plans – & they are actually considering extending the commercial development allowed in this area too!”

    That’s not good. :-(

    I was elated to find that the Cons-Lib coalition have abandoned plans to build more runways at Stansted and Gatwick. Many of our local villages, many of which are rather old and picturesque, were going to be bulldozed under previous plans. Now, it seems, we will be free from further future airport (and the resulting road) development – for now at least. 8-)

  8. Amber

    out of interest-do you think Laws should go ( walk or pushed) ?

  9. Howard

    Living in an area with a severe drug problem I’ agree with Sinn Fein.

  10. Of course I meant Trump – it is it up there is it not?

  11. Wolf
    You’ve left me -what are you on about?

  12. “Whenever I drive to Aberdeen, I gasp in awe as I come off the bend in the road that reveals this stretch of coastline.

    I am shocked at the motorway plans – & they are actually considering extending the commercial development allowed in this area too!

    “They” being that well known environmentally committed administration- the SNP.

  13. Amber Star

    Isn’t it nice of those of you in the South (I include Embra in that) to want to keep the North East as a tourist attraction!

    You have tried driving along North Anderson Drive to get north of Aberdeen have you?

    Btw It’s not a motorway, it’s a bypass. You have one of those round Embra as well. Would you like all that traffic pouring through the City Centre again?

    Commercial activity in the North-East? What a horror! Send the peasants back to the crofts, so that Southern Townies can enjoy the view!!!

  14. I don’t want to bore colleagues with my anti road building stuff. Come friendly recession and destroy road buiding projects.

    Hopefully Sir Humphrey is alive and well.

  15. Howard

    “Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go
    By heather tracks wi’ heaven in their wiles. ”

    We Scots don’t need any roads! The tarmac leaves nasty tar stains on our bare feet – far better that we tramp through the heather.

  16. Old Nat
    Proved my point about ‘local decsions’.

    Go ahead and enjoy your concreted Scotland.

  17. @Howard
    Yes its Trump
    I am a councillor in Aberdeen
    The golf course issue has split the Lib Dems in Aberdeenshire Council with 5 leaving to form an Independant Democrat group some of whom have joined the Greens. The snp both locally and in the Scottish government are avidly backing Trump (see earlier post on folksy populism).
    I’m afraid the road referred to is not a “motorway”. We have to go 100 miles or so for that. It is a needed main road.
    The Aberdeenshire situation is an example of the strains in the Lib Demstrying to straddle rural left and right harried by nerveless snp populism.

  18. @ OLD NAT

    You don’t have to defend every SNP decision to the death :-)

    Why not improve the rail network instead?

    Why not go for a real economy instead of a few skivvy jobs at Trump’s golf course & hotel?

    BTW – I am 100% in favour of economic stimulus to the regions in Scotland. I think the lack of regional development following the closure of all the ‘silicon glen’ industries has been woeful. Fife, Livingston & Dundee have never recovered from these closures.

  19. Howard

    Concrete? A Roman thing! What did the Romans ever do for us? Scotland is so much better without all that nasty industry that the Tories and Labour realised was quite unnecessary for us.

    The UK will also be so much better off when the oil industry disappears (bankrupt, but morally pure). In the meantime, a road bypassing Aberdeen would be useful, while we prop up the UK economy.

  20. Barney
    Today’s needed new road is tomorrow’s motorway. but you’ll discover all this in about 10 to 20 years’ time.

    It’s wanted not needed.

  21. Amber Star

    Have a look at Barney Crockett’s comment! The need for an Aberdeen bypass has been recognised as necessary by every party in Government in Scotland (that includes your lot, if you have forgotten).

    It would have been nice if the old pre-devolution Scottish Office (aka as Westminster control) had provided the necessary infrastructure for Aberdeen as it kept the UK afloat, but I suppose that was too much to expect.

    I thought it was obvious that I’m supporting an Aberdeen bypass regardless of which party provides it.

    Labour is such a narrow minded party, that you assume that everyone is as partisan as yourselves.

    (You did welcome me back! :-) )

  22. @ COLIN

    RE: David Laws

    I think he has to go; & I believe the Tory back-benchers will see to it that he does. Cameron treated Tory MPs harshly over expenses violations. He has also disappointed many who hoped for cabinet appointments. They will not accept anything but his removal.

    He should consider himself lucky that the recall legislation has not passed into law, IMO.

  23. @ OLD NAT

    I am not so partisan – I can admit that Labour have made mistakes.

    The tram for Edinburgh is a howler. That money should have gone towards improving things for people in e.g. Fife.

  24. @ Howard @ 10:49

    Strange but true: there is a serious shortage of people who could manage Cobol (less call for Fortran) based legacy systems. :-) I could not believe until recently how many firms and public organisations use them.

  25. Howard

    “Today’s needed new road is tomorrow’s motorway. but you’ll discover all this in about 10 to 20 years’ time.”

    Ah, so that’s why we have motorways covering Scotland’s land mass! Especially these motorways to Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Ayr (strange that I’ve never noticed them).

    You are in grave danger of being the victim of your own propaganda. Yes, in many densely populated areas building additional roads simply increases traffic, but you would be hard put to describe that phenomenon applying to the Aberdeen bypass, or the dualling of the A9.

    I’m quite pleased that the “temporary” traffic lights erected on the road up Loch Lomond to single the traffic round a large rock, are finally being removed and the road improved. They were “temporarily” installed in the 1970s.

  26. Amber Star

    “I can admit that Labour have made mistakes.

    The tram for Edinburgh is a howler.”

    Agreed (and kudos to you for that – but what was your opinion of that decision in 2007? Hindsight is great, but only the SNP saw that the scheme was unrealistic and wanted to stop it.) , but I’m still surprised that SLAB are now even more stridently “oppositionist” than they were when they combined with the other Unionists to push the trams scheme through.

  27. @ Old Nat

    I agree with you. One of the things that makes the English distribution system is extremely effective (and actually cheap – I know, they don’t pay for quite a large proportion of external effects, eg. on the environment) is the road system. So, Scotland should/could have it.

    The only drawback, but it requires some planning, not a strong point in any parts of the UK, what do you do with these roads, when the industry, services, people have moved on. Here in the NW this is rather visible. Nevertheles, it can be done.

  28. @ OLD NAT

    I always thought the tram was a bad decision. Actually, I considered it our punishment for voting ‘no’ to the congestion charge.

    I was against the charge because it would have been unfair to those from outside Edinburgh who must travel here to work. Many of them are just making ends meet as it is.

  29. If I can comment on the original subject…
    There are a few dangers with the Big Society idea. Instead of the government imposing ‘one size fits all’ solutions, local services might end up being dominated by local busybodies – the sort of people who become secretaries of golf clubs and other societies – fussy little men (and women) who like a little bit of power.
    There is also a danger that extremist groups of various kinds could sponsor schools for instance.

  30. Laszlo

    In parts of Scotland, we do have redundant roads and railways – often military in origin. They provide good walking routes.

    If constructed areas are no longer required for their original use, nature reclaims them pretty quickly. Humans often over estimate their importance – as if once we have touched an area, it is irretrievably lost.

  31. @Howard,

    “Today’s needed new road is tomorrow’s motorway. but you’ll discover all this in about 10 to 20 years’ time.

    It’s wanted not needed.”

    I sadly agree.

  32. @ Old Nat

    You are right. I have seen military installations after a few years of disuse in Eastern Europe – nature does reclaim it and often adapts to it.

    But it could be planned (not necessarily by planning bodies…).

  33. Amber Star

    What’s your opinion on the new Forth Crossing? I haven’t made up my mind yet.

    What does seem clear is that the economic shift in Scotland is sensibly returning to the East Coast. The West developed and the East declined as trade with the Empire became most important in the 18th/19th centuries. Now, with Europe as a much more important market, the East Coast is the most sensible location.

    My presumption is that securing the Forth Crossing is critical, but I am open to persuasion.

  34. @ Matt

    I don’t know enough of Scotland, but if there was not such a road network, including motorways, in England, you would have warehouses all over the country running at much lower efficiencies and also depots for lorries and vans turning perhaps during the night.

    It’s a trade off – I don’t know which one is better or if there is an alternative, but the trade offs are always there.

  35. Anyone calling the Economist as a left of center journal does not know his left and right and should go back to school. There is not one ounce of left in the Economist. I have been a subscriber for the last 19 years and I can safely say its a right/liberal journal. Well economic liberal to be more correct.

  36. @ OLD NAT

    If the Forth Crossing is done sensitively (ie without penny pinching; make it an architectural triumph like the 2 bridges we already have), I am in favour of anything that spreads opportunity & wealth more fairly around Scotland.

  37. @ Xiby

    It is a right/liberal journal. But by differentiating itself in the market by providing detailed information and using the language excellently can create odd impressions (just like the FT – I find its reporting often left of most of the dailies, although it’s obviously not).

  38. Is it only me thinks some of these MORI questions are pointless.
    Of course most people want services to be the same everywhere in Britain.
    But of course most people think powers should be more local.
    Of course most people think governments (any) try to do too much.
    But of course people are worried governments (any) do too little to help people.
    Of course most people want people richer than they are to pay more taxes.
    More VI polls please!

  39. @laszlo
    Quite simply you are right. Scotland does have a much less efficient distribution system. This causes prices to be higher including ironically,given old nat’s comments on Aberdeen, petrol.
    One reason for this is that in the 50s and 60s Scottish housing was so bad that local politicians did not want capital spent on construction for anything other than housing.
    Coming back to the issue of snp populism, in Scotland at present we have a hiatus in capital spending based on reliance on a Scottish Futures trust which looks great but just hasn’t managed to take forward projects

  40. barney crockett

    “in Scotland at present we have a hiatus in capital spending”

    Don’t tell me that Labour politicians still see PFI as the magic answer! Just how many future generations’ incomes do you want to be mortgaged for today’s needs (or wants)?

  41. @ OLD NAT

    When Scotland gets revenue raising powers, I am all in favour of a Rebuilding Scotland Tax. Specific projects should be identified & a tax levied. The money should be absolutely ring fenced for these projects.

    When enough has been collected – the projects can start. This is ‘proper’ Keynsianism, IMO 8-)

  42. Just back from Bournemouth pub, heard about David Laws-
    Cameron and Clegg;s first ‘event; Get the Sun tomorro

  43. David Laws – Shocking !!!!!

    New politics?

    Holy Guacomole

  44. Amber Star

    Sounds good to me. If we used our share of UK spend on Trident and foreign wars, that would give us a good start!

  45. wow
    I thought it was difficult to get interest in Scottish situations aroused. How wrong I was
    For those outside of Scotland it will be interesting to note that the coming Scottish Parliamentary election, the biggest on the near horizon will be fought between a polarised Labour – SNP, with Labour on the attack on an incumbent government (in Scotland), with an SNP in somewhat reflective mood,especially on how far to prioritise independance, with Liberals whistling to keep themselves cheerful and Tories frankly desolate (regardless of how things go in England) …. and possibly with little polling!

  46. @Xiby,

    “Anyone calling the Economist as a left of center journal does not know his left and right and should go back to school. There is not one ounce of left in the Economist. I have been a subscriber for the last 19 years and I can safely say its a right/liberal journal. Well economic liberal to be more correct.”

    Yes, it’s economically right-wing, socially left (generally). It supported Labour from 1997-2010.

  47. @Eoin,

    “New politics?”

    There’s never such a thing as ‘new politics’ where politicians are concerned. :-)

  48. barney crockett


    I’d agree that we’re in reflective mood. In May 2011, you may wish that labour had spent a little time being reflective too!

  49. oldnat
    well said
    your optimism of the will is infectious!

  50. @Xiby,

    In fact, if you analyse it, the Economist supports the following:-

    1) Liberal immigration policies.
    2) Increased spending on health and education
    3) Legalising drugs and prostitution.
    4) The use of government stimulus spending during times of economic recession.
    5) Socially liberal policies, such as gay rights.

    I would hardly classify these as ‘centre-right’ policies, Xiby. Having said that, I would agree that the Economist is generally centre-right on economic policy (i.e. the belief in free markets), though there are quite a few exceptions – a few of which I have outlined above. However, it is certainly quite progressive/left-wing on social policy.

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