The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now up here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 30%, LAB 40%, LD 11%, UKIP 13%. The bulk of this week’s questions were on benefits (and there is a second YouGov poll in the Sun on Sunday also asking benefit related questions, though tabs for that probably wont be up till tomorrow morning).
Looking at the broad findings, a chunky majority of people think that the present benefit system needs reform in some way. Overall, 70% of people think the current system works badly and needs significant (38%) or major (32%) reform.
However, looking beneath that concern seems to be more widespread about who benefits go to, rather than the level of them (though it would be wrong to deny many were not also concerned about that!). 63% think that the benefit system is not strict enough and too open to fraud, 22% think it is too strict, 9% about right. Compare this to 37% who think it is too generous and benefit payments are too high, 21% who think they are too low and 26% who think they are about right. In previous polling we’ve often seen that overall people want to see less spent on welfare, but are actually well-disposed towards benefits for some groups like the disabled or the elderly – the driver of disatisfaction with the system does seem to be exactly who it goes to.
The YouGov/Sunday Times survey asked people what proportion of welfare they thought went to people who genuinely needed and deserved support, and what proportion went to people who did not deserve it and were taking advantage of the system. 36% of people think that half (23%) or more than half (13%) of people claiming benefits do not deserve help and are taking advantage of the system. A further 42% of people think there are a minority of claimants who are not deserving help. (Again, we’ve seen previously that people vastly overestimate the level of fraud in the system, but this is not actually the same question – people may well think that people are perfectly legally claiming benefits within the current rules, but that the rules should be tighter).
Asking more specifically about some of policy proposals and whether they are fair or not, 78% of people think it is fair to put a £26,000 cap on the benefits a household can receive each year (10% think it unfair) and 59% think it is fair to limit the increase in working-age benefits to 1%, less than the rate of inflation. People are more evenly split over the “bedroom tax” – 47% of people think it is fair that people have their housing benefit reduced if they are considered to have more rooms than they need, 40% think it is unfair. The survey in the Sun had a similar batch of questions that asked if people supported changes, rather than if they were fair/unfair – the results were very similar though – 79% supported the cap on total benefits and opinion on the “bedroom tax” was 49% support/44% oppose.
Asked about the challenge made to Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 pounds a week, only 26% think it would be reasonable to expect someone to live on this amount of money. However when asked about whether it would be reasonable to live on £71 – the current rate of income support or jobseekers allowance for a single adult over the age of 25, 57% of people think it would be reasonable to expect someone to live on this compared to 31% who do not . That said, people are slightly less optimistic about whether they themselves could live on that much money! Only 44% say they could, 48% say they could not.
Incidentally, there was also a question on welfare in the Opinium poll for the Observer. In the Observer’s write up here I was somewhat bemused to find that “When asked for their views on the need for further welfare cuts, just 10% of people said they believed more should be made. Only 14% of Tory supporters backed further welfare reductions compared with 10% of Lib Dems and 5% of Labour supporters”, given how it flew totally in the face of all other polling on the subject. The actual Opinium results are now up here and give a rather different picture – while only 10% think there should be “more cuts”, a further 15% think the government should continue with their present cuts and 57% support a rather “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” option of thinking there should be cuts, but only if they are targetted to protected the poor and disabled. 14% think there should not be any cuts to welfare.