UK public ‘sympathetic’ to people in poverty

People in the UK are more likely to feel sympathy for people in poverty than their counterparts in the USA, France or Germany, according to the results of an opinion survey summarised exclusively in the Guardian newspaper.

The results derive from a YouGov online poll conducted between 28 March and 4 April 2013, involving over 6,000 adults (1,994 in the UK, 1,220 in the USA, 990 in France and 2,101 in Germany).

Key poll findings

  • Asked about their government's approach to 'the workless', 36 per cent of UK adults say the approach is too harsh, compared with 38 per cent who say it is not tough enough. Attitudes in the other three countries are much more punitive, with sizeable majorities favouring harsher treatment.
  • 78 per cent of people in the UK think it is the government's job to 'help poor children get ahead'. This is broadly in line with France (77 per cent) and Germany (87 per cent), and is well ahead of attitudes in the USA (just 50 per cent).
  • Similarly, 74 per cent of people in the UK think the government should provide a 'minimum income for all', compared with 74 per cent in France, 76 per cent in Germany and 50 per cent in the USA.
  • Fewer people generally think their government should be promoting income redistribution, though UK opinion (52 per cent in favour) is still much closer to France (62 per cent) and Germany (54 per cent) than to the USA (just 32 per cent).
  • Asked whether they would 'support an increase in the funding of government programmes for helping the poor and the unemployed with education, training, employment, and social services, even if this might raise your taxes', UK adults said they would, by a majority of 35 points (54 per cent for, 19 per cent against). This was a bigger majority than in France (26 points) and in the USA (23 points). In Germany the margin in favour was just two points.
  • On top salaries, 47 per cent of UK adults think annual salaries of £300,000 or more are 'too high', compared with 36 per cent finding them 'acceptable'. In France and Germany the equivalent salary is considered excessive by majorities of over three to one. Only in the USA is there net approval, by 44 to 31 per cent.

SourceThe Guardian, 15 April 2013
LinksGuardian report