Public demand for Government to help keep prices down reaches record high

New research reveals the impact of the cost of living crisis on the public
New research reveals the impact of the cost of living crisis on the public

Public demand for the Government to intervene in the economy to help keep prices down has reached a record high.

The latest British Social Attitudes report is published by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), which since 1983 has been conducting an annual survey of what people in Britain think about a wide range of social and political issues.

The results of its 2022 survey have been published today and revealed that more than two thirds of the public want the Government to intervene to help keep prices down, marking a rapid rise and record number of Britons believing that it is the Government’s responsibility to control prices.

In 1985, 59 per cent of people surveyed believed this, and by 2006, the proportion dropped to 31 per cent. However, in 2022 the proportion rose dramatically to 68 per cent.

Experts believe that the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, as well as inflation caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have brought about increasing demand for government intervention in the economy.

Responding to the data, David Miles CBE, professor of financial economics at Imperial College, said: “Given the shocks to household real incomes that Covid and the inflation generated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine brought it is not surprising that more people now want government to cushion such blows with price subsidies and income support.

“But both taxes and government borrowing have risen sharply and the constraints the Government faces in providing more support are very tight. Realism about the limits of state capacity is important for democracies to work well.”

The research also revealed the impact of the cost of living crisis on the public. In 1985, 45 per cent of people believed that it was definitely the Government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between rich and poor. By 2006, only 25 per cent expressed that view. However, by 2022, following the financial crash and pandemic, that figure rose to a record high of 53 per cent.

The NatCen data also reveal an increasing demand for spending on defence. In 1990, only 8 per cent of people felt that defence spending should be increased. However, by 2022, this figure went up to 42 per cent.

The figures come amid government cuts to defence spending. In 2021, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would cut troop numbers from 82,000 to 73,000 by 2025, its smallest size since the Napoleonic era.

Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen said: “There are two key points politicians will want to note as they consider how to frame their appeals for the next general election. The pandemic and the cost of living crisis seem to have left the public rather more inclined than at some points in the past to look to government to solve the problems they and the country face.

“Yet, despite this apparent enhanced appetite for ‘bigger government’, people now expect to be able to live their own lives and look to government to facilitate that desire rather than stand in the way. In the coming months politicians will need to think carefully about when they propose to intervene and when they suggest that government should stand back.”