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22 September 2022

How public support for tax and spend has surged

Fifty two per cent of voters support higher taxes and public spending, and just 6 per cent want them cut.

By Katharine Swindells

Over half of the British public want taxes and public spending to be increased, while just 6 per cent want them to be decreased.

The latest British Social Attitudes survey, which polled people in autumn 2021, found that 52 per cent of Britons believed taxes should be increased and that there should be more public spending in areas such as health, education and social security.


The shift in favour of greater state intervention in recent years could reflect changing public priorities in the face of the rising cost of living. Even among Conservative supporters the BSA survey found that 46 per cent believed taxes and spending should be increased, compared with 61 per cent of Labour Party supporters.

In 2011, a year after the Conservatives returned to office, just 36 per cent of the British public believed taxes and spending should be increased, while a far higher proportion – 54 per cent – believed they should be kept the same. Polling experts call this trend a “thermostatic reaction”, whereby voters respond to government action. In the 1990s the public shifted in favour of public spending in response to the Conservatives’ austere policies, then opinion shifted in the opposite direction as Labour increased public spending in the 2000s.

[See also: Why Liz Truss can’t be a 21st-century Thatcher

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