Talking about my generation
One of the features of modern politics is a growing sense of powerlessness. Increasingly this applies not just to individuals but whole societies. Tax rates are not set according to what most people might prefer, but rather what governments think the wealthy will stand for. Public spending debates are dominated by what the markets, not the voters, will sanction. Solutions to long-term problems, like what to do about our creaking social care system, are put off because ministers prefer to tinker than make a big argument. As a result politics can often feel infuriatingly technocratic.
Sometimes though, we get reminders that politics does still matter. Big changes in public attitudes suddenly reset the parameters that governments have to work within as they respond to big challenges like austerity or ageing. Over on the New Statesman Current Account blog, Bobby Duffy of Ipsos MORI and I ask whether Britain is experiencing one of those moments on attitudes towards welfare. Drawing on data from the Social Attitudes Survey we suggest that there may be a generational shift taking place in attitudes to redistribution of wealth through the tax and benefit system.
As we say, not only are younger generations less supportive of redistribution than older ones, but attitudes appear to remain steady within cohorts over time. There is little sign of a 'lifecycle effect', in which our attitudes become more like those of our parents as we grow older. The implication is that the declining public support for redistributive policies may not be cyclical but rather a glimpse of the future. If the same generational shift is taking place with regard to other parts of the welfare state, such as pensions and elderly care, the effects could be seismic.
Demos and Ipsos MORI will be doing more work on this over the coming months. In the meantime, read the full New Statesman post here.