Londoners and Scots share distinct social views, finds research

By agency reporter
July 21, 2018

Londoners hold distinct views to the rest of Britain but share substantial common ground with Scots, according to new findings by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

The report What Britain thinks – comparing views across London and other regions, commissioned by Trust for London, shows that despite different demographic profiles with respect to age, ethnicity and country of birth, Londoners’ attitudes were closely aligned with Scots. There are substantial numbers of people on the left of the political spectrum across Britain but more Londoners (58 per cent) and Scots (60 per cent) fall to the left than the Welsh (57 per cent), Northerners (51 per cent) and Southerners (46 per cent).  

In addition, both are more likely to fall on the pro-welfare end of the welfare scale (41 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively vs 16-29 per cent in the South, North and Wales), less likely to think that unemployment benefits are too high (38 per cent and 43 per cent respectively vs 48 per cent-54 per cent) and most inclined to sympathise with benefit claimants (42 per cent vs 28-38 per cent). Those on the anti-welfare end of the scale comprised a small proportion of all regions, with the smallest proportion in London (6 per cent vs 12-14 per cent in other regions).

Over half (51 per cent) of Londoners and 48 per cent of Scots are more engaged in politics than people in other regions (35-48 per cent). However, whereas Londoners have always shown more interest in politics, Scotland’s current high level is a more recent development and marks a 26 per cent jump from 2011.

Londoners and Scots are more liberal than the rest of the Britain (20 per cent and 18 per cent vs 7-12 per cent in other regions). Londoners are also substantially less likely to agree that criminals deserve stricter sentences (53 per cent vs 65 per cent-73 per cent in other regions) and least in favour of the death penalty (29 per cent vs 41-51 per cent in all other regions). Paradoxically, views on sexuality represent one of the starkest contrasts between Londoners and Scots, with the former giving a much lower level of agreement to the statement that pre-marital sex is rarely or never wrong (73 per cent vs 82 per cent), also lagging behind the Welsh (93 per cent), Southerners (89 per cent) and Northerners (85 per cent).

Yet, the findings also reveal a few interesting similarities in attitudes and beliefs between Londoners and the rest of Britain. Most notably, education and work appear to be areas of common ground, with respondents from all regions recommending that young people pursue A-level qualifications (49 per cent London, 37 per cent South, 37 per cent North, 39 per cent Wales, 42 per cent Scotland). This reflects a sharp decline from 2002, when 62 per cent of Londoners said they would do so.

Highlighting changing traditional gender roles across all of Britain, 58 per cent of Londoners disagree that ‘a husband’s job is to earn money, a wife’s job is to look after the home and family’, on par with all other regions (55-61 per cent). When it comes to supporting increases in tax and public spending, Londoners are even more closely aligned with England and Wales than with their Scottish counterparts, (46 per cent London, 43 per cent Wales, 45 per cent South, 50 per cent North, 62 per cent Scotland) – support for tax and spend has increased across Britain, from a low of 31 per cent in 2010 to  49 per cent in 2016. How taxes should be spend on social benefits varies though, with more Londoners supporting an increase in child benefits than people in other regions (24 per cent vs 9-15 per cent) and less likely to favour government spend on retirement pensions. Nevertheless, around one-third of respondents across all regions name disabled benefits as their top social benefits spending priority.

Additional key findings include:

  • Londoners (45 per cent) and Scots (54 per cent) are more likely to want the government to encourage people to take up benefits they are entitled to rather than work to stop benefit fraud (30-36 per cent in other regions).
  • London and Scotland see a significant increase in the number of left-affiliated individuals since 1998 (London 49 per cent vs 58 per cent, Scotland 56 per cent vs 60 per cent)
  • Nearly one-third (30 per cent) of Britain has complete confidence or a great deal of confidence in the British school system, with Londoners’ views matching those in other regions
  • 95 per cent of Londoners believe that paid work is good for mental health, similar to other regions (92-96 per cent)
  • Londoners were significantly less likely than those in other regions to report that they felt they were living comfortably on their current income (44 per cent compared with 53-56 per cent in other regions).

Commenting on the findings, Neil Smith, Research Director at Natcen said “While there are clear distinctions in the way Londoners think about certain social and political issues, in quite a few instances – despite the geographical distance and the different make-ups of our populations – Londoners share more in common with the Scots than with their regional neighbours. Both are more likely to be engaged in politics, have the greatest proportion of left-affiliated individuals, are more likely to fall on the pro-welfare end of the scale, and are most inclined to sympathise with benefit claimants.”

Bharat Mehta, CEO at Trust for London, adds: “The findings show that the views of Londoners are different from people in other regions, however, not as different as you might expect. Part of the story is the striking similarities between the attitudes of Londoners and those of Scots. The other part, is how on important issues like equality, education and public spending, Londoners hold comparable views to everyone else. This research highlights that when it comes to social and political attitudes, there are common threads running across Britain.”

* National Centre for Social Research


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