1 in 3 Britons say affording energy bills has been difficult in the past three months

New Ipsos poll in partnership with Sky News shows high levels of public concern about the rising cost of living, with one in three saying it has been difficult to afford their energy bill.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
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  • 9 in 10 Britons say they are concerned about the impact of the cost of living on themselves or the country as a whole
  • Many struggling to afford bills even before the price cap rises further

New research by Ipsos in the UK, taken 22nd – 24th August, shows high levels of public concern about the rising cost of living, with one in three saying it has been difficult to afford their energy bill before the expected further rise in the energy cap.

1 in 3 say it has been difficult paying their bill

  • 32% of Britons tell Ipsos it has been difficult for their household to afford paying their energy bills in the past three months.
  • This rises to 47% among those in households earning less than £20k a year and 38% among those in households earning £20k to under £35k.
  • Families have also struggled. 37% of those with children in the household say it has been difficult paying their bills.

One in three say they have found it difficult to afford their energy bills in the past three months, lower income groups and those living with children particularly impacted - Ipsos

  • In this context, it is no surprise than 9 in 10 (92%) are concerned about the impact of the rising cost of living on the country as a whole (up 3 points from May), 88% are concerned about the impact on themselves personally (+5 pts) and 84% are concerned about the impact on people in the area they live (+5pts).

What are Britons doing / do they expect to do in response?

As concern remain sky-high, we see Britons take their own steps to reduce their own cost of living. Since the start of the year, people are most likely to have started going out socialising less (54%), changed their regular supermarket to a cheaper alternative (49%) or driven their car less (48%) in response. Meanwhile, not turning the heating on when they normally would have (47%) and using price comparison websites to find cheaper energy suppliers (43%) are also popular actions.
Common responses to the rise in cost of living are socialising less or shopping around for better deals but some are skipping meals and incurring more debt - Ipsos
Looking forward, 3 in 10 workers expect to work more hours at their current job because of the rising cost of living, while the same proportion of Britons in general expect to sell some of their personal belongings (30%). Around 1 in 5 of those already in work may take on a second job (21%) while similar proportions will ask for a pay rise from their employer (20%) or (if not in work) seek employment/get a job (18%).

Over the next six months, three in ten of those in work expect to put in longer hours, and the same proportion of Britons overall expect to sell some personal belongings - Ipsos

How are Britons trying to reduce their bills?

Meanwhile, over the past 3 months, Britons have been taking specific actions to reduce their energy bills / save money generally. Almost 9 in 10 have been turning lights off when leaving a room (87%) at least once a week, while three-quarters have turned electrical goods off when not in use (75%). Around 2 in 3 are using less hot water (67%) at least once a week and half are not turning their heating on when they usually would have (49%) at least once a week.

Many are regularly turning lights off or using less hot water to save money. Some are often skipping meals - Ipsos

In an effort to try and reduce their energy bills, 4 in 10 (39%) have used price comparison websites to look for a cheaper supplier in the last 3 months while 36% have installed a smart meter at home. Three in 10 (29%) are using savings to pay an energy bill while around 1 in 5 have either asked for a pay rise (21% of those currently in work) or set up a payment plan with their energy supplier (20%).

Many are shopping around to look for cheaper energy suppliers or installing smart meters but others are going into debt or using savings to pay their bills - Ipsos

Which policies are supported by the public?

While many have discussed the best ways to help the British public cope with the rising cost of living, freezing the energy price cap at its current level is the most popular in this poll with 65% selecting it as one of the best solutions, while almost 6 in 10 say the same for cutting VAT on energy bills (57%). Half support imposing a one-off tax on energy supplier’s profits (50%) while around 4 in 10 are in favour of extending government-funded discounts on energy bills (41%), removing the green levy on energy bills (40%) or providing additional support from government to people on benefits and pensioners (40%).

Two in three say freezing the energy price cap at its current level is the best way to help Britain cope with the rising cost of living. Cutting VAT on bills and imposing a ‘windfall tax’ are also well supported - Ipsos


Who would you trust to reduce cost of living?

While all individuals included in the poll are not trusted by a majority of people, Keir Starmer is slightly more trusted than either of the potential Conservative Party leaders, or the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While 4 in 10 (39% vs. 51% who distrust) trust Starmer to reduce the cost of living, 36% say the same for Rishi Sunak (55% don’t trust), 32% for Boris Johnson (62% distrust) and 28% for Liz Truss (61% say they do not trust her).

Kelly Beaver MBE, Chief Executive of Ipsos in the UK and Ireland, said:

We’ve known for some time that the public are concerned about the rising cost of living but these findings highlight the extent of that concern. 1 in 3 are finding it difficult to pay their bills before the new price cap is set, with families and lower income households particularly affected but not the only ones. So government and policy makers should be left in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge we face this winter.

Technical note
Ipsos interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,000 adults aged 18-75 in Great Britain. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus on 22nd-24th August 2022. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs

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