Generation Strains

Ipsos MORI and Demos publish a major new report on attitudes towards welfare across generations. This research was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Generation Strains

Ipsos MORI and Demos publish a major new report on attitudes towards welfare across generations. This research was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. On a range of measures, support for the welfare system has fallen dramatically over the last two decades. This report examines those shifts in detail by looking at changes in attitudes by generation. We found evidence of significant cross-generational solidarity in relation to welfare spending and support for changes to the welfare state that bolsters the link between contribution and entitlement. Key points 

  • It is possible to distinguish between three different types of change in public opinion over time. ‘Period effects’ involve changes across society. ‘Lifecycle effects’ see people’s views change as they go through different life-stages. ‘Cohort effects’ see opinions shift from one generation to the next. 
  •  ?Whilst people’s views do change at different moments in the lifecycle and there are differences in attitudes between generations there is more that unites the generations than divides them.
  • Analysis reveals evidence of cross-generational solidarity and broadly similar values underpinning people’s attitudes and opinions.
  • Political rhetoric and media reporting have contributed to negative perceptions of the welfare system, but there is not enough evidence to conclude that either have been the prime drivers of changes in opinion over time.
  • Different generations emphasise different substantive concerns about the welfare system, but these have a common theme: a desire for reciprocity.
  • Public policy has attempted to reinforce reciprocity through greater conditionality in welfare. However, the public doubt the capacity of the state to enforce conditions and doubt whether welfare claimants will contribute in the long-term.
  • The issue is therefore as much about entitlements as it is about conditions. The decline in support for the welfare system has coincided with the growth of means testing and the dilution of the contributory principle. 

Technical note

This project was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and carried out by researchers at Ipsos MORI and Demos. The research involved a longitudinal analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey by generation, twelve in-depth interviews (three with each of the generations), eight discussion groups (two with each of the generations), a cross generational workshop, and three policymaker roundtables.

It contributes to our wider and on-going project what analyses major datasets by generation, the microsite for which can be found at http://www.ipsos-mori-generations.com/

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