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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 02:17 GMT
'Great changes' in UK attitudes
British shopping street
Britons have more money than 20 years ago, the study says
The attitudes and lifestyles of Britons have changed significantly in the past 20 years, according to a wide-ranging study of 50,000 people.

It said Britons have hardened their views of the welfare state, but are more likely to favour sexual equality and to take part in political protests.

The report also highlighted areas of little change, with support for the NHS and state education still strong.

The British Social Attitudes study said views on the euro remain "sceptical".

The report is the 20th to be produced by the National Centre for Social Research.

It said Britain was a "very different place" to the state it surveyed in 1983, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, Aids had just hit the headlines and compact discs were the latest technology.

Higher taxes

The biggest change in attitudes towards the welfare state was seen among the young.

In 1983 those aged 18-34 were 5% more likely than the over 50s to support higher taxes and increased public spending.

UK transport: survey findings
60% think trains are fast
40% think trains are frequent enough
65% say fares unreasonable
One in three says trains have good safety record
60% travel by car daily

But today they are 9% less likely to favour such an approach, although support for such a policy among the population as a whole had doubled to 63%.

"Support for higher public spending has risen among Conservative voters, while we have found that Labour voters have hardened their attitudes towards benefits claimants," researchers said.

Growing support for increased spending has developed alongside increased dissatisfaction with the NHS, the report added.

Two decades ago almost six out of 10 people were satisfied with the health service, compared to four out of 10 today.

Income gap

Another big change in the lifestyles of Britons has been an increase in the number of people on what they consider as a "comfortable" wage.

Four out of 10 people say they now live well on their income, compared to just a quarter of people 20 years ago.

Racism: survey findings
In 1987 40% admitted racial prejudice
This fell to 25% in 2001
The figure rose to 31% in 2002
Study suggests rise down to 11 September and asylum
Ethnic minority population up 53% since 1991

Today, 16% of Britons struggle to get by, compared to 25% in 1983.

Despite this the majority of people remain "intolerant" of the income gap between rich and poor, with most of those questioned "favouring a dramatic lowering of salaries for higher income earners".

The number of working mothers with children with under fives had increased from 48% to 57%, and people were more supportive of them.

But researchers said 35% of working women came home too tired to get things done, compared to 22% of men.

Equally talented

About three quarters of people said more students from less advantaged backgrounds should be given the opportunity to go to university, the study said.

But only 3% of people thought such a student would be favoured for a place above an equally talented candidate from a well-off home.

The irony of that is that (Mr Blair) may just have made it easier for the Conservatives to regain power in the future
Professor John Curtice

Turning to political participation, researcher Professor John Curtice warned there was a danger the opinions of the less well educated would not be heard.

He said turnout at elections was at its lowest since 1918, giving greater importance to demonstrations, petitions and marches - which were the preserve of university graduates.

But the report also highlighted what it saw as Labour's drift towards Tory values under Tony Blair.

It said a decline in the number of party supporters favouring income redistribution was one example of a shift towards the centre.

"The irony of that is that (Mr Blair) may just have made it easier for the Conservatives to regain power in the future", researcher Professor John Curtice said.

Prejudice 'okay' survey finds
30 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Young 'not turned off' by politics
04 Dec 02  |  Politics

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