A landmark study of public opinion in the UK post the General Election has found that there is widespread support for Labour’s nationalisation agenda and much less support for free enterprise.
Public opinion in the post-Brexit era—written by our Senior Fellow Matthew Elliott and co-authored with Populus’ James Kanagasooriam—paints an unvarnished picture of what the public think about enterprise, regulation, big business, banks, nationalisation, capitalism and socialism, suggesting that support for capitalism is in crisis. It suggests that economic attitudes in the country are further to the left than is widely appreciated, posing a challenge for those who have seen at first hand the power of competition, entrepreneurship and free trade to drive prosperity.
This report is the beginning of a new phase of work at the Legatum Institute. Having published reports on the Dutch, French and German elections this year, looking at right-wing populists such as Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and the Alternative für Deutschland, Matthew Elliott will now be looking more closely at left-wing populists. This research will not just cover Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but also Bernie Sanders in the US, the GreenLeft in the Netherlands, Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France and The Left in Germany. Having witnessed the growing popularity of populist ideas, we intend to explore the reasons for these attitudes and identify what can be done—by opinion-formers, politicians and the public —to explain the case for free enterprise more effectively.
Read the paper here.
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- Public opinion in the post-Brexit era: Economic attitudes in modern Britain [PDF]
- By Matthew Elliott & James Kanagasooriam
- October 2017
- Published by the Legatum Institute
The findings are based on a landscape poll conducted at the end of the summer by Populus, which indicates that the majority of the British public:
- Favour public ownership of the UK’s water (83%), electricity (77%), gas (77%) and railway (76%) sectors (Fig. 3.2a, p.15)
- Believe taxes should rise to provide more funding for the NHS (Fig. 3.3b, p.19)
- Support higher levels of regulation (Fig. 3.3a, p.18)
- Favour wage caps for CEOs (Fig. 3.4a, p.22)
- Favour worker representation at senior executive and board level (Fig. 3.4a, p.22)
- Support the abolition of zero hour contracts (Fig. 3.3a, p.18)
- Hold an unfavourable view of ‘capitalism’ as a concept, viewing it as ‘greedy’, ‘selfish’ and ‘corrupt’ (Fig 3.1a, p. 9)
- Hold a more favourable view of ‘socialism’ than ‘capitalism’ (Fig 3.1f, p. 12)
Commenting on the report, the Legatum Institute’s Matthew Elliott said:
“The findings of our polling are concerning for anyone committed to the principles of free enterprise. Competition entrepreneurship and free trade are all essential to achieving prosperity, not to simply generate profit for businesses, but to extend opportunity to all.
“Whilst for many the result of this year’s General Election came as a shock, our polling points to a deep undercurrent of frustration which has been fermenting since the financial crisis.
“It is clear that those of us who believe passionately in free enterprise need to up our game. We need to redouble our effort in the battle of ideas, because populist thinking has a superficial attraction and we need to better articulate the case for free enterprise, which is the most effective path to prosperity.”
Read the paper here.