A national Prospect/YouGov poll shows Britain to be deeply concerned about civil unrest and long-term unemployment: and in favour of national civic serviceby James Crabtree / March 1, 2009 / Leave a comment
Discuss the poll at First Drafts, Prospect ‘s website
It seems that we Brits are in a deep funk—even by our habitually glum standards. Prospect asked pollsters YouGov to gauge views about the current slump. Astonishingly, more than one third of respondents predicted riots similar to those sparked in Greece in December, with 37 per cent agreeing that “there will be serious social unrest in British cities,” requiring the army to restore order. Older citizens—those with the longest memories, perhaps—are most pessimistic of all, with nearly half fearing trouble on the streets.
2,270 adults were polled across England, Scotland and Wales, with interviews conducted between the 10th and the 12th February 2009. Unsurprisingly, worries about a return to mass unemployment are also rife—the results show that three quarters of us think Britain is heading for lengthening dole queues, with 73 per cent agreeing that “there will be a return to mass unemployment, not just for a year or two, but for many years to come.”
Scepticism was expressed, too, over Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” pledge, with only about a third thinking the government would “introduce some limits on free trade to help protect British jobs.” Doubt is also visible over whether recent banker bonus scandals would tempt politicians to push for more social equality. Less than half thought that the crash would “lead to a less unequal society” in which rewards at the top would be curbed by the state.
The poll also suggests a more selfish future, with people looking out for themselves. Fifty-eight per cent agreed that the weak economy will mean that people are less willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the environment. Surprisingly, this rejection of environmental altruism was most pronounced among wealthier respondents, normally thought more willing to go the extra mile for green causes.
But if respondents seem to profess little faith in government—and even less in the economy—one bright light was a willingness to consider radical measures to get Britain out of the slump. Keen to check the nation’s pulse on the topic of this month’s cover story, Prospect asked about public support for a new mandatory period of civic service for young people in response to the recession. To our surprise, a clear majority—64 per cent—backed the idea, even among the youngest age groups, strongly suggesting that even in gloomy times, you can’t beat a bit…