75% of people concerned with influence of the wealthy on the political system
68% say the government should do more to tax high net worth individuals
Eight in 10 Brits (79%) are concerned that the wealthy don’t contribute their fair share of taxes, according to new polling from the Fairness Foundation. This figure rises to 86% of people who voted Labour in the 2019 election, compared to 79% of Conservative voters. These responses came after survey respondents were shown figures on wealth inequality in the UK (the richest 20% of the UK population own 63% of the country’s wealth, while the poorest 20% own 0.6%).
Seventy five percent of people (including 72% of 2019 Tory voters and 82% of 2019 Labour voters) are concerned that people with net wealth of £10m or more have too much influence on the political system.
More than two in three people (68%) think the government should be doing more to tax high-net-worth individuals (those with net wealth of £10m or above), including 64% of 2019 Tory voters and 77% of 2019 Labour voters.
People are worried about the socio-economic impacts of wealth inequality: 69% of people are concerned that some people in the UK are very wealthy while others live in poverty, while 65% are concerned about unequal opportunities to accumulate wealth.
The polling also found that most people think that opportunities to make money aren't evenly spread, and that many have achieved their wealth more through luck than by hard work.
We explored what people think about different ways of accumulating wealth, asking for views on five issues (equal opportunity, the role of merit vs luck, fairness of outcomes, societal impact and tax contributions) for seven characters who have ‘earned’ £5m in different ways: the new-money heir, the old-money heir, the landlord, the entrepreneur, the investor, the finance whizz and the sports star.
Some of our findings were unsurprising: people are generally positive about entrepreneurs, and largely negative about city traders (finance whizzes) and about those who have inherited money from families that have been wealthy for many generations.
But they are also broadly positive about landlords, and fairly negative about sports stars. Respondents’ own levels of wealth did not have a significant impact on their views about these seven characters, in most cases.
The findings come against a backdrop of very high wealth inequality in the UK. The richest fifth of the population own 63% of the country’s wealth while the poorest fifth own 0.6%. Men have 40% more wealth than women. White households are four times more likely to have more than £500,000 in wealth than Black African households. Total net household wealth as a share of national income has roughly doubled in the last 30 years, although most this has occurred as a result of increases in the value of existing wealth rather than through productive work that has benefited the wider economy.
Will Snell, chief executive of the Fairness Foundation, said: “We know that people get exercised about inequality when they see it as unfair. Our new research shows that most people think that our society and economy is unfair, and it provides some intriguing clues as to why this is. They’re concerned about people becoming wealthy through luck rather than hard work, about the gap between rich and poor, about people not having fair opportunities to acquire wealth, and about the wealthiest in society not paying their way or playing by the same rules as everyone else. Politicians of all parties should treat these concerns seriously and consider how they can take meaningful steps to address them.”
Gary Stevenson, the inequality economist and former city trader, added: “People don’t realise that the growing wealth of the wealthy comes at their expense, and that’s a big problem. Some think it’s the politics of envy, but ultimately the issue is about how resources are distributed during a time of limited economic growth.”
- The full report, National Wealth Surplus, is available online at https://fairnessfoundation.com/national-wealth-surplus.
- The Fairness Foundation is running a webinar to discuss the findings on Tuesday 23 May at 11am, with an expert panel comprising Polly Toynbee (Guardian columnist), Dr Lucy Barnes (Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at University College London), Gary Stevenson (inequality economist and former city trader), and Will Snell (Chief Executive of the Fairness Foundation). Media are welcome to attend.
- The Fairness Foundation aims to change the terms of the public debate about fairness, to promote the benefits of a fair society, and to inspire citizens, organisations and decision-makers to create a fairer society. For more information see https://fairnessfoundation.com.
- Fieldwork was carried out by Opinium between 26 and 28 April, with a nationally representative sample of 2,053 adults across the UK, weighted to nationally representative criteria and various political criteria. The order of options presented in each question was randomised. Participants were shown an information box about wealth inequality in the UK halfway through the survey: The richest 20% of the UK population own 63% of the country’s wealth, while the poorest 20% own 0.6%.
- Demographic breakdowns are available on the report webpage for every answer to every question, covering voting intention, 2019 general election vote, 2016 referendum vote, gender, age, region, ethnicity, level of education, social grade, household income, employment status and wealth. The full dataset is here.
- Interviews with Will Snell, chief executive of the Fairness Foundation, are available.
- Please contact Becky Slack at email@example.com or on +44 (0)7854221568.