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Londoners hold distinct views to the rest of Britain – but bear striking similarities with Scots

18 July 2018 | Tags: Trust, London, Attitudes, Gender, Politics

Londoners hold distinct views to the rest of Britain but share substantial common ground with Scots, according to new findings by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

The report What Britain thinks – comparing views across London and other regions, commissioned by Trust for London, shows that despite different demographic profiles with respect to age, ethnicity and country of birth, Londoners’ attitudes were closely aligned with Scots. There are substantial numbers of people on the left of the political spectrum across Britain but more Londoners (58%) and Scots (60%) fall to the left than the Welsh (57%), Northerners (51%) and Southerners (46%).  

In addition, both are more likely to fall on the pro-welfare end of the welfare scale (41% and 43%, respectively vs 16-29% in the South, North and Wales), less likely to think that unemployment benefits are too high (38% and 43% respectively vs 48%-54%) and most inclined to sympathise with benefit claimants (42% vs 28-38%). Those on the anti-welfare end of the scale comprised a small proportion of all regions, with the smallest proportion in London (6% vs 12-14% in other regions).

Over half (51%) of Londoners and 48% of Scots are more engaged in politics than people in other regions (35-48%). However, whereas Londoners have always shown more interest in politics, Scotland’s current high level is a more recent development and marks a 26% jump from 2011.

Londoners and Scots are more liberal than the rest of the Britain (20% and 18% vs 7-12% in other regions). Londoners are also substantially less likely to agree that criminals deserve stricter sentences (53% vs 65%-73% in other regions) and least in favour of the death penalty (29% vs 41-51% in all other regions). Paradoxically, views on sexuality represent one of the starkest contrasts between Londoners and Scots, with the former giving a much lower level of agreement to the statement that pre-marital sex is rarely or never wrong (73% vs 82%), also lagging behind the Welsh (93%), Southerners (89%) and Northerners (85%).

Yet, the findings also reveal a few interesting similarities in attitudes and beliefs between Londoners and the rest of Britain. Most notably, education and work appear to be areas of common ground, with respondents from all regions recommending that young people pursue A-level qualifications (49% London, 37% South, 37% North, 39% Wales, 42% Scotland). This reflects a sharp decline from 2002, when 62% of Londoners said they would do so.

Highlighting changing traditional gender roles across all of Britain, 58% of Londoners disagree that ‘a husband’s job is to earn money, a wife’s job is to look after the home and family’, on par with all other regions (55-61%). When it comes to supporting increases in tax and public spending, Londoners are even more closely aligned with England and Wales than with their Scottish counterparts, (46% London, 43% Wales, 45% South, 50% North, 62% Scotland) – support for tax and spend has increased across Britain, from a low of 31% in 2010 to  49% in 2016. How taxes should be spend on social benefits varies though, with more Londoners supporting an increase in child benefits than people in other regions (24% vs 9-15%) and less likely to favour government spend on retirement pensions. Nevertheless, around one-third of respondents across all regions name disabled benefits as their top social benefits spending priority.

Additional key findings include:

  • Londoners (45%) and Scots (54%) are more likely to want the government to encourage people to take up benefits they are entitled to rather than work to stop benefit fraud (30-36% in other regions).
  • London and Scotland see a significant increase in the number of left-affiliated individuals since 1998 (London 49% vs 58%, Scotland 56% vs 60%)
  • Nearly one-third (30%) of Britain has complete confidence or a great deal of confidence in the British school system, with Londoners’ views matching those in other regions
  • 95% of Londoners believe that paid work is good for mental health, similar to other regions (92-96%)
  • Londoners were significantly less likely than those in other regions to report that they felt they were living comfortably on their current income (44% compared with 53-56% in other regions).

Commenting on the findings, Neil Smith, Research Director at Natcen said “While there are clear distinctions in the way Londoners think about certain social and political issues, in quite a few instances - despite the geographical distance and the different make-ups of our populations - Londoners share more in common with the Scots than with their regional neighbours. Both are more likely to be engaged in politics, have the greatest proportion of left-affiliated individuals, are more likely to fall on the pro-welfare end of the scale, and are most inclined to sympathise with benefit claimants.”

Bharat Mehta, CEO at Trust for London, adds: “The findings show that the views of Londoners are different from people in other regions, however, not as different as you might expect. Part of the story is the striking similarities between the attitudes of Londoners and those of Scots. The other part, is how on important issues like equality, education and public spending, Londoners hold comparable views to everyone else. This research highlights that when it comes to social and political attitudes, there are common threads running across Britain.”


About Trust for London

Trust for London is a charity that works to tackle London’s social issues. It does this by funding community and voluntary groups and at any one time is funding around 300 organisations across London. It provides £8 million in grants annually.

It also funds research from academics and think tanks, which is widely used by policymakers and journalists.