Young voters back benefit cuts, BBC poll suggests

Image caption,
Schools, the NHS and the police were the areas young people most want to protect

Young voters think benefits should be cut to help plug the UK's deficit, a poll for BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat suggests.

The ComRes survey of 1,004 18 to 24-year-olds found 76% thought jobless payments should be cut and 68% said housing benefit had to be reduced.

Some 62% said there was a genuine need to reduce spending, although 78% wanted cuts to be made slowly to give the economy more time to recover.

Ministers will announce what will be targeted on 20 October.

Tough choices

Asked what areas should be protected, 87% of the young adults - who were surveyed between 28 September and 3 October - said the NHS, 82% schools and 81% the police and fire services.

The young voters favoured spending cuts over tax rises by a large margin.

More than three quarters of those polled described the VAT rise to 20% as a bad way to help the government balance the books.

Increasing capital gains tax for higher rate taxpayers was supported by 49% of those polled, with 48% opposed to the measure.

Calls for the £87bn benefits bill to be reduced were shared across UK regions although slightly older voters tended to favour deeper cuts.

Seven in 10 of those surveyed said that imposing a weekly limit of £400 on housing benefits was a good way to reduce the deficit and 90% supported the introduction of medical checks for anyone claiming disability living allowance.

University fees

The young voters were less enthusiastic about policies to reduce other aspects of government spending.

Moves to increase university fees or introduce a graduate tax were only supported by 33%, with 64% against. Some 56% of young people supported raising the retirement age to 66, with 42% opposing the policy.

Policies to scrap government quangos and freeze the pay of public sector workers earning more than £21,000 a year were also not widely supported.

The poll also asked respondents to identify spending areas they wanted to see cut or protected in the upcoming comprehensive spending review.

Front line public services such as the NHS, schools the police and fire service emerged as the most popular to survive unscathed followed by state pensions and defence.

Other welfare payments, new house building, overseas aid and transport were the sectors earmarked by young people for the deepest cuts.

'Tangible services'

Social charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it was not surprising that young people picked out benefits as an area for savings and wanted to protect "tangible" areas such as the police, NHS and schools.

"They are less likely to have been unemployed, to have had health problems, to have had those kind of situations which might mean that they would need benefits," said its poverty programme manager Helen Barnard.

"So it feels like an easier thing to say 'let's cut them' - whereas once they have been though a few more of those situations it might be more obvious why we need that safety net."

The government must be aware that decisions it took now could still be having an impact on young people in 50 years time, she added.

"The other thing the government really has an obligation to do is to think about not just how do we push people into work but what kind of work is there going to be and to really focus on those labour market issues and on getting young people into good quality work that they can progress from."

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