Cigarettes

New polling shows attitudes towards the nanny state

A new poll for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) conducted by ComRes finds significant opposition to sin taxes and majority agreement that the government should not interfere in individuals’ lifestyle choices.

HEADLINE FIGURES

•    Seven in ten (70%) British adults say it should be the individual’s responsibility to make their own lifestyle choices and the government should not interfere. Looking at those expressing a preference, this figure rises to over 80%.

•    Half of Britons (51%) believe indirect taxes are too high, rising to seven in ten (69%) among only those who declared a preference. Eight in ten (78%) giving an opinion believe they hit the poorest the hardest.

•    A majority of Britons believe the government should not offer financial incentives to people who are trying to lose weight (61%), stop smoking (60%) or stop drinking excessively (62%).

•    If the traditional Westminster parties are looking to win back votes from UKIP, it should be noted that UKIP voters are the most hostile to government intervention on lifestyle choices across the board. Over 60% of UKIP voters support allowing pubs to have smoking rooms, whilst over two thirds think sin taxes are too high.

GOVERNMENT OR INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY

•    The belief that it should be the individual’s responsibility to make their own lifestyle choices is more widely felt among UKIP (82%) and Conservative (74%) voters than Labour (68%) and Liberal Democrats (64%).

•    Liberal Democrat (41%) and Labour voters (33%) are more likely than Conservative (28%) and UKIP (23%) to think it is the government’s responsibility to influence behaviour by regulating and taxing high-calorie food and drink.

•    The balance of public opinion leans towards saying the government interferes too much in trying to make people adopt healthy lifestyles with two in five (38%) British adults saying this. Just one in five (21%) Britons believe there should be more government regulation to stop people from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.

•    Around six in ten (58%) UKIP voters say the government interferes too much in trying to make people adopt healthy lifestyles, compared to 33% of Conservatives, 36% of Labour voters and 23% of Liberal Democrats.

•    Just a fifth (19%) of 18-24 year olds believe the government interferes too much in lifestyles, as opposed to half (48%) of 55-64 year olds.

SMOKING BAN

•    Half (51%) of Britons believe owners of pubs and private members clubs should be allowed to have a private room for people to smoke in if they want to, with 35% disagreeing. Of those expressing a preference, this figure rises to 59%. UKIP voters are the most likely to agree (62%).

FAT TAXES

•    Half (49%) of all British adults oppose a new tax on fizzy drinks which would likely increase their price. This rises to 57% of those giving an opinion.

•    Similarly, half (50%) of Britons and six in ten (59%) of those expressing a preference oppose a new tax on food and drink containing high levels of sugar and salt which would likely increase their price.

INDIRECT TAXES

•    Half of Britons (51%) and seven in ten expressing an opinion (69%) think indirect taxes are too high. Six in ten Britons (60%) believe they hit the poorest the hardest, rising to eight in ten expressing a preference.

•    Just one in five Britons (22%) believe indirect taxes are an effective way of stopping people making unhealthy lifestyle choices, with 56% disagreeing.

•    Two thirds (64%) of UKIP supporters believe indirect taxes are too high, as do half of Conservative and Labour voters (52%). Only a third (36%) of Liberal Democrats say the same.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES

•    A majority of Britons believe the government should not offer financial incentives to people who are trying to lose weight (61%), stop smoking (60%) or stop drinking excessively (62%).

•    Labour and Liberal Democrats are more likely than UKIP and Conservative voters to say the government should be offering financial incentives.

LEVEL OF TAX

•    More Britons think taxes on wine, vodka, beer, flights and cigarettes are too high than think they are too low. Around half of Britons say tax on wine (55%), vodka (51%), long haul flights (55%) is too high.

•    Of those expressing a preference, 65% of Britons believe the tax on a bottle of wine is too high.

•    Of those expressing a preference, six in ten believe the tax on a bottle of vodka is too high.

•    Half (49%) of Britons expressing a preference say the tax on a pint of beer is too high.

•    Two fifths (38%) with a preference think the tax on a packet of cigarettes is too high.

•    Seven in ten (69%) declaring a preference believe Air Passenger Duty to be too high.

•    UKIP voters are more likely than other parties’ voters to think the level of tax is too high on every item.

Commenting on the poll, Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“These results should be a wake up call to politicians across the spectrum. It is clear that the majority of the British public think the nanny state has gone too far and want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit. Interestingly, UKIP voters clearly favour personal freedoms and lower sin taxes to the greatest extent, which should provide food for thought for the traditional Westminster parties. This is a clear sign that the government needs to row back on its constant interventions into people’s lives”.

To arrange an interview please contact Stephanie Lis, Head of Communications: 07766 221 268

Notes to editors:

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 4,135 British adults online between 9th and 14th December. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.