There is some detailed polling out today – carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Department for Work and Pension – showing strong support for the Government’s reform reducing the spare room subsidy.
This is especilay gratifying given the amount of effort the Labour Party have put in with misleading propaganda attacking the policy – notably, of course, the dishonest labelling of the reform as the “bedroom tax.”
It is not just the Labour Party. The trade unions, left wing sections of the media and assorted far left agitprop group have made this a campaign priority. They have thrown the kitchen sink at it. No effort has been spared in the streets, in the courts, in parliament, on the airwaves. Yet the public remain supportive. Overall approval runs at 49 per cent, with 33 per cent opposed.
The Public Perceptions of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (RSRS) report says:
Respondents were asked whether they felt the level of reduction for those judged to be under-occupying was too high, too low, or about right. Results vary little between the 14% and 25% reduction levels for one and two bedrooms: 41% and 39% respectively feel that the reduction is about right for those judged to be under-occupying by one and two bedrooms.
Some 30% and 29% believe the amount is too high for those judged to be under-occupying by one and two bedrooms respectively, while around one in ten (10% and 13% respectively) think it is too low.
Respondents were presented with a more detailed description of the policy, who it applies to, who is entitled to easements, and how many people are affected (according to the DWP’s own estimates). On this measure, there is plurality support for the policy: 44% support RSRS with a reduction of 14% for one extra bedroom, with 31% opposed. For the reduction of 25% for those with two or more extra bedrooms, 46% support the policy with 29% opposed.
While more of the public support than oppose the policy following more detailed description, attitudes towards it are polarised, with equally strong support and opposition. Almost one third have a strong opinion on RSRS: 16% say they strongly support it, while 16% strongly oppose it.
The reform is likely to become even more popular as it is shown to prove effective in prompting many people affected to take jobs and come off Housing Benefits altogether. The research I undertook based on Freedom of Information Requests proved very encouraging – both so that more have the dignity and independence of working and also the extra savings for the taxpayer as a result
Should these factors apply the support for the policy increased:
A much higher proportion of the British public support the policy if it reduces the total amount the Government spends on benefits (54% support, 20% oppose).
The public are similarly positive if RSRS encourages those affected to take up employment (52% support, 20% oppose)
I also found, in every local authority area that responded, that there were plenty of people in overcrowded social housing who would be delighted to swap homes with those with spare rooms.
Again this is a factor that is likely to encourage support for the policy:
Twice as many support the policy than oppose it if it means those affected have to move to find more affordable accommodation in the same area (49% support, 24% oppose).
Often opponents of the policy have the mistaken belief that there are no overcrowded social households available to swap with in the relevant local authority area. yet in every area where this has been claimed to apply enquiries have shown it not to be the case.
The survey also found that:
The majority of the public agree that RSRS is fair because the same rules apply to those claiming Housing Benefit who rent from private landlords (55% agree, 16% disagree), and because others in social rented accommodation have fewer bedrooms than they need (54% agree, 16% disagree).
The British public overwhelmingly feel that reducing levels of under-occupation and overcrowding in social housing is important. Almost four in five (78%) believe doing so is either ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’, compared with 14% who think it is ‘not very important’ or ‘not at all important’.
Some may dismiss the research as it was carried out for the DWP. But it is Ipsos MORI that choose the wording of the questions.
It is very heartening that there is already such support for cutting the spare room subsidy. My prediction is that as the policy is vindicated and the scare stories are disproved that support will increase.