Understanding public attitudes to growth, manufacturing and financial services

Published Mon 27 Aug 2012
This paper offers some insights into public attitudes to and understanding of the UK economy, their fiscal and economic priorities, and how different business sectors are perceived in terms of value, importance and regulatory control.

With newspaper headlines and TV news bulletins still dominated by stories of impending disaster in the eurozone, stagnation in the United States and United Kingdom, and now even signs of slowdown in the Chinese economy, the global economic crisis has come to feel like part of everyday life. Economic news and debates have become hard to avoid, even for the most casual observer of current affairs, and people's exposure to complex ideas and theories has surely increased.

This paper looks at results from a specially commissioned online poll devised as a collaboration between YouGov-Cambridge and the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Cambridge.

Three key themes emerge from the poll:

  1. The government should change course: While there are significant numbers of people who think deficit reduction and spending cuts remain the best answer to Britain's problems, a substantially larger body of people think fewer cuts and more emphasis on growth is what's needed.
  2. Manufacturing creates growth but there is pessimism about its future: While people have strong opinions about where the economy should be heading they are doubtful about the likelihood of future manufacturing strength.
  3. The moral economy matters: On the whole, people see sectors such as manufacturing and construction as more productive of real wealth, probably because they create physical products and goods as opposed to the more ethereal outputs of finance and other service industries. How Britain makes its way in the world matters enormously to national identity, and the close association of the UK economy with financial services is something people are no longer comfortable with.
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