Pollster Find Out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus have run a poll on consumer issues. This poll, involving 2,019 respondents, was carried out from 31 July - 1 August 2023.
Firstly, we asked our panel if they thought that consumers were treated fairly or unfairly by government and politicians.
|Response||All Respondents||CON voters||LAB voters|
|Do you think consumers get treated fairly or unfairly by governments and politicians?||Fairly||6%||10%||3%|
|Neutral / Don't know||28%||28%||17%|
A big majority of respondents think that consumers are treated unfairly by government and politicians.
Next, we asked whom do political parties treat best.
|Party||Consumers||Businesses||Workers||None of these||Don't know|
|Whom do you think this party is most keen to treat well?||Conservative||2%||51%||2%||26%||20%|
|Liberal Democrat party||11%||9%||9%||21%||50%|
Traditional perceptions are still very visible. Most voters think that the Conservative favour business, and a plurality still think that Labour puts the workers first. The Liberal Democrats are less defined, with half of people unable to say whom the Lib Dems favour.
But the public are generally agreed that consumers are not the top priority of any major party. Fewest people see the Conservatives as the consumer champion.
Finally, we gave our panel six pro-consumer suggestions to see if they approved or disapproved of them. To make it fairer, we described both the potential consumer benefits as well as the costs to workers or business.
|Proposed Action||Approve||Neutral / DK||Disapprove||Net Approve|
|Build more houses in Britain||52%||28%||20%||+32%|
|Make it easier to be a professional such as a lawyer, architect or dentist. That could reduce prices for the public, but reduce the professionals' wages||40%||35%||25%||+14%|
|Shorten the length of copyright protection, which is currently seventy years after the death of the author. This could make older films, books and music cheaper, at the expense of media companies and authors' descendants.||24%||51%||25%||−2%|
|Abolish import duties on goods coming into Britain, to make them cheaper, even if British business has to compete harder||29%||37%||34%||−4%|
|Introduce driverless trains to get cheaper train tickets, even if train drivers lose their jobs||18%||27%||55%||−36%|
|Let in cheap food from abroad to lower food prices, even if it hurts British farmers||14%||29%||57%||−42%|
Voters are not consistently pro- or anti- consumer. The public is generally in favour of building more houses, with a majority of people supporting that proposal and only a fifth of people against. Perhaps many people think that house prices are too expensive and that building more houses might make them more affordable.
The next most popular option is to remove obstacles to becoming a professional like a lawyer, architect or dentist. Economists have long suspected that professional licensing is often a device to restrict entry into professions and to keep wages artificially high. The public seem to agree with that and would like change.
More controversial is copyright protection. The current length (seventy years after the death of the author) is much longer than patent protection (twenty years from the creation of the work) and serves mostly to enrich media companies and authors' heirs, since the original author is long dead before the copyright expires. About a quarter of the public is in favour of reform, with a similar number against. Half the public are neutral or unsure.
Abolishing import duties is another favourite of economists who suggest it will lower prices in the shops as well as providing stimulating competition for domestic producers. The public is less convinced with slightly more people against than in favour.
The public is much more clearly against driverless trains even if they lead to cheaper train tickets. Despite the existing use on the Victoria underground line and the Docklands Light Railway, the public is not convinced, even with UK train prices being among the highest in Europe.
Lastly, the public is dead set against lower supermarket prices by importing cheaper food from abroad. This is despite agriculture being only 0.5% of the British economy, with 46% of our food being imported already. Cheap food does not tickle our palette.
Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now: "Consumers – and therefore voters – are fed up. The feeling that Britain is on the slide in so many ways is prevalent – especially when it comes to how the public feels treated by politicians. There is an obvious opportunity there for someone. But not many expect mainstream politicians to grasp it."
Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus: "Consumers are aware that they are badly treated by government and politicians from all the major parties. But they are unsure what to do about it. There is support for building more houses and loosening the rules on joining professions. But people are not fired up to tackle all the vested interests which keep picking their pockets."
Find Out Now polled 2,019 GB adults online between 31 July and 1 August 2023. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns. Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.
Data tables are available here.