Given recent political events – from Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise showing at the election – there has been much debate as to the state of the nation.
What do people feel? What motivates their voting behaviour? Are we an increasingly divided country?
Thanks to the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey, revealed yesterday, we are a little closer to answering these questions. First, the good news: the liberalisation of social attitudes continues its long march through society. 64 per cent of Brits say that same-sex relationships are “not wrong at all” – up from 59 per cent in 2015.
Read more: Support rises for "tax and spend" politics
On issues including access to abortion, pre-marital sex and transgender rights the public’s views are liberalising across every age cohort. The report’s authors dismiss the notion that the Brexit vote was, as it has been described by some, “a backlash against social liberalism”.
So we’re not sliding back towards to the 1950s.
Furthermore, a majority of people still consider the effects of immigration to be positive. There does not appear to have been any increase in concern about immigration on the whole, but people have become more picky.
The percentage of people who think that immigrants should speak English has risen to 87 per cent (from 77 per cent in 2002) and whereas 15 years ago 71 per cent felt immigrants should be filling a skills gap, 82 per cent believe so today.
The most significant shift in public opinion has been on economic issues, with support for “tax more, spend more” now at its highest level in a decade – standing at 48 per cent.
Depressingly, support for “reduce taxes and spend less” has never broken above 10 per cent since the survey’s inception in 1983. This, as they say, is the ball game. A large and growing percentage of the population now favours an increase in taxation and a hike in state spending.
Corbyn is likely the beneficiary of this trend, rather than the cause, but whether the chicken or the egg came first it is now the mood music for political debate in this country.
Unfortunately, there is very little evidence that the Tory party is prepared to step up the fight against such attitudes. Alas, the big state is coming back into fashion and its cheerleaders are growing in confidence.