Low-income voters demand higher living standards and expect more Government control over economy after Brexit

People on low incomes want to see improvements to public services and living standards as a priority following Brexit, according to authoritative new analysis on public attitudes for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). They also expect politicians to have more control over the performance of the economy, but do not think Brexit itself will deliver their priorities.

Britain’s Brexit hopes, fears and expectations, written by Sir John Curtice and researchers at the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) for JRF, looks at the public’s priorities after Brexit, particularly from the perspective of people on low incomes, who overwhelmingly backed Leave.

It paints a picture of a divided nation, but one that has high expectations for better public services, living standards and control over the economy. People on low incomes listed improving public services, creating more jobs and reducing the number of people on low incomes as their priorities.

Low income voters’ political priorities

JRF says the findings are a clear challenge to the political parties and their future leaders: to take action to address low income voters’ day to day concerns at a time when energy is consumed with Brexit negotiations, and public services and finances remain under pressure.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“Brexit is overwhelming British politics and while we wait for negotiations to conclude, more workers and families with children are being swept into a rising tide of poverty.

“The public are demanding improvements in public services, more jobs and fewer people struggling on low incomes after Brexit. We know leaving the EU alone will not deliver this, so we need a bold package of domestic reforms, not just favourable trade terms.

“Low income households could be a key battleground at the next election. Political leaders who ignore these concerns do so at their peril.”

Sir John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow for NatCen said: “It seems that there is little expectation among voters that Brexit will help improve the lives of those on low incomes. Even among those who voted in favour of leaving the EU, only around one in three anticipate an improvement in the position of those on low incomes. Those on low incomes are no more optimistic either about what Brexit will bring. If this mood does indeed turn out to be correct, then the debate about inequality in Britain will need to be kindled anew once the Brexit process is over.”

The report found, among voters on low incomes:

  • Asked about control, over half (56%) thought that Brexit would result in the country having greater control over the economy.
  • Asked about the impacts in 10 years’ time, people do not believe that Brexit itself will deliver on their priorities: in relation to the NHS, unemployment, increasing the number of better paid jobs, reducing the number of people on low incomes and making their lives easier, most believe that Brexit will make little difference or will make matters worse.

The findings show the urgent need for the government to take action domestically to deliver what voters want to see in post-Brexit Britian.

As part of a new deal for low income families after Brexit, JRF recommends the Government:

  1. Build 80,000 affordable homes a year at Living Rents – linking rents to the wages of people on low incomes.
  2. Ensure families keep more of their earnings under Universal Credit by boosting in-work support such as the work allowance.
  3. Deliver the Shared Prosperity Fund promised to left behind town and cities, to help create more and better jobs with repatriated EU funding.