The world now is all about open data. Governments now, ordinarily, make the data they collect available in fairly usable formats for you to play with and explore yourself. A really good example, that is useful for this module, is the Scottish Household Survey. Another would be the UK Government’s annual Households Below Average Income data.
In the spirit of open data, I’m making the headline results of the class social attitudes survey data available in a Excel spreadsheet for you to explore at your leisure. Clicky here to download. It’s also slightly easier to present this way.
Have a look and see what patterns YOU see.
Key ones I note are:
– You’re just like Scotland in so many ways;
– Just like Scotland (and the UK, the differences are marginally) you’re very contrary in your attitudes: you believe a substantial number of people claim benefits fraudulently AND a substantial number of people don’t claim what they are entitled to. You think benefits are too low, but you also think the balance of tax and spend is about right.
– You’re a bit more left-wing than the rest of Scotland on a few issues, such as redistribution and tax and spend, but then you’re a self-selecting sample of lefty social scientists;
– There’s an enormous difference in your attitudes to free higher education compared to the rest of the population of Scotland (unsurprisingly). You’re gaining the benefit of this policy right now, whereas the majority of the population of Scotland have, and will not, receive the benefit of it.
Add your observations to the comments below.
You might also wonder, well, why does this matter? It matters for social policy scholars because attitudes to these sorts of issues affect what governments can do, although there is a chicken-and-egg argument here. The staggeringly talented social policy academic Professor Peter Taylor Goodby has spent his career looking at this issue. Although lately he’s said his research has had no actual impact on the public’s attitudes.
It’s also useful for you. You might think “well I don’t have any political views” or “I don’t know what is or isn’t fair?” but if you have answered these questions, then in terms of social policy, you clearly do have political views and you also have some innate sense of why a particularly social policy decision is the “right” one. Now you just have to read social policy academic materials to add some academic weight to those views, and challenge them.