Liz Hazelton, Daily Mail (London), March 5, 2008
The white working class are far more pessimistic about Britain’s future than their middle-class counterparts, a survey reveals today.
More than half said no one represented their views and that their quality of life had got worse over the past decade.
Some 71 per cent of those polled also said they thought crime rates had gone up in the past ten years, compared with 66 per cent of the middle class.
The survey was carried out by Newsnight as part of the BBC Two’s White season, which examines what it means to be white and working class today.
Special programmes include Rivers Of Blood, which looks at the legacy of Enoch Powell’s controversial speech, and The Poles Are Coming, which is billed as an “entertaining” look at the impact of Eastern European immigration.
Roly Keating, BBC Two’s controller, said: “This is a timely look at how life has changed for the white working class in Britain.
“It will enable the audience to consider the views and circumstances of people who have a strong point of view.”
The Newsnight survey was commissioned to discover how the white working class—once viewed as the backbone of the country—feel about life in modern Britain.
In most areas, they were more pessimistic about the future and more negative about the last ten years than the white middle class, the BBC said.
Some 68 per cent of the middle class said they could no longer afford to buy homes in the area they lived, but 80 per cent of the white working classes said the same.
And 62 per cent of the white working class believe life in Britain has generally deteriorated over the last decade, compared with 51 per cent of the middle class.
The poll also suggested that opinion is divided about immigration, with 52 per cent of the white working class believing it is “a bad thing for the country”, compared with just 33 per cent of the white middle class.
Asked whether they thought new immigrants had put British jobs at risk, more than twice as many of the working class thought it had.
The BBC has launched the White season on the back of concern about the role of the white working class in modern society.
In the documentary Last Orders, members of Wibsey Working Men’s Club, just outside Bradford, even refer to themselves as “the forgotten people”.
Commissioning editor Richard Klein told the Mail: “The voice of the white working-class is barely allowed to intrude into British politics or culture.
“In metropolitan circles, where sneering at any minority ethnic group would be regarded as an outrage, this white working-class opinion is all too often treated with suspicion or contempt.”
He also attacked the pejorative use of the word chav.
“Any similarly abusive description of ethnic minorities would lead to police inquiries,” he said.
The Newsnight survey was carried out on a random sample of 1,012 white British adults aged over 18. It will form part of a special edition of the programme at 10.30pm tomorrow.
A majority of white working class Britons feel nobody speaks for people like them, a BBC survey has suggested.
Some 58% said they felt unrepresented compared with 46% of white middle class respondents to a Newsnight poll.
White working classes were also negative about the past decade with 62% saying life had generally become worse in the UK.
In response to BBC Two’s White Season, a special Newsnight on 6 March will feature full poll results and debate.
The researchers defined the middle classes as the ABC1 category of occupations—senior professionals, office workers and junior managers—while the working class was defined as the C2DE grades—skilled manual workers, semi and unskilled workers, and people on benefits.
In most areas covered by the survey the white working classes are more pessimistic about the future and more negative about the last decade in Britain than white middle class people.
Of the working class people questioned 71% believe crime has got worse over the last decade, compared with 66% of middle class people.
On housing, 80% of the working class say that people like them can no longer afford to buy homes in the area they live. A smaller majority—68%—of middle class people believed they had been priced out of the local housing market.
Overall 62% of the white working classes believe that life in Britain has generally got worse over the last decade compared with 51% of middle class white people.
When asked whether they thought immigration into Britain, on the whole, was a good or bad thing for the country the survey suggests that opinion was divided between people from different social groups.
Some 52% of the white working class people questioned thought immigration was a bad thing (42% thought it was a good thing), while just 33% of white middle class people thought it bad (62% thought it a good thing).
When asked whether they thought new immigrants had put their jobs at risk the survey suggests that more than twice as many white working class people (27%) compared with middle class (13%) people thought it had.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,012 white British adults aged 18+ by telephone between 29th February and 2nd March 2008.