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'No appetite' for second coalition

Voters have little enthusiasm for another five years of coalition, despite broad acceptance for many of the current Government's reforms, a major study of public attitudes has found.

Despite opinion polls consistently pointing to another hung parliament in the general election on May 7, the annual NatCen British Social Attitudes Report found backing for the idea of coalition government had slumped to its lowest level for 30 years.

The survey also found a clear majority wanted the UK to remain a part of the European Union, although there was strong support for curbing the power of Brussels.

Overall, it found that fewer than a third (29%) said they now favour government by an alliance of two or more parties compared to 45% in 2007 before the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was formed.

Nevertheless, the survey based on almost 2,800 interviews, found that despite five years of austerity there was little appetite among the public to reverse the coalition's spending cuts.

Just 37% wanted to see higher taxes to pay for more spending on health, education and benefits - only slightly up from 32% at the start of the coalition in 2010 and well down on the last decade when there was 63% support in 2002.

There was even less support for increasing spending on welfare with just 30% backing a rise - little changed from 2009 when it was 27% but just half the level it was in 1989 when there was 61% support. Almost three-quarters - 73% - said they backed the Government's welfare cap.

On the National Health Service, the survey found satisfaction levels running at 65% - just five points down on the record 70% high reported in 2010 and five points up on 2013.

Even accident and emergency services saw an increase in their satisfaction rating over the past year - rising from 53% to 58% - despite the winter A&E crisis.

However, only 26% thought the health service had improved over the previous five years compared to 40% in 2010.

Looking to the future, 92% agreed that the NHS was facing a funding problem - with almost half (45%) believing it would no longer be free at the point of delivery in ten years time - but there was little consensus on how to deal with the issue.

A clear majority - 58% - opposed diverting funding from other public services to pay for it and while 41% said they would support some form of tax rise, 27% said the service should live within its means. Just 14% backed the idea of a £10 charge for visiting a GP or A&E.

After the controversy over university tuition fees at the start of the parliament, the survey suggested there was broad acceptance they are here to stay, with 67% saying that at least some students should pay them while 11% said that they all should.

With David Cameron promising an in/out referendum of Britain's membership of the EU if the Tories regain power, the survey found a clear majority - 57% - wanted to remain in, against 35% who favoured withdrawal.

Nevertheless, the report said the majority of the public could still be considered "Eurosceptics" - with almost two-thirds (62%) saying they either wanted to leave (24%) or see a reduction in the power of Brussels.

Rachel Ormston, one of the report's co-authors, said: "Despite the fact that the public has gone off the notion of coalition government, it has seemingly accepted many of the coalition's big reforms.

"In spite of the Government's narrative of austerity, or perhaps because of it, NHS satisfaction is back up, there is broad acceptance of tuition fees, and at least some cuts to benefits are popular."

The report also looked specifically at the attitudes of Ukip supporters in the light of the party's dramatic rise last year.

It found while they were anti-immigration and socially conservative, they also had much in common with Labour supporters in that they were predominantly working class and were concerned about the gap between rich and poor.

Three-quarters - 76% - thought there was "one law for the rich and one for the poor" as against 59% among the population as whole.

They were more disdainful of politicians with only 20% saying they trusted the government compared to 40% of the public at large.

They are also more likely to support the death penalty (75% to 48%), consider young people do not have enough respect for British values (86% to 66%), and believe that people who want to have children should get married (46% to 23%).

:: NatCen Social Research interviewed a representative, random sample of 2,878 adults in Britain between August and November 2014.

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