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Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll


2:36 pm - May 26th 2012

by Owen Tudor    


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There’s lots of interesting material in the opinion poll released to mark the launch of the new CLASS think-tank today, and there will no doubt be a lot of further analysis of the resuts.

But I have a special interest in the Robin Hood Tax, so the question which asked whether voters would support or oppose “a tax on financial transactions by investment banks” was particularly interesting.

It’s not surprising that overall, 61% supported the tax (half very strongly) with only 19% against (mostly in the “tend to oppose” category).

So of those who expressed a view one way or the other, that’s three to one for the Robin Hood Tax – surely an idea whose time is rather overdue!

Some of the other figures in the survey bear reflection. Not one single category of voters analysed showed more opponents than supporters, and every category bar one saw at least 50% of the sample in favour (see below for don’t knows). There are some groups where support is staggeringly overwhelming: the highest majority for the tax is 75% among people who voted Lib Dem in 2010, followed by 72% support among current Labour voters (up from 68% of those who voted Labour in 2010 – possibly due to an influx of disillusioned ex-Lib Dem voters?) Even in London, where we are consistently told that a Robin Hood Tax would damage the City, there is a 58%:26% majority for the tax, more than two to one if the 17% of don’t knows (lower than any other region) are excluded – although in the Midlands, Wales, North and Scotland, support is far stronger, reaching 69%:11% north of the border.

The polling data (and I’m conscious that a single online poll, even one with over 1700 respondents, only provides a snapshot) suggests that Robin Hood Tax supporters do still need to address some problems – mostly the relatively high level of don’t knows (at 21% overall it was the highest don’t know of the seven policies polled, although not hugely above some of them). Don’t knows are particularly concentrated in some groups though – especially interesting is the 33% of don’t knows among 18-24 year olds (although this group produced the highest DK answers to all policy proposals, the proportion was still higher for the FTT than for most other policies). And at 43%:25%, younger voters seem the least supportive of the tax – which is unusual for an issue that has had such salience on social media, with cultural and pop stunts and so on: although it may be that asking about a financial transactions tax rather than the Robin Hood Tax was the cause.

There is a slight gender split, although men (64%) and women (58%) are pretty similarly supportive. But only 13% of women oppose the tax, compared to 24% of men – largely because 29% of women said they didn’t know (another target group for campaigners, therefore). Similarly, although social classes ABC1 (60%) and C2DE (62%) suggest that support for a Robin Hood Tax is not a huge class issue, opposition to the tax is down at 12% among the second category, compared with 23% among better paid voters. Again, though, this seems to be because don’t knows where higher among C2DEs.

The highest opposition to the tax was among current and past Conservative voters, although even Conservative voters back the tax by 53%:30%, so it seems that Cameron and Osborne are not even supported by their own voters on this issue, reinforcing our view that they are acting solely in the interests of their friends in the City when they oppose the EU FTT so frantically.

Footnote: the Robin Hood Tax campaign asked similar questions in a slightly smaller poll recently (and got similar answers), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is polling people in more than a dozen countries around the world, so we might get comparative figures soon.

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About the author
Owen Tudor is an occasional contributor to LC. He is head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department and blogs more regularly at the Touchstone blog.
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Reader comments


“reinforcing our view that they are acting solely in the interests of their friends in the City when they oppose the EU FTT so frantically.”

Or, you know, they could just be financially literate. The FTT will increase, not reduce, price volatility, reduce GDP (as even the EU itself says), not raise any net revenue (as even the EU says) and the economic burden will not be carried by banks but by all users of financial services. You know, the general citizenry.

I will admit to being completely astonished at the continuing support the RHT has. Vast numbers of economists have been pointing out that it just won’t achieve what you think it will: so why do you keep on campaigning for it?

2. Trooper Thompson

Given that Robin Hood of legend robbed the tax-collectors and gave the money back to the people, it’s a contradiction in terms to speak of a ‘Robin Hood Tax’. If Robin Hood had a political philosophy, it was anarcho-capitalism.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 Trooper Thompson

“Given that Robin Hood of legend robbed the tax-collectors and gave the money back to the people, it’s a contradiction in terms to speak of a ‘Robin Hood Tax’. If Robin Hood had a political philosophy, it was anarcho-capitalism.”

Well, “Robin Hood” is a mythical figure who may or may not be based on a real person or persons, so we won’t get very far arguing about what Robin Hood really thought.

If we’re talking about the Robin Hood character we know today, however, I’m pretty sure his attitude is summed up by “steal from the rich, give to the poor”. Which I suspect you know really.

It wouldn’t matter if 60 million people were marching through Westminster crying out for such a tax.
It wouldn’t matter if all the economists in the world, the Pope and the Archangel Gabriel all agreed that it was a good and worthwhile thing to do.
The City doesn’t want it and their lap dogs in Parliament, fearful that the large Party donations might suddenly dry up, would duly oblige.
It’s how Britain operates.

5. Trooper Thompson

@ Chaise,

“If we’re talking about the Robin Hood character we know today, however, I’m pretty sure his attitude is summed up by “steal from the rich, give to the poor”. Which I suspect you know really.”

No way. You’re twisting the legend. The bad guy is the Sheriff of Nottingham, i.e. the representative of the rapacious state, plundering off the people.

Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men are a kind proto – Tax Payers Alliance, albeit of a more militant persuasion, who take direct action to cut taxes and return the money to the hard-pressed commoners.

“The question which asked whether voters would support or oppose “a tax on financial transactions by investment banks” was particularly interesting.”

The only thing that’s interesting and actually funny are your complete lack of morals when it comes to informing people on the consequence to them and your ability to shape questions to make it seem there are none.

7. Chaise Guevara

@5 Trooper Thompson

“No way. You’re twisting the legend. The bad guy is the Sheriff of Nottingham, i.e. the representative of the rapacious state, plundering off the people. ”

If “steal from the rich, give to the poor” is twisting the Robin Hood legend, you’ve been watching some very different films to me. Sure you weren’t thinking of Atlas Shrugged?

“Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men are a kind proto – Tax Payers Alliance, albeit of a more militant persuasion, who take direct action to cut taxes and return the money to the hard-pressed commoners.”

Robin Hood’s depicted as robbing generic rich people too. How do the TPA, in their merry green tights of glory, feel about that?

Bucking the trend (as a Labour supporting female) I have found the arguments against the tax persuasive, and the arguments in favour completely unpersuasive (from discussions elsewhere).

9. Trooper Thompson

Chaise,

the reason the Sheriff of Nottingham was the bad guy was not because he was rich, but because he was a tyrant and a plunderer. His wealth was coerced out of the people.Robin wasn’t stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he was implementing a tax rebate.

He also had a very libertarian attitude towards the right to keep and bear arms.

The original legend of Robin Hood told of an outlaw who stole deer from the King’s land, overtime the story changed and now Robin Hood is associated with wealth redistribution, which doesn’t sound very libertarian to me.

I am very curious, do you all remember that great period in time before the Euro was introduced? Any one against the idea was labelled a “has been” or an “xenophobic little Englander” despite any amount of economic sense given as reason.

Please tell me, what was TUC”s position on the UK joining the Euro and the Euro over all at that time?

12. Luis Enrique

Has the proposed tax changed to “a tax on financial transactions by investment banks”? Because I thought it was a tax on financial transactions (of a given variety) by anyone. By our pension funds, by companies, even by tourists buying foreign currencies.

Tim, don’t be baffled by the popularity of this tax, my guess is that 99% of its supporters believe the tax will be paid by investment banks. If I thought the FTT would be paid by banks (meaning lower profits for banks and lower pay for high-paid bankers) I’d support it too. The campaign is well aware of this.

“Tim, don’t be baffled by the popularity of this tax,”

I’m not baffled. I’m a tad dismayed by my fellow countrymen not understanding when they’re being ripped off but I agree, the details of taxation are not for everyone.

I will admit thought to being outraged by the likes of Owen Tudor. Either he knows he’s lying or he’s too ignorant to know that he is.

Neither strike me as valuable assets in determining what public policy should be.

14. So Much For Subtlety

Can I point out the dishonesty of the question and/or the conclusion?

the question which asked whether voters would support or oppose “a tax on financial transactions by investment banks”

Notice they are not asked if they support the Robin Hood Tax. They are not even asked if they support the FTT. They are asked if they supported a tax. Not the tax. We have no idea if they meant Stamp Duty or income tax or corporation tax or even Estate Duty. People often believe bizarre things.

What Owen doesn’t say, naturally, is this question got the lowest level of support of any question except one. That one was bringing in a 75% tax rate on incomes over £1 million. So it seems Robin Hood is not very popular among their sample. What he also does not point out is what was popular – 85% of respondents said that reducing the deficit was important. The only policies even more popular than that were reducing unemployment, creating new jobs and economic growth.

Basically British people are very Tory.

10. jojo

The original legend of Robin Hood told of an outlaw who stole deer from the King’s land, overtime the story changed and now Robin Hood is associated with wealth redistribution, which doesn’t sound very libertarian to me.

Well not wealth distribution. If you pay attention closely to what he is doing, he is actually robbing itinerant merchants. Small scale traders who bring what little consumer goods there were to the countryside. Exactly who this is supposed to be in favour of these days I have no idea. The anti-Tesco campaigners? But thank God he is only a fictional character who did not actually make government policy.

15. Trooper Thompson

@ 14

“Well not wealth distribution. If you pay attention closely to what he is doing, he is actually robbing itinerant merchants. ”

Propaganda intended to blacken a national hero’s reputation. He only stole from the bigger thieves. Next you’ll be telling us Magna Charta was an outrageous affront to his sacred majesty king John.

16. So Much For Subtlety

15. Trooper Thompson

Propaganda intended to blacken a national hero’s reputation. He only stole from the bigger thieves. Next you’ll be telling us Magna Charta was an outrageous affront to his sacred majesty king John.

I tell you, it has been down hill for Britain ever since that dreadful piece of Leftist propaganda was signed.

SMFS: “85% of respondents said that reducing the deficit was important. The only policies even more popular than that were reducing unemployment, creating new jobs and economic growth.”

But all these “popular policies” are not policies. They are the results of policies. Of course most people want jobs and prosperity. What they disagree on is how to get there.

The idea that wanting jobs and prosperity makes Britain “Tory” is ludicrous.

re: “I am very curious, do you all remember that great period in time before the Euro was introduced? Any one against the idea was labelled a “has been” or an “xenophobic little Englander” despite any amount of economic sense given as reason.”

Strange. As I recall the reasons put forward for staying out of the Euro had nothing to do with economics at all, but tended to involve primarily ranting about an evil Eurocratic “superstate” coming to take the Queen away, and malevolent Eurocrats forcing us all to carry out continuous health and safety assessments of our own toenails (or whatever) just because they hate Britishness. Oh yes, and BAN CHRISTMAS, because naturally all bad foreign people want to do that.

So yeah, the Eurosceptics were right to oppose joining the Euro, but not for the right reasons, by and large. If they had a coherent economic argument against it, they certainly didn’t spend much time talking about it.

LoL at the Euro fanatics, the economic reasoning against was voiced rather loudly, in fact they said pretty much exactly what was going to happen, I am not sure if the fanatics just haven’t got the guts to admit they wrong, who knows who cares, how ever TUC has been campaigning hard on this one, I am curious of there track record.

“As I recall the reasons put forward for staying out of the Euro had nothing to do with economics at all, ”

And as I recall, being one of those doing the shouting, it was all about economics.

Searching back, the earliest I can find myself on the internet is 2000, 2001, on Usenet. Where I was shouting that the euro wouldn’t work because it was not an optimal currency area.

Your memory might be different but I can prove what I was saying….

21. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Or, you know, they could just be financially literate. The FTT will increase, not reduce, price volatility, reduce GDP (as even the EU itself says), not raise any net revenue (as even the EU says) and the economic burden will not be carried by banks but by all users of financial services. You know, the general citizenry

I do so like the way the competitive mechanism of the market completely crumbles when it suits your donors, Timothy.

“I do so like the way the competitive mechanism of the market completely crumbles when it suits your donors, Timothy.”

These results are results of the way that markets work. If we didn’t have markets working as they do then of course both of course the results, plus the whining about the tax, would go away…..

23. Chaise Guevara

@ Trooper

“the reason the Sheriff of Nottingham was the bad guy was not because he was rich, but because he was a tyrant and a plunderer. His wealth was coerced out of the people.Robin wasn’t stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he was implementing a tax rebate. ”

Oh, for god’s sake. Here, second line of the Wikipedia entry on the guy: “A highly skilled archer and swordsman, he is known for “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”.”

As he’s not a real person, there’s no problem with you interpreting the myth in a way that’s in keeping with your philosophy. But don’t lie about how the myth is often portrayed and then accuse the people who talk about a “Robin Hood tax” of getting it wrong; you don’t own folklore. It turns what is already a specious point into something wholly dishonest.

“He also had a very libertarian attitude towards the right to keep and bear arms.”

Yes, but not really relevant here, is it?

24. Trooper Thompson

@ Chaise,

I’m not denying the phrase ‘steal from the rich, give to the poor’ is used to describe Robin Hood, I am merely explaining that, in the context of the Robin Hood story, the rich equals the state, and the state is the enemy, of Robin and all the commoners – the poor – who are exploited and denied justice by the minions of the state.

He despises and attacks tax-collectors, therefore it’s not appropriate to name a tax after him, any more than naming a Burger King meal after Linda McCartney.

“Tim Worstall” != “all the people campaigning against UK Euro entry”.

Tim *was* making the (still completely spurious, but that’s a separate point) argument about optimal currency areas. The vast majority of anti commentators, however, were gibbering about the Queen on their money, metric martyrs, health and safety and political correctness gone mad.

Of course, if Britain had entered the euro (as the US wanted), then the ECB would have been structured very differently, Germany would no longer have been dominant, and the entire history of the project would have been completely different. Not that it would definitely have worked, but that it would have been sufficiently different from the way it did happen to make “look what did happen” critiques pointless.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 Trooper Thompson

“I’m not denying the phrase ‘steal from the rich, give to the poor’ is used to describe Robin Hood, I am merely explaining that, in the context of the Robin Hood story, the rich equals the state, and the state is the enemy, of Robin and all the commoners – the poor – who are exploited and denied justice by the minions of the state.

He despises and attacks tax-collectors, therefore it’s not appropriate to name a tax after him, any more than naming a Burger King meal after Linda McCartney.”

Well, the rich doesn’t equal the state, as he has non-state targets. And in some versions he’s shown as a big supporter of the head of state. The point is that, in the stories, the state are the rich bullies. It’s still a rich vs poor distinction. And the state is collecting taxes to pay corrupt and greedy authority figures and fund a war, not redistribution – something that Robin has taken into his own hands. So the Robin Hood tax would, in part, do the thing that Robin dedicated his life to doing. Of course he’d approve, if we’re using the version of “he” as understood through the lense of C20th/21st society.

“The vast majority of anti commentators, however, were gibbering about the Queen on their money”

You mean the vast majority who were presented to you on tv by your living media.

“Of course, if Britain had entered the euro (as the US wanted), then the ECB would have been structured very differently, Germany would no.”

Ah right, they were right only because they were wrong, in fact it was all there fault..fanatic….. Yet now one has answered my question yet.

28. Trooper Thompson

“Well, the rich doesn’t equal the state, as he has non-state targets”

The rich are members of the ruling caste – N.B. not the ruling class, these are rigid castes, with virtually no movement permissible between them. They are most usually Norman French types, in contrast to the Saxon peasantry. This ruling caste comprises the state, such as it was, and I would certainly include the bishops of the chuch within that.

“And in some versions he’s shown as a big supporter of the head of state. ”

Yeah, maybe he’s more of a minarchist than an anarcho-capitalist. What he clearly asserts is that the head of state is bound by the law, and if the head of state or his minions break the law, they have no right to demand allegiance.

“And the state is collecting taxes to pay corrupt and greedy authority figures and fund a war …”

… plus ca change …

“… not redistribution – something that Robin has taken into his own hands.”

All taxation is redistribution. What Robin does is take it from the big thieves (the state), who are redistributing it from the poor to themselves, and return it to the people from whom they stole it / taxed it. Robin Hood is motivated by a desire to fight injustice more than anything else.

29. Frances_coppola

john b

I also opposed the Euro from the start. In fact I opposed it on macroeconomic grounds long before it became reality. I fell out with my macro lecturer about this in 1991 when I was doing my MBA (he was a strong supporter of a single currency and didn’t think economic convergence mattered very much). Cost me a distinction in that module.

But my arguments against the single currency were not only economic. I did not think it possible for countries with such very divergent histories and cultures to give up enough of their desire for self-determination to make a common currency work. I have not changed my opinion on this, and current events would seem to be proving me right.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Jason Brickley

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll http://t.co/gBjTHsGb

  3. Colin-Roy Hunter

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll http://t.co/uRY310Sd

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll http://t.co/22nQHeQB

  5. Nev Eryoumind

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll http://t.co/uRY310Sd

  6. BevR

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/SonuCchW via @libcon

  7. Mike Smart

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7UOxrgFY via @libcon

  8. Alex Braithwaite

    Robin Hood tax: backed by the rich AND the rest, says new poll | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5mrtETRw via @libcon





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