Changing views of the economy and living standards
The 2011 SSA survey took place against a backdrop of ongoing economic austerity and public sector budget restraint. This was reflected in people's priorities for government and their views of the economy and standard of living. 'Helping the economy to grow faster' remained the most commonly chosen priority for the Scottish Government for the third occasion in a row (chosen by 36%, in comparison to 17% who chose the next most popular option, 'cut crime'). Views of the economy were slightly more positive than they were in 2010. However, the balance of opinion remained very negative, with 57% saying they felt Scotland's economy had got weaker in the 12 months prior to the survey. Meanwhile, perceptions of the general standard of living in Scotland were even more negative in 2011 compared with 2010 - 67% felt that the standard of living had fallen in the last year, compared with 54% who said the same in 2010.
However, the SSA survey again indicates that these negative perceptions of the economy and the general standard of living have not been associated with a significant decrease in people's assessments of their own standard of living or their satisfaction with their lives as a whole. In 2011, the mean score for people's satisfaction with their own standard of living was 7.75 (out of a possible 10) - little different from the mean score of 7.79 recorded in 2007. While this may seem paradoxical, it links with existing research which suggests that subjective assessments of our own lives are primarily affected by relative rather than absolute living standards. In other words, if people believe living standards have fallen across Scotland they may still be relatively satisfied with their own. Nevertheless, there remain significant differences in people's perceptions of their own standard of living by employment status, income and self-rated hardship. Those who are unemployed, permanently sick or disabled, on low incomes, or who feel they are struggling on their current income were all less satisfied with their standard of living in comparison with other groups.
Email: Linzie Liddell