New polling shows public perceptions of single parents still out of line with the facts

New polling shows that the public still significantly underestimate the number of single parents who have a paid job & overestimate the number of teenage mums.

Our guest writer is Kate Bell, director of policy, advice and communications at Gingerbread

New polling undertaken for Gingerbread shows that the public still significantly underestimate the number of single parents who have a paid job. Polling for YouGov this month found that 65% believe that less than half of single parents are working; in fact 57% have a paid job.

Gingerbread commissioned the poll as we launch a new campaign to ‘lose the labels’ too often attached to single parenthood.

Despite the fact that one quarter of families are now headed by a single parent, our members tell us that they’re too often portrayed as scroungers and bad parents.

Further polling undertaken in 2008 found that the public also wildly overestimated the proportion of single parents who were teenagers – the average guess was 15 times higher than the actual figure of 2 per cent.

Fifty-five per cent of single parents have been married; when the public were asked to guess the average answer was 39 per cent.

We think that political and media debate play a big role in distorting perceptions. The lone parent rate has been rising steadily for the last ten years – yet following a constant debate about the need for ‘welfare reform’, fewer people now believe that most single parents work.

Teenage pregnancy and ‘broken families’ have been in the headlines again in the past few weeks, and family policy has been a central aim of the pre-election skirmishes.

We’ve secured a pledge from each of the party leaders to ‘tackle prejudice against single parents’, and written to editors of ten major newspapers and media outlets to ask them to do the same.

We’ll be reporting on who’s signed up at and monitoring what they say, but the evidence suggests that there’s still some way to go before we fully lose the labels still attached to single parenthood.

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