19/02/2014 21:57 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 21:59 GMT

Voters Believe Welfare State Will Be Gone In A Generation, According To ComRes Poll

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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: British Prime Minster David Cameron makes his way to Downing Street from the Houses of Parliament on October 23, 2013 in London, England. David Cameron announced in his weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons that 'green' energy taxes are to be reviewed after suggesting they pushed up household bills to unacceptable levels. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Most voters believe the welfare state will have shrunk or be almost wiped out within a generation, polling has found. Some 87% of adults think the system is "facing severe problems", rising to 94% among the over-55s, research commissioned by Christian think tank Theos found.

The majority, 68%, believe claimants should only benefit from state services if they have paid into the system, even if they are in real need, and the same amount said welfare should be a "safety net for only the poorest and neediest", according to the ComRes poll. But half the population believe the wealthy should be able to receive benefits if they have paid taxes.

The findings comes as Prime Minister David Cameron was moved to defended the Government's welfare reforms in the face of criticism from the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Nearly six in ten voters believe pensions, the National Health Service, tax credits, child benefit, disability living allowance and unemployment benefit, will be cut or have virtually disappeared over the next three decades, the poll found.

Around one third believe politicians are "mainly to blame", while a fifth said false claimants were responsible, 16% blamed "benefits tourists" and 15% said the European Union was at fault. Theos director Elizabeth Oldfield said: "This research shows that we need to think carefully not only about specific welfare policies but also about the bigger picture, about what welfare is for."

:: ComRes interviewed 2,027 adults between December 6 and 8.