But poor ratings for the government are not yet disastrousby Peter Kellner / September 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
After two years in which millions of voters gave the government the benefit of the doubt, opinion is now hardening against George Osborne’s economic policies. This can be seen from YouGov tracking data, and a new survey conducted exclusively for Prospect.
There have been three stages to the evolution of the public mood. At first, ministers could deliver a simple message. Labour had screwed up. We, the coalition, have to take painful decisions, but they are not our fault. Britain will emerge stronger than before.
After a few months, when that enthusiasm had worn off, the coalition entered stage two, which lasted for well over a year, until this spring’s Budget. The figures settled down, with around 35 per cent thinking their policies were good for the economy, and around 47 per cent saying bad. These were tolerable results for the government.
However, in the past six months the numbers have slipped further. In early September they reached their lowest yet, with 29 per cent saying good and 53 per cent bad. The Conservatives’ hopes of winning the next election outright depend on turning these numbers round.
To delve behind this observation, this month’s YouGov/Prospect survey has explored attitudes to the economy. First we asked whether government policies on taxes and public spending have been good or bad, first for Britain as a whole, and second for themselves and their families.
There is a marked difference—30 per cent say the policies have been good for Britain, but only 11 per cent think they and their families have benefited. The difference in the “bad” figures is much smaller: Britain, 44 per cent; own family, 51 per cent. Rather, a sizeable minority (28 per cent) say the measures have not made much difference to them. This means that almost 40 per cent say they have not (yet) been adversely affected by the tax increases and spending cuts—good news for the government. The trouble for George Osborne is that if this 40 per cent starts to contract, his party could be in deeper trouble.
But what about that half of the nation that says it has suffered? In what ways? We listed some of their possible grumbles and asked them to tick all that applied. Top, named by 56 per cent of the sufferers, is higher VAT. Next, on 50 per cent, comes “the very…