Today sees the first polls taken since the nationalisation of Northern Rock. A snap Populus poll with a small sample size for the Times found that 49% of people agreed that it was right for the government to nationalise Northern Rock, with 40% disagreeing -although 69% thought they should have tried harder to find a private buyer. 58% of people said the government was to blame for the problems affecting Northern Rock to some extent, but this was lower than the proportion of people who blamed the credit crunch, the city authorities or the management of Northern Rock itself.
The poll appears to show Brown and Darling back ahead of Cameron and Osborne on economic trust, though it’s worth noting that the poll doesn’t appear to have been politically weighted. Answers to questions like that are often extremely party partisan, so this shift will be largely to do with weighting, rather than a change in public opinion.
While there is support for nationalisation, it doesn’t mean that Labour’s handling of the issue is a positive for them, it may simply be a recognition that it is only practical opinion at this stage, the public could still think the overall way the problem was handled is poor. A second poll, this time by YouGov for the Economist, found only 11% thought the government’s handling of Northern Rock over the last few months was excellent or good, 51% think it has been poor or awful.
Does this benefit the Conservatives? In the short term at least, not at all: if anything, their reaction appears to have backfired on them. 59% of people agreed the Conservatives would have done much the same and they are just playing politics. That may reflect no more than a low opinion of all politicans rather than the Conservatives specifically, but the proof of the pudding is in the voting intentions – and the figures for the Economist show a marginal shift from the Conservatives to Labour in the wake of the nationalisation – the topline figures with changes from the last YouGov poll were CON 40%(-1), LAB 34%(+2), LDEM 16%(nc). As ever, we shouldn’t read too much into small changes in a single poll, but it looks like this hasn’t damaged Labour.