Ipsos MORI’s monthly poll has appeared after what appears to be a lengthy delay – the fieldwork was carried out way back between the 13th and 18th March, so actually about the same time as the first ICM and YouGov polls that showed big Conservative leads back in the middle of the month. I have no idea of quite why there was such a delay.

The topline figures, with changes from MORI’s February poll, are CON 40%(+1), LAB 35%(-2), LDEM 18%(+2). It’s obviously not in the same league as the double point leads YouGov and ICM produced at the time, but the trend was in the same direction.

While there are already more recent voting intention figures than these, there are some interesting findings looking at some of MORI’s other regular trackers. The economic optimism figure continues to get worse – this month 67% of respondents told MORI they expected the economy to get worse with only 7% expecting it to get better. The net score of -60 is now worse than the poll straight after September 11th 2001, which was the lowest point in recent years, far lower than Black Wednesday and the stock market crash in 1987 – you have to go all the way back to March 1980 to find such pessimistic public expectations about the economy.

At the same time, the economy continues to sneak up the agenda as one of the most important issues facing the country – this month 23% of people named it, behind immigraion on 44%, crime on 40% and the NHS on 24%. This is the highest level of concern about the economy since 1998, though still not nearly as high as it was in the early 90s – after Black Wednesday 53% of people thought the economy was an important issue. People are far, far more likely to be pessimistic rather than optimistic about the economy and concern is definitely growing, but at the moment its still seen as a less of an issue than things like crime and immigration.

47 Responses to “Economic optimism at its lowest since 1980”

  1. Strange that Mori show a five point lead at a time when others are higher. I would have expected a fall off after the anger of the budget subsided, but even with Comres’ recent ‘unfavourable’ Tory methodology, it still showed a 7 point lead alot later than this.

    Then again Mori haven’t put the Tories above 42 since dinosaurs roamed the earth. They have had 42 only twice.
    Labour’s lowest over the same period is 32 [and then only twice]. Taking those two out of it, their lowest is 35.
    Therefore I guess 41 and 35 is on the margins for Mori.

    Over Jan/Feb the results were Tory…
    ICM. +7 +2 +5 +3
    YouGov +8 +9 +6 +7
    Populus +4 +9
    Moir +10 -1 +2

    Over on PB one of their Labour punters is commenting that the ‘Others’ look too low on 7% and this has been almost entirely to Labours’ benefit.

  2. Do IPSOS-MORI prompt for “Others” when interviewing as the other pollsters do? If not, this might account for their lower value for “Others”.

    That being so, which methodology better reflects the real choice in the Ballot Box?

  3. The reason why the economy is creeping back up is that certain parts of the press are talking it down as much as possible for the future…..now why would they do that I wonder?

    Unemployment fell last month,got about as much press space as a gnats fart,but then again,telling people there are less unemployed is not a part of their agenda.

  4. I’m always sceptical about these economic optimism polls. (Do you expect things to get better or worse etc ?)
    The more hard up people feel at the moment, the more likely they are to think that things can only get better. The more well off they feel now, the more they may suspect it can’t last.
    This produces the paradox that the Government are safer when people feel thoroughly fed up. They can then benefit from the general relief if the worst doesn’t materialise.

  5. Are MORI in trouble? My sense is that the publication of their polls is becoming increasingly erratic and they seem to be struggling for clients? Could we be about to lose MORI from the list of regular pollsters?

  6. This makes the current WMA 40:31:18 and the WMA at the time 40:32:18. Since this poll is so old we can compute both the error from the WMA (-3.6) and the error from the Retrospectives, a whopping -6.0. Mori is now showing an average anti-C bias of 1.7 and a Standard Deviation error on the retrospectives of 3.0, the worst of any pollster except ComRes.

    Maybe GIN is right – there certainly seems to be something badly wrong with their methodology.

  7. Sally C
    The budget measures were generally favourably received (according to the polls) so that doesn’t explain much.

    It’s funny, but I suppose predictable that the economy recedes as a factor when it’s seen as going well, and rises when it’s seen as going down the pan.

    Paradoxically, the incumbent govt seems to benefit in the polls during “crisis” moments of economic distress – that could explain a narrowing of the Con lead, but perhaps IPSOS MORI scratched their heads awhile as they realised their data was out of line with others’.

  8. This poll does seem strange and seems that suggest people do not totally blame the Government for the economic problems that may be ahead unlike Black Wednesday
    I certainly expected more Government apathy than this. but I suspect this will change as more bad economic forcasts turn into reality.
    I think more and more Labour MP`s are starting to have serious doubts about GB`s leadership qualities and Goverment policy, defeat on the Anti Terror bill, bad results in Local Elections ,Boris winning, could be a tipping point for GB, something will have to give if Labour are to regain control.
    If bad economic news and Government in fighting continue which I think it will

  9. It would seem to be another case of “it’s the (public perception of) the economy stupid”.

    Certainly the economy is nowhere near as bad as it was back in the early 80s (or indeed many parts of the late 80s or early 90s), however the facts don’t matter, what matters is what people are thinking.

    Brown needs one or more of the following: oil prices to drop so fuel prices drop, the banking system to free up so interest rate cuts actually make it into people’s mortgages, northern rock to pay back a chunk of what it owes.

    I think one (or ideally all) or these would change people’s view of the economy and remove some of the feel bad factor that is kicking about.

    The thing is, these could all happen. The future oil trend for the next two years is downwards, the banking system seems to be riding the collapse with major crises, and northern rock is predicting paying back the money it owes within 2 years (strangely in line with a likely election).

  10. Glen we clash swords again :

    “If bad economic news and Government in fighting continue which I think it will”.

    The economic news sounds bad because it has been good for so long and we keep talking about the economy in the future,not now.We have low interest rates,high employment and low unemployment currently.The fear for the future economic climate is being seized upon by the right wing press as another thing to critisize the government about,even though it hasn’t happened yet and they are not entirely sure it would.The same right wing press said introducing the minimum wage would cause unemployment.

    With reagrds government in fighting it’s more of a disagreement than infighting.

    I have yet to hear GB calling his ministers a bunch of Bastards.

  11. i’ve always been a fan of yougov they seam to represent the public view better but at the same time lack regional break down unlike mori who hava very good break down of figures if yougov and others where to sort this out then we may get a better view of weather or not labour and other parties are doing well or badly in the key areas, also a move to 10 out of 10 system on likelyhood to vote would improve things as this would create uniformity within the polling done by icm-populus-yougov and others, to combine regions seams a bit odd, but this poll dose follow the trend of other polls tories up labour down and ld’s up bad news for the coming local elections.

  12. GIN – always remember that in terms of revenue political polling is pretty much irrelevant to polling companies, especially huge polling companies like Ipsos MORI.

    Its contribution is largely as a shop window, so their name turns up in the press; well over 95% of their actual turnover will come from other things. While I’m sure MORI would like to have a regular client for their political monitor, I’m sure they can swallow the cost of doing it just for the publicity and ensuring the back data is continuous when they do have clients for it.

  13. Jon tt
    The bugdet was ‘well received’ in only ONE poll and that was a so-called ‘quickie poll’ by Populus.
    It was a telephone poll, with a very small sample, which began polling straight after the budget speech. It was therefore subject to many potential flaws including having an inherant Labour bias.

    Every poll since has suggested the opposite was true and it was a poorly recieved budget. On the poll readings, only Alistair Darling’s mother could think otherwise.

    This poll was taken at the same time as the two showing huge Tory leads. Comres with [currently unkind methodology to the Tories] was taken after this and shows a bigger Tory lead [+2], but less than the comprehensive post budget polls.

    FWIW I suspect the You GOV/ICM polls either overstated the Tory position and/or caught a temporary blast of public dissapproval/anger.

    Still, I think the long term effect was to undermine the Govt position further. This underlying figures outlined above support this.

    As you say it is quite common in a poor economic climate for the voter to plump for ‘the devil you know’. However a key factor is whether the voter thinks the Govt is more competant than the Opposition on the economy.

    These details only show that confidence generally is declining. To force a return to the Govt the public would have to think Brown/Darling a safer bet than Cameron/Osborne.

    Polls suggest they don’t [athough its still quite close]. Thats why these figures matter, sometimes more than the headline figures. They tell you where you might be going from here.

  14. “Economic optimism at its lowest since 1980” in itself this shows how little relevance this has to the real world. (Or alternatively that the public has the same memory-span as a goldfish)!

    If I had been answering this poll I would have expected things to get worse over the next few months – but this would be far from expecting the British economy to get as much worse as it did on several occasions in the 1980s and early 90s.

    (Btw I am always amused at how hard some contributors work at rubbishing any poll that does not fit into their favoured view. I just take the small Tory lead as a tiny ray of sunshine in a whole raft of highly variable results since New Year, showing not-unexpected concern about the economy, dissatisfaction with the government, but little sign of a settled public enthusiasm for the conservative alternative).

  15. The critical issue about the economy is not whether it is or is not better than in some previous downturn – that is a matter for economic historians. What we should look at is how the real economy is affecting people’s peceptions of the Government. Marginal changes to unemployment – however welcome – do not affect most poeple but rises in key prices do. The factors out there at the moment include: domestic fuel prices, mortgages, food prices and tax changes (inc Council Tax) – none of these are positive and there is a growing risk that large numbers of lower income people will find themselves having to sell up or being repossessed. At the moment this is only a risk but the forward credit indicators are not good. Interestingly employment statistics are not a guide to this since all these people are employed and it is overstretched current income that is the issue. The Government staggered through one fixed rate end and now faces another the outcome of which remains uncertain.

    I suspect that it is this uncertainty that is influencing the polls.

  16. Sorry Sally but I don’t detect any anger in the polls at the budget measures – the gas-guzzling tax, the 2p Basic rate cut, the alcohol measures,etc might have had a qualified welcome, and there were arguments against them, but no anger.

    Generally well received, I maintain. That’s not to say that Brown/Darling are popular, of course not, but it’s not because of the measures in the budget (which had in any event been pre-announced back in October)

  17. T.JONES – you say you have had to clash swords with GLEN about his opinion on the Governments record – i will have to clash swords with you on your statement :-

    (“We have low interest rates,high employment and low unemployment currently.The fear for the future economic climate is being seized upon by the right wing press as another thing to critisize the government about,even though it hasn’t happened yet and they are not entirely sure it would.The same right wing press said introducing the minimum wage would cause unemployment”)

    T JONES , you have to have been living in a sweet smelling field of Labour perfection !! You say we have low unemployment & high employment – that is proven nonsense / the figures are all manipulated via disability benefit , job seekers allowance & others etc to show that there are less claiming benefit , thus unemployed- the unemployment figures for indigenous UK citizens is at an all time high .

    Yes the employed figure is high , because after millions of foreign nationals have arrived in 11 years from across the globe – they are accepting low paid jobs (often below the minimum wage that you so proudly boast about)

    The reason the minimum wage has’nt affected businesses the way it was forecast is because a lot of companies totally ignore it !

    Then you RANT on about the so called right wing press against Labour – i did’nt hear Labour or their follwers like yourself complain when the media was on Labour’s side for the first 9 years of their regime . Even known left wing papers and publications are very “cold” towards Labour at the moment.

    The momentum against Labour will increase more and more from ALL sides in the coming months and years – it may well be that by 2010 labour will be so damaged that they struggle to even hold onto their core vote of 27% – they may well fall into 3rd place after the Liberals.

    That is the “Oracles” latest forecast !!!

    I do hope that my comments are not classed as a partisan rant – it’s purely a response based on my perceptions to T.JONES’s comments

  18. simon cooke – your point about the impact of unemployment figures and price increases is interesting.

    I remember a gimmicky weekly slot on the news in the nineties – called “job-loss-ticker” or something in which the lists of job-losses were rattled off with a rather blood-chilling effect on me!

    Without such weekly in-your-face stats, it is hard to take monthly figures as being as significant as the hard evidence of a lighter wallet at the end of a weekly shop.

  19. Mike – yep, it’s a partisan rant :) Words like “sweet smelling field of Labour perfection” and “i did’nt hear Labour or their follwers like yourself”?

    This is not really the place for discussing what the public think. There’s no point arguing about what they should think, your not going to convince anyone.

    No clashing sowrds, any of you :)

  20. Glenn I didn’t realise that you had change your name.

    Oracle,take a deep breath and try and compose yourself for goodness sake it is a messageboard.

    Anthony – The clashing of swords in politics is historic.The distance between the government and the opposition benches in the HOC was made to be over two swords lengths in case it ever got a bit boisterous in the past.

  21. John H – Any ray of sunshine is needed at the moment.There is still plenty to play for,maybe there will be a rinbow in two years time?

  22. Thanks for the reply earlier, Anthony. :)

  23. John TT

    I’ve always felt that it is when matters affect people personally that we are tempted to shift our support. So long as people’s concern with the government is at a distance from thier lives (just ‘pub talk’ for want of a better phrase) they tend to remain with their current preference. But issues that we directly experience affect change – thus Iraq did less damage to Labour than anticipated by many (the main impact was among more educated Asian muslims). Today there is the possibility of that change affecting a large enough nuumber to shift the basis of support for the two largest parties – but it remains a possibility albeit one becoming more likely with each passing day. As I said above, Gordon has his fingers crossed that the economy will ride out the impact of the next round of mortgage increases.

    Finally, we should note that (contrary to what the press always implies) it is the Labour voting North (plus Scotland and Wales) where the risks of negative economic impact are greatest (see the Experian ‘credit crunch’ map in today’s Daily Telegraph).

  24. TJones On guard!! (sorry Anthony but just this once is it ok to play with plastic swords)
    I do to some extent share Mike`s frustrations he obviously is very passionate about his politics and it seems yourself also ( good on the pair of you)
    But both you and John H just seem obsessive about what you percive as the “right wing press” campaign against GB and the Government

    It is just not true that you have to be “right wing” for any paper or media organisation who dares to make genuine and justified criticism ,or just reporting how a general concensus of opinion is pointing towards quite major economic problems ( read The Sun comment today still backing Brown and having a little swipe at the Tories)

    The facts may actually be as I have said before is that the Goverment`s record in office is unravelling and GB is taking them over the edge
    I remember in the 80`s even more hatered and finger pointing at the press by Labour and look where that got them.If Labour now fall into the trap of blaming the Press and ignoring public opinion the result will be the same.
    All the hard work from Blair and New Labour getting the press on their will be lost and so will the next GE.

  25. TJones Oh I forgot admittedly no “Bastard” ( in public anyway) comment, but one of his close Ministers did want to inject Labour MP`s with rabbies if they didnt toe the line
    Even Steven at the moment don`t you think but watch this space!

  26. Ipsos – Mori are clearly polling/weighting diiferently than most of the other pollsters but who is doing it correctly is open to debate.

    IPSOS/Mori were out of step with the others last month and again this month. However their figures still show the Tories up from last month and Labour down from last month.

    Still lots and lots of bad news in the media. Hopefully the BOE can alleviate some of the pain on us borrowers next week.

    I still expect the next YouGov poll (The most accurate pollsters I believe) will show the Tories in a double digit lead.

    The local election night coming up will very important , not for council wins/losses, but to compare the size of the votes with what the pollsters have been saying.

  27. Johntt

    ‘Sorry Sally but I don’t detect any anger in the polls at the budget measures – the gas-guzzling tax, the 2p Basic rate cut, the alcohol measures,etc might have had a qualified welcome..’

    I stand by what I said. You must be Alisdair Darling’s mum :-)

  28. John H

    ‘(Btw I am always amused at how hard some contributors work at rubbishing any poll that does not fit into their favoured view. I just take the small Tory lead as a tiny ray of sunshine in a whole raft of highly variable results since New Year, showing not-unexpected concern about the economy, dissatisfaction with the government, but little sign of a settled public enthusiasm for the conservative alternative).’

    By taking comfort in a ‘small Tory lead’ in one poll, carried out at the same time as two showing large leads, are you not guilty of ‘rubbishing’ TWO polls that ‘do not fit your favoured view’.

    Now I am amused. :-)

  29. Anthont. When a big event is reported (e.g. May 1st.) do pollsters “re-calibrate” somehow, taking account of real results on a large scale? I would have thought it would be an opportunity to correct some of their assumptions.

  30. John H

    ” …..the banking system to free up so interest rate cuts actually make it into people’s mortgages,”

    John, as you say, the efforts of BoE in making cheap additional liquidity available to Banks has not translated into reduced mortgage rates. In turn the LIBOR stubbornly refuses to fall to “official” Bank Rate levels.One wonders if BoE is actually having any effect at all!

    There is still a combination of reluctance to lend inter-bank, and a massive liquidity shortfall-despite Mervyn King’s best efforts.
    What is happening in the mortgage market just now is little short of dramatic.Products available decimated, refusal to renew , and actual cessation of new lending.It is interesting that credit card borrowing is increasing dramatically-I saw this factor described as akin to running out of Gin & turning to the Meths bottle.

    This is a clear indication-if one is actually needed-of how much the domestic consumption element of our economic growth has been sustained by debt rather than earnings.

    As the Banking Sector puts it’s credit splurge (cynically!!) into reverse, we are bound to see Repossessions & Bankruptcies rise if not a return of negative equity.

    And currently no one seems to know the magnitude or location of UK held impaired securitised US mortgages.Supposing our domestic mortgage book starts to be similarly impaired?
    And when are UK Banks going to start rebuilding their capital base like UBS?

    There is a feel of paralysis & inaction about in UK-it can only make things worse.

    IMHO we haven’t started to see the real effects of the credit crisis in UK yet.

  31. TJ Jones
    I think you are being a little disingenuous to imply that it is the press talking down the economy that is contributing to these figures.
    They are only reporting what they are seeing and what most of us are feeling.
    The government, by its own claims, has delivered unprecedented growth over the last 10 years. Surely then we have a right to expect policies and strategies that will see us through the next few difficult years.
    If not, I feel we are more than justified in thinking that our economy has benefited from a global tailwind which required very little steering from the government other than the odd tweak. To continue the metaphor we are very likely to be heading for stormy waters and the Captain is not inspiring confidence as can be seen from the polls.

  32. A quick survey of apparent political opinion amongst the contributors to this site shows a small Conservative lead. The raw data have not been weighted in any direction. The most pleasing feature, however, is that a significant proportion reveal that they are dispassionate, thoughtful, even-handed, reasonable and competent at grammar and spelling. This group may well be in the ascendant by May 1st.

  33. A couple of news items as follow up on the credit crisis:-

    Halifax is INCREASING it’s mortgage rates for people with less than 25% deposits.

    The IMF says UK House Prices are 30% overvalued & need correcting. They describe our house price increases over the last decade as “one of the world’s largest unexplained increases in house prices” !!

    If the IMF are anywhere near the truth we are in for a very very very rough ride- Gordon can start booking the Removal Van& George Osborne might begin to think he chose the wrong job.

    Yes-people are correct to be less optimistic about the economy.

  34. “Gordon can start booking the Removal Van& George Osborne might begin to think he chose the wrong job”….is this the first towards another Conservative 3 million?

  35. I would like to ask Mike Richardson what in depth understanding of macroeconomics he has. Without this base of knowledge you cannot understand its relationship to the microeconomy that affects us all.

    In zero ‘technical’ language, only certain limited salary groups have gained from this how the current (and previous) admnistration has chosen to channel the money. This is the normal choice faced by any government. Public spend – or as I would prefer – Personal spend. However, in the end, it boils down to the PERCENTAGE of people who’s wealth actually grows or falls IN PROPORTION to the national economy’s perfomance, as a direct result of a Government’s economic policy. As an economist, that is a KEY factor.

    We know the global economy had begun its growth for 3 years from 1994 onwards and GLOBAL growth in general continued side by with the UK’s.

    The MACROeconomy has benefitted enormously…. however, the MICROeconomy that affects us all has NOT, in relation, DIRECTLY benefitted the average citizen’s wealth – RELATIVE to the immense growth the personal increase in our spending power has been tiny…..

    To put it slightly differently, in the past 10/11 years, our personal spending power in relation to the massive economic growth (AND as a percentage) has significantly reduced in relation the position of the economy in 1997, when we had a greater percentage of our spending power to make our personal decisions how we spent it.

    It’s the reality of politics that PERSONAL economic principles often dictate how we vote politically. I respect socialist political views, I just believe that people deserve to have more say how their hard-earned money is spent.

    At the next election I think many seats will change hands that are not considered as ‘vulnerable’ – simply because of personal economic factors which affect areas of the country containing certain ‘salary bands’.

  36. I am getting bored with Mike ‘the oracle’ Richardson.

  37. Personally I like The Oracle. :D

  38. Sally C (6:11 pm)

    No I wasn’t rubbishing all the other polls, just finding consolation in one or two small chinks of light.

    More seriously, there is a huge variation in the results of the different polls (and sometimes even in the same one over comparatively short time spans). In another thread I mentioned that I’ve plotted all the conservative leads this year – the chart is at:

    (It doesn’t include this Mori result).
    This, more clearly than a moving average graph, shows the very large amount of “noise” – enough to make small changes from one poll to another almost worthless.
    I am not denying that, in spite of all the noise, it’s clear that there has been a fairly large Tory lead since January – but how large, and which poll is nearer the “truth” is almost impossible to say without some reliable reference point. Even the May local elections are not directly comparable with a GE and need a lot of “interpretation”… but everyone here is good at that :)

  39. TJones
    The bias “Right Wing” press are at it again read Todays Daily Mail who have they singled out regarding MP`S expenses?
    No not GB as you would like us to think, no they have gone after Cameron
    With The Sun backing Brown yesterday, just wait and see what happens when The “Right Wing” press actually do go after GB and the Government because at the moment they haven`t even started

  40. Me too GIN-at least he has a sense of humour.

  41. looking at local government by-elections especially in London it seems that the Labour vote is holding up. Of course it could be that Tory party organisation in these areas is weak.Of course it probably helps Boris Johnson that he’s a bit of a maverick.
    Good news for the Tories that the NUT are striking just before the local elections – of course Brown will be doing all he can to settle.

  42. Colin and GIN

    Well,I see where you are coming from and I shall now attempt to interpret the Oracle’s comments as those of a closet humorist with a somewhat odd view of political realities.

  43. Colin – I don’t think he is trying to be humerous.I think he believes what he posts,and if he does,yes it is rather entertaining.

    Drew Whitehead – Please try not to confuse Mike with facts,he struggles,and then replies in long rants.

  44. T J Jones-I doubt if either of them will join the ranks of the unemployed.

    DIY always booms in a recession & I understand George Osborne knows something about wallpaper.

    People sometimes turn to prayer in a recession & Gordon Brown has considerable skills in the preaching department.

  45. For those who have yet to read this weeks The Economist…,

    Mr Paulson, Chairman of the Federal Reserve admits the US is in an recession. Sneeze and cold spring to mind.

    3-Month Inter-bank Rate increasing despite expectation of lower Bank base-rate. [Point already made by an informed contributor.] Hence the news of mortgage restrictions from HSBC-FirstDirect, Halifax-BoS, and Skipton.

    Doubts about the quality of NorthernRock’s mortgage book, and it’s ability to pay back the taxpayer. Europe looks certain to force NR to drastically cut back on staff and business, leaving the bank with the worst performing loans on it’s books.

    Just a sample from a reputable source. Agree with it or not, don’t criticise the messanger….

    P.S. Charlemagne, the paper’s European commentator, mocks the EU’s inability to deal with the PM. He whimsically warns them to prepare for his successor, Mr Cameron…! ;)

  46. Anthony,

    Sorry this is in with Ken…. I meant to post it here.

    There is a new YouGov poll on Scotland in the times and Scottish Sun, I’ve posted the results under Scottish Voting Intentions.


  47. Oh, err…!

    “Growth in the UK will slow sharply to 1.6% in both 2008 and 2009.”

    IMF estimates @ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7338326.stm.

    To JohnH, John H and John tt. I’d told you to watch out for such a stat. Recession, oh, dear!