The full tables for YouGov’s Sun poll are up on their website here.

The questions on the two party leaders aren’t particularly flattering for either of them. 56% think Gordon Brown has no understanding or what ordinary people are going through, 54% think he is not providing the country with strong leadership, only 28% think he has sensible policies for tackling the current crisis.

These figures are a reminder that Gordon Brown is still viewed very negatively – when we talk about the improvement in his image, it is important to remember that it hasn’t gone from bad to good, it’s gone from atrocious to merely bad. Several of the questions in this poll were asked by YouGov back in September 2008 and illustrate this well: Brown’s net score on understanding real people’s problems has improved by 17 points since early September… but from minus 40 to minus 23. His net score on providing strong government has shot up by 30 points… but from minus 52 to minus 22.

David Cameron’s ratings on the same question aren’t particularly wonderful either, while he has a net positive rating on providing strong leadership (41% to 35%), 48% agree that he doesn’t understand what ordinary people are going through and only 26% think he has sensible policies for tackling Britain’s economic problems, though this is an area where one might have expected there to be a larger Labour/Brown lead – once again, the polling evidence is that the Labour charge that the Conservatives are a do nothing party doesn’t appear to be resonating.

Asked about the economy itself, people say they are more worried about the economic downturn and unemployment (54%) than they are the government borrowing too much and having to raise taxes in the future (40%). However, when asked about their preferred solution, they seem to shy away from more borrowing. Only 21% of respondents said their preferred option was for the government to cut taxes and spend more now, and then pay for it later once the economy had recovered. 40% preferred the route of cutting taxes by cutting back on public spending. 23% said they would prefer the government to do neither.

This would suggest that the Conservative stance on the economy should be the electoral winner. However, asked where they would like spending cuts to fall, the results are predictably that people would like less spent on foreign people (overseas aid and subscriptions to international bodies are by far the most popular areas for cuts), on long term things (climate change) and then on things that don’t affect them directly (subsidies to farmers or the post office, the armed services, welfare benefits for the poor). Very few people say they would prefer spending to be cut on schools and hospitals.

30 Responses to “More from YouGov’s Sun Poll”

  1. WMA 40:34:16 so no real change, but certainly there seems to be no more momentum to the Brown Bounce.

  2. “None of the above” would seem to be the mood of the British public at the moment.

    It’ll be interesting to see if/when this mood changes and opinion moves significantly towards one party or the other.

  3. The amount of personel borrowing that has been going on in recent years suggests to me that a lot of people tend to take a short-term view of things. These people are pleased that interest rates are so low and that the government is borrowing so much that they can keep on spending.

    I suspect that these people who have said they would vote Labour are responding rather to what is happening to their ability to spend now.

    These fair weather friend will gradually forsake Labour as the economy grows worse over the next 6 months. And when the election comes Mr. Brown will have no more money left to buy their support.

    For balance I should add that some leading economics it seems do think Mr. Brown has been doing the right things for the long-term. But most people are not economists and not all economists agree anyway.

  4. It may also be worthwhile noting that Mr. Brown has asked to be judged by the long-term implications of his decisions. And I think it a reasonable to assert that people who save tend to be people who take a long-term view. But with interest rates set to be low for a long time Mr. Brown can expect little sympathy from such people.

  5. This poll suggests that people don’t want public spending cuts but other polls have suggested that the public don’t want higher taxes and don’t want higher government borrowing. These 3 findings are not compatible with eac h other. One or more of these will have to happen.

    Perhaps another poll should be which of these 3 things would the public find the lesser of evils.

  6. I would expect the polls to continue to oscillate, but with a very slow underlying trickle away from Brown for the forseeable future. Brown’s hope will be to time the general election during a Labour peak – and he could still win if he does this. Cameron will be wanting to speed up the trickle, or hope that Brown mistimes it. In the long run, I’d say time probably isn’t on Brown’s side.

    Incidentally, we haven’t seen any polls based on voting intentions if Labour were led by anyone else. Is this because it’s now pretty much a certainty that Brown won’t face a challenge?

  7. I think the key thing is what measures (if any) are seen to have worked in 12 months time. In this respect Darling and Brown have much to gain from painting the recession as truly deep and awesome, if it means they can turn round in a years time and say it wasn’t that bad after all and that’s down to us.

    I wouldn’t pay too much attention to polls on individual strategies to the recession – as KTL says the responses are incompatible and all over the place. What will matter is the retrospective judgement of what the governmnet did and whether it was effective.

  8. “This poll suggests that people don’t want public spending cuts”

    Did I misread it? I thought it showed that the majority agreed with the statment that taxes should be cut accompanied by cuts in public spending. The fact that when asked about the specifics of what should be cut people tend to name things which are impractical either in terms of revenue or implementation is a different issue.

  9. It’s perfectly obvious that in the long, or even medium, term the UK economy needs sustainable asset prices, savings ratios, balance of payments and public finances. None of these is the case at present and with the exception of causing a dramatic fall in Sterling (which Brown claims not to be responsible for, but which is to a large extent a vote of no confidence by external investors) none of Brown’s measures aims towards this. The general economic view, however, is that in a recession the focus should be on a stimulus, with sustainability put off to a distant future. “make me chaste, but not yet”.

    Brown’s policies may or may not make sense in the short term, but cannot make sense in the medium/long term.

  10. @ Alec – “What will matter is the retrospective judgement of what the governmnet did and whether it was effective.”

    Given that Brown has to go to the polls in 2010 at the latest, retrospective judgement isn’t very important at all because there isn’t time for it to happen before the general election. There are various predictions about how long the recession will last but I’ve yet to see one that claimed it would be less than a year.

  11. I completed this poll and thought the options on the economy were bizarre. All options included cutting taxes, there was not an option to increa\se borrowing and leaving taxes where they were

  12. Tch-tch-tch…!

    However, asked where they would like spending cuts to fall, the results are predictably that people would like less spent on foreign people (overseas aid and subscriptions to international bodies are by far the most popular areas for cuts), on long term things (climate change) and then on things that don’t affect them directly (subsidies to farmers or the post office, the armed services, welfare benefits for the poor).

    Sorry Ant’, but your analysis has been Gordoom-ised. Defence-spending is seen as a target for savings by less then one-in-five of the sample.

    With the collapse of the oil-industry and pyramid-banking, further cuts in Defence would cripple Scotland. Add to which England spends more on her northern cousin then she does on defence-procurement, I doubt if the willingness for defence-cuts are based upon firm standings.

    That said, back off to Mike’s place…. ;)

  13. Re: Gooey Blob – I agree. Time is not on Brown’s side and it’s hard to see now how this will improve. I still think that Brown’s best chance is to go for a GE as soon as possible – so that even if Labour does lose the election, it will be a loss instead of a massacre.

    I don’t think we’ll see a Labour leadership challenge this side of a Brown-led GE, purely because if Labour were to ditch Brown now that would surely enforce a GE anyway – and the Labour leadership choosing mechanism is too slow and cumbersome for it to be achieved within the next few months. Conversely, even if the economy does completely nose-dive then a GE led by a Labour NOT led by Brown might be more appealing to the electorate, thereby giving Labour a greater chance of a victory. The killing of two birds with one stone, if you like. However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are too many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ for this chance to be viable one. Unless a miracle occurs from somewhere soon, then this Labour regime will fast run out of ideas, steam and the will to survive and just hope that the end will be mercifully quick.

  14. James Ludlow: “There are various predictions about how long the recession will last but I’ve yet to see one that claimed it would be less than a year.”

    Did you miss the Pre-Budget Report?

  15. I’ve read an interesting piece, can’t remember which columnist or paper, comparing GB’s decision on when to have the general election now or in 2010 with Sunny Jim in the 70s.

    A really interesting suggestion was about personal vanity and that Sunny Jim might partly have put off the election because in the history books it would look better showing him PM for a longer period – 1976-79 rather than 1976-78 .

    If you were GB what would look better 2007-9 or 2007-10…

  16. @ LS – haha!

  17. if brown holds an eletion in 2010 he will most likely lose beacuse by that point the other party’s will have pined and rightfully so the economy all on him and yes in the lead up to the EU & local elections this year the poll gap between the two partys will grow again to 12 to 15pts as a maximum and 9 to 11pts as a minimum, another thing that goes againest labour is its members base at council level has been wiped out by two very strong conservative elections in the last two years, but on the other hand labour has alway been weak in local govenment even if it has more seats than most of the other partys as in 1996. two years after 1996 the labour party lost alot of members in that years local elections to lib dem and others but also a few seats to the conservative, but the big nife in the back for the labour party was in 2003 and 2004 in advance of the 2005 elections, this time round labour has very few tropes left on the ground and hopefully another wipe out this year in the county’s will do the trick. and the 23% of seats labour currently control could fall to 20% or less if the vote level is the same as last year so all in all not much chance for brown as he has very few members left. and just by fate the total number of councillors per party is similar to that of the projected national vote the totals are

    councillors: CON 44% LAB 23% LD 20% OTH 13%

    so to me the base represents an actual trend and could prove vital to labours chances in 2010, i would also not be shocked if the above was the actual result at a genaral election.

  18. Stuart: No way would the result be CON:44 Labour:23

    David Cameron will not get such a good result, if Labour could only get something like 43% in 1997 after one of the worst governments ever then The Tory Party won’t win such a big gap and there is no way the Labour vote would fall to 23% just 3% ahead of the Liberal Democrats considering John Major got 30% in 1997 after running one of the most unpopular regimes

    I fail to believe Labour is as unpopular as they were. Tony Blair gave Britain hope and I don’t think David Cameron represents hope.

    The Government always traditionally sees an increase in support at a general election. Also, Labour has, it can’t be denied, done some good and I don’t think people will forget things like Labour giving us the Minimum wage and equality act etc so there is no way they would get low 20s.
    Traditionally turn out is lower at council elections and Labour has never exactly shined at council elections anyway!

  19. JACKR – “I fail to believe Labour is as unpopular as they were. Tony Blair gave Britain hope and I don’t think David Cameron represents hope”

    I agree that Tony Blair did give Britain hope – purely as the New Labour was so fresh and promised a new start, compared to the tired, sleaze-ridden Conservative government at that time.
    However, I dont think any party leader is capable of inspiring such optimism now, regardless of their character or intent, purely because of the mood within a country gripped now by a recession. The electorate has recognised that no-one is capable of bringing us out of this recession unscathed, so hope – unfortunately – is not a issue.
    This is reflected within the latest YouGov poll, I believe, in which neither Brown nor Cameron appeared to have that ‘public awareness’ that Blair simply oozed.
    It is now simply down to a matter of who can be best trusted and who can best achieve the greater damage limitation to individual/national financial suffering, Unfortunately Brown’s record in both these areas is not good, despite all the hype attached to his ‘bounces’. The only problem Cameron has is that he is untested, but the next GE may be the opportunity he needs to show his worth.
    Whatever the Labour and Conservative parties have achieved in the past is just that, in the past. The economic hell of the next 1 – 2 years will be what most people will be focussing on

  20. I agree Tony K. Labour relied on Tony Blair for a lot and generally people felt as though he understood them – which is always a good thing!
    I don’t think the next election will be a landslide for any party though, people will feel a certain risk factor voting for the Conservatives but may feel as though Labour is too tired to get their vote. Certainly Labour in my opinion will get something in the 30% range, but not the twenties. David Cameron is a fresh face for the Conservatives but I don’t think the party is renewed like Tony Blair renewed Labour, therefore in my opinion they certainly won’t win by a landslide – seat or votes wise.

  21. James Ludlow – 2010 is a very, very long way off in terms of politics and polls.

    I suspect largely due to a rapid recovery in the US we will probably have a deep but quick recession. Even the Germans are now thinking about a fiscal stimulus after saying rude things about everyone else, and although we could have ended up like the 1930s or Japan in the 1990s the speed and scale of government intervention globally is frankly impressive if viewed on a historical scale. Of course some of it won’t work as well as intended, but we all should remember we’re in experimental territory here. The point is some of it will work, and economies will move again. The point I was making is what the voters judgement will be in 18 months time or so about how effective our governments actions were and whether the price was worth it.
    History doesn’t necesarily feature in elections very much, but there is a general sense that Labour are trying to alleviate the crisis -this is a very different attitude to previous recession when the impression was that government didn’t care and recession was good for weeding out the weak. We don’t yet know if this mood will take hold or if things go badly wrong and Brown loses his gamble with our money.

  22. Thanks Anthony – that was it. I know it seems really superficial as an argument but if you take a step back – let’s consider this:

    1. Climbing to the top of the slippery pole is the goal of nearly all MPs. Once there letting go must be v v tough.
    2. Having waited for so long to get there, why not ‘enjoy’ the time at the top for as long as you can if you don’t think you can win again (personally at least).
    3. If your life goal has been to be PM then surely you have an awareness / eye on how history will record you and don’t want to look like a stop-gap.

    I think this personal vanity issue might be a surprisingly big argument for 2010 if one assumes GB is resigned to not leading another Labour to a decent majority Govt in power in the next 18 months unless another unexpected even turns up dear boy.

  23. damn i was making some sort of sense until that last waffled sentence.

  24. Alec – yes, 2010 is a long way off in terms of politics and polls. But not in terms of recovery from a recession. For voters to have gone through recession, come out the other side and start reflecting favourably upon Brown will require rather longer than 12-18 months. I just don’t see all that happen in such a limited timespace.

    It’s all very well hoping that voters will look favourably on Brown for “trying to alleviate the crisis” but, again, I just don’t see many people being that generous to him when their jobs are lost or on the line, their houses are repossessed or unsellable, food and fuel prices are rocketing, and their PM is the same man who was Chancellor for the decade running up to the recession. There’s only so many times a PM can throw his hands up in the air and blame it on the boogie.

  25. JACKR> “The Government always traditionally sees an increase in support at a general election”

    Actually no, as we briefly discussed on the last thread.

    The evidence shows that the Conservatives traditionally increase support at a general election, whether they are in government or in opposition.

    From my post on the last thread:

    ‘Over on policitalbetting dot com it also forms the basis for Smithson’s Golden Polling Rule: namely that when, for a Lab-Con contest, you are presented with a spread of conflicting opinion polls, the most accurate are always those that give the worst position for Labour.

    Apparently this holds true for every general, european, mayoral and by election since the 1980s.

    In the 1980s and early 1990s, th statistics seemed o show that ‘governments’ always suffered mid-term blues, then recovered somewhat for the election.

    Since 1997 and the advent Labour government, bizarrely it is still the Conservatives who dip in the mid-term, and recover for the general election.

    So the true ‘mid term blues’ trism should be that the conservative Party always suffers mid-term blues, then pull back in time for the election (even if not enough to win).’

  26. Fluffy,

    Don’t be too worried about us, Oil is still viable and the banks are still there.

    As to defence spending it’s currently at £35 bn of which £3 bn comes from Scotland. At present the UK spends less than £3 bn in Scotland so if it is cut but tax isn’t a lot of people up here will start to get upset.


  27. I am always wary of polls which ask about attitudes. Enough respondents give the view that seems less selfish than what they really feel.
    This has been a contstant factor in the past with the shy Tories concept when we had high unemployment twice under them.
    For example whilst the base rate cuts is a response to the macro-economic sitiuation there are big (tracker mortgage) winnners and big losers, savers with high deposits.
    How will these balance out and whose natural supporters are affected is significant and will gainers answer honestly to pol questions.
    The contradiction in recessions is that those in work who do not feel vulnerable often do well due to low base rates and lower taxes.
    I wonder if poll company adjustment to raw data that applied previously should be as big as one thing Cammo has done is to make it appear less selfish to be Tory (not a partisan remark but a comment based perceptions, nasty party et al.)
    41% not excactly decisive? should be 45% and above to be sure of winning outright. may get there as recessioins bites let’s see?

  28. The popular choices for cuts remind me of what happens at Council level.

    When we need to make efficiencies the first choice of the public is always “Councillors expenses”.

    When I ask; “Do you know how much we spend”,

    The standard answer is ” To Bloody much”.

    Much as things like the UN, EU or aid may be popular targets they are also very small percentages of the overall spend, and to be honest you could scrap them all and still not find the money we need.

    The big budgets tend to be things like Education and health and the public don’t want to see these cut.

    The effect is to make polls like this all but useless from a policy point of view.

    If it’s popular it will have a large budget but politically you can’t touch it, if it’s unpopular it can be cut but the budget is to small to make the difference.

    YouGov could of course try to find a client willing to pay for something more sophisticated.

    A list of spending departments and there budgets by percentage and asked people to put in cuts to add up to what they thought we should cut. ( I think Darling was after £5 bn over and above what was already targeted).

    That would give us an idea of not only how much we thought should be cut but where it should come from. We could also see where each parties supporters thought the axe should fall.


  29. James, I see were you are coming from but in a way it is easier for the Government when it comes to campaigning. They can talk proudly of their achievements and Labour usually uses the tactic of scaring people away from voting Tory and to be fair to them it does work to some extent.
    I think Labour has more material to use is an election campaign as voters will, in my opinion, see voting Conservative as a slight risk. If when the next election is called and the most recent poll is accurate when going into the campaign everything is to play for and it could come down to who has the best message.
    Whilst the Polls give us some idea of what the result could be if an election was held they can’t forecast what change might happen with a good,strong campaign.