There was a Populus poll for the BBC on last night’s Westminster Hour asking some questions looking forward to the budget.

On balance respondents said they would prefer spending cuts to tax increases in the budget. 21% of people wanted the emphasis to be more (or entirely) upon tax increases, 36% wanted the emphasis to be more (or entirely) upon spending cuts. 37% preferred a roughly even split.

Populus then asked which areas people would like to see protected from cuts, and which areas they think should be cut. Notably these were both unprompted questions – people weren’t asked to pick from a list, but answered in their own words, which were then coded up by Populus. Questions like this are costly and time-consuming, but the answers aren’t influenced by the options the pollster choses to offer.

Of the 73% of people who said they thought some areas should be protected from spending cuts, the most popular areas identified were by some distance, the NHS (50%) and education (35%). 17% thought the police should be protected from cuts, 11% thought transport should – nothing else was mentioned by more than 5% of respondents.

Of areas that people thought should be particular targets for cuts, 46% of people said don’t know. The most popular thing mentioned was MPs pay and perks, which given the comparatively miniscule cost of MPs expenses when put aside public spending as a whole, could only ever make a symbolic contribution. After this was local authorities (9%) and defence (7%). Nothing else was above 5%. The public seem to back cuts in public spending in theory, but are rather more reluctant when it comes to specific cuts.

Since it was a BBC commissioned poll there were, as usual, no voting intention questions. The tables, incidentally, include cross-breaks by party which imply voting intention was actually asked, but reverse engineering that into voting intentions is unlikely to be possible unless Populus also asked likelihood to vote.

12 Responses to “Populus Pre-Budget poll”

  1. I would have thought that 50% thinking the NHS should be protected from cuts is rather low.

    It follows that the other 50% think it should either be unprotected, or it never crossed their minds. However, considering the size and nature of the NHS, I would expect the number of ‘never thought about it’ is very much lower than other sections of the public sector.

    Of course, this is just a guess and I have no basis for thinking it so feel free to pick holes however you want.

  2. Depends if it’s on your mind, I don’t nesscary think about the NHS even when I use the Doctors yet it is.

    It’s a stock answer, I’m new to these populus surveys do they usually take the first mention or do they include all the others, because I would usually say Education and Health, only because Education is on my mind.

    Mind you saying all that isn’t it about 50% who think the NHS is a good service, maybe they feel it’s running effectively enough.

  3. Would it be the case that if the public want public spending cuts to help salvage the economy from overspend that this might blunt Browns favoured tactic of painting the Cons into a corner of public service cutters?

    The NHS, Education, Police are all expected exceptions, and rightfully so quite frankly.

    The pre-budget report might disapoint all of these respondents if its a Brown budget again, then we’ll see little public spending cuts and more borrowing. Labour lot must hope Darling writes and delivers the budget speech of a life-time.

  4. The real problem for Labour here is that if 73% of the public accept that there will have to be some spending cuts, in then becomes an argument over what and by how much, inwhich case they have to set out their own position before attacking the opposition. In that context the old Labour charge of “Tory cuts in Front-Line services” may lose its edge.

    Equally, with at least 58% recognising the need for some form of tax rises, there is a danger for Conservatives in pandering to the Heffer tendency. So far, Osborne has managed to hold his balance, and the philosophical / principled approach vs detailed plans for specific spending cuts / taxes makes far more sense at this point in time when there is still enormous uncertainty as to just how bad the public finances are.

    If Darling presents an austerity budget including spending cuts, but still shows a large deficit several years out, then who is to say that bigger cuts are not needed ? There is scope for AD to pull back some credibility by moving the debate on to how best to maange the reduction in the deficit – but to do that, the budget needs to be pruned of micro-management policies worth a few million here or a few million there.

    If on the other hand it is a Brown fiscal stimulus with giveaways here there and everywhere, with all the pain put off until another day, then the “Tory Cuts” jibe retains its bite – at the expense of any credibility on the part of the government in general, and AD in particular.

    Darling has most to lose and least to gain from a “Brown” budget. Does he have the courage to present his own package ?

  5. antoney wells- any sign of the BPIX poll being put up on the voing intentions part of the web site yet or is it not done practice to put unregistered polls u on this web-site, whichever the ib dem number was 17%.

  6. Public don’t like tax, want cuts for everyone else. This was a party political broadcast from the Obvious Party.

  7. @Paul H-J
    “Does he have the courage to present his own package?”

    It would certainly answer the question of his natural hair colour :)

  8. Why “spending cuts”, not “spending efficiency”.? I believe very substantial cuts could be made in the NHS budget, without any loss in quality of service. This never seems to enter the debate. There are many other areas of government spending (especially education and defence), where waste is endemic – the civil service seem to have no incentive to spend efficiently.They could learn a great deal from well-managed businesses but neither they or their political masters can be bothered to listen.

  9. Time to drop Trident and aircraft carriers perhaps? After all, neither have been needed for the ‘wars / police actions’ of what, the last 30+ years? Especially drop trident as we cant use it without USA permission…

  10. No mention of Defence. And there we were thinking that the military covenant was mended.

  11. Arthur,

    But defence was mentioned – as an area to cut.

    Hey, what price freedom when our overstretched and ill-protected military are a lower priority for spending than an intrusive ID and surveillance system.

    Looking at the priorities for spending and cuts, and taken with the YouGov poll on Taxation last week, the attitude of the British public would make St Thomas Aquinas proud:

    “Lord, make me virtuous, but at someone else’s expense.”