There is a new ComRes poll up for the BBC’s daily politics. It has David Cameron being rated as being more open and honest than Gordon Brown on the need to cut spending (39% to 25%), and the Conservatives seen as likely to be better than Labour on managing the public finances were they to win the next election – though more people think it would make little difference (28% better, 15% worse, 48% same).

ComRes gave people three suggestions to cut the national debt and a majority of people disagreed with each one of them. 67% said they wouldn’t be prepared to pay higher taxes, 58% said public sector workers shouldn’t have their pay frozen, and 65% said there should not be spending cuts on things like schools and hospitals. It’s tempting to say this begs the question of “well, what the hell would you do then!”, but of course, there are options other than those ComRes suggested (e.g. spending cuts on other things, tax rises that hit other people) that would probably meet with more public support, whether they would address the problem is a different matter.

Finally ComRes asked whether, if the economy did improve, it would be due to the government’s rescue package. 42% said it would be, 51% said it would not.

(In case anyone’s unclear, the normal comments policy is in place for this and other threads. If you want to argue and let off steam, please keep on using the open thread).

42 Responses to “ComRes on honesty and spending cuts”

  1. Cameron although seen as the most open and honest on the need to have cuts still isnt seeing this support translate into solid support.
    Especially since the lead is down to 11 percentage points, the party on just 36% from the last poll.

    This wont be encouraging for Brown or Labour, since the majorty of people wont be giving them the credit if things improve (and its a big if).

    Mixed bag all round I’d conclude, with a leaning favourably slightly in the Conservative rather than New Labour direction.

  2. I think some of those who are in favour of spending cuts are influenced by the eventual possibility of tax cuts – probably some way down the line, admittedly, but real tax cuts are always going to be popular.

    [edited – that’s probably more suited for the Open thread… – AW]

  3. The public are probably savvy enough to know that both major parties will increase taxes AND cut public spending. And on that basis I feel that this issue will not be a major player at the next General Election. However much the politicians themselves may talk it up.

    The issue of who will/will not get credit for any recovery is likely to be much more significant when it comes to casting a vote.

  4. Often when one goes to look at the detailed tables behind a poll they tell us little that is new or interesting.

    That is not the case here, and I recommend that any visitor to this site follwo the link provided by Anthony.

    Yes there are a couple of obvious pointers – like Scotland has less faith in Cameron’s honesty and more in Brown’s, the only sub-set indicator in Brown’s favour in the entire poll – but in many cases the readings are counter-intuitive. For example, the age-group least opposed to cuts in health spending are those aged over 55, who presumably have more need of such spending – but then also probably have more day-to-day contact with the NHS.

    There are some interesting sub-set results in each of the questions, and some groups throw unexpected or discordant results on several different question.

    Look in particular at the following groups:

    Men vs women
    Ages 18-24 and 55+;
    Socio-economic group AB and C2

    One can’t read too much into a single poll, but if I were sitting in Brown’s bunker I would not be at all reassured by this poll.

  5. “It’s tempting to say this begs the question of “well, what the hell would you do then!””

    No, it doesn’t. It raises the question.

  6. Detailed tables for Scotland only have Brown 5% ahead of Cameron on the question “Who do you think is being most honest about public spending cuts?” [sic]

    For Scotland, to have a Tory leader on 30% over such a question is surprisingly bad for Brown- he ought to walk it in Scotland.

  7. While 25% thought Gordon Brown was more open and honest about the need to cut public spending, another 25% thought neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron were more open and honest and 11% didn’t know which of them was more open and honest.
    Perhaps these 36% thought one of the other parties was more open and honest about the need to cut public spending?
    When will pollsters wake up to the fact that we no longer live in a bipolar political system.

  8. The questions asked were rather loaded as if designed to produce a required response not determine opinion. Adding phrases like ‘on things like schools and hospitals’ or ‘including nurses, doctors and policemen’ draws the respondents attention to specific services and public servants and thus narrows what is a much broader issue.

  9. Dean

    “Lead down to 11 points”.

    The last poll was Comres who have been all over the place when compared to all others. The other pollsters are placing the Tory lead at around 15points . The next couple of polls will give a clearer picture of things between the parties.

  10. Wayne

    What you say is entirely true.

    The next couple of polls will provide a clear understanding.

    This is also true for the Scottish Conservatives. The YouGov polling over the last 4 months generally places them on 20%, but the very last TNS poll had the figure down 7% on 12%.

    The coming polls will help to clarify regional and UK wide polling data, most of which at regional levels seems to be contradictory.

  11. What I meant in my above comment about tax cuts is that from the experience for recent decades we know which party has a reputation for cutting taxes (eventually) and which one does not, and this will feed back into popularity via a spending-related question. Whether or not these assumed tax cuts are possible or worthwhile isn’t under consideration.

  12. The trump card the Tories have is they have cleared up a Labour mess before.

    I do expect the Tories to start pushing this argument as we get towards the end of the year.

    The main headline 39% plays 25%,just seems to me to play down party loyalty lines,if not its remarkably close to the Comres opinion poll.

  13. The tories won’t want to focus on 1979-1983. Their Doubling VAT in order to lower top rates of tax won’t work for them this time.

  14. any headline polls coming out tonight or over the weekend do we know.

    on the matter of this comres poll it seams that comres talked only to public sector workers as a high number of people did not surport a freeze in public sector pay, i my mind the only section of the public sector that should get a raise is cleaners administrators cooks and such like other than that the highest paid should not get a raise at all full stop.

  15. The results of the honesty question concerning spending cuts Cameron 39, Brown 25 reflects approximately the position of the voting intention polls. Note that regarding the economy only 28% believe the Cons will do better. Therefore 11% of people will vote for Cons even though they are not optimistic that they will do better with the economy. It shows how important honesty is for the electorate. Honesty truely is the best policy!

  16. It is both a shame and shameful that Nick Clegg was not included in the question of whom is being most honest concerning plans on spending cuts.

    The Lib Dems gained only a third less votes than Labour at the GE and deserves to be treated better by the BBC for whom this poll was done. Obviously this was not reflected in the number of seats, but still …

    The Lib Dems may just need to get some good breaks from the media and it could happen that they will receive an equal amount of votes as Labour at the next GE.

  17. Some points on the poll:
    -Generic spending cut usually does better than any specified spending cut; the exception is a specific, unpopular program. I suspect if one suggested cutting MPs’ salaries to nil and nixing their expense allowances, that would get a decent bit of support (in spite of how impractical that would be).
    -Some things that might get support in polls won’t -actually- fly. For example, some BNP-esque proposals on immigrants (nixing integration funds, etc.) might generate support…but it’ll be a cold day in hell when people actually vote for it. Remember the Tories in 2005 focusing on immigration and how well that worked.
    -There probably are specific cuts that would both fly and show up in polls. The poll asked what amounted to “Washington Monument” cuts (that is, things that clearly won’t fly; nobody wants to cut schools and hospitals, just like in the US nobody wants to shut down the Washington Monument…which is why threatening to shut it down always comes up when cuts are on the table).

  18. Reading the responses to the questions, it would be good if the polling company asked the respondent what they did for a living to give some idea of why those questioned reply as they do. I’m not sure why so many people are opposed to cuts in the NHS, I can only suppose these people work for the NHS. I’m sorry but the tax payer has taken too many hits under labour and needs further hikes like a hole in the head.

  19. Nick Clegg ought to be included in the future.

    End of.

  20. I don’t see Clegg so much. Cable as Excheq? Yes. But Clegg as PM is far, far less likely, and I think at least part of the idea is the ‘forced choice’ between the two frontrunning parties (though one could hardly call Labour’s position as such secure).

  21. Clegg ought to be included- depsite being a Scottish Con I have huge respect for the man.

    Read his contribtuon to the ‘Orange Book’, or his real life activities over Gurkhas or Afganistan he is an increasingly impressive figure.

  22. The media including the BBC (which should know better )are disregarding Clegg and the Lib Dems,
    “clever Cleggs” is making a good point over the Labour Government letting our soldiers down, lets see what happens to their poll position in the next opinion poll.

  23. As regularly stated Labour ALWAYS perform less well in real elections than in opinion polls
    I can’t remember that rule ever being broken in national elections
    So adding a couple of points to Tories from Labour we will get a more likely outcome
    The narrowing of the gap recently means the previous polls with a bigger lead are likely to be more accurate
    Labour need big opinion poll gains to stop a Tory win being inevitable

  24. david well said

  25. On the ‘options for cuts’ questions. Does this poll not show more than anything that too many people think money spent equates to increased services?

    If I came up with two proposals, one costing £1bn and the other costing £2bn, people would say ‘do the more expensive one’. It wouldn’t matter whether both proposals came out with the exact same outputs, they’d want the more expensive one. It gives the impression of being a better solution.

    So, even if someone were to come out and show how 20% could be cut from the NHS budget without affecting a patient’s experience one bit you’d still have people whinging about ~£20bn cuts. Quite frankly, for most of our public services if you didn’t tell people how much we were spending they wouldn’t have a clue of any changes. The apparent level of service changes so little.

  26. For me, the most interesting result in this poll is that a majority won’t attribute economic recovery to the govt’s actions. This would seem to suggest that not even economic recovery will reverse Labour’s fortunes now.

  27. [Lots of partisan bickering snipped – there’s an open thread for for that sort of stuff – AW]

  28. I don’t rate this poll very highly.

    The questions are too loaded & leading.

    Still-it was put together by the BBC!

  29. James Ludlow makes an important observation- acording to this poll result an economic recovery will not be attributed to the government by the majority of the UK population.

    This seems to shoot a hole through the Labour election strategy of minimising economic pain and hoping for economic recovery to win.,. but one poll does not make a truth, and the questions do seem loaded.

    Still, worrying for Brown on that point.

    Cameron ought to be equally concerned that he and the party isnt taking off as well is it might otherwise want to in the north and Scotland: especially when you consider the question:

    “If the Conservatives win the next election, do you think they would be better, worse or the same as Labour at managing public finances?
    [Base: All respondents]”

    Scotland: only 20% said manage better, 53% same- its not a vote of confidence and further evidence that there is little of a Cameron factor at work in Scotland.
    It isnt much better in northern England where only 27% say better, again not a vote of confidence in any meaningful sense.

    Both parties must be conserned by some of this poll- Labour more worried than Conservatives, but still as my examples would indicate the electorate arent bowled over by the prospect of a Conservative government- like they were by a New Labour prospect in 1997.

  30. @ Dean – “Both parties must be conserned by some of this poll- Labour more worried than Conservatives, but still as my examples would indicate the electorate arent bowled over by the prospect of a Conservative government”

    I wonder if this is specifically a response to the Tories or rather reflects an increased cynicism about politicians in general (particularly evident after the expenses row).

    The “not like Labour in 1997” point has been made here before but there are various reasons why we shouldn’t expect a repeat of that. One is that having had such high expectations back then only to see them dashed, few people would fall into that trap again regardless of party. Another is that most pollsters were wildly out re: the 1997 and polling methods changed as a consequence so we’re unlikely to see comparable figures. Don’t forget too that in 1997 Labour actually win with a lead of 12.5% – a substantial majority but on a par with the Tories’ lead in most polls for the last year.

  31. In the 1994-97 period the economy recovered and did John Major no good. I think we will see this with Gordon Brown. Economic competence ratings are easy to hold when the economy is ticking along quite nicely. If the economy goes belly up then you lose it and an existing govt will always be tainted. The only exception I can see was the 1979-83 govt which argued that this is what you wanted, this is what you get and along with other factors won an election.

    Coming back to Anthony’s piece, looking at the details, the public want to get details of what will be cut, but presented with the options, they react badly to them! The trick seems to be to find big examples of “waste” that will resonate, allowing more flexibility to propose actual cuts. Looking at the North/Scotland, we know that local GDP is more reliant on the public sector, so I’m not surprised that a party seen as more likely to cut is going to be less well received.

  32. Dodgy questions, gonna ignore this one.

  33. A poll question – should public sector workers have their pay frozen – is always going to have poor support, since people automatically think of nurses, binmen and other manual workers. The question is thus a forced choice. A much better question would have been to pose some options, which might have included: freezing pay for all public sector workers earning over (say) £40,000 a year which would I supect have gathered more support.

    There is an essential dishonesy in the public sector pay and pension debate. To the Tories, public sector workers equals bureacrats, quangocrats and managers generally, especially those with tiles including any combination of Tsar, equality, coordinator and environmental. . To Labour, it equals nurses, teachers and any workers covered by Unite. So when they “debate” they are talking at cross-purposes.

    FWIW I believe that many public and quasi-public sector workers are poorly-remunerated compared to the private sector, and a decent pension is fair compensation for this. But there is a growing tranche of well-paid workers who are getting the best of both worlds, plus job security. If cuts are needed, it is from these people I would start. When the DG of the BBC starts asking out loud why he is not paid the same as a FTSE 100 CEO you know that these people have lost the plot.

  34. ComRes, the pollster used by the Guardian, whose previous polls are the most inaccurate and Labour-biased, is employed by the BBC, and then asks leading questions.

    Excuse me if I wait for the next YouGov poll…

  35. Has anyone read the Daily Mail story about Lloyds Bank shareholders possibly suing Gordon Brown regarding the HBOS takeover?

  36. while on PB last night an artical was on there regarding murdock and pointing to him turning againest labour for the tories and the artical gave the idea the the sun may turn is backing to the tories, and that could be a watershead moment should it happen as the sun is reed by quite a few voters of the red colour, if the miror comes on board as well that would be a double blow, but i have seen in the last six month or so the even without merdocks blessing the sun has moved somewhat to the tories and away from labour but is still sitting on the fence a push from murdock should swing both papers for the tories and signal the end of labour rule after 13 years

  37. Richard Manns –

    1) ICM are the pollster used by the Guardian.

    2) ComRes have recorded an average level of support for Labour of 25.8% so far in 2009, compared to 28.7% for ICM, 26% for MORI, 27.4% for Populus and 27.7% for YouGov.

  38. Does anyone know when the next run of polls is due? There seems to have been a bit of a hiatus recently.

    I’m guessing we won’t see too much more before the Autumn now.

  39. What I find to be significant is that during this year until 23rd of April Yougov polled for Labour on average 32%
    and ICM until the 19th of April polled on average 30%.

    Yougov polled on average until that time 2 points higher on average than ICM

    From the 23rd of April Yougov showed a massive dip of 8 points in Labour’s support polling on average 24%.

    But ICM showed a much smaller dip of only 2.75 points polling on average from the19th of April 27.25%

    Now that Labour have dipped well below what they gained at the GE we find that ICM are polling on average 3.25 points more than Yougov !!! This can only be explained by differing methodology. How much more evidence must I submit to sceptics !!!

  40. Anthony Wells

    Mea culpa, I apologise.

  41. This must be one of the longest periods recently without a voting intention opinion poll. I thought this might happen in August but not July.

  42. Anthony,

    Any idea what’s happened to cause a lack of polls. Do you think they will all suddenly come along together like the buses ?