There is a new Populus poll in the Times. They found 51% thought it would be better for Labour if Gordon Brown “quit with dignity”, 43% think it would be better if he stayed.

47% of people said the Gordon Brown would deserve “only a little credit” for any economic recovery, 27% said it would deserve no credit at all.

Asked how they would react if the economy improved, 73% of people said it would make no difference to their vote, 20% said they would be more likely to vote Labour, 6% less less likely. Regular readers will know I am not a fan of questions like this, since people who are more likely are often voting for that party anyway (in this case 36% of people already voting Labour said they would be more likely to if the economy recovered) and people saying less likely may not be voting Labour anyway.

In this case it’s doubly hard to interpret, since the potential positive effect (people being grateful to the government, or the government proving its actions were correct after all) are comparatively easy for people to visualise. The potential negative effect (a decrease in risk aversion and increased appetite for a change of government) is less easy to visualise. How voting intention will be impacted by an improvement in the economy is one of the great unanswered political questions in the time remaining before the election, but I’m afraid it’s one that polls really can’t do a very good job at answering.

There are no voting intention figures, but it’s a new poll, carried out over the weekend, and with a full sample of 1000 people – so potentially we could have some voting intention figures tomorrow.

9 Responses to “Populus – what would be the effect of an economic recovery?”

  1. Wonder what the response would be if they gave the option of Brown quitting in a blaze of backstabbing and bitter recrimination?

    The reaction to the economic improvement question is interesting, but as AW says largely irrelevant. Apart from the points AW makes, there is also the fact that people base their answers on what they think of Brown now. They don’t like him, so think they would not give him credit if things improved. If there is a recovery, they could think differently about Brown and therefore be prepared to give him more credit.

  2. I’m afraid this has all got nothing to do with Gordon Brown, but rather with the Labour Party itself.
    I’ve been saying for months now, that Joe Public likes parties that have the survival gene. Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhh!!!!!
    Err, its called Darwinism guys. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh!
    Hey, Labour apparatchiks, its perfectly natural to want to be able to survive. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhh!!!

    Honestly, the Labour heirarchy must be so achingly thick if they can’t see that Gordon Brown must resign or be forced out.
    Of course Gordon Brown doesn’t want to go, he’s waited all his life for this job. But quite clearly its not meant for him. And i’ll tell you something else. Its got naff all to do with us members of the public. WE dont know what goes on behind closed doors. But with endless resignations, Charles Clarke, Purnell, Kennedy, all leaving because of a bad atmosphere inside No10, they you KNOW somethings wrong.
    He must go. End of.
    But the issue about Labours unpopularity has got ZERO to do with Gordon Brown , and EVERYTHING to do with a moronic, stubborn, cowardly, and quite honestly stupid Labour cabinet, who just will not move against him.
    Message to Labour cabinet :
    You are starting to become despised, and if you’re not very careful, the LibDem s just might overtake you.

    Here’s another thought. Perhaps Gordon Brown and his Labour cabinet are plotting the end of the UK via the backdoor, because its only the Labour party who could conceivably keep the Union togethe.
    Time for some conspiracy theories methinks.

  3. It’s the paradox of economic policy: politicians would like to claim that everything wrong in the economy is due to supply-side problems (preferrably trade unionists, Arabs and bankers) which are preferrably taking place in other countries. On the other hand, obviously any sort of economic success is attributed to their genius economic policy. The truth, as is so often the case, is somewhere in between.

    However, since Labour and Brown have made such a big deal of this being an exogenous crisis (my words, not their’s) it’s going to be very hard to spin a sustainable narrative of “Brown saved the economy”. It might have saved them during the early stages of the crisis, but it’s probably prevented any chance of a recovery boost. A real example of short-term gain for long-term pain.

  4. And one must add to the mix the Australian example which installed the Labour PM Rudd–the conservative party led by John Howard was voted out of power at the height of the economic boom. Why? Time for a change after over a decade of one party being in power. Yes, even if the recession is over we may well vote on other issues….

  5. Jack,

    Indeed ! And as Labour strategists seem to keep forgetting, the economy had been on a rising trend for four of the last five years under John Major – ie after he abandoned the economic policy to which all three parties had subscribed in the 1992 election..

    It is important, but there is more to life than economics. Get it wrong and you are likely to be punished (unless the alternative is totally unappealing – viz 1983 and 1992), but if it is doing okay, people will look at other issues.

    It is time for a change – and we will undoubtedly see that mood reflected across the UK, though Tories will not consistently be the beneficiary. In Scotland it will mainly be the SNP. In many other places, even LDs would be “better” than Labour – hence they might just overtake them come election day.

  6. Paul, I think the key thing is that the unemployed are politically pretty irrelevant. 3 million votes isn’t that much, especially when they tend not to be in marginal constituences.

    That means that, for the economy to be a BIG factor in an election, it has to be something both (1) affecting everyone, eg. high inflation and (2) something which, as you say, the opposition has a credible alternative strategy of how to deal with.

    One of the things to remember is that the economic crisis was not the root cause of Labour’s political crisis.

  7. He is getting a proper lashing from most media outlets that are *not* the Guardian (who seem to specialise in article after article of how Labour can fight back advice).

    The media outlets obviously have pressures of their own, and the wave after wave of anti-Labour bile on online newspaper and BBC comment pages seems to have pushed the media into a sometimes reluctant; sometimes frantic volley of shelling upon every Labour speaker that pokes their head up above the trenches.

    Live by the media, die by the media… I think they’re drowning in a deluge of their own making… information overload, and most of it mantra-like in it’s negativity.

    How apposite that today, the Day of Atonement, falls within the Labour Conference.
    Mandy sidewinding, and Iain Grey panicking over Scottish detachmentism, and the implications for English Labour.

    Whatever happens from here on, ain’t going to be pretty methinks.

    I predict a slow collapse into internecine warfare, rowing all the way to the final reckoning as many an MP blinks and jumps into the arms of a would-be Brutus.

    Ironically, should Labour descend into a catfight, it might weaken the Tories as well as benefit the Libdems and Others. I think much of the Tory campaign depends upon them being the most certain way of ousting Labour; thus, as the threat from Labour appears to diminish as a New Labour – Old Labour split beckons, I think the Tories could see a sliver of their support fall off and be distributed between UKIP and the Lib Dems in many areas.

    Overall though, I think it’s a very unfortunate spectacle for British politics, and the most interesting result will be the turnout.

  8. I agree that it’s beyond simple economics. Any long lived government reaches the point when it has nothing much left to say. With John Major we ended up with the Cones Hotline, but I suspect he would have been out 5 years earlier if Labour didn’t have to overcome some very serious misgivings they created for themselves in the mid 1980’s. It’s clear that not only are voters tired of Labour, but Labour themselves are tired of government. An economic recovery would help them up to a point, but the benefit would be largely historical, rather than felt at the next election.

    One thing I will predict with some certainty however – in about 10 years time Brown will be giving TV interviews and will be the recipient of many kind words and respect from across the political spectrum, much as Major receives today. However much we despise politicians, time always seems to mellow the emotions.

  9. What does “better for Labour” mean, when asked of people who don’t support Labour?!
    (I assume Labour supporters can take it to mean “do you want this to happen?”).

    Better in terms of number of votes at the next election, or the election after? Better for Labour’s political appeal or its long-term financial stability? Not to mention that Tory voters are likely to assume that “better” means more right-wing than Brown, while Lib Dems will assume it means more left-wing!