YouGov’s post-budget poll for the Sun shows a broadly positive reception. Overall 57% think Osborne made the right decisions for the country as a whole, with 23% thinking he made the wrong decisions. 42% think he made the right decisions for them, 33% the wrong ones. Overall government approval is up since before the budget, from 41% at the start of the week to 46% now. Headline voting intention stands at CON 42%, LAB 34%, LDEM 17%.
In YouGov’s pre-budget poll the two obvious concerns for the government were that the public were evenly split on whether the cuts would be fair or unfair (34% thought it would be fair, 35% unfair), and whether they would push the country back into recession or not (40% thought it might). Osborne seems to have made progress with swinging public opinion behind him on both counts. The proportion of people thinking that the deficit will be reduced in a fair way has risen 11 points to 45%, the proportion of people who think cutting the deficit now might put the country back into recession is down to 33%. Overall 50% thought that the budget was fair, compared to 27% who thought it was unfair.
Asking about the specific measures, all but one measure met with the support of a plurality of respondents, with the most popular measures being the rise in personal allowance on income tax and the tax on the banks. Reducing tax credits for families earning over £40k, limiting housing benefit, increasing capital gains tax, restoring the earnings link and helping councils freeze council tax all met with overwhelming support. Support for increasing the pension age to 66, reducing corporation tax and (slightly surprisingly) scrapping the planned increase in tax on cider all met with lukewarm support. The only measure that was opposed by a majority of respondents was the VAT increase – this was supported by 34%, and opposed by 54%.
Despite the overall approval of the budget, people were actually very pessimistic about its short term effects. Optimism about people’s own financial situation over the next 12 months has fallen, with a net optimism falling from minus 43 before the budget to minus 48 now. 55% of respondents said they thought the budget would increase unemployment in the next year or two (19% disagree) and 44% think it will increase poverty (32% disagree).
52% of respondents thought that the Liberal Democrats were right to back the budget, this included 69% of their own voters. 17% of Lib Dem voters thought that they were wrong to do so.
Finally YouGov asked if people thought the economy would be run better if Labour had been in power instead, or if the Conservatives had obtained an overall majority. In both cases people expected the economy would have been run worse, and found the same when asked if Labour or Conservative governments would have looked after the poorer better, or would have better helped people like the respondent. Notably Labour supporters overwhelmingly thought that the Conservatives alone would have been doing a worse job, perhaps suggesting that the Liberal Democrats will be able to sell a narrative that they have tempered a Conservative government (in fact, even 22% of Conservative supporters thought that the Conservatives alone would not have been as good at protecting the poorest in society).
The poll was conducted between Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon, so not quite as rapid as some of the instant reaction polls we’ve seen after budgets in the past. All the same, at past budgets we have sometimes seen bad news from the budget emerge in the days that follow, which could alter the public’s reaction. The initial response, however, seems to be that people see the budget as pointing to hard times ahead, but are broadly supportive of it.