It’s two months since the coalition government was formed, what is the public’s opinion of it so far? Voting intention has followed a fairly straightforward pattern – the Lib Dem vote has fractured since the election, presumably largely due to losing the support of more left wing voters who object to the coalition deal, or to the agenda the coalition have been following. The Conservatives have increased their support to the low 40s, while Labour have moved up into the mid 30s – positions that have remained largely static over the last couple of weeks. In yesterday’s figures we showed a nine point lead, the largest since the general election, but unless that is repeated over the next few days the underlying picture seems to be random variation around a Conservative lead of about 7 points.
While these figures are positive for the Conservatives (on a uniform swing they would be enough for them to win an overall majority), there is no sign of the sort of honeymoon in voting intentions that Labour received during their first months in power in 1997 when some polls put them at 60% or above. That said, 1997 was something of a historical abberation – no previous government had experienced that scale of honeymoon in voting intention polls either (many didn’t have any at all). Where there is an much larger honeymoon effect is in David Cameron’s own personal ratings.
On leader approval rating Cameron is doing well – from 48% straight after becoming PM (when 40% said don’t know, reasonably enough), his approval rating peaked at 64% in mid-June and remains high at 58%. His disapproval rating has gradually risen over the last two months, largely as Labour supporters initially willing to give him the benefit of the doubt have shifted over to disapproval. His net approval rating is currently +28.
Detailled perceptions of Cameron underline how the mantle of office has improved the way the public see him. His ratings on being strong, decisive and sticking to what he belives in are all up significantly. The quality where he scores the least remains “good in a crisis”, followed by being in touch with ordinary people, where he hasn’t really improved since the election. The only measure where he has dropped is on being charismatic – people are starting to Cameron as a strong leader, rather than just a charming one.
In contrast Nick Clegg’s figures have been on a downwards trend since the general election – this seems to be a continuation of the decline since the the peak of “Cleggmania” after the first debate. On some ratings, including honesty, being in touch with ordinary people and sticking to what he believes in, Clegg is now back to the sort of figures he got pre-debates. On other ratings like being decisive and charismatic he is still seem considerably more positively than at the start of the year.
The only obvious cloud amongst polling for the Conservatives in the coalition so far was reaction to the VAT rise in the budget, which polls found a majority opposing, and falling economic optimism, with increasing proportions of people saying they expect to be worse off in the coming year. Despite that the budget overall was well received, and the polls show the public continue to have confidence in the coalition’s ability to manage the economy (50% think they managing it well, compared to 30% badly). We are heading towards the Summer now, traditionally a time when the political to-and-fro stagnates somewhat. While at some point the honeymoon will start to fade, barring a major crisis I wouldn’t expect any major changes until we get into the run up to the conferences and the crowning of the new Labour leader.
(This is cross-posted to the YouGov website here)