During the day yesterday YouGov asked people for their first reactions to the defence cuts – so this was largely conducted before David Cameron’s formal announcement, but after almost the whole contents had been announced in the morning newspapers.

A majority thought that the size of the defence cuts were either appropriate (38%) or too small (13%), with 37% saying they went too far. The details of the cuts however met with more negative reactions. 48% of respondents thought the reduction in troop numbers was too large, with only 28% thinking they were acceptable.

The most controversial decision in the review, scrapping the Harrier Jet early and leaving Britain’s aircraft carriers without fighter planes until around 2020, was rejected by most respondents. 60% thought leaving carriers without fighters was unnacceptable, 23% that it was an acceptable cut until 2020.

The most interesting question there though was who people thought was to blame. 30% said the coalition and 34% said the last Labour government. Compare that to the regular YouGov tracker on who people blame the cuts in general, which is still finding 48% blaming Labour the most and only 18% blaming the coalition most. My suspicion is that this is because people blame the last Labour government when it is just generic cuts, but once specific cuts are announced they may begin to apportion more of the blame more upon the present government as they are the ones who chose to make these particular cuts.

Voting intention was CON 42%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%.

286 Responses to “First reactions to the defence cuts”

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  1. There seems to be an initial swing to Lab.

    I am logging pre CSR predictions and will start logging ‘post CSR’ Sunday YG predictions after 1000 on Thursday so don’t do those until then (I advise) as you will have experienced the full gamut of comment and reaction.

    Some of you were very hard on ‘Others’. Ken, for instance, has them down at 5, IIRC, and may wish to revisit his prediction.

    Eoin, your earlier comment about YG already gathering field data had me puzzled. It does not affect your pre CSR prediction nor does it the post CSR one, as YG will collect for that twice AIUI, namely between now and Thursday afternoon and again between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon?

  2. Anthony,

    my sentiments entirely..

    Tonight’s YG has fieldwork from yesterday. It is not post CSR….

    You have to wait until at least Thursday night.

  3. An excellent link for the Cartographers amongst us. The Domesday book has been mapped online and is now searchable by post code. Maybe the boundary commission wnat to have a look at it, since it predates much of the shiring ;)


  4. Anthony said:
    “My suspicion is that this is because people blame the last Labour government when it is just generic cuts, but once specific cuts are announced they may begin to apportion more of the blame more upon the present government as they are the ones who chose to make these particular cuts.”

    Absolutely. This is why I think there will be a plummeting in Con support and a soaring increase in Lab support by Sunday. By May 2011 the gap will have massively widened as the actual cuts are in place and being felt.

  5. Interesting to see Lib Dems down to 6 in Scotland…

  6. Mike N,

    There is a comparable example. Check out the polling impact of Geoffrey Howe’s Spring ’81 budget. I had not commented on it thus far because I thought Anthony might do up a comparison. But the polls in the post budget aftermath are interesting.

    If you want a link to the details of the 1981 budget, let me know.

  7. Eoin
    Yes exactly, that’s what i meant (and what I wrote I thought) we have misunderstood each other (apols).

  8. Mike N,

    The purple line on page 9 will help you observe the polling impact of Howe’s 1981 budget.

    h ttp://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/oct10-monitor-charts.PDF

  9. I believe this is the last time we will hear ‘all problems are those of the last government’ except from apologists or at least after January we will not.

    The voters will not even give that leeway and I suspect from Anthony’s report, are already starting not doing so.

  10. Well I may be wrong but I will guess at static polls ( realivly ) with maybe small labour lead in 2011 – 2012

  11. The 1981 Budget occurred on the 10 March. It is probably the best comparable example of fiscal tightening that we have reliable polling for. If somebody has a better example, I would ahppily defer.

    Ispos Mori gave reds an 8% lead and a 10% lead in the two 1981 polls prior to the budget..

    Ipsos MOri gave reds an 8% lead and a 10% lead in the two polls after the budget. So effectively no real change.
    Crucially, in the following three polls or May and June the red lead narrowed to 3% 2% 4% So once it sunk in the was ‘some’ tightening.

    Over the summer the polls widened again with reds taking 8-11% leads but once parlimentry business resumed again (and party conf. were out of the way), blues then drew close again trailing by just 2% 4% and at one stage drawing level. This is patchy and it is best not to draw too many conclusions from this period of polling.

    Ultimately Thatcher won the 1983 election, the butcher budget derided by the poor and meek was heralded by middle England, as the vaccination required. The rest is history.

  12. SimpleSimon

    maybe small labour lead in 2011-2012????

    I will be very surprised if Labour do not surge into the lead by the weekend!

  13. Is the “Harriet” jet being scrapped a Harman? See para 3 of the main article.

    To continue the avian theme I predict the ConDems will find the skies over Downing Street will be dark with the beating wings of chickens coming home to roost after today’s announcements.

  14. Eoin thanks for the link, i don’t know how you get them so quickly

    On page 28, the last of them, it’s interesting that voters regard NC’s politics as matching those of the population. He has the best fit with ‘centre’.

    It will be interesting tom see how that develops over time when voters become more aware of EM’s position.

    I cuaght some of EM’s defence reply and he was playing a very close hand to his chest. Probably wise. I wonder how it will be played today by AJ?

  15. @Eion Clarke

    Are you factoring in that little thing called the SDP break-off and the effective splitting of the left into a divided and useless opposition?

  16. @Eoin

    I have to remind you that the Conservatives only won in 1983 because of a split opposition, not because there was overwhelming support for the Conservative policies. A split opposition is highly unlikely to recur in these circumstances.

  17. Howard,

    Well spotted. I looked at that chart yesterday and it did not occur to me. Probably aspatial mathematical skill I am lacking :)

    There were a high level of DKs fo rthat question. Unpon consideration it strikes me that we do not really (as a nation) know our politicians very well… DC for instance is still 26%.

    By the way what polling score ahve you got for me post CSR? I dont think I gave a red % did I?

  18. @Eoin
    i am not sure what poll figures tell us.

    People without children are less likely to object to reductions in education spending or child allowances.

    People who feel they have a secure job are less likely to worry about rising unemployment.

    People who already have a home are less likely to object to cuts in social housing or the introduction of limited term tenancies.

    Younger folk are less likely to object to tinkering with pensions, winter fuel allowances, bus passes.

    People who think we should stop being ‘World Police’ may welcome defence cuts. Those who think we need to be ready and able to cope with another Falklands may disagree.

    Healthy people are less likely to worry about NHS cuts

    The claims about the NHS budget being ‘protected’ are quite slick as they ignore projected needs and rapidly rising demand.

    As and when one of the above affects a voter directly then maybe we will begin to see a clearer picture IMHO. And all this will keep me glued to this site when I should be doing other things :)

  19. Jay/Craig

    I quite disagree that was the reason for a blue win in 1983. At times they averaged 49% in the polls. In some instance they hit 51%. I think their popularity and victory was on its own merits.

    Does not make me hate Thatcher any less- but there you have it.

  20. I’m actually surprised, and heartened, to see Labour managed to command 27% of the electorate on Foot’s manifesto – it was so left even Ralph Miliband was onboard!

  21. This article contextualises Geofrey Howe’s budget (1981) in today’s terms.

    h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/22/budget-budget-deficit

  22. @Howard

    For your survey

    C40, Lab 38, LD 14

  23. Immediately before the SDP split off under Foot, ipsos-mori had them average at 50% to the Tories 36% in November and 56% to 32% in December, even then Thatcher’s opinion ratings were in slow but steep decline until the Falklands kicked off – something I’ll never forgive the Argies for.

  24. @steve

    My point is I beleive that a large part of the cuts “fear factor” is embedded in the current figures.

    Surge ahead ? I doubt, but I also doubt anyone cares, there are no prizes until 2015.

    A large chunk of society, hence the polling figures currently, belive these cuts are required.

    I do a lot of work with the public sector and beleive around 50% of the people I have worked with would deserve to be cut. i have been invovled with projects which would save UK tax payer money which have been changed to spend more money to make sure the “budget is used” this has included body shopping people in to occupy desks with no work to do, so they can keep their budget.

    Simply put anyone who has had any exposure to these type people will be de-sesitised to the cuts ( along with help from the media and unions )

  25. Craig,

    Falklands atarted Apr. 1982. In the 1982 polls in the run up to Falklands…Labour averaged 32% in the poll. Blues averaged about 31%

    Effectivley they were neck and neck.

    Bearing in mind that in the polls at the end of 1980 reds on occasion led by as much as 24%. Red lead shrank before Flaklands.

    Where you may have some accuracy is if you said the follwoing, “Blue lead grew post Falklands”.

    But it is also worth pointing out that in the years before the 1983 election GDP grew at an average of 3% for years…

    It just so happnend that blues did not give two hoots how many urchins were impoverished by their blunt macroeconomics- but that is a different story- we’re are focusing on poll gains for red/blue.

  26. @Jay Blanc

    “I have to remind you that the Conservatives only won in 1983 because of a split opposition, not because there was overwhelming support for the Conservative policies”

    You’re quite right. Despite the parliamentary landslide, the 1983 election was the start of the slow but remorseless withering of the national Tory vote that has carried on to this present day. There was a blip against the trend in 1992, but in nearly every election post 1979, the Tory percentage share of the vote has declined before steadying around the 30-36% mark, oscillating between these figures in the 97, 01, 05 and 10 general elections. This withering explains why Cameron’s electoral mountain in 2010 was basically unclimbable.

  27. Eoin

    Thanks for your links.

    The parallel with the early 1980s is disturbing…Argentina has been making lots of noise recently about the size of the oil discoveris off the Falklands and is receiving support from other South American countries.

  28. @SimpleSimon
    ”I do a lot of work with the public sector and beleive around 50% of the people I have worked with would deserve to be cut.”
    Me too, and this was one area where I agreed with Mrs T. Trouble is that somehow these non-jobs seem to survive and the worthwhile front-line workers get the chop. All parties are to blame IMHO.

  29. @ Eoin, the actual war might have started in April, but there was already rumbling and tensions beforehand:
    htt p://www.falklands.info/history/82timeline.html

    Labour and the Tories were neck and neck because a large proportion of the former’s voters had f’d off to the SDP at that point.

    I remember plotting the polls to a graph, and it was like looking at a squashed V, with the run up to Falklands the turning point.

  30. @MIKE N
    There are no parallels with present-day Argentina and in the 1980s.
    It was a dictatorship then and is democratic now.
    I visited Argentina a few years after the Falklands. I didn’t meet one person there who was anti-British.
    Argentinian voters would never accept their government doing anything stupid like invading the Falklands.

  31. ‘We’ the people do not mind paying more personal taxation. It is not a vote loser if it protects our third level education sector, or our community policing. Why should millioniares get tax breaks, while children face cuts to trust funds, and child benefit. Most worrying of all, why does it not hurt Tory ministers to see unemployment rise? Half a million jobs lost, is half a million homes distraught and impoverished. Added to this a rise in VAT which is paybale by the meek, disenfranchised and frail, I cannot help but remember David Cameron’s last words before he entered No. 10 for the first time. How hollow they ring now? Mobile Phone Companies, drew huge profits, and yet they are allowed to overcharge for their servives. A utilities windfall tax on gas, telecoms etc.. would help remove the need to cut support from 16-18 year olds. These are the two most important years of an adults life. It really is make or break time for them.

  32. Predictions pre CSR
    What I have so far for Sunday YG (ie Sat night early newspapers) is:

    Pre CSR Con Lab LD

    Rob S 41 40 10

    Alan S 41 39 9

    Howard 38 42 10

    JulianG 40 40 10

    HoodedM 43 38 11

    Neil A 41 38 11

    Ken 44 37 14

    R in N 40 39 10

    Valerie 39 40 11

    Cozmo 39 41 9

    KeithP 41 39 12

    MichaelV 41 40 9

    PamF 40 42 9

    Craig 41 39 11

    Mike N 37 43 10

    Our prolific correspondent in Belfast, I thought recorded 41 39 11 but I could not find it. Perhaps he could chase up that important historical set of data. I don’t see anything wrong in our host not having a go by the way. I would trust him to keep it under wraps until Saturday morning.

    I think R in N made the important point that there could be a lift for nationalists. Please correct me if I have made a mistake, I have no other auditor. I propose doing the same table on Saturday afternoon (AW not allowed a prediction after that though :-) )

  33. Simple Simon & Cosmos

    there appears to be this arrogance from yourselves and the government that there seems to be thousands of public sector workers who just sit around doing nothing all day.

    my own experiences are very different. often these people are ALREADY overworked, underpaid and work in conditions that quite simply would not be tolerated in the private sector.

    i have 2 main concerns ahead of the cuts –
    1) how will the people who survive the cuts manage to do their jobs
    2) how will the private sector absorb these people considering that they themselves will be suffering as there will be less and less customers with any money to spend anything!

  34. Howard,

    44% blue
    11% yellow
    8% others
    37% red

  35. @Julian Gilbert

    That’s reassuring

  36. An average of the predictions so far gives;
    Con 40.4
    Lab 39.8
    LD 10.4

    The wisdom of the crowd would seem to suggest I’m going to be the closest. ;)

  37. Aleksandar
    I will add your prediction.

    A word of explanation. When I use the title ‘pre CSR’ I was referring to what you thought before you took in the effect on opinion of the statement that is taking place as i write.

    I will also start a table of predictions for ‘post CSR’ and have advised you do not give me that prediction until at least tomorrow morning when you have ‘taken in’ all the chitchat. But that I leave to your good judgement. I may delay mine until Friday afternoon, as will around half the panel whom YG contacts for the Sunday papers poll.

  38. Damn, Eoin’s just skewed the wisdom of the crowd away from me.

  39. Julian,

    And I was being quite restrained. A 45% blue is by no means out of the question.

  40. Eoin
    Thanks, I’m obviously already suffering short term memory loss!

  41. @Steve

    Well I can only report my experiances. Half of all the publice sector employees I hav edealt with were underworked and overpaid. my equivelent in the public sector is paid £40K more than me, works fewer hours, has flexitime, a final slary pension and a redundency scheme that means he gets enough to survice for 4 -5 years…….

    I don’t worry about him.

  42. @Howard…….I am hard right so I’ll alter my prediction to accomodate a more realistic, ‘Others’, as follows


  43. @Howard…………Pedant that I am…accommodate. :-)

  44. Ok i’ll play

    40 39 12

  45. Like so many others, I’m gutted about the harriers and spending billions on aircraft carriers that will not perform their primary task for another decade.

    And, had I been invited to offer my views yesterday afternoon, I would certainly have been more scathing of this decision.

    However, I believe I will be far from alone in softening those views having had time to take stock.

    I don’t know the precise questions that were asked here but this decision in isolation is clearly down to the government oif the day yet, start digging a few inches below the surface and things start to look rather different.

    Having sliced one billion off the family allowance budget at the expense of many far from wealthy households, how much support would their have been for similar cuts in order to finance a harrier squadron and, I’m guessing, an aircraft carrier that is now going to be scrapped?

    How much support would their have been for spending more to cancel 2 new aircraft carriers than to build them and who is to blame for this being the case?

    As ever, there’s much left wing denial on these pages but, dress it up how you like, unless there has been something seriously amiss with all the polls of recent months, if there was a general election tomorrow more than 50% would vote one of the 2 parties who make up this coalition.

    Of course, there is plenty of scope for that to change but, whilst the public seems to accept drastic cuts are required, if the coalition show themselves to be fair in choosing where to wield the axe, IMHO, their falling behind in the polls is far from a foregone conclusion.

    If and when the public falls out of love with this government, it will not be over a cut in our military prowess that many already perceive as a waste of money.

  46. On Government employees

    Over the last two years i have had a lot to do with these back office (front office? anyway the people you contact over the phone) and have been met with unfailing courtesy and helpful advice. Of course I do not meet the cleaners and caterers that way, nor yet the people doing the computer programming and so on. In my role as a Regional Asembly member, I did often meet the people that the public think of as civil servants (the Sir Humphreys and their accolytes) and they worked jolly hard and for far less than they would earn in business.

    I would estimate that there will be great fear today (and it was already present of course).

    This must reflect a few percent in the polls I would have thought.

  47. I’ll close the ‘pre’ now (changed yours Ken as the first was something of an ‘outlier’ was it not?).

    I won’t start collecting the ‘post’ until tomorrow morning.

  48. Howard,

    Forgive me… I thought that was post…. Dunno what tricks my eyes are playing on me…

    is it too late for a PRE :) ?

  49. @Steve
    I did not say that people in non-jobs sat around all day doing nothing. Many of them can be quite busy, but this does not necessarily mean that what they do is effective or value for money. My criticisms are aimed at the system and the culture, not the individuals. I used to have a non-job! I am currently dealing with an awful case where a single mum was threatened by a drug dealer – she would be shot if she didn’t reveal the whereabouts of her ex ( who owed them money ).

    She sought help – and ended up in a mental hospital for three weeks because the social workers decided to section her as she was “obviously mentally ill – and making it all up.” Her kids were taken away for a while and for the last six months social workers have made her life a misery, despite her being cleared of mental illness or neglect. She is innocent and a good mum – but she is now “in the sysytem” – keeping the jobsworths in a living, endless visits from social workers, health visitirs, mental health team, Family Support Team, countless meetings about her and her kids. I have a huge pile of documents which they have generated about her case – much of it contradictory.

    Sorry AW for off-topic stuff, I argue that stuff like this influences opinions and perceptions though. IMHO there is huge waste out there, and plenty of bullshine being churned around. I have many reservations about “the cuts” but the coalition are right to say there is waste. I just want the deficit dealt with fairly.

  50. Eoin
    You appear not have understood my terminology which I have explained just now. The ‘preCSR ‘ is what you thought before the announcement. By definition what you submitted just now was a ‘pre’. I advise doing your ‘post’ not before at least after GO has sat down ;-)

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