A new YouGov poll for Channel 4 News yesterday found strong public support for many of the government’s planned cuts to benefits. 73% of respondents supported the idea of making the long term unemployed do compulsory work placements or risk losing benefits, 66% supported withdrawing jobseekers allowance from people who turn down job offers or interviews, 69% supported more stringent testing of people claiming disability living allowance and 68% supported capping housing benefit at £400 a week, “even if this means people are forced to move house if they live in an area where the rent is high”. In all these cases the policies weren’t just popular amongst Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters, they were also backed by a majority of Labour voters.

YouGov also asked if people thought the government should have cut benefits more or less, or had they got the balance about right. 31% thought the government was cutting too much, but 58% either thought the balance was right (34%) or would support even larger cuts to benefits (24%).

These findings are very much in line with earlier polling after the budget and the spending review, which found high levels of support for capping the total amount of benefits a family could receive, reducing the welfare budget and freezing the working tax credit. While some of the coalition’s planned cuts, such as higher tuition fees, higher VAT, or sending fewer criminals to prison are unpopular, polls have almost universally found that cuts to welfare benefits are popular.

This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting benefits is politically an easy option for the government though. Firstly, the cuts have not yet taken place, and when they do come into effect there are likely to be many media reports of individuals losing homes or facing financial difficulties which could turn public opinion away from the cuts.

There is also a risk that while individual cuts are popular, it will play into a broader image that the coalition are cutting spending in an unfair manner, or are interested only in helping the rich and don’t care about less well off people. YouGov’s regular tracker of whether people think the government’s cuts are being done fairly or unfairly has shown an increasing perception that savings are not being found in a fair way. Straight after the budget in June 45% of people thought the cuts were being carried out fairly, 34% unfairly. In our latest polling 37% thought they were fair, but 50% unfair.

In YouGov’s trackers of how people see the parties, the Conservatives are increasingly seen as being prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions (59% thought this description applied best to the Conservatives in our last poll), but they are also seen as “appealing to one section of society rather than to the whole country”.

However, opposing benefit cuts also carries risks for the Labour opposition. At the simplest level, the benefit cuts themselves are very popular, but even if that changes with time there is also a risk to Labour’s image. In polling for the Policy Network earlier this year YouGov found people already percieved the Labour party as being closest to the trade unions, benefit claimants and immigrants. If the Conservatives need to worry about still being seen as a party that cares only for the rich, Labour need to beware of potential middle class Labour voters seeing the party as one only for the dispossessed and poor.

(This article is cross posted from the YouGov website here)

488 Responses to “Polling on welfare cuts”

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  1. Mike N hit the nail on the head in the previous thread. hi sbasic argument was that as popular as these cuts might very well be, they are gifting Labour with an open gaol into which they can cement themselves as a catch all party. Leaving aside DC’s attempts at a grand centrist alliance, he is at fundamentla risk of painting his party as only representing one section of society. Above all esle, that is the main threat to blues chances of an overall majority….

    If Labour can convince th epublic that it iant old and tired, and that it has put all its difficulties behind it, then it has a chance.

    My own personal opinion, which I have deliberately omitted from the analysis, is that reds require policy, now! But for anyone interested in the former argument, Mike N’s observation in the previous thread is a good one.

  2. *an open gaol was not sigmund Freud at work- I promise! :)

    Anthony, are we due an Ipsos Mori?

  3. I have the strong suspicion that most people who have not had to use the welfare system for any sustained period of time will always support greater welfare cuts.

    Which is why I’ve always hoped welfare decisions will never be determined by popular consensus but by enlightened leadership. Preferably compassionate and progressive.

    I wonder if there has ever been any polling to indicate a majority or plurality in favour of *increased* welfare provision since the 1960s?

  4. Eoin – we are due one at some point, but MORI’s monthly poll is something of a moveable feast.

  5. Anthony, is there any reasons why the UK Polling stats are 9 days old, other than you are very busy?

  6. It’s all about way the questions are posed, everyone would be in favour of lower welfare bills, does not necessarily follow that they would want to see needy people forced into poverty….
    I suspect things will change when instead of looking at general proposals we begin to see the impact of cuts on real individuals’ lives.

  7. PamF, nope, you’ve pretty much got the reason there! (Though the full reason is that the firewall at work stops me updating the database, so I need to remember to do it when I’m at home).

    And on your other post, look at the question we actually asked on the housing – it explicitly asked people if they’d support it even if it meant lots of people in high rent areas lost their homes. Still got very high support.

  8. @PAMF

    I would not count on that.

    I told Mike N he is dream land and I reiterate it to you.
    Labour need to be very careful how they proceed.

  9. Tories the party of the better off shock.
    Labour more interested in working people, old hat, thats what people used to think. Now its, Labour the party of immigrants and the dispossessed.
    Not the same thing at all.

    I have completely forgotton I am a Tory and still cannot see anything good about this information for Labour.

  10. Roland,

    I am on record many times over as saying I think their current strategy is very wrong. But I find it unhelpful to simply push my own argument, without given consideration to others… Mike’s argument is plausible. It does not mean he is correct, simply that coherent thought brought him to his place of thinking.

    I follow your argument also, and indeed I have made the same argument myself. If we reds are to be the party of yummy mummies and £20k p.a. HB claimants, that would make me feel very uncomfortable.

    A point of some annoyance with myself is that those who argued in defence of yummy mummies and HB claimants (of the £20k variety) so voiceferously, had almost nothing to say about students and those at the very lowest level of society… the long term unemployed.

    And this brings me to you and I’s disagreement. Blues can tear chunks out of the wealthy stay at home mums, or those expecting ritz style rental bills. But when they come knocking on the door of very young adults to bankrupt them, or depressed and unwell underclass with a threat to leaving them destitute, then anyone who thinks I owuld support that line o fpolicy is living in dreamland. To make matters worse, in 49 days times blues are going to hit these very people with a tax rise of 2.5%.

  11. Roland, just because something is popular mean that it it right (in the correct not political sense, that is).

    Every one of us knows people of have friends on benefits.

    Once the effects of the reforms are more clearly understood and begin to bite and effect the people we know and out friends then there may be a shift in public perception.

    And I’m not in dreamland – I’m rooted in reality. ;-)

  12. Oh bu**er
    “Roland, just because something is popular DOES NOT mean that it it right (in the correct not political sense, that is).

    I fully realise just because the masses approve of something it does not have to be right. But this board is about polls and VI. If you feel that the coalition are morally wrong in these actions, fine I don’t support the argument, but I do support your right to say it. However, to see some silver lining in a majority of even Labours own voters crying enough at excessive welfare expenditure at a time like this is just whistling in the dark. The point AW makes about adverse publicity changing peoples minds, its possible but the right wing press are already leading with the Hull family of 10 on £32,500 pa benefits and a 5 bed house.
    The father has angina aged 52 (doesnt stop him knocking kids out) and irritable bowel syndrome (like that prevents you working.) These stories will be sexed up to hell by both sides.

  14. Anthony
    in the tables of ‘who does this statement apply more to Con or Lab’ I am confused. A certain percentage reply ‘Lib Dem;. I understand ‘None’ (they think it applies equally although i would have thought ‘neither’ a better heading) and i understand Don’t Know but I don’t understand ‘Lib Dem’.

    I you ask someone which do you prefer A of B which kind of idiot replies C?

    In exposing myown possible idiocy here perhaps your explanation could help others, similarly confused, who will not need to reveal their own stupidity.

    [I think there’s a simpler explanation Howard – we used to ask about just Con or Lab, then in May switched the question to include Lib Dems. We obviously forgot to change the question to reflect the new wording on the summary table! – AW]

  15. Roland
    “…the right wing press are already leading with the Hull family of 10 on £32,500 pa benefits and a 5 bed house.”

    I have no information about the circumstances of the parents other than what you have provided.

    The parents’ behaviour makes me cross. And yes joe public will be outraged.

    But if society ‘punishes’ the parents it is the children who will suffer.

    There is no simple solution to this.

  16. While i am awaiting the oracle, I thought the answers, in themselves shew what politically naive voters we have. The answer on toughness shews that. The answer simply reflects that the electors feel that only the Tories are bearing down on the wasters and ne’er do wells.

    There formidable ignorance shews that the tide, when it turns, will be something of a tsunami.

  17. @MIKE N
    The mother although fully fit has never worked and the father has not worked for 25 years or so. I only mention it Mike not as “Outraged of Bucks” but to illustrate that for every BBC 6pm news sob story, there will be Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sun and to a lesser extent Times stories of single mothers from Ghana in £5000 per month rented homes blah blah blah.
    It is interesting that this particular story comes from Hull. I have connections with that city and people I know have always made a point about the number of people there, living in this way.

  18. The populist measures re: Housing benefit & Work for Welfare are not going to have Labour or ex-Dem voters switching to Tory anytime soon.

    This, because Labour is saying:
    1. IDS is adopting &/or continuing many ideas begun by Labour;

    2. IDS has our qualified* support re: Universal credit. It is, pretty much, what we (the Labour Party) were trying to achieve – but it requires a powerful, customised IT system & lots of people’s personal information being in a ‘state’ database.
    We wish him luck with that, say Labour, because such programs usually turn into an over-budget, bug-ridden nightmare – followed by everybody’s personal information being downloaded to a flash memory stick & left in the back of a taxi!!!

    3. *Qualified by always adding, we (Labour) would like to see all the details before giving IDS our unqualified support.

    4. Labour’s leader makes detailed points at PMQ regarding who will be the losers & how will the plans work in practise? His points are jeered as useless nitpicking & barely reported for now. If nothing goes wrong, we shall never see this footage again. If something does go badly wrong during the implementation of these Coalition policies, the clips & quotes will be pure, election gold for Labour.

    40/40/10 because the Coalition has cunningly included a raft of headline grabbing populist measures in their cuts agenda; but Labour have been equally as clever in the way they’ve responded.

  19. Apols for the appalling typos. It is Friday and I am more interested in whether Fernando Alonso’s engine will hold out and if young Hamilton gets a penalty for being young.

  20. @HOWARD
    Don’t tell me they are looking at Lewis due to that incident with Senna? Senna is so slow in that bloody old nail he drives, he is just an embarrassment. It would not be so bad if his name was Carlos Fandango or something, but Senna, its just sad.

  21. I was reading an article in the Guardian today by John Harris and I thought, both for Harris and the Guardian, it was a welcome and long overdue return to form. Just the sort of alternative and thought provoking piece that a radical, non-conformist, some might even say, liberal newspaper ought to be putting into the public domain to counter the centre right Zeitgeist now congealing around the debate on the public expenditure and welfare cuts. This has even permeated the few centre left media voices left to us, with once independently minded and left leaning journalists like Martin Kettle and Andrew Rawnsley now trotting out the latest coalition mantras as if they were tablets of stone handed down from on high. Depressing and misguided conversions on the road to Damascus (ruin??) perhaps, and the sort of dreary and predictable government cheer-leading to be found in 80% of our print media.

    Harris’s article presented a refreshing change to the perceived consensus now forming and, whilst controversial and no doubt mouth-froth-inducing to some, it painted a vivid picture of something that, in my view, might well have far reaching implications for our politics. He speculated about a growing politicisation of previously apathetic and passive groups in our society. First up the students and the 50,000 strong demonstration on Wednesday. This wasn’t an “astroturf” confection mobilised by big business and vested interests this was, Harris observed, a demonstration made up of “ordinary students who were viscerally angry”. As the cuts bite deep, I wonder if we may see highly regarded public servants like nurses, doctors, policemen and firemen getting similarly angry and politicised. That will be a different political world to the one we’re inhabiting now which is, in essence, a victim-free vacuum of theoretical cuts. It’s easy in that environment to grandstand and win empty applause and superficial support for a “war on benefit cheats” and “bloated” public services. I like that world when that student isn’t my son, and that nurse isn’t at my local hospital, and that unemployed person isn’t my daughter, and that policemen doesn’t patrol my street, and that fireman doesn’t put out my fires. When and if they do, Mr Barrack Room lawyer in my local pub, starts to take a very different view. He liked the concept, but became angry with the rather more unnerving reality of what he once so enthusiastically espoused. Wake up to real politics and contrast them with the transitory illusions of daily snapshot opinion polls, ladies and gentlemen.

    Of course, if you’re so affluent as to be inured and insulated from these realities when they come about, then you may well stick with the original concept. The majority, however, may have less stomach for it and that brings me on to what I thought was Harris’s most telling point. It was, ironically, based on a quotation from a right wing commentator, Peter Oborne. Oborne said this; “Few would challenge the Camerons fundamental decency. But the middle class people David and Samantha Cameron know socially tend to be on a quarter of a million a year and upwards. Life for them may indeed be tough, but only in the sense of whether they can afford a skiing holiday or a spring break in the Caribbean”.

    Harris finished on what I think may become this coalitions eventual Achilles heel and the point Oborne was alluding to. In a Cabinet that contains 18 millionaires, how much political credibility and capital will they be able to draw on when the effects of what they’re now beginning to implement are felt by the public at large? I leave that intriguing question hanging in the air for now.

  22. Am I the only one who is shocked that Labour is still 1 or so % the Tories in the polls? I fully expected Labour to be 3 or 4% clear by this stage, to be honest. The Tories are holding up nice. I agree with Eoin, in that Labour has not outlined an alternative policy.

    The problem with Labour is that they have lost connection with the true working class IMO. Trawling through this forum reveals that many Labour supporters on here are pro child benefit etc., but talk little about elderly people or families working on low income (and the injusticies there). This is part of Labour’s recent problem (as opposed to Old Labour).

    To illustrate the problem: I was bullied at school by a girl who came from a ‘problem family’ who lived on benefits. I went to uni, and am flat broke with student debts. Meanwhile, I found out about a year ago, that she now has 3 kids, and no doubt has a house off the taxpayer. I will probably never be able to afford one and live with my parents (I am 30). And yet, I am responsible, but will probably never own one. Is that fair? No doubt, many Labourites on here will say yes!

    That’s why I could never support Labour ever again!

  23. @ Roland Haines

    You don’t ‘get’ it, do you?

    The Coalition (IDS) has promised a system that is fairer to everybody, including the paying tax payer.

    So what then?
    There will be stories of genuine people facing real hardship because of the changes.

    You suggest these will be neutered by Daily Mail stories of immigrant single mothers still receiving mega£s in benefits whilst living in a nice part of Nottinghill (or Hull or where ever) – but Roland, such articles will be stories of Coalition & IDS failure.

    The comments section of such articles will no longer be a rallying point for right – they will be full of lefties jeering at the inability of the Coalition to deal with issues that the Tories put front & center in the first place.

    Both of the hardship &/ or largesse stories will be the responsibility of the Coalition in the future. Don’t you see that, Roland?

  24. @Roland
    “…there will be Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sun and to a lesser extent Times stories…”

    You have made a good point there. And you wonder why cutting benefits is ‘popular’?


    “…single mothers from Ghana in £5000 per month rented homes…”

    Not sure whether you made this up…but if this line is being promulgated by the right wing press then we are seeing the exploitation of racism IMO.

  25. BTW – Anthony clearly ‘gets’ it. His article shows his understanding of this in a much more academic (i.e. less emotive) way.

  26. Let’s not forget popularist measure don’t always make good policy.
    Remember the Short Sharp Shock, like today’s action against “benefit cheats” it was popular, pressed all the buttons etc unfortunately it just didn’t work
    I get the feeling some of IDS’ ideas will be the same – especially the 4 weeks of work. Think about the practicalities of making 2.5 million + people do 4 weeks of work every year, you soon come up with a list of problems as long as your arm and the cost will be great. And at the end not one person will have a proper job – or should I clarify that, not one previously unemployed person, there will be 1000s of civil servants running the scheme (or private company employees working for the government 100% of the time)

  27. Nick Hadley

    Excellent post and commentary!

    I posted earlier on the other thread that this was a great article in the Guardian.

  28. @Redriding
    Totally agree.

  29. Going dark


  30. Ireland to get bailout next week!


    Ireland is in talks to receive emergency funding from the EU and it is likely the former “Celtic Tiger” will become the second euro zone country after Greece to require a rescue, sources said on Friday.

    The number being talked about is 80bn euro.

    I take no pleasure in telling you i told you so.

    This is superb news infact,for Ireland but more for Portugal & Spain,a domino effect would have taken place without this,which could have caused a double dip in the Eurozone then perhaps world economy.

    The EU/IMF measures will be no more tough than the ones planned in the upcoming Irish budget anyway.The Irish pride will be hurt,in the long run they have done the right thing.

  31. Following on from Nick Hadley’s analysis of an article by John Harris.

    The student demo, followed by the Telegraph photos of the ‘rioters’ was an eye-opener for me.

    The rioters pictured were not the balaclava wearing, ‘professionals’ that I expected to see. They looked very much like ordinary kids. At street level, pushing & kicking-in the already broken windows, were ordinary looking students. They were surrounded by ordinary students either watching & doing nothing to stop them – or actively cheering them on.

    There is a lot of anger; the entire press campaign in the run up to the GE seemed to be geared towards making people angry. Angry about the deficit, angry that the old were dumping their debts on the young, angry about the financial collapse, angry at immigrants, welfare recipients & poor parents; & most of all, anger at the government with Gordon Brown as the target of choice.

    Did the Coalition think all that anger would melt away when the ‘X’ was put against Tory or Dem in the ballot box?

    The then Opposition – or perhaps their seeming friends in the media – started something; now the Coalition will have to deal with the consequences.

  32. Danny Alexander’s lineon the IDS welfare poluicy is about right – where are the extra extra joibs once you’ve takenb into account half a million public sector redundancies?

    The IDS losers are being identified – article in the Times today showing that single mums with children are goiing to be in this category. The drip drip drip of bad news stories not onbly from welfare reform plans but all the other cuts will take a heavy toll and accelerate the Lib Dem disintegration – not enough police in London to deal with demos etc etc etc!

  33. @AMBER
    With regard to your 5.51 post I see that you could have a point in those circumstances. Perhaps Milibands answers are as good as you say, I have certainly missed it if they are.
    Regarding AWs report, I am not sure that there is anything about it that I dont see eye to eye with. AW always describes things as neutrally as possible, however the facts are the facts.
    As for me not getting it, you would say that wouldn’t you.
    Because I think you dont grasp that people, even Labour supporters are sick of governments that are a soft touch.

  34. @MIKE N
    Yes the single mother from Ghana was my invention, but there will be thousands of examples for the current bun to get it teeth into.

    Small point, there are no nice areas in Hull.

  35. @ Roland Haines

    Yes, the ‘you don’t get it’ was a bit nippy. I sincerely apologise for that.

    And, I agree with you, Ed Miliband didn’t give good answers, what he did was ask difficult to answer questions – which David Cameron didn’t answer with any gravity.

    Those pertinent questions – deflected by David Cameron playing to his own jeering then cheering back-benchers – may well give Miliband [undeserved?] gravitas & foresight points in the event of the welfare reforms turning sour on the Coalition.

    And welfare reform is notorious for turning sour on any Party which grasps the ‘third rail’.

  36. Before the election, when Eric Pickles was asked what the single greatest electoral vulnerability of the Conservatives was, he famously replied: “Same old Tories.”
    The problem for the Tories is that the current necessity for cuts (even though they would have been introduced in some measure by every party) feeds into this opinion.
    No-one could say that going into a coalition was ‘same old Tories’, which is why I always thought it was a good move for DC.
    Student protests, arguments about benefits, cuts etc etc etc does however rather remind those old enough to remember of the 80s.
    Which rightly or wrongly, for the reason Eric Pickles illustrated, will not be good for the Tories in the long run. IMO

    I agree with your post wholeheartedly. I have constantly said that I expected Labour to be 4 or 5 points in front at this stage. They may be yet, but currently the coalition policies are popular and there is a view amongst the voters that they have the commitment to do the right thing even if its tough.

  38. @ Roland

    Small point, there are no nice areas in Hull.
    In my son’s junior [ice-] hockey days, we had reason to spend time in Hull (one of Europe’s best goalie schools was held at the Hull Ice Arena). I never saw a nice area of Hull, I just assumed there must be at least one, somewhere. I now stand corrected. ;-)

  39. @AMBER
    Absolutely no need to apologies. Hull, a dump but some very very nice villages 8 to 10 miles outside in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Also Beverley is not far and its also really nice.

  40. It’s not very often that an ignorant ex-pat like me can contribute to a discussion about benefit scroungers (perhaps i should go onto Sue’s site)but I do have evidence.

    When i came back here in 1991 I was accosted by a woman who was going through men at a fast rate (I think I was due to be another). She was in dreadful financial strait and needed good advice. I gave advice but she did not deem it good.. It involved the kind of thing Martin Lewis advises.

    The point is this. By the way we are talking about a toff who hunted (not only men thus). She was paid a huge amount every month by DSS to pay her mortgage but instead she blew it on all sorts of ‘essentials’.

    That was the reason the system altered to pay the housing costs direct to landlords and Bs’s. I understand now that the new group screwing the taxpayer is the landlords, and I think it was noble of our resident financial opportunist, John Fletcher, to admit his part, all perfectly legal, so no criticism John.

    Have you forgotten that M. Heseltine made his money in the same way by doing up student flats?

  41. @ Those who think/ thought Labour should be 2 or 3 points ahead by now:

    40/40/10 because the Coalition has cunningly included a raft of headline grabbing populist measures in their cuts agenda; but Labour have been equally as clever in the way they’ve responded.

    You may have missed this superb ;-) piece of political analysis because you couldn’t be bothered reading all my blah blah blah to get there.

    I agree with your post. Well everything except for the last sentence.
    The answer IMO, however isn’t to turn to the parties on the right. Labour’s mistakes, and there were many, were to a large extent because they turned their back on a lot of their traditional voters, and failed to represent what those people saw as important.
    This means sometimes they were too’ right-wing’ (ie being too lenient with the shananigans in the city) and sometimes being too ‘left-wing’ (ie being too lenient on immigration).
    Eoin hits the nail on the head when he says Labour is concentrating in what he calls the Yummy Mummies rather than the people who really need help.
    But also, it’s normal working people who see the injustices of the present benefit system too, just as you highlighted. That’s why so many labour voters support many of the coalition’s proposals.
    The reason I don’t agree with your last sentence is that I believe Labour is still the only party which is ever likely to have a chance of getting the balance right. That’s because only they fundamentally agree with the ideas of a fair society, rather than one that is based on the survival of the fittest.
    But boy did they get the balance well and truly wrong in the last few years. ;)

    I agree with you it is a bit like the 80s, and for the self same reason, well upholstered toffs are making cuts that will impact on ordinary people. Why? because Labour ate all the bleedin pies thats why.

  44. And I think they might be getting it wrong now too. ;(

  45. Redriding

    “there will be 1000s of civil servants running the scheme ”


    There are going to be less civil servants.

    The Work Programme will be administered by hundreds of specialist companies/third sector organisations/social enterprises. The will be paid by results-ie getting people back to work.

    If you Google Work Programme you will get lots of stuff on the tendering process.

    A4E , founded by the terrific Emma Harrison is typical-they were the largest supplier of Labour’s New Deal progamme, which Work Programme supercedes.

  46. Nick Hadley

    Cabinet that contains 18 millionaires “coalitions eventual Achilles heel”

    Is it?

    Don’t forget apart from the Postie’s job the main Shadow Cabinet jobs are held by millionaires EM, HH, EB & YC & there and many more millionaires in the Shadow Cabinet inc’l Scolland, Byrne and of course Woodward.

    Also don’t forget Ed M now on the record as approving child benefits for millionaires.

  47. Eoin

    “My own personal opinion, which I have deliberately omitted from the analysis, is that reds require policy, now!”

    Yes-you have been consistent on that Eoin.

    But judging by Amber’s post to Roland you aint going to get any , because they aren’t necessary.

    On Welfare reform your “policy” is to be :-

    + If it works-we were doing it anyway*-so no big deal.

    +If it doesn’t work-we would have done it properly-you cocked it up.

    *-I’m duty bound to point out that Purnell b******d off because GB said you must be joking when Purnell proposed a Universal Credit.

  48. And today’s news – A London family sold a vase for a record breaking $43M to a Chinese collector.

    We will resolve the trade deficit – not with manufacturing & exports – but by selling them their own stuff back; one vase at a time. ;-)

  49. Mike

    Don’t let facts get in the way of a good ‘red rant”.

    All the shadow cabinet are poor,they only do politics for the ‘workers’ they only pay themselves min wage i hear also.

  50. There are going to be less civil servants

    ‘Fewer’ whoever wrote that.

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