This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 38%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 12%. The four point Labour lead is lower than YouGov’s recent average, but well within the normal margin of error.

Today’s poll also had YouGov’s regular bank of tracker questions on the government’s cuts and these produced one striking figure. For the last couple of years public opinion on the cuts has been pretty steady. On balance people think the cuts are bad for the economy, they think they are unfair, many people think they are too fast or too deep… yet people think they are necessary. In short, people don’t like the medicine, they think it may be making things worse, but they don’t see any alternative to taking it.

However in the latest figures people were evenly split on whether the cuts are good or bad for the economy. 41% think they are bad for the economy, 41% think they are good for the economy. As ever, one should not read too much into a single poll, but this finding does reflect an ongoing trend. Over recent weeks and months public opinion has been moving in favour of the cuts.

Below is the tracker data on if people think the cuts are good or bad for the economy. They turned against them very early in the Parliament, at the tail end of 2010. Opinion got even more negative after the 2012 “omnishambles” budget, but since late in 2012 the trend has been moving in favour of the cuts, eventually reaching towards figures where opinion is evenly balanced.

Looking at whether the cuts are fair or unfair we have a different balance of opinion, but the same pattern of change. An overall majority of the public still think that the spending cuts are being carried out in an unfair way, but it bottomed out after the 2012 budget and since then there has been a slight movement away from “unfair”.

On whether the cuts are too deep, you can see the same pattern. By the time YouGov started this tracker in early 2011 public opinion had already decided that the cuts were too deep. Having moved in a bit it spikes back towards too deep after the 2012 budget, since then opinion has been moving towards the cuts being about right or too shallow (I’ve put about right and too shallow together in the graph – in the latest figures it’s 27% about right, 16% too shallow). I haven’t graphed the figures for whether people think the cuts are too fast, but they are very similar to those for “too deep”.

Finally here are the figures for whether people think the cuts are necessary. There isn’t really the same trend here – there’s a little bump after the 2012 budget, but broadly speaking the proportion of people who think the cuts are necessary has remained stable throughout the Parliament. However unfair or too deep or economically damaging they were seen to be, people have consistently thought the cuts were necessary. In some ways it will be interesting watching this question as we go forward – it’s possible that increasing economic confidence will make people think that cuts are working and, therefore, that it’s necessary to continue with them. Alternatively, people might think that if the economy is on the rise it is no longer necessary to continue with cuts. We shall see.

350 Responses to “Attitudes to the cuts”

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  1. first I think .

    Labour seem to be asleep in addressing voters’ concerns.

    Summertime slumbers perhaps.

  2. Excellent analysis Anthony.

    Your last point is a very interesting one.

  3. I think that people’s attitude to the cuts will be driven by what happens to job opportunities and to real incomes. The first aspect has begun to improve while the second is likely to begin to turn around if the job market becomes more buoyant, as it looks like doing. How much that will feed through by 2015 is in doubt.

    Before it was easy to blame the state of the economy wholly on the cuts. Clearly this is an economically illiterate attitude, since it ignores all the other negative factors affecting it like the impact of the Eurozone crisis on our export performance, falling North Sea oil production, imported food and energy inflation. etc. etc. But it is much easier to focus entirely on government policy because the other factors are complex, difficult to grasp and not due to any one person or group of people.

    Now, since the economy is growing and there is nothing to blame the cuts for, so people’s view of them is improving. That’s my analysis.

  4. @Roger (FPT)
    Well spotted on behalf of all of us who don’t look at each and every set of data tables.

    I agree that the problem lies in the wording of the question that Populus pose to identify party ID compared to how they use it:
    “Regardless of which party, if any, you are likely to end up voting for at the next General Election due in
    May 2015 or are leaning towards at the moment, which political party would you say you have usually most closely identified yourself with?”

    The use of “have” does nudge an alert respondent to bring in some retrospection, but I’d be surprised if many people referenced their response back to the party they were identifying with in 2010, without a very clear and unambiguous steer towards that date. You could easily interpret the question as asking about the party you have most identified with over say the past year or six months as opposed to the one you are leaning towards currently. So it seems to have been a leap of faith for Populus to calibrate the poll by using the 2010 BSA Survey weights, and the nonsense that the responses of 9 out of 10 UKIP identifiers have had to be ignored via reweighting seems to bear out how wrong that leap of faith was.

    In the opposite direction it’s also worth noting that the LDs have been significantly reweighted upwards, albeit to a lesser extent, which is also exactly what you would expect if many people were again basing their party ID on a timeframe after 2010.

  5. Peter Hain calls for Joint Sovereignty of Gib.

    No doubt Farage will have something to say.

  6. Labour shouldn’t be surprised that the weight of public opinion shifts towards the Conservatives economic approach the more they fail to make an economic case defending their record and the less they differentiate their approach from that of the coalition. I haven’t heard “too far, too fast” for a long time now.

    Bill Keegan as usual hit the nail on the head a few weeks back in the Observer:

    “Yet senior Labour party members, instead of capitalising on their success in attacking the government’s failed strategy, choose to hoist the white flag and accept the broad thrust of the chancellor’s policy, quibbling over the details, and even then sounding as though they are terrified of saying anything that might upset the rightwing press. They call this the need for credibility. Do they not see that in the very act of seeking credibility they are losing it?”



    “@Turk – “I see the retail figures are on the up, perhaps people are begining to feel the effects of an up turn in the economy.”

    You need to be very careful in making such bold assertions”

    Why ???????????? What happens if one is wrong?


    Re polls I will repeat what I wrote towards the end of another thread, comparing 2015 to 2010

    Lab WILL poll higher
    Ukip WILL poll higher
    LD WILL poll lower

    {Dunno if anyone would debate that?}

    Cons MUST poll MUCH higher for an OM

    But where wil they get the extra votes from? [, given that they will certainly lose some to UKIP, they need to first cover that loss before effecting ANY increase.]

    This is the best time, financially, to predict and bet on the outcome of the 2015 Tory leadership

    In my most ‘umble perpinyun.

  8. Phil H

    I think there is a lot in that.

  9. @Paul

    And I agree with you, too.

    Let’s wallow in mutual admiration, shall we?

  10. @Paul Croft,

    I agree with your analysis, which is why I think a Conservative majority is unlikely.

  11. What I find rather baffling is how public opinion is so disconnected from reality.

    While in academic circles you’d be hard pressed to find an economist able (or even willing) to make the argument for the positive effects of austerity the public seem to have generally accepted it (in the UK) as inevitable or even desirable.

  12. When the cuts weren’t having an impact and the economy was shrinking people opposed them. Now that the economy seems to be growing they support them. thats public opinion for you.

    The public opposed the war in iraq till it started then they backed the troops. he popularity of the war peaked when Saddam fell and we looked like liberators being cheered in the streets. Public opinion turned again when the war went sour and turned into an insurgency.

    If it had gone well no one would be talking about it being illegal or Blair being a war criminal and he would probably still be PM.

    As to peoples views of whether the cuts are fair I think that will continue to narrow as we go forward. Even though the fairness won’t change it is clear now that overall the majority will get through without any direct cuts that they really fell.

    There will be anger at individual changes like family allowance but these will ease off over time and as an improving economic situation and rising house prices takes effect a majority will move see their standard of living improve and recover.

    At this point the cuts will be seen as tough but fair and have been a price worth someone else paying.

    Much like Thatcher and Tina it will be supported by those who got through it largely unscathed and hated by those who bore the burden.

    Much as I think the odds are against them the tories could conceivably pull it off if they create a mini boom in London and the south east.

    It might further widen the North South divide and be bad for the country but when has that ever worried either side at westminster.

    It might also present the Libdems with a dilemma.

    I have long thought that their underlying strategy was to “target decent ” creating manifestos that Target whichever of the big two looked like losing.

    Looking at their proposed conference agenda for the autumn it include supporting Trident (lite) nuclear power and tuition fees policies more likely to attract the votes of Tories than Labour in tune with a probable incoming Labour Government.

    In some ways we see a similar issue with the coalition. The Libdem manifesto was closer to labour than the Tories for me in part because it was drawn up in principle a year ahead when Cameron was steaks ahead of Brown.

    Anticipating a tory victory they aimed at disgruntled Labour supporters resigned to defeat with a leftish manifesto for opposition.

    Having gone in with the Tories they then angered those they had courted because they had to ditch promises to Labour supporters from a manifesto they never expected to have to deliver.

    If they aim at tories now expecting Labour to win in 2015 then they could find themselves having t ditch another set of policies to do a deal with Ed Miliband.


  13. Sorry that should of course been a returning Cameron not Miliband and this time the policy difference wouldn’t be a problem.

    The problem would be policies designed to attract Tory voters only work when the tories look like losing. Targeting decent and getting it wrong risks either having to disappoint those you courted as in the coalition if they vote for you or them not voting for you because they don’t switch as there side is going to win after all.

    Then Clegg would face opposing a tory government with far fewer MP’s and having to attack a set of policies much like his own.

    Mind you yet again when has that ever bothered anyone.


  14. What are these ‘cuts’?

    Govt spending is rising and projected to rise further.

    In certain areas there have been economies or savings.

    If pollsters use biased BBC-type terms such as ‘cuts’, especially combined with other suggestive words such as ‘unfair’ or ‘fair’, don’t be surprised to get results that are of nil significance.

  15. @PC

    I must disagree with what you have written, at least until I’ve read it.

    Seriously…will, will, will, must. You can swap any party into the must category, depending on who decides what a party’s target should be (Con for OM, Lab requiring 6-7% more than Con, Lib requiring 20% to prevent losses, and UKIP to prove they’re not just a protest vote. Even the greens, to show they can get a seat once more).

    It’s all subjective.

  16. If the economic improvements continue, I am not so sure the LD goose will be quite as cooked in 2015 as is generally assumed.

    The UK public, when confronted with a healthy economy, may well be grateful for it and reward the governing party/parties (probably the Tories more than the LibDems) but they also have a tendency to want to start dishing out the proceeds of that healthy economy.

    The LDs may be able to put together a pretty coherent platform based on the theme of “We’re tough and hardheaded enough to make the difficult decisions when they’re needed (unlike Labour) but now that we’ve turned a corner and there’s more money to go round, we will invest in the social infrastructure you guys really want to see (unlike the Conservatives). That’s exactly the sort of platform that Clegg could deliver convincingly (I Agree With Nick Stylee).

    The big fly in the ointment would be the ability of their opponents to jeer and claim that they would jettison their policies just to get into power (again).

  17. @Clive Elliot

    I think you’ll find total spending as a % of GDP is dropping Clive:

    Perhaps you mean debt is still rising or maybe spending as a total (not as a % of GDP)?

  18. I expect this trend to continue unless Labour becomes far more coherent in its message. The public just doesn’t know what they stand for. It’d be relatively easy to build a coherent opposition to these less than stellar growth figures but they seem to have been asleep ever since 2010.

  19. Purely from the polling, Conservatives are winning the battle and setting the agenda.


    @”I think you’ll find total spending as a % of GDP is dropping Clive:”

    But not yet back to the level of 2007/8-just before the Recession:-

    2007/8 41.0%
    2008/9 44.5%
    2009/10 47.7%
    20010/11 46.8%
    2011/12 45.5%
    2012/13 43.6%

  21. Colin

    Is the 2012/13 an actual figure or an estimate

  22. RiN

    Last estimate-2013 Budget RB.


    Fear not-Chris Leslie is on the case:-

    ” But Mr. Leslie also faced questions over MP’s claims that the Labour leader has presided over a ” slumbering” Shadow Cabinet.
    He insisted that drawing attention to the fall in living standards was a necessary first step to unveiling new policies during the party’s autumn conference.
    ” We have some goodies in store for you” he said. ”

    THe Times

    …..and for us all too one presumes-can’t wait.

  24. So it could turn out to be even lower than that, if the PMI figures are an accurate guide..

  25. All the excitement around current PMIs relates to their impact on 2013/14 GDP rather than last FY I think.

    The current FY & the last one in the Parliament-2014/15 could certainly see healthy increases in GDP, and commensurate falls in TME/GDP %………provided GO has a grip on actual Spending.

  26. The level of Government spending will have been propped up by the impact of automatic stabilisers which kick in when the economy is weak. Discretionary spending on the other hand has been reduced significantly.

  27. @paulcroft

    Lab will be higher? Why, the opposition vote went down in the election subsequent to a change of government in 1955, 1966, oct 1974, and 1983 leaving the exception as 2001 where labour maintained their landslide.

    It is more normal for governments to increase their seats when they ask for re- election for the first time. Not because their vote increases much if at all but because the opposition declines.

  28. Jamie,
    The Vote of the main Opposition party rose in 1950 ,1935,1931,1929,1924, 1923 and 1922- though for some reason you omitted those elections despite there having been a change of government following the previous election..

  29. Colin

    Just got in noticed your early post, hope your wife gets better soon.

  30. I think Jamie’s examples are a little more, erm, recent.

    But in general I think this whole “the precedent suggests” argument is pretty unilluminating. Anything can happen, and often does.

  31. stattster

    “It’s all subjective.”

    Well, actually it’s all unknown.

    However, despite oe Jamie I am quite certain that if you asked a very arge number of poitically literate people what would happen to the votes of abour, UKIP and LD, then they would provide the same answers as me.

    The MUST was for dramatic effect, but if it was possible to bet on that happening I reckon most people woud take the risk.

    If I am not correct which predictions do you disagree with and why:

    Lab won’t get higher than 27%?

    LibDem will not go down?

    UKIP won’t rise?

    ………………….. and why not?

  32. Neil A

    I actually agree with you. Just found it slightly strange that 1955 was mentioned – yet 1950 ignored!

  33. colin

    “He insisted that drawing attention to the fall in living standards was a necessary first step to unveiling new policies during the party’s autumn conference. ”

    THe Times

    …..and for us all too one presumes-can’t wait.

    Hohoho – never out sarcasticated. Nice you have such an open approach to their poicies though.

  34. @Neil A,

    I agree. The way I look at it is that one of the two general (recent) historical rules will have to be broken in 2015:-

    1) An incumbent doesn’t increase its vote share second time round.
    2) A party not leading by at least 14 or 15% mid-term doesn’t form a government at the subsequent general election.

    I suppose, in theory, the Tories could form the next government and have their vote share fall (thus, satisfying rule 1)) but it seems very unlikely given the current electoral boundaries.

    Just goes to show that rules – much like historical precedents – are always there to be broken.

  35. *thus, satisfying rules 1) and 2)*

  36. @Paul Croft,

    ‘Lab won’t get higher than 27%?’

    The Labour share in 2010 was 29.7% – so your figure does indeed provide scope for a further decline!
    In essence, I believe you are correct – difficult to see Labour below 35/36% next time. I am not convinced, though, that UKIP will exceed 5%.

  37. In theory, Labour could see their vote share fall to the late 20s/low 30s IMO, but it’s not very likely. The protest, anti-Tory vote alone should see them hitting at least somewhere in the 30s…the question is where.

  38. Labour vote went very much up in 1966, following the 1964 narrow win

  39. Graham:

    Ta. I knew it was 20 something and in the UK that pits me we up on the politically literate scale. Probably somewhere around Prof of Political History with a zero hours contract.

    Was it the Demmers that were 27? Who thinks that won’t go down?

  40. Hmm, I can see circumstances in which Labour could fall as low as perhaps 32%, but I agree that the chances of them actually losing vote share on 2010 are pretty much zero.

    2010 was more or less a baseline for Labour support I think. I’d be surprised if they fall below that in my lifetime, if the voting system remains FPTP. The LDs built up momentum towards their objective of eclipsing Labour over decades, and then saw it vanish in a puff of smoke. There is no plausible alternative home for the centre-left for a long old while.

  41. @Paul.

    C37, L30, LD23.

    Memorize those numbers….

  42. Thank you Turk.

  43. Ahem. Make that C37, L30, LD24.

    Conflating my GB LD with my UK LD. That’s a painful moment for anyone, let me tell you.

  44. @ paulcroft

    Ok it was the ‘must’ I didn’t like, but I think all parties will have to work hard to get more votes than last time. Nothing is guaranteed.

    Presidents are broken most elections….first woman…consecutive full labour terms…..three victories with the same leader…..

  45. Labour did,of course, poll as low as 28.3% back in 1983 , and this led to exaggerated claims that its 2010 performance was almost as bad.. Significantly different in the two election years was the share polled by ‘Others’. In 1983 they received circa 3% – compared with circa 10% in 2010. Had ‘Others’ remained at 3% in 2010, I suspect Labour would have managed 32% that year.

  46. Presidents are broken most elections….first woman…consecutive full labour terms…..three victories with the same leader…..

    Mugabe and Obama will be in tears!

    Oh….. you mean “precedents”?

    Back to school with you, Jamie.

  47. For the sake of argument we can say that voters are evenly split as to whether the cuts are good or bad for the economy, and too deep or about right/too shallow… though 15-20% either don’t know or are reserving their judgement.

    More than 50% still think it is being done unfairly.

    Nearer 60% think it’s neccessary though, and that’s the more important figure because it underpins, and to some extent undercuts, other considerations.

    As with the Reinhart- Rogoff controversy, even if you could prove that the orthodoxy is flawed it doesn’t really make a lot of difference. Similarly, the Reithian attitude is still alive and well at the BBC and other parts of the commentariat (the BBC is on the side of the people, the Government is on the side of the people, therefore the BBC is on the side of the Government… when it comes to the General Strike, or Austerity).

    Agreed, Labour totally dropped the ball when it came to defending Brown/Darling’s handling of the economy. To some extent Labour did make the “too far, too fast” message stick though… but no matter how you try, the counterfactual (2009-10 growth needn’t have been snuffed out, with a recovery delayed by three years) can’t be demonstrated. A recovery of sorts was always going to appear, so at some point the perception that cuts are harming the economy would have to wane.

    Labour supporters have to hope that there will be a convincing rebutal of the “Labour’s mess” mantra come the election… to some extent contention over “cuts” will have moved onto new territory by then.

  48. Sigh

    I’m invoking xkcd1122, which really ought to be UKPR’s version of Godwin’s Law.

    Just because a particular electoral outcome happened in the last n times (except for 2) it doesn’t mean it will happen next time. THE END

  49. Neil A

    Are you a closet lib dem, cos only a seriously deranged partisan lib could predict a vote share greater than 20% at the next GE

  50. ROGER

    Very amusing cartoon.

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