This morning’s Telegraph has the first post budget test of public opinion, a YouGov poll has voting intentions of CON 39%(+1), LAB 31%(-1), LDEM 16%(nc). The poll was conducted between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday.

The changes from YouGov’s last poll in the Sunday Times are insignificant, but they do suggest that there is no immediate “budget boost” for Labour. Overall 34% of people thought the budget was a fair one, while 46% thought it was not. YouGov have asked the same question after each budget since 2002, and this is the most negative reaction so far, the -12 “net fairness” figure compares to -7 last year, +15 in 2005, +13 in 2004, +23 in 2003 and +34 in 2002. That said, answers to the question are quite partisan – 70% of Tory voters think it was unfair and 65% of Labour voters think it was fair, so the trend may simply be a reflection of Labour’s falling popularity.

Overall 40% of people thought that the budget would leave the country worse off, with only 21% thinking the country would be better off. Despite the publicity attached to the headline 2p cut from income tax, 48% thought they personally and their families would be worse off, with only 18% thinking they would benefit, though put into historical context these figures are not incredibly bad. People tend to assume the worst about budgets – if you look back at some previous Brown budgets 45% thought they would be worse off in 2004, 63% in 2003 and 60% in 2002.

Asked about who will benefit from the budget, Labour will probably be quite pleased with the answers – 45% think schools will be better off (12% worse off), 34% think hospitals will benefit (18% worse off), 48% think families with children will benefit (22% think they’ll be worse off), 39% think pensioners will benefit (27% worse off), 33% think companies will benefit (25% think they’ll be worse off). The only group that a plurality of people thought would suffer from the budget was workers on low incomes, 42% thought they would suffer with only 29% of people thinking they’d be better off.

There were few questions on specific aspects of the budget. The cut in the standard rate of income tax and the increase in road tax on “gas guzzling” cars were both popular. Only 27% though Brown should not have cut the standard rate of income tax, 29% thought he was right to do what he did and 33% would have been happy with even larger cuts. Only 25% objected to the increase in vehicle duty, while 23% would have been happier with even larger rises.

Attitudes to Gordon Brown however remain ambivalent – 40% think he is an asset to the Labour party, but 38% think he is a liability. 44% think he is doing a good job as Chancellor, 36% a bad job. These are good figures compared to the sort of dire approval ratings recorded by Tony Blair, but compared to perceptions of Brown a few years ago are miserable. In YouGov’s 2005 post-budget poll Brown was seen as an asset rather than a liability by 63% to 16%, and his job approval figures were 61% to 19%.

Looking at direct comparisons with Tony Blair, 30% think Brown is doing a better job as Chancellor than Blair is as PM, 24% think the opposite. Compare this to two years ago, when 52% thought Brown was doing the better job. 35% of people would now prefer to have Tony Blair as Prime Minister, with 30% preferring Brown. This isn’t just Labour’s opponents playing silly buggers – Blair is now preferred across the board, amongst Labour supporters 52% would prefer to see Blair as Prime Minister.

Better news for Brown is that the “Stalinist” jibe doesn’t seem to have stuck. Only 25% of respondents thought that Brown behaved with “Stalinist ruthlessness”, and these were largely Tory votes. 39% thought he was properly tough and 18% thought he was neither tough nor ruthless.

35 Responses to “No post-budget bounce for Labour”

  1. I wonder when was the last time a chancellor announced a tax cut and then went down two points in the next poll.

  2. Old budget proverb say ‘Budgets cheered on the day are regretted the following day’

    This would appear to be tle largest CON lead in you gov since september – added to the other recent polls can one start to say this is trend?

  3. Brown must be really chewing his nails now, what can he do to shift the poll ratings?

    This was his big opportunity and if this has backfired, and I’d rather wait until the other polls come out first to see if this isn’t just an outlier, then Brown’s chances aren’t looking so good in 09/10. By going for a budget that was ‘too clever by half’, Brown may have just ended up reinforcing prejudices against him.

    Interesting thought: The Murdoch press, especially the Sun, seemed to be very praising the following day. But instead his poll ratings have gone backwards – it certainly seems that its not “The Sun wot won it”.

    The rest of the press, aside from Murdoch, seemed to catch quickly onto the fact it was all one big re-arranging of the deck chairs and no real cut. So I think as well as the pleasing effect of seeing some rather poor budget spin falling flat, its good to see Murdoch’s press falling flat too.

  4. I felt pleasantly surprised at the 2p cut but now i feel annoyed that it was just smoke & mirrors, i wonder how much more negative details will emerge to harm this budget?

  5. Philip is absolutely right about the reaction of the Murdoch press to the budget. Both the Sun and the Times seemed to completely gloss over the whole issue of Brown taking away with one hand what he gave with the other. For them to miss what was the key part of the big story of the day reflects really badly on the quality of journalistic analysis on both papers. The Sun in particular bent over backwards to see the government in a positive light as though it was 1997 not 2007.

  6. Hmmm – has Brown done a deal about the Euro and the Constitution I wonder?

  7. Don’t overplay the Budget reaction!

    This poll was done almost immediately after the budget: changes in voting patterns and preferences, of the Political Parties, take much longer to filter through and for a variety of reasons.

  8. Polling done immediately after the budget would have missed much of the later analysis which showed how the tax’cut’ was no such thing which would suggest these will be his best numbers.

  9. I agree with the previous comment.

    I think a reaction to the budget would be more likely to be available in the next opinion poll, not this one. I’m not saying there will be a reaction different to this one, of course.

  10. Iron chancelor’s lead balloon

  11. Well, is anyone really surprised? When was the first time people got really hacked off with Labour spin – it wasn’t Iraq; it was Brown in his second budget claiming he was investing record-breaking new money that had actually been announced previously: and now he’s done exactly the same again.

    I find it extraordinary that the post budget commentary – positive and negative – all marvelled at the genius of this so-called “political budget” but reminding voters of the cancer at the core of the Government: spin – and who’s the principal architect of it – seems the most extraordinary crassness to me.

    Of course, this all stems from Brown being (not unreasonably) convinced that Labour could only win in 1997 if it wasn’t pegged as a tax and spend party – hence the no increase in income tax pledge; hence the need to find backdoor ways to raise taxes; hence the mindset that the public are stupid and can be fooled into believing that a revenue-neutral tax manipulation is actually a cut.

    The man’s a liability – and aside from the tactical incompetence, what the hell is a LABOUR Chancellor doing cutting the tax burden on the wealthiest and the largest corporations, and raising it on the hidden poor and small businesses?

    Appalling in every respect – Gordon Brown is Labour’s biggest liability.

  12. Gordon Brown made a good budget speech but I can see what he is trying to do. He has cut tax because he knows that the Tories are week on the issue at present and he wants to gain Middle Class votes by lowering the middle income tax bracket by 2p in every £1 they earn.

    On the whole however, I think that David Cameron was wise not to criticise the budget because his party believes in tax cuts and that’s what Brown gave. Cameron has stuck to his belief of reducing ‘unnecesary Punch and Judy Politics’.

    I still think that David Cameron will win around 316 seats and will be starved slightly of a majority by the next election though unless things really go wrong with the economy like an economic recession and further rises in interest rates. If interest rates reach around 7.5% or inflation reaches 4% then Labour will be OUT.

  13. With regard to the last comment, inflation has already breached 4% – being 4.6% as measured by the Retail Price Index!

  14. which is the measure that Labour always conveniently use to lambast the 15% rates the Tories presided over

  15. And is the % that really reflects the costs people have to pay in their lives, unlike CPI which is just an index that ignores those pesky costs which are going up.

  16. philip,
    if you look back,the sun backs the winner, it does not change is very clever spin.all they have to do is shift tree to make their cash.if they go against prevailing opinion in their readership,they would sell less.

  17. I’d generally agree with you John, with 1992 being the exception. I don’t think The Sun won the election for the Tories by any means (I think Kinnock lost it for Labour), but all the polls indicated that hey were backing a loser.

    I do think in 2009/10 it will back whoever they think will win anyway though.

    Interesting Populous poll today. Jack’s comment of “Iron chancelor’s lead balloon” looks very succinct now.

  18. very interesting in the times.i suspect it is all over for labour,and now just a matter of time.what else can brown do?

    we have seen the greatest redistribution of wealth since the war,there are 800,000 more government employees.if the hot tap stops,they will strike.he will be thanked for little,yet he is a great socialist.

    taxes can now only go down.there is a mess to sort out,i just hope david cameron is up for the fight.i suspect he is.

  19. Today’s papers show the public ain’t buying it anymore…

  20. According to a new Populus poll for the times, only 30% of people think Gordon Brown would make a good PM. That’s pretty lousy for the best Labour have got.

    I’m a sort of an ex-labour voter fed up with Tony Blair, but I’ve not seen any more reason to vote for them if Gordon Brown is in charge. Unless he comes up with something spectacular before the next election, I think I’ll be staying at home.

  21. When I was talking about inflation I had in mind that the current rate was 2.8%; this was on the BBC NEWS recently. Also when does everyone believe the next general election will be?

    Personally, I doubt that it will be this year because Labour just cannot afford it. I reckon it will be either June 4th or June 18th, 2009. It cannot be held on the 11th of June because that’s when the EU election date is and a UK General Election cannot be held on the same date. My two suggested dates would mean it would be close to the EU elections and would increase voter turnout.

  22. Surely we will have a better idea what people think about the budget once they have had their April pay packets

  23. Philip,

    My money would be on May 6, 2010. If Labour’s new leader doesn’t see any improvement in the polls I think it’s inconceivable that he will go to the country before he has to. I suspect that, like Major, he will cling on to power for as long as he possibly can

  24. 2.8% is the dodgy CPI inflation this government introduced that simply excludes things such as mortgages, council tax payments etc which are all real costs that people have to pay. The RPI is the historic rate of inflation we’ve long used and that is close to 5%

    Brown’s a coward, if he’s leader the best bet for an election is June 2010.

  25. Could some one please tell me who the other 14% who should have appeared in this poll are going to vote for or are they the don’t knows?

  26. Philip (25/03: 12:59)

    The last day for a general election is actually June 2010, and I suspect that if Brown becomes PM, that is when it will be.
    Not quite sure how you think holding two elections within a few weeks of each other (Westminster & Euro) will increase turnout in either. Likely result is to create massive confusion and negligible turnout in the Euro elections – maybe we can set a new record somewhere in the teens – or even single figures. Perhaps not such a bad idea after all!!!


  27. Paul Smith,

    One impact of Brown’s spinning is that people will be utterly confused when they open their April pay-packets. All the headline grabbing changes are planned for April 2008, so all you will see this year is the hidden effect of fiscal drag.

    Then people will remember how much Brown likes to announce every spending pledge several times over without actually following up to ensure the money has actually been spent as announced.


  28. Just a general comment for everyone.

    I have to say that over the lastfew weeks, since the possibility of a Tory majority emerged the quality of the discussion here seems to have declined.

    Looking atthis topic in general we seem to be heading towards a debatewith all the intelectual rigour of “My Dad’s Bigger than Your Dad”.

    So hows about less of the polemic and getting back to what the polls mean, what we think the parties are taking from them and how they are using them to adapt policies and tactics, rather than pantomine stuff.


  29. Heartily agree

    But I doubt your plea will go heeded for long. For the first time in a long time everyone agrees and even admit it is a real contest.

    As long as it remains thus, then people will tend to take partisan positions more readily – just natural human instinct, and even if a debate starts well – it will degenerate if left unchecked. After all the people who post here are very unlikely to not care one way or the other!

    If Anthony is willing to be more censorious then he is best placed to keep the debate on the straight and narrow.

  30. Peter,
    I agree that the quality of discussion here has declined somewhat recently . Possibly it is because some but only some of the Tory contributors are just releasing their long pent up frustration. For the last ten years the Tory party has been lanquishing in the political wilderness-not something one of Europe’s oldest and most successful poliitical parties can have found easy to live with. Once the novelty of being in a strong position in the polls wears off then I think that these Tories will settle down again and contribute to the debate in an constructive manner. I certainly hope so.

  31. Peter

    I rest my case

  32. Since when has a budget changed the fortunes of any governing party? I don’t recall a time when the Tories in government were lagging Labour in the polls only to suddenly find themselves ahead the week after a budget? Checking the poll archives I failed to find a single example of a real and sustained poll shift post budget for the government.

    As for the ‘Brown for PM’ poll figures this is another indication of the position of the current government.I doubt the figures would improve much for any Labour leadership contender. If the government recovers in the polls so will the ratings for the Labour leader.