Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have really sustained the public's confidence on economic policy over the last few years.
We know that at the last election managing the economy was the most important issue to voters and by that point Labour had lost the public’s trust on this issue. Having said that, prior to the election last year the Tories hadn’t exactly convinced the public that they could be trusted either – they only held a three point lead over Labour (29% to 26%).
Now, 10 months after the election, the public blame the previous Labour government for the economic problems. For a while the current government seemed to winning the economic argument among the public. In September, six in ten believed the government’s economic policies would improve the economy – now just three in think the same. In October, the Conservatives had a 13 point lead over Labour as the best party on the economy but that gap is once again just 3 points.
I think it is pretty clear that winning the economic argument – and the public’s trust on the economy - will be key to all the parties electoral success. The Conservatives and Lib Democrats are betting heavily on their economic policies paying off and seeing a return to strong growth before the next election. If they succeed they can boast that they have fixed the economic mess they were left with.
Labour’s challenge is different. Clearly they need to shake off the idea that they are to blame for the current spending cuts, and Ed Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor will need to restore the public’s trust that Labour can manage the economy successfully.
With more of the public now saying the government are making the wrong decisions about public spending, where will the government and the Chancellor go from here?
- To download a slidepack briefing of public attitudes on the economy click here.