The eurozone crisis has seen off two prime ministers in the last few weeks: Silvio Berlusconi and Georgious Papandreou. Spain’s centre-left government has been defeated at the ballot box. We have had apocalyptic forecasts from journalists and commentators alike over the state of the European economy and its effects on Britain.
At home, unemployment has continued to rise as economic confidence has fallen to a three year low. And yet, despite all of this, November’s Reuters/Ipsos MORI Political Monitor shows remarkable stability in our domestic political indicators.
Voting intention for the coalition parties is exactly the same in November’s poll as they were in October with the Conservatives on 34% and the Liberal Democrats on 12%. Indeed, in the four polls since August the Conservatives have been on 34% three times, and once on 35%.
In the last month Labour have increased their support by three percentage points and now stand on 41%. A single rise of three points in a month is not by itself anything to get too excited about, especially when you consider that at the start of the year Labour were on 43% and average 40% over 2011. However, looking at all the polls released this week, Labour hold an average lead of around five to six points over the Conservatives.
As Berlusconi and Papandreou lost their jobs this month, our leaders in Britain may take some small comfort from the stability of their own satisfaction ratings. There were no significant changes in the public's level of satisfaction with David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg.
Nick Clegg’s ratings are an interesting case in point. The first prime ministerial TV debate was his peak, and the public’s satisfaction with him has fallen ever since until the summer, it now appears level with around six in ten dissatisfied and half that are satisfied. This is a stunning turnaround of fortunes when you think seven in ten people were positive about the Liberal Democrat leader following that debate in 2010.
Ed Miliband, on the other hand, faces a different task. Despite holding a lead in the polls, just 50% of Labour supporters are satisfied with his performance as their leader, and their dissatisfaction has been steadily growing ever since he took office. He must convince his own party before he can make headway among the wider general public.
One reason for the stability might be because the British public believe that to some extent at least, the fate of the British economy is not solely in our hands. As economic optimism falls to its lowest point since December 2008, 80% people think the state of the European economy has an influence over the British economy (even more than the 71% that think British government decisions influence the British economy.) Perhaps another reason for the stability is that around half of the public think the economic situation would be no different under Labour.
With the eurozone crisis deemed so influential over our economy it will be heartening for those in Downing Street, although not exactly a ringing endorsement, to see that around half of the public think George Osborne and David Cameron are doing a good job of handling the crisis – even four in ten Labour supporters think so; standing up for British interests and disagreeing with European (especially German!) partners seems to be helping.
The prime minister’s strong public image certainly helps in these situations; 59% say he is a capable leader and 47% think he is good in a crisis – far more than for either Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg. Those strong leadership characteristics are important for any prime minister, especially one that is leading a fairly unpopular party.
With Labour, banks and global (European) forces all also taking a share of the blame for the state of the economy the Conservatives have so far kept their vote share in the polls.
The real trouble for them will come if things continue to get worse and apocalyptic predications come true. For how long will they get away with blaming others, and when does it become their fault? If that point comes, the current stability may be a far off aspiration.
This piece first appeared on the TotalPolitics blog