That press conference
in the Downing Street Rose Garden seems a very long time ago now. In the sunshine of May 2010, when Prime Minister, David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg ushered in what was supposed to be a new era of politics the British public was swept off their feet with great expectations for the first Coalition government in decades.
As US President Barack Obama has found, getting through the door is just the first part. Governing is the difficult, and often unpopular, part. In those very early days our polling showed that most people expected the Coalition to work as a united team, to deal with the economic crisis effectively and to provide stable government. Perhaps it was just blind optimism or the relief of a new, fresh looking government, but expectations were set high by politicians and the public - perhaps unreasonably high.
The public’s current views of the Coalition could barely be in more stark contrast with the high expectations held in May 2010.
Just one in four (26%) now say the Coalition is working as a united team compared to the 63% that thought it would in 2010 and 66% say it is not united. Only four in ten (39%) say the Coalition is providing stable government; compared to 2010’s 55% that expected it to. Conservative and Liberal Democrats are though more likely to think that the Coalition is providing stable government (59% of Conservatives and 61% of Liberal Democrats).
Just three in ten (28%) say the Coalition is dealing with the economic crisis effectively. This is half of the 59% that expected it to back in 2010. Conservative supporters though, are more likely to think that it is dealing with the economy effectively (by 56% to 43% of Liberal Democrats).
Perhaps most damaging is that half (52%) of the public do not think the Coalition will last until 2015 while only 40% think it will. Liberal Democrats are more positive that the Coalition will survive with 57% compared to 47% of Conservatives. Only 37% of Labour supporters think it will last.
The chart below shows the change in attitudes towards the Coalition among party supporters. What is most evident is that Conservatives started as the more optimistic about the Coalition but their negativity has fallen in line with Liberal Democrats now. Labour on the other-hand were negative about the Coalition from the beginning and remain so. Interestingly, the biggest falls among all three party supporters are on views of the Coalition as being united and dealing with the economy.
The honeymoon period is now a distant memory, it will be very difficult to get anywhere near that level of public optimism again although Labour’s strength is partly due to Coalition weakness rather than a positive move towards them. At this stage in the parliament the Coalition still has time and will hope to bring voters back to them nearer to the election. However, those high expectations set at the birth of the Coaltion may well haunt the government all the way to the next election.