The Labour Party has pulled level with the Conservatives for the first time since January 2008. The Conservatives, at 37%, are holding their May general election share, while Labour is up seven points, the Liberal Democrats are down eight, a 3.5% swing back to Labour. The government now has a negative satisfaction rating – the first time this has happened since the election.
Ipsos MORI's September Political Monitor for Reuters shows that, among those who are absolutely certain to vote (62% vs. 65% at the General Election in May), 37% say they would vote Conservative, 37% Labour and 15% Liberal Democrat.
The swing to Labour is particularly evident among young people, those in social grade DE (i.e. semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers and those who depend entirely on benefits), and those outside the south of England. This may reflect recent coverage that such groups may be particularly affected by impending spending cuts. The Liberal Democrat score is nine points lower than the party’s actual voting share in the general election.
Satisfaction with government, Cameron, Clegg
For the first time since the general election, more are dissatisfied than are satisfied with the government; 43% are satisfied and 47% dissatisfied with its performance, resulting in a net satisfaction score (those satisfied minus those dissatisfied) of -4.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg are though viewed more positively, with net satisfaction scores of +24 and +17 respectively. David Cameron’s rating (57% satisfied) is the highest he has ever received (equalling June 2010). Among Conservative supporters, Cameron is markedly more popular (with a net satisfaction score of +87) compared with Clegg’s satisfaction among Liberal Democrat supporters (net score +46). In fact, Clegg is more popular with Conservative supporters than supporters of his own party (net score of +66 among Conservatives).
Most capable Prime Minister - the Milibands?
In terms of which leader would make the most capable Prime Minister, around half (49%) back David Cameron, with a fifth opting for one of the Miliband brothers (David on 22%, Ed on 19%). One in nine (11%) feels that Nick Clegg would make the most capable prime minister.
Economic Optimism and public spending
Our Economic Optimism Index has sharply returned to negative territory, with more believing the economy will get worse than believe it will get better, and now stands at -21%, from +3 in July. Perhaps due to economic uncertainty, EOI has not followed a consistent direction for some months, but this is the sharpest fall in EOI since December 2009, and the widest level of pessimism since March of that year. Around three in ten (28%) think that the economic condition of the country will improve over the next 12 months, but almost half (48%) think that it will get worse.
However, coalition supporters are more likely to be optimistic about the economy, with a net optimism score of +2 compared with -43 among Labour supporters.
Also, more of the public agree (57%) than disagree (36%) that ‘in the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s economy’, though there is a fall in net agreement to +21, from +32 in June. Similarly, more are hopeful than fearful (52% versus 44%) of what the new government will do. This may suggest that, while the public are expecting some medium-term ‘pain’ from impending cuts, they also hope that in the long term they will be beneficial for the economy.
Indeed, most of the public believe that cuts are necessary. Almost three in five (57%) agree that ‘there is real need to cut spending on public services in order to pay off the very high national debt we now have’, as was the case in June. However, a similar percentage (56%) also agree that ‘making public services more efficient can save enough money to pay off the very high national debt we now have, without damaging services the public receive’. There has, however, been a downward drift over time in agreement that efficiencies alone can pay off the debt; in March this year 64% agreed that this was the case.
In terms of the timescale of the cuts, three-quarters (75%) feel that it is ‘better to cut spending back more slowly, to reduce the impact on public services and the economy’, leaving a quarter (23%), who feel it is ‘important to cut spending quickly even if this means immediate job losses, because it will be better for the economy in the long term’.
Approval of specific policy plans
There is broad approval of the increase in nuclear power, and the provision of greater power to GPs to run the NHS; in both instances, around three in five approve and three in ten disapproves. There is less consensus around the encouraging of parents, teachers and companies to set up schools, and the raising of the retirement age (52% and 42% agree respectively).
However, two thirds disapprove of both the policy to raise VAT to 20% and the rehabilitation of criminals by the private sector, leading to shorter prison sentences (67% and 66% disapprove respectively)
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 10-12 Sept 2010. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.