Olympic Games even more popular than at height of summer success, reveals poll

Poll showed that 78% of voters believed the Olympics 'did a valuable job in cheering up a country in hard times'

Almost 80% of Britons believe the £9 billion spent on the Olympic Games was value for money, according to a new poll that shows a lasting nostalgia for the nation's achievements.

A Guardian/ICM poll showed that 78% of voters believed the Olympics "did a valuable job in cheering up a country in hard times", compared with just 20% who looked back on them as "a costly and dangerous distraction".

The vote of confidence was even stronger than opinion taken at the Games' height.

In an online survey taken immediately after so-called Super Saturday - on which Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford all took track and field gold for Team GB - 55% agreed and 35% disagreed with the same proposition.

Pollsters, who interviewed 1,002 adults, said the Paralympics may have helped to cement this majority.

A crushing margin in favour of London 2012 was found in every social class and also in every region.

Some had feared that the Games would be heavily concentrated in the capital and its hinterland, but in fact 79% support in the south was closely matched by 80%, 74% and 77% respectively in the Midlands, the north and in Wales.

Only the Scots were less enthusiastic, and even among them the overall 69%-31% balance was in favour of the Games.

The Olympics occupied little more than a fortnight during a year which also saw volatile weather, the Diamond Jubilee and the first double-dip recession since the 1970s.

Asked to consider all these factors together, and to reflect on 2012 as a whole, 49% of respondents said the year made Britain a better place to live.

That compares with 41% who said the opposite, suggesting a positive public take on the Olympics was helping to colour wider perceptions of the year.

The overall verdict ought to surprise voters themselves, who in last year's Guardian Christmas poll told ICM by a 60%-30% margin that they expected Britain would become a more miserable place in 2012.

But if the Olympics bequeathed a feelgood legacy, it is not one politicians haved been able to cash in on.

Pollsters said the Conservative party remains eight points behind Labour for the third month in a row.

Compared with last month, all the main parties stand still, with Labour on 40%, the Tories on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 13%.

Asked to award political leaders a school mark for their work in the last year Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Ed Miliband both got a C-.

The one figure to do much better was the Queen, who was top of the class with a solid B+.

Only 27% believed that 2012 allowed Britain to increase its power in the world, less than half the 61% who said British power diminished this year.

In a similarly downbeat vein, voters continue to expect the slump to drag on. Asked to look ahead to the end of 2013, 42% expected that Britain will by then have turned the economic corner, as against 51% who believe the country will still be stuck in a downturn.