Pay off your debts, public tells Government

The public backs the Coalition's approach to cutting the deficit by a margin of three to one, a poll for The Independent shows.

There is less support for Labour's policy, a finding that will raise the pressure on Ed Miliband from some Labour MPs to refine the Opposition's stance. His critics worry that their party is damaged by the Government's claims that Labour believes "the answer to the debt crisis is to borrow more".

According to ComRes, the Tories received a mini-bounce from David Cameron's tough stance at the European Union summit, where he vetoed an EU-wide treaty after failing to win concessions to protect the City of London.

Labour and the Tories are neck and neck on 38 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent. In a ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday, taken just before the summit, Labour (40 per cent) enjoyed a four-point lead over the Tories (36 per cent), with the Liberal Democrats on 10 per cent.

After a raft of gloomy economic forecasts, the latest poll found Britons to be much more upbeat about their own prospects for 2012 than for the UK as a whole. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents describe themselves as optimistic, while 28 per cent disagree. People in the bottom DE social group (58 per cent) are less positive than the top AB group (73 per cent). Young people are more upbeat than older age groups.

Three in four 18- to 24-year-olds (76 per cent) describe themselves as optimistic, compared with 61 per cent of over-65s. Only 34 per cent of people are optimistic about the UK's prospects for next year, while 60 per cent are not.

Ministers' claims their cuts strategy enjoys public support are given some credence by the survey. Asked whether the Government should not increase public borrowing any further and should pay off the deficit as soon as possible, 74 per cent agreed and 18 per cent disagreed. Worryingly for Mr Miliband, a majority of Labour voters (58 per cent) endorse this approach, as do 73 per cent of Liberal Democrats and 87 per cent of Conservatives.

ComRes also asked people whether the Government should borrow more in the short term to increase economic growth, even if it means reducing the deficit more slowly – broadly in line with Labour's approach. Some 49 per cent agree but 40 per cent disagree and 11 per cent don't know. This policy is backed by seven in 10 Labour supporters but only a third of Tory voters (37 per cent) and half of Liberal Democrat supporters (50 per cent).

ComRes interviewed 1,002 adults between 9 and 11 December. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk

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