The state is too big, voters say

Majority support Tory plans to scale back 'big government', poll shows

Two-thirds of voters back David Cameron’s call for the size of the state to be slimmed down, a ComRes survey for The Independent discloses today.

The poll also shows that the Conservatives remain on course for a comfortable victory at the general election, despite a small drop in their lead over Labour. The ComRes poll puts the Tories on 40 per cent (up two points since last month), Labour on 27 per cent (up four), the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent (down five) with other parties on 15 per cent (down one).

There is no sign that the British National Party has achieved an electoral bounce since Nick Griffin’s controversial appearance on BBC1’s Question Time: its support is stuck at just two per cent.

The Tory leadership will be relieved that it has emerged from the party conference season with its lead almost intact at 13 per cent, a fall of two points. It had feared that the party’s gloomy warnings of the need for swingeing cuts in public spending would hit its support.

A large majority of voters said they supported Mr Cameron’s central message to his conference that “big government” needed to be scaled back.

Sixty-seven per cent said they agreed with the Tory leader that “the Government has grown too big and needs a major overhaul to make it smaller”. Just 28 per cent disagreed, with his call for a smaller state supported across the social spectrum.

Andrew Hawkins, the chief executive of ComRes, said: “The Conservatives are on to a winner with this campaign line.”

Today’s survey does, however, carry a new warning to the Tories – and a crumb of comfort to Labour – that the Conservative poll rating is relatively “soft”.

Nearly half of voters (45 per cent) say they agree David Cameron “seems likeable, but I am not sure I am ready to see a Conservative government”, with 49 per cent disagreeing.

Even 38 per cent of Tory supporters agree with the statement, underlining the problem party strategists continue to face in converting hostility to the Brown government into positive support for the Conservatives.

Thirty-six per cent of non-Labour voters also said they would consider backing a party they did not support “just to try to keep Labour out of government”.

The ComRes survey suggests the last conference season before the general election has made little difference to the balance of political support in Britain.

Labour had targeted its gathering in Brighton for the start of a concerted fightback against the Tories and Mr Brown won largely positive reviews for his conference speech.

Although a poll rating of 27 per cent marks a modest recovery from the low-20s over the summer, a 13-point lead for the Tories would be enough to give Mr Cameron a majority of 66 in a general election.

The Liberal Democrats will be disappointed to have fallen back into the high-teens although their 23 per cent rating last month probably reflected the fact that polling was conducted just days after the end of their conference.

Support for other parties remains at an historic high, reflecting the continuing disillusionment with mainstream parties. The Green Party, who are targeting the constituency of Brighton Pavilion for an electoral breakthrough at the election, have five per cent support, with the UK Independence Party on three per cent and the BNP on two per cent.

ComRes telephoned 1004 GB adults between 23rd and 25th October 2009. Data were weighted 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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