The public support Labour’s policy of cutting the deficit more slowly but do not trust the party to implement it, according to a survey for The Independent.
By a margin of 2-1, voters want the Coalition Government to go slow on spending cuts now that the British economy is shrinking again. But the ComRes survey highlights the mountain Ed Miliband must climb if it is to turn the public’s view into positive support for his party. People believe Labour, rather than the Coalition, is mainly to blame for the state of the economy and many more trust David Cameron and George Osborne to put the problems right than trust Mr Miliband and Ed Balls.
The poll, taken after last week’s figures showing the economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the final three months of last year, shows that Labour and the Conservatives running neck and neck. Labour is on 38 per cent, unchanged since the most recent ComRes poll for this newspaper in December. It has a slender one point lead over the Tories, who are down one point on 37 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats are up three points to 14 per cent. These figures would give Labour a tiny majority of just six seats if repeated at a general election.
The survey suggests a wide “gender gap” may be developing which could have big implications for the parties. Labour leads by 42 to 34 per cent among women, while the Tories enjoy a lead of 40 to 34 per cent among men. The figures, the biggest gap between the sexes recorded by ComRes since the last election, may fuel Tory fears that the cuts, and perhaps Mr Cameron’s style, are alienating women.
Asked whether the Government should slow its programme of spending cuts now the economy is shrinking again, 62 per cent of people agree and 30 per cent disagree. Almost half of all Tory supporters (45 per cent) think the Government should go slower on cuts, while 48 per cent disagree. A majority of Liberal Democrat supporters (60 per cent) and Labour voters (80 per cent) want to slow the cuts.
According to ComRes, Labour is failing to win the “blame game” on the economy. Asked whether the Coalition is more to blame than the previous Labour Government for the current state of the economy, only one in four (26 per cent) agrees while 62 per cent disagree.
Even current Labour voters are divided about who is responsible. Some 48 per cent think the Coalitions is more to blame but a surprisingly high proportion —42 per cent—disagree with this statement. Almost one in four (22%) Lib Dem supporters blame the Coalition most, as do 5 per cent of Tory voters.
Many voters have little faith in any party to get Britain back on track. Asked whether they trust Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne to make the right decisions on the economy, 35 per cent agree and 55 per cent disagree – a net “economic trust” rating of minus 20 points. Only one in three Lib Dem supporters (36 per cent) has faith in the Prime Minister and Chancellor, as do 82 per cent of Tory supporters and 13 per cent of Labour voters.
However, Labour’s position is much worse. Only 24 per cent trust Mr Miliband and Mr Balls to make the right decisions on the economy, while 65 per cent do not – a net rating of minus 41 points. Polling experts say it is difficult to see how Labour could win an election unless that gap closes.
Only half of Labour voters (51 per cent) trust the party’s leader and shadow Chancellor on the economy, while a high number —42 per cent— do not. They are trusted by only one in four Lib Dem supporters (25 per cent) and just 14 per cent of Tory voters.
Women (26 per cent) are more likely than men (22 per cent) to trust Mr Miliband and Mr Balls, while men (39 per cent) are more likely than women (32 per cent) to trust Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne.
ComRes interviewed 1,001 GB adults by telephone between 27- 29 January 2012. 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 .