The overwhelming majority of voters believe that Ed Miliband, the new Labour leader, should be more explicit over where he would cut public spending, a ComRes survey for The Independent has revealed.
According to the survey, Mr Miliband has failed to achieve the opinion poll bounce often enjoyed by parties after their annual conference, with the Tories slightly increasing their lead over Labour.
The Conservatives are on 39 per cent (up two points since the last ComRes poll almost two weeks ago), Labour on 36 per cent (up one point) and the Liberal Democrats on 15 per cent (unchanged).
The poll underlines the obstacles Mr Miliband has to overcome to project a voter-friendly image, with only one-quarter of people regarding him as a good choice as leader and one-third believing he would be too heavily influenced by the trade unions.
But there are also opportunities for the Miliband team, with large numbers of voters yet to make up their mind about his merits.
One of the earliest challenges for his leadership is to respond to the spending cuts due to be announced by George Osborne in 18 days' time. The early signs are that Mr Miliband might not produce a detailed alternative to the Chancellor's plans beyond arguing that the Coalition is cutting too heavily and too early.
However, the danger of taking too vague an approach was underlined in the ComRes poll, with 82 per cent agreeing that Labour needed to spell out more clearly where it would cut spending to tackle the national deficit, with only 5 per cent disagreeing.
The public gives a guarded approval to the Coalition Government's strategy of starting to cut spending this year rather than waiting until 2011-12. More than half (57 per cent) believe David Cameron and Nick Clegg have adopted the right approach, with 26 per cent taking the opposite view.
However, the public also sounds a note of caution, with 45 per cent saying the Government is risking the economic recovery by cutting "too far, too fast".
Following Mr Miliband's dramatic leadership victory over his older brother, David, at the Manchester conference, voters are divided over whether he is the right person to succeed Gordon Brown. Twenty-seven per cent said they thought he was a good choice for Labour leader, against 26 per cent who disagreed. But he is still an unknown quantity for many voters, with 47 per cent saying they did not know yet whether he was a good leader.
Enthusiasm for Mr Miliband is even muted among Labour supporters, with only 50 per cent regarding him as a good choice to take over.
By a majority of nearly two to one (29 per cent to 17 per cent) the public said they thought David Miliband would have been a better selection as leader. Even a narrow majority of Labour votes would have preferred the older brother to have won.
A large number of voters (37 per cent) also believe that Ed, regarded as more left-wing than his brother, would change Labour's political direction, with 32 per cent disagreeing and 30 per cent saying they did not know.
Following union members' crucial role in securing his election, 34 per cent said they thought Mr Miliband would be too heavily influenced by the unions in framing policies. Twenty-four per cent disagreed and 42 per cent did not know.
The ComRes poll, conducted after Mr Miliband's victory and conference speech, shows the week of publicity for Labour has made little impact on its poll ratings.
The party's support has gone up from 35 per cent since the last ComRes poll a fortnight ago to 36 per cent. But the Conservatives have also climbed by two points to 39 per cent to widen their lead to three points. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 15 per cent, while support for other parties has dropped from 13 per cent to 10 per cent. Translated into a general election, the Tories would still be 24 seats short of an overall majority.
Just 62 per cent of people who supported Nick Clegg's party at the general election said they would vote Liberal Democrat now, compared with 94 per cent each for Labour and Tories. Labour is ahead in all age groups under 55, and the Tories are ahead among older voters.
ComRes telephoned 2,035 GB adults online between 29 September and 1 October. 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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