Ten observations about the state of public opinion on the Coalition's first anniversary
By Tim Montgomerie
There's no room for complacency but Cameron can look at the first anniversary opinion polls with some satisfaction.
(1) RESILIENT CONSERVATIVES, WEAK LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
- The most notable trend has been the huge decline in support for the Liberal Democrats. Clegg's party is down to 9% in the latest Ipsos MORI and YouGov surveys, and just 11% in Populus. Yesterday, I tweeted data from the latest Populus poll which points to the Lib Dems' underlying weakness.
- The other interesting trend in headline opinion polling is that a Labour lead over the Conservatives that emerged at the end of last year and grew in the first few months of 2011 has almost disappeared. Last night's YouGov daily tracker had Miliband's party ahead by just 2%. The two big parties were both at 40% in the latest Ipsos MORI poll. Populus had Labour on 39%, Conservatives on 37%.
Labour's relative weakness may reflect their continuing failure to come to terms with their toxic economic record. 31% of voters told Ipsos MORI that Labour was most to blame for the need to cut public spending. Just 10% most blame the Coalition. 29% most blame the banks and 18% the global economy.
(3) LIBERAL DEMOCRATS LOSING BATTLE TO PERSUADE PUBLIC THAT HUNG PARLIAMENTS ARE DESIRABLE
89% of Conservative supporters still think Cameron was right to form a Coalition. 74% of Liberal Democrat supporters say the same of Clegg (Ipsos MORI/ News of the World). But if people think the Coalition was the right thing to do in response to last year's hung parliament they are less keen on hung parliaments. Last May 52% told Ipsos MORI/ Reuters that an inconclusive election outcome was a bad thing. That percentage has now risen to 58%. This shift was exploited by the No2AV campaign.
(4) VOTERS BELIEVE THAT CAMERON WEARS THE TROUSERS IN THE COALITION
63% think that the Conservatives are making most of the decisions in government (up from 51% last May). The proportion thinking it a genuine coalition between the two parties has fallen from 41% to 25% (Ipsos MORI/ Reuters). Ipsos MORI also found, however, that only 53% of Conservatives think that the Conservatives are making most of the decisions. It's mainly Labour supporters who see the blue team behind everything (79%).
(5) OVERALL SATISFACTION FROM TORY SUPPORTERS IS HIGH
72% of Conservative supporters are satisfied with the government. 46% of Liberal Democrats. 10% of Labour supporters (Ipsos MORI). In my conversations with CCHQ over recent days I have argued that the AV vote energised extra Tory voters to go to the polls and support Cllr Bloggs while they were there. I've had some pushback on this claim with party aides saying that the underlying Tory vote and enthusiasm-to-vote is high.
(6) CAMERON SEEN AS MUCH MORE PRIME MINISTERIAL THAN MILIBAND
Events such as Ed Miliband's speech at the TUC march have not convinced voters that Ed Miliband is up to the job.
Cameron enjoys a big advantage over Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in leadership qualities. 45% think he would make the most capable Prime Minister - a 20% lead over the Labour leader. Nick Clegg trails badly on 7% (Ipsos MORI/ Reuters).
(7) CAMERON BEATS MILIBAND ON OTHER KEY LEADERSHIP CRITERIA
A Populus/ Times survey yesterday found that Cameron beat Ed Miliband time and time again on key leadership qualities*:
- By 34% to 16% on determination;
- By 24% to 9% on standing up for Britain;
- By 23% to 13% on competence;
- By 22% to 10% on 'up to the job'.
(8) VOTERS STRONGLY DISTRUST MILIBAND AND BALLS ON ECONOMY
Labour lost Alan Johnson, the most popular member of the shadow cabinet in the public's eyes, and Ed Balls took over as Shadow Chancellor.
31% think the Conservatives have the best policies on the economy. 28% think Labour has the best economic policies (Ipsos MORI/ Reuters). But a ComRes/ ITV poll shows that Labour have a big disadvantage when it comes to trust in personnel (rather than policies). Only 17% trust Ed Miliband to take Britain through the economic difficulties. Ed Balls enjoys the trust of just 14%. In comparison George Osborne has the trust of 25% of voters and David Cameron has the trust of 38%.
(9) THE ARGUMENT ON SPENDING CUTS IS FINELY BALANCED
Support for spending cuts has fallen over the last year with 43% of voters agreeing that the government is cutting too much. But the total thinking the balance between spending cuts and tax rises is right (28%) and those who think taxes are going up too much (20%) is greater (Ipsos MORI/ Reuters).
(10) LABOUR IS SEEN AS WEAK
We end with a finding that I continue to believe is devastating for Labour. According to YouGov 57% of voters think the Conservatives are prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions. Only 10% think the same of Labour.
As the cuts bite the numbers will probably deteriorate but, overall, this is a much, much better position than I had expected. Much better for the Conservatives, of course. The Liberal Democrat position in the opinion surveys is dire.
* If you think the numbers look low it is because respondents were asked to identify three characteristics and so, for example, 34% of all respondents identified "determination" as one of Cameron's top three qualities and only 16% did the same for Ed Miliband.
Many of the poll numbers in this post come from a special Ipsos MORI report to mark one year of the Coalition. You can access a PDF here.