Do you approve?

Yesterday's YouGov/<i>Sun</i> poll is the best snapshot of the mood of the British public. So how ar

I like opinion polls. I go to YouGov's interesting website most days to get a sense of the changing mood of the nation. Today, it had some interesting results that are worth discussing, especially on the economy, in the YouGov/Sun poll taken between the 5 and 6 September.

First, after some recent evidence that the Labour Party's lead over the Tories was narrowing, it has widened again to 6 points: Labour 43 per cent, Tories 37 per cent and the Lib Dems 9 per cent.

Plus, there were some striking findings on the economy that make interesting reading. The government looks to be in trouble on the economy.

Question 1 Do you approve or disapprove of the government's record to date? (per cent)

Approve 30; Disapprove 55; Don't know 15.

Question 2 Thinking about the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the government's deficit, do you think this is . . . (per cent)

a) Good for the economy 35; Bad for the economy 49; Don't know 16.
b) Being done fairly 27; Being done unfairly 59; Don't know 14.
c) Necessary 57; Unnecessary 31; Don't know 12.
d) Too deep 47; Too shallow 9; About right 27; Don't know 17.
e) Being done too quickly 52, Too slowly 8; About right 28; Don't know 12.
f) Having an impact on my life 68; Not having an impact on my life 23; Don't know 9.

Question 3 Thinking about the next two or three years, how worried are you that people like you will . . . (per cent)

a) Not have enough money to live comfortably? -- Worried 70; Not worried 27; Don't know 3.
b) Suffer directly from cuts in spending on public services, such as health, education and welfare? -- Worried 71; Not worried 26; Don't know 3.
c) Lose their job/have difficulty finding work? -- Worried 64; Not worried 32; Don't know 4.
d) Lose their home? -- Worried 43; Not worried 53; Don't know 4.

So, Britons think that cuts are necessary but are being done unfairly; are bad for the economy; are too deep; are being done too quickly and are having an impact on their lives; they are worried about the future impact of the cuts and losing their jobs, and they disapprove of the government's track record. I agree, of course. I suspect the lack of support for the coalition's economic policy is going to spread as the economy slows further in the second half of the year. I will keep you posted.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad