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18 March 2011

Seven in ten think the coalition’s cuts are too fast

Poll shows that a majority of the British public opposes the speed and depth of cuts, but Labour is

By Samira Shackle


Seven in ten people believe that the government is cutting spending too much and too fast, according to an Ipsos MORI poll for the Economist.

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The survey shows that the government’s message on cuts is not getting through – just 25 per cent agree with its argument that speed is important. This measure has been fairly stable since June last year. Just three in ten feel that the government has the right balance between raising taxes and cutting spending.

In more bad news for the coalition, its oft-vaunted claim that “we’re all in this together” is not resonating, either. Seventy-one per cent of those asked believe that cuts will hit the poor hardest, while just 3 per cent think that the rich will bear the brunt.

This would appear to be good news for Labour, which has questioned the pace of cuts. However, digging a little deeper into the figures shows this is not so. Despite a lack of confidence in the coalition’s austerity plans, the public still blames the last Labour government for the level of cuts. When asked to make a choice between the two, 49 per cent blamed Labour, while 26 per cent blamed the coalition, showing that at least one government narrative – that the coalition is “cleaning up the mess” left by Labour – is getting through.

Of course, in many ways this is a false dichotomy, as the deficit is caused primarily by the bank bailout necessitated by the global financial crisis, and as such can’t be placed on any particular party. Ipsos MORI says that “when given the opportunity, the public also apportion blame to the banks and the global economy (although more still say the previous government is responsible than anything else)”, but does not give numbers.

Coming as it does just days before Wednesday’s Budget, this poll shows that the coalition still has considerable work to do if it is ever to convince the public that its cuts – and the high speed at which they are to be inflicted – are necessary rather than ideological.