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21 June 2011

Are all these u-turns damaging David Cameron?

Today's polls show that the PM's personal approval ratings are dropping, and voters no longer see hi

By Samira Shackle

Following last week’s high profile retreat on the NHS, today brings the news that the coalition is to abandon its plans to offer 50 per cent sentencing reductions for criminals who plead guilty.

These about turns in policy are nothing new. David Cameron’s government has previously u-turned on scrapping free school milk, school sports, the housing benefit cap, and privatising forests.

While listening to public reaction could be seen as a strength, it could also be a sign of rushed and poorly thought through policy. Are these u-turns on policy damaging the coalition?

The YouGov poll has some interesting figures on the NHS. As usual, people consider Labour to be the best party on the issue. In this poll, they lead the Tories by 38 points to 24. Over at the UK Polling Report, Anthony Wells says:

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What’s notable is that the 14 point change is the same as a fortnight ago; David Cameron’s big relaunch and pledges on the NHS do not appear to have increased people’s trust in the Conservatives on the issue… but then, neither do the U-turn or the increased publicity about the reorganisation seem to have damaged them.

And, according to today’s YouGov trackers, the indecision could also be negatively impacting perceptions of Cameron’s strengths. People continue to think that he is charismatic and honest, but “decisive” is down 4 points, while “sticks to what he believes in” is at its lowest rate since the general election — down to 20 per cent from 26.

Today’s ICM/Guardian poll compounds the impression that the voters are falling out of love with Cameron. His leadership rating is -5, compared with +5 in March and +23 in June. On top of this, 50 per cent of voters say the government is doing a bad job and only 35 per cent say it is doing a good job.

However, it certainly isn’t all bad news for Cameron, whose leadership ratings are far and away the best. Although it is a minus figure, it is far ahead of Nick Clegg at -20 and Ed Miliband at -21. According to the Guardian, Miliband’s ratings are even lower than those of both William Hague and Michael Howard in opposition. They are about equal to those scored by Iain Duncan Smith — not encouraging, given that his party passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership. This is yet more evidence that Miliband is failing to connect with voters.

The topline figures in the YouGov/Sun poll do not deviate much from their recent polls, putting the Conservatives on 37, Labour six points ahead on 43 and the Liberal Democrats on 9. The ICM/Guardian poll also puts the Tories on 37, Labour just two points ahead on 39, and the Liberal Democrats at 12.