Today’s Sun newspaper makes uncomfortable reading for Labour supporters. Mike Smithson at Political Betting asks whether the Sun is “using polling to help undermine Brown”. Sifting through the underlying data certainly reveals a more nuanced position on public services and the economy.
Asked “In general, how do you rate your child’s school?”, 89 per cent gave an overall score of “good”. This contrasts with 57 per cent giving the quality of education in primary schools the same rating and 50 per cent for state secondary schools. Meanwhile, just 26 per cent believe that the quality of education in Britain’s state schools overall is better than it was when Labour came to power in 1997. The discrepancy appears to derive from voters without children in state schools providing a more negative view of schools in general.
On the NHS, The Sun outlines that “voters complained about postcode lotteries, poor management and superbugs”. What The Sun don’t mention is that those polled were asked to pick from a list of loaded statements about Labour’s 12 years:
- Patients in many parts of Britain suffer from the ‘postcode lottery’ and fail to obtain treatment given to other NHS patients
- Hospitals, and the NHS more generally, are managed less efficiently
- The NHS failed to tackle the scourge of ‘superbugs’
- There is a shortage of midwives which is affecting maternity services
Only three positive statements were offered including a technocratic statement: “Spending on the NHS has risen to match the European average.” On the back of this loaded question, 34 per cent thought that the quality of health care in the NHS overall was better than it was when Labour came to power compared to 31 per cent who thought it was worse.
And while the economic picture is bleak with 67 per cent blaming the British government for “the recession and recent rise in unemployment in Britain”, 88 per cent blame British banks. Although 46 per cent believe that Gordon Brown is at fault for the “sharp rise in public borrowing”, 37 per cent agree with the statement that “It is not mainly Gordon Brown’s fault. All, or almost all, the rise in borrowing can be explained by the need to keep the recession as short and shallow as possible”. Liberal Democrat supporters back Brown by 44 to 40 per cent on this question.
The answers on Afghanistan provide a warning for all political parties that support the conflict and for the paper’s own editorial stance. Only 37 per cent agree that “British troops in Afghanistan are making our lives safer here in Britain” while 50 per cent disagree.