Public split on economic strategy (but don’t want Osborne)

Today's opinion polls contain mixed messages on the economy. But George Osborne is the third most popular candidate for Chancellor whoever asks the question.

The latest round of opinion polls for The Sun and Daily Mirror agree on the likelihood of a hung parliament but contain mixed messages on the economy. Depending on how they are asked, the public favour both Labour’s approach to protecting the recovery and the Conservative’s approach to cut spending now. Both polls, however, show that George Osborne is the third most popular candidate for Chancellor (a finding undiscussed by The Sun).

Today’s Ipsos-MORI poll in Daily Mirror says:

“First, 56% of those questioned think Labour is right to say public spending should not be cut immediately in case it risks the economic recovery. Mr Osborne wants to start slashing straight away. Second, only 32% say the Tories are right to claim the national debt is the greatest threat to the economy.”

Talking about the Mirror poll on last night’s Newsnight, Michael Crick said:

“Interestingly, some of the polling evidence suggests that the political pressure on Labour to [cut the deficit], as opposed to the economic and financial pressure, may not be what it was…

“It looks to an extent that Labour [is winning the argument] which partly explains why the Conservatives in recent months have modified their position.”

Meanwhile The Sun says:

“A YouGov poll for The Sun found a clear majority want Alistair Darling to start tackling the crippling £900billion national debt. Voters are demanding spending cuts NOW to pay for it.

“On spending cuts our poll shows 46 per cent agree “the longer they delay the worse it will get”. Just 36 per cent say the Chancellor should postpone taking action so the recovery is not affected – Labour’s policy now.”

The so-called “clear majority” is actually a 45:36 margin (it’s unclear where 46% came from) – somewhat lower than the 56:32 margin in the Mirror.

Both polls ask voters to rank the three contenders for Chancellor. The Mirror says:

“Asked who would make the most capable Chancellor, only 21% said Mr Osborne. The Lib Dem’s Vince Cable scored 32% and Mr Darling got 23%”

The YouGov poll found 23% for Cable, 17% for Darling, and just 13% for Osborne. The Sun did not publish these findings.

Another example of The Sun manipulating the facts appears when they state:

“In more bad news for Mr Darling, 54 per cent say he should lower the debt with spending cuts not tax rises, which he prefers.”

Of course, Mr Darling’s position (and that of the Tories) is actually that the deficit should be reduced through a combination of both spending cuts and tax rises. Only the Lib Dems want to see the deficit reduced entirely from spending cuts. As Left Foot Forward has shown previously, when the public are given a proper range of options including a mix of spending cuts and tax rises, there is a majority in favour of some tax rises.

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