100 Days: the Coalition is still enjoying a honeymoon

Last month, YouGov’s Peter Kellner penned a rather premature post, which stated categorically: The honeymoon is over. I took him to task at the time, and stand by my view that the Coalition is still regarded generally favourably by a plurality of the public.

It’s been interesting, then, to read some of the barrage of opinion polling which has greeted the Coalition’s first 100 days. Perhaps most significant is this article in The Guardian – Coalition winning argument on economy – detailing ICM polling which shows 44% believe the coalition is doing a good job in securing economic recovery against 37% who say it is doing a bad job. Overall the Coalition has a healthy +10% approval rating. Even George Osborne has a net positive rating as Chancellor.

The paper could have led on the headline voting intention survey showing Labour and the Tories tied on 37%. Yet – for all its habitual Coalition scepticism – it’s highlighted the key finding which should act as a stark wake-up call to Labour: they are free to draw comfort from the fact that they’re level-pegging in the polls, but the longer-term picture is bleak… Labour has failed to convince the public that it’s argument against cutting spending now is the right one. If the UK avoids a double-dip recession now (by no means a certainty), Labour will find it very hard to win back public confidence in its economic competence. And that is a lot more significant for the parties’ future electoral prospects than today’s headline voting intentions.

There is a similarly positive message for the Coalition from YouGov, reported by Anthony Wells’ UK Polling Report blog. Messrs Cameron and Clegg both “enjoy good approval ratings”, and “the majority of the public have confidence in the government’s ability to run the economy (55%) and there is widespread confidence in their ability to cut the deficit (62%)”. No, not everything is rosy – for example, there are doubts about the Coalition’s ability to improve the NHS and schools, and unsurprising opposition to specific measures such as the VAT increase. But overall the public is cutting the Coalition some slack in dealing with these issues.

Finally, Ipsos MORI has published The Coalition’s First 100 Days: The public’s verdict. Key findings include:

  • This government has the highest ‘100th day’ rating of any since 1979, except for Blair’s Labour government in 1997;
  • Despite their gloomy outlook on the state of Britain’s economy, the public appears to have more confidence in the Coalition’s economic policies than they had in Labour’s approach to managing the economy;
  • By 58% to 35% the public agree there is a real need to cut spending on public services in order to pay off the very high national debt we now have.

100 days is far, far too early to start judging a government, or indeed an opposition. Given how unexpectedly the last 12 months has turned out, who on earth would sanely try and predict the next five years?

But the underlying support for the Coalition’s measures to address the economy should worry Labour: assuming by the time of the next general election the economy is growing again, they risk becoming tainted as the party which contributed to the UK’s problems, and then opposed every measure needed to rescue the country. If that happens, they will not win back their economic crediblity; and if they don’t win that back, it’s very unlikely they can win the next general election.

At the moment, Labour has taken solace in opposition. They are enjoying the freedom which comes from shirking off all responsibility. But if their public image becomes defined by the hyperbolic, tribal, knee-jerk to every Coalition measure taken – as exemplified by John Prescott’s self-indulgent explosion on BBC2’s Newsnight this week – then the honeymoon will last much, much longer.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.
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13 Comments

  • The Coalition may still be experiencing a honeymoon but polls show that the Lib Dems certainly are not

  • ICM but Labour and the Conservatives on 37% and you think that the government is still enjoying a honeymoon period? Approval ratings mean nothing of much significance as each polling organisation ask the question in a differing way. You say the longer term picture for Labour is bleak. More wishful thinking than a statement of fact, me thinks. Once the cuts are announced and being felt, that bleak picture will be facing the coalition and the LibDems in particular.

  • paul barker 18th Aug '10 - 4:10pm

    I have a question for the Labour-based lifeforms infesting this site, does anyone in your Party have a plan for dealing with the £17 Million debt ?
    As for the Polls, lets see how well they predict next years Local Elections.

  • Paul Ankers 18th Aug '10 - 4:10pm

    Andrew has a point. But actually reading the report, the approval figures for Labour in 2001 suggest they contrived to blow it big time over the course of this decade.
    You can’t prove anything over 100 days, just set some sort of vibe of change. This government doesn’t feel spun, even though it probably is, has a strong link with trust and fairness (both longed for after the tail end of Labour) and , of course, cuts.
    That last one doesn’t seem to work against us – yet. And that is despite the sub John Leech watch style journalism in the Mirror

  • Ray Cobbett 18th Aug '10 - 5:00pm

    Still enjoying the honeymoon is a bit rich although the signs are that one of the partners may be more than the other. Let’s wait to see what Labour has to offer before reaching any hasty conclusions. It’s probably Bid Ed or Little Ed although junior could have a stronger appeal to the age group we just lost-18-24. Clegg needs to look at his body language. The first lesson in leadership is to look like one and speak like one. Cameron oozes confidence even after the gaffes. More Tories by far than LIb Dems like the coalition. Could it be that they are less worried about the story so far than the LD’s?

  • “….don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no telling who that it’s naming, for the loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a changing”. Bob Dylan is spot on – all the rest is space-filling.

  • Simon Hughes must be fuming.

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Aug '10 - 8:57pm

    The capital spending cuts on schools, housing, play areas etc will just increase unemployment

    I am fascinated to hear how spending cuts on play areas will increase unemployment.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 18th Aug '10 - 9:44pm

    “I am fascinated to hear how spending cuts on play areas will increase unemployment.”

    Why not get into the habit of thinking for a few moments before typing a comment?

    The only way they could _not_ increase unemployment would be if none of the current spending went, directly or indirectly, into employing people. Do you really think that is likely?

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