7 in 10 Britons do not think the government’s policies will improve public services

Almost two-thirds think Sunak’s government has done a bad job managing the economy

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
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  • Confidence in the government’s long-term policies for both economy and public services falls since last March
  • Almost two-thirds think Sunak’s government has done a bad job managing the economy.
  • Labour has small lead as party with best policies on the economy

The latest Ipsos Political Monitor, taken, February 22nd to March 1st shows 70% of British adults do not believe that the government’s policies will improve the state of public services in the long term, with just 23 per cent thinking they will. This marks a sharp fall in figures from March last year (2022) where 60% disagreed and 31% agreed, and is the worst set of results for a government since Ipsos started asking this question in 2001.

The Conservatives and the economy / budget 

When asked about different aspects of the government’s record since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, two-thirds or more think his government has done a bad job handling various aspects of the economy. 7 in 10 (71%) think his government has done a bad job dealing with the cost of living and 21% a good job, numbers only marginally better than Boris Johnson’s government achieved in July (17% good job and 75% bad job). Meanwhile, 68% think his government has done a bad job handling tax and spending, 66% say bad job on reducing regional inequalities/levelling-up and 64% say it has done a bad job managing the economy overall, all either similar or marginally worse than July. Meanwhile, 32% think a Labour government with Keir Starmer as Prime Minister and Rachel Reeves as Chancellor would do a better job managing the economy (+6 pts from last March when compared to Johnson and Sunak), 22% say they would do worse (-5pts) and 38% say it would not make a difference (+4).  This is Labour’s best score since going into opposition.

Detailed party comparison figures show Labour still ahead of the Tories for having the best policies on the economy (30% vs 24%), taxation (34% to 21%), poverty/inequality (41% vs 12%), reducing the cost of living (36% to 17%), unemployment (34% to 19%), and pensions (26% to 17%), though on most its leads have narrowed since October.

In tandem with public criticism of the government’s performance on the economy is economic optimism – despite improving somewhat in recent months – remaining weak. 61% expect the state of the economy to worsen in the next year and 23% say it will improve. Whilst this compares favourably to November when 72% said it would worsen and 16% said it would improve, the overall net Economic Optimism Index score of -38 still reflects a wide sense of pessimism in the country.

Looking ahead to the budget, satisfaction with Jeremy Hunt’s performance as Chancellor has fallen since November. 52% are dissatisfied with the job he is doing (+12 points) and 26% are satisfied (-3). Whilst these scores are better than his immediate predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, these are otherwise the worst scores for a Chancellor since March 2016.

In terms of what Britons would like the Chancellor to do next week, 53% believe the Government should increase spending on public services, even if that means higher taxes or more borrowing, a slight increase since last July. However, only one in four (27%) actually expect the government to do this.

Voting intention and leader ratings 

Latest voting intention trends show no change in the Labour lead (note most interviewing was done before the announcement of the new Northern Ireland trading arrangements):

  • Labour 51% (no change since January)
  • Conservative 25% (-1) 
  • Lib Dem 9%  (no change)
  • Greens 5% (no change)
  • Other 9% (-1) 

In terms of Ipsos’ monthly satisfaction ratings:

  • Only 15% are satisfied with the way the government is running the country, while 77% are dissatisfied (including half, 49%, of Conservative supporters), little changed from January.
  • 27% are satisfied with the job Rishi Sunak is doing as Prime Minister (+1 pt from January) and 59% are dissatisfied (+4). Among Conservative voters, 65% are satisfied (+4 pts) and 26% dissatisfied (-2).
  • 34% are satisfied with the job Keir Starmer is doing as Labour leader (-3 pts since January) and 46% are dissatisfied (+6). Among Labour supporters 56% are satisfied (-2 pts) and 29% dissatisfied (+7).

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said:

The economy, inflation and the NHS are the top issues for voters right now, which means Jeremy Hunt has a big week ahead as he finalises his Budget. There are some signs of recovery from the lowest points of last autumn, but the government will be concerned that overall the public mood remains pretty negative about their record so far, and with even less confidence they will improve things in the future than a year ago, particularly when it comes to public services. Labour themselves still have some convincing to do, especially among former Conservative voters, but they have opened up a small yet persistent lead on the economy - which is an important difference in Keir Starmer’s favour compared with the last few elections.

Notes to Editors:

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone between 22 February and March 1st 2023. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.   
  • On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points. This is especially important to keep in mind when calculating party lead figures.
The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs

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