Public positive about government's handling of the economy, even though half pessimistic for Britain's economic prospects

Our latest political monitor finds the public more satisfied than dissatisfied with the Chancellor and the government's handling of the economy, despite many thinking the economy will worsen in the next twelve months.

With less than a week until Phillip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement, Ipsos finds the public more satisfied than dissatisfied with the Chancellor and the government’s handling of the economy, despite many thinking the economy will worsen in the next twelve months. When asked about the government’s overall job at handling the economy, half (51%) believe it is doing a good job while three in ten (30%) say a bad job. More believe that Theresa May’s government is doing a good job handling the economy than when last asked about David Cameron’s government last May, when 42% said it was doing a good job and 47% a bad job. This is despite many believing the economy will get worse over the next year. Just under half (47%) say the economy will get worse compared with a quarter (26%) who say it will improve – leaving a net Economic Optimism Index score of -21.  Although this is slightly higher than last month (when our EOI was -29), it is still the third worst score since March 2013. Two in five (39%) are satisfied with the job Philip Hammond is doing as Chancellor (12 points higher than George Osborne’s last satisfaction rating in March, though similar to his first rating as Chancellor in June 2010), almost three in ten (28%) are dissatisfied, while a third (34%) are yet to make up their mind. Mr Hammond has the backing of most Conservative supporters with three in ten (61%) satisfied with him (12% dissatisfied) while more Labour supporters are dissatisfied (44% dissatisfied compared with 26% satisfied). Liberal Democrat supporters are also more likely to be satisfied (43%) with Mr Hammond than dissatisfied (27%). When compared with his counterpart in the shadow cabinet, John McDonnell, Phillip Hammond comes out ahead. When asked who would make the most capable chancellor nearly half (46%) said Mr Hammond compared with 28% who say Mr McDonnell. These are almost identical figures to when last asked in February comparing George Osborne with John McDonnell.  Nine in ten (87%) Conservative supporters feel Mr Hammond is most capable, while 66% of Labour supporters choose Mr McDonnell. When it comes to public spending and the deficit, public opinion has changed little from one year ago. A third (33%) believe that it is still necessary for the government to reduce the deficit by cutting public spending, three in ten (31%) think that while it was necessary to cut public spending in the last parliament, it is no longer necessary now, and 27% believe that is was never necessary to cut public spending. Opinion is largely split along party lines with most Conservative supporters (53%) believing it is still necessary to cut public spending while half (49%) of Labour supporters say it was never necessary to cut spending.

Half say they support the recent reduction in the benefit cap. When asked about reducing the maximum amount a household could receive per year from £26,000 per year to £20,000 half (51%) said they support the cap while a third (34%) oppose it. Younger people tend to be split on the new cap (41% of 18-34 year olds support it while 42% oppose it) while older individuals are in more support of it (52% of those aged 55+ support it while 33% oppose it). Opposition is also higher among social class DE, at 42%.

When reflecting back on George Osborne’s legacy, half (49%) believe that his economic policies were bad for the country while two in five (40%) say they were good. Most (59%) Conservative supporters agree that they were a good thing, while a large majority of Labour supporters (71%) say they were a bad thing. When it comes to the last Parliament’s Coalition partners, Liberal Democrat supporters are more positive than negative about the ex-Chancellor’s policies by 51% to 33%. Commenting on the findings, Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, said:

“The government may be struggling with Brexit, but when it comes to economic competence they are playing on home ground - the last time Labour was seen as having the most capable Chancellor was over three years ago. It's a different picture for young people though, who are more pessimistic about the economy, more critical of the government, and more opposed to further cuts.”

Technical note

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,013 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 11th – 14th November 2016.  Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

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