The March Economist/Ipsos MORI Issues index shows that, this month, around six in ten (57%) place the economy amongst the most important issues facing the country, a drop of seven percentage points since February and the lowest level of concern since July 2011, though it has remained the most important issue facing the country since September 2008. Around a third (36%) are concerned about unemployment, a drop of two percentage points for an issue which has, until now, been steadily rising since August 2011.
This represents the smallest ‘gap’ between the top two issues (21 percentage points) since June of last year, and, though our February political monitor has indicated that there is a less negative mood on the economy, with economic optimism at its highest since May 2011, it may just as much be a redistribution of general concerns around the economy to more specific concerns about the knock-on effects of economic issues such as unemployment.
This gap in concern about the economy and unemployment is most pronounced amongst Conservative voters (38 points), those in social grade AB and those in the south of England (both 32 points).
It is less pronounced amongst Labour voters and those in the Midlands and Wales (11 and 12 points respectively). For those in social grade DE, the economy and unemployment are concerns of equal weight (both 48%); it is these groups who are more likely to be concerned with unemployment and and less likely to be concerned about the economy than average.
With this in mind, concern about petrol prices/fuel has risen by seven percentage points to 13%, the highest level in exactly a year, as pump prices reach a record high, a key discussion topic during David Cameron’s American visit.
As with last month, around a fifth are concerned with key social issues such as crime, and race relations/immigration (18% and 23% respectively) as well as the NHS, which has seen an unchanged level of concern since February (22%).
Ipsos MORI's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 944 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The questions are spontaneous - i.e. respondents are not prompted with any answers. Ipsos MORI's Capibus vehicle was used for this survey. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in-home between 2-13th March 2012 at 147 sampling points across Great Britain. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.