What voters think about cuts
For much of the media the only question is how big spending cuts should be and how quickly they should happen.
Many economists disagree. And now we know that voters are sceptical too.
This is thanks to a new IPSOS-MORI poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts and presented to a series of fringe meetings at the party conferences. It’s well worth looking at the full set of slides in this pdf but here are a few highlights:
- Only 21% think that “too much money is spent on public services” while 48% disagree
- 36% think that public services “are well run in my area” – not good enough, but only 29% disagree
- There’s a pretty even split for (36%) and against (35%) “We demand a great deal from public services but are not prepared to pay enough taxes to fund them”
And most striking of all:
Only 24% agree that “There is a real need to cut spending on public services in order to pay off the very high national debt we now have” while 50% disagree.
I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this means that half the population have a worked out pro-Keynes position. Asking these kinds of questions in different ways will produce different answers.
But it is still surprising that given the media onslaught that there is not wider support for cuts.
I’m rather encouraged by this. As we always say on ToUChstone, we cannot ignore the deficit or avoid some tough choices when the time comes to start reducing it. But it is good to see that people are sceptical of the rush to cuts.
It doesn’t look though that the sponsors of the poll are too pleased however. Chief Executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor said:
“The results from this poll show that most people still think the public finances can be managed without them experiencing any pain. This is not a good starting point for politicians of any party to win approval for being either realistic or bold. The fiscal challenge is also a challenge of political leadership.”
And I don’t know when we started expecting polling companies to produce economic policy. This is what Ipsos-MORI’s Ben Page said:
“The public are still in denial about the size of spending cuts now needed.”
Perhaps Ben could tell us exactly the precise size of cuts needed. But the other Ben involved with this project talks much more sense. Ben Lucas who is the director of the 2020 Public Services Trust said:
“Public opinion is in a very difficult place for politicians. A year on from the banking collapse, the public blame the establishment – banks, business and politicians – for the state of Britain and are in no mood to accept the pain for this themselves. This is not a 1979 moment. The challenge for politicians across the political divide is to begin a more honest conversation with voters about the big question Britain faces – how to reduce debt, whilst responding to the challenges of an ageing and socially polarised society.”