Are we at a tipping point on attitudes to cuts?
The Royal Society of Arts have commissioned an interesting poll from IPSOS-MORI on attitudes to spending cuts. There is certainly some interesting findings but perhaps not the one they lead with in their press release. This starts:
People’s attitudes towards cuts to public spending and reduced living standards may be reaching a ‘tipping point’ with high concerns about the future effect on themselves and their family, an RSA commissioned survey suggests.
But to be a tipping point something has to have changed.
YouGov have been tracking whether people expect “to suffer directly from cuts in spending on public services such as health, education and welfare” since just after the general election with the question asked at least once a month. I’ve put the percentage who agree into the graph below. It’s about as close to a horizontal line as you can get in a tracking poll – if anything there is a very slight decline, though not one I’d see as significant.
So not much of a tipping point here.
But enough smart-alec debunking, the poll does have some interesting findings too.
I regularly look at the YouGov trackers. To summarise (and probably over-simplify) these, majorities think the cuts are too deep, too fast and being applied unfairly. But a majority say the cuts are necessary – 55 per cent to 27 per cent in their most recent poll this month.
But the RSA asked about this in a different way. While YouGov give a simple choice betweenwo opposed positions, IPSOS-MORI have a more nuanced choice giving respondents a five way choice of strongly agree, tend to agree, neither agree nor disagree, tend to disagree and strongly disagree. Crucially they add a position in the middle.
Doing this gives a slim majority to opponents of the cuts 39 per cent to 35 per cent – rather different from the YouGov finding. Both are reputable polling companies so this does show that changes in in wording can make a difference.
In probably the most interesting and valuable finding – as I’m not aware anyone else has asked this question – the RSA work also shows that people do not understand the scale of the cuts to come. This is what I would have put upfront if I had been writing the release.
To quote their release:
The poll showed that thirty-eight per cent of people currently have no idea what proportion of the Government’s spending cuts have been carried out so far. The results showed that half of people believe a higher proportion of cuts have been carried out than is actually the case (51% think 20% or more of the cuts have been carried out so far) Figures from the IFS predict only 12% of the cuts to public services will have been by end of 2012
When asked if they are worried that government and public services will do too little to help people in the years ahead, sixty-nine per cent agreed and only nine per cent disagreed.
This is to be the first of a new series of tracking polls – where the same questions are asked periodically. This is very welcome. Even though question wording does make a difference, if you ask the same question repeatedly the change over time can tell you how opinion is moving as there will be the same question bias in each poll.
But as ever, read the full data and not just the press release. And it’s probably time I updated my YouGov tracker posts.