Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Coalition honeymoon over - though more than 8 out of 10 Tories still approve

The "new politics" has not shown anything like the ability to defy the laws of political gravity of New Labour after the 1997 landslide, as Peter Kellner sets out in a significant YouGov commentary.

Kellner explains how the Coalition's approval rating is now +4 with 41% approving of its performance and 37% disapproving, with the budget and the prospect of large spending cuts polarising public opinion.

In just over two months, the coalition’s rating has declined to levels that were not reached for almost three years under Tony Blair. This is odd. Just 44% of voters supported Labour in 1997: 61% voted for one of the coalition parties this May. But whereas millions of people who did NOT vote Labour liked the actions of the incoming Blair government, large numbers of people who DID vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat this year are NOT keen on the coalition’s performance.

The devil is in the detail of the party approval ratings. Tories voters strongly approve of the Coalition, and have been getting keener since the budget, while LibDem voters have been getting cold feet and are now pretty equally divided.

In mid-June 80% of Tories approved of the government’s rating; this has now risen to 84%. These are big majorities; but, even so, approaching two million Tories are withholding their approval.

The figures for the Liberal Democrats are more striking. Among those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, opinions are divided: just 40% approve of the coalition’s performance, while 36% disapprove. No wonder Lib Dem support has slumped since the coalition was formed. Indeed, of those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, just 46% would vote for the party if an election were held now, while 18% would vote Labour, 9% Conservative and 5% for other parties; 22% are ‘don’t knows’ or ‘won’t votes’.

To be sure, the Lib Dems have picked up some support from voters who like their involvement the coalition, but there are too few of these to offset the deserters. Overall, Lib Dem support is down by one-third since the election.

Moreover, as many as half of Labour voters did not express active disapproval of the Coalition when it was formed. Opinion has hardened significantly since the budget, so that 6% now approve and 79% disapprove, and 14% saying they don't know.

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