The newspaper reports [£] three pieces of bad news for the government in a Populus poll.
* the government's deficit reduction strategy is rejected by three out of four voters.
* the public is more gloomy about the economy than at any point since the summer of 2009 - with those expecting things to get worse up 8 points since June, to 33%.
* most people reject the idea that the Labour government is most to blame for the deficit.
The Times report suggests that the Coalition would be more likely to persuade the public that their cuts were necessary if they supported Labour's approach to the timing and scale of deficit reduction:
Populus asked the public to identify which of three deficit reduction plans they agree with most, without identifying which party or group was advocating each position. Over a third of voters, 37 per cent, say they prefer Labour’s position to halve the deficit by the next election and deal with it over ten years.
The same number [37 per cent] say that protecting the vulnerable and keeping unemployment as low as possible should be bigger priorities than reducing the budget deficit.
Only one in five voters, 22 per cent, agree with the coalition plan to deal with the deficit by the next general election, in five years’ time.
The poll finds that 51 per cent of Conservative voters prefer the Labour deficit policy to that of the Coalition, which wins the support of 31 per cent of Tories.
Only 23 per cent of LibDem supporters back the government's deficit reduction plan. Their most popular choice - with 42 per cent of LibDems - is prioritising unemployment and the vulnerable over deficit reduction, the argument of the TUC.
Nor is blaming it all on Labour resonating, says the paper:
In a second blow, the coalition is yet to win the argument that the spending cuts are the result of “Labour’s deficit legacy”. Asked who is responsible for Britain’s debt problems, voters name UK and US banks, the global recession and the Bank of England as more to blame for the current economic situation than the previous government.
However, The Times does report that 53 per cent say the Government is handling the economy well while 45 per cent say it is dealing with public spending cuts well. This would seem to suggest that the Coalition generally is more warmly regarded than its policy.
The Conservatives lead Labour by 39 per cent to 37 per cent with the LibDems on 14 per cent. Populus finds that 61% of those who voted LibDem in May say they would still have voted the same way if they had known what Coalition choice the party would make.