Government approval falls to lowest yet (-19%)

9:40 am - December 22nd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    

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Government approval has followed a distinctly downward trajectory of late, and last night it fell to its lowest yet, at -19%.

The daily YouGov tracker found approval at 33% and disapproval of the government at 52%. The latest revelations around Vince Cable aren’t likely to help either.

The latest poll ratings were: Con 40%, Labour 42%, Libdem 9%.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

That high, huh?

The interesting/frustrating thing is that despite this -19% approval the Cons are only 2% behind Lab ie margin of error territory. There’s around 15% of people who hate the disapprove of the coalition but aren’t coming over to Labour. Why? Miliband et al need to pull their collective finger out & start attacking the coalition more & connecting with peoples concerns. Kicking Cable, while good fun, isn’t going to help.

Mr S Pill – remember 9% of people still support the LibDems. At a guess, they’re the ones who hate Nick Clegg but like Vince Cable and don’t want the party to be destroyed – and therefore could coherently both 1) hate the coalition and 2) want to see a Lab/Lib pact next time.

Labour are capitalising by default at the moment. Lots of ex-libdems have jumped ship and now say they’ll vote labour. And the tories are running only at around their election result level in polls (marginally higher) so there has been little boost to their popularity that often happens when a new government forms.

If Labour want to make that count they need to start taking leadership on a range of issues. The NHS is an obvious one. It is a slow burner and there is a lot of concern starting to build.

But as yet Labour are fairly weak in message and leadership. So their consistent but small lead in polls is unlikely to harden.

5. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Labour are capitalising by default at the moment. Lots of ex-libdems have jumped ship and now say they’ll vote labour. And the tories are running only at around their election result level in polls (marginally higher) so there has been little boost to their popularity that often happens when a new government forms.

Is there evidence for that?

Most of the ‘ex lib dems’ I know are basically resigned to the fact they have no representation and aren’t likely to have any in the near future.


Lord Ashcroft’s poll/report on Lib Dem voters at the 2010 election.

There are a range of interesting findings in there, including…

“Overall, 54% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 said they were most likely to end up doing so again in 2015. 22% said they would probably vote Labour, 5% Conservative and 8% for another party.”

So about half of lib dem voters said they would vote lib dem again. And of those who don’t want to, almost half have shifted to Labour.

Now that’s a useful figure as a baseline and suggests nearly six percent of the electorate has shifted from lib dem to labour (and around 1% from lib dem to tory)

That alone would see Labour on 35% and the tories on 39%

But actually it probably under-represents the number of “ex-libdems”.

As all pollsters know, when a party’s popularity slides, so does its number of votes at the last election. (People stop admitting to having voted for them, often as they don’t want to be seen as the badies – this happened to Labour under Brown’s leadership, with its reported vote at 2005 falling sharply as people didn’t want to appear to have wanted Brown as PM)

And of course those most likely to pretend not to have voted lib dem are those unhappiest at them, rather than those who still back them.

So the “54%” is likely to overstate lib dem retention (polls in general back this up as at best they are running at 50% of their election result, and polls obviously include voters who didn’t vote for them last time but are impressed by their having responsibility for the first time. (the study looks at that phenomenon too)

So it seems plausible that Labour have revived in the polls to the tune of around 8 percent simply through former lib dems shifting across.

Hope that clears it up.

But then they keep on voting to put the Right in.

For godsakes, when will people learn about politics and who they are voting in??


It may shock you, but I think they have learnt – and chosen.

Voters can agree or disagree with you, but that does not make them right or wrong, as the desicion of the electorate is defined as right in a democracy.

One thing on the figures versus voting intentions – people may well vote for a party of which they disapprove (I suspect many Labour voters at the last election for example) as the lesser evil or whatever.

Which means that measures to capitalise on this could conceivably backfire slightly, as a position that comes across as either ‘socialist’ or ‘New Labour/Gordon Brown like’ will likely stiffen the resolve of some of the disaffected to vote for the Conservatives (or Liberal Democrats) regardless. For once, I can see a case for the lack of action on Mr Milliband’s part.

10. Margin4error


Thing is – I think inaction has gone about as far as it can.

Labour have their small but consistent lead in the polls, largely resulting from a lot of defected lib dem voters now favouring labour. Labour still need to appeal beyond being the mere receptacle of the already existing anti-tory sentiment.

For a start it needs to start growing the anti-tory sentiment by offering an alternative to those who voted tory but are not tories as such.

The NHS is a good starting point as the tories have effectively gone back on the promise to ring-fence its funding. It is also already reporting rising waiting times, and horror stories about banning fat people or smokers from waiting lists have already started circling.

Labour need not promote such stories – but can rise above by simply offering and alternative way to run the NHS.

Over time that will enable labour to build a better lead. Acknowledging some of the more authoritarian aspects to its government were not adequately held in check – and so proposing a package of more liberal policies – would help do likewise with a lot of middle ground on/off tories.

11. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells


Cheers, the ‘it wasn’t me guv’ effect is something I hadn’t considered in a formal sense.

Though something rather bloody obvious that I should have realized to begin with is the problem with using percentages for these things.

12. Margin4error


you’re welcome.

One can get very deeply into polling theory and phenomenon before realising that, at the end of the day, they are a useful guide to trends and can help inform debate, but should never be too heavilly relied upon.

Mr S Pill: -19% approval the Cons are only 2% behind Lab

Anthony Wells posted an explanation of this on UK Polling Report a while back, which I now can’t find…

To summarise, though: voting intention is rebalanced to exclude “don’t knows” while net approval is not rebalanced in the same ways. 24% of that survey (full tables) was either “don’t know” or “wouldn’t vote” but only 15% was “don’t know” on government approval.

With a bit of inference from the tables, I think that Others+Don’t Know+No Vote combined have a -49 net approval. Not quite as extreme as the -87 of Labour voters, but still heavily opposed. So that’s why the governing parties have a combined 49% of the rebalanced vote, but a -19 net approval. Lib Dem ambivalence (+17) isn’t helping them, but they’d still have a negative approval rating even if the Lib Dem voters were as happy as the Conservative voters about the government.

I suspect at least some of those are people like me who strongly disapprove of the coalition’s programme, but see no sign that Labour has learnt why I couldn’t vote for it in 2010 either. (I can’t speak for anyone else, but if Labour wants my vote on anything other than “least worst local candidate” basis, it’s going to have to learn compassion)

It is, of course, possible that a lot of people don’t like the proposed cuts and so disapprove of what the government is doing but are definitely *not* going to vote Labour because they have noticed that New Labour created the appalling mess that the Coalition government is trying to clean up. Also a lot of those who disapprove of the government on things like bailing out the Irish Republic will vote UKIP – don’t forget that a lot of people disapprove of Cameron from his right…

15. Margin4error


Their motivations will be many varied.

@15 Margin4error
Of course, but this accounts for a part of the apparent anomaly and seems to have been overlooked by Sunny who appears to give all the credit for the present mess, including Osborne’s highly inflationary budget, to the Coalition which has been in office for less than eight months and none to New Labour which misgoverned us for 13 years. That a significant minority of Conservative voters disapprove of the government but still intend to vote Conservative indicates that some of the disapproval comes from the right of the government. Mr S Pill seems to assume that all those whose disapprove are to the left of Cameron whereas it has been obvious for years that a lot of people to his right disapproved of his policies even before he formed a coalition with the LibDems.

“It is also already reporting rising waiting times, and horror stories about banning fat people or smokers from waiting lists have already started circling.”
Already (i) – like several years ago due to Brown’s economic illiteracy when he said he would stick to Ken Clarke’s budget plans and then increased nurses’ pay by more than inflation without increasing the NHS budget so the NHS had to decrease the number of nurses it employed.
Already (ii) – the Daily Mail was circulating these stories last year, along with ones about elderly people being refused expensive treatments because their life expectancy was too low to “justify” the cost to NHS bean-counters.
One of the problems with the NHS is its management as there is alleged to be a crisis because a lot of managers in NHS Trusts have taken redundancy because their jobs may disappear in 2013 – no, really, this was reported in a serious newspaper with no connection with Murdoch or UKIP – to which my reaction was “What on earth?”. So these trusts have depleted their budget to give a golden handshake to one set of managers and now need to hire a new set for two-three years at the end of which they will have to make redundancy payments to them! I don’t agree with everything Cameron and Osborne are doing but you can’t blame them for that sort of idiocy.

17. margin4error

To be frank – you are wasting your time using phrases like “Labour which misgoverned us for 13 years.”

I remember how this country was in the 90s.

So do I – also the 80s, 70s, 60s and 50s.
Despite the massive increase in real income per head since then, my preference would be for the 50s and early 60s. We were trying and expecting to build a better world, we didn’t need armed police and aristocrats and politicians didn’t have, let alone need, a police escort – they would even stop and talk to schoolboys (unimaginable under New Labour – my (LibDem-supporting) son would have verbally torn Blair and Brown to shreds).
The current crisis in the UK has very little to do with Americans taking out mortgages for which they didn’t have the money to service or repay and a lot to do with a dozen years of the government and general population spending 10% more than they received/earned.
Have you ever asked yourself when corruption became endemic in Westminster?
In the early 1950s, a Conservative Minister of Agriculture resigned because one of his civil servants had sold Crichel Down to the wrong farmer; in the early 1990s, Neil Hamilton was sacked for being accused of corruption – New Labour brought Blunkett back into the Cabinet after he admitted corruption, not once but twice. Where did Gordon Brown get the money to give his (now wife) a mortgage-free Westminster flat worth £0.4m – more than his cumulative MP’s after-tax salary to that date? [NB he wasn’t earning mega-bucks like Cherie Booth as he was allegedly a full-time politician] As for Mandelson, Geoffrey Robinson, Hazel Blears, Jacqui Smith, Margaret Moran ….
Last week I went to hear Megson who sang, inter alia, “I was born in a working town” which laments Tony Blair’s pal Lakshmi Mittal closing down steel-making on Tees-side. If you look at the statistics produced by ONS (while GB was Prime Minister), you will see that manufacturing industry declined more in total (not just faster) in the 13 years of New Labour than 18 years of Thatcher & Major.
If I’m wasting my time, then that is only because you are unable or unwilling to read inconvenient truths.

‘Government approval drops to lowest yet’ – So who’s surprised? ‘Yet’ is the operative word here – come 2011 bringing VAT rises + much, as yet, untold knock-on misery for the ‘May 2010 disoriented voters’ – the Tories approval ratings are bound to plummet further and faster. There is some small comfort for them though – when they finally hit rock bottom they will, at least, have a soft landing – on top of the LIb Dems. The trends are not good now but the worst is yet to come – Mr Cameron and Co. – fasten your Big Society seat belts! We’re all in this together – but some are ‘in it’ more than others.

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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  2. Tales77

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  3. Sophie Burge

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  4. Bored London Gurl

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  5. Ellen Yianni

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  6. Jim Cranshaw

    Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19% #ukuncut #nocuts #falseeconomy #StopDeficitHysteria

  7. manishta sunnia

    RT @jimcranshaw Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19% #ukuncut #nocuts #falseeconomy #StopDeficitHysteria

  8. albert borneo

    depuis @tamsinchan le gouvernement libéral de Cameron fait jeu égal avec le régime libéral #banksta de #Sarkozy:19%

  9. Andy Bean

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  10. Liz K

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  11. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19%

  12. Government approval falls to lowest yet at -19% | Liberal Conspiracy | The Daily Conservative

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