Poll: policies less popular if Osborne’s name attached

12:31 pm - March 14th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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George Osborne’s name has become so toxic to the public that the mere mention of his name is enough to drive voters away from a policy.

The sentiment is revealed in an extraordinary poll published today by the Evening Standard, conducted by IpsosMori.

The Evening Standard reports:

Researchers gave half the poll sample a summary of the Coalition’s argument that deficit-reduction should be the priority, without any mention of Mr Osborne’s name. They were also given a summary of Labour’s arguments for higher spending on growth measures and asked to choose between them.

The other half of the sample were shown identical summaries, but this time preceded by the words “George Osborne argues that … or “Ed Balls argues that…”

Adding the names of the politicians made a dramatic difference to the way people responded. When Osborne and Balls were not mentioned, voters backed the austerity policies by 52 per cent to 41 — an 11-point lead for the Coalition.

But when Mr Osborne and Mr Balls were identified as the authors, support for the Coalition policy fell to 37 per cent, and support for Labour’s policy jumped to 53 per cent — some 16 points ahead.

And to think that supposedly astute Westminster commentators still believe Labour’s problem is that Ed Balls is too associated with economic failure.

The poll also puts Cameron’s Conservatives at 27% support — their lowest poll rating since January 2003.

A poll by YouGov last week found that only 4% of Tory voters saw George Osborne as a future leadership candidate.

(PS: my issue with Ed Balls is that he’s too timid in pushing bold ideas, not his past record)

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

In other news, Pope shits in the woods. Or I should possibly say, on the pampas. 🙂

I think you’re stretching a lot to draw those conclusions. The tables on the Ipsos-Mori site don’t actually have the crossbreaks for the “named” variant of the question, but if you look at the breakdown by voting intention of the “unnamed” variant, you’ve already got 43% – 51% support for the Balls option from “not Conservatives” (who are mostly “unsure / won’t vote” and most of the rest are Labour voters: relatively few are UKIP/LD)

Reminding them which party supports which option is probably sufficient – given the general unpopularity of the government, and the mess the economy is currently in – to swing them behind the Opposition policy.

I doubt the specific names have anything to do with it: you would almost certainly get the same results by saying “Conservatives” and “Labour” rather than “Osborne” and “Balls”

See also the results for the questions asked earlier in the survey: Conservatives and Labour basically equal on economic trust (C27/L26), and Labour with Miliband and Balls’ names attached loses 31-26 on the “would they do a better job” question.

My conclusion from the data: the main problem is that while stimulus spending might be popular (well, better than even, anyway) with not-Tories, too few people associate Miliband and Balls with either stimulus spending or economic competence.

3. Shinsei1967

I’m really not sure why Sunny publishes these pieces. It’s just yet another demonstration that the government’s economic policies are favoured to Labour’s. In this case by 52% to 41%.

As a general (but critical) supporter of the government’s economic policies compared to Labour’s I’m all in favour of this, but bemused why Liberal Conspiracy should advertise the fact.

@3 – because adult political debate can’t exist by blindly believing everyone thinks you’re right. Clearly, austerity has quite a bit of support in the country. If those who oppose it don’t acknowledge that, they’re not going to get their message across effectively.

I applaud this site for (occasionally) admitting that the argument isn’t won, and that they aren’t “obviously” right.

5. Shinsei1967

@Gareth Millward

Sorry, I don’t think I expressed myself clearly.

I was surprised that LC published this because I thought its intention was to show that Osborne was toxic compared to Balls, which it does to an extent, and that that showed Labour was winning the economic argument. However, the central message of the poll is that the government’s economic policy is still a good 10 points ahead of Lab’s. Despite all the recent disasters.

It’s like the Yougov poll on here recently which was headlined as “23% think government austerity causing weak economic growth.” When a far more obvious reading of the poll was that 77% of people blamed non-Osborne factors (from Lab profligacy to EUzone crisis).

And I’m pretty sure most on LC do think their economic views on austerity are “right” and “unarguable”. Witness the many condemnations of Osborne as economically illiterate, doesn’t know Economics 101 etc.

Not surprising really is it?

Hardly surprising. He’s an incompetent.

What’s depressing is that he shows no sign of learning, from rough experience of reality, to consider doing anything other than carrying on with provenly failed economic policies, as if by doing something the wrong way long enough, it will somehow eventually magically work.

8. Shinsei1967


I’m sorry but that just isn’t an argument. Your post assumes that there is an economic policy that would generate full employment, strong growth and a solid financial framework. What if (as is wholly likely) such a policy doesn’t exist.

Instead of stating that Osborne is incompetent and his economic policies are failing you need to argue that a different set of policies would be better.

The fact that you don’t suggests you really haven’t engaged at all with the debate you are just making a partisan point.

So, yes, growth has been poor (though excluding North Sea Oil which Osb can do nothing about it isn’t as bad) but employment/unemployment much better than any expected, interest rates are at an all time low, and home repossessions and corporate bankruptcies are low. The main economic problem facing the majority of people is high inflation, which (excluding the VAT rise) is again largely out of the control of the Chancellor, stemming from a high oil and imported gas price.

As another of Sunny’s blogs today states 51% of the population think Osb’s policies are in the general right direction. That you think they are so “obviously” wrong and “incompetent” probably means you haven’t thought through the alternatives, which would be much worse.

Shinsei, you’re missing the point.

I accept that austerity has broad support. I also think that Osborne is incompetent and useless and doesn’t know his economics. I can also see how people change minds once Osborne’s name is shown alongside a policy. He is immensely unpopular, even among Tories.

All these positions are not mutually exclusive.

“What’s depressing is that he shows no sign of learning, from rough experience of reality, to consider doing anything other than carrying on with provenly failed economic policies, as if by doing something the wrong way long enough, it will somehow eventually magically work”
Now there speaks a HP tory

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