At the end of a week that saw the Coalition battered over its plans to curb housing benefit, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both stood at their highest levels for weeks. In both cases movements are small, and might be explained by sampling fluctuations. But we have to go back to late September, immediately before Ed Miliband was elected Labour Party leader, to find their combined support higher than their latest figure of 55% (Conservatives 42%, Lib Dems 13%).
We should not be surprised. We asked about the issue directly, reminding people of the main point put forward by both sides: ‘The government have proposed that there should be a cap of £400 a week (around £20,000 a year) on the amount of housing benefit anyone can claim. Some people have said that these changes would be unfair on poorer people living in high rent areas like central London and would lead to tens of thousands of people losing their homes. Other people have said that it is unfair that people on benefit should be given more money to spend on rent than many people in full time work can afford. Do you support or oppose the proposed cap on housing benefit?’
- As many as 72% support the cap, while only 16% oppose it.
- Even Labour supporters back the policy, by 52-35%.
- And Boris Johnson – London’s Conservative Mayor, who opposes some aspects of the cap – should note that Londoners support the policy almost as strongly as everyone else.
Furthermore the higher-than-expected figures for economic growth in the third quarter have helped the Government.
- In the previous two weeks, more people thought the government was managing the economy badly rather than well.
- Now the net score is back in positive territory, at plus six (well 47%, badly 41%).
There seems to be little traction in proposition that the latest growth figures owe more to measures taken by Labour last year, rather than by the Coalition in the past six months.
The survey also tested attitudes to the European Union, as fieldwork coincided with the summit of EU leaders and their debates about the EU’s budget. The Eurosceptic mood of the public is clear.
- 70% think Britain pays too much towards the EU
- 63% want the organisation of the EU to contract
- 80% back Cameron’s attempt to block the proposed 6% increase in the EU’s Budget.