'Unavoidable cuts'?

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
May 16, 2011, 3:12 AM GMT+0

Our latest poll for the Sun assesses public opinion on the cuts ahead of tomorrow's comprehensive spending review.

60% of respondents saw the spending cuts as unavoidable, and most see this as the Government's main motivation in making the cuts. 55% think that the coalition are only making the cuts because they have to and would not otherwise do so; 31% think the cuts are ideological and that the Government would be doing similar even if finances were stronger.

Our survey also suggests the public have accepted the argument that the cuts are more the fault of the last government than the Coalition. 48% think the cuts are the fault of Labour, 18% blame the Coalition and 16% blame both of them.

The Conservatives remain more trusted than Labour on the economy. They lead Labour by 46% to 20% on which party people most trust to cut the deficit, by 34% to 28% on encouraging economic growth, by 31% to 26% on getting people back into work, but by just 28% to 27% on cutting spending in a fair and equal way.

Labour criticisms

Despite saying they trust the Conservatives more than Labour, the public do tend to agree with some of Labour's criticisms of the cuts. People are divided on whether the cuts are actually good for the economy - 42% think they are, 39% think they are not. An increasing proportion of the public see them as being done in an unfair manner (47% of respondents), and 44% think they are being done too fast.

While viewing them as unavoidable, respondents also seem apprehensive about the effect of the cuts. Only 9% think the quality of services will be maintained despite the cuts, with 49% expecting they will suffer a little and 35% expecting them to suffer a lot. 56% of respondents view the cuts as having an effect on their own lives.

Asked about specific spending areas, a majority of respondents (53%) thinks that the NHS should be entirely protected from cuts. A majority thinks that the police, pensions, schools and defence should either be entirely or partially protected from cuts. Welfare benefits, international development and local government are the areas the public are most likely to see as prioritised for cuts.

Money to spend

And looking to the future, most of the public are realistic about how long it will be before the government once again has money to spend. Only 12% expect things to be better within two years, 36% expect it to take three or four years, 21% five or six years and 16% more than seven years.

YouGov interviewed 1,991 respondents online between 17th-18th October. Results have been weighted to be representative of British adults.