Labour economic policies are popular, so why aren’t Labour?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
November 12, 2019, 11:13 AM GMT+0

Economic competence, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit could all be bigger negatives for Labour than their policies are a positive

As the election campaign ramps up parties are sketching out their manifestos. As YouGov has previously shown, Labour policies are often very popular among the public, and the results of a new study on recent policy announcements confirms this.

The most popular involve increasing tax on the highest earners. Close to two thirds (64%) would support raising the tax rate on earnings over £123,000 a year from 45% to 50%. Likewise, six in ten support increasing the tax rate on earnings over £80,000 a year from 40% to 45%.

Most people also support nationalising the railways (56%) and reserving a third of the space on company boards to workers (54%).

Around half (53%) would support a wealth tax, nationalising water companies (50%) and 45% support taking gas and utility companies into public ownership.

But despite the popularity of these individual policies, Labour is still trailing the Conservatives by more than ten points in the polls. So how is Labour is performing so badly if its policies are so popular?

There are many possible reasons. One is that while people like the pledges they also don’t think they are realistic: 53% of Britons brand Labour’s policy platform “not affordable”.

Alternatively, Britons aren’t willing to pay for them. Two thirds of Britons believe that Labour pledges would require tax rises, with a separate question finding just 34% of people support increasing the basic rate of income tax.

There is also the broader case of the low confidence Britons have in Labour’s economic management. More than half (57%) of people think the country will go into economic recession within a couple of years if Labour win the election. Likewise, people are more likely to trust Boris Johnson (34%) with the economy than Jeremy Corbyn (16%).

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Another issue may be the unpopularity of Labour’s leader. Our most recent favourability survey finds that fully 70% of Britons have a negative opinion of him, and that he rates far behind Boris Johnson on many key personal attributes. More importantly still, just 20% of Britons think Jeremy Corbyn would make a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson. More than twice as many (43%) believe his Tory rival to be the better man for the job.

Finally there is simply the fact that concern about Brexit sweeps all before it. Fully 68% of Britons believe leaving the EU is one of the top three issues facing the country, while just a quarter say the same of the economy. At prior elections, the proportion of people citing the economy as a top concern was much higher: about a third in 2017, half in 2015 and fully eight in ten in 2010.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here