General election 2024: 84% of Britons say public services are in poor shape

Christien PhebySenior Business Journalist
Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 26, 2024, 9:27 AM GMT+0

Even those currently intending to vote Conservative say public services are in a state of disrepair

With the 2024 general election less than two weeks away, party leaders are tussling to prove that they are the most trustworthy custodians of public services.

After 14 years in office, the struggle is an uphill one for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives. A new YouGov survey shows that fully 84% of Britons say public services are in a bad state, and few think that the Tories are the best party to look after them for the next five years.

Just one in nine Britons (11%) say the Conservatives are the party best equipped to handle public services – more than three times as many think Labour fit the bill instead (34%).

Despite the Conservatives having run the country for most of the 200 years of the party’s existence, almost as many Britons think Reform UK – founded five and a half years ago as the Brexit Party – would be the best party for public services, at 8%.

Even among 2019 Tory voters, just 27% trust the party to handle public services. By comparison, 15% think Labour would do a better job, and 13% say the same of Reform UK.

Most Britons say the NHS, schools, police, and train services are in a bad way 

When it comes to which individual public services are in bad shape, the NHS tops the list at 90%, with a similar number saying so of hospitals (89%), GPs (85%) or social care (84%) specifically. Earlier on in the general election campaign, we polled Britons about the issues that were most likely to decide their votes: healthcare came in second.

This grim public mood extends to education: three-quarters (77%) believe the UK’s schools are in a shoddy state. Britons are also largely unhappy with the UK’s law enforcement and judiciary services: three-quarters believe the country’s prisons are in order (74%), seven in ten say the same of policing (71%), and two-thirds think the courts and justice system (66%) are in disrepair.

With both Labour and the Tories pledging to create a state-operated organisation called “Great British Railways” for the purpose of overseeing the country’s rail infrastructure, 75% of Britons say that train services aren’t operating well, with most also saying the same of bus services (53%).

The public are less gloomy about the state of the UK’s military but they’re still more likely to say it’s dysfunctional (43%) than not (30%). The fire service is the only option we asked about where the public are more positive than negative: 46% say it’s currently in good shape while 29% say the reverse.

Even among Britons who plan to vote Conservative in the upcoming election, the picture is far from rosy. Among this group, two thirds say public services are generally in poor order (64%), and this discontent becomes even more pronounced when they are asked about the NHS (75%) and its associated healthcare functions. In fact, a majority of those currently intending to vote Tory are unhappy with every option we polled save for schools (43%), buses (34%), the military (35%) and fire services (16%).

The mood is even worse when we look at Britons who voted for the party in 2019 – with eight in ten of this group believing that public services are in shabby condition (79%).

See the full results here

What do you think about the state of public services, the 2024 general election campaign, and everything else? Have your say, join the YouGov panel, and get paid to share your thoughts. Sign up here

Photo: Getty