Austerity: the new normal

April 24, 2013, 10:23 PM GMT+0

Long-term view: Britain is in its third year of austerity but voters are increasingly coming to terms with government cuts

YouGov has been running a series of questions for The Sun tracking public perceptions of government cuts ever since tackling the deficit became a centrepiece of the coalition agenda in May 2010.

Analysis suggests that perceptions have been slow to change, but that the trend is slightly in the government's favour. Labour's "too fast, too deep" criticism, while still compelling to many, is gradually losing traction; and fewer people feel directly affected by the cuts as time goes on.

1. Too fast, too deep?

The largest number of Britons are still critical of how cuts are being made, but the the long term trend shows that this has been steadily dropping since the beginning of 2011. This may come as a surprise to the Labour front bench given that government cuts have become increasingly severe over time, suggesting that voters have slowly begun to view the cuts programme as the new normal.

In one of the first YouGov polls on the cuts, in February 2011, 58% said that the cuts were being made too quickly, but the latest results (in April 2013) show that this has dropped to between 40-46%. The number of people saying the cuts are ‘too slow’ has increased from 5% to 13% over the same time period.

This trend can also be seen when people are asked whether the cuts are too deep, with the number of those agreeing dropping from 51% to around 40%. The number saying that the cuts are too shallow has roughly doubled from 7% over the past two-and-a-half years.

2. Numbers affected on the wane

The personal impact of the cuts has seen the clearest change in public opinion, with the number of people saying that the cuts are having no impact on their life increasing from 18% to 32%. The proportion of Britons who have experienced an impact on their lives due to cuts has dropped from 71% to 55% since January 2011.

These long term trends, however slight, will give confidence to those members of the government who are counting on a strategy of "holding out" until the economy starts turning around; they suggest that, although austerity remains widely unpopular, voters are not showing signs of despairing of it yet.

For the latest and most complete polling data click here.

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