Austerity: Perceived impact at all-time low

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 22, 2013, 12:40 PM GMT+0

Britons feeling less worried about their economic prospects as concerns about the speed and size of austerity continue to subside, while perception of austerity's impact on personal lives hits an all-time low

In its annual report on the British Economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised "nascent signs of momentum" but warned the British government that it was "still a long way from a strong and sustainable recovery". It also said that while the country's fiscal policies had gained its government credibility, the "planned fiscal tightening will be a drag on growth" and Britain should speed up infrastructure spending to "offset" austerity.

YouGov has run polls tracking public perception of austerity measures since they became central to coalition government economic policy in 2010. In a previous study, these polls showed public concerns about government spending cuts had begun to thaw, if slowly, and more recent data has shown this trend continuing. New data also suggests that people are becoming less worried about their own financial situation.


In fact, the most recent polling on the effects of austerity finds 54% of Britons perceive the spending cuts as impacting their lives, it's lowest point since YouGov began asking the question in June 2010. This marks a drop of 18 points from the tracker's peak, which occured when 72% said the cuts were having an impact on their lives for three consecutive weeks in March 2011.

The percentage of Britons who think that the cuts are "too deep" has also continued to trend downwards, at 40% most recently after reaching its lowest point since 2010 in March, days before the 2013 Budget was announced.

Economic well-being

Polls tracking the British public's economic outlook outside of the context of austerity reveal that worries about personal economic well-being and job security have also begun to wane.

Britons are still broadly worried about what kind of personal financial situation awaits them in a couple years time. 63% say they worry about about whether in the next two or three years they will have enough money to live comfortably, while 32% say they do not. In comparison, at one point in July of 2011, 76% were worried about their personal financial prospects.

This slight improvement comes one week after the ONS announced that for the first quarter of 2013 UK earnings excluding bonuses grew at the slowest rate (0.8) since the record-taking begain in 2001.


The quarterly report from the ONS also brought news of an uptick in unemployment, to 2.52 million, leading an ONS spokesperson to tell the BBC that while unemployment had been falling, that period "seems to have come to an end".

Again, public sentiment appears to defy economic trends. In recent weeks, worry about losing their jobs amongs British adults has fallen to two-year lows. As of May 19-20, only 57% worry about losing their jobs or not finding work, down from a highpoint of 67% in 2011.

Improvement in the Britons' views on their own financial prospects has clearly lagged behind rising confidence in austerity measures. However, much of the slight change in personal outlook has occured in the last six months, suggesting that despite the recent uptick in unemployment, "nascent signs of momentum" are present in public opinion too.

In response to the IMF report, Osborne said he would make infrastructure investment "the focus of the spending round next month."

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