Ash cloud leaves public unmoved

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
April 21, 2010, 6:12 PM GMT+0

As Britain’s airports begin the slow process of re-opening their doors to hordes of disgruntled and delayed passengers, it seems that despite the criticism the Government has received for its handling of the situation, most of the British public has remained unmoved by the way in which the Government has acted. Most of Britain’s major airports re-opened today following nearly a week of disruption caused by the ash cloud emanating from Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted on April 14th.

A substantial 70% of the population do not feel that the Government overreacted, but this overwhelming sentiment in favour of the Government is actually, on closer inspection, predictably split along party lines - 86% of Labour supporters do not think the Government overreacted compared to just 29% of Conservative supporters. In comparison, only six percent of Labour supporters think the Government overreacted compared to a far higher 57% among Conservative supporters.

This party political split becomes even more apparent when it comes to whether the Government has done enough to repatriate stranded Britons. While in general, most people believe the government could have done more (38% agree the Government has done its best versus 43% who don’t), opinion is symmetrically split between parties – 67% of Labour supporters agree the Government has done all it could against 18% who feel it could have done more, while an exactly opposite 67% of Conservative supporters disagree the Government has done its best, and 18% feel that it has.

With regards to voting intention, again, things have remained more or less the same. Most (82%) say the Government’s handling of the situation hasn’t changed their likelihood to vote Labour either way, with 61% claiming that they wouldn’t have voted for them anyway. This unsurprisingly rises to 90% among Conservative supporters, and just as predictably, Labour supporters are either just as likely to vote for Gordon Brown’s party (84% say they haven’t changed their view and would have voted for Labour anyway) while seven percent say the airports episode has made them even more likely to vote Labour.

Such results strongly suggest that the Government’s handling of the airports closures has made little real impact on people’s view of the race to Number 10. It seems it’ll take more than a cloud of volcanic ash to shift people’s outlook in the run up to the most contested election in recent decades.

For survey details and full results, please click here