The Conservative Party's lead over Labour on the economy is higher than ever, while the economy is no longer the top concern of voters
The Conservatives may be winning the economic argument – or at least Labour may be losing it – according to several measures in public opinion about the country’s finances tracked by YouGov.
The key finding is that voters now prefer the Tories over Labour when it comes to handling the economy by a net margin of 15 points, the largest lead since David Cameron moved into 10 Downing Street.
This is only an increase of 2 points over the previous high of 13 points, but the historical data suggests a broader trend. The percentage who prefer the Conservative Party on this issue has not fallen below 35% for over six weeks, something that hasn’t happened since the early days of the coalition government. At the same time, only 20% think the Labour Party would best handle the economy, their lowest rating over the same period. Only 63% of Labour voters back Labour on the economy, compared to 90% of Conservatives who back their own party.
The finding comes as the public are increasingly positive about the economy, which has recently returned to pre-crisis levels in terms of GDP. Around a quarter of the public now rate the state of the economy as “good”, while only about four in ten rate it as bad and another third rate it as neither good nor bad. This is a turnaround from the end of 2013, when the majority of voters still believed the economy was in a bad state.
The coalition government appears to be getting credit for the improvements. 43% of voters now give the government positive marks for their management of the economy, while the percentage giving a bad rating has stayed below 50% since early April.
This is also a marked turnaround; in September 2012 around two-thirds of the public disapproved of the government’s economic performance and only 24% approved.
However, the Conservatives have failed so far to make almost any gains in overall voting intention (hovering around 32-34%), and overall government approval has remained stagnant. This may be partly due to the reality that, as feelings about the economy have improved, voters are giving less importance to the economy as an issue facing their families and the country as a whole.