YouGov President, Peter Kellner, discusses the public reaction to Britain's credit-rating downgrade and the allegations against Lord Rennard

YouGov has conducted its first survey, for the Sun, since two big stories erupted out of the blue late last week: the downgrading of Britain’s credit-rating, and media reports of allegations of improper behaviour against Lord Rennard, a leading Liberal Democrat peer.

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So far the public appears to be underwhelmed by both stories. Our voting figures – Labour 44%, Conservatives 32%, Lib Dems 10%, UKIP 8% - are in line with our polls going back some months. The two main parties continue to run neck-and-neck when we ask which would handle the economy best. And when we personalise the issue, the public still trusts the team of David Cameron and George Osborne more than that of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

Indeed, as with voting intention, our figures for economic stewardship have been becalmed for months:

Q a) Which party would handle Britain’s economy best?

Q b) Who would you trust more to run the economy?

                      a) Which party? b) Which team






know %


Osborne %


Balls %

Not sure


April 2012 28 27 45 36 28 35
July 27 26 47 34 31 35
October 26 28 46 n/a n/a n/a
December 28 27 45 37 26 37
February 2013 27 29 44 35 29 37

No sign there that Moody’s decision to downgrade the UK has caused the reputation for economic competence of either the Government generally or of the Cameron/Osborne duo specifically to disintegrate. The central truth remains: neither Labour nor the Tories has a clear lead over the other as parties. However, when a slightly different question is asked, and the names of the Prime Minister and Chancellor, and their Labour rivals, are added, the figures for the Labour duo remain much the same as for their party – but the figures for Cameron and Osborne run well ahead of those for the Conservatives. So far, Moody’s decision to downgrade the UK, and stories of Tory backbench discontent with the Chancellor, have had no perceptible impact on the voting public.

Likewise with the allegations against Lord Rennard (which he has strenuously denied). The Lib Dems’ latest rating, 10%, is, of course, well down on the 24% they achieved in the 2010 general election – but very much in line with their average support, month-in, month-out, since November 2010.

So what is going on? Hypothesis one: the significance of one or both of these events has yet to sink in. Over time, Osborne’s reputation might gradually crumble beyond repair, and public trust transfer decisively to Labour and its leader and shadow chancellor. And/or the Lib Dem ‘brand’, and Nick Clegg’s leadership, might disintegrate even more than they have done.

Hypothesis two: most voters struggle to see the significance of either event to their own lives, or to the way they view politicians and parties. On Monday, the financial markets reacted with much the same equanimity as the general public to Moody’s announcement. (The markets did not display any turbulence until the evening, when the indecisive outcome of the Italian election became clear.) There seem to be no immediate threats to jobs, prices, mortgage rates or living standards. As for the Rennard allegations – well, it’s not as if the public thought of politicians as people of the highest moral calibre before Channel 4 News shocked viewers by suggesting otherwise. Why should the Lib Dems’ diminished core vote erode further?

It may take a few weeks to tell which hypothesis is true. Watch this space.

See the full YouGov / The Sun results

See our issues (best party on each issue) tracker

See our economy (tackling the deficit and recession) tracker

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