YouGov says numbers critical of austerity falling but Which? says consumers still squeezed and pessimistic

25th April 2013

With the economy growing slightly at 3 per cent, YouGov suggests that Labour’s “too fast, too deep” criticism, while still compelling to many, is gradually losing traction while fewer people feel directly affected by the cuts as time goes on.

However consumer group Which? argues that most consumers are still under financial pressure.

YouGov suggests that 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.

YouGov says 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.

The polling company says that 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.

By contrast, The Which? Consumer Insight tracker reveals just one in five (21%) of us think that the UK economy will improve in the next year, with over a third (37%) believing their financial situation will get worse. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers rate the state of the UK economy at the moment as poor, with fewer than one in ten (8%) rating it good.

The survey also shows

· A third (34%) of households are feeling the squeeze in some way.

· 7.4 million households, over a quarter (28%), are cutting back on essential spending.

· Three million households (12%) are cutting back and getting into debt.

· Over two million households (8%) have defaulted on a housing or bill payment.

· Our latest research shows that women are more likely to be feeling the squeeze than men (38% compared to 31%).

· It also shows evidence of the squeezed middle – those in the third income quintile earning between £21,500-£34,000 – who are feeling more squeezed than those earning £12,300-£21,500 (41% and 36% respectively.)

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: “We have avoided a triple-dip recession, but consumers are still feeling the pinch and many expect their household finances to remain under severe pressure for months to come. Our figures show a third of us feel squeezed with millions cutting back on essentials or resorting to high cost credit.

“Consumer spending accounts for around 60% of GDP so it is critical that consumers are at the heart of the Government’s economic recovery plans.”

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