George Osborne faces an uphill battle to convince voters in this week’s Budget, as new research shows that half of the public are critical of the government’s economic performance.

Asked in this month’s Kantar Public Public Opinion Monitor how they rate the government’s management of the economy over the last year, 51% said it was poor, with only 17% saying it was good. People in London were more likely to be content with the government’s performance – 27% said it was good, against 12% in Scotland and 11% in the North of England.

The majority – 56% – expect the economy to be doing “much the same as it is now” in a year’s time, with 28% expecting it to be worse and only 17% expecting an improvement.

A substantial minority say they that they are experiencing economic hardship, with 42% agreeing that it is harder to meet their monthly household budget than it was a year ago, while 51% say things are about the same. The pain is being felt most intensely among parents (53%) and the 45-54s (61%). This is an improvement on 12 months ago, when 52% were of the opinion that it is harder to meet their monthly household budget than it was a year ago.

The Public Opinion Monitor suggests that any Budget measures to boost the amount of cash in people’s pockets is unlikely to stimulate economic activity, with only 26% saying that, given a substantial increase in their income, they would be most likely to spend it – the remaining 74% said they would either save the money or use it to pay off debts.

When looking at peoples’ top three priorities, generating economic growth was most important to people (50%) followed by reducing unemployment (47%) and stricter border controls to reduce immigration (41%).

Again, there was a wide regional variation, only 46% in the North East and South East rated economic growth as one of their top three priorities, against 62% of those in Scotland.

Other popular priorities were reducing the national debt (34%), reducing income inequality (30%) and investing more in health care (29%). Further down the list were improving education (26%), measures on crime (22%), and investing more in care for the elderly (20%).

Nick Howat, Head of TNS-BMRB’s Social and Political Attitudes Centre said: “This research shows that issues around the economy continue to dominate public opinion; generating economic growth and reducing unemployment remain the top priorities for the general public. Most people feel that the government have not managed the economy well enough over the last year, and the research also suggests that we are a long way off seeing a strong economic recovery with most people expecting the economy to remain stagnant over the next year.”

Notes to editors:
Detailed tables for this survey can be found attached. Please treat with caution those figures where the sample size – the unweighted base – is less than 50.

TNS Omnibus interviewed 1,205 GB adults between 14th and 18th March.

About Kantar Public
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