Is this any surprise after the events of the last fortnight?
From the Wall Street Journal ‘Britons' faith in the ability of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to manage the economy has eroded significantly since the March 21 budget, according to an opinion poll released Friday.
Of the 2,028 adults surveyed by ComRes on behalf of ITV News between March 30 and April 1, 53% said they don't trust Cameron to lead the U.K. out of its current economic problems, up from 47% last month. But Osborne fared even worse, with 60% declaring a lack of trust in the architect of the government's austerity program, which aims to start cutting its debt by the end of this parliament in 2015. Before his March 21 budget, 52% of those surveyed expressed distrust in his policies. The proportion of voters declaring their trust in Cameron fell to 31% from 36%, while the proportion declaring their trust in Osborne was lower still at 21%.
The gap between the proportion who declare their distrust in Cameron and Osborne and the proportion who trust them is now at its widest since ComRes began the poll in October 2010, the month in which the government detailed its planned spending cuts.
In the budget, Osborne announced a slightly lower level of government borrowing for coming years, and a slight upward revision in the economic growth forecast for this year. But the measures that have gained the most attention included freezing tax allowances for the elderly--which has become known as the "Granny Tax"--and the extension of sales tax to hot pies. The government has also been criticized for its handling of a proposed strike by drivers of gasoline delivery tankers. Some members of the government urged motorists to prepare for the strike by stocking up on gasoline, which critics say contributed to long lines and shortages at gas stations.
The coalition government next faces voters in local elections due May 3, with the mayoralty of London being the biggest prize on offer in that contest.
While a series of opinion polls have shown that the immediate response of voters to the budget has been largely negative, the government can take some comfort from the fact that the opposition Labour Party isn't reaping the benefits, having lost a by-election in one of its traditional strongholds on March 30.
Indeed, the ComRes poll found that just 18% of potential voters trust Labour leader Ed Miliband on the economy, while an even more meager 15% trust the party's economy spokesman, Ed Balls. Joining the latter on that trust rating was Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition to Cameron's Conservatives.
Recent data and surveys suggest the U.K. economy avoided falling into recession in the first quarter, although narrowly. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research, one of the U.K.'s oldest independent forecasters, Thursday estimated that gross domestic product rose by 0.1% in the three months to March, having fallen by 0.3% in the three months to December. Second-quarter output is likely to be hit by an extra holiday to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee and the disruption of gas production in the North Sea. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has said he expects the economy to experience a "zigzag" recovery this year, with the impact of the Olympic Games also likely to affect the data in the third and fourth quarters.'