George Osborne’s warning yesterday that Britain’s economic recovery is a job ‘not even half done’ has become the basis for a programme of further cuts up to and beyond the next General Election. However a ComRes poll for ITV News shows that even with renewed talk of austerity, economic confidence is at an all-time record high. The 36% of the British public who say that the UK economy has improved in the last three months marks the highest level it has reached since the question was first asked in October 2010, while the three in ten (30%) who say that it has got worse equals a record low.
The figure marks a continuing trend that has gathered momentum over 18 months. This is also reflected in future expectations for the UK economy: two in five (43%) expect it to improve - 12 percentage points higher than said the same this time last year about their expectations for 2013.
As the Coalition battles Labour over cost of living and whether ‘ordinary’ people are feeling the recovery, last month’s record proportion of 17% who say that their personal financial situation has improved in the last three months is repeated this month. Despite all the doom and gloom about the hard work yet to come, this suggests that a growing proportion (albeit it a minority) are feeling a positive impact on their own pocket. This is despite the fact that half the public (50%) do not expect their personal financial situation to improve in 2014, an expectation that the occupants of 10 and 11 Downing Street will be working hard to dispel over the coming months.
But what may cause the most sleepless nights among the Prime Minister and his Chancellor as they chase Labour in the opinion polls is the perception of whether we are really all in this together. At 50%, people in the AB social grade are more than twice as likely as those in the DE social grade (22%) to say that the UK economy has improved in the past three months.
Confidence in economic growth is returning, but it is not yet being felt by all. Returning the focus to austerity will inevitably affect for the worse those who are least optimistic about a return to economic growth. We are certainly not yet all in this together.
Methodology note: ComRes interviewed 2,047 British adults online between 3rd and 5th January 2014. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.