The latest Ipsos Political Monitor, taken 1 to 8 November 2023, explores public attitudes towards Britain’s public services, the economy and tax and spend policies ahead of the upcoming Autumn Statement. We also update our latest voting intention figures and leader satisfaction ratings.
Attitudes towards public services
Perceptions of public services in Britain are worsening over time. 78% currently think the quality of public services has got worse over the past 5 years (including 70% of Conservative supporters). This compares to 63% who said the same in March 2017 ahead of the General Election later that year, and 40% back in November 2012.
Looking forward, expectations for the future of various aspects of life in Britain are also on balance pessimistic, and all have got worse since February 2020. In particular, 64% expect the NHS to get worse over the next few years (up 18 points since February 2020, similar to the previous worst score of 62 per cent in March 2017).
On other areas of public policy:
- 52% expect opportunities for young people to get worse (up 13 points since February 2020)
- 47% are pessimistic about the quality of the environment (up 8)
- 44% think the quality of education (up 17) and public transport (up 14) will get worse
- 42% expect the way their area is policed to get worse (up 20)
- 41% are pessimistic about skills in Britain’s workforce (up 6)
Overall, 75% (up 5 since February this year) disagree that in the long term the government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s public services (19% agree). This is the highest figure to be critical of the government’s long-term policies for public services since the Ipsos series began in 2001.
On the other hand, 50% agree that ‘in the long term, the Labour party’s policies would improve the state of Britain’s public services, while 39% disagree.
Tax and spend policies and the economy
In the run up to next week’s Autumn Statement, there is little consensus of support among Britons when it comes the potential for increasing taxes, cutting spending on public services or increasing borrowing.
Britons are most opposed to policies that would cut spending on public services. 66% oppose cutting spending to reduce taxes and 64% oppose cutting spending to reduce borrowing and the national debt (even most Conservative supporters are opposed, at 58% and 52% respectively).
The public are most likely to support increasing taxes to increase spending on public services but even this divides opinion – with 43% in favour and 41% opposed. However, tax increases to reduce borrowing and debt is less supported (27%).The second most supported policy is to increase public borrowing and the national debt to increase spending on services, but again this splits opinion (35% support this and 39% oppose). However, increasing borrowing / debt to cut taxes is opposed by 58%, with just one in five (21%) supporting the policy.
Overall, just one in four (25%) agree that ‘in the long term, the government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s economy’. 68% disagree, up 9 points since February and the worst score since Ipsos started asking the question in July 1980.
By way of comparison, 37% agree that ‘In the long term, the Labour party’s policies would improve the state of Britain’s economy’ and 50% disagree.
When asked ‘Do you think you and your family would be better off under a Conservative government or a Labour government,’ 29% say a Labour government, 16% say a Conservative government but 50% say it would make no difference (little change from March).
Voter preferences are largely unchanged from October with Labour’s lead at 21 points. Labour stand at 46% (+2 from October), Conservatives 25% (+1), Lib Dems 12% (-1), Greens 6% (-3), Other 10% (-1).
Leader satisfaction ratings
Eight in 10 Britons are dissatisfied with the way the Government is running the country. 13% are satisfied, giving a net score of -67, similar to the -66 recorded last month.
21% are satisfied with the job Rishi Sunak is doing as PM (-5 from October) and 66% are dissatisfied (+3). His net satisfaction score of -45 now matches September’s record low having recovered slightly to -37 last month.
Keir Starmer registers a net satisfaction rating of -21 with 29% satisfied with the job he is doing as Labour leader (-1 from October) and 50% dissatisfied (-3).
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, said, “Despite all the excitement over Cabinet reshuffles this week, the longer-term challenge facing Rishi Sunak’s government is responding to the depth of public concern over the state of Britain’s public services.
“There is a widespread belief that public services have got worse over the last five years – even among Conservative supporters – and little optimism that they will get better in the future.
“There is particular worry for the NHS, which means whilst the Prime Minister looks to be on course to meet his pledge to halve inflation, this winter may see a focus on his other pledges to deliver improvements to the health service.
“With the Autumn Statement next week, the Chancellor will be looking to rebuild public confidence in the government’s long-term plans, but against a backdrop of little public consensus for increasing taxes, cutting spending or increasing borrowing.
Labour meanwhile are on stronger ground on public services where they have more of people’s confidence, but they still have more to do to convince voters that they would make a significant improvement to the state of their personal financial situation.”