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Osborne could have a branding problem that would make him an electoral liability

December 7th, 2013


Voters turn against when told that a plan has his backing

Yesterday’s Ipsos-MORI poll on the Autumn Statement raises an issue that could be troublesome for the Tories as they head into the general election – a branding problem when George Osborne is involved.

Back in March the firm asked people to choose between two statements about the best way to deal with Britain’s economic difficulties – either tackling the national debt or increased government spending on investment:

    “(George Osborne argues that) Britain has a debt problem built up over many years, and we have got to deal with it. If we don’t, interest rates will soar. That’s why tackling the deficit and keeping interest rates low should be our top priority”

    “(Ed Balls argues that) Without growth in our economy, we are not getting the deficit down and are borrowing more. We need more government spending on investment to kick-start our economy and a temporary cut in taxes to support growth”

When presented just as two different ways of dealing with Britain’s economic difficulties 52% choose tackling the deficit compared with 41% who choose increased government spending on investment. However, if these statements are associated with Osborne and Balls respectively, the balance tips the other way and 37% prioritise tackling the deficit compared to 53% who choose increased government spending

These results can be seen in the chart below.

What this polling doesn’t tell us is whether this is Osborne-specific or applies to the Tories as a whole. Is the party brand still toxic?

The question in yesterday’s Autumn Statement poll was phrased with the names of Osborne and Ed Balls and 40% backed the latter to 24% for the former. If the March polling is in any way indicative then keeping Osborne’s name out of the question might have produced more positive results for the coalition.

For Labour and other parties who’ll be fighting the Tories at GE2105 the message is clear – feature Osborne as much as possible.

Mike Smithson