Saturday, 30 October 2010

Housing Benefit - public opinion

It is interesting to note that, in this evening's YouGov poll tables for the Sunday Times, the result for the inevitable additional question regarding the housing benefit cap was almost three-quarters (72%) in favour, and just 16% against, with 13% "don't know". Even more interesting, 52% of Labour supporters agreed with the policy as against 35% disagreeing.

It's not all good news for the Coalition, though. Their overall approval rating is a nett minus one percent; and several percent more believe the deficit reduction should be delayed than those considering it should be tackled now. Those latter results are what I (and a number of others) expected at around this time, and probably to worsen considerably as the public spending restraints start to have an impact on people's lives.

However, on specific policies, I'd expect them to be sufficiently well argued for by the Coalition that the thinking public will understand them and see that, even if not perfect, they are the right approach and necessary. Thus we see an apparent contradiction in the poll results.

Just about everyone nowadays realises how bad our benefits system has been for a number of years and accepts sensible reforms, especially as that will provide more money for better uses than much of what it has been spent on during the Labour years. Thus there is a self-interest in supporting such specific changes. That self-interest opposes the principle of taking away money from "the public sector", though.

Some of this is down to media and political spin, such as the Green Party's assertion (appearing in local newspapers' letters columns this month) that every public sector job 'supports' one private sector job somehow. Their argument is specious and easily demolished, of course, but the less bright and inexperienced in the real world will often be taken in by such suggestions.

I am sure the Greens (and those like them, such as Labour and the Unions) are well aware that they are, of necessity, targeting the ignorant, but that there are enough of them to make a difference in the polls and, ultimately, at actual elections. It's not easy to combat this, but we have to do our best.

For a start, it should be noted that this policy was in Labour's own manifesto, as written by one Ed Miliband...

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