David Cameron enjoys a clear popularity lead over his political rivals in a new poll, but his Conservative Party is tied in a neck-and-neck fight with Labour for voter support.
An ICM survey for The Guardian newspaper found that 48 per cent of those questioned thought the Prime Minister was doing a good job, compared to 43 per cent who said he was doing a bad one – an overall positive rating of plus five.
By contrast, Labour’s Ed Miliband had a rating of minus 17 and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg minus 19, while Chancellor George Osborne scored an overall rating of minus two.
The poll suggests Mr Cameron is significantly more popular than the coalition Government.
Almost half (47 per cent) of those questioned said the coalition was doing a bad job, against 39 per cent who thought it was doing well. The Tories have enjoyed a boost in the polls following Mr Cameron’s dramatic veto of a proposed European Union treaty in Brussels earlier this month, at one point establishing a six point lead over Labour.
But the poll suggested that this veto bounce may be fading, with Tories up only one point compared to a similar survey last month on 37 per cent, a single point ahead of Labour on 36 per cent (down two). Lib Dems moved up one point to 15 per cent.
Some 50 per cent of voters said Mr Cameron was “good in a crisis”, while 40 per cent said he was not.
For Labour leader Ed Miliband, the position was reversed, with just 21 per cent finding him good in a crisis and 44 per cent saying he was not.
Some 55 per cent said Mr Cameron had the courage to say what is right rather than what is popular, against 37 per cent who disagreed.
On the same measure, Mr Miliband scored 41 per cent positive responses, against 43 per cent negative.
Only 34 per cent of voters said the PM “understands people like me”, while 59 per cent said he did not, but Mr Miliband scored only slightly better, with 37 per cent saying he understood people like them and 47 per cent disagreeing.
Perhaps most worryingly for Labour after a year in which growth has slumped and some observers are predicting a “double dip” recession, 44 per cent of those questioned said they thought Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne best able to handle the economy, compared to 23 per cent for Mr Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.
There were clear signs of pessimism about the country’s future, with 55 per cent saying they were not confident in the economy and their own financial position and 62 per cent saying Britain will get less prosperous over the course of 2012.
Only 27 per cent said they expected the economy to have “started to turn the corner” by the end of next year, against 68 per cent who said the UK will still be in a downturn.
Some 40 per cent reported having cut back on spending on presents, food, drink and other festivities this Christmas, while 19 per cent said they had spent more. Labour and Lib Dem voters were more likely to say they had cut back (42 per cent) than Conservatives (32 per cent).
Mr Miliband vowed yesterday to “carry on being what I am” as he staged a fightback amid the poor poll ratings.
The Labour leader said the party was more united than it had been in years and had enjoyed significant successes, including winning by-elections, gaining 850 additional councillors and 65,000 new members.
In an interview with the Mirror, he said: “This is a more united Labour Party than people have seen in a long time. That’s the real truth.
“We are a party in the business of caring about what the public are thinking and looking outwards at the public, particularly given that 2012 will be a tough year for them.
“I’ll carry on being what I am. I think that’s what people want and I think it’s the right thing to do.”
ICM questioned 1,003 adults on December 20 and 21 for The Guardian.