Cameron > The Coalition. We political spectators often compare David Cameron’s poll ratings to those of the Conservative Party – but how does he fare against his own Government? Every month, Ipsos MORI asks people whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the Government and with the Prime Minister. I’ve put their findings into the graph above. You’ll notice that, as with the party comparison, Cameron consistently comes out on top. His net satisfaction rating is currently 10 percentage points higher than the Government’s. The closest that gap has been is 2 points, last August.
By way of comparison (1) In the past twenty years,it’s been normal for Prime Ministers to be more popular than their Governments. Even Gordon Brown managed that in every month of his premiership. Tony Blair did so in every month but one. But, when you think about it, this is quite a quirk of people’s attitudes: a Government can be viewed negatively overall, but the man in charge of it can be floating among the positive numbers. This happened, strikingly, when Brown took over from Blair at the end of June 2007.
By way of comparison (2) In some respects, the performance of Cameron and the Coalition has reflected the New Labour years. We had the traditional uplift in support after the General Election, followed by a sharp decline. But there are some differences too. The Coalition is, on the whole, considerably more popular than the Brown regime, yet it wilts before the heights of the Blair era. It took Tone and his Government the best part of two terms to properly achieve the decline that Dave & Co. have managed in two years. Stare for long enough at the graph at the top of this post, and you’ll see the trend-lines going down, down, down.
It’s not the economy, stupid. Cameron and the Coalition have recovered from their lowest ratings, recorded in March 2013, but they’re still stuck in negative territory. Why so? As always with opinion polling, it’s easier to just set out the numbers than to explain them. Perhaps the hybridity of the Coalition has left people unsatisfied, or perhaps not enough has been done to celebrate the Government’s achievements in the round, or perhaps… well, your theories will be better than mine. But one conclusion can extracted from the graph: the health of the macro-economy isn’t everything to voters. If it were, the Government’s ratings would be healthier themselves.
The fear. These satisfaction ratings shouldn’t be taken as a guide for the forthcoming election, but they still ought to put the frighteners on our political class. It’s like I said, all the trend-lines are going down. Will the public have even less time for another compromise government formed from another hung parliament? Less patience with another five years of cuts? Thankfully, we’re not at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where only 8 per cent of people approve of the country’s leadership – but there’s still space to fall further.