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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 12:51 GMT
Voters' thumbs up to Budget

Nick Assinder

Gordon Brown's pre-election Budget appears to have received a massive thumbs up from voters.

News Online 1000
Surveys by ICM
By internet and telephone
Results weighted to profile all UK adults
Surveys conducted through election campaign
An ICM poll for BBC News Online suggests an overwhelming 63% approve of Mr Brown's package - even though the majority do not think they will be better off as a result. Only 23% disapproved of it.

And, in a piece of bad news for William Hague, even 36% of Tory voters who took part liked what the chancellor did last week.

The figures indicate that Mr Brown managed to pull off the delicate balancing trick of limiting tax cuts to specific groups while still increasing spending in the key areas of health and education.

Click here for full figures

Only one in 10 people believe they will be worse off as a result of his taxation and spending measures.

However, the bad news for the government is that voters clearly believe the Budget failed to do enough to help pensioners and motorists.

A majority of 58% of those questioned said they believed the chancellor should have done more to help pensioners, while a massive 72% wanted more cuts in petrol tax.

Some 49% thought he had not done enough for motorists overall. Only 33% thought he had got it right for drivers.

That will worry ministers who have been eager to placate the two groups after last summer's crisis which saw the government plunge to its lowest ever poll ratings as a result of protests over fuel tax and pensions.

Disappointment for Tories

However, the poll will make disappointing reading for William Hague and shadow chancellor Michael Portillo whose charge that Labour is all about raising taxes clearly has not stuck.

Exactly half of those polled now believe Labour is the best party on the economy, an increase of 8% over last month's BBC News Online poll.

Support for the Tories as the most trusted party to run the economy has plummeted over 10% from 33% last month to just 22% now.

In addition, Mr Hague's standing fell compared with his rivals on the issue of who would make the best prime minister.

Mr Blair received the backing of 47% and Mr Hague only 14% - down 8% compared with last month and only just ahead of the Lib Dems' Charles Kennedy on 13%.

Labour also maintained its Online 1000 lead on most of the issues.

Labour ahead on issues

In the key areas of the health, education, crime, Europe and transport, Labour is in the lead while the Tories are actually losing ground according to the survey.

A total of 45% trust the government on the NHS, an increase of 4% since February, compared to just 14% for the Tories, a slump of 10%.

On education, 44% trust Labour, up just 1%, while only 17% back the Tories, another slide of 8%.

Despite serious fears over rising violent crime, the government is still trusted most on law and order with 35% support, up 2%. This compares to 22% for the Tories, a drop of 5%.

Perhaps most surprisingly, 34% think Labour can best protect Britain in the EU compared to 30% for the Tories, a slide of 7% for William Hague who has been desperate to turn the election campaign into a virtual referendum on Europe.

A total of 36%, up 4%, trust Labour on transport, compared to 10%, down 4%, for the Tories.

The government loses out on asylum seekers, the issue which has seen William Hague accused of whipping up nationalistic sentiments.

But even there the lead is narrow with only 28% backing the Tories and 26% Labour. Some 14% believe the Liberal Democrats have the best policies to deal with asylum seekers.

But a significant 24% say they don't know which party has the best policies on this issue.

ICM interviewed 1032 adults aged 18+ via the Internet and by telephone between the 8th and 10th March 2001. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

The BBC News Online 1000 will continue to give their opinions on political issues over the coming weeks of the election campaign.


Related stories:

10 Mar 01 |  Online 1000
Online 1000 Budget
10 Mar 01 |  UK Politics
Boost for early election
10 Mar 01 |  Online 1000
Online 1000 Issues and Foot and mouth
15 Feb 01 |  Online 1000
Voters' Budget wish-list

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