The Budget won’t help with the cost of living and will benefit the rich more than the poor, the public believes – despite voters backing each individual measure announced by Jeremy Hunt.
An exclusive poll for i by BMG Research found that Rishi Sunak is closing the popularity gap with Sir Keir Starmer, although the Conservatives still trail a long way behind Labour.
The pollster said the Budget was a “qualified success”, particularly in comparison to Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini Budget” which sparked a markets meltdown, but warned it “does very little to shift the dial”.
Each of the measures contained in the Budget is supported by more people than oppose it, the BMG survey found, with the fuel duty freeze, extension of energy bills support and end of the penalty applied to people who use prepayment meters the most popular policies.
The most politically controversial policy, lifting the cap on tax-free pension savings for millionaires, is backed by 38 per cent of the public with 20 per cent against. It is narrowly supported even by Labour voters, with 33 per cent in favour and 30 per cent opposed.
But asked their response to the Budget overall, 31 per cent said they felt negative while 25 per cent were positive and 42 per cent had no view either way.
Forty per cent said they thought it would mostly benefit people on higher incomes and with greater wealth, compared to 12 per cent who predicted it would help the poorest most.
Voters tended to agree that the Budget would help grow the economy and encourage businesses to invest – but they suggested it would not help public services or individual taxation levels. And only 23 per cent thought it would help with the cost of living, with 32 per cent saying it would have a negative impact on that metric.
BMG’s Adam King said: “Jeremy Hunt has had 6 months to prepare his first full Budget following the disastrous ‘Kami-Kwasi’ mini Budget last year. The overall pitch that Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak are attempting to make to the public is around competence and stability. Some of the headline measures are not as eye-catching, making a case that the Conservatives can run things more competently and calmly with the grown-ups back in charge.
“Viewed in these terms, there is a case to mark the Budget as a qualified success. Albeit a low bar, Hunt’s Budget is viewed much more positively than Kwarteng’s mini Budget.” But he added: “The Budget does very little to shift the dial politically, at least in the short term. It is still early days, but there are no obvious signs of any post-Budget bounce for the Conservatives.”
Overall voting patterns appear unchanged since February, with the Tories stuck on 29 per cent – the same as last month – and Labour on 46 per cent, putting Sir Keir on course for a landslide general election victory. The Liberal Democrats are on 8 per cent, Reform UK on 6 per cent and the Greens on 4 per cent.
But Mr Sunak’s personal ratings are improving after hitting a low point at the beginning of this year. 29 per cent of voters approve of his performance in office with 40 per cent disapproving, for a net rating of -11 – up from -20 in February. Sir Keir has slipped back to evens with 30 per cent in favour and 30 per cent against, down from +3 previously.
BMG Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,546 GB adults online between 15 and 16 March. Data are weighted. BMG are members of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules.