Poll on the Economy

PEF and CLASS commissioned a new opinion poll – released today (16th May 2018) which has found that almost two thirds of people don’t know what a ‘government deficit’ is, and two out of every five citizens don’t know what ‘austerity’ means.

Despite this lack of knowledge, 8 out of 10 people think they understand the economy, and three quarters of those surveyed will decide how to vote on the basis of how competent they think political parties are at economics.

The Survation poll highlighted the shocking levels of economic illiteracy on a key voting issue which will be at the heart of the next election. The results come as a group of top economists gather in Parliament later this week in an attempt to make economics more accessible to the wider public.

The poll also found:

  • One third (33%) of the public believe the Government programme of public
  • sector cuts is an “ideological project”A similar proportion – 31% – thought austerity was bad for the UK economyAlmost one if four (24%) thought the most important task for government in managing the economy was ‘balancing the budget’, this was ahead of investing in the productive potential of the economy (19%) and making the best use of scarce resources (16%)BBC News was the top source of news on economy the most trusted source to tell the truth. The Sun was the most distrusted, followed by the Daily Mail
  • ‘Friends and family’ were only marginally behind the BBC as the most trusted source on the economy
  • At the other end of the scale, Twitter and Facebook both scored badly on trust.

The opinion poll found that Conservative voters were more likely to believe that further cuts in public spending were necessary (64%). Over half of all Labour voters (51%) opposed the imposition of further cuts.

Conservatives were rated more competent at managing the economy than Labour (36% to 24%), although Labour scored better on being trusted to tell the truth about the economy. 39% of the public trust Labour a lot or a little, one point behind the Conservatives.

Dr Faiza Shaheen, Director of CLASS, said:

“Economic illiteracy undermines the ability of our democracy to function. Austerity has been the core of economic policy since 2010, yet most people cannot tell the difference between government debt and the deficit. Results also raise questions about how much people would understand the economic component of any Brexit deal.

It is not just the general public that lack understanding – our leading journalists and political leaders often present economic arguments without debate. Ten years after the financial crisis, the public are still being hoodwinked by ideologically driven policies.”

Patrick Allen, Founder and Chair of the Progressive Economy Forum, added:

“8 years of austerity have caused significant increases in poverty, inequality and the slowest recovery from a recession since the Napoleonic wars. It is shocking that many are unaware that these damaging policies were completely unnecessary and unsupported by leading economists.

It is PEF’s vital mission to improve people’s understanding of the economy and the positive role that a progressive economic policies can play to restore the economy to prosperity so that they can make an informed choice at the next election.”