But the coalition needn't hit the panic button just yet. In spite of that specific question about deficit reduction strategies, 53 percent of respondents say that the government is handling the economy well. And 59 percent are happy with the coalition overall, against 36 percent who aren't. Admittedly, those numbers are slipping in a negative direction – but, as it stands, this poll is not a sign of rank unpopularity.
The lesson for the coalition is one that has been made with machine gun regularity over the past few weeks: it needs to do more to sell its economic policy. A couple of months ago, it looked almost as though the argument had been won. But with the spending review approaching, the government's rhetorical basis for cuts is weakening. The problem may be that the struggle is taking place on numerous fronts: laying the blame onto Labour, preparing the public for the scale of what's to come, countering the shouts of "regressive" from the sidelines, and so on. But, then, it's these situations when the bully pulpit of government should come into its own.