Jonathan Jones

What did the public make of the Budget?

What did the public make of the Budget?
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After weeks of hearing what people think about the policies that Osborne might’ve adopted, we now have the first evidence of what they make of the Budget itself. Today’s YouGov poll lists eight of its main policies, and it seems they fit into three broad groups. First, the very popular ones: raising the personal allowance and increasing stamp duty for £2 million houses. Second, those backed by the majority but not so overwhelmingly: the corporation tax cut, the child benefit changes, Sunday trading during the Olympics and the tobacco duty rise. And finally, the unpopular measures: cutting the 50p tax rate and phasing out the extra personal allowance for over-65s.

None of these are particularly surprising, although it is eye-catching just how strong support for the personal allowance rise is — 90 per cent back it. Also, opinion on cutting the 50p tax rate is not as bad for Osborne as in previous polls — and significantly, Tory supporters now back it by two-to-one (they were two-to-one opposed in January). Osborne’s most unpopular move actually seems to be something he left out of the Budget. 71 per cent think he should’ve reduced fuel duty, while only 19 per cent say he was right to leave it unchanged.

 

But what about the overall package? Does this Budget reflect well on the Coalition or not? Will it boost the Conservative party’s poll rating and its hopes of a majority? The initial indicators aren’t good for the government. Just 32 per cent think it passes the all-important ‘fairness’ test, while 48 per cent think it’s unfair. That’s much worse than last year’s Budget, which 44 per cent thought was fair. And why do people think it’s unfair? Not because it hurts the poor — the public think they’ll pay less tax as a result. Instead, it’s because it’s seen as benefiting the rich (56 per cent say they’ll pay less) at the expense of average earners and the most important category in any poll: ‘people like yourself’.

 

Of course, that’s just the instant reaction. What’ll matter in the long term is the answer to a question the poll doesn’t ask: which policies will the public remember this Budget for? Yesterday’s papers focused on the ‘granny tax’ and the 50p rate. If those are the measures that stick in people’s minds, it looks like this’ll be seen as a bad Budget. If, instead, people remember this as the Budget that raised the personal allowance by £1,100 and increased stamp duty on expensive houses, it’ll be looked back on much more favourably.