The results show that 45% of voters believe the Prime Minister has done a good job in handling the crisis, with just 23% holding him personally responsible for it. Relatively few hold George Bush responsible either (25%). But it’s the banks that the electorate thinks are to blame, with 70% of respondents blaming US banks and 61% holding British banks responsible.
The BES findings – the first to be published - show that half the respondents have been affected by the financial crisis and about a third think that the Government has handled it very well or fairly well.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Paul Whiteley from the University of Essex, which is leading the Study, said: “These results are extremely interesting and are good news for the Government and Gordon Brown. They seem to show that the Prime Minister is to a large extent insulated from the blame and that people believe that if anyone can help the country through the crisis, it’s him.”
Professor Whiteley says the results also have clear implications for David Cameron and his party. “Making personal attacks on Gordon Brown and focusing on future tax increases may not serve the Conservatives well. Voters are clearly more concerned about the immediate measures on offer to help them, and are also expressing confidence in the Prime Minister’s handling of the situation. If the Conservatives are to have an impact on the current debate and arrest their decline in the polls, David Cameron needs a narrative which explains how they would get out of the crisis and what they would do differently from the government. Up to this point their narrative has been almost wholly negative and essentially reactive to the government”.
The BES is the UK’s top political science research study and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It investigates why people vote, and why they choose one party rather than another when they do vote. It has been held for every general election since it was introduced in 1964. Since its inception it has only ever been conducted by researchers at either Essex or the University of Oxford.
In the run-up, during and after the next general election researchers will carry out a series of major daily and monthly national surveys to investigate why some people vote while others don’t; what factors explain which party a voter chooses; what factors explain the outcome of the election; and how the election affects public attitudes and British democracy more generally.
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