CORRECTED: Britain's Lib Dems suffer after austerity budget: poll

27th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Liberal Democrats lost support after they formed a coalition with the Conservatives and agreed to an emergency budget aimed at slashing the public deficit, polls published Sunday found.

While the Conservatives were on 41 percent, up two points, and the opposition Labour were up four points on 35 percent, the Lib Dems plummeted five points to 16 percent, according to an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph.

At their high point during the election campaign, the Liberal Democrats were on 31 percent with ICM and have not been as low as 16 percent since January 2009, the newspaper said.

ICM interviewed 1,006 adults after the coalition on Tuesday launched an emergency package of higher taxation and spending cuts amid intense concern about sky-high debt levels in Europe.

In a separate YouGov poll of 2,500 people, published by The Observer, 48 percent of those who voted for the Lib Dems in the May 6 election said they were now less inclined to back them again as a direct result of the increase, from 17.5 percent to 20 percent, in the VAT levied on goods and services.

The VAT increase had been opposed by the Liberal Democrats before they agreed to form a coalition with the Conservatives, after the Tories failed to win an outright majority.

However, ICM found that most of those polled approve the government's harsh austerity measures.

Measures that received strong backing included reducing tax credits, which was supported by 80 percent of people, more medical assessments for Disability Living Allowance (82 percent), a levy on banks (78), and reforming housing benefit (68).

Less popular but still favoured by the majority include freezing child benefit, which was supported by 51 percent. Raising VAT was the only unpopular measure, with 38 percent backing it and 60 percent against.

Sixty percent agreed with cutting spending in all government departments, except for overseas aid and health, by a quarter, and 53 percent agreed with freezing pay for all public-sector workers earning over 21,000 pounds (31,600 dollars/25,600 euros) a year.

Martin Boon of ICM said: "By and large the public have reacted positively to the Budget measures and this is reflected in (finance minister) George Osborne's -- and the coalition government's -- performance rating.

"But real concerns for the Liberal Democrats are evident."

© 2010 AFP

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