Voters say: it's not Gordon's fault

FEW voters believe Gordon Brown is personally responsible for the current economic crisis. That's according to the first set of survey results from the University of Essex's British Election Study (BES), which indicates the electorate blame firmly at the banks.

Graham Dines

FEW voters believe Gordon Brown is personally responsible for the current economic crisis. That's according to the first set of survey results from the University of Essex's British Election Study (BES), which indicates the electorate blame firmly at the banks.

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 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 Colchester-based 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.”

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Asked about how they thought a Conservative government would have handled the crisis, more than a fifth of voters said very well or fairly well.

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. 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.

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