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Jeremy Corbyn's Policies More Popular Than The Tories' - But Only If They Aren't Linked To Labour, Poll Suggests

Only 13% support the current levels of cuts taking place under the Tories.

13/10/2016 00:00 | Updated 13 October 2016

Most people say the Tories have the best policies on the economy, but the largest share of people prefer ideas actually espoused by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, according to a new poll.

Nearly half (45%) of people surveyed by YouGov said they want the government to increase public spending and raise taxes for the wealthiest people - both of which are policies called for by Labour.

Only 13% supported the current levels of cuts taking place under the Conservative Government, and 22% thought the cuts should continue but be scaled back.

Yet, when asked directly which party they think has the best policies on spending and taxation, 30% said the Tories while 16% said Labour. 

Infographic supplied by Statista

Despite Labour prioritising ‘an economy that works for all’ as point one of Jeremy Corbyn’s ten point plan at its recent conference, the poll commissioned by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) shows that while more people back Labour’s anti-austerity approach than any other, this doesn’t translate into support for the party on the issue of austerity.

The poll also found 58% of people oppose any form of private sector involvement in the NHS while 51% support some degree of public ownership of the railways, both ideas also in Labour’s manifesto but broadly opposed by the Tories.

Yet when asked which party would be better at “overseeing the balance between public and private ownership”, more people thought the Conservatives would be better at achieving the balance they wanted (24%), rather than Labour (16%).

The MRC claimed this showed a “worrying disconnect” between the policies voters support and which parties they associate with those policies.

Below are the poll results in full, with the percentage of respondents as a figure next to the answer:

YouGov
YouGov

The MRC blamed the “disconnect” on parts of the media for failing to “seriously report” on Corbyn’s policies.

Justin Schlosberg, Chair of the MRC, said: “We feel that much of the media have been more preoccupied with dismissing Jeremy Corbyn as ‘unelectable’ than with seriously reporting on the policies he represents.

“Since the economy is often the issue that wins or loses general elections, it is imperative that journalists now give due attention and scrutiny to the economic alternatives put forward by the official opposition, as well as other anti-austerity parties.

“This is not about a failure of communication on the part of Labour so much as a failure of nerve on the part of a great swathe of the news media. Without a change in approach, our democracy is in deep crisis.”

Neil Hall / Reuters
Corbyn's ideas are popular but Labour less so, the poll suggests

There have been repeated studies suggesting the media is biased against Corbyn, with the London School of Economics finding that 75% of press articles in one month “failed to accurately report his views”.

Media commentator and Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade agreed that Labour’s policies under Corbyn had not been reported in detail, and the most of the media was “antagonistic, and sometimes openly hostile” to the Labor leader.

But he told HuffPost UK it was unfair to blame media outlets for the poll’s findings. “Overall I would say that Labour’s policies – if they exist, and I’m being cynical already – have not been covered in any depth,” he said.

“That’s because, I think, firstly, [you have] a new leader who was very sketchy himself on policy.

“He came in with a different approach which was ‘We need a change of culture, we need to think more deeply about this and that.’ But there weren’t – and aren’t – firm policy proposals.” 

“In fairness, that would be the situation for any opposition party after an election with a new leader. It takes time to create policies, so in some ways it would be unfair to blame the media in those circumstances.”

Greenslade said he thought the contradictory poll results were “typical” of the different context in which people engage with politics.

“If you go into a street and ask people whether they want to pay more tax, they say no, but if you ask them if they think there should be extra public spending, they say yes. You can’t have both, and these are contradictions are embedded in our culture and society, and don’t reflect wider media coverage, nor indeed do the they reflect an understanding of what the parties stand for most of the time.”

In response, Schlosberg said: “The economy has been the focus of both Jeremy Corbyn’s summer leadership campaign as well as the Labour Party conference last month. From increasing the national living wage to £10/hour to setting up a national investment bank to boost jobs and growth, Labour could not have been more open and explicit about the economic alternatives it is now offering.”

Jonathan Hewett, Director of Interactive and Newspaper Journalism at City, University of London, said research has shown bias towards Corbyn in the media, “which is unsurprising in the case of some newspapers.”

“But other factors probably also underlie the apparent ‘disconnect’ between support for policies and for political parties – it’s not simply down to how journalists report on policy,” he added.

“Support for political parties is linked to how voters perceive party leaders, for example, including their credibility and competence – it’s not just about policies.

“In any case, what proportion of the public is sufficiently familiar with parties’ policies to be able to evaluate them effectively?

“This is probably reflected in the relatively high level of ‘don’t know’ responses in the survey ― between 35% and 39% for the three areas covered ― when people were asked which party had the best policies.

“At its best, journalism plays its part by questioning those who have power or influence, looking beyond headlines and spin – and getting into the nitty-gritty of policy proposals from all of the main parties (and sometimes from others, too). That applies to Conservative policy on Brexit, Labour policy on immigration, Lib Dem policy on security, SNP policy on education, and so on.

Isabel Infantes/PA Wire
Corbyn's policies could be viewed differently when not associated with Labour

“It’s also worth noting that the survey asked slightly different questions about policy and which party’s policies voters favoured. On policy, for example, those surveyed were asked, on the public sector and private sector, ‘In general, do you support or oppose some degree of private sector involvement in the running of NHS services?’ and ‘…some degree of public sector ownership of the railways?’.

“The ‘equivalent’ question on party support was: ‘Which do you think currently has the best policies on overseeing the balance between public and private ownership?’ There’s a difference of emphasis in the questions, which may have affected the responses.”

Schlosberg of the MRC said: “Our survey was designed explicitly to account for the fact that support for particular parties may be influenced by much more than just policies.

“That is why we carefully worded the questions to ask only which party has the best policies on particular economic issues.” 

He added: “The question on public/private sector did not emphasise the issues of NHS and railways, but rather reflected the thrust of public debate about where the boundaries between the public and private sector should be (re)drawn.”

He said the most interesting aspect of the findings was that “people who support anti-austerity alternatives are much less informed about which parties represent their views, compared to those in favour of austerity.”

“That is not a fault of the parties or politicians concerned because they could not possibly have done more to shout about the issues. But it does get to the heart of our democracy disconnect and it is surely the job of the fourth estate to redress it.”

Greenslade told HuffPost UK that Corbyn’s portrayal in much of the British media was a concern. “It’s undoubtably true that the overwhelming majority of mainstream media outlets are antagonistic, and sometimes openly hostile, to Corbyn and his wing at the Labour party.”

“Corybn represents something that the largely right-wing press believed was dead and buried, which is a socialist alternative to capitalism, that’s what really worries them.”

Asked whether this was of concern, he said: “That goes to a deeper question about the nature of press ownership and press freedom. It’s a large question. We have an openly partisan press, and people surely are aware of that. They choose the read the titles which reflect their views. And if they want to look elsewhere, at the BBC or something that is taken to be impartial, they can.”

The poll surveyed 2,093 adults online between October 5 and 6.

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