Students Staff

25 November 2008

Banks not Brown to blame for financial crisis say voters

Colchester Campus

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 British Election Study (BES), which shows the
electorate pointing the finger of 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

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."

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

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. 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.


For further information contact the University communications office on
01206 874377. Paul Whiteley is available for interview today and


For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 874377 or e-mail

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