Students Staff

17 January 2014

Economy growth does little to improve party popularity

Colchester Campus

The changing fortunes of the British economy are having little impact on the popularity of the Coalition government, according to new research led by Essex.

In fact, it seems there is a growing perception among voters that no major party can solve Britain’s economic problems.

Whereas evidence shows that when Labour was in office, support for the party was strongly influenced by the state of the economy - as was support for the Conservatives - all that has changed, with the current Coalition feeling none of the effects of a fairly rapid growth in economic optimism which has taken place since early 2013.

The study, ‘The Economic and Electoral Consequences of Austerity Policies in Britain’, which involved academics at Essex working with colleagues at the University of Texas, examined the relationship between electoral support and the economy between 2004 and 2013, paying particular attention to the impact of the economic strategy pursued by the Coalition government in Britain since the general election in May 2010.

Professor Paul Whiteley, from the Department of Government at Essex, said there were two reasons why the relationship had changed between electoral support and economy.

“Despite the optimism in the national economy, the number of voters who feel affected by the recession has hardly changed, so individuals may be aware that the economy is recovering from recession, but they have yet to feel the benefits themselves,” explained Professor Whiteley.

The second reason for this shift in voter thinking, according to the report, is the growing perception that no major party can solve Britain’s economic problems. This perception reduces support for both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, although Labour appears to have escaped the logical consequences of it.

“With regard to the prospects for the 2015 general election, the Coalition government is now almost entirely reliant on the return of economic optimism being translated into a ‘feel good’ factor at the level of the individual voter,” added Professor Whiteley. “But it will not be able to take credit for economic recovery until real incomes start rising again for the average citizen.”


Note to editors

For more information or to interview Professor Paul Whiteley please call the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

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