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Growing Fear Cost Of Living Crisis Could Lead To Public Disorder

New polling shows people fear concerns over cost of living could spark civil unrest (Alamy)

4 min read

People blame the government for the UK's economic troubles and predict riots on the streets as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, according to a new poll.

A survey of 1,500 eligible voters in the UK for The House conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on 11 January 2023, found 56 per cent indicated that problems facing the economy were primarily caused by government mismanagement, compared to 31 per cent who blamed global events including the war in Ukraine.

A majority of 55 per cent said they were “significantly” or “fairly” concerned that rising cost of living could lead to outbreaks of public disorder as people struggle to afford essentials. A further 26 per cent said they were “slightly” concerned, with only 19 per cent not at all worried.

The figures will make for worrying reading for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who pledged in a New Year's speech to improve the economy by building on measures taken in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement.

Those financial plans appear to have done little to allay the fears of voters, with 74 per cent describing the state of the UK economy as “bad” or “very bad” – almost the same figure as in mid-October when former prime minister Liz Truss's government was in collapse following the catastrophic impact of her tax cutting "mini-Budget" on financial markets.

Just seven per cent of voters said they believed the UK economy was in a better state now than in November, soon after Sunak succeeded Truss, including only 10 per cent of Conservative voters.

The poll found people were concerned about the government's steps to tackle the cost of living crisis, with two-thirds saying they did not believe ministers were taking the right measures. The figures also show that nearly half (47 per cent) of 2019 Conservative voters were unhappy with Sunak's approach, compared to just 35 per cent who felt he was taking the right steps to improve household finances.

The Prime Minister is under pressure to transform the UK's financial situation, which continues to be dogged by inflation. The polling figures suggest growing concern among voters over rising costs in the coming months, with 58 per cent saying they were “fairly” or “very” concerned about their ability to afford their energy bills, including 54 per cent of Conservative voters.

The survey found that voters were taking a range of measures to try to reduce their energy consumption, with a majority saying they were keeping their heating off even when their home was cold, wearing more clothes than in previous years and cutting down on spending in other areas of their lives.

While ministers insist sluggish economic growth is caused by a global slowdown as a result of the Covid pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the poll found voters were unconvinced, with fewer than a third (31 per cent) saying global factors were the primary cause of the UK's economic woes.

Instead, 56 per cent blamed government mismanagement – down only four per cent since mid-October 2022 – including 75 per cent of 2019 Labour voters. Among Conservative voters, nearly half blamed global events, but a further 42 per cent suggested ministers were primarily responsible, while 10 per cent said they didn't know.

Concern about the economy and its impact on household finances was also prolific among Conservative voters. More than half (54 per cent) of Tory backers said they feared their personal financial situation would worsen over the next 12 months, just four per cent lower than Labour voters. That compared to only 12 per cent of Tory voters who believed their finances would improve in the next year, while around 30 per cent expected to see no change.

Responding to the results, Philip van Scheltinga, director of research at Redfield & Wilton said the feeling of "financial pain" among voters could have a significant impact on the Conservatives’ chances at the ballot box.

"The Prime Minister is right to identify the economy as his number one priority, but the urgency to address this problem was needed a long time ago, back when he was still chancellor," he said.

"Over the past year, people in Britain have suddenly felt much poorer; not just became poorer according to some abstract economic figure, they felt financial pain. The stickiness of this harsh feeling is going to be difficult to overcome at the next general election."

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