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Cynical Voters Think Tax Cuts Are An Election "Bribe", New Survey Shows

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt (Alamy)

3 min read

Exclusive: Almost three quarters of people believed Rishi Sunak's government has cut tax as a pre-election bribe for their vote, rather than because it feels it is the "right thing to do" for the country, in a major new opinion poll.

Seventy-four per cent of respondents to Thinks Insight & Strategy's latest Mood of the Nation survey said they were closer to agreeing with the statement that ministers are reducing tax "to try and persuade people to vote for them", while just 18 per cent were closer to the belief that it is "because they believe it is the right thing to do for UK economy and public services".

The survey, shared exclusively with PoliticsHome, polled over 2,000 people of all political persuasions nationwide between 22-24 March about how they are feeling about the country, politics and their lives as the UK approaches a general election. Sunak must call an election before the end of this year.  

At last month's Spring Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced a further two per cent cut to National Insurance contributions, and Sunak has indicated that he wants to announce further tax reductions before the country next goes to the polls. 

However, Thinks Insight & Strategy's survey results indicate significant public cynicism about the Government's plan to focus on tax cuts between now and polling day, suggesting it may not persuade them to vote for the Tories. 

The poll also found that more people "would prefer the government to spend more on public services, even if it means taxes going up" (51 per cent), than those who "would prefer the Government to cut my taxes even if it means reducing spending on public services" (37 per cent).

As for the Spring Budget itself, which was seen as a key moment in Sunak's bid to reverse his party's fortunes, the findings suggest it didn't have a great deal of cut-through with voters.

Twenty-one per cent of the public say they didn’t pay attention to the fiscal event earlier this month, while 26 per cent said they couldn’t remember anything about it.

The survey picked up a moderate belief among respondents that some of the measures within the Spring Budget, like cutting National Insurance and freezing fuel and alcohol duties, would leave them better off.

However, when asked about the Spring Budget as an overall package, more people said it would leave them worse off (23 per cent) than better off (15 per cent). Nearly half (44 per cent) said it would make no difference.

When it comes to Sunak and Hunt's headline tax reduction, the findings suggest people expect any positive impact on their situations to be small.

Seventy-three per cent of people were closer to describing cutting National Insurance as making "almost no difference" to their personal finances, while just 18 per cent were closer to describing it as having a "big" difference. 

The downbeat feeling was reflected in focus groups conducted alongside the survey. Participants from Bolton and Basingstoke had voted Conservative at the 2019 general election, but many were unsure whether they would do so again. 

Anthony, 49, in Bolton, Greater Manchester, said the further 2 per cent cut to National Insurance "feels like a bit of a bribe without any common sense behind it".

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