The public does not want the tax cuts Truss and Sunak promise, poll reveals cost of living crisis in the UK

Written by Javed Iqbal

The majority of people do not want taxes to be lowered, and more than a quarter actually want them to rise in order to spend more on public services, a new Observer poll has revealed.

Despite a Tory leadership contest dominated by the timing of tax cutsthe latest Opinium survey found no major noise for them, with concerns about the funding of schools and the NHS heading into the autumn.

About a third (34%) say taxes and spending on public services should remain at current levels, while 26% believe there should be an increase in taxes to increase funding. Only 22% said taxes should be lowered and less spent on public services.

The lack of enthusiasm was also evident among those who voted Conservative at the last election, with 41% saying they wanted to see the level remain as it is now. Meanwhile, 27% want to see a tax cut and 22% want to see an increase.

Liz Truss, the front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, has promised one immediate program of tax cuts costing around £30bn, to reverse the increase in national insurance contributions and drop a planned increase in corporation tax. Rishi Sunak has said that tax cuts will be prioritized and promised one 1p income tax reduction in 2024 – but wants to curb inflation first.

The tone of the debate is causing dismay in Whitehall, with the candidates battling it out as the threat of recession and rising cost of living continues to rise. “What was Westminster’s response? Mismanaged government, months of PM fratricide and now a farcical leadership debate dominated by fantasy tax promises – which will produce a weak, ill-suited new Truss government unable to deal with the coming autumn tsunami,” said one Whitehall source.

Senior Tories have warned that Truss’s tax cuts will boost inflation, but the public is divided on their impact. Around a quarter (24%) think tax cuts will cause inflation to rise, while 12% agree with Truss that it would cause the rate to fall – while 24% believe it would make no difference.

The Opinium poll also reveals that Tory voters now look set to be won by Truss, who has led polls of Tory MPs throughout the contest. The proportion of 2019 Tory voters who think she “looks like a Prime Minister-in-waiting” has gone from +5% to +28% overall since the last Opinium poll. Sunak has seen his rating drop from +14% to +6%. Among 2019 Tory voters, 48% think Truss would make the best Prime Minister, compared to 22% who chose Sunak.

Truss poll data

It suggests that many consider Truss’ victory a foregone conclusion, even though there are still weeks left in the competition. Sunak’s campaign has insisted he can still win and that opinion polls of Tory MPs should not be relied upon.

In a race where the candidates regularly make announcements in an attempt to win over the 160,000 Tory members with a vote in the contest, Sunak is today trying to appeal to them with a promise to crack down on underperforming university degrees for students. He also promised to strengthen vocational training.

Adam Drummond, associate director at Opinium, said how Tory voters now rated Liz Truss across a number of positive attributes were “up by double-digit amounts”.

Sunak poll data

“Tory voters believe they are more likely to win the next election with Truss than Sunak, and when the two candidates are put head-to-head against Keir Starmer among all voters, Sunak trails by 4 ( essentially the same as Boris Johnson) while Truss leads by 1, although the real winner in all these head-to-heads is ‘none of these’, which is higher than any individual candidate,” he said.

“But in October, energy prices will rise by 70% and the Bank of England is predicting a five-quarter recession, and any honeymoon the new Prime Minister gets is likely to be short-lived.”

Opinium surveyed 2,010 people online from August 3 to 5.

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Javed Iqbal

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