LONDON (Reuters) - A little over half of Britons think Prime Minister Gordon Brown is damaging the country by staying in power, according to a survey published on Sunday.
In the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, 51 percent of 1,900 people sampled said they agreed with the statement: “Gordon Brown’s continued presence as prime minister is damaging the country.”
Twenty-seven percent said they disagreed.
The poll, conducted on Thursday and Friday, came after European and local elections at which Brown’s Labour party, in power for 12 years, suffered substantial setbacks.
It also follows a parliamentary expenses scandal that has affected all parties but damaged the incumbents more, provoking popular anger.
In terms of party support, 40 percent of those polled favoured the Conservatives, against 24 percent for Labour. The gap of 16 points remains the same from the last poll, but both parties have lost support since last month, when the Conservatives stood at 43 percent and Labour 27 percent.
The difference has not been allocated to the third party, the Liberal Democrats, but to smaller parties, such as the Greens, the British National Party and the UK Independence Party, which opposes membership of the European Union.
Support for smaller parties rose to 18 percent from 12 percent, the poll showed.
The YouGov survey also showed increasing support for an early election, although that prospect looks less likely now that Brown has fought off a challenge to his authority and reshuffled his cabinet. The next election does not have to be held until June 2010.
Nearly half (49 percent) of those polled said they thought there should be an immediate election, while 24 percent said it should be held in the autumn. Only 20 percent said the government should wait until next year to call the ballot.
While most of the poll findings looked negative for Brown and his government, it was not all good for Conservative leader David Cameron, who is widely expected to become prime minister if the party wins the next election.
Only 36 percent of those polled said they thought Cameron had the right policies to deal with the country’s difficulties, and half said he did not have the right policies.
Cameron’s overall popularity rating was put at 25 percent, versus minus 50 percent for Brown. While that is a big lead over Brown, it is not overwhelmingly positive in terms of how voters perceive Cameron as a potential prime minister.
Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Alison Williams