LONDON (Reuters) - Britons remain gloomy about their financial prospects but the Conservative Party is seen as having the best policies to manage a struggling economy, the latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI monthly poll showed.
Labour remained the most popular party, but its support had slipped to its lowest level since last October. Labour leader Ed Miliband’s personal ratings were the lowest since he became party leader last September, falling back after he made a strong impression during a phone-hacking scandal.
Britain has been ruled by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition since May 2010 and a national election is not due until 2015.
However, the main parties will hold their annual conferences in the coming three weeks and their leaders will be looking closely at the opinion polls to gauge the national mood before they face the party faithful.
Thirty-three percent of those polled thought the Conservatives had the best policies for the economy, against 23 percent who backed Labour and eight percent for the Lib Dems.
The coalition is pushing through a radical austerity programme that will cut government spending in many departments by a fifth.
With inflation outstripping wage rises and unemployment rising, 52 percent thought that the economic condition of the country would get worse over the next year, and only a fifth forecast an improvement.
The Conservatives’ poll ratings have proved resilient despite the faltering economy and the worst rioting in generations that shook English cities last month.
Among those certain to vote, support for the Conservatives was at 35 percent, effectively unchanged from last month. Labour stood on 37 percent, down 3 points, while the Lib Dems languished on 13 percent.
Support for the Lib Dems has fallen by around 10 points since the last election, with supporters angry that the party dropped policies like its opposition to higher student tuition fees when it entered government.
The Lib Dems hold their annual party conference in Birmingham from Saturday.
Party leader Nick Clegg divides his own party supporters, with 50 percent of Lib Dems satisfied with his performance but 43 percent dissatisfied.
Among the public at large, 47 percent said they were dissatisfied with the way Labour leader Miliband was doing his job, while only 31 percent were satisfied.
Miliband became Labour leader last September, pipping his brother David to the post but has so far struggled to make much of an impact.
He won plaudits earlier this year for his robust response to a phone-hacking scandal centred on Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper, but needs to build on that with a strong performance at his party conference at the end of September.
One crumb of comfort for Miliband might be that more than half of those polled were dissatisfied with Prime Minister David Cameron’s performance.
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,008 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 10-12 September 2011. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
Reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by Janet Lawrence