LONDON (Reuters) - Britons are increasingly gloomy about the economy, the latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll showed on Thursday, underlining the pressure on the government to support growth in its autumn financial statement next week.
Fifty eight percent of Britons think the economic situation will get worse over the next year, the highest figure since February 2009 when Britain was reeling from the effects of the global credit crisis.
Economic growth forecasts are expected to be cut sharply next week when the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) releases its latest estimates and the government is likely to have to admit it will miss a target of balancing the budget by 2015.
Unemployment is rising in Britain and wages are lagging behind inflation, weakening consumer demand and weighing on an economy also hit by weaker demand in continental Europe.
Support for the Conservatives remained unchanged at 34 percent, seven points behind Labour which has gained three points at the expense of minor parties.
The Conservatives have been ruling in partnership with the Liberal Democrats for 18 months in Britain’s first coalition since World War Two.
The compromises of coalition have sapped support for the Lib Dems, but their poll ratings appear to have stabilised at 12 percent. That is little more than half of their vote at the last general election.
The weak showing for the Lib Dems paradoxically helps to stabilise the coalition because the party is unlikely to pull the plug on the alliance and spark an election in which it would lose many of its parliamentary seats.
Eighty percent of those polled thought that the state of the European economy had either a great deal or a fair amount of influence over the state of the British economy.
The European Union is Britain’s largest trading partner and Prime Minister David Cameron has said that a resolution of the ongoing euro zone debt crisis would give a bigger boost to the UK economy than any other measure.
Britons were generally positive about how their politicians had responded to the economic crisis in Europe. Fifty two percent said Cameron and Finance Minister George Osborne had reacted very or fairly well.
Forty four percent said continental European politicians such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had responded well, against 41 percent who deemed their performance to be fairly or very bad.
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Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ across Britain for the November Reuters/Ipsos MORI Political Monitor. Interviews were conducted by telephone between November 19 to 21. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
Reporting by Keith Weir, editing by Paul Casciato