LONDON (Reuters) - Concerns about the future of the NHS have boosted support for the opposition’s healthcare policies, but that has yet to translate into increased support for Labour as a whole, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll.
June’s survey shows a third of people now think that Labour has the best policies on healthcare (37 percent) compared to 21 percent. This is a Labour lead of 16 points, compared to 9 points in March last year, when the question was last asked.
It is the highest lead Labour has enjoyed on healthcare - a key voting issue - since 2002. Healthcare was the second most important issue to voting at the 2010 general election after the economy.
The Conservative-led coalition government last week diluted plans for radical reform of the cherished National Health Service after complaints from nurses, doctors and patients.
Prime Minister David Cameron said his government had got things wrong after draft legislation prompted fears it planned to dismantle a system that gives patients free access to doctors and hospitals.
When asked about the NHS over the next 12 months, the most negative impact of the government’s reforms was expected to be seen on waiting times; two in five of those surveyed by Ipsos MORI thought waiting times will get worse.
While a significant minority thought the next 12 months would bring greater efficiency to the NHS (20 percent), twice as many thought the efficiency with which the NHS spends public money will get worse (39 percent). A similar proportion thought it would stay the same (35 percent).
However, the poll also suggests that concerns about healthcare have not yet shifted people’s voting plans.
In fact, support for the Conservatives increased slightly this month while the Labour vote share fell. Among all those who are certain to vote, 37 percent would vote Conservative, 39 percent would vote Labour while 11 percent would vote Liberal Democrat, the government’s junior coalition partners.
The public is evenly split on whether public sector workers are right to go on strike, suggesting public sector workers could struggle to win the battle for hearts and minds over their plans to stage mass stoppages.
Public sector union Unison has threatened a programme of rolling, widescale industrial action over changes to public pensions, and teachers and other groups have already voted to strike as the government slashes spending to rein in its deficit.
A third of the public thought trade unions had too much power today, although three-quarters believed they were essential to protect workers’ rights — a level that has changed little since Ipsos MORI first asked the question in 1975. ]
And while agreement that unions have too much power has increased since Ipsos MORI last asked the question in 1995 (35 percent compared to 24 percent), this is much lower than during the 1970s and 80s when over two-thirds of the public consistently agreed that unions were too powerful.
Technical data: Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,003 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 17-19 June 2011. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
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