A third of British people think the government has done nothing well since 2019, according to polling that warns “red meat” policies no longer work.
Research by the Policy Exchange think-tank suggested trust has fallen amid rising fears over the cost of living and NHS crisis, and that even Conservative voters have a “net negative view” of the government on major issues.
When asked what the government had done well on since the last general election, when Boris Johnson won a large majority, 30 per cent of people wrote “nothing” and many more answered similarly.
Other responses to the open question included “f*** all”, “not a lot”, “no idea” and “absolutely nothing”, as well as “lying”, “lining their own pockets” and “making the rich richer”.
Some respondents cited the Covid vaccination programme as a success, and other positive answers included supporting Ukraine and enacting Brexit.
The Policy Exchange report called the findings “bleak” for the Conservative Party, saying that although significant policies had been delivered, the dominance of public concern over the cost of living and NHS was “eclipsing people’s perceptions of what has gone before”.
“The government has lost the benefit of the doubt with many voters,” it added.
“This in turn indicates that announcing ambitious policies – what is sometimes called ‘red meat’ – in areas such as stopping the small boats, is unlikely to convince, unless real evidence of delivery and improvement is evident.”
Polling indicated that the public overwhelmingly believes tackling the cost of living and reducing NHS waiting lists must be the government’s priorities for 2023, with the same concerns cutting across all age groups, social classes and political affiliations.
The highest priority for those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019 was stopping small boat crossings in the English Channel, but a third of Labour voters actively opposed the same policy.
While the government is considering anti-strike laws following a wave of industrial action affecting transport, the NHS and other public services, the research found a “moderately high degree of sympathy for the current strikes” among Conservative voters.
More than a third of all respondents opposed a policy of “making it more difficult for workers to strike”, while a quarter were against tougher measures against disruptive environmental protests and a fifth opposed reducing immigration by stopping small boats.
Polling also indicated strong public support for building more self-sufficient energy infrastructure, such as wind, solar and nuclear, while when asked how the government could cut public spending almost half of people said they would cancel HS2 or reduce spending on international aid.
The report concluded: “The polling shows that the government cannot run on its record – and that public faith is low.
“To win over the country, the government will need more than just words, but must be able to demonstrate delivery: on the cost of living, on the NHS and on stopping the small boats.”
In the survey by People Polling, 1,431 Britons were interviewed on 13 and 14 December.
It was published after Rishi Sunak said he was confident “better times lie ahead” as separate polling suggested Labour’s lead over the Tories may be more precarious than previously thought.
Analysis by the Best for Britain campaign group suggested Labour was on course for a majority of fewer than 60 seats at the next general election – far fewer than the landslide some have projected.
It warned that any tightening of the polls in the run-up to polling day – expected in spring 2024 – could cost Sir Keir Starmer the election.
In a video posted online on New Year’s Eve, the prime minister said he wanted people to feel “hopeful” going into the new year after a “tough” 12 months.
“I may have only had the job for several weeks at this point, but actually I feel good about the future,” he added.
“I feel positive about the change that we can bring so that we can improve everyone’s lives, so that we can deliver the peace of mind that people are looking for in the here and now.”