Public says spending cuts unfair - polls

LONDON (Reuters) - Most voters believe government spending cuts announced last week are unfair and excessive, two opinion polls showed on Tuesday.

Chancellor George Osborne (2nd L), flanked by Prime Minister David Cameron (L), Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (R), announcing the UK government's spending plans at parliament in London October 20, 2010. REUTERS/Parbul TV via Reuters TV

However the surveys were inconclusive about support for the ruling coalition and the opposition, one suggesting the Conservatives in the lead while another showed the opposition Labour party ahead for the first time in three years.

Chancellor George Osborne last week outlined a five-year austerity drive, including major cuts to welfare and government expenditure, to reduce a record peacetime budget deficit of 11 percent of gross domestic product.

A Populus poll for the Times newspaper showed 58 percent of people surveyed believed the effects of the cuts would be unfair, with 20 percent of voters more pessimistic than in June.

Most also now believed the coalition was making deeper cuts than were necessary and only a third believed the government had succeeded in protecting the most vulnerable in society, the Populus survey showed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said on Friday the 80 billion pounds of cuts -- the biggest spending reduction in a generation -- would hit the bottom half of earners hardest.

A separate ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper showed that while most voters believed the spending cuts were unfair, there was no large-scale revolt against the measures.

In fact, it showed Labour slipping behind the Conservatives for the first time since July, trailing by 36 percent to 39 percent.

However, a Populus poll for the Times newspaper suggested that Labour had nosed ahead of the Conservatives for the first time in three years.

It showed support for the Conservatives down two points to 37 percent with Labour up one point since September to 38 percent. The Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the Conservative-led coalition, gained a point to 15 percent.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by Jon Boyle