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UK

Conservatives ahead on economy - Reuters/Ipsos MORI

LONDON (Reuters) - The Conservatives are better than their Labour opponents at managing the economy, an increasing number of voters think -- despite plans for major cuts in spending that will see state-funded services slashed.

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The latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI political monitor shows that almost two in five Britons (38 percent) believe the Conservatives have the best economic policies compared to a quarter who prefer Labour’s stance.

The Conservatives argue cuts in public spending must be made swiftly to cut a deficit running at close to 11 percent of national output -- one of the highest rates in any developed economy -- and will unveil detailed plans for cuts on Wednesday.

Labour say cutting too quickly risks reversing a tentative economic recovery.

“Before the election, the public was far more split on whose policies would be best for the economy -- 29 percent favoured the Conservatives’ compared to 26 percent who favoured Labour’s,” said Helen Cleary of Ipsos MORI.

“This suggests the Conservatives have been able to establish credibility on this key issue. It probably reflects who the public trust the most to deal with the deficit as much as support for specific policies.”

Nevertheless, confidence remains low. The Economic Optimism Index remained at similar levels to September, when confidence dropped to its lowest level in 18 months. Around half of those polled believed the economy would get worse over the next year.

As was the case for the first time last month, more people were dissatisfied than satisfied with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government (45 percent and 42 percent respectively). Satisfaction with the coalition leaders dropped sharply.

“This is perhaps more a reflection of the ‘novelty wearing off’ than anything more tangible yet, as the government as a whole is maintaining public support,” said Cleary.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg remains more popular among Conservative supporters than among his own supporters.

Ed Miliband, elected as Labour leader at the end of last month, recorded the highest satisfaction ratings of any opposition leader one month in, although a third of the public do not yet have an opinion of him.

The poll showed a return to a narrow Conservative lead in overall popularity after Labour drew neck-and-neck with them last month. The monitor showed 39 percent of voters would vote Conservative compared to 36 percent for Labour and 14 percent for the Liberal Democrats.

Technical note

- Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,009 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain.

- Interviews were conducted by telephone 15-17 Oct 2010.

- Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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