Remember our Distorted Debate paper from earlier this year? In it we reported some remarkable polling which we'd undertaken with ComRes. It was interesting in that it asked people what they thought the Coalition planned to do to the national debt, as opposed to asking their opinion on some policy issue.
Then, we were shocked to discover that just 10% of the public realised 'The Coalition Government is planning to INCREASE the national debt by around £600 billion between 2010 and the end of this Parliament in 2015', i.e. just one in ten people got the right answer. In fact, as many as 47% thought the Government planned to reduce the debt by the same amount!
ITV have polled the same question again this evening, and the numbers have actually got worse! Now just 6% of the public seem to realise the Coalition plan for the debt to continue ballooning, while 49% think they plan to reduce it.
It's hard to comprehend how many people can get this so wrong when the deficit and debt have been the domninant issue, on the news almost nightly, over the past two years. What exactly is the cause of this apparent fiscal illiteracy? We highlighted (including in the cool video below) how many politicians and several journalists regularly confused debt and deficit, and I am still convinced that this is part of the problem.
But whatever the cause, this raises a more important issue: how on earth is any government (the Coalition or any post-2015 administration) going to be able to win the support for the radical policies required to get our debt back on a downward path, if they have so misjudged what the Coalition intended to do?