Public trusts Labour more than Conservatives to protect pensioners, poll says

Finding is a huge setback for Theresa May, and will add to concerns in Tory camp after Labour surged in polls

Almost twice as many people trust Labour more than the Conservatives to protect the interests of pensioners, according to an exclusive poll for The Independent.

The finding is a huge setback for Theresa May and will add to the jitters in the Tory camp after Labour closed the gap in the polls. It suggests a backlash against her plans to reform social care funding, end winter fuel allowances for better-off pensioners and scrap the “triple lock” under which the state pension rises by at least 2.5 per cent a year.

ORB found that only one in four people (24 per cent) name the Tories as the party they trust most to protect pensioners’ interests, while 44 per cent choose Labour and 6 per cent the Liberal Democrats. A month earlier, a survey gave Labour a tiny three-point lead when people were asked who had the best policy on pensions.

The ORB poll was taken after Ms May’s dramatic U-turn over the Tory manifesto plan for people with assets of more than £100,000 to fund more of their own care – dubbed the “dementia tax”. It suggests that, despite her pledge to cap the amount an individual spends on care, she has not yet convinced people about her claim that the Tories will best defend pensioners’ interests.

Six in 10 Tory voters in 2015 (60 per cent) believe the party will best defend pensioners, while 81 per cent of Labour voters at the last election say Labour would.

However, the Tories are ahead among older people – the group most likely to vote in elections. Some 39 per cent of 65-75 year-olds and 58 per cent of over-75s trust the Tories most to protect pensioners, compared with 32 per cent and 21 per cent respectively who trust Labour most.

The Tories’ move to rebalance government spending between the generations appears to lack public support. Only one in seven people (14 per cent) believes the Government should spend less on pensioners so it can provide more help for young people, while 55 per cent disagree. The idea is strongly opposed by older people, with only 6 per cent of 65- to 75-year-olds backing it. There is little clamour for it among younger people; only 27 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds agree, while 33 per cent disagree.

Ms May’s presidential campaign may not prove as successful as the Tories hope. They have hailed her “strong and stable leadership” and often relegated the Conservative brand to the small print in their election material. But two out of three people (68 per cent) say policies are most likely to influence their decision on which party to support, with only 19 per cent saying the party leader and only 5 per cent the candidate in their constituency.

This finding will encourage Labour, whose key policies have been seen as popular while voters seem to have noticed the unpopular measures in the Tory manifesto, such as those affecting pensioners.

Labour voters seem more influenced by policies than personalities, a possible explanation for the party’s rise in the polls. Three-quarters of Labour’s 2015 voters say policies will most influence their decision at this election, while only 16 per cent say the party leader. In contrast, almost twice as many 2015 Tory supporters (29 per cent) think the leader will most influence the way they vote.

Despite criticism of Labour’s manifesto as a long “wish list”, the public have almost as much confidence that Jeremy Corbyn would deliver it if he wins the election as they do in Ms May implementing the Tories’ programme. Some 44 per cent trust the Prime Minister to implement her manifesto, and 32 per cent disagree, while 41 per cent trust Mr Corbyn to deliver Labour’s and 38 per cent do not.

More Tory voters in 2015 (80 per cent) trust Ms May to implement her manifesto than Labour supporters at that election trust Mr Corbyn to introduce his (68 per cent). Half of Ukip 2015 voters trust Ms May to deliver her programme – a sign that many might switch to the Tories – while only 22 per cent of them say the same about Mr Corbyn.

Only 21 per cent of the public, and 53 per cent of 2015 Lib Dem voters, trust Tim Farron to implement his party’s manifesto.

People are divided over Labour’s pledge to abolish university tuition fees with the cost met by higher taxation. Some 39 per cent of the public support the proposal but 34 per cent oppose it. More people between the ages of 18 and 54 back the idea than reject it, but among those 55 and older, more oppose than support it.

Scrapping the fees is endorsed by 57 per cent of 2015 Labour voters and 52 per cent of Lib Dem supporters but only 20 per cent of people who voted Tory last time.

ORB interviewed online a total of 2,046 adults aged 18 and over throughout the UK on 24-25 May. The data has been weighted to be nationally representative of the UK adult population

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