But what happens if optimism begins to wane?
One of the great things about Ipsos-MORI is that it has been around for a long time and in many cases has been asking the same questions in the same way for getting on for three decades.
One of those questions has been the firm’s “Economic Optimism Index” where polling respondents are asked “Do you think that the general economic condition of the country will improve, stay the same, or get worse over the next 12 months?” The pollster then subtracts the “get worse” figure” from the “improve” figures to produce its Economic Optimism Index. Recent trends are shown in the chart above.
Back in July the index reached minus 64 – the worst number recorded since the firm started this back in 1979. Since then there has been something of a recovery and the December “EOI” is now at minus 48 – still bad but not on the same scale as in the summer.
July, of course, saw some of the worst voting intention figures for Labour across a range of pollsters. Since then, and particularly following the banking bailout, there has been an improvement in the EOI and, at the same time, the general election voting intention numbers have got better for the party.
Anthony Wells, in a brilliant piece of analysis on UK Polling Report just before Christmas, argues that the perception that Labour has bucked the trend of governments normally losing popularity when the economy turns is wrong. “..Labour’s position completely tanked in the months after the budget, at the same time as economic confidence really began to fall through the floor. The recent recovery in Labour’s position in the polls dates from the bank rescue in October 2008, which has also seen a recovery in economic confidence…”
So what happens if confidence starts to wane again in 2009 with the massive retail closures, the increasing number of job losses and continuing economic bad news?
If the Wells thesis is correct then those who have continued to back the Tories to secure an overall majority on the spread betting markets might have got this right after all. The latest prices from Sporting Index suggest a Tory total of 337 seats or enough for an overall majority of 24 seats.