And while we’re on the subject of scandals in the British media, a pre-Budget ComRes poll just released by ITV News shows that just 6 per cent of the public realise what’s happening to the national debt. You can (and I do) blame politicians who don’t admit that the debt is rising massively – and then confuse “debt” with “deficit”. We at Coffee House have called out David Cameron and poor old Nick Clegg for this. But the real responsibility lies with the media. Most people don’t listen to politicians speeches, but depend on the way these speeches are reported.
I suspect you can listen to ever single BBC News outlet tomorrow (save for Five Live and BBC2 Daily Politics) without being given an inkling that the debt is rising. The word “deficit” is to blame. It’s a wonk word, that normal people don’t use – at home or at work. If most people had to guess, they’d say “deficit” is another term for “government debt.” When MPs say “we’re cutting the deficit,” most people hear “we’re cutting the debt.”
In America, broadcasters tend to use more straightforward vocabulary like “balance the books” and “stem the rise in debt.” Jeff Randall at Sky News speaks with exemplary clarity on such issues. ITV, of course, commissioned this ComRes poll. Can you imagine BBC News doing that?
So tomorrow, you can make your own checklist. Will the Chancellor quantify the cuts, or the extent at which debt is rising? Or even mention the fact that debt is rising? Or will anyone on the BBC Six O’Clock News? Don’t bet on it.
Here’s the poll, sample 2,002 adults…
Which of these statements do you believe to be the most accurate?
The Coalition Government is planning to REDUCE the national debt by around £600 billion between 2010 and the end of this Parliament in 2015
The Coalition Government is planning NEITHER TO REDUCE NOR INCREASE the national debt between 2010 and the end of this Parliament in 2015
The Coalition Government is planning to INCREASE the national debt by around £600 billion between 2010 and the end of this Parliament in 2015
There has been a bunch of these polls, and today’s 6pc figure is the lowest I’ve seen. Not enough people read Coffee House! Strip away the figures, and ask simply if debt is rising or falling, then it rises to about 16pc which is still paltry. My colleagues at the Centre for Policy Studies made this video which gets the point across rather elegantly.