Do Brits back choice?

The Economist asks: HOW popular is choice? It sounds a silly question. The government and the opposition Tories agree that choice is the way to improve Britain’s cash-thirsty and underperforming public services. Both want to encourage new service providers into the health and education markets to spur competition and generate new capacity. The government’s plans rest on imaginary money following pupils and patients, while the Conservatives say they want to go one step further by handing out vouchers (with several strings attached) to help pay for operations or schooling. The next election could be decided by which of these competing visions voters prefer. But the parties’ polling seems to suggest that voters are skeptical about more choice. To help make sense of it all the Economist asked an internet pollster to present the issue to a representative sample of over 2000 voters. The poll found strong support for more choice. Well over 60 percent supported more choice in health care and well over 70 percent supported more education choice: Predictably, Tory voters were keener on more choice, but a third of Labour voters were also convinced that it would make services better. What should worry the government is the perception that it will do less to promote choice than the Tories. Only 19% thought that Labour would, if re-elected, deliver more educational choice against 41% for the Conservatives.