By Mark Deen
April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown's
approval rating fell to the lowest since he came to
office as the U.K. economy slowed and house prices dropped,
a poll showed.
On a scale of one to 10, voters rate Brown's performance
a 4.5, down from 4.59 a month ago, according to the
Populus Ltd. poll in today's Times newspaper. Thirty-three
percent would vote for the ruling Labour Party if an
election were held now, compared with 39 percent for
the main opposition Conservatives.
The figures underline the shift in support away from
the government as voters in England and Wales prepare
to choose representatives in local government elections
on May 1. The economy, on which Brown built his reputation
during a decade as finance minister, is heading for
its worst performance since the last recession.
``It's not just about the economy but what it's doing
to the general confidence in the government,'' Andrew
Cooper, co- founder of Populus, said in an interview.
``The numbers are pretty bleak and it's hard to see
how things get better for Brown.''
About 60 percent of those surveyed said they expect
the British economy to fare badly over the next year,
with the number expecting it to do well falling by a
quarter since September to 39 percent. More than 40
percent said they expected their own personal financial
situation to deteriorate.
Only 37 percent of respondents now say they regard
the government as ``competent and capable,'' down from
56 percent seven months ago.
Today's poll shows that Brown is regarded as worse
than his predecessor, Tony Blair, by 31 percent of voters.
Blair, who stood down after leading the party for a
decade, only once had an approval rating lower than
the one Brown now holds, according to Populus. The poll
was conducted April 4-6, using telephone interviews
of 1,502 adults across the U.K. The margin of error
is 2.5 percentage points.