The Conservatives are level with Labour as Britain's most popular party after satisfaction with Labour leader Ed Miliband slumped to a record low, the latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll showed on Tuesday.

With an independence referendum for Scotland likely to be held by 2014, most Britons think a breakaway would be bad for Scotland's economy but fewer think it will harm the economy of the rest of Britain.

Half of those polled see the economic situation getting worse over the next 12 months, against only 16 percent who see an improvement - although those figures were less gloomy than last month.

Support for the Conservatives slipped 3 points to 38 percent. They had surged ahead of Labour last month on a bounce inspired by Prime Minister David Cameron's veto of a new European Union treaty which went down well with Britons who are sceptical about closer integration with the continent.

The poll is likely to reinforce jitters in the opposition Labour camp about the performance of Ed Miliband, who pipped his brother David to take over the leadership of the party in September 2010.

Fifty-six percent of those polled were dissatisfied with Ed Miliband's leadership and only 30 percent satisfied.

By contrast Cameron had a satisfaction rating of 46 percent, against 47 percent dissatisfied.

Most political pundits had expected Labour to be well ahead of the Conservatives in the polls by now, with the coalition in the midst of a grinding austerity programme that will see hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs axed and welfare payments cut.

However, Labour, which lost power after 13 years in 2010, has failed to convince voters on the economy and Miliband has faced criticisms about his personal style and leadership.

The Conservatives rule in coalition with the smaller Liberal Democrats who have seen their support slump to 12 percent - down around half from the 2010 election after voters deserted them over compromises made in government.


The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has said it will hold a referendum in 2014 on ending the 300-year union with England.

It is expected to flesh out its plans later on Wednesday, coinciding with celebrations of Burns' Night - the birthdate of national poet Robert Burns.

The government, which opposes a breakaway, wants the Scots to hold the poll sooner while support remains relatively muted.

Sixty-two percent of Britons believed the United Kingdom would exist in its current form in five year's time, but longer-term they saw an increasing chance of a break-up.

Half of those polled said they did not think the UK would remain intact in 20 years, against 34 percent who thought it would.

Fifty four percent thought a breakaway would be bad for Scotland's economy, while 34 percent said it would be negative for the economy of the rest of the country.

Britons were broadly split on whether a Scottish referendum should be a straight Yes/No question or whether the Scots should be asked if they want a third option of greater autonomy within the United Kingdom.

The government wants to narrow down the question to a straight Yes/No while the SNP would prefer to offer a halfway house alternative of enhanced devolution.

* Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,007 adults across Britain between January 21 and 23; data are weighted to the profile of the population.

(Reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by Alison Williams)