Shoppers would back Northern chain Morrisons over retail entrepreneur Philip Green in a two-way battle for Safeway, exclusive research for The Grocer has revealed.

The survey of 1,000 consumers, carried out by TNS over the weekend following the Competition Commission’s report clearing the northern chain to bid, shows that 49% would support a Morrisons bid, while just 16% would support a bid from Green.

The verdict contrasted sharply with the findings of an earlier TNS survey that showed strong consumer support for Green as revealed in The Grocer on August 16.

The latest survey also showed that 49% of consumers thought it was “a good thing” Morrisons had been cleared to bid, even though Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury were barred, while 26% thought it was “a bad thing”.

Phil Evans of the Consumers’ Association said the high level of support for Morrisons was surprising given its lack of presence in the south.

But he added: “Supermarkets encapsulate the nation’s likes and dislikes. The findings may highlight a subliminal fear that the top three grocers are getting too big and a feeling that the market would benefit from a strong fourth player.”