Ipsos MORI have re-asked their questions on the junior doctors’ dispute ahead of the second strike today. The overall level of support remains the same, with two-thirds backing the strike, but underneath that opinions appear to be polarising. While the 66% of people supporting the strike is the same percentage as last month, within that the proportion saying “strongly support” has risen, those saying “tend to support” has fallen. Among the other third of the population the proportion of people saying they don’t know or have no feelings either way has fallen (from 19% to 12%), the proportion of people saying they oppose the strike has risen (from 15% to 22%).

Asked who is to blame for the dispute continuing this long 64% blamed the government, 13% the doctors and 18% both equally. Full details of the poll is here, and my write-up of the January figures is here.

As well as the quality polling by MORI, there is also sadly a new outbreak of newspaper reporting of voodoo polls on the issue. The Indy and Mirror are reporting a “poll” apparently showing 90% of junior doctors would resign if the contract was imposed. We’ve already had one outbreak of voodoo polling in this dispute, that one claiming 70% of junior doctors would resign… which turned out to be a “survey” conducted among the members of a Facebook group campaigning against the contract. This time the two papers reporting it are very tight lipped about where it was conducted, so I don’t know if it’s the same forum – the only clue is that it was organised by Dr Ben White, who is campaigning against the contract. From the Mirror’s write up Dr White did at least ensure respondents were real doctors, but false or multiple responses is far from the only thing that stops voodoo polls being meaningful, it’s also where you do it, whether you recruit respondents in a manner that gets a representative and unbiased survey. You would, for example, get a very different result on foxhunting in a survey conducted on a Countryside Alliance Forum or a League Against Cruel Sports Forum, even if you took measures to ensure all participants were genuine countryside dwellers.

Questions along the lines of “If thing you oppose happens, will you do x?” are extremely dicey anyway – people pick the answers that will best express their anger and opposition (Dr White himself seems to take that perfectly sensible angle in his quote to the Mirror, presenting his findings as an expression of anger). To quote what I wrote last time…

From a respondent’s point of view, if you are filling in a survey about something you oppose, you’re are likely to give the answers that most effectively express your opposition. Faced with a question like this, it’s far more effective to say you might leave your job if your contract is changed than say you’d meekly accept it and carry on as usual.

We see this again and again in polls seeking to measure the impact of policies. For example, before tuition fees were increased there were lots of polls claiming to show how many young people would be put off going to university by increased fees (such as here and here). After the rise, they miraculously continued to apply anyway. Nobody wants to tell a pollster that they would just swallow the thing they oppose.

I don’t doubt that many or most junior doctors are unhappy with the new contract […but…] you shouldn’t necessarily believe people telling pollsters about the awful consequences that will happen if something they don’t like happens. It’s a lot easier to make a threat to a pollster that you’ll resign from your job than it is to actually do it.

And that’s before we get to fact that “considering resigning” is very different to “resigning”. I consider taking up jogging every January, yet the people of Dartford are yet to be subjected to even the briefest glimpse of me in jogging gear.)


As well as the new EU poll, Friday’s Times also had a new YouGov Scottish poll. There was also a new TNS Scottish poll in the week. Topline voting intentions for Holyrood were:

YouGov (tabs)
Constituency: SNP 50%(-1), LAB 19%(-2), CON 20%(+1), LDEM 6%(+1)
Regional: SNP 42%(-3), LAB 20%(nc), CON 20%(+1), GRN 6%(nc), LDEM 5%(nc)

TNS (tabs)
Constituency: SNP 57%(-1), LAB 21%(-2), CON 17%(+5), LDEM 3%(-1)
Regional: SNP 52%(-2), LAB 19%(-1), CON 17%(+5), GRN 6%(-3), LDEM 6%(+2)

While the scale is difference, both polls have the usual overwhelming lead for the SNP. The obvious expectation is that they’ll easily secure a landslide win come May. More interesting is the battle for second place. YouGov have Labour and the Conservatives essentially equal (in the constituency vote the Conservatives are a point ahead after rounding… though this was nearly all in the rounding!). YouGov have tended to show the highest levels of Conservative support in Scotland and have had Labour only a whisker ahead of them for their last couple of polls, however other companies now seem to be showing the Labour and Conservative gap in Scotland narrowing too. TNS have the Conservatives up five points since December, bringing the gap in the regional vote down to two points, a Panelbase poll earlier this month also only had a two point gap between Lab & Con in the regional vote, MORI had the gap falling to 2-3 points in their last poll. Survation’s last Scottish poll still showed a 4-5 point gap this month, but it was down from an eight point gap in their previous poll.

Personally I’d still see the Conservatives coming second in Scotland as unlikely – while Ruth Davidson is well regarded (her approval ratings in the YouGov poll were substantially better than Kezia Dugdale’s) their brand seems almost irretrievably tarnished in Scotland. However if Scottish Labour fall far enough, I suppose it is possible. We shall see.


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Tomorrow’s Times has a YouGov poll on the EU, conducted after the announcement of the draft renegotiation proposals. Topline referendum voting intentions are REMAIN 36%(-2), LEAVE 45%(+3), DK/WNV 19%. While the changes since YouGov’s last poll a week ago aren’t huge, since summer YouGov’s referendum polls have tended to show the race neck-and-neck, so today’s nine point lead for leave is a significant departure, and the largest YouGov have shown since 2014. The Times’s story is here and the YouGov tabs are here.

Asked about the details of the draft renegotiation (the emergency brake, child benefit changes, the “red card” and so on) most people were broadly supportive. However, these things are more than just the sum of their parts, and overall the draft agreement is seen as a bad deal for Britain by 46%, with 22% saying it’s a good deal. A majority of respondents said they thought the deal did not go far enough (17% thought it was about right, 4% too far) and 50% thought the deal represented little or no real change. In short, the public’s reaction seems to be “nice as far as it goes…but not nearly enough”.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday so in the context of some very negative press coverage. To some degree this may be a short term reaction based upon that, and we may see things revert back to the neck-and-neck position as the impact fades. Indeed, when people were asked in the poll how they would vote if Cameron managed to secure the draft deal at the EU meeting in February the LEAVE lead dropped back to three points, far more typical for YouGov’s polling. We shall see.

(On other matters, the Daily Express have tragically got their front page headline as the latest results from an open-access voodoo-poll on their own website. I really can’t be bothered to rehearse my usual rant, so here’s one I prepared earlier)


A quick update on some polling figures from the last few days.

ComRes released a new telephone poll for the Daily Mail on Friday. Topline voting intention figures were CON 37%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 12%, GRN 4% (tabs are here.) On the EU referendum ComRes had voting intentions of REMAIN 54%, LEAVE 36%, DK 10%.

YouGov also released new figures on voting intention and the EU referendum on their website. Their lastest topline VI figures are CON 39%, LAB 30%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 17%, GRN 3% (tabs are here). On the EU referendum they have Leave slightly ahead – REMAIN 38%, LEAVE 42%, DK/WNV 20%.

Finally Ipsos MORI also released EU referendum figures (part of the monthly Political Monitor survey I wrote about earlier in the week). Their latest figures are REMAIN 50%, LEAVE 38%, DK 12%.

There continues to be a big contrast between EU referendum figures in polls conducted by telephone, and conducted online. The telephone polls from ComRes and Ipsos MORI both have very solid leads for remain, the online polls from ICM, YouGov, Survation and others all tend to have the race very close. In one sense the contrast seems to be in line with the contrast we saw in pre-election polls – while there was little consistent difference between online and telephone polls in terms of the position of Labour and the Conservatives (particularly in the final polls), there was a great big gulf in terms of the levels of UKIP support they recorded – in the early part of 2015 there was a spread of about ten points between those (telephone) pollsters showing the lowest levels of UKIP support and those (online) pollsters showing the highest levels of UKIP support. It doesn’t seem particularly surprising that this online/telephone gap in terms of UKIP support also translates into an online/telephone gap in terms of support for leaving the EU. In terms of which is the better predictor it doesn’t give us much in the way of clues though – the 13% UKIP ended up getting was bang in the middle of that range.

The other interesting thing about the telephone/online contrast in EU referendum polling is the don’t knows. Telephone polls are producing polls that have far fewer people saying they don’t know how they’ll vote (you can see it clearly in the polls in this post – the two telephone polls have don’t knows of 10% and 12%, the online poll has 20% don’t knows, the last couple of weekly ICM online polls have had don’t knows of 17-18%). This could have something to do with the respective levels of people who are interested in politics and the EU that the different sampling approaches are picking up, or perhaps something to do with people’s willingness to give their EU voting intention to a human interviewer. The surprising thing is that this is not a typical difference – in polls on how people would vote in a general election the difference is, if anything, in the other direction – telephone polls find more don’t knows and refusals than online polls do. Why it’s the other way round on the EU referendum is an (intriguing) mystery.


Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor is out today, with topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 31%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 4%. Full details and tables are here.

MORI also asked respondents to choose between the parties on various more specific measures – a bank of questions with back data going back to 1989:

  • On having the “best policies for the country as a whole” the Conservatives now lead by ten points (compared to a two point Tory lead in 2010 and 2014, and a Labour lead from 1992 to 2005).
  • On being the most clear and united about its policies the Conservatives lead by twenty points (compared to ten points in 2014, five points in 2010. The last time there was a lead this big was a 31 point lead for Labour in 2001.)
  • On having the best “team of leaders” the Conservatives lead by twenty-seven points (compared to eleven points in 2014 and five points in 2010 – again you need to go back to Labour in 2001 to find a larger lead)
  • The only measure where Labour haven’t collapsed is “looking after the interests of people like yourself” – here the Conservatives have a narrow lead of four points, compared to a two point Labour lead in 2014 and a four point Tory lead in 2010.

The poll also had questions about two policy issues facing Labour. One was Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that companies should be barred from paying dividends if they don’t pay the living wage. In principle this idea seems popular – 66% of people say they would support it, 17% of people would be opposed. In the survey MORI did a split sample experiment and asked the other half of the sample about the policy without any attribution, and half about it having explained it was Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion. When the policy was identified as coming from Corbyn support was lower – 60% support, 24% opposed.

The obvious conclusion is that identifying a policy as coming from Jeremy Corbyn makes it less popular. This is probably true… but I wouldn’t get too excited about it. Conservative party modernisers used to make their case using similar data showing policies were less popular when associated with the Conservative party. I think the reality is that strong partisan supporters of other political parties will almost always be turned off a policy when it is associated with an opponent, so yes, putting Jeremy Corbyn’s name to a policy would make it less popular, but so would putting the Labour party’s name to the policy, or the Conservative party’s name, or Osborne or Cameron’s name.

The other policy MORI asked about was Trident. 58% of people opposed Britain getting rid of nuclear weapons, rising to 70% when it was asked specifically about unilateral disarmament… a similar figure to when MORI asked the same question in the 1980s.