New Coke, the sweeter reformulation of Coca-Cola that the company launched in the 1980s, is remembered as a failure of market research or at least, of the interpretation of market research. Surveys in advance, focus groups and taste tests preferred the new version of Coke. When it actually launched there was a negative backlash. People didn’t like their Coke being messed with and Coca-Cola eventually reversed and went back to the old formula. It’s a classic example of how a product that tests well in the artificial environment of a survey or taste test doesn’t necessarily perform the same way “in the wild”, when subject to the full chaotic system of public opinion.

This isn’t going to be a post about Coca-Cola market research strategy in the 1980s – I am sure it was far more complicated than the myths that have grown up about it – rather this polling from YouGov for the Times about NHS spending. At the weekend some of the papers reported that Labour were considering an increase in National Insurance contributions to help fund the NHS. YouGov asked people directly about this – would they like to see the basic level of National Insurance go up from 12p to 13p to help fund the NHS – indeed, people would, by 48% to 37%.

Politicians have in the past tended to use National Insurance as a rise that is less noticeable to the public than income tax, even though for salaried employees it is much the same thing (obviously it has different thresholds, but it’s still essentially an extra 1% of your salary deducted at source). I was a little cynical about that – did it really work, or do people treat it just the same? Or even, would people prefer the honesty of an income tax rise? YouGov asked the same question using a rise in the basic rate of income tax. Funded from income tax its the other way around, 34% support it, 51% are opposed. It looks as it the ruse works – if the extra 1% of people’s wages is labelled a NI rise, people support it. If it’s labelled an income tax rise, people oppose it.

Of course there are technical differences between NI and income tax (the way it affects the self-employed, or isn’t paid by pensioners, or is paid by people on lower pay than income tax is) and in theory they could contribute to the difference. I suspect most of the answer is simply that people are more aware of income tax and how it works and understand national insurance less well. Hence they are less supportive of a tax rise when they understand exactly how they’ll be paying it.

To bring it back to the New Coke analogy though, what does the question tell us about the policy? Would it be a popular thing for Labour to promise? Well, I think it tells us there’s a risk there. If support for a tax rise is conditional upon people not understanding it very well it does pose the question of what would happen if they had it explained to them, or even “misexplained” to them (remember how a National Insurance rise was packaged up as a “Labour jobs tax” by the Tories before the last election?). Essentially people like spending more on the NHS, they generally dislike paying more taxes (YouGov also asked if people would support keeping income tax, NI and health spending the same – people supported that too!). In the artificial scenario of a polling question you can link those two things and force people to consider them as one, you can use a form of tax people answering the question aren’t so familiar with. If it was an actual party policy, it would be out there being debated by parties, reported by the media, discussed in the pub. Would it be a discussion about how Labour are willing to make the hard but necessary decisions on providing the funding for the future of the NHS? Or would it be a discussion about how Labour would putting up ordinary people’s taxes? Until a policy goes out into the wild that’s not an easy question to answer.


This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun also had their latest European election voting intention figures. The topline figures continue to show Labour and UKIP battling it out for first place, with the Conservatives off in third – CON 22%, LAB 30%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 27%, GREEN 6%.

By my reckoning on a uniform swing this would translate into 15 seats for the Conservatives (down 11), 25 seats for Labour (up 12), 5 seats for the Lib Dems (down 6), 21 seats for UKIP (up 8), 1 seat for the Greens (down one) – the BNP look almost certain to lose their two seats. Full tabs are here.


The first two post-Easter polls today share a three point lead for Labour.

The twice weekly Populus poll has toplines of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%. (Tabs here).

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 37%, LD 10%, UKIP 12%


There are two new Scottish independence polls in today’s papers – ICM for Scotland on Sunday, and Survation for the Sunday Post, both conducted just after the SNP’s conference last weekend (though as ever, correlation should not necessarily imply causality.)

ICM in the Scotland on Sunday has topline figures of YES 39%(nc), NO 42%(-4). Getting rid of the don’t knows brings us to YES 48%, NO 52% – leaving aside the SNP commissioned poll with leading questions last year, this is the highest level of YES support recorded so far.

Note that there was a slight shift in ICM’s methodology from last time – rather than just weighting those with a declared 2011 recalled vote to the correct proportions of the 2011 vote, they are now also weighting the sample so the correct proportion of the sample claim to have voted in 2011. This should have the result of increasing the proportion of won’t votes and don’t knows, but won’t necessarily have any impact on the proportions of YES and NO.

The second poll for Survation has topline figures of YES 38%(+1), NO 46%(-1). Without don’t knows the YES vote is at 45%. This is a slight move towards YES since Survation’s previous poll a week and a half ago, but looking more widely it’s more of a “no change” poll, Survation also showed YES on 45% in March and February.


Sunday polls

No YouGov/Sunday Times poll tomorrow because of the Friday bank holiday, but there is an ICM European election poll in the Sunday Telegraph and a couple of Scottish polls.

The ICM European poll has voting intentions of CON 22%, LAB 30%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 27%. Labour first, UKIP a close second, the Conservatives in third is the same sort of pattern that Survation, ComRes, YouGov and TNS have all been showing… but is a contrast to ICM’s European poll for the Guardian earlier this week that had Labour six points higher, UKIP seven points lower. The difference is this one was conducted online, the ICM/Guardian poll by telephone.

The two Scottish polls are a new ICM for the Scotland on Sunday and a new Survation Scottish poll. I haven’t seen figures for either yet, so I’ll update tomorrow.

Survation also have another constituency poll done for Alan Bown, this time for Eastleigh, where UKIP came a close second in the by-election last year. Westminster voting intention in the Eastleigh poll stands at CON 28%, LAB 12%, LDEM 27%, UKIP 32% – which would certainly be a turnup for the books. It also asked about the borough elections in Eastleigh next month, and found local election voting intentions of CON 23%, LAB 9%, LDEM 40%, UKIP 27%.