We await the next political opinion poll – hopefully tomorrow’s Guardian will have one from ICM, though until Ming Campbell is replaced by a new Liberal Democrat leader we are once again in a sort of polling interregnum with a known unknown bearing down on us.
There were a couple of polls over the weekend. Firstly a Populus poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us what we already knew, that the overwhelming majority of people say they would like a referendum on the new European Treaty, in this case 73%.
67% of people also told Populus that “the issue of Europe is important in the way that I will vote at the next election”. This is somewhat misleading – if you ask people if they think an issue is important or if they care about an issue they will nearly always say yes, to be meaningful they need to pick it out as more important than other issues. In measuring the importance of Europe (or any other for that) as an issue, the best measure is that offered by Ipsos MORI’s monthly tracker of what issues people say are important to the country. Other pollsters ask this of course, but MORI’s stands along because it is regularly done, month in, month out, and more importantly it is unprompted – people aren’t given a list of issues to choose from, they say whatever they think.
In their September poll a whopping 4% of people said that Europe was one of the most important issues facing the country, compared to 43% for immigration, 41% for crime, 36% health and 22% defence and international terrorism. That isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have the potential to be a salient issue – back in 2000 and 2001 when William Hague was banging on about “Saving the Pound” Europe was regulary cited as a major issue facing the country by around 25% of people, it went as high as 43% in 1997. It’s just that, right now, very few people see it as an issue of importance when compared to things they really care about, like immigration, health and crime.
Meanwhile, an ICM poll for the Guardian found that 89% of people thought they were still judged by their class, only 8% thought it was unimportant in shaping the way they were viewed. 53% considered themselves to be working class, 41% middle class – proportions largely unchanged since the late 1990s.