The full results of the YouGov poll are still up on their website here. As usual they asked a wide variety of subjects, so here’s a run down of some of the other findings.

Gordon Brown’s figures continue to plummet, his net “good job” in the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times was down to -20, as compared to -10 in November. Cameron’s figures are up at plus 25. There were figures for Nick Clegg, but so far these mean very little indeed, with well over half of respondents saying don’t know.

Less good for Cameron was one of those focus group style questions asking what animal people thought politicians resembled: Brown was seen as a bear, a nice strong image there. Cameron was seen as a snake, oh dear.

In reality these questions aren’t really suited to a quantative survey, it depends too much on what options you give them, I remember arguing about the wording for we did about whether tortoise should be included in the list, since it was so obvious it was just leading people to give that negative response about Ming Campbell. In this case there was one very obvious “positive” animal for Brown, so Labour supporters all said bear – negative repsonses from Conservative supporters were split between things like Ostrich, Hippo and snake. For Cameron it was the opposite, negative responses were concentrated on snake, but positive responses from Tory supporters were split between leopard and bear (neither of which are particularly Cameronish). If the question tells us anything, it is that for those who still have a positive view of Brown, his qualities are very well defined. In Cameron’s case his negatives are well defined, but his positives aren’t. (My favourite outcome in one of these comparison questions was an ICM focus group that found Cameron was seen as a some upmarket BMW saloon car, the type slightly flashy salesmen would drive. Ming Campbell was a nice old Jaguar. Brown was a tank.)

Moving on, the Sunday Times poll also covered nuclear power. Asked if they approved of a new generation of nuclear power stations to replace current ones, a majority (59%) approved, with 27% opposed. Conservative supporters were most supportive, but even a plurality of supporters of the Lib Dems – the only one of the three main parties to oppose the plans – were in favour, 48% to 39%. Overall 39% of respondents thought the proportion of Britain’s energy needs filled by nuclear power should increase in the future, 17% though it should stay the same, 25% though it should be reduced or entirely phased out.

It’s worth pointing out again the unusual contrasts between men and women on the issue of nuclear power. On most issues men and women think much the same, nuclear power is an exception. Men overwhelmingly favoured the decision to build a new generation of nuclear plants by 74% to 20%, women were far more cautious, with the balance in favour 44% to 32% against.

The Sunday Times also did a series of questions on “rip off Britain”, which had a nuggest of good news for the big supermarkets, who were very much the whipping boy last year. Overwhelming majorities of respondents thought that the public were ripped off by petrol companies, rail companies, dentists, banks and local councils…supermarkets alone broke the trend, with 61% of people thinking the public got a good deal from them.

Finally there were a couple of “are you are heartless unfeeling bastard?” questions. 57% of people claimed they paid great attention to the way food they bought had been produced. 60% said they would pay £1 extra for chickens reared in more humane conditions.

Questions like this where there is an option that is obviously the more socially desirable invariably give worthless results, it’s so much easier to say it in a survey than actually fork out the money. Have sales of non-free range chicken collapsed as over 60% of consumers spurn them for more humane alternatives? Of course not, the supermarkets report sales of chicken slightly up, with Tesco saying the proportion of customers buying their Willow Farm bird which have a higher standard of welfare are “slightly up”.

My favourite example of this type of question was done by Populus after the Boxing Day tsunami, they asked respondents how much money people in their household had donated to the relief effort…and came up with a figure considerably larger than the actual donations made by the entire country. People will very rarely tell pollsters they are heartless bastards.


64 Responses to “More from the Sunday Times poll”

1 2
  1. One thing I notice from these polls is that Scotland has come out nowhere near as anti-nuclear as one would think listening to the politicians there. Is this the usual response? (I am fairly new to these things). 49% broadly agreed to the policy of replacing power stations which is lower than other regions, but not crazily so. On the other question of what role nuclear should play Scotland was on a par with the rest of the country. While I agree Scotland does need nuclear (not sure the rest do either), I was interested by this on a day when the parties in Holyrood were making noise about the decision.

  2. Sorry that should have ‘Scotland does NOT need nuclear’. Ahem.

  3. Interesting comments on Cameron. I thought his performance on the AM Show resembled that of a super-slick, glib salesman who had the answers to every problem. I was reminded of Richard Nixon. I wonder how he’ll fare in the rigour of a five-week General Election battle. Andrew Marr is very gentle compared with some of the more robust political interrogators.

  4. It is funny that David Cameron came out as a snake, but really, what else could have happened! Those sort of questions are far too leading. Again what could GB be but a bear? Perhaps if tortoise had been included….

    I agree that David Cameron still has a long way to go to prove he is more than a Blair-like smooth boy. Fortunately for him the political cycle is on his side.

  5. The question on page 7:
    Do you agree or disagree with the following
    statement: “A high proportion of people
    receiving Incapacity Benefit should not have the
    money as they are perfectly able to work.”

    Is particularly poorly worded. Really, it’s two statements:
    “A high proportion of people receiving Incapacity Benefit are perfectly able to work.”
    And:
    “People receiving Incapacity Benefit should not have the money if they are perfectly able to work.”

    I may disagree with the first but agree with the last, or vice-versa, or both or neither.

  6. Alasdair – questions like that can actually be very useful in focus groups (like the car one from ICM I mentioned, which is think is wonderful), they only work though if people aren’t led or prompted at all. In quantative surveys its all down to what options you give people, rubbish questions, but papers often ask them because they provide good copy.

  7. Alasdair,

    One big change on the attitudes to nuclear power has been the way it has been presented.

    Up until this year it was more or less asked in the context of,

    “Do you want new Nuclear Power Stations, or another form of power generation such as renewables”,

    Now it’s very much,

    “Do you want new Nuclear Power Stations or would you rather all the lights went out”.

    It’s not quite WMD’s in Iraq but in it’s own way it’s as loaded as which animal does Brown remind you of.

    In Scotland you turn on the TV and get two (mixed) message.

    The domestic one which tends to point out that Scotland has plenty of Oil, Gas and Coal, Europe’s best renewable potential and produces 20% more electricity than it uses, while having some of the worst insulated homes in the UK (and the worst weather.)

    The UK message is we are an importer of oil and gas and we are now increasingly dependant an unreliable Russia for gas while oil is $100bbl.

    In many respects it is the scaremongering about the lights going out that are driving it as much up here as in the rest of the UK.

    Having said that, as Anthony has pointed out, the size of Scottish samples means that the difference here between North and South are probably within the margin of error.

    Peter.

  8. An alternative form of words, ZX?

    Personally, I like the first of your two statements; it is a straightforward one, whereas the 2nd is leading one to agree.

    As far as the animals go – I wonder if anyone suggested “chicken” or “duck”? I reckon “peacock” would have garnered a few for Cameron!

  9. Thanks guys. I agree with Peter about the scaremongering (north and south). The energy gap does not yet exist, and nuclear is an expensive way to solve it (the most expensive, despite what they say!!). Offshore wind and solar could be a better bet in the long run.. (you could do a lot for the £70 billion it will cost to clear up our existing nuclear fleet).

  10. “The energy gap does not yet exist”

    It isn’t possible to react instantly to shortage of electricity capacity-it takes some years to plan for & build power stations.
    The government is planning forward, and foresees what has been clear for some years-a huge reduction in UK’s self sufficiency in gas & oil at a time when imports are subject to significant political risk.

    This will be excacerbated if we close down existing outdated nuclear capacity without replacing it.

    The “cost” of energy is a comparative-not an absolute. The price of gas & oil will continue to rise as readily exploitable supply dwindles.We will see horrendously expensive and environmentally damaging resources like Canadian Tar Sands being utilised.

    Wind energy has a very limited role to play since it is unpredictably variable & intermittent.
    Denmark-one of the two most intense users of wind energy, exports it unuseable high output surges to Norway via a shared grid -where it displaces zero-carbon hydro generation!
    Germany-the other major user of wind published a report recently which exposed the excessive costs of this output. Germany plans currently to build 26 coal powered station to utilise cheap East European coal-Germany has set its face against nuclear plant renewal.

    Wind Turbines in UK are only being built because of the ROC sytem & the value of the subsidy-around £1bn pa.It’s contribution to UK electricity generation is laughably insignificant, and -in the Welsh and Scottish uplands particularly is frequently environmentally damaging.

    Nuclear most definitely has a significant role to play in power generation-look at France and check where they stand in the world CO2 emissions league.We import their nuclear electricity.

    Actually Nuclear is the ideal base load companion for intermittent renewable output in a low CO2 generation mix.

  11. Are bears not short-sighted, violent, aggressive, solitary creatures who can be prone to run away at the unexpected?
    They are also unwelcome in human communties where they require tranquiliation and immediate removal for the safety of the general public.

  12. To answer the intermittency question. Yes wind is intermittent, but report after report, from the US, to Denmark and Canada have shown that there is no problem up to about 20%-25% with modern grid control. With a proper offshore grid, this will be less of a problem as capacities are higher – 40% – and predictions easier.

    As far as subsidy goes, nuclear beats all. Untold billions have been spent and continue to be spent on nuclear R&D, dwarfing anything that renewables have had. Wind does require subsidy, but what it really requires is for all the subsidies on other power to be reduced.

    No nuclear power will be built unless the price of carbon is fixed very high, or the taxpayer agrees to pay for insurance, security and clean up. Oil and gas too are heavily subsidised (in the US this subsidy is estimated at almost $1 a gallon) through military intervention.

    Furthermore the work of the late economist Shimon Awerbuch and others have demonstrated that including renewables like solar and wind in an energy portfolio reduce the inherent risk of price volatility.

    Finally, the idea that nuclear will make us energy secure is interesting as all our uranium will have to be imported from a very small number of countries. Also check out how much uranium there is in the world. It’s a lot less than you might think.

    I agree though, that forward planning is necessary.

  13. Sorry. I appreciate that this nuclear debate has nothing to do with the poll!

  14. Sally C – I suppose in terms of being solitary, bad tempered and aggressive being seen as a bear could be a negative…but for the Labour voters who selected it I suspect they were thinking of strength :)

  15. They also s*** all over their home turf. Do you think they were thinking of that? Perhaps not.

  16. They infamously shit in the woods. I don’t think Gordon Brown does that ;)

  17. You clearly used the word ‘think’ in order to avoid any accusation of being partisan as your recognised area of expertise is the field of polling, not anthropology.

    I order to clear up any issues of my own partisan nature…the ‘bear’ is metophorical, the statement… analogous [clearly].

  18. Please put my name forward for the YouGov polling panel, where I will at all times happily refer to Mr Brown as a bear. Is the Bear also a symbol of Soviet Russia?

  19. Colin,

    My point was that very little of the nuclear debate is applicable to Scotland, as we don’t have the same needs as the UK, have different resources and can connect to Norway as well.

    So whatever solution the rest of the UK chooses and it’s your choice, Scotland is free to make it’s own.

    Peter.

  20. Wonder if YouGov will ever commission a poll in Denmark asking if the Danes wish they had some lovely AGR;s instead of their horrible windmills?
    Interesting being in France in 2006 and seeing all the windmills going up. The only country building a nuclear power station is Finland whch appears to have had a spate of heavy power user closures ever since the decision to build was made.
    I’d be astounded if Germany was building 26 power stations as its energy use is decreasing

  21. YouGov have a Scandinavian subsidiary these days – Zapera. Don’t speak Danish so I can’t search google for any of their polls that might have covered nuclear power :)

  22. Alasdair, yes uranium has to be imported. However I feel far more confident on our security (and also that the money we spend is going on positive things overseas) by importing off Australia, than importing from the Middle East or Russia.

  23. The debate in Scotland is deliberately misleading.

    We don’t need nuclear (Scotland)
    We will have an energy gap without nuclear. (UK)

    Both can be true, but seldom is it made clear whether “we” are Scotland or UK.

    An independent Scotland may be short of many things. Wind, wave power and rainwater are not among them.

  24. How about ‘Fox’?. That, or ‘wolf’ might be good for Cameron. Sort of fast and cunning.

    I think if there had been some big strong animals with more undesiable features such as ‘ape’ Brown might have got some hits there.

  25. Peter-

    Out of interest:-

    When/if Scotland goes independent will you disconnect from the National ( UK) Grid?

    Can you balance your Hydro/wind/fossil mix within Scotlands demand profile?

    Thanks
    Colin

  26. wolf:-

    “I’d be astounded if Germany was building 26 power stations as its energy use is decreasing”

    http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2383879.ece

    Germany’s power consumption is rising at 9% pa.
    Merkel tried to get German coal fired plants excluded from ETS !!!-so much for her “green” credentials-that is the price of blinkered anti-nuclear attitudes.

    Alasdair:-

    The UK nuclear announcement included the assertion that new nuclear would not be subsidised & that generators would have to ring fence funds for decommissioning & waste handling.
    The Tories gave their support on the strict basis that these conditions would apply.

    I agree that Carbon price needs to be jacked up considerably. Stern called for this-all the authorities on the subject assert that only a penal price on Carbon will drive the development no/low carbon alternatives. ( of course nuclear will benefit from this-it should-it’s low carbon)

    The EU must get it’s finger out and push down the carbon limits in the upcoming round of ETS.-and it MUST auction the majority of permits. The free issue in the last round was a disaster which collapsed the price of carbon & gave the power companies massive windfall profits-a comp-lete cock-up.

    Political will is needed to drive carbon pricing.
    If Arnie can grasp the concept -the Commission should be able to!

  27. Hi Colin, you are right in that I suspect Scotland would struggle to balance its grid without connection to the rest of the UK, and/or Denmark and Norway. However that would not happen in the event of an independent Scotland (I don’t support independence, but let’s be honest).

    The best way to utilize intermittant electricity is through large interconnected grids, like the European Supergrid proposed by one company which is being looked at by EU governments (including the UK).

    Yes, Australia is a amajor producer of uranium, but it can’t supply the world, not with China, India, the US and the rest of Europe and Asia getting in on the nuclear act. The other major suppliers are Kazakhstan, Canada, South Africa, Niger, Russia, Namibia and Brazil. Only a few of these will be in a position to export much once their own nuclear production ramps up. Plus of course the price will increase and reserves will likely run out in less than 70 years.

  28. It won’t matter very much if all the lights go out in Scotland because by the time they do nobody in Scotland will be able to afford the cost of turning them on anyway. That’s unless the cosy little social democratic consensus which passes for political debate in Holyrood is prevented from wiping out what passes for the private sector. Scots are vaguely aware that they are too dependent on the state and that greater wealth generation is needed to pay for the services they want but the political leadership need to bring this about is sadly lacking. Posturing over nuclear issues won’t bring home the candy. Only inward investment will do that.

  29. Back to the poll. I am always interested in the questions about whether an individual’s family will be worse off financially in a year’s time. The responses invariably seem to be negative, but when asked how the past year went they are invariably positive. Is this the normal trend, and if so what do these type of questions tell us?

  30. I haven’t noticed anyone mentioning that the “current voting intention” graph seems to have gone a bit off track since the most recent polls were added (in my browser anyway).

  31. Alasdair – I haven’t seen much in the way of “how was it last year?” but I’m intrigued at the relative pessimism of
    opposition supporters – are they being loyal to the cause when they answer that question, or are they really expecting deteriorating personal finances? Likewise with Govt supporters being overly optimistic I suppose.

  32. JohnH – I know, someone emailed me to tell me earlier, it’s because I must have put the wrong date on one of the polls. Unfortunately I can’t get onto the database to correct it from work.

  33. Having said that, the YouGov figures aren’t that negative – even 50% of Tories think their situation will improve or stay the same (though I can’t tell whether the trend is up or down).

  34. Alasdair-intermittent is intermittent-and it’s worse if it’s unpredictably so. However big & expensive your super grid is-you need a predictable, continuous base load-what’s it going to be?

    If Scotland doesn’t disconnect from the UK grid on becoming independent, then they will have no grounds for stopping replacement nuclear plants in Scotland. To insist on being able to export subsidised wind output, hundreds of miles to England and to rely on English nuclear base load output, whilst “posturing” over nuclear ( to use Nick’s splendid phrase) would be self indulgent…..posturing.

  35. I think you are absolutely right about ‘heartless bastard’ questions, Anthony.
    In fact, I’ve been describing such in exactly that way since at least the mid 1980s!
    Did you consciously pinch the phrase from me, or have we both come up with the same (il?)legimate idea independently?
    Or did I steal it from a third party?! Can’t remember!
    Cheers and keep up the splendid work!, R

  36. Robert – Didn’t consciously nick it, but I think I might well have read you using it on Mike Smithson’s site and squirrelled it away in my subconscious!

    Alasdair – I keep meaning to have a really detailed look at those economic confidence questions and pick out some long term trends. Haven’t had the time to do it alas.

  37. Colin:

    When/if Scotland goes independent will you disconnect from the National ( UK) Grid?

    Can you balance your Hydro/wind/fossil mix within Scotlands demand profile?

    The first question should rather be “What price will the market bear?” (for Scottish exports) The answer to the second is “nae bother”

  38. Alasdair-IAEA say breeder technology extends the life of currently exploitable uranium resources to 2500 years usage. As ever of course as energy prices rise, economically exploitable resources expand.

    The big question is how long before oil & gas resources begin to seriously dwindle. The world shows no signs of reducing it’s consumption of them.

  39. John B-my question related to Grid input mix Engineering, rather than economics.
    In the long run we will all have to bear a heavy price for our energy extravagence.

  40. I’m pleased to see Robert Waller posting on this site, (unless someone is naughtily pretending to be him of course!)

  41. Peter Cairns:

    You said

    “So whatever solution the rest of the UK chooses and it’s your choice, Scotland is free to make it’s own.”

    I’m not sure that’s quite right. Do you mean “If Scotland were independent it would be free to make its own”?

    It does seem that the nuclear power industry has suddenly realised (on the election of an SNP government) that there are high transmission costs on electricity generated in Scotland and used in the south. The expected conflict may not happen, but only because the opposition has walked away.

    If the SNP can frighten off the nuclear industry, and the immigration service snatch teams when their majority over the next largest party has gone off on maternity leave,can they do the same thing with Trident when she comes back? If the answer to that is “Yes”, please remind me what you need independence for.

  42. Anthony,

    The SNP have released a press re;ease about a Scottish Daily express story about a YouGov poll in Scotland. Any information on it.

    John,

    The SNP as government control planning, so no planning consent no nuclear power. In general as a nation or as part of the UK we can certainly reduce demand, and indeed although it’s good for the balance of payments we don’t need to be a net exporter of electricity.

    Wind farms in particular are intermitant, but wave and particularly tidal are less so.

    In addition whether it be traditional pump storage or Sea Loch storage, let along hydrogen, in the longer term globally energy storage is becoming a big issue and a market we should be developing both for domestic use and export.

    In addition there is also Carbon capture and biomass both of which can allow us to provide base load at far lower carbon levels than present without reliance on imports.

    It might not be fully renewable or carbon neutral but it would be a lot better than now and stable and sustainable.

    Compared to that even if the UK builds it’s ten reactors by 2020 and that is a big big if I still think that on CO2 we will be no where near meeting the targets Browns government have set.

    Peter.

  43. This from the SNP e-mail…

    The opinion poll conducted for the Scottish Daily Express shows;

    Scottish Constituency Vote
    SNP 38
    Labour 29
    Tory 14
    Lib Dem 14
    Other 6

    Scottish Regional Vote
    SNP 30
    Labour 27
    Tory 13
    Lib Dem 12
    Other 18

    It doesn’t mention Westminster or anything else, or elese it hasn’t been released yet. Although the 14%/12% though down a bit makes the 7% LibDem for Westminster look particularly unlikely.

    LibDem Holyrood result was 16%/11%.

    Put these in to the Scotland votes website and you get roughly ( as it doesn’t break down others).

    http://shandwick2.fs-server.com/_client/wspa/

    Labour 40 (-6), SNP 48 (+1), Tory 18 (+1), LibDem 16 (0), SSP 0 (0), Green 5 (+3), Ind 2 (+1).

    Peter.

  44. Thanks for that Peter , the Others regional vote seems rather high , presumably they are showing the same very high Green vote as in their last poll on which we had some discussion with Anthony suggesting it was boosted by the way the voting question was phrased .

  45. Well if Peter’s reply to John constitutes the SNP’s energy strategy I am not surprised he didn’t tell me whether they would disconnect from the “nuclear” UK Grid-they wont.
    Hunterston B & Torness output will need 4000 2MW wind turbines to replace-better get those planning applications moving.

    I,m puzzled that anti-nuclear Salmond has announced all Scotland’s nuclear legacy waste must now stay in Scotland-more hassle for Gordon?

  46. Colin,

    With only 5 million people, the largest oil and gas reserves in the EU, and an estimated 25% of the whole of Europe’s wind and wave potential Scotland doesn’t need nuclear.

    We also have plenty of coal and are close (if Brown gets his finger out) to the worlds first carbon capture hydrogen power station at Peterhead.

    Compared to the UK, Scotland is extremely well placed in energy terms, and the decision to go for nuclear is a triumph for the nuclear industries lobbying power more than a real solution to Britain’s energy needs.

    As to waste, the SNP policy is safe storage as close to the point of origin as possible. No reprocessing, no shipping it the length of the country.

    That means building our own storage facilities at tax payers expense rather than waiting two (or possibly three) decades for a single UK megasite that’s already a quarter century late.

    Dealing with Scotland’s share of UK nuclear waste properly and safely won’t be easy or cheap but the SNP government are tackling it head on in the first year, something that has been needed since the first British reactor opened in 1956 more than fifty years ago.

    It may not be the perfect policy for energy or waste but it beats the hell out of doing nothing and hoping the problem will go away till there is a real energy crisis or the waste becomes unstable.

    Peter.

  47. Thanks Peter

    I look forward to the day you unplug from the Grid then.England’s electricity transmission costs should fall a bit.

    I hope the Peterhead project proceeds soon-CCS has a big contribution to make.

    Colin

  48. The gender divide on nuclear power is very interesting – a really huge difference between men and women. There aren’t many issues that give that kind of divide, although I seem to remember support for the Iraq War just before it began in early 2003 was also quite divided, with men much more supportive than women.

  49. Hello, I know that this nuclear debate has heavily strayed from the point, but the issue of Scotland ‘unplugging’ from the gris is bizarre. Grids don’t operate in that way. Buying and selling electricity across borders is a normal part of economic activity. If Scotland did become independent (and let me say again that I am NOT a nationalist) England’s energy prices would be totally unaffected. The electricity would continue to be generated by private companies and set by the international price of oil/gas/wind etc. For the record, wind is actually one of the cheapest forms of electricity as it is the least economically risky (beaten only by baseload coal, and only if you ignore the environmental and health problems it causes). Whether or not you like it is another issue.

  50. Thanks, Andy – if that is indeed a compliment! – but I’ll say now I’ll only be here with any regularity until the exams taking place now are ready for me to mark …like tomorrow …
    O joy! (And actually, I mean that!)

1 2