Two Sunday Polls

There are two new polls in the Sunday papers. A new ICM poll in the Sunday Express has topline figures, with changes from ICM’s last poll, of CON 45%(+2), LAB 29%(+1), LDEM 16%(-3). It was conducted betweeb the 30th July and 1st August. It’s actually the highest level of Labour support for two months, but seems to be at the expence of the Liberal Democrats. A second poll for BPIX in the Mail on Sunday had figures of CON 47%, LAB 24%, LDEM 16% and was conducted between the 31st July and 2nd August.

Both polls asked about the Labour leadership and again failed to produce any particular evidence that Labour would do better without Gordon Brown. 38% of people said they would be more likely to vote Labour if they dumped Gordon, but 40% said they would be less likely to. I don’t like questions framed in this way – it is impossible to tell how many of the 38% are people who vote Labour anyway, how many of those 40% are people who would never vote Labour.

In ICM’s poll Jack Straw was the favoured replacement for Brown, leading David Miliband by 24% to 20%. Other candidates were in single figures. In BPIX it was he other way round – Miliband lead Straw by 18% to 12%. It would appear that Straw and Miliband are the two front runners in the eyes of the public, though I doubt that is more than a reflection of the fact that they are the two who have been speculated about most in the press.

BPIX found 37% of people thought David Miliband was right in making media appearances in the last week that were interpreted as the beginning of a leadership challenger, 35% of people disagreed. 67% thought that, were Gordon Brown to be replaced, his successor should call an immediate election.

As I have said before, people are not particularly good at answering hypothetical questions about how they would react to future events, so this is not good evidence about whether a change in leader would actually help Labour or not. However, rightly or wrongly people do look to polls like this as evidence and it does drive the media story – so these findings are important for Gordon Brown’s future.


85 Responses to “Two Sunday Polls”

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  1. ‘Keith

    There’s a poll around here somewhat that states that GB is the worst PM since World War II – no big surprises if this is true, or else it might be someone getting a little overexcited about some more poor polling results.’

    ‘worst’; no, least popular according to the polls. ‘Worst’ otherwise is an emotional term and open for all sorts of emotionality…

  2. ‘worst’ isn’t an emotonal term, it’s a value judgement whereas ‘according to polls, the least popular’ is a matter of verifiable fact.

    However, the polling agency might have actually asked the question “who is the worst post-WWII PM”?

  3. The absence of a meaningful Scottish sample is a serious failure. We all expect a Conservative Government. It will have as few independent minded MP’s as Labour and they will be just as bullied and marginalised.

    The known unknown is whether we will or will not have an independent Scotland in about 33 months time Many of those who are opposed think we will.

    It’s a bigger issue than the exact balance of the parties in FPTP Westminster or the career prospects of GB.

  4. if there are any good polls about gb our’boom and borrow’ chancellor and hapless pm i will be very suprised.people are not stupid.he was part of the nasty decade when the feckless and lazy were rewarded at the tax payers expense.i would think the labour party are in complete shock about where they are when their strategists believed by buying people off with hand outs would keep their vote.the opposite has happened.

  5. ‘if there are any good polls about… our’boom and borrow’ … and hapless pm i will be very suprised.people are not stupid….was part of the nasty decade when the feckless and lazy were rewarded at the tax payers expense’

    Isn’t this the Thatcher decade?

  6. And I agree with John P Dick…

  7. ‘simon cooke

    ‘worst’ isn’t an emotonal term, it’s a value judgement whereas ‘according to polls, the least popular’ is a matter of verifiable fact.’

    Sorry; I have trouble working out the difference between an emotional term and a value judgement… When is an emotion not a value judgement??????? I argue that there is a difference between ‘least popular’ according to definite measurement such as poll and value/emotional terms…

    Go on then, you try some dictionary definitions… or perhaps you are actually wrong…

  8. “least popular” is verifiable by reference to polls.

    “worst” could be verifiable by reference to quantifiable pointers such as (un)employment/education/
    health/GDP/national debt/etc statistics.

    However, “worst” in the context of Polling, is only a reflection of opinion, usually based on the gut feeling of the individual polled, and not necessarily influenced by facts at all.

    I’m surprised no-one ever questions the media when independent statistics are at variance with “public perception”. It’s always the statistics that are regarded as suspect, rather than the means by which the public is “informed”.

  9. As an example, I just did a quick poll around my desk – of five people, three said the oil price had gone up in the last month, and two said it had stayed the same.

    It’s not their fault they don’t know the truth – they just haven’t seen the $30 a barrel drop in the oil price on the news.

  10. john tt

    I wonder if your question was too simple.

    For you “oil price” clearly meant the price at which crude has been traded.

    Might it be that for your colleagues, “oil price” means the price of petrol/diesel at the pump-ie the outcome which effects them personally & which they experience every day?
    If this is the case their answers may demonstrate that they indeed knew “the truth” as it effects them, whilst at the same time being less familiar with the price of crude than you are.

    It’s a bit like the dichotomy between a statistic which asserts that “crime is coming down”,( “crime” being a remote & undefined activity ) and a personal experience that vandalism & aggressive public behaviour by young people in ones neighbourhood is increasing.

    Statistics can be as fraught with biase & inaccuracy as personal perceptions…..and opinion polls.

    Their “independence” is much less relevant than their veracity-and the former does not guarantee the latter.

  11. The family of the chap shot yesterday won’t be feeling that crime is coming down, however much the statistics indicate that it is. Is that your point? So, my recent 10% increase in income means the UK isn’t facing an economic slow-down?

    Petrol prices lag behind oil prices, but I was referring to the price of a barrel, and my colleagues were aware of that – it is hugely relevant in itself. People should be aware of the real facts out there, not just the ones that affect their neighbourhood, or the ones that the media chooses to include in their narrative.

    When I mention statistics, I mean irrefutable ones (like the fact that oil was trading at $117 a barrel yesterday, and $147 a barrel a few weeks ago. The drop hasn’t been widely reported.

    That’s not fraught, and I chose that as an example in order to steer clear of “the statistics don’t mean anything, just look at crime” sort of exchange that the media would like us to have.

  12. john-my “point” is the one I expressed-

    that “statistics” are not per se more accurate or representative than personal perceptions.You have to ask as many questions about the statistics as you do about the perceptions before making a judgement about their reliability or representational usefulness.

    Your statement -“The family of the chap shot yesterday won’t be feeling that crime is coming down, however much the statistics indicate that it is.” indicates that you have reached a judgement on the reliability of BCS “statistics” which I cannot share.
    BCS is an opinion poll organised by the Home Office. I have many questions about it’s veracity-and they are widely shared outside the Home Office.

    BCS does not-at least for me-fall into your comfort zone of “independent” & “irrefutable”.The many caveats posted on this site about the usefulness of opinion polls -of which BCS is one-has taught me to be very cautious about them

    Crude oil price is a fact-not an opinion.

    Drawing statistical comparisons between facts & opinions seems pointless to me.

  13. “Statistics are not per se more accurate or representative than personal perceptions”

    Sorry, but I disagree regarding accuracy, and I don’t know what “representative” means in that context.

    I was not drawing a comparison between a statistic and an opinion – quite the opposite. I was pointing out that they are not comparable.

    Statistics are based on research of data, whereas opinion is not.

    Crude oil price is an irrefutable statistic – true, thanks for agreeing. Not open to interpretation – it’s gone down. What troubles me is that the perception is that it has gone up, flying in the face of the fact that it has gone down, and the responsibility for that mis-match of fact and perception lies with those who pick and choose what to report according to their so-called independent agenda.

    The BCS (OK, not my point at all, but anyway) and the other measure of recorded crime are open to mis-interpretation and mis-counting, yes, both ways. Until there’s a method of measuring that removes the ability of spinners to place their interpretation on the figures then it remains in the realm of “opinion” and should not be confused with fact, or reality.

    However, where measures are universally accepted, then rises and falls based on the same criteria should be seen as reliable. So, if the CPI measure of inflation says it’s gone up, then it has, not matter if you only buy beans and they’ve gone down. If the BCS and the recorded criome figures say crime is down, then it is down, on the reasonable assumption that the measuring is consistent.

    Your argument is consistent with saying that if a newspaper runs a headline saying that Brown is popular, then we should question the statistics that say he isn’t just as much as we question the newspaper.

  14. “Your argument is consistent with saying that if a newspaper runs a headline saying that Brown is popular, then we should question the statistics that say he isn’t just as much as we question the newspaper”

    It is-and I believe we should.

    My understanding of BCS is that it is not to be equated to “recorded crime statistics”. You need to draw your own conclusion on this-there are plenty of objective commentaries.

    But even if it was the same as “recorded crime statistics” we need to ask-what statistics?-what data?-what methodology?,before we can make a judgement.

    I still feel you are comparing apples & oranges-and I do not share your relegation of “neighbourhood experience” to a subservient position to “national statistics”-take your oil price case.

    Yes-global crude oil price has fallen in the last few weeks-irrefutable fact easily obtained.

    UK national petrol prices are ..up/down/static?
    Any “national statistic ” on this must prompt questions like-what data/what areas/which outlets/when?

    It depends what’s happening where you live as to what you believe-and much more inportantly politically-what affects you.

    If the government announces that tractor production targets have been met again for the umpteenth year-but you can’t find a tractor to buy-the statistic loses something in translation to personal experience.

    Coming third after Lies & Damn Lies, “Statistics” will always need to work hard for credibility.

  15. You lose me when you mention “tractor production statistics”

    Again, I’m saying apples (facts) are not comparable with oranges (opinions). That in itself is not a comparison , but a refutation that the two should live in the same argument. How much more simply can I put it?

    You seem to like the idea that people think the oil price has gone up when the facts point the other way. Try to understand i was talking about the price of a barrel of oil. If you want to look at how the FT figures are collated for us, great, but your falling into your own trap by saying it can only be true if the petrol station confirms it.

    I’d rather decisiions were made based on facts rather than dodgy opinions based on falsehoods, but I guess that’s the place we’re in. Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and worst of all, Ignorance. No wonder the Chinese hesitate to embrace our wonderful corrupt democracy ideas.

  16. “You seem to like the idea that people think the oil price has gone up when the facts point the other way.”

    I didn’t mean to give that impression john because I dont.

    But “the oil price is coming down” is of itself meaningless.-down from what base? -and over what period?

    Oil price is still three to four times what it was only three or four years ago. This is impacting personal budgets & the global economy in an increasingly serious way.In UK, Fuel Tax excerbates the problem.

    Facts are important-I agree with you wholeheartedly-but context is everything in turning them into relevant informative statistics with which the public can identify.

  17. Without unintentionally treading on Anthony’s toes, John tt I’d proffer to suggest that political discussions regarding the nitty-gritty are best served elsewhere (such as Mike Smithson’s place). Poll analysis – with erudite comment, or not – is the purpose of this non-partisan forum.

    I always enjoy conversations within this space – with yourself and others – but I know that certain approaches are beyond kulturny. I’d welcome a chance to discuss policies elsewhere: you may even have a chance to discuss the politic with Mark Senior (Martin Day being adequately subdued)…! ;)

  18. So to come back to the initial point, a set of criteria, ie verifiable facts, would be handy when determining the best or worst post-war footballer, say.

    Criteria such as number of goals scored, successful passes, tackles, medals won, speed of movement, etc, which would be agreed.

    The most/least popular though, doesn’t require reference to such criteria and the result is therefore much more likely to be affected by hostile/friendly news coverage.

    So, if the agreed criteria showed that Ronaldo was the best post-war footballer, and the result of a poll showed him to be the worst in the opinion of those polled, my searching questions would be levelled at those people who presented Ronaldo to the public as the worst, in spite of the agreed evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

    The media get off far too lightly.

    In China, if a national newspaper ran an editorial that said – “The Govt claims the Olympic Stadium is finished and ready, but we know not to trust the Govt, don’t we?”, then the editor would be hauled over the coals. In this country, he’d be applauded for seeing through the lies….

    ON the fuel duty – do you know whether Osborne’s idea is to increase it when the oil price goes down, or when the petrol price comes down? I suspect he’s intending to track the oil price, which makes a 25% fall since its peak really quite significant.

  19. Fluffy – where on earth have I discussed policy, or suggested which side of the fence I sit?

    My comments have been entirely true to the spirit of this site, It was not I who made any political point – further than pointing out that perception is often at variance with hard evidence, and that the media should take more respoinsibility for reporting facts.

    I can’t be blamed if some-one mis-interprets my non-partisan points and claims that I swallow Govt statistics when I clearly, patently have not said that!

  20. One of the most difficult things is judging when and how to peak at any election, it is a tradition in the UK for those flying high to be sent crashing down!

    Credability must always be maintained, but peaking must occur basically on election day! All opinion polls reflect a trend that if uncorrected would produce the result predicted, however correction will be applied which will alter the trend!

    This correcting might be applied in ‘target’ constituencies or it might be applied more generally!

  21. And now the BBC are running a story that oil prices could rise to $200 within 5-10 years, finishing the article with …

    “The report comes just days after oil prices slipped from peaks near $150 a barrel”

    So , a poll done now asking if oil prices are going up would probably produce a polled majority opinion that they’ve gone up to $150, have slipped a little, but look like they’ll be shooting through the roof again sometime soon.

    To-day’s price of oil? Around $118. that’s some slip from “near $150”!

    For Fluffy’s benefit, this is not saying that any one policy/party has merit over another – just a simple point that news editors in this country adhere to a narrative that departs from reality and misleads the general public, which has a knock-on effect on opinion polls.

  22. john tt

    Osborne’s plan is to vary fuel duty when oil price departs from the Treasury assumption for that FY. Your question prompts a query as to how he deals with the lag between oil price & petrol price at the pump.

    re :-
    “In China, if a national newspaper ran an editorial that said – “The Govt claims the Olympic Stadium is finished and ready, but we know not to trust the Govt, don’t we?”, then the editor would be hauled over the coals. In this country, he’d be applauded for seeing through the lies….”

    I bow to your knowledge of the Chinese legal system-but I have a distinct feeling that the editor would be executed.

    http://www.hrichina.org/public/index

    …but perhaps you think that such reports & asertions are yet another example of “a narrative that departs from reality and misleads the general public,”

  23. john tt-given your admiration for the Chinese State Press I thought you might be interested in the following:-

    http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2007/imprisoned_07/imprisoned_list_07.html

    http://www.cpj.org:80/Briefings/2007/imprisoned_07/imprisoned_07.html

    ie-China has imprisoned more journalists than any other country.

    Most imprisoned journalists are incarcerated for ” anti-state alegations ”

    On the whole I prefer our Press-warts & all.

  24. john tt:-re your bleat about the BBC on oil price trends.

    As I understand it, you think the current most significant fact which should be reported is the 21% fall from peak prices over the last few days.

    I beg to differ-I think the current most significant fact is that oil price increased 95% in the 7 years 97/04 ( 19$ to 37$ yearly averages )-followed by a 73% increase in the 3 years 04/07 ( 37$ to 64$ yearly averages )-followed by a 63% increase in the first 7 months of 08 ( 64$ to 104$ average ytd )

  25. Colin – your wilful mis-interpretation of my examples continues . I haven’t followed your links , because discussion of the Chinese wasn’t the point. Admiration for the Chinese State Press? Ha! I’m actually more in favour of our independent press, but unlike you I think its warts should not be ignored.

    There isn’t a choice between a free press and dictatorship – anyone should be able to discern my central point – that our media can have an unfortunate effect on polling because they pick and choose what to report, and how and when. and they corrupt our democracy by misleading people into thinking, for instance, that the oil price is going through the roof when it is in reality going through the floor.

    Try to find some analysis of what’s happening to , say, the dollar, hedge funds, the weather before you put a case that the oil price is shooting up. It isn’t.

    And by how much would Osborne be raising fuel duty this Autumn?

  26. john

    The statement that “oil price is going through the floor” is quite ridiculous and totally misleading.

    Our press does not “corrupt” democracy in my opinion-despite the warts.In any case ,the vast majority of fuel buyers/ newspaper readers can remember what they paid five years ago, and ten years ago .They don’t need you or anyone else to explain the “facts” to them.

    As I have tried to argue, “facts” need context & perspective in order to become informative statistics. The facts I provided on oil price trend offer both-your fact offers neither.

    Today the statement “oil price is increasing” is as true as “oil price is falling”-all that is needed for clarity is the timescale (which you fail to provide).Then people can make a judgement about the trend over time.

    I don’t know the answer to your last question-but as I understand it the adjustment would provide stability of fuel price at or around the last Treasury oil price assumption. It would do so presumably until the next FY/ Treasury oil price forecast, when the figures would be re-calibrated-and so on.

  27. Colin – Your struggle to make an argument stick depresses me. Why don’t you just have a look at the trend graph of the oil price? You’ll find it here :

    http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/[email protected]

    It can’t in any context be true that white is black. The petrol prices at the pumps that ypou base your whole attitude on should follow – unless of course the petrol producers manage to convince us that white is black. Good luck with your efforts to help them.

    The oil price has been plummetting and this fact you continue to reject. That’s daft, and I’ve had enough!

  28. They don’t need you or anyone else to explain the “facts” to them.

    Eh? Your whole argument is that contextual explanation renders facts meaningful You make no sense, I’m afraid.

    “the statement “oil price is increasing” is as true as “oil price is falling””

    Colin I’ve read (and written !) some rubbish in my time, but that one beats everything! So unemployment is down and inflation is falling,eh?

    THe oil price is treading at $115. It might go up again (in which case we’ll see headlines) or it might fall (in which case whether it makes the news will depend on the editors.)

    Of course it’s corrupting.

  29. “Your whole argument is that contextual explanation renders facts meaningful”

    It is indeed.
    Regular buyers of fuel at the pump are aware of the context. They know what a dramatic increase has ocurred in prices over the last four years .The AA say for supermarket diesel 80p Aug 04- 1.27p today-an increase of 59%.It would come as no surprise therefore to them if they were told that oil prices took off about that time too-though I grant you they might be surprised to learn that the oil price increase over that period was 188% ( 40$ to 115$ )

    RE your quote from my post-you missed a bit-this bit :-

    “all that is needed for clarity is the timescale (which you fail to provide).Then people can make a judgement about the trend over time.”

    The timescale for the 140$-115$ fall which you seem so excercised about is one month.You must explain that if the figure is to have any meaning.And for perspective you must run your FT graph for the other timescales it offers- 3months,six months & a year.

    If you don’t do this you are being selective-the crime which you accuse UK “editors” of.

    But I dont think that is “corrupting” john-either by you or the editors.And so far as it’s effect on opinion polls-the thing which is upsetting you most I suspect-I just think the British Public are smarter than you fear.

    I’ve had enough too now!

  30. “I just think the British Public are smarter than you fear.”

    More risible nonsense.

    Since you refuse to accept that a graph showing a fall from 147 to 115 is significant , let’s choose another example.

    A Govt employee or minister hints to the media at an imminent tax policy change. The media report it as an unattributable rumour. People change their plans because they believe the rumour (or don’t, because they don’t believe it)

    How on earth is that not corrupting?

    The media colludes, does not operate in the real world, and feeds its own agenda.

    “worst” and “best” are measurable from facts. “Opinions” rely on a massive amount of influences, many of which are corrupted by the media.

  31. john-
    if that is your analysis of the Stamp Duty fiasco, then I fear that your media myopia will provide you with more and more anxiety, as this administration continues it’s incompetent efforts to decide & communicate policy to the public.

  32. That wasn’t my analysis of any issue – just a simple point that the media distorts facts. Obvious really, and non-poartisan, but clearly not obvious enough to the blinkered and small-minded.

    Nor am I anxious in any sort of problematic sense – a certain amount of cynicism reduces irrational anxiety, and encourages an independence of mind to
    which you appear to be oblivious.

  33. And to-days bbc business headlines include the fact that oil has “soared” by $1 a barrel since Friday , neatly omitting that it “slipped” by $4 on Friday!

  34. From BBC Business News today under the banner:-

    “Crude rises on Georgia fighting” :-

    “US light, sweet crude rose 18 cents to $115.38 a barrel, while London Brent gained 38 cents to $113.71. Prices had earlier risen by more than a dollar.

    Georgia is not an oil producer but the country is a key transit point for crude and gas exports.

    Oil prices have fallen in recent weeks after hitting a record $147.27 in July.”

    From Sky News today under the banner :-

    “Supermarkets Slash Petrol Prices”

    “The price of crude oil has slipped by almost $35 over the last six weeks, amid mounting concern that slower economic growth is reducing global demand, and currently stands at just over $113 a barrel.”

  35. And from to-day’s Ft – something along the lines of “Oil Price continues to fall despite war in Georgia”.

    So the BBC editor has a good story that fits the current narrative and runs it without research which would have shown that the price flucuates by a dollar or two within its (at present) downward spiral.

    Whereas the Sky runs its interpretation (I actually found a Guardian article that put together all the reasons for the fall, and they included the weather and hedge fund changes of behaviour as well)

    I’m not sure whether you’ve finally seen my point – that the media exerts its influence by reporting news in a partial way. The facts should in my view take precedence over the “interpretation” (or “spin”)

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