I’ve had a busy couple of days so have only just caught up with the Populus poll of the Unite trade union members in the Sunday Times. I had assumed the poll was Populus trying out polling Union members ready for a future Labour leadership contest, but actually it was commissioned by the Conservative party, for reasons presumably best known to themselves.

Of course, one should also give polls commissioned by political parties proper scrutiny – they aren’t commissioning them out of the goodness of their hearts because they want you better informed. The full tables though are on Populus’s website and all seems above board.

The poll showed that amongst Unite members voting intentions were CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 19%. The newspaper article compares this with respondents recollection of how they voted at the last election, which suggested a Labour lead then amongst Unite members of 48% to the Conservatives 22% – though as regular readers know, people aren’t actually very good at reporting their past vote accurately and it normally overestimates Labour’s support, so the swing to the Conservatives amongst Unite members probably isn’t quite as large as these figures suggest.

Voting intentions of Unite members are, of course, no more interesting than voting intentions of any other group. The bit I expect the Conservatives were interested in when they commissioned the poll was that 49% of Unite members said they were opposed to the donations Unite gave to the Labour party in 2008, and 54% said they were opposed to future large donations.


17 Responses to “Populus poll of Unite members”

  1. Once again, the ‘Brown now, Cameron after the recession’ feeling shows up. 38/31 to Brown on leader to deal with the economy in recession. 37/27 to Cameron to lead Britain forward after the next election.

    It is quite a funny situation for Labour to find themselves in. You would expect economic recovery would lead to popularity.

  2. Interesting table on likelihood to vote.

    If one applied MORI’s filter (10/10) then Cons actually lead Lab among UNITE members. Even if one reduced the filter down to 8/10 – which gives about 60% turnout, the parties are still level-pegging.

    Clear evidence that Conservative supporters are more motivated to vote. This is likely to result in differential turnout in favour of Conservaties, and so we may well see an unwinding of some of the structural bias in the electoral system.

  3. I am surprised that even 22% of UNITE members would contemplate voting Conservative.

    Could anyone help me- what is the average support breakdowns for UNITE members over the last couple of years? (I’m trying to understand if there may be any trend in voting intention).

  4. @Dean – I’m not surprised at all. Colleaugue who are members of Unite are all aware that they are living in a bubble. They know that more and more attention will be brought upon them over the next few years as being seen to be protected from the recession (irrispective of the truth). I think they like everyone else are worried about the size of debt and the amount of cuts that will have to come to pay for it. Under conservatives this may be harsh but brief whereas under labour the debt mountain will continue to rise until the cuts are deeper and more protracted. No matter how you look at fiscal stimuli, what’s borrowed must be paid back :-(

  5. I am wondering if the 11.5% swing to the Conservatives found here could be extrapolated to the rest of the population. I think that it could well be less amongst union members than in the general population. Notwithstanding the past vote recollection problem, this points to a large nationwide swing something like size of the 1997 election.

  6. It is interesting that 51% of UNITE members in Scotland would support the SNP and not Labour. That must be causing some real concern in the leadership of UNITE. Time to stop funding the party that your members no longer support.

  7. Very surprising result (to me, anyway). The stance on donations is interesting too and should worry Labour. Personally I’ve never understood why it was even legal for unions to donate their members’ money to a political party – it’s self-evident that not all members will support that party and anti-democratic that the union obliges them to support it by proxy whether they wish to or not.

  8. @ James Ludlow

    I agree, unions like all groups should allow members to choose where their donations are directed. Giving people such choice, is not somethging I can see anyone defending or am I missing something?

  9. James – they aren’t obliged too, members can opt out of the political levy.

  10. Anthony, given that 49% were opposed to the donation do we know how many opt out? I get the impression it is negligible but may be wrong. It feels a bit like some of the payment protection insurance miss-selling. Where most people did not realise that they could opt out but it was not until legislation made this mandatory for everyone to be told how to and companies fined for miss-selling did people really realise what choice they had.

  11. It’s like what some campaigners would like to see happen with organ donation. If you give people a choice to opt in they are reticent but If you give them a choice to ‘opt out’ they invariably ignore it.

    You would have to be a real political anorak to bother to find the little box and tick it.

  12. I have just been searching the Unite website for 20 mins trying to find any info on political donations and cant. But to be honest that does not mean much as I am not that IT literate

  13. @ Anthony – my understanding is that not all unions offer an opt-out clause. Is that not the case?

  14. Anthony,

    Any idea why my comment from this mroning is still in moderation ?

  15. Thanks, Anthony. I can’s say I’ve ever seen any mention of an opt-out in the literature my union sends out. It must be in tiny print on the back of a page somewhere.

    To be truly fair, they should provide not merely an opt-out but the chance to opt-in to make donations to parties other than Labour.

  16. In view of the attitudes of UNITE members as described in Anthony’s last para, one wonders what they make of Charlie Whelan’s role in the Damian McBride “email” circulation.

    Whelan was Gordon Brown’s erstwhile Press Secretary who also resigned in controversy-and now occupies the interesting position of Political Director at UNITE.

    UNITE are waging an internecine war with a Blairite candidate for the incumbancy at Erith & Thamesmead constituency.

    If , as speculated, UNITE is saving the Labour Party from bankruptcy, might it’s membership decide to voice their opinions more loudly in view of current events?