New YouGov Poll

Today’s Telegraph has a new YouGov poll with topline figures (with changes from their poll a week ago) of CON 40%(-2), LAB 27%(-1), LDEM 18%(+1). Others are up 1 at 15%.

Changes are all very minor, but it is the lowest Conservative lead from YouGov since June (and to answer Mike Smithson’s question, if it is a knock from Nigel Farage getting lots of UKIP publicity over the weekend, it hasn’t registered on UKIP’s support – they remain on 5%, the same as in the two YouGov polls last week).

I’ll digest this poll properly and post more later.

UPDATE: I’ve had a look at the rest of the poll – full tables are here. Firstly YouGov asked about the Conservative description of Britain as a “broken society”, and found overwhelming agreement, with 75% of people agreeing and only 15% disagreeing. Asking about their own local area, 46% of people still agree (this is a common pattern, you get the same contrast if you ask about local NHS services, local police services, etc compared to the NHS nationally and the police nationally).

Moving on YouGov explored a series of, mainly negative, comments about the Conservatives and David Cameron. The one that met with most support was “David Cameron talks a good line but it’s hard to know whether there is any substance behind the words” – agreed with by 64%. 55% thought it was hard to know what the Conservatives stood for, 38% that Cameron was all spin and no substance. 38% thought that the Conservatives did NOT better reflect the values of the British people than they used to. There was less support for the statements that David Cameron lacked the necessary experience to be Prime Minister (34% thought it was true, but 44% disagred) or that David Cameron had abandoned too many of the Conservatives traditional principles (agreed with by only 17%, down from 32% when YouGov last asked in September 2007).

The Telegraph’s analysis of this is written up to be part of an “obstacles Cameron still faces before getting to Downing Street” type narrative, but it’s worth questioning how much of an obstacle they are. When a party trails in the polls, they need to convert supporters of other parties (or no party), so if opposition supporters think badly of them it matters, those are the people they need to convert. At present however the Conservatives have a large lead in the polls, so if Labour supporters think David Cameron is inexperienced and insubstantial it doesn’t really matter. While I am sure they would like to gain even more support if they could, more essential is consolidating the support of those people who presently support them, which as it stands is enough to win.

Looking back at these statements, the response to many of them is wholly partisan. 38%, for example, think Cameron is all spin and no substance, but this is almost entirely a partisan response – Conservative supporters overwhelmingly disagree, Labour supporters overwhelmingly agree. The people who don’t think the Conservatives better reflect the values and aspirations of British people are again, overwhelmingly people who are voting Labour or Liberal Democrat.

It gets more interesting with the 64% who agree with the statement that “David Cameron talks a good line but it’s hard to know whether there is any substance behind the words” – this includes 48% of Conservative voters – so here we have one weakness for Cameron. On the other hand, so far this problem clearly isn’t stopping people supporting him. The statement that it’s hard to know what the Conservative party stands for also has some traction with Conservative supporters, 25% of whom think it is true.

The survey suggests the areas whether Conservative supporters have doubts – and hence the potential weaknesses threatening Cameron – are how the things he says now would work in practice, and a lack of clarity about what the Conservatives would do.

YouGov went on to ask what people thought the result of 4 or 5 years of Tory government would be on various measures like crime, standards of health care, taxation and so on. Mostly these answers were pretty predictable – Conservative supporters think things will get better or stay the same, Labour and Lib Dem supporters think things will get worse. There were two interesting exceptions to the pattern – in terms of tax, on balance even Conservative supporters tend to think taxes paid by people like them to rise after 4 or 5 years of Tory government. The second exception is immigration, where supporters of all parties tend to think a Conservative government would reduce the overall level of immigration.

48 Responses to “New YouGov Poll”

  1. Interesting. I saw this and thought it must have been UKIP picking up the Tories 2%. I wonder where it went then.

  2. This poll, although carried out by YouGov – a highly respected organisation -does not live up to its normal standards. Most importantly it shoots a number of highly loaded and tendentious questions at respondents. For example they are asked to say whether the statement that follows is ‘True’ or ‘False’ : “David Cameron talks a good line but it is hard to know whether there is any substance behind the words” !! If that doesn’t break every rule in the pollsters handbook, I don’t know what does! Or try this for size : “It is hard to know what the Conservative Party stands for at the moment”

    Both these questions put ideas into respondents minds which they are forced to choose between even if they’d never though of them before. Totally unprofessional. At the moment we do not know whether those questions were asked before or after the voting intention questions It makes one hell of a difference.

    Then The Telegraph says “In the biggest survey it has carried out so far on Mr Cameron’s Conservatives YouGov found – – etc-“. But it appears to be claiming that it is the biggest survey YouGov has carried out . IT IS NO SUCH THING. Their normal sample is 2000 P LUS. This one polled 1573 adults. It is thus a sample reduced by 22.5% without any explanation of how this reduction has been affected and whether it has been subjectively weighted to produce the final figures. The smaller the sample the less reliable are the regional breakdowns and other subsectors.

    My advice is ignore the whole thing. It is merely part of the anti-Tory campaign simmering under the surface at the Telegraph

  3. @ Christina Speight

    Nothing to do with the fact that you don’t like the poll’s findings (Tory support falling, doubts about David Cameron) then?

    Would you rather just have wall to wall fawning and uncritical coverage of “Dave”?

    If you think the Telegraph is anti-Tory, you must be reading a different paper to me….

  4. I saw this and thought it must have been UKIP picking up the Tories 2%. I wonder where it went then.

    The Lib Dems, Scots / Welsh nationalists, Greens and Respect all picked up enough to push them up a point (with rounding, obviously). Make of that what you will!

  5. (I should add that all of this is within the error margin, so it’s basically rampant speculation.)

  6. @ Robert C

    I don’t like unprofessional polling. You ignore what I said and answer your own version of what you think I meant.

    I said the poll was bad because it asked leading questions presupposing and loading the answer the way the pollster expected and WANTED.

    I said the sample size had been surreptitiously reduced by 22.5% while the paper suggested it was bigger. I asked HOW it had been reduced and at what point the loaded questions were asked – ALL of these are professional points and regrettable

    As for the Telegraph’s stance. The readers MAY be Tory inclined but the editorial team concocted a totally misleading expenses farago of exaggerations, suggesting guilt by association, and when given chapter and verse by Tory MPS refused all corrections and apologies. Their propaganda has consistently throughout their miserable campaign focussed on the Tories. The Editor Will Lewis, and their Political editor, Andrew Porter were close associates of the Socialist disgraced spinner Damian McBride who invented so much to attack Tories that he had to be sacked.
    What else do you expect?

  7. RobertC. Christina is certainly reading the same DT I am reading. Heffer never lets up on his contempt for Cameron and the paper often includes criticism of Labour , with advice as to how they should perform. Perhaps there are two editions of the paper.

  8. Anthony, how is the Telegraph defining “The North” when they say the Tories are 2% behind Labour in “the north?” Is it the Midlands and Northern England? Enothern England? Or Scotland and Northern England?

    Isn’t it also true that to be just 2% behind Labour in “the north” is actually a pretty good position for the Conservatives to be in, “up north?”

    Also, I agree with Christina re. the skeward questions. Of course it does make a differance whether the questions/statements are phrased negatively or positively about any party/leader. Usually there should be a mixture or negatively and posiitvely worded questions/statements. Thats not YouGov’s fault though. They are just asking the questions their client has supplied.

  9. GIN – “The North” on YouGov tables is the North East, North West and Yorkshire & Humberside.

    In 2005 the shares of the vote in “The North” were CON 27%, LAB 46%, LDEM 22% – so CON 33%, LAB 35% represents a swing of 9 points. The GB figures in this poll are showing a national swing of 8 points – so actually these figures show the Conservatives doing better in the north than elsewhere.

    That said, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it – it’s just a normal regional cross break with all the normal caveats that apply to that about small sample size (in fact, smaller than some YouGov polls!) and not necessarily being demographically representative of that region.

    As to other things, voting intention questions are always asked first to remove any chance of later questions skewing it.

  10. @Philip Walker

    Well I figured the LibDems +1% was the Labour loss, so I wondered which ‘Others’ the Tories lost 2% to. Looks like it’s all within margin of error though.

  11. Anthony

    What would a national swing of 8% from Labour to Conservatives produce seats wise?

    Am I right in saying this would give the Conservatives a bare overall majority?


  12. The poll is full of loaded questions – no doubt put to suit the Telegraphs narrative.

    A poll shows a massive swing to the Tories in the far North of England – just what it needs and the Telegraph writes it up as a problem for Cameron. This is just a Heffer inspired smear. Just the Telegraph peddling its own agenda – or pointing to the Telegraph reporters being numpties

    Either way a worthless poll from an increasingly worthless paper

  13. Calm Down People, none of you are right !

    Compared with the last 2 YouGov polls, this latest poll is within the margin of error so don’t get to excited/downbeat whatever your political allegiance. We need to see more polls from others to see if there is any trend !

    The important thing about polls is that they are a snapshot in time and change from day to day based on events and many other factors !

  14. I tend to agree with Christina Speight on this one. I was tickled by the DT line about ‘although Cameron still enjoys a comfortable 13 point lead the figures still show he has a mountain to climb….’. It reads to me of a media outlet trying to generate a story. The responses to the broken society queations are classics though – why do so many people think that things are so bad, er..except where I live? That says so much more about the media than it does about real life.

    Having said that, there is no doubt that at some level there are doubts about Cameron, and had Labour got a more competent and trusted leader the Tories would be much more nervous. I suspect that this is pretty normal for most oppostitions at this stage, but my personal view is that these doubts will grow, probably after the GE, as essentially they seem to reflect a basic truth about the party. In recent weeks I’ve read Cameron’s proposed bonfire of the quangos, followed by reports of a new commission (quango) to regulate hunting. We’ve also just had Vaizey talking about privatising parts of the BBC, slapped down by others, with Redwood and co suggesting selling off the motorway network, etc. It’s hard to see what the net result of 5 years of Tory rule will look like, but I’m seeing more evidence that many Tories want to return to many of the bad habits of the past. I suspect this is where those doubts arise from.

  15. The Daily Telegraph can hardly be described as anti-Tory, but it, along with parts of the Daily Mail, is quite possibly anti-Cameron.

    The larger the Tory lead, the more the ant-Cameron argument gathers strength, fort two reasons. First, the lead is large enough for a far more radical manifesto to succeed than he is proposing. Second, Cameron has served his purpose in making the Tories electable, and that’s all he was chosen to do. Now leave the running of the country to those on the more traditional side of the party.

  16. Robert C,

    If you think the DT is still the “Daily Torygraph” you really haven’t been reading it properly for ages.

    The political stance of the DT these days is here, there, and everywhere – except loyalty to the Conservative Party. You have the Heffalump for whom Cameron can do nothing right, and Drivel for whom Brown can do no wrong. Its comments and editorial pages seem to stumble from being the “UKIPograph” to soft NuLabour, with the occasional rush back to mummy to keep the subscriptions coming in. The blogs and the comment on comments are equally revealing. Even the wildest posters on this site would be debarred as being too sensible.

    As for the analysis of the “mountain” – as Anthony has now shown in a separate thread, it’s garbage. Why, they even had a piece about Manchester – pinpointing the lack of Conservative Councillors (yet quaintly omitted to mention that Manchester is the capital of a region where Tories recently made signiifcant gains in County Council and Euro-Elections.)

  17. The Conservative and LD shares could very well end up being their actual percentages in the general election. One would expect Labour to do a bit better than 27%, maybe if they take back some votes currently lost to the minor parties.

    The 75% agreement to the broken society question does annoy me a bit, I must admit. We’re the third richest country in the world of any nation with more than 10 million people; there’s no justification for so many people believing that the country is in that much of a mess. As usual, as pointed out, they don’t think their own area is so bad; just other people’s.

  18. @Mark M

    Yes, I can see why you’d have thought that. Playing along, though, and piercing the veil of the margin of error, the Lib Dem up-tick is more likely to have come from the Tories than any of the others are, which is still pretty inexplicable but not half as much as, say, Tory -> Respect. Fortunately, as we are agreed, the margin of error preserves us from having to write such bizarre ‘Just So’ stories!

  19. As I repeatedly point out (and so does Anthony and anyone else knowledgeable) these tiny variations are well within the margin of error and don’t provide any real evidence of change. The WMA is 41:26:18.

  20. @ Alec

    “The responses to the broken society queations are classics though – why do so many people think that things are so bad, er..except where I live? That says so much more about the media than it does about real life. ”

    Labour & Lib Dem voters also thought that “social problems are far more serious than they were ten or twenty years ago” ( the actual question) to a greater extent in Britain as a whole than in their own area.

    Indeed the extent to which Labour & Lib Dem voters expressed more agreement for Britain as a whole than for their own area , far exceeded the proportionate change for Conservative voters.

    Perhaps Labour & LibDem voters too, read the OECD statistics for Britain.

  21. I am with Wayne nothing to get excited about.
    Should the next 2-4 polls average 40 for the Cons with one or more below then that would be interesting.
    I still have to Tories comfortably above 40%.

  22. @Colin – I’me with Andy Stidwill on this. The nub of this question, as will numerous surveys of education, health, crime etc, is that while people’s individual experience is general OK and getting more positive, they think overall things are getting worse. It’s not logical, but purely down to excessive coverage of bad news distorting perceptions. People are now more frightened of crime than they have ever been, but crime is at its lowest for many years. This is a non party political problem we all have to face up to – how do we deliver a happy and satisfied society, while addressing real problems that do undoubtedly exist with a sense of proportion?

  23. @Alec,

    I sort of agree with your argument about people’s personal experience vs. the impression the media gives them. But there is also a flip side. People are generally aware of the top level serious crime in their neighbourhood. If a child is snatched, or someone gets shot dead in an armed robbery they will probably hear about it. On the other hand people can often be blissfully unaware of large amounts of quite awful crime happening almost literally on their doorsteps.

    As a police officer you tend to have a pretty negative view about certain areas, as you know the details of the crimes that happen there and the backgrounds of the nasty people that live there. It is quite common for someone to say “oh, my area isn’t so bad” when if they actually knew what had happened within 500 yards of their house in the past week they’d be quite scared.

  24. @ Richard Whelan

    An 8% swing from Labour to Tory would give a result (assuming the Lib Dems stay the same) of around


    giving a Tory majority of 38 seats

  25. Although I don’t disagree withe analysis that people’s perceptions are warped by the media, I don’t think there’s necessarily a contradiction between the 75% who say that Britain is a broken society and only 46% who say the same about their own area.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that about half of the population lives in “broken” areas and half doesn’t. This explains the 46%. But then the national question would become “would you describe a country in which half the areas are “broken” as a “broken society” – Yes or No. I can easily see 75% of people answering “Yes” to that question.

  26. @Yariv – I understand your point, and agree to an extent, although we would then need to go back to the original criticism of this poll regarding the leading questions etc. The difference between local/national perceptions is particularly acute in more specific questions focussing on individual areas like crime, NHS and education. It has also appeared on economic confidence, with more people thinking they will be OK but nationally it will be worse. There is a clear pattern, and one that ought to worry everyone. Just why is it that we don’t appear to have reasonably judgements about what is going on around us, for better or for worse, and will these distortions lead to poor government decisions and a failure to tackle real issues. I think this is a central theme for politics now and needs to be urgently addressed.

  27. @ ALEC

    “Just why is it that we don’t appear to have reasonably judgements about what is going on around us,”

    Speak for yourself mate!

  28. Alec,

    “Just why is it that we don’t appear to have reasonably judgements about what is going on around us,”

    That’s one explanation which supports the view that things are bad but because we don’t see it locally, we will elect a government that doesn’t take action

    However the reality could be the opposite and what we see around us is the accurate situation and by electing a government that will address the wider fear that things are bad we will make the mistake of electing a government that will target scares resources at a problem that isn’t there.

    Bad news makes good headlines and we are therefore subjected to a daily diet of the dreadful, from child abuse to horrible hoddies. What we don’t get is the sense of just how rare these events are.

    It makes front page news if a child dies while in care but we rarely see this put in the context of the fact that at any one time there are 80,000 children in care in the UK.

    Generally peoples fear of crime and social breakdown is far greater than what they actually experience but they react to what they here and read about it more than what they experience.

    An odd version of that I occasionally come across people in the Highlands who are worried about immigration particularly from beyond the EU but in more than ten years I haven’t found one that can give a local example of it.

    It’s the “Crimewatch” syndrome after watching a half hour of carnage saying “Don’t have nightmares” doesn’t really change the feeling of anxiety that people have.

    “Broken Britain” is a great piece of focus group politics.

    The Tories have asked their target audience about crime and have picked up on the perception that it is bad and getting worse. They then test some slogans designed to illicit that worry and build a campaign around it.

    So if middle England is concerned about “Broken Britain”, we’ll come out and say that as a party we are more than concerned about Broken Britain we’re worried and determined to do something about it. The public respond and support for those who are going to tackle broken britain goes up and soon after that all parties are talking about “Broken Britain”

    So we end up with all the parties trying to come up with the best policy to address a percieved problem with the best policy being the one that their target electorate is keenest on, which could be anything from “Bring back the Birch” through “Lock them up and throw away the key” to ultimately “Bring back hanging”.

    The end result can be a new government committed to getting tough on a problem that is more imaginary that real.

    New Labour came to power on “Education, Education, Education” and “24hrs to save the NHS”. After more than a decade of reform and expanded spending on both most people don’t think the services have got much better.

    But that begs the question; were they ever as bad as they thought and the government made out to get their votes and if the problem really wasn’t there no wonder throwing money at it didn’t work.

    “Broken Britain” is a clasic example of good campaigning politics leading to bad government policy.


  29. The question was quite specific:- Do you agree that “social problems are far more serious than they were ten or twenty years ago” .

    “Social problems” is code for a whole range of things-Drugs & drug related crime. Benefit dependency & unemployment. Bad parenting, absent fathers, family breakdown & child criminals. Ghetto estates & suburbs which compress all of these things & have violent gang crime .

    How many opinion poll respondents are from these areas, or demographics? Might I suggest not many-or even hardly any at all. Perhaps Anthony could comment.

    If the very demographics/areas in which “social problems” are significantly present are not represented in Opinion Poll outcomes, then it is hardly surprising that there are more people who know of them , but do not experience them in their own neighbourhood.

    Indeed one might suggest that a 46% positive response across the demographic which does not include the worst areas of social deprivation, is in itself a worrying statistic-implying as Yariv says, that half the country is experiencing worse social problems than ten or twenty years ago.

    It is to ignore this , and the OECD statistics which back it up which is the “failure to tackle real issues.” Alec.

  30. @ Peter Cairns
    “Broken Britain” is a clasic example of good campaigning politics leading to bad government policy.”

    No it isn’t -it is shorthand ( albeit a rather silly & counterproductive one ) for a series of complex , inter-related , and very serious social ills in this country, which have been well researched , documented & addressed by Centre for Social Justice .

    Some of these issues were quantified in the recent OECD report , which should concern all policy makers in UK.
    At least Dawn Primarolo , Children’s Minister expressed her “disappointment” at UK’s low rating-it’s a start I suppose , and it certainly beats your combination of Nelson’s eye & Pilate’s handwashing Peter.

  31. Colin,

    The poll is quite clear in what it is asking;

    “Some people say Britain is a ‘broken society’, whose social problems are far more serious than they were ten or twenty years ago. Would you say this is a true description of…?

    The answer given, 75% agreeing that it’s true national reflects the publics perception.

    The problem is as most posters will tell you if you had asked that kind of question at any time in the post war period you would probably got a similar result.

    In fact I think you would probably have got a higher score if you had asked the Victorians.

    That leaves us with two possible scenarios;

    Either things have been getting steadily worse for more than half a century and despite all our efforts from law and order to the wealth-fare state the rate of decline is accelerating,


    Whenever you ask people this question there is an in built tendency to answer yes.

    I am quite clearly for the second.

    That doesn’t for a minute mean I am denying that there are problems and quite profound ones, or that we should do more to tackle them, far from it.

    What I worry about is that, like education and health, by focusing campaigns around the perception of the problem by your target electorate and solutions they will vote for, you end up with policies that get you votes but which can’t actually deliver, either because its the wrong solution even though its popular or because the problem isn’t the one people thought it was.

    I go to lots of Community Council meetings and the police are often there and we get the same issue time after time. Bobbies on the beat.

    The exchange between the Community Council (CC) and Northern constabulary (NC) goes sort of like this.

    CC; “We want to see more Bobbies on the beat in our streets during the day”

    NC; ” we put resources where they are most needed and at the right times to deal with serious crimes and we have a limited resource”

    CC; ” But we hardly see Police walking down the high street and you can go weeks and not see them go down our own streets during the day, where are they?”

    NC; ” A lot of our resource is targeted at night times and weekends near pubs to deal with anti social behaviour and drink driving. We also target resources on where know criminals are operating”

    CC; ” But people like to see the police it makes them feel safe and it reassured, and we want that reassurance”.

    NC; ” It’s the police you don’t see that are keeping you safest and if you do see us on your street that’s the time to be concerned not when you don’t”.

    I am firmly with the “Polis” on this one.

    The problem is that much of the public isn’t .

    The demographic we have is that the majority of the voting public, particularly those who might vote Tory, are in the category of concerned about crime but not really suffering from it.

    There is a real danger that the policy that will get the votes will be the one that directs the police to put more resources into patrolling areas where crime isn’t a problem. That can get you elected, but if it means directing resources to the wrong area it won’t address the underlying problem.

    It might be popular, with Middle England feeling safer seeing Bobbies patrolling leafy suburbs by day preventing the crime that was never there, but come closing time on a Friday night the pubs will spill out more chaos than ever before.

    I have a fair bit of time for the Likes of IDS and what he is saying, but that doesn’t mean that a Tory government will adopt or resource the kind of policy he wants.

    Given the public spending squeeze that we face and the likely coalition of voters that will get Cameron into power I don’t expect to see a first year Tory programme that places a priority on a large increase on the salaries and numbers of social workers along with a network of support centres for young disaffected immigrants.

    Be careful what you wish for it may come true. Polpulism is good at delivering popular policies, but that doesn’t mean that they will be effective.

    The history of the last twenty years of polling, public and private, and using it to design policy that reflects the public mood shows that it is far easier to come up with a popular policy that will get you votes than an effective policy that will get you results.


  32. @ Peter Cairns

    I have a fair bit of time for the Likes of IDS and what he is saying, ”

    Good-we can agree on that then.

    For myself though IDS’ greatest achievement is to shine a light on the work of those many many charities who toil thanklessly in support of disadvantaged people-mostly children, who live in home conditions which most of us would not believe exist.
    He has told us what they do & why they are doing it.-and it’s nothing to do with your rather dismissive idea of “middle england fears”.
    These things are a disgrace in a civilised country-and they also cost enormous sums of money.-People’s desperate lives & the cost of allowing it to happen-those are the reasons.

    “but that doesn’t mean that a Tory government will adopt or resource the kind of policy he wants. ”

    Well-lets wait & see.
    Thankfully it won’t be an SNP administration I will be voting for-you have to understand & accept a problem before you can fix it-and at least IDS has made Cameron Conservatives do the first bit.
    My fear is not that Cameron won’t try to tackle it-but that it will be too big a task for him.

  33. Colin,

    “shine a light on the work of those many many charities who toil thanklessly in support of disadvantaged people-mostly children, who live in home conditions which most of us would not believe exist.”

    Well it may be news to you but not to me. They do do a lot of good work but few if any without the active support, often financial, and partnership with local authorities and public agencies.

    I work with these people all the time and some of them are very good and too many not good enough. Partly that is because of lack of training or support and partly because what they want to do doesn’t work in practice. There are areas of best practice where we should put the resource where it can be best used and I have no ideological issue with that.

    I have no problem with Councils giving money to CAB’s because they give good advise more effectively than we do.

    I have no problem supporting charities doing good work, but it should be on a case by case basis as opposed to a belief that the chartities will somehow do a better job.

    The problem for the Tories is that where as without the support of these charites it would be difficult for public bodies to achieve what they do, without the support of public bodies the charities would be incapable of doing what they currently do let alone what the public agencies do.

    The Tory ideology of “private good and public bad” means thatthey really are placing to much faith in the voluntary sector to deliver change in these areas.

    The problem with the enthusiasim for the American model is that for all it can deliver good results there, it is against a back drop of a far lower level of state social provision than in Europe.

    By and large charitable support out performs the state where state provision is poor. What is harder to establish is whether it can out perform or replace it where state provision is high and well developed.

    I don’t doubt that Cameron will try to address it, but I am even more sure that he won’t resource it.

    The headline Tory story in Scotland today was a conference to look at giving parents control of the budget for their child and allowing them the freedom to choose the school they want.

    That is the kind of policy that is far more likely to appear in a Scottish Tory manifesto than extra help to keep children out of care, because it appeals to better off Labour voters who don’t like the school in their catchment area but who can’t afford to buy a house near a better one.

    The Tories in Scotland know very well where their potential vote is and that will drive their policy choices far more than where the social need is. That might be cynical but its also true.


  34. Peter,

    I am increasingly depressed by your view of things, and the tired old statist attitude which pervades your thinking.

    I wish Scotland well of it & hope for better things south of the border.

  35. Colin,

    I can’t recall if Peter was such a cynic before he became a councillor, but have to admit that the reality certainly pushes one in that direction.

    His anecdote about policing is accurate, and apposite to the question of whether our society is actually broken, or merely our perception thereof.

    Put anther way – and pertinent to the poll:

    – Levels of family breakdown, social deprivation, and incidence of crime all vary from place to place.
    – There is however a strong correlation as between areas of high family breakdown; areas of high deprivation; and areas of higher incidence of crime
    – Most people live in areas with low levels of breakdown / deprivation / crime.
    – Measures to tackle these problems need to be focused on the localities where the problems exist, and not where they don’t.

    It is therefore perfectly logical for people to understand that, although the impacts of a broken society may not be directly felt in their locality, the overall incidence is high, and that this has both a fiscal and social cost to the country which needs to be addressed.

    That people may be more willing / able to understand the need to tackle issues which do not immediately affect them would suggest to me that actually, the “Broken Britain” message is not “populist” in the traditional sense. It does however provide a far more unifying theme to a future government than the “them and us” dividing lines favoured by some parties. That is important in providing sustainable support for the policies and resources needed to address the problem.

  36. PS – Polticians may be cynical, but that is a rational reaction to the (disavowed) selfishness of the electorate.

  37. @ PAUL H-J

    “It is therefore perfectly logical for people to understand that, although the impacts of a broken society may not be directly felt in their locality, the overall incidence is high, and that this has both a fiscal and social cost to the country which needs to be addressed.”

    Indeed it is.

    The opinion expressed by Peter & Alec, that such people only have that understanding because the media have indoctrinated them is not so much cynical-rather it is patronising.

    Worse still , it seeks to close down a debate amongst the public at large about those impacts in those areas-that is something much worse than either cynicism or patronisation.

    Fortunately-as the Poll in question shows-respondents refused to be patronised.

  38. Colin,

    I agree with you. I have however given up trying to explain to Alec that one cannot measure all political action in economic terms.

    Brown’s biggest problem is not that he does not understand the economic consequences of his actions. It is that he simply cannot comprehend a dimension beyond economics. His abysmal political antennae are more to do with lack of emotional intelligence than intellectual computing prowess.

    This is what clearly differentiates Cameron. People who fail to grasp this will be surprised on election night.

  39. I think you’re being a litle unfair to Peter and myself. The straightforward implication from the poll numbers is that more people think that overall the national picture is worse than their local experience. Therefore, if we assume that the poll has an accurate geographical spread, it is perfectly fair to point out that people’s beliefs do not match the net national aggregate of reality. This isn’t patronising – it’s an observation of the reality of the poll numbers. I think you ought ot be trying to understand the reasons behind such poll disparities, rather than simply criticise people who quite validly point this out. Good examples would be old people’s fear of violent crime, when they are very unlikely to be victims and young males 18 – 30 are by miles the most at risk category, and parents fears of child abuse by strangers, which is still rare and much less common than abuse by parents themselves. Again, pointing to these disparities is not to patronise, but it’s esssential to recognise ‘real’ fears, engage with unfounded fears and enable effective responses to both. If anyone seriously doubts the impact of the media in promoting fear and false impressions and thinks that stating this is cynical or patronising, then more fool you – there’s a mass of research backing this up.

    I, and probably Peter also, would agree with your comments on Brown’s lack of emotional connection. It’s certainly not all economics, and I don’t think either of us have ever said it was. The central issue I have is that I don’t share your rosy view of Cameron. He is an excellent opposition leader, and is very good at capitalising on moods and voter concerns. So was Blair in the beginning. I was repulsed by ’24 hrs to save the NHS’ , but its what oppositions have to do. Cameron sways with the wind, firstly sticking to Labour’s spending plans, then talking of a smaller state; he’ll destroy quango’s, then he’ll set one up to oversee hunting; he co wrote Howard’s 2005 manifesto, now he’s green and cuddly. I’m afraid that’s not emotional intelligence – that’s basic politics.

    I often get pasted on this forum for taking a slighty counter view to the majority of posters, but sometimes, not often, I like to think I’m ahead of the curve. Today’s rather positive news on the economy and the labour market might be a case in point, and I still think Cameron’s focus on Broken Britain and spending cuts will create a rod for his own back.

  40. Anthony-can you shed light on this please?

    Alec’s contention is that if-as in this Poll-46% of respondents believe that “social problems are far more serious than they were ten or twenty years ago. ..
    in the area where you live” ; and if 75% of respondents believe that is so for Britain as a whole -then the latter belief can have no basis in fact .

    Alec bases his contention on the poll having “an accurate geographical spread, ”

    But if the incidence of high-and worsening “social problems” happen to be in discreet areas & neighbourhoods which are not represented in that Poll’s respondents, could this not credibly produce the result which Alec finds so strange ?

  41. @ ALEC

    “I still think Cameron’s focus on … spending cuts will create a rod for his own back”

    On the ComRes Poll thread you posted :-

    “The fact that Darling has won the battle with Brown on opening up a more honest discourse on spending may possible assist Labour”

    Is “a more honest discourse on spending” the same thing as ” spending cuts ” Alec-and if it is ,why should the discussion of it assist Labour , but be a rod for Cameron’s back ?

    If ” a more honest discourse on spending” is not the same thing as “cuts in public expenditure, ” what exactly is it , and how does it differ ?

  42. Colin,

    Some time ago I posted a comment explaining how the so-called “bias” in boundaries was not a boundary issue but a reflection of the way in which support for inidivdual parties is distributed. I believe that the same logic could also be applied to this question.

    If deprivation etc is concentrated in pockets where its incidence is high, then it follows that in the majority of locations outside those pockets it is not a serious issue. That of itself does not mean that it is not a serious problem, which affects the country as a whole. That the public realise this is important in developing thr political resolve to deal with the problem.

    To give Alec one specific example of where his logic fails. I happen to live in a reasonably affluent comfortable and “safe” locality. My children do not suffer from poor quality education. But that does not for a moment mean that I am not aware that there are people and places not a million miles from me who suffer the extreme opposite of all these things. Moreover, thanks to government policies, many of those people are effectively trapped in a cycle of deprivation. Those at the other end may be few in number, but the scale of their problems is a scandal.

    It only takes half the fortunate people like myself to realise what is happening outside our cocoon to convert 50% correctly saying an issue does not affect their area to 75% correctly saying it affects the country.

    On the question of “fear”, I fear Alec is again falling into a classic trap. Yes, there is often a real gulf between perception and reality. But politics must address both the perception and the reality, not just the reality. (Of course one could argue that for the past decade we have had politics of perception and damn the reality – but that is a separate debate).

  43. @Colin – 1.11pm post.
    While interested in AW’s response, I wasn’t specifically citing the 46/75 Yougov poll numbers. I’m with an earlier corrspondent on this that suggested the wording was too vague to have any real meaning anyway. My point was more general about a number of findings over a long period in issues like health care, schools, crime etc, where most people reported higher levels of individual satisfaction with their own situation but thought nationally things were worse. There is a disparity, and perceptions don’t match reality.

    In terms of your 1.22pm post, here I was making the point that Brown’s illogical position (as you pointed out) on spending was at risk of undermining Labour’s credibility. This may have allowed Cameron more of a free run to talk of cuts, as Labour criticism was being met with disbelief as Brown was so obviously wide of the mark when talking about spending increases. Darling seems to have won a battle to talk in more reasoned ways about this issue. Admitting the need for cuts allows Labour to attack the fear of ‘reckless’ Tory cuts with more credibility, but please note I only said this ‘may’ assist Labour. Essentially its playing on people’s residual fears of a Tory party intent on slashing spending at any price. It may be easier for Labour to get away with spending cuts as they are seen as natural spenders, just as Cameron might find he is more trusted to raise taxes as people might see this as unnatural Tory territory and therefore trust them more that tax rises are the right step. Its a pretty straightforward take on the reality of perceptions within party politics and is often seen in conflict resolution situations where it takes more radical groups to agree peace terms as the moderates lack sufficient trust to deliver. I didn’t see anything too odd in flagging this possibility up?

  44. PAUL-as you may have surmised , my feeling is the same as yours-enhanced by my guess that the areas of concentrated social deprivation are not represented at all in the Poll’s responses.

    However, rather than continue a pointless dialogue with Alec I wanted to get Anthony’s iimpartial-and one assumes informed-opinion.

  45. @Paul HJ – our posts crossed. – “On the question of “fear”, I fear Alec is again falling into a classic trap. Yes, there is often a real gulf between perception and reality. But politics must address both the perception and the reality, not just the reality.”

    I’m a bit disappointed you wrote this. I wrote “…but it’s esssential to recognise ‘real’ fears, engage with unfounded fears and enable effective responses to both.” I’ve already said exactly your point, and I dispute I’m falling into any trap, classic or otherwise.

    I agree with much of what you say regarding boundaries and perceptions. These issues are not always clear cut, and much greater problems affecting fewer people may still be valid reasons for believing overall things have got worse. I suspect we agree on much, and no one is trying to pretend there aren’t problems or that people shouldn’t worry about them. However, there is also I contend, a serious and growing issue in the disparity of between perception and reality within the public mind across many areas, and as you and I rightly say, it’s a gap we need to close if we are to find appropriate solutions to the many real problems.

  46. Yes, Paul HJ is right. It depends on how you define something being a problem for “the country as a whole”.

    If you take that as meaning a problem that affects every nook and cranny of the country, then people saying yes it’s a problem for the country as a whole should logically also say it is a problem for their local area.

    Alternatively, if you take “problem for the country as a whole” as meaning it is a significant problem somewhere in the country, or an issue that morally should bother us all, then obviously you wouldn’t expect them to match up.

  47. Alec,

    The reason I said I thought you had fallen into a trap re fear is that you propose to “engage with” unfounded fears. If you attempt that then you are on a hiding to nothing.

    You will never convince Granny that she is wrong to fear being mugged because the stats show that her teenage grandson is far more likely to be mugged than she is. All you will achieve is frightening poor granny that if her strapping grandson is not safe, how can a frail old lady like her possibly be secure?

    Fear is an emotion and seldom a rational process. That matters, because emotional responses cannot be countered by rationation. One can assuage fear via an emotional appeal and reassuring promises. But, unless one actually tackles the underlying cause as a separate (and rational) policy, there is the risk of compounding the fear by having raised false expectations.

    Creating false expectations is an occcupational hazard for politicians. But the propensity of the current government to promise the earth and deliver mud has raised cynicism levels in the electorate to a new high.

    My response to my electors is often brutally frank. It comes as a shock to many, but I have yet to be accused of being dishonest. [We will find out in 2011 whether this has been appreciated or not.]

  48. @Paul H-J – I agree, and we both mean the same thing. Don’t read too much into my use of the term ‘engage with’ as essentially I think we are on the same wavelength. You can’t wish for an idealised world – you need to work with the one we’ve got, including all the people in it.