The tables for ICM’s poll are now available here. Firstly the question on the couples’ tax allowance did indeed ask specifically if people would support or oppose a tax break for married couples with children, and found that 65% of people did with only 29% opposed, a far higher proportion of people than other polls suggest support a tax break for married couples per se.

Support amongst married couples with children – the people who might actually benefit from such a tax break – was predictably higher at 78%, but then again 61% of people who were not married or did not have children also supported it. It is very easy to overestimate the extent that people vote with their pocketbooks.

The questions on which social class people think the Conservative and Labour parties stand up revealed an interesting contrast in the way party supporters view their own party. Conservative supporters mostly see the Conservative party as standing up for everybody (57%), with a significant minority saying it stands up for the middle class (29%). Labour supporters however are far more evenly split – 39% see Labour as standing for everybody, but 37% see it as standing for the working classes and 20% see it as standing for the middle classes.

Equally striking is the contrast in how party supporters see the other side. Conservative supporters’ view of the Labour party is quite mixed, 34% see it as a party of the working classes, 22% a party for everyone, 18% a party for the middle classes, 12% a party for the upper classes. Labour party supporters view the Conservatives in far starker terms – 55% think they are a party for the upper classes, 22% the middle classes.

What it suggest to me is while class has greatly declined as an important factor in voting, and doesn’t seem to be a major factor in Conservative support (they tend to see their party as the party for everyone, and are rather unsure about the opposition) there is still a substantal chunk of the Labour vote that sees their party as the party of the workers, and the Conservatives as the party of the toffs.

Finally, a methodological note – ICM seem to have added what I think is a new factor into how they deal with likelihood to vote. Previously they just filtered by likelihood to vote, taking in only those who said they were 7/10 or more likely to vote. They are still doing that, but are also weighting them so that people who are 10/10 likely carry more weight than those who are 9/10 likely. They are also factoring in whether people voted last time, and weighting those people down by half (so someone who says they are 8/10 likely to vote and voted in 2005 gets a weight of 0.8. Someone who claims they are 9/10 likely to vote this time, but didn’t bother in 2005, gets a weight of 0.45

144 Responses to “More from the ICM/Guardian poll”

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  1. As humans we make decisions based on our innate ability to process quantitiative input and qualitiative input, apply our experience, intelligence and gut feel. Our wonderfulness is in our ability to draw different conclusions from broadly the same data.

    Having assessed all the information available in this thread I have concluded that today’s argument between Colin and Oldnat has been the silliest thing I have witnessed between two grown adults since…well yesterday.

    Of course analysing data is important, but learning what works also matters. I could probably conjure up a shop analogy if you liked.

    You should kiss and make up and revert to contributing your usual, thoughtful comments rather than spatting.


    Once again, I’m not commenting on the range of social initiatives that Colin introduced into the debate.

    My comments are restricted to Colin’s assertion – “The marriage tax break though, is not just a means of channelling money to children – it is to support an institution which – according to the evidence – produces stable homes and better life outcomes for children.”

  3. OldNat
    ” Social policy making at Westminster will not be hampered by lack of supporting evidence under the next Government.”

    I hope very much that it will be based on this “Green Paper” issued in January 2010 by CSJ:-

  4. Colin is a one-man advert for the CSJ. Great.

    When’s the next poll due?

  5. Colin

    Some interesting stuff in that. I don’t normally comment on matters that apply to England (and/or Wales) only, but I was surprised to see that courts there don’t seem to be required to take into account the child’s right to have access to grandparents.

    While most of the Report deals with devolved matters, it’s the tax changes that would affect us.

    Transferable personal allowances for parents of young children makes sense – regardless of any ideological issues. I remain concerned about your suggestion that childless couples should get additional tax allowances, solely to bolster a social institution.

    And (bored as Shopkeeper Man might be) the evidential base quoted in the report does not support the assertions!

  6. Not bored, OldNat, but you and Colin are two of the more thoughtful posters and it seemed, well, unseemly.

    I agree with transferable tax allowances for those with bairns. My wife was a stay-at-home mother and that policy would have helped us to eke out one modest wage at a time when we struggled badly.

  7. ” I remain concerned about (your )suggestion that childless couples should get additional tax allowances, solely to bolster a social institution. ”


    Yes -I think many are-including me. There seems to be a move to restrict the cost of the proposed tax break -for obvious reasons, and restriction to couples with children might well be the result.

  8. Shopkeeper Man – I suspect you and Mrs S-M would have benefitted as much from the child tax credit system as from a transferable allowance.

    Restricting it to married families with kids would make the aim much more transparently a promotion of the “ideal situation “where daddy earns the money and mum stays at home.

    Not much help to those families where Mum and Dad both work for a sum of say £12k-15k each.

    Who are the potential winners and losers, and where? is a more apposite question than how the cost of it is controlled.

    The institution of marriage is as tattered as the institution of the Church. Shoring it up (without compelling evidence of its benefits) might appeal to Old Tories (and even Very Old Ones on principle, butI don’t think the masses of people who don’t live in the “ideal situation” will be impressed by it come next May

  9. John TT
    “Shopkeeper Man – I suspect you and Mrs S-M would have benefitted as much from the child tax credit system as from a transferable allowance.”

    Maybe so, but the problem with tax credits is that they take money off you and then give it back. This means increasing the possibility of errors and also requiring employment of someone in a complete non-productive job to process the money. Far better not to take the money in the first place, and improve the economy by not employing so many bureaucrats. They would have to either get a proper job or go on the dole and cost us less.

  10. If we are looking at families with children and children in particular at a time when we need to make savings and cut costs then the obvious solution is integrated tax and benefit.

    Instead of two parallel systems we simply go for a set rate of tax and make benefit negative tax, all benfits would be achieved by varing the tax allowance and awarding benfits at the same rate as tax.

    So as an example we go for the libdem ideas that many in the SNP support of a higher basic tax allowance and you pay tax above it and get credit below.

    Just to gvie a idea of what it might look like lets start with something I am keen on linking the tax threshold with the minimum wage (MW). So if we say a MW is £5 an hour and a week is 35hrs then the tax threshold is £9,100 (£5*35*52).

    If we combine Income Tax and NI in one at 30%, then someone on £20k pays 30% of £10,900 or about £3,300 a year. Someone earning nothing would get 30% of £9,0100 or a basic state benefit of £2,700 about £52.50 a week.

    Current over 25 income support is £57 a week ( i am not advocating cutting it or the minimum wage this si just an illustration).

    Just as we can increase the tax threshold for pensioner so too we can introduce it for kids and a high tax threshold for pensioners closer to £20,000 would mean as there credit ( effectively negative tax) approached £100 in would really be the state pension by another name. In the same way a below £9k allowance for each child would replace family allowance.

    The actual thresholds and rates would be up for debate as the thing might need to be cost neutral but the big benefits comes from reducing he complexity of the sytem by integrating it and reducing duplication.

    When I wanted to know what the income support rate was i found this at Jobcentre Plus;

    It outlines benfits in a “simple” booklet….. with 33 different benefits over 39 pages…. No wonder we have so many satff on the books.


  11. Pete B – The point of tax ceredits is to minimise the number of losers and degree of loss at the margins.

    I think all three parties recognise that they have been a good thing, despite the admin costs.

  12. PeteB

    But there is also the specific problem of the so-called “couple” penalty inherent in Working Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit .

    It was identified & quantified in 2007 by Don Draper in a study for the charity CARE.

    In a subsequent study the Royal Economic Society said that tax credits give mothers married to men on low earnings an incentive to divorce.
    The study claimed that the divorce rate among mothers with low-income husbands rose by 160 per cent in the three years after the two benefits were brought in.

    The Office for National Statistics has estimated that 1.2million couples are ‘living apart together’.

    For interest the 2007 stats for Adults in England & Wales are ( millions):-

    Separated/divorced ( not cohabiting) 3.7
    Widowed 3.3
    Other Single 11.6
    Co-habiting 4.6
    Married 20.8

  13. I meant to add that approx half of “other single” adults are also single parents

  14. A POLL!!

    The Indy has this :-

    “A survey of 6,000 mothers by the parenting website Netmums found 34 per cent support for the Tories among mothers, compared with 18 per cent for Labour and 15 per cent for the Liberal Democrats. Thirteen per cent said they were still undecided.

    The survey revealed a 13.5 per cent swing among mothers to the Conservatives.

    It reinforces growing Labour fears of a backlash among female voters. Recent polling for the Fabian Society by YouGov found that women believe the Conservatives care most about the quality of services, while men think Labour do. Only 26 per cent of women believe that services would get worse if the Tories win the election.

    The Netmums survey found that less than half (46 per cent) of the mothers who voted Labour in 2005 planned to do so at the next election, while a quarter (24 per cent) will vote for the Tories. Only a third of those polled who voted for New Labour’s 1997 landslide victory will back the party this time round.

    The poll predicted that a record number of mums will vote this year, with 70 per cent saying they will definitely vote and a further quarter seriously considering voting – a potential 22 per cent increase in turnout on the last election. ”

    I don’t know whether this is worth the cyberspace it’s written on?

    Netmums sounds a bit middle class to me?
    Tory type middle class that is-not the new Gordon type middle class.

  15. Colin

    I went to have a look at the Netmums website, and clicked Mumsnet instead.

    Great endorsement by mateykatie there “The best all round reference site I can find is UK Polling Report”

  16. Colin

    Interesting figures on marital status you gave earlier.

    I went and checked the Scottish census data. They are in a rather different form, but interestingly marriage seems a bit more popular here at 51% of adults, while singles and cohabiting numbers are lower.

    I suspect that part of that may be a different age structure.

  17. The suggestion that people get divorced in order to decrease their financial exposure to the tax man (if true at all) points to some very sad people out there. Don’t they know what marriage means?

    Even if true, to use those stats to justify encouraging people to stay married or get married a bit of a blunt instrument.

    Getting married and divorced costs money. Do we really believe people do such financial sums when making such decisions? And should we actually be encouraging them to do so by waving a very scraggy tax carrot in front of them?

    I’d rather money was spent on nurseries and facilities for mums to enjoy than on tax breaks that are likely to benefit most the people who need them the least.

    Are mothers more likely to vote tory or are tory mums more likely to join netmums?

  18. Mums also don’t like wars, especially those of questionable legality with regulars coffins…. Military adventures are vastly more appreciated by males…

  19. OLDNAT

    I think Mumsnet is much bigger than Netmums.

    Mumsnet was the one which gave Cameron a hard time on a live webchat thing

    Not surprised having just looked at their mums political profile survey :-
    Lab 17%
    Con 16%
    LD 16%
    None 13%
    Green 11%

    I see that The Women’s Institute and Mumsnet are to join forces to campaign together on issues that affect their memberships.

    The WI gave Blair that famous roughing up.

    A formidable combination-bet they don’t get invited to the TV leaders’ debates!

  20. COLIN

    From those Mumsnet figures –

    You didn’t mention the remaining 27% – SNP/PC I presume. :-)

  21. OLDNAT

    It was Don’t Know/Don’t Want To Say-but only 7% live in Scotland so I think not ;-)

    Actually they seem to be a pretty South East orientated bunch–frightening crew!!

  22. JohnTT “The suggestion that people get divorced in order to decrease their financial exposure to the tax man (if true at all) points to some very sad people out there. Don’t they know what marriage means?”

    I’m sure there must be some people who have thought “can I afford to let this relationship end?”

    <> I can think of three couples for whom the tax credit system made divorce viable.

    Does anyone know if there is any evidence to suggest whether non-voters from 2005 are more likely to indicate a preference for the tories.

    I understand Angus Reid alone fail to take into account whether someone voted in 2005, and they show a rosier picture for the tories than other pollsters.

    This suggests to me that some tories may simply have not voted in 2005. I suspect they may be more keen in 2010.

  23. Peter – excellent idea to take the cost out and keep the fairness in, assuming your aim is to distribute the burden more or less as now – is the SNP planning to introduce that as part of a future tax policy?

    The political make-up of MumsNet is pretty much in line with the “party identifier” figures that Comres find when they ask the question in that Labour is about one percent ahead of Conservative. Their LibDem figure is much higher.

    Not sure what’s so scary about that.

  24. Shopman – Did they actually get divorced to make themselves how much better off? Seems bizarre to me (having been once divorced for traditional reasons, and re-married for traditional reasons)

  25. I mean, really, what’s it going to be like when divorcing couples are made to attend mediation?

    It’s bad enough (and presumably unlawful) to go to the lengths of listing particulars of unreasonable behaviour that would satisfy the Family Courts, but adding those visits must make the whole thing of dubious benefit, in addition to being rather distasteful.

  26. Hi JohnTT

    I don’t think they split up for financial reasons, but the WFTC makes it easier for a single mum with a part-time job to survive than were the case before WFTC. Much easier.

    A real example – and I may be a few pounds out either way – of a mum and two children.

    £100 pw child maintenance from father.
    £100pw p/t job at m/w.
    £105 pw housing benefit.
    £142 p/w CTC and WFTC.
    £33 pw child benefit.
    Free prescriptions (significant in the example I am thinking of)

    Totals £481 per week. Enough for a family of 2+1 to live off.

    The system before tax credits would not have allowed so much.

  27. I meant 1+2, as in one adult 2 children

  28. S-M,
    £100 pw child maintenance from father & hoiusing benefit

    That confuses me! Are you saying there are families out there who would go so far as to live in separate parts of town and not really function financially as a family, just to be better off through the tax system? Surely the chance to share stuff cancels out the difference?

    I wouldn’t argue with your figures, or your basic argument that the figures suggest a reward to live separately , but I’d be surprised if there are families out there who would go so far to make a bit extra (unless of course they decided to break the law by pretending they were divorced when they weren’t really – that would make them benefit cheats would it not?)

    What price a normal family life? In my book, anyone so wayward as to split up for no more reason thatn the level of finances is as shallow as they come.

  29. I have experience of divorce mediation in a close family member.

    It did just what Jack Straw said it would do-removed the conflict element.

    The mediator was a terrific professional.
    He was even handed & tough.
    Both parties had to examine their motives & grievances .
    They were advised how to spare the children from conflict, and warned not to use them as bargaining chips, or for competitive present buying.
    Resident Carer & Non-Resident Access, which was a contentious issue , was settled in harmony, and with input from the children,
    The financial settlement was devised with his strong guidance & advice.

    And all of this before a lawyer could get into the fray & start stirring things up.

    This proposal has the support of both main parties ( assuming DC picks up IDS’s suggestion).
    I think it’s a great idea-it will ease the burden on many children, and might just save a few marriages.

    Sadly, reconciliation did not result, but I know that potential for bullying & pressurising was removed by this wonderful chap, for whom I have great respect.

  30. Colin – my own experience would have been similarly mitigated. Unfortunately the “other side” saw mileage and reward potential from telling fibs and using expensive and aggressive lawyers instead.

    However, such medition involvement in cases where people are divorcing in order to increase their family income would hamper all sides.

    I’m pretty sure it’s a criminal offence anyway. The introduction of mediation into all cases would be a further bar to the abuse of the tax system

  31. I’m not saying divorces are happening as a money-making scheme. In my experience divorces happen when one spouse decides to start attending away fixtures.

    However it is now more affordable (and rightly so IMO) for a wife plus children to leave their husband than it was before tax credits, therefore cracked marriages are more likely to actually break.

  32. The majority of divorces are initiated by women and by far the largest reason is breakdown in the relationship with no other individuals involved on either side…

    It’s a bit like Independence really, it’s not about money rather its about wanting to have a differnet life on your own.


  33. @ Peter

    “It’s a bit like Independence really, it’s not about money rather its about wanting to have a differnet life on your own.”

    Mmmm-since you use a capital” I”, one assumes you mean the Inependence of Scotland-rather than independence in the abstract.

    So you seem to be stretching the divorce analogy a bit Peter.

    You can’t just divorce someone because you want a life of your own.
    You have to prove irretrevable breakdown, which usually means one or more of :-
    a) Adultery
    b)Unreasonable behaviour
    c) Desertion
    d) Separation for min 2 years.

    I think even John B Dick would find evidence of a) difficult to establish.
    I have seen some of JBD’s lists of b)-but whether a Divorce Court would accept three hundred year old grievances might be in doubt.
    Scotland is not going to be the subjected to c)-it might I suppose be guilty of c) but I doubt the partner would sue for divorce.
    Likewise d)


  34. Peter Cairns – is your tax and benefit idea official SNP policy? If so, sign me up immediately! I presume that you intend to conquer England once Scotland is sewn up? You’ve got one voter already!

    Your idea is a much clearer and better thought out version of what I’ve been saying for years. There would be huge logistical problems (at least in England) in merging the two systems, but it would be well worth it in the long run.

  35. An integrated tax and benefits system is the Holy Grail of politics. If someone can devise one that really works (and I can’t see too many snags in the SNP/LibDem version) then it should definitely be adopted. The only thing I would say is that the balance of “negative tax” has to be slightly skewed in favour of being in employment. Someone who works 1 hour per week should be better off than someone who works none. 2 more than 1, 10 more than 2, 30 more than 10 and so on.

    The current system has two huge failings, in that it is an administrative nightmare and a disincentive to low-paid employment.

  36. Neil A – you’re right on the first point and wrong on the sewcond (IMHO) The disincentive to work was one of the main reasons for the Tax Credit system coming into being. If the LibDems can develop their idea, I’d consider voting for them.

    Peter – If i find out you’ve got a bit on the side going with Norway, that’s it mate!

  37. This study of some Negative Income Tax pilots in USA in the 60s threw up some interesting effects.

    Not entirely encouraging.

  38. Colin,

    Linked it to divorce is probably stretch the analogy but as you probably know “Divorce is an Expensive business” was a Labour campaign against the SNP.

    I remember at the time thinking that from our perspective we felt a bit like the wife who had started with a dream of equal partners in a caring relationship and ended up feeling like a dogs body without a life of their own having given up a chance of a career and always playing second fiddle to her husband.

    In that case the arguments against from Labour were a bit like the husband who comes home and finds his wife with the cases packed.

    First he’s amazed;

    “What’s this about but why, I love you, look at all we’ve got and done?”

    Then angry;

    “After all I’ve done for you, do you know how much this house costs, the cars the holidays.

    Then threatening;

    ” Okay then see how far you get, see what its like to pay your own bill, our friends won’t to know you when your poor”.

    But the thing is these things won’t persuade a partner to stay as they all confirm that their partner doesn’t understand that the relationship is about so much more than the material, in fact it’s the focus on “Things'” that is at the root of the problem.

    Pete B,

    Alas know it has strong support but we have to an extent moved away from what you might call “Grand Plan” policies since devolution. We are much more comfortable these days with focusing with what we can do with the powers we have as Government and on what Scotland could do with more.

    Things like integrated tax and benefit are best left to be argued and debated and then introduced by the Scottish parliament post Independence as that is where the changes would and should be made. It’s a debate for then not now.

    It’s an example of what we could do as an independent Country rather than a manifesto idea.

    Neil A. the key is really the unified rate. Combining tax and national insurance in a single rate around 30% means that for every £1 you earn over you get 70p in your hand. Likewise if you are below you get 30p in the £1 benefit.

    A Low tax Tory might go for 25%, so less tax and lower benefit, whereas an old Labour Scot might go for 40% meaning higher tax on the rich and better benefits.

    There is also a question of whether it should be a single rate on all incomes or something like the current system of a basic and a higher rate or rates starting at say three times the threshold (£27k or so in the hypothetical example).

    Again most on the left would go for higher rates for higher earners while many on the right would go for “flat rate taxation” but might add VAT on everything and corporate and investment taxes all at the same 25% rate.

    As I say which we would go for would be decided post Independence on the floor of Holyrood.

    Oh and a general comment for everyone. The only similarity I am aware of with the LibDems is that they think that they favour a high tax threshold, I am not aware that they have done anything on integrated tax and benefit.

    While people seem interested ( it’s me don’t worry I know it won’t last) other things worth considering is phasing in thresholds.

    A child’s threshold that replaces family allowance ( and which could be transferred to parent, grandparent, carer) could be phases as the grow and a teen rate could replace different rates for the minimum wage.

    Equally phasing in the age allowance so that the threshold started to rise from say 55 would allow people to reduce their hours as the approach retirement without taking the full impact on their take home pay.

    Again, just some thoughts… its why we are having a national conversation about what we can do if we are independent ( Yes that was my unacceptable party political plug… sorry folks).


  39. I know we’ve strayed a bit from the topic in hand, but I’ve just thought of a slight snag in the integrated tax and benefit system. I’m sure a solution could be found, but as stated in Peter Cairns’ simplified explanation it would make it completely pointless for anyone to take a part-time job paying say £5000 per year.

  40. I always thought it might be possible to have an integrated tax and benfit system, where everyone receives a flat benefit of, say £5000 pa (plus ectra for children) and every penny of income is taxed at a flat rate of 50%+.

    At present the marginal rate of taxation/benefit loss for the poor is higher than 50%, whilst the marginal rate of taxation for the rich is, I believe 61%. Only the middle classes would lose out :o

    I think we’d need to find substantial oil reserves under East Anglia, plus perhaps some gold and diamond reserves in the pennines though. We can live in hope.

  41. Pete B,

    “it would make it completely pointless for anyone to take a part-time job paying say £5000 per year.”

    Why? If we asume £5k is on the minimum wage then it’s about 16 hrs a week, so about £95 a week in your hand.

    In my hypothetical example you would get the £5k plus 30% of £4,100 which would be a top up of £23 a week taking take home pay to about £120.

    For me thats a lot better than getting 30% of £9,100 which is £53 a week.

    It would mean that for your 16hr you would only get the difference which is about £67 or around £4.20 an hour.

    Compared to £5.80 for the minimum wage that is about 30% less per hour worked. it depends how you see it and I think some would see it both ways;

    “I am not working for less than a fiver an hour when the minimum is nearly £6, I am better staying at home and getting £53 for doing nothing”.


    ” If I go out and work in Tescos four mornings a week I come home with an extra £70, thats twice as much as staying at home….

    The difference is really what they think is best £53 benefit or £95 wages for 16 hrs work and only £23 benefit. The difference between the two is £67 which is why it works out as if all the income is taxed because benefit is removed at the tax rate.

    Shopkeeper Man,

    “I think we’d need to find substantial oil reserves under East Anglia”
    You’ve got gas off the coast, don’t be greedy. besides you could always migrate North to my workers paradise….


  42. Peter – apologies, I misunderstood.

  43. I’d have serious doubts about the validity of these results given the weighting regime you mentioned. To try and quantify the complex relationship between a person’s likelihood to vote this time based on whether they voted last time with a simple ‘0.5’ factor should ring alarm bells!

    Also, weighting a respondent by their own opinion of whether they will vote or not is a bad idea too, especially when a response scale is being used to judge this (as response scale answers can have their own geometry – is a respondent more or less likely to choose a response at the extreme of the scale than at a point just inside the extreme). And is a respondent that says 9/10 really 1.125 times more likely to vote than someone that says 8/10!? Surely a better way to approximate likelihood to vote would be to use demographical information about the respondent?

  44. John TT

    Peter – If i find out you’ve got a bit on the side going with Norway, that’s it mate!

    As ever the partner is last to find out. It’s worse than that, it’s the whole EU!

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