I haven’t posted the daily YouGov figures for much of this week – simply because there hasn’t been much change – but after a while that itself is noteworthy. For the last three days YouGov has showed the Conservatives with a 2 point lead over Labour, with the Conservatives on 40-41%, Labour on 38-39% and the Liberal Democrats on 11-12%. If there ever really was a slight narrowing of the Conservative lead after the spending cuts it rapidly disappeared again – YouGov’s polls now are basically identical to those before the spending review.
The political debate for most of the week has been about housing benefit, which clearly hasn’t had any effect on support – not that we would expect it to. Straight after the budget in June when the housing benefit cap was first announced YouGov found 78% of people supporting it, ICM found 68% of people supported the cap. YouGov asked again in August as part of a poll to mark David Cameron’s 100 days in power and found 72% in support.
Of course, that was two months ago and it’s possible the focus on people in London losing their homes may have changed opinions… but I wouldn’t count on it. I expect we’ll see some more up to date polling on housing benefit sooner rather than later.
Public Sector voters
There was also a rather unremarked methodology shift from one of the pollsters this week. Back in 2008 when MORI reviewed their methodology after wrongly showing Ken Livingstone ahead in the London mayoral race, they discovered they had too many public sector workers in their telephone samples and started weighting according to it (quite drastically, it’s sometimes a case of almost halving the number of public sector workers). At the time I pondered whether, if MORI have too many public sector workers in their phone polls, would other phone pollsters have similar problems? At the time Andrew Cooper of Populus pointed out – correctly – that it was worth looking at but if there was a problem it shouldn’t affect voting intention as past vote weighting should sort that out.
Well, this month Populus have gone down MORI’s route and weighted their poll by public and private sector employment. As with MORI’s experience, it’s quite a big shift, weighting public service employees down from 19% of the sample to 12%. This may well still not make any difference to voting intention, but it might well make an impact on questions about the cuts, were there are big differences between public and private sector opinions – for example, Populus found 46% of private sector employees thought the cuts were fair, but only 27% of public sector employees.
Voting intention amongst public sector employees is hard to judge, since the sample size of public sector voters in standard polls is often under 200, so is very volatile (for example, this month Populus found the Lib Dems on 17% amongst public sector voters, ICM found them on 8%). Looking at the handful of polls in recent months that have included a public sector cross break though the rough position seems to be that the Conservatives are at around 25%-30% and Labour around 45%-50%. The polls from the last Parliament showing the Conservatives ahead amongst public sector workers seem to be a distant memory.
Today there have been a couple of interesting posts by Mike Smithson and James Frayne on how salient an issue Europe is, or more to the point, how salient an issue it isn’t. Essentially there is no conflict between their views. Europe is, as Mike says, an issue of very low salience that currently excites no one but Conservative diehards and some UKIP supporters (yes, only some, YouGov polling at the time of the last European election suggested that many UKIP voters were more motivated by immigration than Europe as an issue). However, James is also correct that it has potential to be more salient – you only need to look at the graph Mike uses to illustrate his piece to see that back in the 1990s more than 30% of people used to cite Europe as one of the most important issues facing the country.