On YouGov’s daily poll yesterday we asked about the “Twitter Joke Trial” – the prosecution of Paul Chambers who made a flippant comment on Twitter about blowing up Robin Hood Airport after getting fustrated by its closure, and ended up being hauled before the courts and prosecuted.

Rather to my surprise, 52% of people thought it was right that Paul Chambers was prosecuted for the comment, with only 36% opposed. This, of course, contrasts strongly with the huge swell of support Chambers has received on Twitter itself.

Looking at the cross breaks in the survey, things become clearer. Amongst under 25s support for Chambers is solid – only 22% of people think it was right to prosecute him, with 61% thinking it was wrong. Compare that to people over the age of 60, who overwhelmingly think it was right he was prosecuted (by 71% to 21%).

I suspect people who use Twitter or have a good idea of what it is would have recorded much lower support for Chambers’ prosecution. It hindsight it would have been nice to do a cross break by people who use Twitter, though past research suggests it would have been an extremely low percentage, even on an internet panel like YouGov’s. All the same, it’s a good reminder that people using social media do not always represent the views of the general population very well.

UPDATE: Several people queried this poll because when we reproduced Paul Chambers’ quote in the survey we took the swearing out (we try not to swear in surveys because of respondents who don’t like it – a representive sample of the UK will include people who find swearing offensive). A couple of people said to me that the “Crap!” at the start of Paul Chambers tweet changed the context of it and made it much more flippant. So…. we asked it again, exactly the same as before, but with the “Crap!” at the start.

In the event, it appears it did make a difference.. Whereas before 52% had said they supported Chambers’s prosecution, with the missing word added back into the survey support for his prosecution fell to 44%, with 43% thinking it was wrong to prosecute him.

The sharp differences in attitudes across the generations remained. People under 25 were strongly against Mr Chambers’ prosecution, with 56% thinking it was wrong and only 23% backing it. Amongst people over 60 the picture was reversed – 60% backed the prosecution, while only 30% was wrong.

82 Responses to “Public support for the TwitterJokeTrial – UPDATE”

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  1. The problem with this poll is that it didn’t actually quote the tweet as it appeared – likely to avoid having a swearword in it. You even censored “shit”.
    Did you make it clear in the question that you had censored the word? Did the respondents believe that Chambers had self-censored “shit”?

    Also the word “Crap!” at the start very clearly sets the tone. Without “Crap!”, it appears considerably more menacing.

    How can you justify releasing the results of a poll that weren’t even based on what was actually said?

  2. @ Billy Bob

    According to the radio, the statistics already show that the cuts are affecting women disproportionately.

    Apparently 75% of local government employees are women, and the councils are facing 28% cuts over the next 4 years on top of the redundancies which have already occurred.

  3. @Syzygy – Yes, I was extrapolating a bit from the trend in statistics announced today. ;)

  4. Well I think that is prima facie evidence that there is widespread sexual discrimination in the public sector jobs market and I think it’s only right that the numbers are equalised by disproportionately targeting the job losses at women.

  5. Neil A,

    The majority of the rsik takers on the stock markets hedge funds etc… are men… Clealry the back part of their brains are not fully developed. How many Lady francesca goodwins do you know? Their is a lot of public service attached to working as a nurse or classroom assitant… frankly, these types of role shave been female dominated for nearly 200 year although not before ironically[ but then that’s victorianism for you]. A bit of balance would be nice, or are you just rolling?

  6. @ Neil A

    Well you think wrong, unless you go back & check all the job applications & interview notes; then have a wee peek at equality acts whilst you are about it. That’s where the evidence of sex discrimination (or lack thereof) might be found, no?

  7. Going back to the question about the lead needed for Labour to be assured a win, 7% is surely the minimum. The Tories were nearly 30% ahead of Labour at one point in 2008, and ultimately they still didn’t get an OM.
    Mind you, I’m sure in a year’s time or so, Labour will be well into a double-figure lead.
    It’s the possibility of a combination of a give-away budget, an improving economy and voters’ short memories in 2015 that gives me the heeby-jeebies.

  8. @Eoin – “… the back part of their brains are not fully developed”

    And displaying clinical mania according to Dr John Coates (Testosterone and City Traders) – All in the Mind, R4 today. Lol.

  9. Julian,

    I have never put a figure on the lead needed. I prefer to think of it in terms of share of the national vote… Even by yellow admission they wont get 24% next time. So we can say they will lose some. Even by blue admission, red will do better, so we can say they will gain some… How does a -6% yellow +6% r ed figure?

    Even if blue stood still for 5 years it would leave a 37% blue 36% red.

    traditionally, parties in power gradually fall back in popularity the longet they are in power… though thi sis by no means certain. In addition, have eeked out a narrow majoirty in coalition because the public were undecided, could the public pass a favourable verdict in 5 years? Thus, giving them a greater majority? I think barring a war, or death of DC [God forbid], that is very unlikely. some, yellow loss, some red gain, blue fairly stagnant is how I see it. Unfortunately with seat redcutions etc… that would leave blue very very close to a majority of 1.

    The greatest unknown is others. Will the 2 party system continue to fragment? that is the hardest thing to judge… if BNP fall back, or Greens collapse… wil that couple of % push one of the big 2 closer to 40%? No way of knowing this far out…

    But if reds are to end up posting a 37ish% in 2015 [that would be a big success], they might need to by regularly in the mid forties at variosu spells throughout the parl.

    Where does a red mid 40 leave blue? I dont know… 35 perhaps? A majority of 10% seems to make sense. That is why my money is on Amber’s guesstimations.

  10. @EOIN
    Yep, that all seems to make sense.
    About others, it’s hard to see voters being undecided in the light of the dramatic changes being brought in by the government. People will either love them or hate them, which would suggest the 2-party fight is here to stay. In that scenario, LDs and others will continue to be squeezed.
    Personally. I think the BNP have had their day. UKIP will never seriously threaten the Tories IMO (Roland’s given some succinct arguments on that) and you know what I think will happen to the LDs.
    The Greens? I have no idea what’s going to happen to them, although again in the light of the cuts, it’s hard to see voters concentrating on traditional Green matters when they’re worried about where their next wage is going to come from. I’d love to know more about the Greens, as they’re likely to affect Labour. Do we have any Greens posting here?

  11. Julian Gilbert

    oil at $200 a barrel would concentrate minds, it easy to go green when it helps your wallet

    i don’t know if oil will go that high but i would not rule it out

  12. RiN
    That’s a good point.
    I even remember the Yanks started going green-technology crazy a couple of years ago when it rose to levels we’d never seen before.
    Didn’t last when the price dropped but as you say, it’s likely to happen again at some point in time. I mean, they’re not making more of it, are they?

  13. Ha, 40, 40, 11
    Well now

  14. YouGov; CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 11% (via Twitter BTW)
    That should calm a few blue nerves.

  15. Julian,

    Thanks, as ever.

  16. Julian Gilbert

    tonytim or something like that is the resident grennie, howard likes his greens and i think alec does as well. myself i have an aversion to vitamins but i know that they are good for me plus i have to set an example to the kids

  17. RiN,

    the queen of Greens was GreenGrass! I loved her! :) But she is on some white elephant somewhere…… :(

  18. that was a wobble. at this rate predicting 30,30,30 might be feasible

  19. Julian,

    Thanks, and phew.
    Might be an outlier, especially after Ipsos Mori, but it’ll keep me off the scotch for now….

    What was Govt disapproval?

  20. -9

    Minus 9 still
    You could have that scotch after all. ;)

  22. eoin



    have one anyway, 12 year malt i hope

  23. A celebratory one! Plus one since yesterday ;-)

  24. RiN,

    Before May 2010 we had a resident Greenie. Her name was Greengrass! A legend she was :) She left for the wildnerness on a white elephant. I kid you not.

  25. eoin

    on a white elephant, really?


  26. RiN,

    Someone else would have to confirm if it was definitely white. 80% of all my moderations I blame on her. Being the disciple of Bakunin that she was, she had me wander off script a fair bit :)

  27. Exactly a week ago, blues were 5 points ahead of Labour. Then level, then behind. The +5 for Conservative was an outlier.

    I am going to call this 40/40 as their mid-week bounce because I think Labour could be back in the lead tomorrow; fingers x’d. 8-)

  28. I think the Ipsos figures and the repeated YG leads for Labour do suggest that they are now clearly ahead. Today’s numbers may suggest that the movement is less abrupt than it seemed, but it’s still there. Of course tomorrow could see a 7% lead…

    If the government have had a particularly torrid week then it could be that the scores will move back to parity in better weeks to come, but I am certainly not treating tonight’s 40/40 as “parity”. More as natural wobble on a new position of a slight Labour lead.

  29. I think 40/40/11 might be an outlier, have to wait for tomorrow to be sure.

  30. @julian Gilbert – “I’d love to know more about the Greens, as they’re likely to affect Labour. Do we have any Greens posting here?”

    Yes there are, and no they won’t, although not in that order.

    Greens have always been more of a threat to the Lib Dems, which is one reason that they might be up a bit now.

  31. @Neil A @9.07pm
    “Well I think that is prima facie evidence that there is widespread sexual discrimination in the public sector jobs market and I think it’s only right that the numbers are equalised by disproportionately targeting the job losses at women.”

    What an astonishing thing to say.

    I suggest that the public sector is more likely to be less discriminatory than the private sector.

    As regards targeting women specifically … why? On what grounds? Surely this is direct discrimination?

  32. I know it’s late in the day but I suppose I can’t let this thread end without making it clear that I was joking about targeting job cuts at women.

    The joke was a pointed one, and was intended to be seen as a sideswipe at the oft-put argument that, in professions where men dominate, a simple disparity in the numbers of each gender can be taken as discrimination against women. I was (you won’t be surprised to learn) thinking particularly of the police.

    I’m sorry if anyone thought I was serious. I thought you all knew me better than that!!

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