YouGov’s weekly poll in the Sunday Times this week has the first questions asked about Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor – asked if his appointment will make Labour stronger or weaker, 24% of people think it will strengthen Labour, 18% think it will weaken them (though to some extent, this is respondents believing what they want to believe – Labour supporters think strongly that it will make Labour stronger, Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters are more likely to think it will weaken them).

More relevant is probably a question asking who will make the better Chancellor of the Exchequer. When we asked it a week ago George Osborne was favoured over Alan Johnson by 25% to 21%. In a choice between Osborne or Balls they are level on 27% a piece, so Balls does get a slightly better rating than Johnson.

Two caveats to this – firstly it doesn’t necessarily translate into any vote of confidence in Balls, it could easily just be people aren’t that enthralled by George Osborne. In my earlier post I noted that people were more likely to think Osborne was a liability to the party than senior Tory frontbenchers. Today YouGov asked how much confidence people had in various figures to make the right economic decisions for the country and people had significantly less confidence in Osborne than in Cameron (31% had confidence in Osborne, 43% in Cameron. 30% had confidence in Ed Miliband to make the right decisions).

The other caveat is, of course, the one I mentioned on Friday – Balls’s upside was going to his vigour and command of the brief that will instill confidence, his possible downsides in terms of party image and positioning would take longer to emerge.

Looking at the rest of the poll, all three leaders have slight drops in their approval ratings. Also note the questions on the economy – 78% think the current state of the economy is bad, one of the worst since the general election. The feel good factor (those thinking the economy will get better over the next 12 months minus those who think it will get worse) is minus 55, the second worse it’s been since the election. As we saw during the last Parliament, economic optimism does have a significant impact upon voting intention, that won’t have been the case so much since the election because the economic state will have been seen as something the government inherited, but over time the relationship will have started to build up again.

The only economic question with even a smidgin of good news was the proportion of people thinking the country will go back into recession was marginally lower on 52%, compared to 55% in September. Everywhere else opinions were still resolutely negative.

On other questions, the government’s NHS plans were supported by 25% and opposed by 39%, with a chunky 36% saying don’t know. Asked how well they understood the government’s NHS policy 43% said they understood it well (37% fairly well, 6% very well), 48% either not very well (39%) or not at all (9%) – which probably explains the very high don’t know figure in the first question.

On education there was a pretty evenly divided response to Free Schools – 33% said they supported them, 35% said they opposed them. The figures were pretty much the same when we asked if people would be interested in a Free School in their local area 32% said they’d like to see one locally, 33% would not. Of those who said they’d like to see one in their area, about a fifth said they would be interesting in helping set it up.

Questions like this, incidentally, are the sort of thing that provoke headlines saying “only 6% would involve themselves in big society” etc, etc. These rather miss the point – if 6% of the population were happy to actively volunteer to help their local schools it would be more than enough (hell, it would likely be beyond Michael Gove’s wildest dreams). The problem is whether people would actually volunteer, rather than telling a pollster they would, which can be an entirely different matter. One requires you to tick a button on a screen, the other requires you to give up lots of your spare time.

Going back to the poll, YouGov also repeated some questions on Tony Blair and the war in Iraq, which were first asked in January last year. Opinions were pretty much the same – 51% think Tony Blair lied over Iraq, 30% think he did not. 24% of people think that Blair knowingly misled Parliament and should be tried for war crimes.

201 Responses to “More from the YouGov/Sunday Times poll”

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  1. YouGov/Sun results 24th Jan CON 37%, LAB 42%, LD 11%; APP -20

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