Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 39%, LAB 41%, LDEM 9% – another two point lead. Since the local elections the average lead in YouGov’s daily polls has dropped to just over 3 points, compare that to a peak in YouGov’s polls of a 9-11 point Labour lead for a while in mid-March.

The pattern of a shrinking Labour lead is consistent across the polling companies, with all the regular pollsters now showing the Labour lead dropping to the low single figures. There appears to be a genuine tightening of the polls since February and March when the Labour lead was generally between 6 and 10 points. YouGov’s daily government approval also appears to have improved – back in mid-March it got as low as minus 30 on a couple of occassions, and the percentage of people thinking the government was doing a good job fell into the 20s. In the last week has been hovering around minus 20, with the percentage of people approving of the government back into the low 30s.

Part of this will be down to the halo effect of the local elections – rightly or wrongly it was seen as a disappointment for Labour and better for the Conservatives than had been expected. However, I think there may well be an economic factor too. Figures on economic confidence and how well people think the economy is doing remain atrocious… but not quite as atrocious as a couple of months ago. Through February and March 77-80% thought the economy was in a bad state. In the last three YouGov/Sunday Times polls that’s fallen to 73-74%. We see the same pattern with the “feel good factor” (the proportion of people who think their financial position is going to improve minus the proportion who think it will get worse) – between January and mid-March it was around minus 55, since mid-March it has dragged itself into the minus 40s and was -45/46 in the last two Sunday Times polls.

These figures are the sort of thing we were seeing back at the tail end of 2010 – so it looks as if what actually happened over the last few months is that the negative growth and bad economic news at the start of 2011 knocked government popularity and temporarily pushed Labour’s lead up into the high single figures… since then economic optimism (while still dire) has improved marginally, and so has government support. For Populus, ICM, MORI and YouGov at least, we are back in a position where the Conservatives are retaining their General Election support, and the only change since the election is the fracturing of Lib Dem support towards Labour.

Not, of course, that public opinion can be boiled down to a single economic cause. Other factors will be also be wider perceptions of the government’s competence and ability (the rows about privatising forests, for example, have faded away and the NHS reforms have been paused), there may also be an Ed Miliband factor, since his negative ratings seem to be becoming more entrenched. There are no doubt plenty of other possible explanations too.

Will it last? Probably not, a halo effect from the local elections is by definition short lived, the country is certainly not out of the woods in economic terms, and there are certainly many unpopular cuts that still need to be implemented. The Conservatives are doing better than one may have expected (certainly I’ve made many comments here saying I expected Labour to open up a bigger lead after the May elections – I got that one wrong!) but I expect the government’s real mid-term blues will show up sooner or later…


176 Responses to “YouGov/Sun – CON 39 LAB 41 LD 9”

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  1. After my recent praise of YouGov for asking an accurate question on the English NHS reforms, I see that they have now gone back to their propensity for asking silly questions

    http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/yg-archives-pol-nhsreform180511.pdf

    “The NHS (which NHS?)needs reform, and the current government’s (which government?) policies are taking broadly the right direction.”

    I’m sure Anthony must be in despair at the incompetence of YouGov in framing a simple statement.

  2. @ Neil A

    “Tragically, Ken Clarke is right, but for the wrong reasons. The example he gave was not the best.”

    Is statutory rape a strict liability crime in the UK?

  3. SoCalLiberal

    In Scots Law, we don’t have “statutory rape”. Any sexual intercourse that takes place without the “active consent” of the female (and now male) is rape.

  4. @ Old Nat

    “There should, perhaps, be more concern about the brainwashing, rather than the direction of travel.”

    1. Lol.

    2. Aren’t people entitled to their political beliefs (at least some of them) without being accused of being brainwashed?

  5. @ Old Nat

    “In Scots Law, we don’t have “statutory rape”. Any sexual intercourse that takes place without the “active consent” of the female (and now male) is rape.”

    But surely you do have an age of consent right?

  6. SoCalLiberal

    The use of “brainwashing” as a term in political discourse has always mystified me. We are all conditioned by our upbringing and experiences to have particular belief systems, and we are also free agents in rejecting that conditioning should we so wish.

  7. SoCalLiberal

    Someone under the age of 16, or who is drunk, or asleep etc etc is deemed not capable of giving “active consent”

    (though a fair number of the girls in my school seemed to give very active consent before the age of 16 :-) )

  8. @ Old Nat

    “The use of “brainwashing” as a term in political discourse has always mystified me. We are all conditioned by our upbringing and experiences to have particular belief systems, and we are also free agents in rejecting that conditioning should we so wish.”

    I’m sure there’s some degree of brainwashing that goes on. But sometimes I wonder if we just claim that to feel better about certain electoral outcomes. Like, I look at a supposedly tolerant, liberal, and progressive electorate in California that voted in favor of Prop 14, Prop 187, Prop 22, and Prop 8. It’s disappointing when it turns out that you have neighbors who are bigots. I wonder if we want to acknolwedge the truth that people can be deeply bigoted or if we say “those voters are brainwashed” because then we have a reason for why otherwise good and decent people voted in the manner that they did.

    So you guys don’t really have ballot iniatives but if voters vote in a way that you consider to be shortsighted or selfish (regardless of which party ideology they chose), do you want to acknowledge selfishness or do you simply say “oh, they were brainwashed.” That way you have your reason for the decision and in your mind, it can be undone somehow.

  9. @SoCalLiberal
    “statutory rape” will hardly ever be prosecuted, where both parties consent and are say, around 16. But Neil A can clarify this.

    Sadly.my.legal experience is on the civil side.

  10. SoCalLiberal

    Much better, though, to recognise that we all have our bigoted, narrow minded, selfish sides (as well as our neighbours!) and to keep it under control.

  11. @ Old Nat

    “Someone under the age of 16, or who is drunk, or asleep etc etc is deemed not capable of giving “active consent”

    (though a fair number of the girls in my school seemed to give very active consent before the age of 16 )”

    Those laws (and they vary actually state by state) are what we term as “statutory rape” laws. Well, those dealing with age that is. And then we have other rape laws that establish when consent is removed. One thing that comes up though (and it’s kind of a sketchy and uncomfortable topic) is the defense to a rape allegation when it comes to statutory rape as opposed to other kinds of rape.

    So, typically in a rape case, one can argue mistake, that they thought they had a consent from the other. In a statutory rape case, there is no similar defense. A defendant cannot argue that they mistakenly thought that the person who they slept with was over the age of consent. IMO, a defendant should be allowed to give that defense in court. If someone below the age of consent looked as if they were well above the age of consent (and that does happen) and especially in those instances where the sexual aggressor and pursuer is the one under the age of consent, I don’t think it’s fair that a defendant cannot offer the defense of mistake. That’s not to say I want to get rid of statutory rape laws (I think a limit has to be drawn somewhere) but I do think that defendants in those situations are usually treated unfairly. But it’s a hard argument to make politically.

    So the Roman Polanski rape case kinda highlighted all of this. It was an instance of statutory rape where the “victim” was pushed on Polanski sexually by her mother. So with this whole controversy, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar (co-hosts of the View) got in trouble by defending Polanski by saying his crime really wasn’t “rape rape” And I was curious if that’s what Ken Clarke was getting at.

  12. @ Old Nat

    “Much better, though, to recognise that we all have our bigoted, narrow minded, selfish sides (as well as our neighbours!) and to keep it under control.”

    It’s funny that you say that because just last week I was having lunch with my dad and a former boss and I made that same point!

    This is one of the reasons I believe that protected hate speech (in the U.S.) actually has positive benefits for society. It allows us to recognize the true extent of hate and bigotry in society and doesn’t let at risk minority populations sleepwalk unaware of greater lurking dangers.

    @ Raf

    ““statutory rape” will hardly ever be prosecuted, where both parties consent and are say, around 16. But Neil A can clarify this.

    Sadly.my.legal experience is on the civil side.”

    “Statutory rape” does get prosecuted over here quite often (often enough that these cases appear in Crim Law textbooks and often enough that Roman Polanski was extradited here for it). It’s done by overzealous prosecutors often looking to notch another conviction in their cap. And it can have severe consequences for many individuals who are punished merely for having sex with someone who consented.

    But changing these laws is politically unpopular and it’s a touchy subject.

  13. @OLD NAT
    It matters little whether one is English, Scottish or Nepalese, if an adult male or female cannot cope with, “calm down dear” or “are you looking for Sid”, “he is the tall black guy with the grey jacket “, without trying to make some sort of ridiculous statement of “disrespect” out of it, they have a mental issue. Those who support this kind of behaviour are equally touched. Whilst it is clear from all you say that Scotland is utter perfection, England is not, nor has it improved with New Labour’s PC agenda.

  14. @Sapper

    @John Murphy
    I think you comment is very nearly the daftest I have ever read…..

    Your compliment to me elegantly expresses your own talent with words….

    My comment referred to the headline in the Daily Mail….I’m surprised you missed it….

    I’m delighted to accept your generous characterisation of being brainwashed as is it supposes I at least had a brain to begin with…..

    It’s said that a sucessful politician needs both a sense of humour and a thick skin but a successful fool can thrive with only one…

  15. Sapper

    Don’t be silly – with your “perfection” nonsense

  16. Do we think polls will display any results from Ken Clarke? TGB web site noted that many C2 women turned to Con from Lab in 2010. ( I know I was surprised too)..

    Could women generally be influenced by this bogus row?

    I don’t think so.

  17. @SOCALIBERAL
    Clarke is getting to old. He meant that if a girl aged 15 years 10 months has consensual sex with her 17 year old boyfriend, because she is under 16 it is technically rape.
    This says Clarke (and who would argue) is a different kettle of fish to being pushed down a dark passage and gang raped by 5 different men. Because Clarke comes from an age when common sense was a bit more available than today, the peerless opposition front bench can go to work. “Clarke says rape not serious”.

    John Murphy
    I would not use the Daily Mail to wrap me chips in.

  18. @howard
    I believe you are right.

  19. First poll (CSA Institute) for French PE 2012 after the DSK-gate:
    Francois Hollande clearly ahead in the socialist primary, leading M. Aubry by 20 in socialist voters and by 10 in all center-left leaners. If finally designed, the VI is as follows:
    Hollande 23, Sarkozy 22, LePen 20, Minor center-left and left opposition 21, minor center-right candidates 14. These numbers indicate that if the race is polarized between Hollande and Sarkozy, then the former has a greater reserve of potential voters among the minor opposition forces. The poll does not include a runoff question, but based on the probable behavior of LePen, minor opp. and minor c-r voters (as registered by all previous polls), Hollande leads by 8-12. Of course in politics one year is an eternity, as recent events have clearly shown

  20. @ Virgilio

    If DSK was exonerated, don’t you think that voters would come back to him? Also, are there any dark horses in the race you foresee coming forth?

  21. Clarke was slightly confusing two different offences. “Rape” and “Penetrative Sexual Activity with a Child”. The latter offence is the new version (from the Sexual Offences Act 2003) of what used to be called “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse” or “USI”. USI was in English law the rough equivalent of what Americans call “Statutory Rape” – ie sex with consent, but where the consent is invalid due to the age of one of the participants.

    Rape attracts a possible life sentence, Penetrative Sexual Activity with a Child attracts a maximum 14 year sentence. So his example was a little bit “apples and oranges”.

    What complicates matters a bit is that the goalposts have moved quite a lot on consent. The old rule used to be that the offender had to know that the victim didn’t consent, or be reckless at to whether they consented. The new rules basically put the onus on the offender to show that he/she believed the victim did consent. The range of circumstances that invalidate consent has also widened. For example, it is now possible for a man who hires a prostitute but doesn’t pay her to be charged with Rape, on the basis that her consent was obtained falsely. Technically you could even be charged with rape if you promised the victim a favour (a lift home, a promotion at work or what have you) in return for sex and did so never meaning to actually grant the favour.

    This area would have been a much, much better source of examples for Mr Clarke in his “some rapes are worse than other rapes” argument. If you add in the fact that the definition of rape now includes oral sex, it gets even more clear-cut.

    Vera Baird should be asked if a case where a 40 year old prostitute performs an act of fellatio on a man on promise of payment, who in fact had no money and didn’t intend to pay, should attract the same sentence as a case where a 14 year old girl is abducted on her way home from school and repeatedly sodomised at knifepoint by a man with an STD.

    Sadly Mr Clarke has walked, like the amiable old duffer he is, into a po-faced trap set by people who should know better.

    As for the underlying point, which is whether rape should be a “special case” where bigger sentencing discounts should never be offered. Think about that for a second. Surely there are a huge number of types of crimes that could be exempted on the basis of seriousness. Would it really make sense that someone who raped a woman couldn’t get the discount, but someone who burned a woman’s face off with acid could?

    Ultimately the judges are the arbiters of relative levels of “seriousness”. The discounts (which already exist, by the way, Clarke is just talking about increasing them from 1/3 off to 1/2 off) are a fairly minor factor in the overall variability of sentences. For example, I dealt with a case about 15 years ago where a man had repeatedly raped his daughter from the age of 7 years to 12 years of age. He admitted the offence, pleaded Guilty at the first opportunity and got 6 years imprisonment. A couple of years ago I dealt with a man who had raped his adopted daughter repeatedly from 11 to 14 years of age. He denied the offence, was convicted at trial and got 22 years imprisonment. The “one third reduction” for pleading guilty can’t begin to explain the wild variation between the two.

    Lesson in Awfulness over. Good luck moderating that little lot, AW!!

  22. Oh and on the subject of Polanski, he was originally charged with a violent anal rape, using drugs and alcohol, of a 13 year old girl. The “statutory rape” offence was what he pleaded it down to. He was absolutely not the victim of an overzealous prosecutor persecuting him for some horseplay with a slightly underage, but otherwise willing partner. Some people, frankly, are blinded by their love of his movies (and I admit they are fantastic).

    Society has a real blindspot when it comes to celebrities and sex crime. Whether it’s Polanksi, Michael Jackson or Bill Wyman, the excuses people make beggar belief.

  23. @ Neil A

    “Clarke was slightly confusing two different offences. “Rape” and “Penetrative Sexual Activity with a Child”. The latter offence is the new version (from the Sexual Offences Act 2003) of what used to be called “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse” or “USI”. USI was in English law the rough equivalent of what Americans call “Statutory Rape” – ie sex with consent, but where the consent is invalid due to the age of one of the participants.

    Rape attracts a possible life sentence, Penetrative Sexual Activity with a Child attracts a maximum 14 year sentence. So his example was a little bit “apples and oranges”.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time that a politician got his facts mixed up. Thank you for explaining the linguistic difference with USI. In terms of broadening when rape can occur, the law now recognizes the concept of rape within marriage (which it didn’t use to).

    “Oh and on the subject of Polanski, he was originally charged with a violent anal rape, using drugs and alcohol, of a 13 year old girl. The “statutory rape” offence was what he pleaded it down to. He was absolutely not the victim of an overzealous prosecutor persecuting him for some horseplay with a slightly underage, but otherwise willing partner. Some people, frankly, are blinded by their love of his movies (and I admit they are fantastic).

    Society has a real blindspot when it comes to celebrities and sex crime. Whether it’s Polanksi, Michael Jackson or Bill Wyman, the excuses people make beggar belief.”

    I don’t defend people from crimes they’ve committed simply because they’re celebrities (frankly, I haven’t seen too many of Polanski’s movies). I have doubts about Polanski’s guilt just based on the circumstances and accusations.

    Polanski is a bad example because there was judicial misconduct in that case, likely not prosecutorial misconduct. Genarlow Wilson is a far better example actually. He was 17 years old when convicted of having sex with a consenting 15 year old. He was a high school football star who lost out on a great deal of potential college scholarships as a result. He was eventually released, but the fact that he had to spend any time at all in jail is a tragedy.

  24. Thank you Neil.

    Very enlightening.

  25. The alleged judicial misconduct in Polanski’s case was that he claimed to have been offered assurances on the level of his sentence, which he claimed to suspect would not be honoured. Nothing much to do with his guilt or innocence in my opinion.

    I am not familiar with Genarlow Wilson, but from the description you give his case would amount to Penetrative Sexual Activity with a Child. Such cases are very, very rarely brought in the UK. Usually if the offence appears at all, it is as a plea offer from the defence (as in Polanski’s case) rather than as the original charge. It would be almost unheard of for someone to be imprisoned in the UK for what Wilson did. Where intercourse is entered into willingly and the partner is 15 years of age, the police would rarely find out about it unless there was a vitriolic break up and the victim went to the police and reported it. In those circumstances the police and CPS would tread very gingerly around the allegation.

  26. On the subject of political “brainwashing”, I simply do not believe it! However, I do think we suffer from mass political “conditioning” in the following manner. The topics “selected” for news by the largely, but not wholly, right-wing press tend in Britain to set the agenda. Although the broadcast media are supposedly neutral, they tend out of laziness to follow the topics “selected” by the papers on which to follow up with questioning and news items. Thus the bias in Britain is at anytime towards what mood and topics the papers wish to run with. Thus when The Sun (and others) backs Blair, the mood music of the era is towards Labour. When it is the other way, the Conservatives tend to win. It isn’t that the papers “brainwash” people, it is that they campaign by a “drip, drip” daily news selection and slant over prolongued periods in a particular direction. The owners of these papers are particularly affronted when the public swing towards someone or something else (viz Cleggmania) and then tend to run day-by-day hate campaigns to undermine any movement that is not in the direction they have selected for us to be collectively conditioned into. In any party at any time it is possible to highlight negative or potentially disreputable human behaviour – it is however who the press decide who the victims are going to be that determines how the electorate are conditioned into their choices. Indeed, I have long thought that the LDs suffer far more from this than from the disadvantages of FPTP since they seem to have no backers amongst influential media magnates. Just imagine what would have happened if the press had piled in with pro-Clegg pages for all the days of the campaign after the first debate?!

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