Unless it is called off I have no doubt there will be more polling on the teachers’ strike in the next few days, but as I promised yesterday, here’s what we’ve got so far.

Firstly on the issue of public sector pensions themselves. 38% of people think public sector pensions are too generous, 25% about right and 11% not generous enough (meaning there is a broadly even split between people who think they are too high, and people who think they are about right or not high enough). There is also a broadly even split (38% support, 43% opposed) towards Lord Hutton’s proposals (YouGov, June 18th). A more specific ICM question asked only if people would support raising the retirement age for public sector workers, and not including higher contribution rates and lower payouts – on this specific point 49% supported the measure, 41% opposed (ICM, 19th June).

Secondly, people support the principle of strike action. 54% think it is legitimate for unions to take strike action to protect the pay and conditions of their members, with only 18% disagreeing (Populus, 19th June). While many people think that people like police officers and doctors should not have the right to strike, a clear majority (68%) of people believe that teachers should have the right to strike (YouGov, June 18th).

That brings us to the specific strike this week. There are a couple of questions that have asked this – ComRes asked if people agreed that “public sector workers” were right to take strike action over maintaining their pension plans. They found 48% agreed and 36% disagreed (ComRes, 19th June), a second ComRes poll today asked if people agreed that “In their dispute over pensions, public sector workers have a legitimate reason to go on strike” – 49% agreed, 35% disagreed (ComRes, 27th June) – very similar figures.

Of course, thinking that someone has a legitimate reason to do something, isn’t necessarily the same as actually supporting them in that action, so finally we have a MORI poll and two YouGov polls that asked if people actually support the strike action. MORI’s poll asked if people supported strike action by “people in a numbre of public sector jobs” over job cuts, pay levels and pension reductions – they found 48% in support, 48% against (Ipsos MORI, 19th June.) The first YouGov poll asked if people supported strike action by two teaching unions and the PCS over pension changes, job cuts and a pay freeze – 39% supported it, 42% opposed it, so a pretty even split (YouGov, 16th June). The second poll on the 24th June asked specifically about teachers taking strike action on the 30th June over changes to pblic sector pensions that “mean teachers will have to work longer and pay more towards lower pensions.” This found 38% support, but 49% opposition. (YouGov, 24th June)

So, all that aside, do people support or oppose the strike on Thursday? It’s hard to see – people do seem to think strikers have a legitimate grievance and say they are “right” to strike… but ask if they “support” them going on strike they are evenly divided or opposed. Alternatively, the difference may be because ComRes and MORI has asked about public sector workers, YouGov have asked about teachers. No doubt there will be more polling on the issue to come over the next few days.

UPDATE: Missed out a MORI question, added it to the main text!


224 Responses to “Strikes polling so far…”

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  1. CRAIG

    Very fine picture of your cat – I assume? I’m sure contributors to the board would like to see pictures of other pets from time to time.

  2. “38% of people think public sector pensions are too generous, 25% about right and 11% not generous enough (meaning there is a broadly even split between people who think they are too high, and people who think they are about right or not high enough)”

    It seems to me these figures are only meaningful if we know how many of those who think pensions aren’t generous enough are themselves public sector workers or are married to one.

  3. Great piece Anthony-thank you.

    If you could help us track what opinion is doing on this it would be most helpful.

  4. My conclusion from all this: There is more sympathy with strikes that are about remuneration in general than pensions specifically.

    The Unions & their members need to improve their PR regarding pensions or change the narrative to encompass wider issues that the public can relate to more easily.

    There’ll likely be a one day strike on Thursday; then we’ll get to see the media & the public’s reaction to an actual strike. 8-)

  5. I think there’s not much a problem if only one teacher is going on strike (paragraph 1).

    You have been visited by the Apostrophe Gestapo. Have a nice day.

  6. Chris – eek! The shame!

  7. Chris/Anthony

    Balance has now been restored in the cosmos I see. :-)

    Better balance would be “English & Welsh teachers’ strike” (though both suggest a reintroduction of the cane :-) )

  8. Chris

    I now expect a visit from the “Use of the Definite or Indefinite Article Securitate”.

  9. This is what I love about Britain: we can respect the right to strike, while not agreeing with each and every strike. I’ve been to countries (which shall remain unnamed) where people’s views were notably less nuanced.

  10. AW

    I love the way you drown out the pro-LAB message from the YG and CR polls tonight with this ambivalent “strike” polling

    ;-)

  11. Not to speak of constructions like “National Education Committee”! Does it mean “Committee of National Education” or “National Committee of Education?” Shakespearean dilemmas like this one used to prevent me from sleeping when I was learning English, first in Greece and then in France. Should I call it a “Genitive Despair Syndrome”? – LOL!

  12. Bill Patrick

    This is what I love about lots of countries: we can respect the right to strike, while not agreeing with each and every strike.

    One would have to be a very narrow Brit Nat to think that Britain (why do people ignore NI?) was the only country where that was true.

  13. Julian: public sector workers and their relatives have the vote.

    Amber: I also, independently, have got the impression that the unions need to do more to make the case that the increase in ‘contributions’ that the Govt is trying to impose is an effective pay cut.

    BTW, Anthony, is there any chance that Brighton Pavilion could have a nice green band at the top with the constituency name, not the grey one that is there at present?

  14. It seems to me these figures are only meaningful if we know how many of those who think pensions aren’t generous enough are themselves public sector workers or are married to one.
    —————————————–
    Public sector workers & their families are members of the public/ voters too. Therefore the figures are as useful as most other polling, IMO.
    8-)

  15. @ Ben

    Snap x 2 :-)

  16. My sense is that people are supportive of the general idea of public sector workers striking (people overall feel some solidarity as they are facing big job losses and a pay-freeze like many other workers), but they are less supportive of the specific idea of teachers striking.

    Some people don’t think teachers should strike (even if they agree with their cause) because of the effect on their children and their education. Others are just annoyed that they will be inconvenienced by having to take a day off their work to look after their kids (this is different from, say, a tube strike, where you simply can’t get in to work, in this case you have to take time off for no pay). A small minority think teachers already get too much of a good deal with all their holidays.

    My sense is that a few well timed one day strikes might rattle the govt (and they have shown that they are easily rattled), but “waves of strikes” that bring the country to a halt will quickly lose support.

  17. On the pro-Lab drift in the Com Res poll (previous thread), I wonder whether this is down to a minor improvement in EMs performance in the last few weeks (having two decent PMQs for him, starting to say the right sort of things about party reform), or maybe it is simply that Labs numbers go up when cuts and strikes are in the news.

    From memory it always seems that Lab do get a temporary boost from things like this but it only briefly lasts.

    Or maybe it’s just sample noise?

  18. Adrian B

    “my sense”

    Meaning of course what you believe because it fits in with the universe as you would like it to be.

    But it ain’t so. Parents like teachers. Public Service workers are, by and large, more respected than bankers and captains of industry.

    This is a PR battle that Cameron lost before he started.

  19. Listening to a geneticist (can’t remember the name :) ) this week saying what I have long thought, that increases in life-expectancy are not likely to be sustained.

    Here is a comment from another site: “My average week I work approx 60hrs per week and one day at the weekends.
    No teacher can sustain that until they are 68!”

  20. @Rob Sheffield
    Interesting that the gap in the “who’s to blame for the cuts” question has closed tonight to 13% (26% Con/LDs, 39% Lab). That equals the smallest gap to date and compares with 30% some 8 months ago. It’s of added significance if the latest figures signal a resumption of the downward trend.

    @Amber Star
    “There is more sympathy with strikes that are about remuneration in general than pensions specifically.”
    Fraid that I don’t quite share your conclusion. My interpretation is that the latter YouGov poll on teachers showed less support than the former simply because the former (quite correctly) pointed out that the pension changes were part of a package including a pay freeze whereas the latter didn’t. The more the full detail of all the full package of changes were spelled out in any question, the more I think that opinion would swing in support.

  21. @ Anthony

    Have you not missed out the recent Ipsos-Mori data?

    h ttp://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2816/ReutersIpsos-MORI-June-Political-Monitor.aspx

    @ David B
    Nope – allergic to the things. Just a fairly popular lolcat (“serious cat” etc) – who knows, maybe we can get a loldog as well.

  22. @Adrian B – “From memory it always seems that Lab do get a temporary boost from things like this but it only briefly lasts.”

    There is no knowing how strikes will play, but Labour overhauled Tories in VI around the height of the student protests (other issues at the time, but not so prominent in the news), and that effect has persisted for 7 months so far.

  23. It is understandable that those in the public sector do not like to see public sector jobs go, pensions reduced etc. Under Labour the public sector grew significantly. However as the shift to the private sector from the public sector gathers pace so opinion may change. Those now working in the private sector may no longer support the generous provision in the public sector to which they no longer belong.

    There will still be alot of people performing essential services in the state sector but hopefully as the number will be much smaller we will be able to afford to pay them better salaries while retaining good pension arrangements.

    The result will be that the ordinary person, whether in the state sector or private sector will view the Coalition more favourably. A win win situation.

  24. And regarding the principle of legislation to require 50% thresholds on strike ballots.

    I fail to see how a coalition of parties which between them mustered the votes of only 35% of the UK’s registered electorate could possibly claim a legitimate right to pass such legislation.

  25. Phil

    I fail to see how a coalition of parties which between them mustered the votes of only 35% of the UK’s registered electorate could possibly claim a legitimate right to pass such legislation.

    The trouble is Phil that it is only a minority who can strike. Kids can’t, retired people can’t, unemployed can’t and those working for smaller companies cannot (if they did their business would fail and they would be unemployed). The polls show that a minority believe that striking is not right and I suspect that this view will increase if the public sector unions continue their use of strikes for political reasons against an elected government.

  26. Billy Bob

    “No teacher can sustain that until they are 68!”

    Oddly enough, in 1960s Scotland (and perhaps elsewhere as well) many did. I was taught (OK that’s an exaggeration :-) . I had teachers) who had been gassed in WWI.

    If you recreate the systems of then, where teaching was poor, violence ruled, and most kids left school to go into real jobs at 15, then teachers could continue till that age.

    If you want the quality of provision that today’s teachers are providing, then that can’t be delivered by most teachers at that age.

    Transfer all those older teachers to a job outside the classroom, and they could carry on working – but dealing with 30 youngsters? Most couldn’t cope with that, and the quality of learning would plummet.

  27. Oldnat

    I think if people had suffered from being gassed in WW1 would unfortunately make poor teachers, as many of them were severely affected.

    Interestingly enough I had an English Teacher who was in WW1 and he told us stories about life in the trenches which were absorbing. This apart, he was not a superb English teacher. Was he any worse than the younger teachers? No. Our worst teacher was our geography teacher who was about 23 and could not keep order; however I am not suggesting that young teachers are any less good as I am sure alot are excellent.

  28. Davey

    There are some 4 or 5 points of yours that I could take issue with, but as your claims seem to have nothing to do with the point I was actually making I’m not inclined to do so.

  29. Davey

    The trouble is Phil that it is only a minority who can strike. Kids can’t, retired people can’t, unemployed can’t and those working for smaller companies cannot (if they did their business would fail and they would be unemployed).

    And of course many of those in the private sector who did go on strike in the 60s and 70s did go out of business.

  30. @ Phil

    The more the full detail of all the full package of changes were spelled out in any question, the more I think that opinion would swing in support.
    ——————————————–
    That was actually the point which I was making (badly it seems); that strikes which are only about pensions will not win as much support as strikes about total remuneration & working conditions.
    8-)

  31. I’d be willing to bet that if the Coalition put a turnout threshold on Union ballots, the members will turnout.

    Legislation has strengthened the legitimacy of the Unions & strengthened the legitimacy of their membership’s contributions to the Labour Party.
    8-)

  32. Amber

    “I’d be willing to bet that if the Coalition put a turnout threshold on Union ballots, the members will turnout. ”

    And, in order to achieve that, the Union will hype the dispute (not a criticism – it’s inevitable) to the extent that a settlement will be be harder to achieve.

    Ideological legislation can be very counter-productive.

  33. Amber

    “strengthened the legitimacy of their membership’s contributions to the Labour Party.”

    You are normally so sensible. That’s a risible statement in Scotland.

  34. @ Old Nat

    I meant the legislation which says that members must opt in to the political contribution.
    8-)

  35. @ Old Nat

    You might find this a wee bit interesting: I was at a Stop the Privatisation of council services meeting in Edinburgh tonight. There were loads of Unison members there, & many of them agreed they voted SNP or split their vote for the Holyrood elections.

    They were rather disappointed that none of the SNP Councillors nor MSPs attended the meeting – they were invited. Union members obviously have a lot of regard for the SNP & its stance on the NHS etc. They really hope that the SNP part of the Dem/ SNP council in Edinburgh will think again about privatising EC services.

    We are going to try to get the SNP on board because we know that many SNP members are against privatisation of public services. It could cost the SNP a fair few council seats in 2012, if they continue to prop up the LibDems on this issue.
    8-)

  36. @ Old Nat

    “Ideological legislation can be very counter-productive.”

    Would you consider banning the sale of violent videogames to minors without prior parental consent to be ideological legislation?

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1448.ZS.html

  37. @ Old Nat

    “Oddly enough, in 1960s Scotland (and perhaps elsewhere as well) many did. I was taught (OK that’s an exaggeration . I had teachers) who had been gassed in WWI.

    If you recreate the systems of then, where teaching was poor, violence ruled, and most kids left school to go into real jobs at 15, then teachers could continue till that age.

    If you want the quality of provision that today’s teachers are providing, then that can’t be delivered by most teachers at that age.

    Transfer all those older teachers to a job outside the classroom, and they could carry on working – but dealing with 30 youngsters? Most couldn’t cope with that, and the quality of learning would plummet.”

    I actually had a Speech and Debate teacher in the 9th grade who was English and was a kid or teenager during World War II. After 9/11 happenned, he talked to some very frightened students about his experiences of living during World War II London and sleeping in the subway at night and not knowing if he’d be able to go home in the morning.

    I don’t think I had very many vets as teachers though. When I was in elementary school, the principal was a Viet Nam vet. My 8th grade English teacher was a Vietnam vet too. I’m racking my brain to think of other teachers I had who were military vets (let alone those who saw combat) but I’m kinda hardpressed right now. I think military vets can be invaluable resources as teachers (especially in a day and age of an all volunteer military).

  38. Davey
    “I suspect that this view will increase if the public sector unions continue their use of strikes for political reasons against an elected government.”

    I’m going on strike because the current bunch has frozen my pay, stopped all promotion, want me to contribute (considerably) more to my pension, wznt me to work an extra 6 years to get it, want to give me less and then want to revise it for inflation at a rate that is below RPI. While doing all this they have castigated public service and invented some myth that if you cut such services you give the private sector “room to breath”. I can only assume that means low pay and no pensions.

    If that’s political, so be it.

  39. Henry

    And of course many of those in the private sector who did go on strike in the 60s and 70s did go out of business.

    I have never herd of Habitat going on strike,

  40. “Under Labour the public sector grew significantly.”
    In employment?

    Public sector employment was 20.1% of total employment in 1999.
    Hit a high of 21% in 2005, then declined 2005-2008 back to 20.3%.

    It bounced back up to 21.9% as those banks that we own (RBS et al) became technically part of the public sector and all employees became public sector workers.

    Q1 2011 is down to 21.1% but that still includes all of the bank employees.

    Hardly rocketing figures.

  41. “All those jobs lost in the private sector”
    It’ll be interesting to see if these are just large one-off losses or a trend.
    If we see the private sector creating jobs like the last report indicated (IIRC), then the jobs may be replaced (of course, those people may not get those jobs with 5+ people per vacancy, but that’s another story).

  42. I ‘support’ strike action by public sector workers and teachers. But actually what do I mean by ‘support’?

    The word has quite a few meanings, including; ‘give assistance to’, ‘material assistance’ and ‘endure/tolerate’.

    So, I can see that for many people they cannot ‘support’ the strike action yet actually sympathise with the strikers.

    This ‘sympathy’ may well evaporate once the strikes begin leading to growing condemnation but there is a real risk to the gov (and the Cons in particular) of being seen as the instigator/perpetrator of the strikes and of intransigence in not reaching an early resolution.

  43. Looking at Greece the BBC are reporting that about 80% of the Greek population are against further austerity measures.

    They’d rather default.

    What kind of democracy is it that imposes such measures against the wishes of the vast majority? The fact is, they probably cannot.

  44. @phil

    “And regarding the principle of legislation to require 50% thresholds on strike ballots.

    I fail to see how a coalition of parties which between them mustered the votes of only 35% of the UK’s registered electorate could possibly claim a legitimate right to pass such legislation.”

    Though to be fair, one side of the coalition did try to introduce a 50% threshold for MPs too.

  45. Anthony,

    Presumably Yougov can crunch the numbers and tell what the breakdown of these figures are by things like people who have school age children.

    I know from my profile that you know I have a 10 year old son and a 16 year old daughter. You also know that I am married and that my wife and i both work.

    So are those opposing the teachers actions 40% of the general population or overwhelmingly working parents who will be inconvenienced.

    It’s a bit like when YouGov asks a question about Tube strikes.

    In general polls show a fair bit of sympathy but when you look at the regional breakdowns for some unknown reason support plummets in London……

    Peter.

  46. @Old Nat – “( I had teachers) who had been gassed in WWI”

    One of my teachers had been a shot down over Japan and a prisoner of war. To our eternal shame we used to make NYEEEE-DAKKA-DAKKA-DAKKA noises while he was writing on the blackboard. :(

    I think the policy of compelling people to work till they are 68 will be easier said than done.

  47. @ NICK POOLE

    “Looking at Greece the BBC are reporting that about 80% of the Greek population are against further austerity measures.

    They’d rather default”

    I’ll bet they would.

    “austerity” is a comparative concept & you need to define your starting point.

    Greece’s public sector employment “benefits” ( ;-) would make Mark & Dave think they had gone to heaven.

  48. These polls aren’t really reporting opinion. They are reporting on the effectiveness of media attitudes towards the strike.

    If people had full information, they would answer differently. But this is more about checking whether the govt’s propaganda, via the media, is effective or not.

    If people knew that unions are obliged by law to hold postal ballots, which have low turnouts inherent in them, and that the law prevents workplace ballots, then we may have a diffferent outcome.

    But that would mean a media that informed people, rather than media that seeks to shape ‘opinion’ and then refer to the shaped opinion as justification.

  49. @Billy Bob – “I think the policy of compelling people to work till they are 68 will be easier said than done.”

    This is an excellent point. I was brought up by two teachers who achieved high career levels before retirement working in inner city schools, and I can say without doubt that had they had to remain working until 68 it would have killed them.

    For politicians to demand real people work until such an age, even when life expectancy is growing (although this is largely a fallacious argument as much research indicates poor lifestyle habits now suggest expectancy will fall as the impacts of diet and increased alcohol consumption kicks in) they need to institute a whole series of changes to work and employment to make longer careers bearable in high stress jobs.

    On the overall issue, I have a good deal of natural sympathy with teaching unions and other public sector workers. However, I’m convined they have moved to strike action far too soon.

    It’s not at all clear to me what their demands are on Thursday, there is a negotiation still underway, and there are no definitive proposals to strike against.

    Unions need to make a reasoned and widely acceptable case for their members and take action with a defined target end point, with suitable opt out positions to agree a settlement if and when they don’t get everything they asked for. A large part of the public sector union amoury is to act to preserve public services, and they need to start to convince the public that this is what they are about.

    It’s always far better to appear reasonable and open minded and then move to strikes claiming an unreasonable and uncaring government has pushed them too far. Unions have got their tactics wrong, in my view.

  50. Amberstar

    It all depends where the threshold is placed, doesn’t it?

    I personally don’t like the idea of a minimum turnout on anything, (including referendums), simply for the reason this creates an unnatural barrier, where someone who wanted a No result would have to think whether voting No or abstaining was better to achieve the No they wanted. Debate on the AV referendum went down this path. Which result has more of a mandate 40% voting yes and 5% voting no or 30% voting yes and 25% voting no? It’s hard to fathom the logic behind an increased no voting lending a yes more legitimacy.

    A better solution (at least in terms of removing the paradox where a no vote can help a yes campaign) is that a yes (or the answer that changes the status quo) must beat both no and a threshold of those polled. At 25% this would be a very low bar, at 50% this would set a much higher bar. I have no idea where the most logical point to draw the bar if, if in fact the setting of a bar is a good thing in referendums.

    I’d be concerned if a referendum on joining the Euro was won on a yes vote of under 20% and by a small margin. I’d struggle to accept anything other than the answer to that result as being “we don’t know”.

    Yes, I’ve wandered off topic from union strike votes into the domain of referendums but both have similar issues with low turnout and claims of illegitimacy (the claims being right or wrong, probably depending which side you sit on).

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