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!