Another day, more rather over-exaggerated reporting of public opinion on the NHS. The HSJ headlines some MORI polling as showing “Public split over use of private firms in NHS as Labour doubles poll lead on health”. It’s behind some big paywall so perhaps the article itself gives a much better picture (it would be far from the first time that a headline makes a story seem more exciting than it is), but essentially it shows Labour’s lead on the NHS is double what it was at the election. However, it shows very little change since the last time MORI asked the question in June 2011. As we’ve seen in the more regular issue polling from YouGov, the big drop in people preferring the Conservatives on health happened in late 2010 and early 2011, it isn’t a recent thing.

Here is what we actually *know* about attitudes to the government’s health policy, stripped of all the exaggeration and hyperbole.

1) Amongst people who actually have an opinion it isn’t popular. If you ask whether or not people support the government’s health policy based on what they know, more people are opposed than support the policy. However, an awful lot of people don’t seem to know enough about the policy to have any opinion. The last time YouGov asked at the end of last month only 14% supported the policy, 48% were opposed, but 38% didn’t know.

2) Questions about the actual contents and principles behind the Bill also generally show public opposition. When YouGov asked last year about GP consortiums in May last year the public were opposed by 55% to 25%, more recently they found that people thought more competition in the NHS would make things worse rather than better (by 46% to 18%), as would giving doctors more control over their budgets (albeit, by a smaller margin – 36% worse, 26% better, 17% no difference)

However, the Ipsos MORI poll today showed a more even divide on whether people agreed with the statement “as long as health services are free of charge, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are provided by the NHS or a private company” – 44% agreed, 41% disagreed.

3) What little evidence we have suggests most NHS workers don’t support it. There have been a large amount of voodoo polls and claptrap cited as evidence of NHS workers not liking the NHS reforms and an almost complete absence of any proper polling of them. There was a proper poll of doctors commissioned by the Kings Fund, but that was back in 2010. More recently there was a YouGov poll of NHS staff in general for 38Degrees which found 66% of staff questioned thought the reforms would make the NHS worse.

4) It hasn’t necessarily damaged government support, nor further damaged people’s trust in the Conservatives on the NHS. We have seen Labour move ahead in the polls of late, but as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, this is just as likely to be the unwinding of the European veto effect, or Ed Miliband getting less bad coverage than in January.

On the NHS Labour re-established a strong lead on the issue of the NHS back in 2011, since then there has not been any obvious trend in the data on which party people prefer on the NHS in YouGov’s regular tracker (graphed in this post). The MORI data today also showed little movement since they last asked in June 2011 – back then Labour lead the Conservatives on the issue of the NHS by 37% to 21%, the figures are now Labour 37%(nc), Conservatives 19%(-2). Essentially not many people trusted the Conservatives much on the NHS anyway, they don’t have much of a reputation to lose.

(While I’m here, it is worth noting that “best party on issue” questions tend to move in tandem with one another, if a party becomes less popular overall the proportion of people preferring them on crime, immigration, the economy, health, etc tends to go down at the same time – hence even the big drop in people preferring the Conservatives on health since 2010 isn’t necessarily anything to do with health. They’ve also dropped on all the other issues, and a significant part is just a more negative perception of the Conservative party overall)

This is not to say the issue of the NHS could not do more damage to the Conservatives in the future, that it isn’t doing deeper damage to perceptions of whether the Conservatives care about public services, or that not being trusted on the NHS isn’t preventing the Conservatives gaining support they might otherwise be getting. All these things are perfectly plausible… we just don’t have the evidence to confirm or deny them.


147 Responses to “Public opinion on the NHS reforms”

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  1. Crossbat11 – agree with every word.

    A further thought is that the Conservatives could have elected in 97 or 01 Ken Clarke, who for all his faults would have added some %age to their vote share but Europe rendered this impossible.

    There is no such Labour figure; whether a ‘better’ person could have been chosen to grow in to the role is kind of irrelevant now, we are where we are and sticking with ED right through is probably the best bet and imo he deserves his chance.
    I think this is where I diverge with Rob who I perceve has a lower threshold for changing the leader in late ’13.
    Even things looked bad in autumn 2013 and a late change of leader added a point or 2 I would not want them to be encumbered with the loser tag but rather they started afresh in 2015.

  2. If we wanted a new leader, there’s Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper.

    Can’t think of any other real candidates. David M is now an absolute non-starter.

  3. @ Jim Jam

    “would Gingrich endorse Santorum?
    I wonder if the latter is so conservative even for a very right wing Gringitch.
    Also when Paul dros out, inevitable, will he endorse anyone – I understand he has will do what is best for his sons political career.
    Endorsing Newt or Rick may not endear him to the GOP establishment.”

    I think what prevents Gingrich from endorsing Santorum is Gingrich’s massive ego. He’s convinced he’s the only one who can take on Obama in a debate. And he’s convinced that he’s the savior. They’re all about the same on social issues (even Ron Paul though that’s conveniently ignored by many), it’s just that Santorum’s campaign is basically that of the Church Lady. As opposed to Gingrich, who’s campaign is simply angry and caustic.

    Paul doesn’t really care all that much about his son and has said as much. His son is a whack job too who would have lost in any other year but 2010.

    “Re Bashir’s comments – he is best known for interviewing Diana when she revealed alot (and for Wacko Jacko). Comparing a hereditory Prince waiting his turn with a politican seeking Election is rather tenuous in my view; his sub text seems to be to remind people of his past interview’ triumphs’ and he is not a journalist with any standing in the UK.
    Prbabaly why he has stayed in the US.”

    Perhaps. I don’t know all that much about him, he seems allright. Richard Wolffe is another Brit reporter on MSNBC (I think he’s British) who’s fairly good. Prince Charles seems a lot more likeable than Mitt Romney. Charles has not destroyed thousands of jobs in Britiain in order to enrich himself nor has he ever strapped one of his dogs to the top of his car and taken a drive from London to Aberdeen.

  4. @ Nick P

    “If we wanted a new leader, there’s Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper.

    Can’t think of any other real candidates. David M is now an absolute non-starter.”

    What about Jim Murphy or Harriett Harman?

    Both Burnham and Cooper seem like capable leaders.

  5. I guess if EM (to use the Peter Bone line) became incapacitated in the next 18months it would be between those 2 any longer and skip a generation may have some appeal.
    Agree DM is a non-starter.

  6. I listened to Ed`s interview on Radio 5 yesterday(the one he got bashed in the papers for)…He was brilliant and the effect of meeting businesses and the electorate shows…His interview demonstrated progress and development in communication and made sense..Even Blair has made his peace with him realising that he is unlikely to be replaced

    FWIW,Labour should go with Ed at the next election as a united party and it`s their best chance

  7. SoCal – Harman is too old (same for a man her age).
    Murphy is very good but a scot is not possible at this time.

  8. Sorry to press Socal, in a non agressive way, but should Gingrich stand down before Santorum do you think he will endorse him, even if in a luke-warm way?

    I think the comparison of Mitt and Charles is silly.

  9. @NickP

    Alternatively the economy will improve to allow tax cuts by 2015, the LD’s will have been seen as helping bring prosperity and take seats from Labour thus producing a Tory landslide.

    All pie in the sky for both of us which is why we are asked to talk about polls not partisan views!

  10. @ Jim Jam

    “Sori mi tipin gest woser adn woser.

    I understand Paul has to do what is best for his sons political career when he drops out which is inevitable…..”

    It’s okay. I understood you just fine. :)

    I don’t think there is a GOP Establishment really, at least not one that could punish Rand Paul for the sins of his father. If there was one, they probably would have already done so given some of the things his dad has said and proposed already.

    When it comes to social conservatism of the three main contenders:

    -All believe in mandated public school prayer.
    -All believe contraception is morally wrong and bad for society.
    -All are opposed to abortion and all support the “personhood” amendments which define any fertilized egg (which effectively bans many types of birth control, many types of in-vitro fertilization, and criminalizes miscarriages).
    -All have voiced support for Bob McDonnell’s mandatory vaginal probes.
    -All support allowing employers to choose the medical treatments of their employees.
    -All believe in discriminating against Muslims and all oppose the Lower Manhattan Mosque and Muslim Community Center.
    -All oppose same-sex marriage and support the “Defense of Marriage Act.”
    -All believe in reinstating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (not standing up for a soldier, an Iraq War veteran no less, booed by their debate audience was particularly appauling) and resegregating the military.
    -None of them support ENDA and believe it is appropriate for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
    -All support the “show us your papers” law in Arizona.
    -All support mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.
    -All of them believe in getting rid of all gun control.

    On contraception, the difference between them is that while they all think it’s wrong and want to allow employers to take it away from their employees, only Santorum actually wants to ban it outright and thinks it’s okay for state governments to do so.

    So it’s not the ideological positions really, it’s more about large egos.

  11. SMUKESH

    @”I listened to Ed`s interview on Radio 5 yesterday(the one he got bashed in the papers for)…He was brilliant and the effect of meeting businesses and the electorate shows…His interview demonstrated progress and development in communication and made sense.”

    Have just listened to to it on podcast.

    If the roasting he got from Labour voters, and waffle which Victoria Derbyshire tried to penetrate were seen by you as “brilliant”, then I think RS’s warnings are timely indeed.

    :-)

  12. Socal – is it right that as delegates are now proportionate in each primary or caucus the 3 dangerously right candidates have more combined that the single very right wing candidate?

  13. @ Jim Jam

    “Harman is too old (same for a man her age).
    Murphy is very good but a scot is not possible at this time.”

    Thanks for the analysis. Murphy is still pretty young for a politician at 44 so he may still have his time.

    Harman is a lot older than I realized (she’s the longest serving female MP in the House of Commons, she’s been in office for 30 years).

  14. the other howard

    Yes, if the economy is roaring away and unemployment dropping by 2015 9and the private sector and mnufacturing are swelling to fill the space liberated by 100s of thousand public sector job losses, then, certainly, the Tories will win, cos they will have been right and the gamble they took with our economy would have worked.

    My understanding is that not even the Government’s forecasts predict that any more. But I might have misunderstood.

  15. Just to correct myself a little I should have said someone representing a Scottish seat is not possible at this time.
    A Scot representing an English or Welsh seat would be possible but anyone representing a Scottish seat imo impossible whether Scottish, English or whatever due to West Lothian Question, devolution etc.

    Imagine the difficulties for Murphy on E&W NHS ‘reforms for example when his constituents aren’t directly affected.

  16. @ Jim Jam

    “Sorry to press Socal, in a non agressive way, but should Gingrich stand down before Santorum do you think he will endorse him, even if in a luke-warm way?

    I think the comparison of Mitt and Charles is silly.”

    I think he would. He clearly hates Romney, the campaign against him has become more than just political but it’s become personal and visceral.

    @ Jim Jam

    “is it right that as delegates are now proportionate in each primary or caucus the 3 dangerously right candidates have more combined that the single very right wing candidate?”

    Well, they foolishly changed their delegate rules in a number of states to get rid of winner take all and make delegates proportional. Some states have kept winner take all or have maintained winner-take-all by Congressional District. So they’ve created a confusing mess like the Democrats unfortunately have.

    Romney’s people are talking about the possibility of not having the required number of delegates at the end of the nomination process. Of the delegates awarded thus far, Romney has more than all the other candidates combined.

    Btw, I didn’t wait up for the Alaska results but it turns out Romney won up there too. However, he won very narrowly (33%-29% for Santorum) so he only gets one more delegate than Santorum. Gingrich finished in 4th place despite Sarah Palin voting for him. :)

  17. @ Jim Jam

    “Just to correct myself a little I should have said someone representing a Scottish seat is not possible at this time.
    A Scot representing an English or Welsh seat would be possible but anyone representing a Scottish seat imo impossible whether Scottish, English or whatever due to West Lothian Question, devolution etc.

    Imagine the difficulties for Murphy on E&W NHS ‘reforms for example when his constituents aren’t directly affected.”

    Yeah but a Scottish Prime Minister would be living at 10 Downing Street and thus would probably be affected by the English NHS.

    Did anyone ever like my People’s Veto idea to solve the West Lothian Question?

  18. @NickP

    I seem to have annoyed you, just pointing out I thought your post was partisan and there are other equally likely scenarios!!

  19. COLIN
    `If the roasting he got from Labour voters, and waffle which Victoria Derbyshire tried to penetrate were seen by you as “brilliant”, then I think RS’s warnings are timely indeed.

    We have to agree to disagree as the leader says.
    It`s hard to say for sure that they were Labour voters…Incidentally only 3 of the callers were hostile but he handled them well and both women who called were supportive.So why has your leader never done a live radio or TV show so far?

  20. SMukesh

    The answer is he would have to reply of the cuff and he no good at doing that.

  21. @SoCalLiberal

    “Harman is a lot older than I realized (she’s the longest serving female MP in the House of Commons, she’s been in office for 30 years)”

    The longest continuous service (by a year), but Margaret Beckett is the longest serving female MP in total, having served from 1974 to 79 and again since 83.

  22. @RogerRebel –

    I heard him speak about a month ago and, although his speech was poorly delivered, he dealt with the questions pretty effectively – nothing spectacular, but he imparted a bit of personality and gave some sort of relevant answer to everything without waffling.

    Better off the cuff than with a script, it seemed.

  23. No mention of Tom Watson as a potential for leader? Ex-union man, stood up to Murdoch, at the forefront of the phone-hacking scandal and was part of the plot to oust Blair.

  24. SMUKESH

    @”We have to agree to disagree as the leader says.”

    Yes-he said it quite a few times :-)

    @”So why has your leader never done a live radio or TV show so far?”

    By “your leader” , I assume you mean the Prime Minister.

    I don’t know the answer to that . He gets grilled live on tv every week & also in front of Select Committee Chairs.

  25. Nick P
    ‘My understanding is that not even the Government’s forecasts predict that any more. But I might have misunderstood.’

    Absolutely right. What you have referred to is not possible and as far as I am aware nobody predicted it would occur. However, light at the end of the tunnel in 2015, where UK has finally got the national debt under control and manufacturing and exports are improving, and the current increase in training and apprenticeships is paying dividends, should see both the Tories and LDs significantly increasing their current share of the vote and Labour languishing as they did in 2010.

  26. @Henry

    “However, light at the end of the tunnel in 2015, where UK has finally got the national debt under control ……. should see both the Tories and LDs significantly increasing their current share of the vote and Labour languishing as they did in 2010.”

    Keep on dreaming.

  27. “exports are improving”
    Exports have been improving since the coalition came in to power. The narrative that they’ve been to blame for lack of growth is nonsense.
    Exports went from £102517m in Q2 2010 to £108585m in Q4 2011.
    The import/export deficit shrank from £-6368m to £-2452m.

    Gross capital formation is also up – and government expenditure has stayed relatively flat.

    So why, if we’ve been having growth in exports has GDP remained flat/fallen?
    Because household spending, which makes up around 60% of our GDP, has fallen from £214918m to £213020m – and fell each quarter of the coalition government except Q32010 (where it rose only slightly) and Q42011.

    So talking about manufacturing and exports misses the point – the stagnation in the economy is caused largely by a lack of domestic demand.
    If the Tories and LibDems solve *that* problem then it’ll probably pay electoral dividends.

  28. Or to actually put less dodgy figures on it, to make it clearer…
    Q1 2006 = 100
    Household spending, Q2 2010 – 100.35, Q4 2011 – 99.46 (it’s lowest point being Q3 2010, 99.00).
    Gov spending, Q2 2010 – 104.27, Q4 2011 – 105.04
    Capital formation, Q2 2010 – 90.95, Q4 2011 – 89.12 (but was at 96.50 in Q3 and had been rising previously)
    Exports, Q2 2010 – 92.50, Q4 2011 – 97.97

    Exports are fine – it’s that domestic demand that’s the problem.
    The 10k tax proposal should help there – as could the universal credit (if implemented fully).

  29. it’s lowest point being Q3 2010, 99.00). – should read ‘being Q3 2011’.
    i.e last year.

  30. Anthony

    Scots have by and large exercised a self-denying ordinance for weeks here, in the absence of a thread headed by a Saltire. Now that YouGov have a fully-fledged poll out on all things Scottish, shouldn’t you exercise a touch of human kindness and relax the embargo for a while?
    http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/sgii4zs7p1/Scotland%20results%20120228%20Final.pdf

    The Westminster Scottish split of Lab 42, SNP 30, Con 17, LD 7 is interesting in the context of a fully fledged weighted poll with a 1000+ sample. Perhaps Lamont has steadied the ship. And looking at the referendum responses, those numbers don’t look like being of academic interest come 2015.

    But perhaps this question could have benefitted from a bit of redrafting:
    “Should Scotland’s leading soccer clubs continue to play in a separate league, or should they join a Britain-wide league, so that clubs such as Celtic and Rangers play in the same league as clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal?”

    Celtic, maybe. But Rangers?

  31. @Smukesh

    “..He was brilliant and the effect of meeting businesses and the electorate shows…

    @Colin
    “If the roasting he got from Labour voters, and waffle which Victoria Derbyshire tried to penetrate were seen by you as “brilliant”, then I think RS’s warnings are timely indeed.”

    So, from your two completely divergent viewpoints, it is probably safe to assume that the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Neither brilliant nor impenetrable waffle, I suspect!

    I know, and even sympathise with, where you’re both coming from here, but I don’t think I’ve seen a better illustration of how partisanship can skew a viewpoint. I’ve been there myself, but isn’t it amazing how two perfectly intelligent people can listen to the same thing and come away with two completely different impressions.

    That’s party politics for you, I suppose!

  32. @Phil

    “The Westminster Scottish split of Lab 42, SNP 30, Con 17, LD 7”

    That’s an interesting poll and puts the parties poll ratings more or less back to where they were in the May 2010 General Election. The Hollyrood ratings are similar too, I noticed.

    Like you, I wonder if Lamont’s leadership is starting to bear some fruit after the 20 months of Labour drift north of the border. Early days, I know, but I thought her highly personalised line of attack on Salmond in her recent Conference speech might have struck a cord with those who, up to now, had been seduced by canny Alex, the Artful Dodger of British politics, but were now harbouring some nagging doubts about his highly egotistical and presidential modus operandi.

  33. @Crossbat11

    “her highly personalised line of attack on Salmond in her recent Conference speech might have struck a cord”.

    Not in this poll at least! (Fieldwork 22-24 Feb).

  34. Smukesh,whether EM did well or not,the answer is that at
    least he had the courage to do it .Since when did either
    Cameron or Clegg speaK before an unsympathetic
    audience?

  35. Also I believe that EM is at his best when without a script.
    When he learns to go with the force,well ,we shall see.

  36. These regional polls are always interesting because it shows how much the subsamples shouldn’t be trusted –
    Scots poll – 22nd feb
    Con 17, Lab 42, Lib 7, SNP 30
    Yougov from similar time – Con 28, Lab 34, Lib 4, SNP 31

    London – Con 34, Lab 50, Lib 9
    Yougov – Con 38, Lab 40, Lib 14

    Given that regional voting is increasingly more important (given that Lab is banking votes in the north and Con in the south – with the Midlands being the most important region to go for) shouldn’t regional polling become more prevalent?

  37. Phil – “Scots have by and large exercised a self-denying ordinance for weeks here, in the absence of a thread headed by a Saltire. Now that YouGov have a fully-fledged poll out on all things Scottish, shouldn’t you exercise a touch of human kindness and relax the embargo for a while?”

    Yeah – go on, you are all allowed off the leash (I’ve meant to write a post on it today but have been too busy, so probably tomorrow).

    (And yes, perhaps it shouldn’t say Rangers anymore, but if I recall correctly it’s a tracker)

  38. LizH
    ‘Keep on dreaming.’

    Hi Liz – I was really only giving a different view to some of the other posts, particularly the opinion that the Coalition Parties will be trounced in the GE election.

  39. LAB 41
    CON 38
    LD 9
    GOV- 27
    @henry, hope you are well, its not worth arguing mate.

  40. @Henry “I was really only giving a different view to some of the other posts, particularly the opinion that the Coalition Parties will be trounced in the GE election.”

    Well, as they bump around at 8-11% for month after month, you should concede that it is getting more and more likely that the Lib Dems will be trounced. Under FPTP, that level of support would be a disaster for them. “Taxi for Lib Dem MPs!” we would have fun saying.

    I don’t think that it would be right to say that the Conservatives will be trounced. That is an obvious mistake given how well the Tories are doing in the south of England.

  41. @AW

    Wondered if you could enlighten me as to how YG group the regions into ‘Rest of the South’, ‘North’? Specifically ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’ and ‘East’ from this link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Kingdom_nations_by_population

  42. Roland,that sounds a bit defeatist ,why so sad?

  43. @Roly1

    “@henry, hope you are well, its not worth arguing mate.”

    Come on, Roly, surely there’s still scope for a little light Miliband-bashing every now and again!

  44. Anthony

    Thanks!

    What is most interesting about the Scottish polls (you need to look at both the January & February data on VI) is the stability across Westminster and Holyrood between the months polls for Con/LD, and the churn between SNP and Labour.

    There is a pool of voters who switch between SNP and Labour (perhaps on a daily basis) . Whichever of Scotland’s two main parties is ahead depends on a variety of factors – not necessarily controllable by the party machines.

  45. Good Evening.

    Paul Mason is very good on Newsnight economy slot, showiing improvements in USA, which should help the UK he says. And Lincoln, UK looks a good micro example of manufacturing and spending rising.

    On the polls:

    Given that 9% for the Lib Dems must be a high outlier, so does anyone have ideas about where part of the 9% putatively for the Lib Dem vote will go? IMO/Credo that the Tories will take the bulk of these alleged fib dem votes.

  46. @ROLY1
    “@henry, hope you are well, its not worth arguing mate.”

    I don’t think Henry needs any advice from you. Henry & I are friends inspite of being on opposite sides now.

  47. “Hi Liz – I was really only giving a different view to some of the other posts, particularly the opinion that the Coalition Parties will be trounced in the GE election.”

    Hi Henry nice to see you back here. I have been following some of your posts on Libdemvoice. Hope you are well. I am dreaming that the Coalition Parties will get trounced in the GE election.

  48. Last 3 polls Labour lead, 5 – 4 -3, Swinging to Tories ? :-)

  49. Scotland?
    The most striking feature of the poll to me was the deep unpopularity of the things which you would assume mark out the SNP. From memory very few want embassies, separate armed forces, leave nato etc.
    Opponents of the SNP may also wonder if the hate comments eminating from the SNP will have some downward pressure on their support. Tonight an SNP member (sorry he has, the SNP tell us, just resigned) who had described himself as an SNP organiser has described the soldiers killed in Afghanistan in horrible terms
    However the forthcoming elections in Scotland are local elections and mobilising voters will be the task, one made more easy for the SNP with the shed loads of money they have. It will be a close fight in urban Scotland but what will happen to rural Lib Dems?
    Of course, I should say I am a Labour councillor facing election so I am hard at it.

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