Lord Ashcroft has released some more polling on gay marriage, asking a question on whether people would be more or less likely to vote for a party that legalised same-sex marriage.

As regular readers will know, I have an awful lot of reservations about would X make you more or less likely to vote Y questions. To tick them off quickly –

(a) people tend to use the question to register their support or opposition to a policy, regardless of whether it would actually change their vote
(b) people are extremely poor at understanding the drivers of their own voting behaviour anyway
(c) if it asks about a specific party, people who are already voting for that party regardless say it makes them more likely to vote Y, people would would never vote for them anyway say it makes them less likely to vote Y. Neither of these groups matter
(d) by singling it out it gives the issue being asked about a false prominance, when actually lot of other equally or more important issues would be there influencing people’s votes
(e) more or less likely is a pretty low bar. It isn’t saying people definitely would or would not vote Y if X happened, just more or less likely. It’s pretty easy to tell a pollster that to indicate your support or opposition to a policy, it can be a more difficult decision when it comes to an actual ballot box

Despite these problems, more or less likely to vote are much beloved of campaigning and pressure groups as it makes whatever pissant little issue they are campaigning on seem like something incredibly important that will decide elections.

Anyway, this isn’t to particularly criticise Ashcroft’s question, since they’ve done all they can to try and get a decent question out of it – they gave people the option of saying they supported or opposed gay marriage, but that it wouldn’t affect their vote and they looked separately at current Tory voters and potential Tory voters.

Overall, Ashcroft found people in favour of gay marriage by 42% to 31%, with 27% saying they had no real opinion either way. People who were opposed to gay marriage were more likely, however, to say it would affect their vote – overall 10% of people said they were more likely to vote for a party that supported gay marriage, 12% said they were were less likely.

It becomes more interesting when we look at the crossbreaks. Amongst people who voted Tory in 2010 and would still vote Tory today the vast majority say the issue makes no difference – 6% say it would make them more likely to vote for a party, 9% less likely to vote for a party. Amongst lost Tory voters, who voted for the party in 2010 but wouldn’t now 26% say supporting gay marriage would make them less likely to vote for a party and only 4% more likely – this fits nicely with a support that the Conservatives have lost to their right and UKIP.

However, there are two sides to the equation. Looking at the votes the Conservatives have gained since the election 15% say they are more likely to vote for a party that legalises gay marriage compared to 11% less likely. Looking at those who are not voting Tory but may consider it, 12% say they are more likely to vote for a party that supports gay marriage compared to 9% less likely.

Of course while Ashcroft and his pollsters have done their level best to write a good question, most of the caveats above still apply – questions like this give undue prominance to an issue of low saliance and even wording like this it probably grossly overestimates the importance of the issue in voting intention. It does however, as Ashcroft concludes, demonstrate that the effect of gay marriage on voting intention is not all one way.

36 Responses to “Ashcroft poll on gay marriage”

  1. ‘pissant’ – I had to look that one up.

  2. According to a poll by LibDemVoice, half of the LD respondents wnat NC to cease as LD leader.

  3. A little update of the changes in median abs dev over the past 13 weeks, and some trending on VI.

    h ttp://www.freefilehosting.net/recent

  4. Statgeek
    Clicking on the link caused my software security system (Norton 36) to advise me in strong terms not to visit this particualr site as it is known for malicious software.

  5. I was glad I read the headline to this thread twice before opening it. At first glance I thought it said “Ashcroft in Gay Marriage.”

    Now that would be a development to send shivers down the spines of the Tory faithful!

  6. @Anthony

    Your commentary is spot on and I agree with your scepticism about the reliability and validity of polls like this one.

    Mind you, as a professional pollster and someone who makes a living out of the esoteric trade of opinion polling, you’re getting dangerously Gerald Ratneresque on us with your a) to e) list of caveats. They actually seem to comprise a pretty good litany of reasons to discount most opinion polls! lol


    “dangerously Gerald Ratneresque”

    Excellent phrase!

  8. @CROSSBAT11

    `Ashcroft in Gay Marriage`


  9. pcs site refers to a yougov poll on privatistion:

    A poll by YouGov found that 62% of those who responded thought that public services should be provided ‘mainly or only by government’, with just 5% supporting provision ‘mainly or only by private companies or charities’.

    The research was carried out for the Fabian Society, who have put the findings in a book – ‘For the public good: how people want their public services to change’ by Natan Doron and Andrew Harrop.

    Sixty per cent of those polled said services should not be run like businesses but should reflect the values and ethos of the public good.”

  10. Gay marriage is not an issue that will affect the VI of most people. Obviously if it is raised in isolation, a few might raise an objection, but when there are so many other far more important issues, it would not even be thought about, when coming to vote. The government should just get on with it and put a bill through to make the change. They only have to put a clause in that protects clergy from prosecution, if the refused to marry same sex couples.

    On a different issue, apparently over 40% of Lib Dems have not decided how they would vote at a future election.


  11. r huckle

    “On a different issue, apparently over 40% of Lib Dems have not decided how they would vote at a future election.”

    How are “Lib Dems” defined here? Voters who have voted Lib Dem before? Last time? Ever? Memebers of the Party?

  12. “How are “Lib Dems” defined here? Voters who have voted Lib Dem before? Last time? Ever? Memebers of the Party?”

    As the link directly proceeding that statement explains, it refers to the those who voted Lib Dem in Corby in 2010 who do not plan on doing so in the byelection (according to the Ashcroft poll)

  13. I think some of Ashcroft’s polls including the above is a waste of time, but its not my money.


    ‘If it looks like a Tory, sounds like a Tory and votes like a Tory, it’s probably a Tory.’

    I agree. It probably applies to Labour and LD as well.
    Speaking personally always voted L or LD, except once I voted for a friend Green (but I am not a green). Although my sandals wore out and I outgrew my duffel coat during middle age spread, I rather dress like a Liberal I think but no wispy beard. I don’t speak through my nose like EM, nor do I have a public school accent, like DC ,GO etc., nor of course like NC. However, I think I speak in a similar way to most LIb Dems; we’re pretty ordinary albeit educated folk. I usually agree with 90% of the LD manifesto, which probably makes me far closer to my Party’s views than most voters to their’s (even or especially Party activists and UKPR contributors) , including Tory and Labour.

    Thanks for your second post. As far as 2015, I am afraid I won’t be able to join you to drink the health of the new LIb/Lab Coalition, owing to a previous commitment over which I would have no control.

    I am hoping that the LDs will, in a hung Parliament, work with the Party who receives most votes. While not essential in a close run thing, it would be my preference, and easier (not easy) to square with the electorate.

    Regards Henry.

  14. Well it’s good to know that not all voters are like my brother in law. This is completely anecdotal, but it fascinates me. His first vote was when he was 18, in the 1970 general election, he voted Tory and the Tory’s gained power. He has voted Tory as far as I am aware in almost every single election, all barring EU elections where he has now switched to Ukip in 2004, and 2009. He has been with a Tory through their best and worst, even at their most unpopular he was still proudly Tory. However he has told me in no uncertain terms that should this legislation pass, he will vote for Ukip in all future elections, and didn’t seem to care when I pointed out that would help Labour get in, (our constituency is marginal). I fail to see why it’s such a big issue, he’s not even very religious. He puts CofE down on forms, but I can’t remember the last time he was at Church, apart from the Easter and Christmas services.

    For me personally, I am going on the same journey as Barack Obama I feel. I was opposed, I was raised to believe it was sinful, but have now cast aside that belief, and now I’m in favour, however it is not a deal breaker for me. To me it’s not a big issue that would decide how I vote, probably because I’m not affected. All things remaining the same I plan to vote for Labour in 2015, and when considering my vote, my local Labour candidate’s stance on Gay Marriage, would make me neither more or less likely.

    I just fail to see how it is so controversial, I understand the religious element persists, but there are even atheists who oppose it, and I can’t fathom why.

  15. For those interested in current economics, you may wish to read the following from Steve Baker MP for Wycombe.


  16. Good Afternoon All. Fantastic day by the sea.

    i. Gay Marriage issues may alienate people who do not want to be forced into celebrating them in our churches.

    ii. There is a genuine fear that this may be interpreted as a fundamental law, as the HRA has been.

    iii. The TIMES today has gloomy headlines about deficit, debts, cuts and the falling reputation of George Osborne.

    iv. Rachel Reeves is quoted at length.

  17. R HUCKLE

    Thanks for posting that link, it was an interesting analysis, summed up well by the dangers of Cameron moving to the right to stave off UKIP, which may cause him to lose support in key LAB/CON marginals.
    Fascinating dilemma for Dave…..test his strategic political skills to the limit.

  18. This is also worth viewing. Apparently the IMF recently issued a paper that suggested full reserve banking, where only the reserve banks e.g BOE can issue money and not the investment/retail banks.


  19. from previous thread – Anthony,

    “George [Galloway] should write for [Holyrood Magazine] anyway. After all, they’ve given consent once, they are clearly already in the publishing game.”

    You ought to start a Fringe show. That astute and thought-provoking jest was a mile better than any of this guff:


  20. Statgeek,

    Tremendous work. Many thanks once again. The addition of the actual figures to one decimal place is very useful (especially to those of us lacking perfect eyesight).

    For those unwilling to download the tables (my Mac had no complaints), here are the Scottish Westminster VI figures (+/- change from UK GE 2010):

    Lab 41.7% (+0.3)
    SNP 28.3% (+8.4)
    Con 17.4% (+0.7)
    LD 5.8% (-13.1)
    Grn 1.8% (+1.1)
    UKIP 1.8% (+1.1)
    oth 1.0% (+0.4)

  21. Isn’t it the case that attitides to gay marriage show a big correlation to age… older people are more likely to be worried about gay marriage, more likely to vote Tory, more likely to go to church?

    Pew’s polling in the US shows attitudes are slowly shifting towards a more positive view. Evangelicals are most opposed, Catholics and “mainline” Protestants least (possibly if you take the age factor into account there would be little difference between liberal Christians and the unaffiliated):


  22. typo, should be:

    Lab 41.7% (-0.3)

  23. What would be a better question about significance?

    I guess “are you for/against gay marriage”?

    IF FOR: “if a party you are intending to vote for came out against gay marriage, how likely are you to change your vote?”

    IF AGAINST “if the party you were intending to vote for came out for gay marriage, how likely are you to change your vote?”

    Answer: Certain, Very likely, somewhat likely, not likely, not at all.

    Not perfect, but it should give you better data about significance.

  24. @ MIKE N

    “Clicking on the link caused my software security system (Norton 36) to advise me in strong terms not to visit this particualr site as it is known for malicious software.”

    Fine with Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and McAfee. Please be assured I would never post an unsafe link. A site such as a file host site can easily become blacklisted if people try to host nasties and link to them. This in itself makes it appear in site checkers as ‘bad’, as there is no parental control for example.

  25. @Mike N
    “According to a poll by LibDemVoice, half of the LD respondents wnat NC to cease as LD leader.”

    You might as well stick a pin in a photo of Nick Clegg as believe this voodoo nonsense Mike.

  26. Do you guys have the phenomenon of gay gentrification? I’m thinking that may be affecting Cameron’s decision to do this and grab a large chunk of voters who might be more naturally Tory inclined.

  27. Howard:

    “pin in the photo”

    Have tried that. Didn’t seem to work.

  28. @ SOCAL

    Yes I think the UK does have the phenomenon of gay gentrification. But I think it has always been the case, but is much more open.

    Actually I think the upper classes if anything have always been more open, than the political or professional classes. It has only really been the last 10 years or so that politicians have been openly gay. Saying that I am not sure that an openly gay person, could become a leader of a political party, which is shame really, as it should not matter.

    Could a gay person become a candidate to become president of the US ?

  29. @Colin

    Re: Francois Hollande (previous thread)

    I know you’re desperate for him to fail but you’re getting your disappointment in a little early, aren’t you? By my reckoning he was sworn in as President barely 90 days ago and the Assembly elections took place 60 days ago.

    I know he’s an impressive politician, but even a miracle worker would struggle to have much effect, both good and good, in that sort of time. He’s got another 5 years as President and, with a majority in the Assembly for a similar period, he’s got a reasonable chance of achieving some noteworthy things. Of course, as a socialist, he’s destined to disappoint, and like all politicians of the left, he’ll probably get most of his “betrayals” in early, but I’d give him a while longer to prove his worth, wouldn’t you?

    On your Hollandean time-scale, I’m assuming that you feel Cameron and Osborne are approaching their political dotage now, aren’t they, after two and a bit years in office? lol

  30. @SoCalLiberal

    R Huckle’s link to the political betting article… the pressure on Cameron comes from the right of his party, but the bigger pool of potential voters is towards the centre – the article ends “Those in the blue team who think that appeasing the right is the route to electoral success are fools – but my guess is that they are likely to prevail.”

    Gay Marriage is a marginal (but high profile) issue where Cameron can position himself as continuing his detox-the-brand strategy, while continuing to appease the right in other economic/social areas.

    He has moved on from his earlier voting record on equality issues. My hunch is that his arts educated wife has been influential here. (“There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state” came from her.) She was reported to have been be uncomfortable with some of the Tory types, and needed to be convinced about the whole enterprise her husband was embarking on. Gay marriage might have been one of the markers she set down.

  31. According to a poll by LibDemVoice, half of the LD respondents want Dale Winton as LD leader..

    Sheesh anything for the gay vote!! ;)

  32. Dale Winton is ….. gay !!!!!! ?

  33. Excellent programme starting on BBC3 in 1 minute.
    “The Revolution Will Be Televised”.

    AW – Before you censor this, bear in mind that it includes polling on whether Tony Blair should be made a saint. Surely worth a plug on a polling site?


    “Dale Winton is ….. gay !!!!!! ?”

    Oh yes he’s right up there with David Laws!! ;)


    Well I was only drawing attention to French opinion.

    But I will keep my french vigil private for a while :-)

  36. @ Crossbatt11

    “Now that would be a development to send shivers down the spines of the Tory faithful!”

    Lol. Well you can imagine my feelings when I learned that of Michael Huffington.