Sunday round-up

Results of this week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are here, with questions on the usual grab bag of subjects – most notably on tax avoidance and energy. The topline voting intention figures are CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 9%, so despite several YouGov polls in a row showing single-figure Labour leads things still appear to be averaging up around the 9-10 point lead that has been the norm for six months or so now. Leader approval ratings are Cameron minus 19 (from minus 20 a week ago), Miliband minus 18 (from minus 14), Clegg minus 56 (from minus 58) – Ed Miliband’s conference boost is still evident, but continues to gently unwind.

On tax avoidance, 64% of people think it is unacceptable to avoid tax compared to 26% who think it acceptable… however, 42% of people say that they personally would avoid taxation if they had an accountant to show them how. 71% of people think that high tax rates on business and the rich encourage tax avoidance, however only a minority (19%) think that this means tax rates should be reduced. The majority (52%) think that government should crack down on avoidance rather than cut taxes.

Turning to energy, the energy companies themselves are by far the most widely blamed for increasing energy prices – 58% think they are most to blame, compared to only 17% saying rising gas and oil prices and 11% the cost of carbon emission targets. Asked about shale gas and fracking people were evenly split – 32% think it should go ahead, 30% that it shouldn’t. 38% said don’t know, probably indicating it is an issue that many people have very little awareness of.

In the Mail on Sunday there was also a Survation poll, which had topline figures of CON 30%(+1), LAB 43%(+2), LD 8%(-2), UKIP 12% (nc). Changes are from the previously published Survation poll on the 23rd September. The Mail on Sunday’s write-up appears to be a prime example of how not to report opinion polls. It begins with a subheading of “Conservatives 13 points behind Labour, one point ahead of UKIP Party” which is clearly untrue, though probably an innocent error. The rest of the article though is worse – Conservative support hasn’t “fallen to 30”, it has increased to 30. They haven’t “dropped five points in ten days”, they have increased one point.

In the absence of any other polls from about ten days ago showing the Conservatives at 35 I can only assume that the 5 point drop comes from comparing the poll to the YouGov poll conducted on the 11th of October. This is doubly wrong – first it is deliberately cherry picking an unusually high score as a point of comparison to exaggerate the movement. Secondly (and assuming there was not some unpublished Survation poll they are comparing it too), they are comparing polls from different companies using different methodologies that produce consistently different results. Since April YouGov’s polls have shown an average Conservative support of 33% (the 35% was either a blip or a party conference publicity boost), since April Survation’s polls have shown an average Conservative support of 30%. In other words, the poll does not show Conservative support “plummetting”, it shows Conservative support at exactly the same level that the pollster in question has been showing them at for months and months.

158 Responses to “Sunday round-up”

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  1. On tax avoidance, 64% of people think it is unacceptable to avoid tax compared to 26% who think it acceptable… however, 42% of people say that they personally would avoid taxation if they had an accountant to show them how.
    This isn’t as contradictory as it seems. Let’s agree that people believe that stealing is wrong (evasion) & that’s that dealt with.

    But let’s say Tesco allows people to make a case for not paying (avoidance). Tesco also says: If we let too many people avoid paying, the prices will have to increase.

    The shoppers say: Make everybody pay.
    Tesco says: We’re not going to do that.
    The shoppers say: Okay, where is the queque for people who want to ask for free groceries?

    IMO, It seems quite rational to take this view.

  2. Amber:

    Its a jolly good idea but let down by the “two queues” system.

  3. I note that a number of people still say that Labour should be much further ahead tha they are at present and find this really odd.

    The Tories are pretty much at their current ground level support and can hardly go much lower. On the other hand Labour have added a whopping 50%, on average, to their 2010 score of 29%; and that despite beng at a catastrophic low t that point and then choosing a candidate for leader than many thought would make things worse.

    I’m not really sure what people are expecting, especially at a time when more and more smaller parties are attracting a good deal of support themselves.

    Time to be realistic in my view.

  4. Adding to Ian’s points a great deal will depend on whether the Tories are at least competitive at the next election.

    If not, then things could get even worse for them with many voters turning their backs on them by witholding votes or going UKIP in order to demonstrate they want a more right wing party.

    Drip, drip, d r i p…….

  5. MoS straining to make a point-not happy bunnies at present.

  6. Anthony – to gently unwind

    I would not have taken you to be a man to split his infinitives….

    Very good summary as well though….

  7. @” Leader approval ratings are Cameron minus 21 (from minus 20 a week ago), Miliband minus 18 (from minus 14), ”

    Anthony-I make -56+37=-19 ( DC),


  8. I think a lot of polling goes over the general populace’s head. So to them it may well be news that Tories have fallen to their current low.

    Anecdotally I still have people complain about the Tories and talk in despair about how they wish Labour would win the next election but unlikely to as “Labour are doing so badly in the polls” when I mention that actually they have a 10 point lead, I occasionally get looks as if I am mad. Ok that was one extreme example, of a friend who’s not very political at all (Thought Gadaffi was a chef!)

    But in general, non political people I know aren’t really aware at just how well Labour are doing. If you told them about the Conservatives landslide victory in Scotland last year, securing majorities in both the house and senate, ;) they’d probably believe you.

  9. M in M:

    I have close friends [!!!!!] intellectuals like wotI am, and they don’t know who Michael Gove is [so they are unable to tell me why he always looks shocked.]

    Very few people give a toss and, in my opinion, we get the Govts, that, as a country, we deserve. Its not the politicians fault that they are forced to debate via soundbite – its all the public hear, and that usuually third-hand.

    By the way I’ve got a lot a shelves need stacking if you’re fre at the mo?

  10. Colin – you are correct.

    John Murphy – I split infinitives with gay abandon, it’s only the greengrocers’ apostrophe that I get all pedantic about.

  11. what are the odds on T. May for next Tory leader?

  12. There’s nothing wrong with splitting infinitives. It’s a strange meaningless snobbery that has crept in over the years, God knows why.

    Whether to knowingly split…or to carefully sunder?

  13. I wander if the demo and EM appearing will have any impact. I doubt it to be honest, but I thought the booing he received was ludicrous. It was nice to see him be honest and admit there would need to be cuts whoever is in.

    I did catch a small glimpse of Mark Serwotka of the PCS. Ow dear. What was the constant use of the word ‘Comrades’ to describe the crowd all about?

    I just wish some of these union chiefs could somehow grasp that you need successful private companies and strong tax receipts to allow for investment in a strong public sector. As far as I can see they just don’t seem to grasp this.

  14. John von Neumann had this sussed with the very first Game Theory studies back in the 40s.

    The very best outcome for a population as a whole is that everyone (morally) plays by the rules and doesn’t try to get an unfair advantage over his or her fellow citizens. But if everyone else us playing by the rules, the best outcome for me as an individual is to duck and dive and bend the rules.

    There’s therefore no inconsistency in the views expressed in the YG poll. Just a relatively sophisticated understanding of the difference between what might be good for me personally and what might be good for society.

    They are rarely the same thing.

  15. Given the usual caveats about sample size the SNP have one of their rare polls ahead of Labour for Westminster. I think there is a good chance that it is partly a conference effect and more than just sampling error.

    What I am not predicting is that it indicates any type of sea change.

    If you look down the “Scottish” column you will see that Scots ( or rather people polled in Scotland ) seem almost universally to the left of the UK, if only marginally.

    To be honest I am not sure that isn’t just the impact of an additional opposition party to draw support from the coalition and support for other party leaders or something deeper.


  16. NICKP
    Not snobbery, but a religious adherence to what were thought iron rules of grammar, in the old days – as your unconscious use of language showed: what God has put together, let no man put asunder. Only to be transgressed in the holy tractatus: “To bravely go……into an infinity where the laws of relativity allow these rules to be broken..

  17. John: So should we split ’em or not?

  18. There seems to be a poll in the Sunday Times on scottish independence – Alex Salmond is quoting from it freely.

    Since I dont wish to pay to read the paper – has anyone got a link to the details?

  19. Any polling on splitting infinitives:

    Is it alright to split an infinitive:





    @”what are the odds on T. May for next Tory leader?”

    Getting shorter.

  21. There are only 100 people left in Lincolnshire who know what an infinitive is.

    What were the previous lows for the Cons with Hague, IDS and Sumfink of the Night??

  22. IDS-25 , twice

    WH-21, once -and a lot of low twenties.


    A change of this scale over a short period needs an explanation so obvious that we would all know about it and be expecting it.

    Otherwise it’s the polling conventions.

  24. john pilgrim

    what iron rule of gramamr forbids splitting infinitives?

  25. John B Dick’s link is fine, you don’t have to pay anything. The poll:
    Panelbase interviewed 972 Scots between October 9th-19th. Panelbase is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


    Interesting Panelbase poll in the ST.

    They asked the “decontextualised” question on independence

    Yes 37% No 45% DK 18%

    Then about how they would vote if they thought there was a Labour UK Government in 2015

    Yes 44% No 48% DK 8%

    Then about how they would vote if they thought there was a Con or Con/LD UK Government in 2015

    Yes 52% No 40% DK 8%

  27. @NickP

    “Is it alright to split an infinitive”

    (d) Where appropriate.

    “To boldly go” is subtly but clearly different from “Boldly to go”. In the first, the going is being done boldly; in the second, the decision to go, or its commencement, was what was bold.

    To give it a topical twist: “Humiliatingly to resign” means it was humiliating that the resignation took place. “To humiliatingly resign” means the manner of the resignation was humiliating.

    “Humiliatingly to humiliatingly resign” is what actually happened :-)

  28. In the last year:-

    44% of Labour MPS ( 113 of them)’
    33% of LIb Dem MPs ( 19 of them)
    and 16% of Con MPs ( 48 of them)

    …have claimed first clas rail travel.

    Sunday Telegraph.

    Toffs less posh than Plebs ! ( less expensive too )

    :-) :-) :-)

  29. @ Croftee

    Word nerds can have lots of fun with compound split infinitives.

    We are determined to completely and utterly eradicate poor reporting of polls
    We are completely & utterly determined to eradicate the poor reporting of polls
    We are determined to eradicate the poor reporting of polls completely & utterly.

    I should get a life!

  30. h

    standard ticket to ride is first… not the first time

  31. @ Colin

    Ah but how many of the Tories travel by train anyway? Many closer to London and/or drive?

    I don’t blame anyone travelling first class if it is Virgin- only chance you get for a seat! In the GO saga no-one seems to have pointed out the costs of an upgrage- £180 more than standard.

  32. @ Colin

    Toffs less posh than Plebs ! ( less expensive too )
    I’m not sure they are ‘less expensive’; the rules allow 1st class when it’s cheaper than a standard anytime ticket.

    They’re simply following the Amber Star principle (announced a couple of days ago): You can get some really good deals; & 1st Class should be for everyone! ;-)

  33. @ Robin

    “To boldly go” is subtly but clearly different from “Boldly to go”.
    To go boldly is another option.

  34. @ Colin

    And TOJIM may have a good point: The toffs buy a standard ticket & sit in 1st class being confident that they can brazen it out or afford the upgrade, if rumbled.

    The poor Labour plebs actually figure out which is cheaper & pay for the proper ticket ahead of travelling.

  35. AMBER.
    At Oxford, 1975-1978 I was very envious of the ‘toffs’.

    i. They always had beautiful girls with them.

    ii. When they cycled down the High Street or punted in the river, their college scarves always stayed on their left shoulders.

    iii. Their long hair always looked marvellous.

    iv. When they were very naughty they got away with it.

    v. They were somehow allowed to shout in the ‘Bod’ and not be rebuked.

    vi. Their T shirts about Mandela never got them into trouble either.

  36. @ Chris Lane

    Brideshead Revisited? :-)

  37. AMBER,


    But my refuge was the Greyhound Irish Pub Night and the BlackFriars Monastery!

  38. Colin:

    !/ The toffs don’t claim ‘cos they’ve got too much money to bother

    2/ Labour MP’s were simply taking early advantage of Cammo’s intention to spread privilege

  39. So the new chief whip did say that about the homeless and the opera.

  40. oldnat


    Interesting Panelbase poll in the ST.

    They asked the “decontextualised” question on independence

    Yes 37% No 45% DK 18%

    Then about how they would vote if they thought there was a Labour UK Government in 2015

    Yes 44% No 48% DK 8%

    Then about how they would vote if they thought there was a Con or Con/LD UK Government in 2015

    Yes 52% No 40% DK 8

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  41. What that shows is that as soon as Scot start thinking about being ruled from London the yes vote goes up, much more in the case of a con govt but even with a lab govt Scots are more in favor of independence when told they can’t have a SNP govt in westminster

    Actually the best strategy for an individual is to play by the rules (i.e play co-operatively) and punish those who don’t – it’s only in the short-term that the ‘selfish’ win when people are playing the co-op first but then tit-for-tat strategy.
    Check out the iterated prisoner dilemma vs the standard prisoner dilemma for proof.

    It’s probably also why we evolved very sophisticated ‘cheat detection’ as part of our social instincts (you can see this if you ‘rephrase’ logic problems in social terms – people solve the social problems with ease but often struggle with the logic).


    Volatility in the polls on indy seems likely over the next year at least.

    People don’t vote in some sort of political vacuum. They vote within the particular political context that they see. That will change back and forwards, I would guess.

    Neither side should be triumphalist over particular polls.

    It’s an important decision – not something as trivial as to which Tory party should pick the PM at Westminster.


    The problem with Neumann’s theory is that there is no any real life example, where it works… Except, I suppose, that you get a Nobel prize in Economics for it.

  45. The there has been a slight decline in the YouGov Labour lead from a high in May.

    Fortnightly average lead:

    11.8% > 11.3% > 11.0% > 10.0% > 9.4% > 9.5% > 10.1% > 9.3% > 10.1% > 10.1% > 10.1% > 9.2%

    Labour lead over six months of YouGov polls… averages at 10.075%

    Frequency: 5%(1), 6%(3), 7%(6), 8%(11), 9%(28), 10%(18), 11%(22), 12%(18), 13%(6), 14%(7).

  46. @”Then about how they would vote if they thought there was a Con or Con/LD UK Government in 2015
    Yes 52% No 40% DK 8″

    You only have to listen to Salmond’s “Lord Snooty” remarks, and the focus of his attacks-the Tories-to see how he is going to frame his campaign.

    The above Poll will encourage him to believe he has it right……………….unless Labour is still 10% ahead when the Referendum is held.

    Interesting game of chess-or poker perhaps :-)

  47. @Anthony W

    As usual, I merely speed-read your opening summary to this thread, and thought, at first glance, that you had referred to to the “f*ck*ng people” in the part devoted to energy policy. What’s this, I thought; Anthony getting exasperated with the views of the public and their irritating disinclination to think properly on these matters? On second reading, I realised that you were talking about fracking, although a comma between “fracking” and “people” might have helped me a little! That said, I too get frustrated with fracking people from time to time, especially when they have different opinions to mine! lol

    I return to these pages after my annual week of October sun in southern Spain, spoilt only slightly by having to queue for 45 minutes at Passport Control at Birmingham Airport on my return earlier today. Theresa May wouldn’t have got the vote for next Tory leader from many of my fellow sufferers in the queue had they been asked, I assure you! Utter chaos after the smooth and efficient experience at Alicante airport that we had all enjoyed a few hours before. We do have a terrible habit of letting ourselves down, don’t we, and what people travelling from other countries thought about it all, heaven only knows.

    As for the recent plethora of polls, it appears that the Government’s woes go on unabated, despite sporadic good news stories and various Cameron-inspired relaunches. Still too early to make a definitive diagnosis, but it really is starting to look like an administration mired in ineptitude and short on luck. Combine that state of affairs with an array of largely unsympathetic leading figures, and it starts to look a little ominous. The next election probably won’t be decided until late in 2014, by which time the electorate will have probably arrived at their final verdict on both the government and the opposition, but, if I was a coalition supporter, I’d be getting quite queasy now about this lot’s political capacity to turn things around.

    I get a sense now, some half way through it’s electoral life, that some serious mud is starting to stick to this administration; mud not easily washed away, especially with a once supportive media now singing enemy tunes.

  48. Actually, game theory, becoming fashionable in the 1990s (although some used it in the 1970s) threw back the development of economics by about 30 years. It is guilty of the “begging of the question” fallacy, but the elegance of the solution and the mathematical models used made people forgot it.

    Make assumptions and test it on the polling data helpfully presented on this site. You will see that you will have plenty of evidence of the validity. Now, make a different set of assumptions and test that one while believing that those assumptions are true and you will find that they are confirm.

    Game theory helped us to understand computers better and mislead us in understanding humans.

  49. Editor of Newsnight reported to have resigned.

    Implosion at the BBC ?

  50. COLIN

    You probably get limited coverage of Scottish politics.

    Tories (and now Lib Dems) are already seen as toxic in Scotland, laughing at them is always a popular line, but the real question is how Milliband’s GB Labour will be seen.

    There is a dilemma for Labour. The more they appeal to “Middle England”, the more likely they are to get elected there – but it carries the risk of been seen as “Bowler hatted Tories” here.

    It will need clever political presentation to appeal to the different populations that they need to convince on both sides of the border.

    Probably not that difficult to do in terms of a simple political choice of a UK GE, but much more complex to try to simultaneously win the 2014 referendum in Scotland and the 2015 GE in England.

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