The Guardian have published their monthly poll from ICM. Topline figures with changes from December’s poll are CON 33%(+1), LAB 38%(-2), LDEM 15(+2), UKIP 6%(-1). None of the changes are outside the normal margin of error, so are nothing to get particularly excited about, although for the record it is ICM’s lowest Labour lead since last August (ICM do, anyway, tend to show some of the lower Labour leads because of their reallocation of don’t knows, which tends to help the Liberal Democrats and hinder Labour).

The other question in the survey is yet another contrasting result on capping the increases in benefits – this time showing only 36% of people thinking that “squeezing benefits” is fair and 58% thinking it is unfair. As we have seen earlier, polling on this policy has produced some sharply contrasting results with no easy explanation for the variations. The suggestion in the Guardian that the contrast is a result of opinions changing after the autumn statement doesn’t hold up as YouGov was showing continuing support for a cap this month. It seems to be one of those issues that really does depend entirely on how it is framed, and with no obviously superior or more neutral wording to go far, I don’t think we can conclude much more than that how the public react to the policy probably will depend on how the political parties manage to frame it in the media.

106 Responses to “ICM/Guardian – CON 33, LAB 38, LD 15, UKIP 6”

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  1. Thirst… I am off for a drink!


  2. The other factor that used to favour LibDems was listing the political parties before asking the question (ie rather than “who are you going to vote for” phrasing it as “who are you going to vote for out of X, Y and Z) which boosted the party’s support from those who’d forgotten it existed. I assume that’s less an issue now with more internet polling?

    On the redistributed “don’t know” issue, surely ICM have made some sort of adjustment to how they deal with this given the LibDems being in government and their 2010 support dipping more than is usual between elections?

  3. Highest the Libs have been since August too.

  4. Stephen – it’s less of an issue these days because everyone does it! All pollsters prompt for the main three parties, the only question is whether they should also prompt for smaller parties (with the exception of Survation, none do).

    ICM continue to reallocate don’t knows using the same formula they have done for years – 50% of people saying don’t know or refusing to give a voting intention are assumed to vote for the party they recall voting for at the previous election.

  5. Re: framing in the media.

    A lot of policies sound great when framed in the media. It’s when the realities become a bit more evident down the line that they may not seem so good.

    This is what a lot of debate boils down to. .. things like initial boosts in VI due to the way announcements are made and framed, followed later by a hit as the impact of the policy itself becomes more apparent. Or the reverse can happen – lose the framing argument but implement the policy anyway and benefit later if it turns out OK in practice.

    Which is why people debate how they think a policy will actually work out, and hence what voters are liable to conclude. How often do we get polling data on this? Questions to determine whether people think a particular policy has worked or not. ‘Cos it’d be quite useful. ..

  6. Maybe it’s dawning on people that the welfare cuts aren’t just about to hammer tabloid hate figure stereotypes but low paid alarm clock Britain too.

  7. @Stephen S

    “surely….” (re ICM)

    I agree with your sentiment.

    There’s a good argument for some sort of reallocation of “don’t knows” and “won’t says”, particularly this far away from an election. But there’s a much weaker argument for the idea that the reallocation should take exactly the same form, election after election, regardless of circumstances.

    With ICM, 50% of don’t knows are reallocated to their previous allegiance whether a party’s support has increased, stayed static, declined a bit or totally imploded. A more sophisticated approach would be to vary that percentage a bit to allow for where the support of previous voters has actually gone.

  8. @ Anthony

    Will you have time this week to update the Latest VI sidebar? Thank you!

  9. I’m at home away from the dreaded YouGov firewall Amber, so I may even do it for you this afternoon!

  10. I think the perception of the benefits issue is one that will take time to bed down. This is certainly doubt that it is a sure fire poll winner for the Tories, but it isn’t yet clear who has called it correctly.

    I think those like @Berious who talk about it ‘dawning on people’ have a point, in that the initial presentation of the policy was that the workshy and lazy were having their share of the cuts, whereas any logical analysis shows the people being hit are a far wider and more varied bunch. The inflation prediction this year is already 3%, and may yet be much higher, so the actual impact is going to something of a moveable feast.

    Where the government needs to be careful is in assuming their rhetoric holds sway. This link perhaps contains a lesson for them –

    It’s from a completely different sphere of debate, but some of you might recall one of the main practical arguments from those opposing the ban was that it would force more people to smoke in their cars and at home, and was therefore bound to harm their children more. I heard this recited many times, with absolute conviction, as this is what the protesters fervently believed in.

    Well – the results are out, and the study shows a massive drop in childhood suffering linked to second hand smoke – the complete reverse of what they expected.

    I don’t think there is any real doubt that Tories inherently don’t like benefits. I’m not saying they want to get rid of them all, but in their ideal world, we wouldn’t have them. This may well lead them to make assumptions about benefit policies that lead them to false policy positions, as with the smoking lobby.

  11. More realistic looking Lib Dem numbers, who have made some gains recently from Conservatives in Council by-elections.

  12. Personally, I think many “accepted wisdoms” about polling are off the mark. Hanging, leaving the EU, PR, even immigration and welfare issues…there are strong opinions that shout above the rest, but if and when it came to a vote and things were discussed, nuances aired, well, even if we had a vote we wouldn’t be bringing back hanging, scrapping welfare ore leaving the EU.

    It’s a particular problem for the right…just cos Thatcher won some elections half a lifetime ago doesn’t mean the majority want mass privatisation, huge spending cuts and dwindling pensions.

    The majority tend to be silent until the vote.

  13. I’m trying to make sense of some of the comments on the previous thread, regarding the UK’s position in any future renegotiations of our terms of EU membership.

    And I’ve come to the conclusion that so weak is our apparent position, judging from those comments, that the following must surely describe our current circumstances:

    1.The UK is a major net recipient from (as opposed to a net contributor to) the EU budget.
    2. The UK maintains a significant trade surplus with the rest of the EU, such that any reduction in such trade would only be welcomed by the Eurozone as a means of reducing its trade deficit with the UK..
    3. It is far more beneficial for the UK to gain tariff free access to other fast growing EU economies than it is for us to dismantle the EU’s present barriers to trade with the stagnating BRIC, North American, Pacific etc economies.
    4. There is no prospect of the UK negotiating bilateral trade agreements with any other country if outside the EU, leaving us no option but to remain inside on the EU’s terms.
    5. The EU bureaucracy fear that progress towards ever closer union within the core EU states would stall if the rocket fuel provided by the UK’s contribution to the process were lost.
    6. Eastern European states positively welcome the impact on their own economies of the loss to the UK of a disproportionate part of their skilled labour force.

    Shame, because if these conditions were not to hold, the UK might be able to negotiate favourable changes to the terms of its membership of the EU from a position of strength.

  14. Regarding the 22% margin against the government’s approach to “benefits”, it’s fair enough for AW to argue that the answer depends on the way the question is framed and that apparent shifts of opinion are illusory. But the margin seems so stark that it must surely leave open the possibility of both. That is, that opinion may have shifted against the coalition’s position, even if a lot of the shift could still be attributable to the different form of the question.

    In due course, tracking data of comparable polls might provide an answer.

  15. @ Anthony

    If you have time, that would be awesome. Thank you.

  16. @ Phil Haines

    Neat, but non-sequitur.

    I think that the UK has very weak hands in this round, the only strength (but it is significant) that the EU probably wouldn’t like to see the UK go (politically more than economically) and hence some renegotiation could happen.

    The UK is rather weak for most of your arguments (the only countries where export has grown are China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, but all these are tiny markets for the UK). The UK can probably sell pharmaceutical products and chemicals in large quantities outside the EU, but that’s hardly likely to save the day.

    To have tariff free access to the EU, the requirements would be the same as today. If there are tariffs, the EU firms could quickly crowd out all UK firms from the EU market and hence wouldn’t need the UK market, thus no punishment for them.

    I actually think that it will be a lip service to renegotiations and everything goes on as today.

  17. Alec – re ‘I don’t think there is any real doubt that Tories inherently don’t like benefits. I’m not saying they want to get rid of them all, but in their ideal world, we wouldn’t have them’

    In my ideal world their would be no benefits either as they would not be needed.

    I may be being pedantic and I know you would agree with me in an ideal world but the real point is that whilst Labour want to be seen defending benefits where appropriate the language has to careful. Making clear that benefits are there for specific reasons and that in a changeing world they need to be kept under review and we will not be scared to make changes where necessary. Very few shibboleths.

  18. Nickp,

    I think you are broadly right about”shout” issues, but the same applies to those on the left who fall for polls that say people would be prepared to pay more tax for better services…they say it but don’t vote for it.


    I take the 22% with a pinch of salt. Given that Labour are averaging over 10% ahead I would expect any contentions proposal from an unpopular government to get a bit of a kicking.

    As to your six points on the EU;

    1) The size of our net contribution doesn’t amount to much compared to the total volumes of trade.

    2) Again what is important is the total amount rather than the balance each way, people buying British really don’t want to buy anything inferior or more expensive.

    3) the EU may be slowing an mature as a market but it is still the biggest market for our products and being in let’s us trade internationally on the same terms as our principle European rivals.

    4) we can negotiate outside but we wouldn’t necessarily get better terms and the deals Europe has negotiated are viewed by British business as pretty good.

    5) Again the size of the net contribution of the UK isn’t really big enough to act as any kind of stimulus on the EU, they don’t need our money to share powers if that is what they want to do.

    6) right now most of Eastern Europe can’t employ all the people they have and would rather they were earning their keep abroad and sending some back than being paid benefits at home.


  19. Tories lead by 1% with men, Labour leads by 16% with women.

  20. @Laszlo

    Regarding trade, it’s not what has happened under current EU tariffs with the rest of the world that matters, it’s what would happen if the UK negotiated these bilaterally. I agree that it’s pretty academic, but it does ultimately affect the UK’s negotiating position and we’ll have to agree to differ on the strength of that. Or rather, in terms of my previous post, we’ll have to agree to “agree”. If you see what I mean!

  21. Omg

    I have just realized that leaving the EU will have a huge impact on DIY, when German tools become too expensive, leading DIY enthusiast to but cheaper tools resulting in more botched jobs and a skyrocketing divorce rate. We must stay in the EU for the sake of the traditional family unit

  22. Independent

    “UK most unequal country in the West
    Huge gap between rich and poor in Britain is the same as Nigeria and worse than Ethiopia, UN report reveals”

  23. Richard,

    I had a cheap Polish cement mixer that lasted twelve years and three extensions before I gave it to my Polish builder.

    You can keep your German tools, they are beautiful designed and engineers, but polish stuff is damned near indestructible.


  24. I’ve just watched President Obama’s second term inaugural speech. It was very impressive.

  25. Good that the Tories are closing the gap on Labour…A warning to Miliband who seems to think he`ll defend the status quo on benefits and Europe without losing support.

  26. Smukesh

    Nice you know what Ed Miliband is thinking


    “That would be awesome”

    small, vomiting smilie.

  27. @Peter Cairns

    It’s all academic, being about the strength of the UK’s position in negotiating more favourable terms to its EU membership. And I consider that the UK has plenty of cards to play.

    But to reply to you:

    1. Wasn’t the size of the UK contribution a make or break issue in past EU negotiations. Is is irrelevant to negotiations now?

    2. I can recall a time when trade deficits mattered. Indeed elections were won and lost on them. Has the world changed so much that they don’t now?

    3. The EU is indeed stagnating and shows every sign of continuing in the same spiral, more IMO than any other part of the world. It doesn’t need to be so dominant in terms of our trade as it is now and if we were less dependent on the EZ compared to other growing economies we might gain more benefit.

    4. Trade agreements are bilateral and based on the mutual interests of both parties. We could at least tailor those agreements to the UK’s interests rather than those of the wider EU.

    5. It’s not about cash, it’s about the UK acting as a brake on the whole process, which it or any other state is quite capable of doing given the dysfunctional context of current EU treaties.

    6. Exporting your young, skilled, generally qualified population and leaving an ageing population at home isn’t exactly a recipe for economic success. At one stage people often got shot in the process of trying to leave, so concerned were those same states about the economic consequences.

  28. @ Paul C

    small, vomiting smilie.
    LOL! What can I say? I’m simply a very enthusiastic person.

  29. @smukesh

    Except that the movement is within error when comparing to the last ICM poll, so it’s not showing that at all yet.


    Would you suggest a grammatically more appropriate way to say it?

  31. @Oldnat: “Independent

    “UK most unequal country in the West
    Huge gap between rich and poor in Britain is the same as Nigeria and worse than Ethiopia, UN report reveals”


    In your rush to criticise the UK, you neglected to check the date of that article:

    “Sunday 21 July 1996”

    It’s a slightly different picture today as the UK is now nestled among Canada and Australia, is above the ‘Very High Human Development’ average and waaay above the USA.

  32. Things like trade deficits, bilateral trade agreements, and many other issues commonly raised in EU debates – e.g. Brussels bureaucracy – do of course matter to our economy and nation.

    It’s just that they are not all that visceral or directly experienced. In so far as they may affect the economy, there’s a chance that this may be attributed generally to the government’s economic management rather than to the impact of the EU.

    Other aspects are more visceral, whether bent bananas, immigration, or the working time directive etc. and I would venture to suggest that these may be the more salient issues if it comes to a debate on repatriation or exit.

    In practice, with repatriation it’s possibly mostly about immigration vs. loss of employment protections.

    And whether cuts to immigration will actually happen to a serious extent, given it’s not that easy and big business isn’t keen. The fear for some mag be that in reality employment and other protections will go and, er. .. that’s it.

  33. Phil,

    1) It was a big issue here but it was part of a larger deal and although we made a big deal about it the rest of Europe seems to be fairly laid back about it. We contribute a net £6bn, which isn’t that much compared to the overall budget and a drop in the ocean compared to EU GDP.

    2) Yes I too can remember when our balance of trade was an election issue, but we have been in the red for so long that it no longer is, much for the same reason that these deficits are greatly outweighed by the volume of trade.

    3) & 4) The EU is the worlds largest economy and we have open access to it, unlike China, India, or Brazil. If you think we can get a better deal than the EU fine bu. I suspect we would be doing well to negotiate better terms than the worlds largest trading bloc.

    We would also suffer because where as every other European rival would be easy to compare as they use a common EU standard, we would need our own, which I suspect would end up as the EU one anyway.

    5) If we can act as a break why do we have all the EU stuff that people complain about. Europe will move slowly to where it is going with or without us.

    6) young people have been leaving developing and underdeveloped countries for centuries and I don’t know of any that have collapsed. As to being shot, I don’t think they have been ding that in Eastern Europe since the wall came down.

    I think we can rest safe knowing that Poland won’t be a nation of pensioners any time soon. Indeed if we don’t get more young people to come here it will happen to us sooner.

    But it’s good to know that you only want to leave to protect our hapless East European cousins from themselves.



    Quite possibly.After all,Ipsos-Mori showed no change.However,exposing himself as a passionate pro-European who even considers a referendum as bad for Britain is a tactical mistake IMO.

  35. @Smukesh

    Well, it may be an error but it is not a given. Whether it is or not depends on things like. ..

    – will it cost Miliband exiting support. He doesn’t need more votes to win, so what matters is whether it costs votes he already has, and in sufficient numbers to make a real difference to the outcome in the election

    – he will also likely benefit from big business support

    – then you have the framing question. How much will people be influenced by things like the instability question (uncertainty undermining business investment) and loss of protections…

  36. STEVE2

    You presume too much!

    In my rush to collect my wife, I didn’t have time to finish the post and pressed Submit in error.

  37. STEVE2

    @”In your rush to criticise the UK, you neglected to check the date of that article:
    “Sunday 21 July 1996?”

    How very funny.

    Well spotted Steve2

  38. @Peter C

    You managed to misrepresent or exaggerate my points on four instances in your final three paragraphs alone. But it’s easy enough to see those straw men and I don’t find your other preceding arguments convincing either, so forgive me if I don’t reply in detail.

  39. Speaking of benefits:

    Part-time workers could receive monthly statements telling them how much better off they would be if they increased their hours when the Government simplifies the benefits system.

    Nothing says in-touch like a pointless monthly mailshot saying “just get a better job you pleb then you’ll have more money”. It’s as if they have no idea about the realities of minimum wage shift work.


    @”the EU may be slowing an mature as a market but it is still the biggest market for our products ”

    Not much in it now-and the direction of travel is clear :-

    Exports of Goods.

    2011 £119 bn
    2012 £113 bn

    ( down 5% )

    2011 £103 bn
    2012 £113 bn

    ( up 10% )

  41. Part 2

    In 2010, Danny Dorling said by income, the UK is the fourth most unequal of the 25 richest countries in the world.

    The lack of shift in structural inequality does not seem to particularly advantageous to the UK economy – or society.

  42. @Berious

    Astonishing stuff ! Wonder if it has occurred to them yet that these statements would cost a small fortune in trees, ink and postage.


  43. @CARFREW

    Perhaps gaining business support was the strategic choice…Interesting to see if it pays off come 2015

  44. Colin,

    Yeah it’s amazing what a debt driven fall in the value of Sterling can do for exports, now if we can only loose our AAA Credit rating we can be back to the workshop of the world.


  45. I see we are back into “Dog ate the economy” expectation management mode, with the Telegraph running articles about the deleterious effect of bad weather on economic activity.

    Was snow invented in 2010?

  46. LASZLO

    @”the only countries where export has grown are China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, but all these are tiny markets for the UK.”

    Those are not the only non-eu countries where exports have grown.
    India, Brazil & Switzerland , and USA ( our largest single market are 13% of total exports) are other examples.

    China is not a tiny market -it is a massive market.

    Our exports to China have grown 36% in two years & now represent 3.5% of total exports-our second biggest non-eu export destination. Plenty to go at there.




    @”eah it’s amazing what a debt driven fall in the value of Sterling can do for exports, now if we can only loose our AAA Credit rating we can be back to the workshop of the world.”

    I have noticed from your (more frequent ) visits here recently, that when challenged with the data, you tend to resort to obfuscation with a little flourish of silliness.

    ….anyway…….the point I was making in response to your assertion that the EU is our biggest export market was that it isn’t any more.

    I rather thought that sterling/dollar ER had been stablish over the years for which I provided export sales. THe USA of course, is our biggest single export destination.

    Sterling gained against the euro through 2011/2012 , which may have helped decrease EU exports-but one obviously suspects that demand levels crashed in some countries.

    From what I read, loss of AAA is already built into market sentiment., but sterling has been losing value since the turn of the year.

    As you say-cheaper exports will do us no harm at all-though the other side of the coin is more expensive imports.

  49. @Smukesh

    Indeed. What interests in this is that if big business is against even talk of repatriation, then it suggests that they don’t think these employment protections are as big a drag as some make out and are possjbly outweighed by other rather more compelling factors.

    E.g. the free movement of labour. ..

  50. @ Colin

    “Those are not the only non-eu countries where exports have grown.
    India, Brazil & Switzerland , and USA ( our largest single market are 13% of total exports) are other examples.
    China is not a tiny market -it is a massive market.
    Our exports to China have grown 36% in two years & now represent 3.5% of total exports-our second biggest non-eu export destination. Plenty to go at there”

    India is down by about 25% from 2009, US by about 4%, Switzerland by about 13%.

    China is a tiny market for the UK with about 5.3 billion (having said that almost twice as big as India). Compare that to Ireland with about 15 billion. UK firms loosing money in China left and right at a massive scale…

    I really don’t care if the UK stays in or out in this respect (if it leaves, it will then, in my opinion, make the maintenance of the remaining acquired rights of the people problematic, but it’s a different question – since I don’t think that the Conservatives can win the next elections, if they do, it will happen – and it does make me anxious), but leaving has no economic, only political reasons. Leaving the EU is purely (and I speak only about the political classes and not you) about disciplining the lower classes…

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