This morning’s YouGov/Sun poll has got a lot of attention because it shows an extreme – CON 30%, LAB 45%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 9% – the biggest Labour lead since YouGov started doing their regular polls in 2002. Usual caveats apply – the polls that show striking figures normally end up being outliers, it’s the underlying trend that counts. Even there though, it certainly looks as though the Conservative bounce from the referendum pledge has unwound and Labour are back into a comfortable double-figure lead.

More enlightening are the other figures from YouGov today. As usual a majority of people support the introduction of gay marriage (54% to 38%), and as I wrote on Sunday, the issue itself is not one that has particular salience or will move many voters come the general election in two years time. However, the damage that prolonged coverage of Conservative infighting (on gay marriage, and presumably the leadership plot rumours) is clear – 71% of people see the Conservatives as a divided party, only 10% see them as a united party. This is a question YouGov have been asking since 2003, and this is the highest ever proportion of people who have seen them as divided – more than during the 2005 leadership challenge, or just before IDS was defenestrated.

439 Responses to “71% see the Conservatives as divided”

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  1. This may well be an outlier but surely the tendency is clear. The clear divisions appearing in the Tory party over marriage equality and membership of the EU are beginning to take their toll on support for the Tory party.

  2. I think same sex marriages are only an issue that get Westminster (and council members) frothing at the mouth.

    In my experience with Conservative Friends ( yes I have some) they are as indifferent on the substance of the subject as anyone else.

    It does seem the Parliamentary Tories are Hell bent on a return to the good old days of John Major’s Government when memorably He called his own right wing cabinet members a bunch of bastards.

  3. Anthony, I think there’s a misprint. After all the business going on over gay marriage today, surely the correct figure is that 171% of the public see the Conservative party as divided.

    I know scientists think it is impossible for more than 100% of respondents to think something, but this is like one of those moments when something travels faster than the speed of light.

  4. Yes, feel a litle sorry for Cameron, as I am not sure it is ever possible to unite the Tory party on most of the issues of the day. As MP’s they tend to be more independently minded than those of other parties. The Labour party comes from a Union movement, where the tradition is to band together.

    This could actually be seen as a strength by some, but the Tories will have a hard job convincing most voters. Even on the EU, if it ever came to a Cameron government campaigning for an out vote, I think the Tories would fracture. The split may be so bad, than they could no longer continue in government, with the party being damaged for years.

    If the Tories continue to have problems and the tensions of coalition make the situation worse, I cannot see polling improving. Labour will be odds on to win a 2015 GE with a landslide. At the moment electoral calculus have it as a 82% probability of a Labour majority.

  5. @Steve – You know, there are a sizeable minority of us that this same-sex marriage thing really does matter to, it’s just odd that all these straight people get worked up about it.

    Pretty sure I’ll be ‘frothing at the mouth’ due to some of the comments made in the HoC today.

    Cameron’s big EU speech seems a long time ago.

  6. I think my favourite quote comes from local Conservative Chair Tom Foster:

    “I am confident that gay marriage is viewed with disdain by the sort of Conservatives I respect.”

    Grief, who would be a Conservative leader with people like him to deal with? It’s times like this when I absolutely despair.

  7. @”71% of people see the Conservatives as a divided party”

    86% of over 60s………who also oppose same-sex marriage 64/31 & believe DC should not continue with it if more than 100 Con MPs oppose it , 66/25.

    So the overwhelming number of over 60s ,who think Conservatives are divided, appear to do think that not from a dispassionate position of objectivity-but from a strongly held belief in one particular side of the same sex marriage debate.

  8. With my usual impeccable timing, I pressed SEND on the previous thread just as this one was opening.

    Here’s my two-pennorth repeated in all its rambling detail.


    Not often I disagree with you, but I think I do over Cameron’s position on gay marriage.

    I agree that he is going to be hit by party disunity on the issue. But I suspect that this is a price that the Tories have to pay for their long-term survival. Cameron knows that the party’s core demographic is (literally) dying. The old “conservative” core is slowly ageing and dying out. And the Tories have not connected with younger voters to a sufficient extent to replace the traditionalists that they are losing.

    So this is a long-termer. It’s a part of a necessary long-term re-positioning for the party if it is to avoid oblivion in the not-too-distant future. May not be sufficient, but it is certainly necessary.

    In the meantime, you may well be right that the Tories will rip themselves apart for no benefit over this. But I don’t see the obvious alternative path for them that doesn’t re-double their problem a few years down the line with a still further shrunken core.

    In some ways, the Tories existential problem is even worse than Labour’s in the 80s. Then, Labour had been hijacked by incomers. So Kinnock’s Bournemouth speech was an obvious (albeit, brave) and necessary step on the road back to credibility. The Tories’ problem is that their party is still the party it always was. Still controlled at grass-roots by the people who always did control it. They haven’t changed. It’s the world outside that has moved and leaves them looking irrelevant to an increasingly (socially) liberal electorate. And because the core is unchanged, Cameron cannot go for the big-bang Bournemouth strategy without destroying his party. So he has to go for the glacial erosion option. Which leaves him with grim-faced internal opposition at every step. Not a good place to be.

    There’s a related debate going on in the USA, where the Reps are trying to come to terms with the fact that their country had become urban, liberal and multi-ethnic, whilst they appeal to rural, conservative whites. (Broad-brush, but that’s the big first-order picture.)

  9. There is a very marked correlation between age & attitude to same-sex marriage in the You Gov Poll :-

    From young to old through the four age groups :-

    Net support 71
    Net support 50
    Net support 14
    Net oppose 33

  10. What I find bemusing is that if you take the poll at face value, old people are so aghast at same-sex marriage that they have defected en masse to the Labour party, which is overwhelmingly in favour of it?

    Surely if there’s been a movement at all it is simply to do with the “divided party” headlines? There has been no rise in UKIP support which is where you would expect angry old homophobes to storm off to.

    This poll generally looks very odd all round.

  11. …the biggest Labour lead since YouGov started doing their regular polls in 2002.
    Surely we lefties can have a wee smile, even if this is an outlier. Ed’s no EU referendum ‘blunder’ seems not to have done the predicted damage.

  12. NEILA

    @”There has been no rise in UKIP support”

    There has-for the over 60 group.

    Change in VI fr this group since that previous YG Poll is :-

    Lab +6
    LD -4
    UKIP +4

  13. While today’s poll is clearly a bit of an outlier, it’s worth pointing out that it doesn’t look that different from Friday’s which had a 12 point lead. If anything recent polls suggest that the Sunday 7 point lead was the unusual one – maybe the last remnant of the post-EU speech bounce (admit it, everyone except Anthony had forgotten about that).

    It’s also worth remembering the fact that the lead itself is intrinsically highly variable. while I’m not completely convinced by the maths behind Martyn’s statement that the Margin of Error on the lead is twice that of the VI[1], it’s actually not a bad rule of thumb. This is especially true when you consider that MoE represents the minimum variance and in the real world samples, weighting and so on are going to increase that, no matter how skillfully dealt with by the pollster.

    So you can probably reckon on the MoE on these leads being +/-5 points. Both 7 and 15 point leads would both be compatible with an underlying figure of 11.

    [1] There’s an interesting paper here:

    on the topic, though I’m not sure how even the results here would for example be affected by rounding for example.

  14. Neil A
    Perhaps its a shift merely from Con to DK and from DK to liberal minded parties?. I have to get my head round the notion of certain Lab supporters being liberal minded I must confess. Mrs Duffy keeps entering my thoughts.

    As it is an outlier, well, at least compared with previous days, we had better take a rain cheque (check?).

    However, AW has not commented on the TNS BRB poll yet (I think), which did shew the same trend.

  15. @lefty – I was about to respond anyway. I think you are correct, but also that I am correct. The reconciling factor I think is that we are probably talking about different time perspectives.

    Perhaps I should have been more specific, but I’m really thinking in terms of 2015. In the longer term, you’re correct – Tories can’t hold back the tide forever on this one, and must adapt or die.

    @Neil A – I think you are being a bit unfair accusing people of hyperventilating over a single outlier. Quite a few of use suggested caution over a single poll, but Anthony has also weighed in with the extraordinary figure on Tory unity – this is noteworthy, and well worth commenting on, but always with the caveat that the next poll might be different.

    I think sometimes you can be too critical of genuine discussion of polls that seem to favour Labour.

  16. Alec.

    Back to status quo ante with me agreeing with you. The timescale thing is the key.

    Problem for the Tories of course is that if they lose in 15, there is a very big danger of all hell breaking loose and Civil War commencing. And in such a situation, the moderninsers that couldn’t win in the perfect circumstances of 10, then lost in 15 would struggle to convince the party core that it simply hadn’t modernised enough. Big, big danger of the Right taking over and confining the party to oblivion in that scenario.

  17. @ Roger Mexico

    That’s complicated; I got the same underlying 11 by adding 7+15=> 22/2 = 11 ;-)

  18. I didn’t spot Colin’s post when I replied to Neil. It looks like Colin has put his finger on it and I understand there were also sampling factors at work too, with the older age range.

  19. @Pasco (10.40)

    “it’s just odd that all these straight people get worked up about it.

    Pretty sure I’ll be ‘frothing at the mouth’ due to some of the comments made in the HoC today.”


    So people like myself are not allowed an opinion on this subject. Marriage has always been a union between man and women – that is the definition of marriage. No-one is suggesting that two people of the same sex living together should not have the same rights as a hetrosexual couple but that has already been achieved. There is no need to destroy the sanctity of marriage.

    IMO, we have now reached the stage where marriage is irrelavent. With some people marrying several times in their lifetime and the likely introduction of same sex marriage, marriage has little future.

  20. @Colin / Neil A

    “Change in VI fr this group since that previous YG Poll is :-

    Lab +6
    LD -4
    UKIP +4”

    So the core Conservatives have moved to Labour, and the Lib Dems who are aghast at Huhne have moved to UKIP.

    Indeed, an odd poll, and especially on the back of a seven point poll. The RoS sample is lower than other recent samples, but that shouldn’t make that much of a difference.

    The Scottish crossbreak, as ever is woeful at 80 people, which gives a margin of error of +/- 11 points (as opposed to the usual +/- 8 points).

  21. You know, it just occurred to me. When calculating MoE, I have tended to use the population of the nation, or region concerned.

    I should be using the registered voting population (or do non-registered people get canvassed for polls?).

  22. Same sex marriage as a split issue really suprises me – If you are not Gay why do you care?

    I do not get the controversy. Plus the older generation are all for committment so surely two people that commit to each other is a good thing.

    On the poll it is an outlier I am sure so am not getting too happy but I am very interested to see what happens in Eastleigh.

  23. Statgeek: Just because the numbers are the same doesn’t mean it’s the same people. Even if there’s no movement between the parties and Don’t know/Won’t vote it could be more like:

    4% move Tory to UKIP
    2% move Tory to Lib Dem
    6% move Lib Dem to Labour

  24. One thing I have noticed over the years is that disunity correlates with low poll ratings.

    I wonder that people like independent MPs that think for themselves but at the same time punish disunity.

  25. @Peter Bell

    You are allowed your opinions. We are allowed to tell you that your opinions are wrong. You may have an opinion that the world is carried on the back of a turtle if you wish.

  26. @Danivon

    I was kidding, and I don’t believe that 6% points (20% of the Conservative voters) moved overnight on one issue. :)

  27. PR would have been the perfect solution to Tory splits problem. Then they could have had a pro Europe party and and anti party and a social conservative party.

  28. Jay blanc

    The turtle moves!!!!

  29. Peter Bell – of course you are allowed an opinion. What I think Pasco was referring to was the crass way that some express their opposition to gay marriage (and conflate it with other things).

    But ‘marriage’ has had more than one meaning. In Old Testament times it often meant oke man and any number of women (with some concubines as well if he liked), and a widow would have to marry her dead husband’s brother (who would have to try to have kids with her – not doing so was Onan’s sin).

    For a very long time in England there were two kinds of marriage until the ‘Commom Law’ institution was abolished. Less than 200 years ago marriage was essentially a property transfer, with a wife’s assets being the property of the husband. Until quite recently rape within marriage was not recognised as a crime.

    I am engaged at the moment. The prospect of gay marriage makes absolutely no difference to our intentions, and it seems to me that those who assert that it does affect marriage are the ones undermining it.

  30. The Conservatives owe it to themselves to divide into two.

    One part – can be traditionalist. Broadly centre-right. Largely pro-EU. Ready and able to forge alliances with the LibDems.

    The other party. Firmly right wing. Thatcherite. Anti-EU. Not only able to form an alliance with the other branch (sic) but also, according to its views, able to form a majority government in it’s own right.

    If it is true that the electorate want that – why do they do not ‘break away’ and prove it?

  31. Here’s a hypothesis. I owe it to a comment of Colin’s who may or may not endorse it and I am not a poll geek or a political scientist so I have no real evidence in its favour.

    Anyway the hypothesis is this. Labour and Conservative fish in two different pools. There is no way that the old people to whom Neil refers have defected to Labour in moral outrage, rather they may have gone to UKIP or don’t know or won’t vote. So basically the Cons have been on something like 33 and Labour on something like 43. Neither respond to the same stimuli. So Gay marriage may move fish in the Cons pool but is unlikely to stir the waters in the Labour one. And the same may be true of the EU. Looking at recent events, random movement may shift the conservatives to 35 and Labour to 41 (as very recently occurred) or 45 as now but recent events may have led to a real drop in conservative support (since random movement of 3 is unlikely for them).

    As I say, I have no idea of whether this hypothesis is true. If it was, I suspect that it would have statistical consequences for how one measure the MOE for the lead, and also consequences for the kind of strategies that the parties should adopt. The latter would not be the same as they would be if one saw the basic battle as being over a few voters in the middle ground who might swing either way. At a time of general election things might become a bit more like this latter scenario, but at times like the present, parties would get higher VI by concentrating on their own pools and making sure that too many of their supporters did not go off to the Greens etc in the case of Labour and to UKIP in the case of the Conservatives (and of course to don’t know in the case of both). And the trouble in the Conservative pool is not so much that they are seen to be divided as that they are divided and their supporters have options as to how they show it (and particularly so when there is no general election and they are talking to Pollsters).

    But as I say this is speculation, although it is a hypothesis that I think is to some extent testable.

  32. Spellings – should be ‘one man’ (not ‘oke’) and ‘Common Law’ (not ‘Commom’). Sorry

  33. I think the responses of @Peter Bell and @Couper2802 show the genuinely diverging views on this. It’s a bit like the abortion debate, where different views, equally logically valid, simply cannot meet for some kind of compromise, as the logic underpinning both views in irreconcilable.

    I accept @Peter Bell’s views as logical, consistent and valid, within his definitions of marriage, but I don’t agree with them, and cannot reconcile my views to his. I wouldn’t claim prejudice or homophobia – I think that’s a childish response and misses the point about belief and how these issues are framed in people’s personal belief systems, but one side or another loses these kinds of arguments, and I think that is genuinely difficult for people to accept.

    For what it’s worth, I did read someone )possibly on here, I can’t recall) make the point about who actually defines marriage. In England, up until 1753, a man and woman could get married by a simple pledge, which did not need witnesses and did not need to be in a church. A parliamentary act in 1753 then confined marriage to taking place in an officially recognised place of worship. This was, in effect, the first time that religions controlled marriage, with any other form of marriage abolished. This was then removed in 1836 with the advent of civil marriages.

    There have been various issues where the views of religions diverge from those of the state since then, most notably in the treatment of divorcees remarrying, and now the treatment of same sex unions.

    In an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, I would suggest that the real issue is who defines marriage? Historically it is clear that in England (and I think the rest of the UK) marriage has not been defined on a religious basis for a long time. Since 1753, the state has assumed the role of defining the institution, so I would argue that the move to recognise gay marriage outside churches is no greater a change than to permit civil ceremonies or divorcees remarrying.

    I know others won’t agree with this interpretation, but essentially the lesson from history is that the the people, via the state, own the institution of marriage, not the religious institutions, although they remain free to continue their own interpretation of marriage if they so wish. The definition of marriage is therefore a construct of democratic will, rather than religious construct.

  34. Apologies I should have said ‘random variation’ not ‘random movement’. I was referring to the accidents of who was polled etc not genuine but inexplicable fluctuations in voting intention.

  35. We see the same thing with the Republicans in the USA.

    One (uncontested) victory since 1988. (That being 2004).

    Every other election in that time, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012 has been won by the Democrats.

    Same in the UK. No outright Conservative victory since 1992.

    The more right wing of the party might think themselves “populist”, and claim to speak “for the silent majority” – but that silent majority long since stopped voting for them!

    In both countries.

    And the demographics say “More of the same” – unless these parties start to reach out to the actual societies in which they find themselves. Rather than a fiction.

  36. One of the most important attributes of a government or a government in waiting is unity, coalescence about a common purpose. Thus I think this fact may well be driving current Conservative poll ratings, apart from single issues.

    On Gay Marriage, I think the worst damage is not to the Conservative vote directly, but to the party supporters who may be disinclined to help out at election times, but will come and vote. Thus some of the wavering voters might not turn up without the usual “help”. That might be important in marginals.

    If these 15% leads keep turning up regularly, that’s scary for the Cons. A modest Labour victory next time could be overturned in the election after that, anything bigger maybe not.

  37. I wonder what this would show?

    We tend to get web sites that ask us questions and then show which party we would support.

    But it would be interesting to see how it would match with parties from a country with a wider range of parties or a PR system.

    It could even just track where people were on a left to right spectrum or by issue.

    We tend to class people by party and in a system with two major parties we create two broad coalitions as with republicans and Democrats.

    What would a majority UK party support or how much support might a fringe issue party actually command.


  38. Amber:

    You may not have received the news from Hastings, [no – not about Harold] but we spent one of our brainstorming days discussing whether [or not] to use capitals for new thread alerts.

    The vote was 1-0 in favour of their use so can you please keep to this new norm from now on please?

    Ta very much.


    Good post: thoroughly agree that a 15% Labour lead is nothing to get excited about.

  39. The article that Anthony links to show that voters were already seeing the Conservatives as divided by 64 to 18 back in November. So today’s figures of 71 to 10 after another year plus of in-fighting, plotting and whinging to the Press isn’t a massive change.

    It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a big partisan element to this as well – you’re much more likely to declare a Party you support united and one you opposed divided. So the figures may be a little distorted by a sample with a Tory VI of only 30%.

    That said even Conservative supporters say their own Party is divided by 57 to 27 (Labour voters say theirs is united by 64-15).

    The fact that things were so bad already makes me suspect that main causes of this perception are little to do with same-sex marriage and more because of longer-lasting divisions. This is actually bad news for Cameron, because while the SSM issue will be forgotten politically in a year, the other issues won’t.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Conservatives in this poll are actually in favour of SSM by 49% to 42%[1]. Given the way that this topic has a very strong age gradient and Tory support is usually highest among the over-60s, it’s an indication that Conservatives may not actually feel much different about the issue than other people. In other words if they are less in favour of SSM it’s because they tend to be older, not because they are Tories.

    [1] Sunday’s figures were actually the other way by 44 to 49 which suggests there may have been some (probably very temporary) vote loss with the high media coverage of the issue over the weekend. This mainly seems to have been to Non voters rather than UKIP and may explain the 30%. However the fact that well over 40% of Conservatives are consistently pro-SSM indicates that the issues doesn’t just have the support of a handful of metrosexuals as its opponents claim.

  40. “defenestrated” Blimey Anthony, you sent me scuttling off to :-) Then I though what the e heck and “thre it out of the window”.

  41. Apologies for my typos.

  42. While we pontificate on the identity politics stuff, stuff that hits the headlines and is the focus of polling, it’s worth bearing in mind that there may be other things having an impact on people that may also be affecting VI.

    For example, round about now people are discovering the impact of council tax benefit changes, and the bedroom tax. Child benefit changes too. ..

  43. COUPER 2802

    @”Same sex marriage as a split issue really suprises me – If you are not Gay why do you care?
    I do not get the controversy.”

    Quite a lot of people like you have been rabbiting on on the telly this morning.

    Mercifully, none of them has descended to the level of Jayblanc’s rebuff to Peter Bell.

    THere is a demographic here which is not visible in these polls-churchgoing people of strongly held religious faith.

    The more their beliefs are sneered at & vilified, the stronger they are held.

    I think there might be an overlap between the correlation shown in these polls-ie the older you are the less you support same-sex marriage-and that between church going religious belief -and attitudes to the status of “marriage”.

    It would be interesting to see the same sex marriage questions asked across demographics which identify religious belief & church attendance.

    And I mean all religions & churches-Anglicans, Catholics, Muslims, Jews………..


    How can opinions be wrong?They are not facts.

    I don`t care either way whether Gay Marriage is enacted or not,but can see why some people might object to it on the basis of their beliefs.

  45. ………..anyway………..the Conservative Party needed this mornings tv screens full of Conservative MPs arguing about same sex marriage, like a hole in the head.

  46. Gracie.

    A much neglected word, that one. Except by me – I’ve over used it ever since as a 10-year old I stumbled upon the short story “The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch” by Arthur C Clarke.

  47. Gracie.
    A much neglected word, that one. Except by me – I’ve over used it ever since as a 10-year old I stumbled upon the short story “The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch” by a famous Sci-Fi writer, whose name, bizzarely, appears to throw posts into auto-mod.

  48. Colin

    I agree totally, the conservatives need a hole in the head

  49. “Mercifully, none of them has descended to the level of Jayblanc’s rebuff to Peter Bell.”


    Eh? Can you explain what was wrong with what Jayblanc said?

    People are allowed to express their opinions, and are not others allowed to express their opinion on whether it makes sense?

    It’s a straw man anyway because I don’t recall anyone indicating he wasn’t entitled to his opinion in the first place. Just because someone may disagree does not mean it’s yet another opportunity to play the victim by claiming a denial of the right to have an opinion. ..

    And it IS a flawed opinion. You can define something any way you like to suit yourself at the expense of others, and claim great offence that others do not join you in your beliefs, but they do not have to accept those beliefs when it suits some at the expense of others.

  50. I should think the Huhne situation will move some votes to Labour.

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