Way back in late 2011 I wrote about the gender gap in the polls, or more the point, the disappearing gender gap. At the time there was a lot of discussion in the newspapers about the Conservatives struggling with the female vote, but at the time it really wasn’t that true. Or at least, it wasn’t true in the way the media was reporting it – the Conservatives were not actually doing any worse amongst women than men… but that itself was a problem for them. Previously they had done better amongst women than men. In short, it wasn’t that the Conservatives were suffering amongst female voters. It was that they were no longer doing disproportionately well amongst female voters.

Anyway, I have long meant to revisit that post and see if it has changed, and since we’ve not had any new polling for a few days I’ve finally got round to doing it. The graph below shows a four week rolling average of the Conservative lead over Labour in YouGov’s Sunday Times polls (there is no methodological reason for just using the Sunday Times polls – it’s just easier to collate 50 polls a year than 250)

Conservative lead over Labour in YouGov’s Sunday Times polls

As you can see, while in late 2011 the Conservative deficit amongst women was actually much the same as amongst men, since then a small but consistent gender gap actually has developed, and Labour have enjoyed a bigger lead amongst women. As I wrote before, the reasons are unclear – most polling does not actually show very much contrast between the political views of men and women. They think the same issues are important and generally give similar answers, except on a few specific issues like military action, nuclear power and weapons and gay marriage (women are more anti-war, more opposed to nuclear power and weapons and more pro-gay marriage). My best guess remains, as it was in October 2011, that it is to do with perceptions of the economy, but that is purely because the big shift in the gap back in January 2011 coincided with a big drop in economic confidence.


471 Responses to “The gender gap – updated”

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  1. The strange thing about that graph is that Con closing the gap with Labour in late 2011/early 2012 appears to be down to the men.

    They were more swayed than women by flag waving over Cameron’s shortlived EU “veto” bounce?

  2. Anthony,

    Interesting but on the economy is there any perceptible gender difference on the issues of the prospects for the country as opposed to their family.

    I tend to think that women tend to take a more caring attitude on issues and therefore the difference between the prospects for the wider country and how it might impact on their loved ones might show a different attitude.

    If the “Caring” theory is right they may feel that if what is good for the country is hurting the poor that that isn’t fair.

    It might be worth looking to see if the fairness angle shows a gap.

    If there is any evidence that this is the difference then the obvious tactics would be for Labour to focus on families hurt by the benefit changes and the Tories on hard working families who don’t claim benefits.

    Of course for both this risks another Jennifer’s Ear.

    Oh and as to The Other Howard, I am just being mischievous, I can take people with right wing views but not righteous wing views.

    Peter.

  3. This article discusses the May 2012 drop in support from women:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/17/david-cameron-cuts-strategy-tory-women

    Basically attributed to budget fallout and the areas that were targeted for cuts.

  4. Billybob

    There’s a dozen and one ways to interpret it, you could say that women are more indecisive than men and flip more easily?

    Or that men are more stubborn and tend to stick more etc.

  5. And in Jan 2011 Cameron it was all about eliminating child benefit

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3165359/PM-defends-cut-in-child-benefits.html

    Seems child benefit cuts = massive drop in poll numbers for women voters?

  6. Richard,

    Child benefit could well be the one that tipped the balance… Don’t hurt kids is a core thing with women voters.

    Peter.

  7. @MinM

    It may be conventional wisdom but fwiw here is part of AW’s 2011 summary:

    ” …the story of 2011 has been one of stagnation…. The biggest exception was the impact of David Cameron’s veto at the European summit, which put the Conservatives briefly back ahead of Labour.”

    It appears from the graph that without that disproportionately male upswing, Con would not have been able close the gap and the Labour lead would have rumbled on. There were further impacts in 2012 including economic news, the budget omnishambles, local election/byelection coverage etc.

  8. I think the Lib/Dems lead the polls when it comes to the Transgender and Hippy vote.

  9. @RiN – it would be very, very funny if we really did see Netherlands leading a Northern Eurozone crisis after a domestic lending boom and bust, after all the moralistic preaching they have dished out to those pesky Mediterraneans.

  10. @Allan Christie – “I think the Lib/Dems lead the polls when it comes to the Transgender and Hippy vote.”

    Do you have evidence for this, or was this a failed attempt at humour?

  11. Allan Christie,

    “I think the Lib/Dems lead the polls when it comes to the Transgender and Hippy vote.”

    Bitch!

    Peter.

  12. Women ‘got’ the maxed out credit card analogy; they also believed we’re ‘all in it together’.

    The credit card is still maxed out & we’re not ‘all in it together’.

    Cameron & Osborne haven’t delivered on the core messages with which they attracted women’s support so they’ve lost that support.

  13. Alec

    No it wouldn’t be funny, that’s people’s lives who are being ruined, are you sick?

    You shouldn’t judge the dutch people, by the actions of the dutch government.

  14. Just come in and just going to bed, will address posts tomorrow?

    Schadefreude Alec? (It was a German newspaper article btw).

    Just remember ‘no man is an island’ when it comes to the EU economy..

    Till tomorrow.

  15. ALEC

    “Do you have evidence for this, or was this a failed attempt at humour?
    _________

    Just my observation!!
    …….

    Peter Cairns

    “Bitch”
    _____

    Woof woof ;)

  16. IMO, This thread disintegrated before it got old. ;-)

  17. Allen christie

    Damm, you got me coming and going

  18. @AW ” in late 2011 the Conservative deficit amongst women was actually much the same as amongst women,” is a rather glaring typing error.

  19. This is worse than the last thread. Polls are no help.

    Anyway I think it proves what I have always known: women are a lot nicer than men. Paradoxically its that fact that makes me glad I AM a man with a very lovely wife

    ……………………………………………………………………………

    MinM to Alec “are you sick?”

    Probably not – but you are certainly extraordinarily rude.

  20. I’ve been lurking in the corner of your virtual sitting room for several weeks, totally addicted and spending way too much time reading every post to the detriment of my micro-mini zombie business. As it isn’t polite to earwig (although I’m sure I’m only one of a legion of invisible earwiggers) I thought I’d pop up to say “Howdy” and “Thank you” for the erudite, intelligent, considered, occasionally infuriating, often funny, and sometimes incomprehensible comments and debate. I’m in awe of so many of you. I’m fascinated by politics – which is, I guess, a good thing as I’m now living in my 4th democracy (USA, Ireland and now Scotland which really counts as two) and coming to grips with the Scottish and British variants. Add to this an equal fascination with statistics and polls… Thank you Anthony Wells! The UKPR is like manna in the wilderness, not the least because this is the first (and only) site I’ve visited where the debate has (in the main) been intelligent AND polite. And I’m really looking forward to reading the discussions – if they occur – about Scottish Independence about which I have so much to learn. If I ever have anything unique and intelligent to add to the conversations I might pop up again…but I doubt it.

    Shariet

    NB: Sorry if this is all running together but I don’t know if HMTL is necessary for paras, etc.

  21. Interesting to see a Social Democrat leader of a fairly “UK-like” economy plugging away at round after round of austerity cuts.

    Clearly Osborne is not on quite such a lonely and isolated political limb as some people like to think. His prescription is, by and large, the fashionable one across Europe.

  22. Latest YouGov / The Sun results 2nd April – CON 30%, LAB 43%, LD 11%, UKIP 10%; APP -35

  23. RiN

    Very interesting article on Holland.

    When will it all end?

  24. Interesting latest YouGov – if it stays the way it is, it’ll mean an end to the Lab>UKIP/Lib bounce but not the Con>UKIP/Lib.
    We’ll probably be back to 30/41 tomorrow, but we’ll have to wait and see.

    Weighted average currently at:
    Con 29.8 (lowest this parliament), Lab 41.3, Lib 11.8, UKIP 11.6
    This figure is obviously somewhat distorted by the lack of polls over the last few days.
    And the 43 for Lab sticks out a bit. Again – wait and see, if Lab drops back to 41 over the next few days, we’ll know it was a blip.

  25. “The poverty lobby has expanded social security and shrunk social mobility. Why were the friends of the poor campaigning for more entitlements rather than better education and job training, the key to social mobility?
    Because they saw the poor as a different species. They did not see them as like themselves.
    The poor were people whom you did things for”

    John Bird
    Founder of The Big Issue.

  26. @Colin

    They noted a link between poverty and outcomes. So they naturally concluded that if you give them money, magic will happen and outcomes will improve.

    Unfortunately, outcomes also rather also depend on opportunity and Bird’s own prescription – education etc. – only partly addresses this. You can give people more education and wind up with unemployed graduates.

    Hence jobs is the issue. And though it doesn’t get talked about so much here, unemployment is a pretty big issue nationally. It’s third in ipsos/mori’s issues tracker, and only one point behind immigration.

    Interestingly, given your concerns with the NHS, the NHS has shot up eight points in the last month, and is now only one point behind unemployment.

  27. As I wrote two days ago, 1st April could be the day the music died [to quote the song] for the Tories.

    Buddy Holly lives on though.

  28. Good Morning here; beautiful day here in Dorset.
    COLIN. Good Morning to you, and a very interesting quote.

  29. @PeterCairns

    No problem Peter, as I said I just smile when i get posts like that.

    Not sure I can relate “righteous views” to Attila the Hun though!

  30. Attila was a much maligned figure who did a lot of unheralded charitable work.

  31. This may be a blip but also it would not be surprising if the negative news items surrounding individuals affected by certain welfare changes has had an impact.
    (not a cue for a debate of the welfare measure honest)

    IMO we will see a modest fall in Tory VI over the next few months (may hold in the summer as oppositions are out of the news) but with the LDs maintaining their uplift as they have been better at differentiated in the last 3-6 months.
    I doubt labour will benefit that much though – maybe 43/4% but don’t expect them to reach 45% on UKPR Average, or even YG average.

    I do expect a slow recovery and as a consequence a Tory polling recovery as well starting sometime in 2014 (maybe after the budget but Euro Elections awkward for all 3 major established UK parties)
    Still very close for most votes between Lab and Con at the next GE imo but with Lab favourites for most seats due to FPTP as it is working presently.

  32. Sorry – but that quote by John Bird – someone who made himself rich by his dubious ‘help’ for the homeless is guff, a classic straw man. People who have fought for the poorest have always seen jobs and education as the key – and much of the most effective campaigning has come from the poorest themselves – via organsied labour movements, mutuals and tennants groups.

    Intersting you gov poll – I think the tory attack on welfare – whilst welcomed by some – will also harden hostility to them amongst many people. People opposed to the welfare cuts will campaign, lobby, argue and demonstrate and use every opportunity to dispute the government and much of the media coverage (social media being a valuable tool here) – people who express their support for it are far less likely to do this and are unlikey to take an active interest in the issue beyond news headlines.

    Note also that the lib dems seem to be falling back again as the are seen to support the welfare cuts – Danny Alexandras comments about ‘bedroom blockers’ being a case in point

  33. @Colin – I’m interested also in people like Bird and their take on benefits. I always remember the reaction to a Tony Blair conference speech, when he said (quite correctly, in my view) that having a large benefits bill is not a sign of a caring government, but a sign of failure, and I thought that was one of his great insights, albeit largely divorced from his government’s delivery.

    Like so many areas of politics, the benefits issue really has become a depressingly binary debate, centering almost solely on cuts.

    At this point I’m going to become highly partisan. After four decades of watching politics and reading manifestos and proposals, I have concluded that the only worthwhile approach is for the Green Party’s long held policy of a single citizens payment, paid to everyone, with any earnings above this liable to income tax.

    Such a move would eliminate poverty traps, end massive rates of marginal taxation as benefits are withdrawn, and end the arguments over who is getting what, as everyone gets it. If you were to add in a residency requirement (ie you don’t qualify for it until you’ve lived in the UK for X years) it could also go a long way to solve issues of migration, and it would slash the benefits bureaucracy.

    While there would no doubt still be issues and imperfections in such a policy, no one else has come close to thinking of anything as remotely imaginative. Tories think that cutting welfare will somehow create work, Labour think that somehow making benefits more generous and ever more complex will help get people into work, and no one ever realises that we’ve done all this before and it didn’t work then.

    Time for something different.

  34. With publication of the NHS satisfaction survey to be published today showing a large drop in the

  35. @alec

    A Citizens wage is an excellent idea – but still off the mainstream political radar.

    But labour did not make benefits ‘more generous’ – the basic rates for the unemployed and people on long term sick remained punatively low during their tenure.

    They introduced things like tax credits – which helped working people on low incomes – but it would make a lot more sense, and be far more efficient – to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

    The problem with much of the debate on welfare is that is based on the premise that those on benefits are partly or wholly to blame for their own position – when the problem is a chronic lack of jobs, especially jobs that offer a living wage and the opportunity for learning skills and career advancement.

    The other false premise is that ‘something must be done’ to cut the ‘out of control’ welfare budget. This translates into attacking the benefits of the people at the bottom – when the vast majority of the welfare budget goes to pensioners and another considerable sum goes towards universal and in work benefits like maternity allowance and child benefit.

  36. @JimJam
    “This may be a blip but also it would not be surprising if the negative news items surrounding individuals affected by certain welfare changes has had an impact.”

    It might be a blip but it’s certainly consistent with that view. What I think we can be a bit more confident about is that moving the debate back onto the impact of Osborne’s measures on welfare doesn’t seem to have delivered a poll boost for the Conservatives relative to Labour. Which is very different to their hopes of 12 or 18 months ago when all the demonisation started. People can see through those caricatures much better now that the real impact is becoming apparent.

  37. The IDS petition heightened people’s perception that ‘we are not all in this together’ and has had an effect on the VIs imo.

  38. The Spiegel article on Holland says that there has been a growth of ‘self-employed people without employees’ (ZZs apparently with a German equivalent of ‘Me inc’ (IAG?)). I have the impression that there is a pretty massive growth in this category here too and that many of them are not at the upper end (IT consultants etc) but rather agency workers in rubbish collection etc who are not directly employed by anyone. This suits employers who can hire and lay off without fear as conditions require and who don’t have to pay NI. I wonder whether this group of poor self-employed people vote and if so where their votes tend to go. Anyone know the answer to this? (And incidentally and of more interest to me, anyone got clear ideas on what the policy implications of this group should be)

  39. @DaveM
    “With publication of the NHS satisfaction survey to be published today showing a large drop in the…..”

    Cat on keyboard alert?

  40. @reggieside

    I don’t know enough about John Bird, he does talk a lot. His self confessed guilty secret is that he’s a working-class Tory… he was certainly banging the drum for them before the last election, but it didn’t take long for him to change his tune:

    ” …the governmental vultures are out in force, circling over the badly mauled body of the welfare state. A day rarely passes when a minister does not lecture us as to what he will do when he gets his hands on the feckless and dependent. Not satisfied with capping housing benefit, time-limiting social housing tenure and stripping many of incapacity benefit, the government now appears intent on questioning who the homeless actually are.

    Welfare minister Lord (David) Freud has called for a reinterpretation of what it is to be homeless. Homeless charities and political advocates say this looks like a sleight of hand. They see it as part of the preparation for the chaos that will descend on local authorities when housing benefit capping starts causing real hardship.”

    A bit like the coalition’s poverty czar Frank Field now calling for civil disobedience, suggesting landlords brick up doors or knock down walls to circumvent the bedroom tax.

  41. With the publication of the NHS satisfaction survey today showing a large drop in the publics satisfaction with the service it will be interesting to see if this plays into VI.

    The reports on radio 4 this morning are saying that the figures reference to 2011/12 the first year of the government, the previous year saw the highest level of satisfaction ever recorded and in one year this had dropped by 20%!

    Is this a result of the perception of cuts, in which case the field is open for Labour to play into their strong hand on their traditional home ground, or is this as a result of a negative impression of how Labour ran the NHS resulting in a consensus in favour of the governments case that the NHS needed radical reform?

  42. Sorry about the first post a very sensitive iPad!!!!!

  43. @Reggieside – “People who have fought for the poorest have always seen jobs and education as the key – and much of the most effective campaigning has come from the poorest themselves – via organsied labour movements, mutuals and tennants groups.”

    I would agree and there is much in what you say, but I would still contend that something has been lost in this regard on the left of British politics.

    I have posted previously on the most glaring example of this, which comes from the union movement. Historically, union members were very likely to have funded reading rooms, sports clubs, even schools – through thing like a 1 penny a week local subscription. They actively sought to improve social conditions within their local communities by building facilities and direct funding of institutions.

    They still do a good deal of campaigning work for sure, but the idea of direct involvement in this kind of way seems to have been largely dropped, in favour of the expectation that it’s the governments job to do those kinds of things.

    Previously I suggested that if 8m union members could contribute 25p a week, you would have a fund of £100m a year. This would fund an awful lot of apprenticeships, student bursarys, new classrooms, CAB’s – whatever causes suited the ambitions of the labour movement.

    It’s a potentially huge sum of money, that could meet many social needs, and would enable unions to become a cherished benefactor rather than a sectional interest group in the eyes of the general public. It’s very difficult to imagine the Daily Mail and their ilk getting away with indiscriminate attacks on unions, if those same unions are seen by the public as helping to build strong communities up and down the country.

    As with my previous post on the Greens, I really don’t see this as pie in the sky stuff. It’s how the left mobilised in the first place, and conditions today need this kind of thing every bit as much as they did at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. Again, something has been lost and it’s time to rediscover something different.

  44. The biggest and most persistent feature of the gender gap is the larger number of female “don’t knows”. Today’s survey is typical: DK are M 11%, F 21%.

    This introduces a bias for all of the survey results that have DK excluded. For example, it often appears that Labour have better results for women than men, but this is mainly the sample bias introduced by excluding the don’t knows. Likewise, the Conservative position amongst all women is even worse than the final numbers suggest.

    Here is today’s survey re-calculated to include DK:

    C-L-LD-UKIP-DK: Male 27-37-11-10-10, Female 24-38-8-7-17

    On this data the Labour shares are equal but for the other parties, women favour DK.

    Interesting question as to what those extra female DKs mean. Won’t say, can’t decide, don’t have enough info, or not interested? I don’t know.

  45. Alec

    “At this point I’m going to become highly partisan. After four decades of watching politics and reading manifestos and proposals, I have concluded that the only worthwhile approach is for the Green Party’s long held policy of a single citizens payment, paid to everyone, with any earnings above this liable to income tax.”

    Yes this would be the way forward, extremely flexible and very simple

  46. RiN/Alec

    it would be very, very funny if we really did see Netherlands leading a Northern Eurozone crisis after a domestic lending boom and bust, after all the moralistic preaching they have dished out to those pesky Mediterraneans.

    —————————————————–

    Don’t the shrinks say that people most criticise in others what they secretly fear about themselves?

  47. Alec, RiN

    The “single citizens payment” is roughly what we have now, a social security system, just with (possibly) different tapers and no allowance for differing personal circumstances. Still, a public campaign in support of social security is I suppose a good thing.

  48. Alec

    You don’t think that the problem might be the union/labour link? That the unions have become an appendage of the labour party rather than forces for “good” in their own right

  49. @hal – “The “single citizens payment” is roughly what we have now,…”

    No – it’s absolutely nothing like it. I’m surprised you could think of suggesting any similarity.

    Two key differences;

    1) There are no entitlement tests, other than age and whether you are alive/dead
    2) There is no tax free earning allowance

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