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. …in the belief( typo)

  2. @ ToH and Colin

    The main difference between the UK and SOME Continental European countries is in different ownership structure, different inter-firm relations and different employment relations (including authority).The size of the budget/GDP either doesn’t differentiate or a consequence only.

  3. @Laszlo

    I agree with most of that (don’t think the 50% would bring anything like that) and accept that my own view of what is needed is not going to happen any time soon for political reasons, longer term i think it will happen, probably imposed by IMF.

  4. @Colin

    Thanks, I thought Imust have missed something.

  5. Laszlo


    Employment law differences have significant economic effect too-a part of “social policy” really, which is an overarching signal of “model type.”

  6. I see Tony Blair is saying he would have done better than Brown in 2010. I agree with him but then I loved TB still do in fact (sad I know). I wonder if there were any polls at the time.

    Tony Blair is a very good campaigner and his team had good media skills. GB not so much. Maybe we would have had a Lib\Lab coalition.

    I can see Clegg and Blair getting on really well.

    Ah what might have been

  7. Couper2808

    I agree that TB would have performed better than GB. Mind i think he timed his exit brilliantly and I’s sure his glad he did not have to pick the mess the last government left.

  8. Colin
    My understanding of the Philpott case is exactly as you set out. My problem is always understanding why others don’t understand the straightforward & obvious.
    Also agree on your many European models. Ever was it thus in fact. It was just that when things were going well, the differences were all glossed over.

    As for no growth. Growth can only come from 3 areas.

    1)Government spending. The government has no money. The people are being taxed till the pips squeak, so can’t give any more. Even Hollande has had to accept this. Hence, France is in a much worse place than the UK. Oh, and his Finance Minister has just been sacked for hiding his fortune in Switzerland, whilst berating others who do similar. (Another ‘do asI say, not as Ido’, Socialist)

    2)Individuals spending. The people have no money and are already borrowed & taxed to the hilt. It would be irresponsible to encourage more personal borrowing. How would they repay? Remortgaging an over valued house is not now an option (thankfully) & wages are static.

    3) Exporting. A slow haul because in 1973 we put all our exports into one basket – Europe & told the Commonwealth & the rest of the world to get lost. Now Europe is in recession, so they have no money to buy our goods & the likes of Australia, Brazil & other countries not in recession, have their own markets & the UK getting back in there, will be a very long hard slog.

    So, in reality, we look forward to a decade at least, of 1%pa growth in my view. Why can’t politicians just be honest & say it like it is?

  9. @ Colin

    Yes’ I agree. Also the system of collective bargaining and vocational training. The financial system also has an effect on firms and on the budget.

    Oddly then France is more similar to the UK than let’s say Germany but less so than the Netherlands. Denmark is similar (to the UK) in standard labour market measures, but very different in most aspects. The flexibility of the labour market differentiates them from Sweden and Norway, but very similar in other aspects. Etc, etc.

    The differences within the EU are well reflected in the Voxholm case and it also shows the effects of the liberal legal interpretation of the EU on the integration/divergence.

    These things don’t matter as long as there is a game bag to distribute, but sharpen and cause conflicts when it’s about allocation of losses.


    I agree we are in a mess – what I am looking for from the politicians is a plan that gets us out of the mess.

    The ‘cuts’ seem more a ‘no choice’ and philosophical answer than a real one as I don’t necessarily see a correlation between the size of the state and growth. Especially as the state funds things that support growth – education, R&D, libraries, health education, transport and IT infrastructure etc. If cuts mean welfare excluding pensions then yes welfare should be far less if we aim for high productivity and high wages.

    If we take the example of Sport, we invested lots in Sport since 1995 and in 2012 we punched well above our weight. What can we do now that will set the basis for that degree of success for the economy, in 10 – 20 years time.

    It seems the change has to be really fundamental not just tinkering but we did it with Sport, we can do it with the economy.

  11. Tony Blair has said he would have given David Cameron more of a “a run for his money” than Gordon Brown at the 2010 election.

    Any thoughts assuming I ever come out of pre-moderation?

  12. @Chatterclass

    “So it looks like the Conservative 33% and lead of 8% yesterday is the outlier. Polls have returned to Conservative around 30%, Labour lead 12%. (it was 13% on Tues/Wed”

    I tend to agree and the polls are now starting to look uncannily like they were pre-Eastleigh. It would appear that the Tory VI is stuck at around 30% and no political or economic event is able to move it. Budgets, Cameron speeches (EU, Trident etc), benefit reforms, health reforms, welfare clampdowns, public spats with teaching unions (usually very popular!), some positive economic news (growth in service sector) – they all come and go with seemingly no effect on the Tories dire poll ratings.

    What are we to make of this? If you take the Oborne ultra-optimistic line, the Tories will get their electoral reward in 2015 as economic conditions improve and the electorate come to appreciate “one of the great reforming governments of the last 70 years”. Hmmmm, as they say in these parts! The other conclusion to draw is a much more baleful one for the Tories and that is that a large slice of the electorate have already formed a settled view about this government; a view heavily influenced by its perceived incompetence (see March 2012 budget induced poll crash for evidence) and the parade of largely unsympathetic leading characters that regularly pop up on the nation’s TV screens (Osborne, Hunt, Pickles, Schapps etc).

    My sense is that the Government’s high disapproval rating, or unpopularity if you like, has become deep seated and they may soon be arriving at that unhappy, Brown-esque place, where they receive blame for every calamity and no credit for any success. Politically, that is a very dark and lonely place to be and quite seismic events and developments are usually required to afford any escape and relief.

    Only 24 months to go to the General Election now and it will soon be appropriate to ask what on earth those events and developments are likely to be.

  13. @Robert Newark

    “My problem is always understanding why others don’t understand the straightforward & obvious.”

    Don’t worry – I’m sure the others think the same.

    “The government has no money…It would be irresponsible to encourage more personal borrowing”

    The government does have money – the british pound. Last I checked they had an infinite reserve of it, as they control the currency. Different from France, which is part of the Euro, and therefore does not control its own currency.

    As to the second point, you’d better get on the phone to No. 10 because that is exactly Cameron’s plan (or at least the logic of it if it was working, which it isn’t).

  14. I can tell you what people will remember… as it will be pointed out at the run in to GE…

    Before the emergency budget of 2010 we had growth… after that budget we have had zip, nowt, zilch the countries growth died, flat lined… “It’s about the economy stupid” and “within five years the country will be better”… I can remember all those being said as some warned it was the wrong thing to do…

    Well results count, and at the moment if the government were on performance related pay it would be very little… politicians get it wrong and the country suffers, especially those at the bottom, and the only accountability is they may not get elected next time… as with the bankers… it’s not bloody good enough…
    Those same politicians want more pie and ice cream because they are not fed enough…feckless
    This is not a Sims game it is reality

  15. Robert N

    “1)Government spending. The government has no money. ”

    Last time I looked, the 10 year sterling gilt yields were under 2%. The markets are basically screaming at the Govt, “Borrow! Borrow lots. We will charge you less than 0.1% of your GDP in interest if you borrow £50bn. Imagine how much demand you could stimulate in your economy with another £50bn of spending on things like houses. And improving the frankly appalling broadband provision that you have in your country (meaning that LeftyLampton for example, living within 1km of the centre of the UK’s 4th largest city struggles to get above 3Mb download speed…).

    Now, you COULD say, “But borrowing is bad!” But if you say that, you need to explain why the markets don’t think it is. Because if the markets thought it was, surely they’d have ramped up our rates while our borrowing had exploded over the past 5 years. And they haven’t. They’ve reduced the rates dramatically.

  16. To change the subject, will this topic continue to affect the polls at all?:

    “Baroness Butler-Sloss, formerly the country’s top family law judge, has previously backed gay adoption and civil partnerships.

    But she says redefining marriage is an attack on marriage itself, and many of her colleagues in the House of Lords believe the change would be a “step too far”.

    She has told the Government to stop “faffing around with gay marriage” and focus on other family law matters.

    Lady Butler-Sloss will get a chance to vote against the Government’s Bill when it reaches the House of Lords in a few months time.

    She said: “I have always spoken in favour of gay relationships and the rights of gay people”.

    However she added: “This does seem to me a different issue and one which attacks marriage.”

  17. ROBERT

    Thank you.

    I suppose the answer to your question is that they fear the truth gets no votes.


    Thanks again.

  18. @Colin and TOH – You are clearly right in one respect. Taken at face value Osborne’s comments are about life style and explicitly not about Phillpot’s (how do you spell him?) murderous activities.

    The problem is that there is plenty of evidence that P. is very atypical. Apparently there are only 180 families with ten or more children supported on benefits, let alone 17 or whatever it was. And I don’t imagine that many of these families are lorded over by someone who has already been convicted of attempted murder and appeared a number of times in the national press and on national TV. So if one is trying to make a general point about public finances this may not be the best example to choose.

    More to the point, I feel that by choosing this particular example GO was deliberately associating benefit claimants with a man whom almost everyone sees as evil. It may be that GO did not mean to do this, but he certainly stirred strong negative emotions in me. They happened to be directed against GO but I imagine that he also heightened emotions in others (some of them in his favour). I hate this way of doing politics which conjures up visions of Goebbels. I am hoping that the next round of polls will show that it does not work.

    On a point of information, TOH wanted to know whether the person I had used as an example of the effect of benefit cuts drank, or smoked and why she was single.
    The answers are that she does not smoke, drinks only on her birthday, at Christmas etc and was left by her husband for a younger woman. She is (in my experience) a lot more typical of people surviving with the help of benefits than Phillpot (although I have to admit that obsessively controlling and jealous men are common enough in all walks of society).

  19. @CHARLES

    GO comments are very polarising, so I doubt they will make a difference to the polls. It is definitely a page out of a certain play book to use extreme examples to paint all claimants in a certain way. And GO would have been better not to mention Philpott and benefits in the same sentence. It may play to the base and UKIP supporters am not sure how it will help the Tories recover the middle ground. And we worked out before the UKIP rise that without the middle ground they could not get an OM.

    Regarding drinking\smoking etc are we back to dividing the poor into ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ ?

  20. Lefty/Anarchist
    Clearly you are of the school that believes that the answer to a debt crisis is more debt. I’m not, as you may have realised.

    As for broadband, in the middle of rural France I pay for & receive 20mbps down & 6 up via satellite.
    Exactly the same is available in the UK. Google toowaydirect.
    By phone line I can only get dial up.

    re Growth up to 2010 -Achieved by one off measure such as car scrappage, temporary cut in VAT & others. All it does is bring forward purchases which would have been made the following year, to now. So, not lasting as the problem is no one has any money & too much debt.

  21. People who have no experience of what it is like to live on as little as £71 per week have no idea of the hardship it causes. No one in our family has ever been unemployed before because they are all skilled people. My son however has now been made redundant. How is he expected to pay the mortgage, ulitlity bills and buy food on that amount? Do they have to give up their house if no job can be found?

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