Last year I wrote an article on How Not To Report Opinion Polls. It included advice on ignoring small cross breaks, margins of error and not cherry-picking. That is, if there is a long data series with lots of noise and random error, don’t pick out the one random outlier than supports your case and ignore the rest.

There is a classic example in the Guardian today. John Harris writes about polling of young people and says they are voting Tory. He writes: “One recent YouGov poll put support for the Tories among the 18-24s at 31%, with Labour trailing at 27%. By way of a contrast, Tory support among those aged 40-59 was at 29%, with Labour on 40%. In other words, the time-worn wisdom about politics and the young may be in the process of being turned on its head.”

Well, yes, one recent YouGov poll showed that. This one. However, other YouGov poll this month have tended to show Labour leads amongst young people and the Conservatives doing better amongst older people, a far more normal pattern. The poll the Guardian linked to was not typical of recent polling. On average YouGov’s daily sample contains around about 150 people under 25, about a third of which say don’t know or that they wouldn’t vote. This means the daily voting break for under 25s is based on about a hundred people, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 10 points. In other words, if a party actually had a lead of around about 8 points amongst young people, then random error alone will spit out polls showing leads of between plus 28 and minus 12. You can’t just take one out of context that happens to show figures you like.

Taking an average across the whole of June so far YouGov’s crossbreak for under 25s has the Conservatives on 31%, Labour on 38% – a significantly higher level of Labour support. Even that needs some caveating though. Opinion polls are weighted to be representative of the country as a whole, they are not necessary weighted so that the crossbreaks are internally representative. For example, overall there will be the correct number of people with a C2 social class, but there may be too few old people who are C2 and too few young people, or whatever. In theory this should even out over time, but there are no guarantees.

If you really want to know about the views of a particular sub-sample of the British population you need polling specificially aimed at them. Luckily enough, the Sun commissioned a specific YouGov poll of young people earlier this month, which was specificially weighted on things like education and employment status and level of educational qualification. It didn’t ask voting intention, but it did ask young people which party they thought best reflected their views – the results were 23% Labour, 12% Conservative, 7% Lib Dem, 7% Green, 6% UKIP, 39% none or don’t know.

In short, all the other findings that John Harris writes about on social and economic issues are fine (and are largely drawn from MORI’s generational data based on very large aggregate samples), but the idea that the Conservatives are suddenly the leading party amongst young people is really not true.

276 Responses to “Young people are NOT suddenly all Conservatives”

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  1. @Kitsune

    a & b I understand – thank you.

    As for c……….

    Based on the high number of claimants that go through low-paid job turnover if such people do not have money during those first 7 days, how well does a skint person focus on finding a job?

    Or is this the government tapping into the burgeoning foodbank ‘supply-chain’, which function by providing 7 days worth of basic supplies (Big Society in operation or just expedient?).

    I don’t understand why such people should be the people who have to suffer for the profligacy/irresponsibility of those that tapped into the various levers of power, be they financial or political, who have made it neccessary for this country to go through an endless age of austerity.

    But I suppose they don’t vote, so they don’t matter.

  2. Time for the Campaign for the Defenestration of Paxman to take to the streets.

    His anchoring of NN tonight was an absolute disgrace. In the discussion on the CSR, he had a 1-to-1 with Gove, but then allowed Gove to ask his own questions of Chris Leslie. That was appallingly unprofessional enough. But he then went straight into a “discussion” on HS2, in which his one guest was an anti-HS2 Tory MP to whom Paxman served up half a dozen underarm lobs, inviting him to knock them out of the ground.

    Paxman: “But HS2 is going to produce a lot of jobs isn’t it?”
    Answer: “No, it’s going to cost a lot of jobs because affected businesses will close.”
    Paxman: “Thank you.”

    Paxman: “The Govt says the cost won’t go any higher.”
    Answer:”Yes it will. These projects always do.”

    Paxman (speaking to a HS2 skeptic, remember): “The figures are extraordinary. I mean, this was an increase in cost of £10bn.”
    Answer:”Absolutely. And it will get worse.”

    That wasn’t a series of probing questions. It wasn’t an in-depth discussion. The guest wasn’t picked up and challenged on any point. It was like two Cotswolds pub bores moaning about the modern world. Utterly disgraceful slipping of standards from the normally reliably left-wing BBC.

  3. If the government was serious about people “looking for work instead of looking to sign on”, they’d make employers pay 1 weeks JSA + tax credits etc. when somebody is ‘let go’ through no fault of their own.

    The employer could then set it against their total PAYE/NIC which is due i.e. get it back using a similar procedure to working tax credits.

    And if the employee did get another job within a week, any overpayment of JSA etc. would be recovered through his/her tax code in their first pay from the new employer.

  4. @Lefty – what I thought was much more interesting was Gove’s explanation of the £100B welfare ‘cap’. Apart from not being able to explain it properly, when he did attempt to, he clearly stated that pensions and JSA would not be affected, but other parts of the budget, like housing and disability benefits, would be.

    I was expecting Paxman to zero straight in on the disability angle, but he didn’t. Essentially Gove was saying that one of the key areas likely to face a very big squeeze is the treatment of sick people, where significant savings have already been delivered since Labour introduced a series of reforms. The required savings look like being very substantial indeed, and Gove was clearly stating that disabled benefits will be viewed as discretionary spending.

  5. @howard – fpt “I’ll go with the ‘missing the point’”

    Sorry for being pedantic, but In the C19th English novel you will find

    “you, Willie,” said he, “must take the oversight of him; I give him in charge to you.”


    By some extraordinary oversight, Miss Bygrave had been left, on the eve of her marriage, unprovided with a maid.

    And in the C19th American novel you will find

    …this was Mother Ceres, who had the oversight of every seed which the husbandman planted.


    …the oversight was immediately remedied, and in a minute the apartment was in a blaze of light.

    So… on either side of the Atlantic you will find both an appreciation of both meanings.

  6. While I’m venting my spleen, and apropos the recent discussion on the selfishness or otherwise of the Baby Boomers, I stumbled across this piece by Christina Odone today (albeit its a couple or 3 months old)

    I poured out tears as I read this. The thought that Christina might not be able to swim in a private pool on the Capri coast in her dotage because property prices have collapsed broke my heart.

    Forget the 50-odd% of under 24 year olds in the Med EZ countries who are on the dole. It’s people like Odone who have really been crucified by the Great Recession.

  7. Goodness me, the forum is very political tonight.

    Are there any polls that tell us anything at all about the public’s view on the National Debt? I heard a lot from GO today about how the Coalition’s actions had led to a 40bn reduction in the size of the deficit. However, throughout his statement, Sky News had an instantly updated National Debt ticker at the bottom of the screen. This stood at over £1.2 Trn. It seems that any moves on the deficit have had no real effect at all on the overall National Debt.

    Also, does the public have any opinion on whether governments,should set budgets for periods beyond the current parliament? I know that the Government call their spending plans a proposal. However, in reality, it is very difficult for any incoming government to materially change such detailed proposals after just entering office.

  8. I’m off to go celebrate in West Hollywood right now but before I do, I just wanted to drop by and note what an incredible day it’s been for LGBT rights globally.

    The Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down, Prop 8 has been killed, and Julia Gillard has been ousted as Prime Minister. Woohoo!! That’s a triple victory. All happened before breakfast for me.

    Also (and perhaps few on here besides Roger Mexico and a few others will appreciate this line), any day that Antonin Scalia and John Roberts help millions of gay people calls for great public celebration.

  9. Oh and one more thing. There are a lot of you (well a lot of foreigners I meet tell me this) who say that both parties in the United States are the same and that elections here have no consequences. Well today is absolute proof that that’s not true.

    @ Amber Star

    Remember how 2 and 1/2 years ago, I was going on and on and on about the thrilling and hard fought victory in the California Attorney General’s Race? The one that took 3-4 weeks to determine the winner. Well today’s huge victory (which I’m sure you heard about) is a testament to the importance of that victory. Because had the election results there gone the other way, today would be a very different day. :)

    Oh also, have you noticed that my favorite (and your second favorite after Andy Burnham), Jim Murphy has increasingly taken on a more vocal and active voice on LGBT rights? Or is it just me?

  10. Latest YouGov/Sun:

    Con 31, Lab 42, LD 11, UKIP 10, Grn 3, SNP 3, Other 1
    [Scotland crossbreaks, sample of 142: Con 16, Lab 48, LD 8, UKIP 3, Grn 1, SNP 24, Other 1]

  11. @Wes

    Thank you for posting the results. What a brilliant start to my morning.

  12. Colin

    I am a bit perplexed by your post yesterday.

    A lot of the discussion about ‘what would Labour do?’ is complete nonsense as up to 2015 the Coalition makes the decisions so spending plans from now until 2015 (and probably 2016) are in the hands of the current Government

    If we look back to Osborne’s promises in 2007 as to what he would do – he said he would follow all Labour’s spending plans and now is accusing them of spending too much.

    It is a waste of breath and effort as we know there will be no election until May 2015

    Of course the finances in 2015 will be a ‘starting point’ – how they can be anything else? The years 2015-2020 will be Labour’s responsibility if they win and that is what we should judge them on – not some hypothetical situation now!

  13. Wonder how much of this latest YG sample was done yesterday after the GO spending statement. There is a large difference between Men and Women, with 6% more Women indicating support for Labour.

    Think a 11% poll lead for Labour is an outlier, but I have a feeling that there is a growing sense that the governments economic performance is now being seen as a negative for the Tories. Does not mean that Labour will now overtake the Tories on the economic polling question.

  14. Good news on the pay front there is one public sector worker whose pay is bucking the 20% reduction in real term income between 2010 -2016.

    The Queen is getting a £2 Million pay rise. 5% Next Year

    Should mean She doesn’t have to pop down to the Food Bank for Corgi food!

    By the way in case anyone mentions it the Crown Estates belong to the State not the Windsor Clan.

    Possibly the YG poll is signs of things to come.

    But you have to hand it to Him A remarkable snow job by Osborne couching failure to meet any of His economic targets and breaching His promise of just 2 Years ago of no further cuts as some kind of long term strategy .

  15. Have to agree with the comments regarding Paxman.
    Maybe it’s time for Him to be put out to pasture or join Sky News

  16. It would be informative were one or more of the pollsters to ask the q “Do you think the extra cuts detailed in the spending review indicative of the success of failure of the government’s economy policy?” in some imminent poll.

    But I guess those paying for the polls may not want to know the answer.

  17. RAF

    @” It seems that any moves on the deficit have had no real effect at all on the overall National Debt.”

    This is a function of the basic rules of arithmetic.

    If you incur an annual deficit , it will increase the Total Debt.

    Total Debt can only be decreased by having a Fiscal Surplus-or flogging something.


    I think the guts of the politics is this :-

    If Labour say they will not reverse any of these fiscal consolidations-which they do ; why vote for them ?

  19. Well I’ve heard everything now-Lefties complaining that Paxman wasn’t left wing enough in his questioning.

    LEFTY-fear not -your “normally reliably left-wing BBC.” was alive & kicking this morning in the perfectly formed shape of Evan Davis on R4.

  20. Colin

    I didn’t hear him. But I doubt that his sins were as egregious as Paxman’s last night. M

    As I see it, anchors on news/comment programmes have two reasonable options:
    1) They can play the impartial referee, chairing a debate between people who hold different viewpoints.
    2) They can assume a political position to CHALLENGE a lone interviewee by putting questions that the other side of the spectrum would reasonably put.

    What they cannot do (and what I have never heard anyone on Today do) is what Paxman did last night: have a sole interviewee and AGREE with him/her on every issue, throwing up a series of pat questions which allow the interviewee, unchallenged, to present a controversial and partisan case.

    If you think I’m exaggerating, go and watch NN on iPlayer.

    And this is not a partisan point. I would be equally disgusted had the interviewee been making a case that I agree with. Flagship comment programmes are NOT there to push a particular political argument. They are there to inform the public by making sure that as balanced a set of views as possible are presented.


    I don’t know if the politics of the CSR will be successful or not.

    Time will tell-obviously.

    I agree that the whole political landscape & narrative changes in a GE Campaign. You cannot forecast what may pop out.

  22. Anthony,

    Just to say thank you for a really quality piece that is so clearly written its a pleasure to read – john

  23. LEFTY

    I long ago stopped watching Paxman.

    He is way past his sell by date-a tired, world weary caricature of his former self, going through the motions ( and drawing the salary) on NN. It is a sad spectacle-and an insult to the licence fee payer.

    On the other hand he clearly enjoys University Challenge, & makes the show very watchable.

  24. @ YouGov Poll – -Well what a miserable start to the morning (depends of course which side of the rickety fence you are though -lol)

    I was looking forward to a Con 33 and Lab 37 – but no such luck eh?
    Con 31 still hovering around the norm but where the hell has that Lab 42 sprung from?
    All good fun though – see what happens following the Spending announcements now!


    At this point we part company.

    I have a very different point of view from you on GO.

    I’m not at all sure that The Speaker is ” a Tory”-I did watch his performances yesterday at PMQ & CSR-and I too was asking “some serious questions about suitability.”

  26. Colin

    He’s not a patch on Bamber Gascoigne, who was in his final year on UC when I somehow stumbled into a red brick team.

    Bamber was witty without being condescending, warm, fun and a fount of knowledge. He did nothing more than flash me a stern look when I swore after getting a question wrong. Then after the show, he joined both teams in the Granada bar and we had a wonderful ale-fuelled chat.

    Paxman is all sneer, put-down and condescension to any non-Oxbridge team. A royal pain in the arse.

  27. LEFTY

    I remember Gascoigne with great affection too.

    I liked the show then & I like it now.

    Paxman is certainly different to Bamber.

  28. Colin

    Well we need to agree to differ on GO then. I think this speaker has done much to bring the executive to account. Would have liked that approach under Blair as well.

    As you are asking what Labour will do post-2015, can you explain to me [Nope, he can’t, no one here is a party spokesman and its not a venue for partisan debate – AW]

  29. Well left and right seem to agree on Paxman!

    I thought he was over-hyped at the time- sure he was aggressive and rude (in a harmless way once you knew he was going to be rude) but I never felt he got anywhere with the questions or necessarily picked up on key issues. Never at the end of his interviews did I think we’ve learned something new about the person he was interviewing on this or that policy.

  30. As a lefty on an elitist programme like UC, I took some serious stick from my fellow student radicals. The Trot chair of the Lab students group told me that I should be ashamed of myself. Turned out he had his own skeletons. He’d been on Tarby’s Winner Takes All a year earlier.

  31. Bamber Gascoigne used to present ‘All our Yesterdays’ on Granada as well.


    The 2013 Budget provides the forecast Public Finances for 2016/17 & 2017/18.

    In summary, they are :-

    Deficit £61 bn -3.3% X GDP
    DEbt £ £1580 bn-87% X GDP

    Deficit £42 bn-2.2% X GDP
    DEbt £ £ 1637 bn-86% X GDP

    The CSR did not contain detailed spending plans for those two years because the LDS refused to be tied to spending policies beyond the GE year-hence a CSR covering just one year.

  33. @Lefty/Steve

    I’ll add my two-penneth to the Paxman debate, if I could. Like you, I thought his interviews with Gove and Leslie last night were woeful and I fear he may well be someone, like Clarkson, who is starting to creep dangerously towards self parody. Or, put another way, he really does think he has become a legend in his own lunchtime. There’s a laziness and complacency about a lot of his work now and, irrespective of his own political views and leanings, it makes for very poor and superficial journalism.

    I also thought there was something else going on last night that I tend to see more and more these days and that’s a sort of media incestuousness. Gove and Clarkson seemed like a couple of old mates exchanging knowing smirks and laughing at the same common room jokes. Leslie seemed to be totally apart from this chumminess and I’m guessing that Gove, a former regular on the Friday night Newsnight Review programme with Martha Kearney in the days before he was a minister, almost feels part of the Newsnight furniture. Clarkson handled him accordingly and, by the end, had more or less given up asking him any meaningful questions. The closing stages of the discussion were really Clarkson and Gove exchanging jokes at Leslie’s expense. Extraordinary stuff on a supposed serious mainstream current affairs programme and, in fairness to Leslie, I thought he made a rather telling point at the end when he expressed surprise that Gove thought issues like school rebuilding programmes were laughing matters. Gove looked a little abashed at that, his defence being that he was laughing at something Clarkson had said. That more or less summed it up for me.

    I switched the programme off at the end of the interview and didn’t see the HS2 discussion. Sounds like I made a wise decision.

  34. Colin

    But Labour are expected to say what they will do in 2015+ now – why not the Tories?

    He was asked this morning and he didn’t say!

  35. I see the Queen got a 5% pay rise; £35million per year to £37 million. For a taxpayer funded public servant, I’d say that’s nice work if you can get it in the current political and economic climate, wouldn’t you?

    Anyway, I thought there was a pay freeze in operation for public sector employees, or have I missed something? lol

  36. CB11

    @”Gove and Clarkson seemed like a couple of old mates exchanging knowing smirks and laughing at the same common room jokes”

    THere was a similar incident on Andrew Neil’s CSR prog. yesterday.

    THe “experts” were Stefanie Flanders & Peston.

    AN was interviewing a regular “city” contributor, who was explaining her view that UK growth could “surprise on the upside” .

    Peston turned to Flanders with a clearly visible sneer.

  37. CB11

    You have missed something.

    The Tower awaits those of us who would explain what it is .

  38. R HUCKLE

    “Think a 11% poll lead for Labour is an outlier, ”
    And all the usual caveats apply, but (psephologically speaking) it is also a statistically valid indicator of a possible trend; that is, one to watch for aNDwhose probabilty could be measured, and on which comments on probable causes would be valid, e.g.; linked to the similarly possibly outlying figure for a decline in VI for UKIP? Resulting from a growing public expectation that
    GO will have pulled another fast one?

    “If Labour say they will not reverse any of these fiscal consolidations-which they do ; why vote for them ?”
    Here’s a couple of reasons you might think valid:
    Because that would be recognition of their fiscal responsibility? Because they could be expected to balance fiscal consolidation with job and wealth creation through public sector investment, such asinvestment in housing?

  39. CrossBatt
    I agree Paxman did morph into Clarkson about Half a Minute into the Public School/ Media Love in.

    I suspect Leslie state School and Leeds Uni and incidentally the Youngest MP in the Blair Government felt a teensy weeny bit out of place particularly when Clarksman or Paxson started braying like a donkey

  40. Blimey have to agree with Colin’s last post too.
    Now there’s a first!

  41. CROSSBAT11
    Ah, but the Queen is an institution, not an employee.
    BTW I notice that several of the related branches are (strictly in one’s National interest) now preparing tasteful items to celebrate the birth of the Duchess of Cambridge’s child for sale to tourists, having been briefed on how the event might contribute to the global trade war, of which GO again reminded us yesterday.

  42. @ Billy Bob (from a few threads ago)

    “Julia Gillard has called an immediate leadership ballot, in an attempt to wedge Kevin Rudd:
    “If you win, you’re Labor leader. If you lose, you retire from politics.”

    Um….I have to say that this redefines the term and concept of “political suicide.” Sheesh.

    Actually, I recently had a fight with my Congressmember’s Chief of Staff over the very topic of Julia Gillard. Long story…..

    “When it comes to posing for the noh8 campaign, it’d be a toss-up between Loretta Sanchez (CA-46) and Gerry Connolly (VA-11) imo.
    Just been catching up on some of Henry Waxman’s House Oversight Committee hearings on YouTube… including the odd run-in with Darrell Issa.”

    Loretta Sanchez is pretty awesome. She beat the only incumbent Republican Congressman who was more mentally ill than Allen West (well it’s debatable). Gerry Connolly is only one of 5 Dems who picked up seats in 2008 who won reelection in 2010.

    Henry did a lot of good on the House Oversight Committee. He was the only Democrat who could actually investigate Dubya on Iraq or any of the other numerous abuses committed by that administration. Because the ranking member on that committee gets to hire staff and gets a third of the budget for the committee, they remain fairly powerful. It was a good role for him until Energy and Commerce opportunity presented itself in 2008 (with any luck, he’ll get back his chairmanship).

    @ Howard (from a few threads ago)

    “Is the House Oversight Committee the one that keeps missing the point?”

    Nope. They investigate the government and are often used to keep the executive branch in check. Or they’re supposed to anyway. Under it’s most recent Republican leadership, they’ve spent a lot of time looking through Bill Clinton’s dirty laundry and chasing fantasy conspiracy theories about Obama. Oh but under Tom Davis (who was half decent), they investigated steroids in baseball. It seemed like a good moment for some much needed tv time.

  43. John

    I suspect She might have been able to struggle by on the £38 million a Year She already receives especially as She didn’t pay any income tax at all until the age of 68 and now makes a voluntary contribution only.

    A pay rise for the Queen ( who incidentally IMHO does a reasonable job) is hardly consistent with pay cuts for emergency service staff who save peoples lives!

  44. What a load of fuss over dear old Paxman, can it be true he’s not asking those nasty Tories awkward questions.

    Don’t despair the BBC will soon get rid of him, they wont let political biased be shown by any of there news interviewers, the very idea.

  45. An OP asked where the Lab 42 came from. Numerically it came from UKIP, which is a subject I pondered about a day or so ago. It will be interesting to see if this is maintained, but one suspects a slight exceptional poll here. Apart from its core 4 to 5 % I have always regarded the UKIP GE VI as one would regard an Independent – they take from all sides. So even if the core now genuinely has doubled, it makes little difference (I stress at GE time).

    Still pondering what contestants are going to say to us at the GE about deficit and Debt and whether it could make the slightest impact.


    @”Because that would be recognition of their fiscal responsibility? ”

    Yes-that is EM’s message-certainly.

  47. Balls must be shaking his head in disbelief. UK data released today is generally bad news (or at least worse than expected) – and thats reflected by the movements – certainly short term – in the markets.

    However, one imagines the narrative will be that the double dip never happened, and the recession in ’08 was worse than previously thought.

    We shall see.

    pS, my being in China had nowt to do with ‘black Monday’ I promise ;)

  48. “The peak to trough fall of the economic downturn in 2008/09 is now estimated to be 7.2%.”


    …….and there was no second recession !

  49. No the Economy just flat-lined instead rather than falling by 0.1% Break open the Bollinger.

    Danny Alexander on His feet trying to say how a real term increase in social housing rents CPI+1% for the next 12 Years when incomes are falling and selling off local authority land to private developers will some how magically make homes more affordable and numerous

  50. I think its reasonable to point out that GO spoke with a lot of confidence yesterday, where in comparison the very short EB response felt jittery, probably because Labour have effectively agreed to most of the Cons spending plans/limits. Of course we don’t know the impact on polling until early next week, but I think GO is now doing a better job in getting across the state the public finances were when they took over.

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