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. LizH

    “What a brilliant start to my morning”

    Yes, I’m also jolly pleased to see the Tories maintaining their % at 32 after all those sub-30s.

    Maybe a 33 coming soon?.

  2. Good poll for Labour. Only the coming days will reveal if it’s just random noise around a continuing Labour Yougov lead of 7% or 8% or part of a new trend.

  3. Oh no !!!!!! I mis-read the poll. Still, 31% is still better than sub 30 and Labour should be above 50% in mid-term – maybe 60.
    ……………………………………………………………………………….

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

    Well if one was daft enough to think the above is the totality of possible political difference then why not reverse the question? Why not vote for them?

  4. turk


    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.”

    What a typically odd post. Can no-one make a sensible, non-partisan post here without it being distorted and sneered at? Its quite obvious that Interviewers should act – as ole lefty says – as either referees or as an opposing/ questioning voice. What is there to argue about?

  5. I didn’t take over much interest in Osborne etc yesterday but noted he was praised for political dexterity. I wonder though whether the main thing people will remember is the rather petty and nasty idea that the newly unemployed are no longer allowed to sign on for the first week as they should spend that time seeking work [a function that I had imagined signing on was meant to facilitate]

    The savings are small as a proportion and it comes over as very mean-spirited. It also begs the question: why not give them a whole month to find work with no financial support

    Or a year perhaps.

  6. Having re-read my post about Paxman, I’ve realised that I took the Paxman/Clarkson comparison too far and referred to Clarkson instead of Paxman in relation to the Gove and Leslie interview last night.

    That said, maybe I’m ahead of the game and they are actually morphing into each other. Clarkman meets Paxson, all the way to the pot belly and disturbingly tight fitting jeans! lol

  7. Some good news for the government about the lack of Double-dip recession and Work programme delivering better results.

    But the infrastructure spending is to start in 2015-2016,so not sure it will bear fruits in the polls.

  8. Very good article (and cartoon) by Peter Oborne on page 26 of The Telegraph. Pretty impartial as well.

  9. Smukesh

    The planned infrastructure spend in 2015/16 is actually down 2% ion their previous plans,

  10. @ Smukesh

    If you want to sign up for conspiracy theories, here’s one. The infrastructure investment is till 2020. The Conservatives know that they would loose the next elections in 2015 and put together a spending review that makes sure that Labour would loose the 2020 elections, so they can harvest the fruits.

    I don’t think so, but one more unfalsifiable claim this morning here is not an outlier.

  11. Steve

    One of my favourite scenes on The Thick of It was where the media guys were trying to prepare a useless junior Minister for a NN grilling. One of them said, “So what are you going to do when you say something and Paxo pulls that mick horse face of derision.”

    I used to work with an Oxbridge educated prof. He pulled EXACTLY the same face when he heard something he didn’t agree with. Toom me years to realise that it was nothing more than a debating tactic, and that frequently he didn’t know his backside from a bend in his arm. But boy, was it effective!

  12. MOCK horse face. Bloody iPhone.

  13. @Steve

    A lot of it also hinges on selling the student loan book. The student loan book has been for sale for years and there are no takers for reasons that have recently become semi-public (the returns are basically too uncertain).

  14. @ SoCaL

    Yes, I’d read all the exciting news from the USA about DOMA & Prop9; I’m not sure that Rudd I much better than Gillard on this issue but maybe you can tell me different, if you know more – but nevertheless, a great day indeed & I hope you had a fantastic celebration of it!

    And I agree about Jim Murphy – his obvious support for equal marriage has pleased & surprised many of us (he’s Catholic).

  15. @ John Murphy

    It’s nice to see you commenting again. It’s been a while, unless I’ve inadvertently missed some previous comments. I hope you are doing okay.

  16. And the Good news Keeps on Coming .

    We paid £1 million this year to refurbish apartments for the Queens Grand Son and Daughter in Law , it is this sort of help and responsible use of public resources that every multimillionaire family needs when there is a new child on the way.

    I appreciate not a great deal of money in the great scheme of things and we should get it in perspective £1 million is just £1 million more than the pay rises received by all Nurses in the NHS between 2010 and 2013.

    Now I am going to rerun last nights Newsnight on the TIVO so I can throw the cat at Paxman

  17. Rich

    Red the Peter Oborne Article balanced wouldn’t be the first word that came to mind .

  18. Like others I have given up on Paxo years ago. Not because of bias but because he seems unprepared and often unable to ask decent follow up questions whether Government or opposition.

    When Andrew Neil started DP (or its predecessor whose name I can’t remember) I was worried that his Murdoch Union bashing right wing past would come through.

    My fears have proved largely unfounded and imo he is the best political interviewer on TV showing respect where due but brilliant at distain when deserved.

    He is also well read and usually has researched the topic (or read the research).

    Much better programme yesterday on BBC, about time establishment DD retired.

  19. “The savings are small as a proportion and it comes over as very mean-spirited.”
    —————————-
    I suspect that the clobbering of the newly unemployed will be worse than the headline suggests. e.g if you do not qualify for dole money for a week you also lose housing benefit and council tax benefit, which is a far bigger sum, and you are immediately in trouble with your landlord, especially if it is a private tenancy. Even when your benefit does start you may well be clobbered for the bedroom tax.

  20. Well, well. Looks like Ukip really are starting to unwind, although this was a bit of a rogue poll. Not that it will hurt them much in 2014, since the local and European elections are set for the same day.

    Does anyone else think there’s something a little odd, politically, about Osborne’s 7-day benefit cut for anyone who’s lost a job?

    Setting aside the morality of it for a moment, it just seems unnecessarily risky. if Labour decide to oppose it they can easily tie it on to their contributory JSA scheme and claim they’re the only ones who care about rewarding people for doing the right thing, “Look, the Tories are chomping at the bit to penalise anyone who needs a bit of temporary help no matter how long you’ve been in work or how much you’ve contributed- they’ve docked you a week’s benefits compared to that scrounger down the street who’s never had a job!” And it wouldn’t be at all difficult to make up an example of a person who takes a temp job for a week and actually loses by it financially. If one of your major selling points is that you’re the party that makes work pay, you don’t really want to be setting up counterexamples.

    Osborne is obviously gambling that everyone sees the recently sacked as scroungers rather than “people who work hard and want to get on”, and maybe he’s right, but why run the risk? It just seems like a very odd place to try to draw a dividing line.

  21. Nice to see the nonesense about a double dip recession has gone at last, something I predicted a couple of months after it was called.

    Looking at how things are now I see no reason to change my other predication that the Tories will win the next election with a working majority.

  22. spearmint

    “Does anyone else think there’s something a little odd, politically, about Osborne’s 7-day benefit cut for anyone who’s lost a job?”

    Wel, I had just posted at length about it and had a response from ozwald – if that counts. I think they should be put in stocks to make the point even more clearly.

  23. @Paul Croft
    ” I think they should be put in stocks to make the point even more clearly.”
    ———————————-
    LOL. Your kind-heartedness underwhelms me! An ancestor of mine died in Southwell Workhouse. It is has changed little since the days when ‘scroungers’ ended up there and I guess it would not cost much to bring it back into use.

  24. @TOH

    Quite right. We actually experienced massive growth of 0.3%. Panic over. The UK is back on track.

  25. But then they couldn’t look for a job!

    Bring back workhouses, that’s what I say.

  26. TOH

    So have you broken out the Bollinger to celebrate the change from -0.1% to 0%?

  27. Ah- I see Ozwald has got there before me.

  28. Just because it was only just not an official recession does not mean it is time to rejoice and thus believe the government is doing exactly the right thing in all particulars.

    I always knew it to be no more than a very shallow 2nd recession – most of the sharpest pain occured in the main dip. But is a prolonged near-recession worse than a sharp shock? possibly it is.

    Things are not good, and reliant on the global economy picking up. That’s not looking very certain.

  29. The 0ther H
    Just been reading ‘0ld Moore ‘ for 2014 and he reckons on a snap election in Jan with Labour doing well. I put as much faith in that as your prediction of an overall Tory maj.

  30. @Spearmint
    Lack of self-restraint on my part, I can probably get pills for it ! I am not sure when workhouses officially went out of use but I will see what I can fin on the net. They are good value for money and they could solve several problems if we revived them.

  31. Fascinating stuff about workhouses.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workhouse

  32. Paulcroft

    I read your comment and the use of the word sneering to discribe comments on something you disagreed with, now that really made me laugh, especially coming from you, well done, cheered my day up no end.

    Hows the band going.

  33. @KeithP

    Try reading my post again, I did not suggest all was well with the economy, far from it in fact. Yesterdays tinkering about with another tranch of minor cuts will certainly not put the economy right. Until politicians in this countyr realise that the days of “big state” are over things will only get worse. As I have suggested before the States share of GDP should be no more than 30-35 %.

  34. Why are the days of the Big State over; China seems fine…

  35. turk

    “cheered my day up no end”

    I am genuinely happy for you ‘cos you seem like a nice boke.

    Not sure what you mean about the band – Is the reference a jolly good joke of yours? If so it might cheer MY day up – although Rosie and Daisie are doing quite a good job of that wrecking the place. [They did 8 wuffs for tomorrow’s lab llead by the way]

    tata fer noo.

  36. @TOH

    “Looking at how things are now I see no reason to change my other predication that the Tories will win the next election with a working majority.”

    Were you once an actor? Your oft repeated mantra has the ring of that famous old saying so beloved of theatre directors overseeing chaotic and shambolic rehearsals; “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright on the night.” lol

  37. TOH

    We have bunting and flags in the streets in Barney. I think it is ‘cos of the news that we didn’t have a double dip thingy.

    Can’t get served in the shops for people talking about it, laughing, high-fiving and shouting “OZZIE FOR PRESIDENT”.

    I nearly joined in.

  38. Sarcasm and mockery towards people with different views to your own is not particularly welcoming towards people of all political viewpoints. Stop it, or several people will be on pre-moderation.

  39. AW

    Depends on the tone of voice you read stuff in and I do acknowledge that is a problem with the wrtten word ..BUT .. I assure you that my ripostes are intended as gentle humour and that I am rather fond of almost all the other posters on this site and am not intending either mockery or sarcasm towrads them.

    Sorry if it reads that way though ‘cos it does amuse me at least.

    [I wasn’t actually thinking of you Paul, I think everyone’s used to your humour! AW]

  40. @PaulCroft
    Making the unemployed wait a week to sign-on is more than a money saving measure and an anti-“Welfare” political gesture. It’s also a way of manipulating the unemployment figures. There are a substantial number of people trapped in “revolving-door” temporary jobs. Turfed out with little notice then taken on temporarily again within a couple of weeks. These people will now fall off the unemployment statistics.

  41. @Paul Croft
    “OZZIE FOR PRESIDENT”.
    ———————–
    Shucks, I am flattered! Will think about it and let you know as I think that poetry monitor is more my level. :-)

  42. @ Spearmint

    And it wouldn’t be at all difficult to make up an example of a person who takes a temp job for a week and actually loses by it financially.
    ——————
    That’s a really good point which I hadn’t thought of: Sign off for a week, work for a week, get no money for the next week. It doesn’t seem to square with the government’s ‘promise’ that people won’t lose out by taking any work which they can find, does it?

  43. P.S.
    No reason to celebrate the evanescence of the double-dip. It can be revised back as quickly as it’s been revised away.

    After 5 or 10 years we’ll know what happened in detail. In the meantime we can safely say that we have had an extended period with barely any growth in the economy, with all that entails. The exact wiggly shape of the graph, and the official terminology is pretty irrelevant.

  44. @crossbat11

    Not an actor just predicting what will happen as others do on here more often than I do.

    @Paul Croft

    Do not understand your post try reading mine to Keith P.

    @Amber Star
    Have to agree with your last post.

  45. @Jack

    Really!!!!!

  46. @ Ronnie

    I was going to apologize for replying to your original post last night and then disappearing and not reacting to your response; I was diverted by other matters. But I see plenty of others have commented now too, with lots of good points that cover anything I might have said and more (and probably better expressed than mine would have been, too).

    Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that there is already a 3-day wait before one can sign on – what I don’t know is whether any eventual payment is back-dated to the end of the previous employment. If it is, presumably that will also be changed, otherwise there wouldn’t be much saved.

  47. Catching up today I am amazed there are not more posts removed given the level of partisan opinion.
    One thing worth mentioning is that the likely end of QE is playing havoc with the bond markets, and longer term gov borrowing interest rates look to be heading only one way. Even with moderate growth, its odds on we are getting big cuts in spending and higher taxes from whoever is in from 2015. I wonder how some people on here are going to react if/when Labour cut spending because debt interest costs have inevitably jumped.

  48. @TOH – “Nice to see the nonesense about a double dip recession has gone at last, something I predicted a couple of months after it was called.”

    Technically, it hasn’t. The reporting of this is incorrect. For reasons of statistical rounding, as they only do figures to one decimal place, the headline figure is 0%, but the ONS are clear that the economy did shrink during the quarter, and the zero figure is just a matter of rounding.

  49. Rich – Debt interest will only be higher on new debt which is the ‘financing the deficit’ amount plus any that is at term by 16/17 that should not be too much and that at term will probably be repacing pre-crash notes at even higher rates

    Low rates have enabled the Government to reduce debt interest on a bigger National Debt (I recall £6Bn a year less) as notes have matured.

    It is in the 2020’s when all the cheap bonds around now mature some of which I guess are 10 year ones.

    Big reason IMF have joined others in saying now is the time to invest, whilst rates are low.

    Also should take as long as possible 25 years or more.

  50. Its pretty eye watering that debt interest is nearly double the cost of defence. We really need to live within our means and cut this growing culture of huge borrowing that has grown ever since the move to fiat currencies. This is the message I want to hear from Govt, not borrow even more to invest, given that ‘invest’ comes with no guarantees on return and is likely to cost more and more as bond rates move up pretty quickly now.

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