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. This infrastructure spending starting in 2015. Is the UK going to be coming into some money in 2015 that makes this possible ?

  2. RICH

    I agree with you.

    Debt at £ 1.2 trillion & still going up, makes for considerable vulnerability to gilt rate increases.

    Jim Jam is correct , that this only applies to new debt & rolled over maturities,but it is still an uncomfortable place to be.

    Having said all that, the imediate impact of a gilt price collapse would be felt on mortgage rates. BoE are so concerned about this they are doing a study into the potential impact.

    There will be new mortgage holders who really do think that mortgages at 2% or 3% pa are normal-and an awful lot more who will remember what their mortgage repayments used to be like before monetary policy provided the lifeline which has been keeping them afloat for the last four or five years..

  3. Just for the record, the Queen hasn’t been given a “pay rise”. It’s simply that the Crown Estates are performing well and have generated more income than last year.

    Would we prefer that the Crown Estates were run badly, so that she lost money and we could all bask in a bit of republican schadenfreude?

  4. @Alec

    No doubt there will be further revisions to show it never happened. You really think the figures are accurate to that degree?

  5. The monarchy costs £3.2m less than it did 5 years ago under Labour according to The Evening Standard I am reading on the train home.

  6. @Neil A

    when people are living off foodbanks it’s crass to take such a large increase.

  7. @ Rich

    I wonder how some people on here are going to react if/when Labour cut spending because debt interest costs have inevitably jumped.
    I wonder how some people on here are going to react if/when the Government do not cut spending because debt interest costs have not jumped (as opposed to a jump being inevitable) due to all the notional (aka non-existent) interest ‘charged’ on QE being flipped back to the Treasury.

    Interest free ‘debt’ (which isn’t even debt, actually) rather wrecks the Tory narrative of ‘unaffordable borrowing’, does it not?

  8. TOH

    “@Paul Croft

    Do not understand your post”

    Me neither Howie.

  9. Anthony

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

    Blimey !!! That never happened on the Classical Guitar Forum I contributed to, which was dominated by Americans.

    They didn’t realise anything was supposed to amuse if it wasn’t followed by three smilies and six exclamation marks and – preferably “Sorry couldn’t resist !!!!!!!” or [even better and clearer] “Only joking !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    How Oscar Wilde managed without emoticons I will never know.

  10. The Bank will put interest rates up when there is a robust recovery that is in danger of overheating into a wage-price spiral.

    Well before that happens we won’t be able to get served in the shops for people talking about it, laughing, high-fiving etc., etc.

  11. TOH


    “@Paul Croft

    Do not understand your post”

    Me neither Howie.”

    Howard: writing to Anthony has just reminded me – it was a joke, and a jolly good one ‘cos it had the pups larfing and wuffing along in amusement.

    Daisie actually fell over.

  12. The fact remains we currently have too much borrowing, rather than the strange concept of ‘not enough’ on the uncertain premise it might give us a growth multiplier.

  13. Rich,

    I don’t think your fact is a fact. Some people have that opinion, others don’t.

  14. @Rich

    This may help:

    ‘Common Sense’ is not all it’s cracked up to be

  15. @Paul Croft

    Glad it pleased the pups.

    Done posting now too many other things to do.
    Havea good evening.

  16. @ Postageincluded,

    Very good point about the unemployment figures- and it’s a trap for anyone who tries to reverse the policy, because they’ll jump back up again. Okay, fair play to the Chancellor. That is a clever move, and possibly beneficial enough to compensate for any “nasty party” vibes the policy may create.

    Which perhaps he isn’t worried about anyway. The whole spending review seemed like a 25% Strategy to me. Lots of sops to the South and to Michael Gove fans, council tax freeze, public sector pay reductions, lots of tough-on-the-unemployed talk, treading water on defence. Apart from the social care funding and funding for London transport there didn’t seem to be anything to woo any of the various disenchanted groups (students, doctors, nurses, police, teachers, headteachers, lawyers, small businessmen in need of loans, Wales, Scotland, the North, ethnic minorities) back into the Tory fold.

    I guess they’re trying to shore up their right flank, but I don’t see why they think a core vote strategy would work any better in 2015 than it did in 2005.

  17. Why in the name of god are we paying interest on money that has been magiced out of thin air

  18. How does one tell if Sarcasm & Mockery are posted as a joke-or just……to be Sarcastic & Mocking?

    If the latter, it’s quite an easy defense to say ” I was joking”.

    But that might be Mockery too.

    I feel the Mocker has something of an advantage over the Mocked.

  19. Interesting thoughts Spearmint.
    There was much discussion a few weeks ago about Labour’s (alleged) 35% strategy. If the CONs were also setting their sights on their core vote (I assume 25% was meant to be 35%!) and with a Libdem collapse – where would it leave the poor centrist voters then?

    I suppose the problem for the CONs is that 35% isn’t enough for them to be the largest party let alone get an OM.

    IMO the only place the CONs can get the votes to exceed 35% is from current DK and WNV. The calculation may be that bashing the unemployed and public sector workers will garner some of these. But this is a well trodden path for this government already, I can’t personally see it having much of an effect.

  20. “I feel the Mocker has something of an advantage over the Mocked.”

    Jolly good point Col. Probaby always best to be extremely offended – just in case.

  21. Rich

    If you want to talk about debt interest, you really need to think about the historical context. Scroll down this page to the bottom. It kind if puts some of the spin into a more sensible context.

  22. Poll average updated today I see. Although it looks healthier for Labour than it has done, probably a bit of a dodgy one as Lab have not scored 39 with any other polling organisation apart from Yougov in the last month. Tories also a tad high I think.

    Mind you I’m sure Anthony has said before he makes the best of a bad job and this one I guess has the latest Yougov getting higher weighting than maybe it deserves.

  23. UKIP vote seems strange at 10% being the first poll after Tuesday night’s Euromillions where £167m of our hard earned money got shared among two, presumably, work shy foreigners. Makes you mad (insert smiley- Oscar Wilde style!).

  24. I can well understand folk taking solace in the new ONS figures (rounded) showing that we didn’t hit recession last year.

    Of course, the definition of “recession” is entirely arbitrary. The new ONS figures show that growth from Q4 2011 was:

    Q4 11 -0.1%
    Q1 12 0%
    Q2 12 -0.5%
    Q3 12 +0.7%
    Q4 12 -0.2%

    By any sensible definition, we were effectively stagnating for the whole period (whether you call this “recession” depends on whether you accept the arbitrary definition from LBJ’s Administration). But unarguably, we bobbed around zero growth for 15 months which is a horrific situation to be in after such a disastrous collapse in 08/09 and which goes most of the way to explaining why deficit reduction is so far off course.

  25. @ Cloud Spotter,

    25% wasn’t a typo, just me being mean-spirited. But you’re right, if you take into account the Lib Dem collapse the real Tory core vote figure is probably around 35%: 32.4 from 2005 + ~3% from former Lib Dems.

    I remain puzzled that there seems to be no strategy from the Cameroons to widen that base, because they must know they can’t win a majority with 35%. Even the Boneites recognise the Tories have a problem and have (daft) ideas about how to fix it, but from the leadership it’s just “Steady as she goes.” (Unless the strategy is for Osborne to fake an Estuary accent and tweet pictures of himself eating burgers, in which case Lynton Crosby is overpaid.)

  26. @lefty,

    Regardless of whatever charts people throw out to back up positions, it just feels way too much borrowing for me when our interest costs on debt are nearly twice total spending on defence!

  27. @Spearmint

    I not going to suggest that the Conservative Cabinet are currently solely concerned with keeping ministerial jobs till the election, and keeping a foot in the door for a leadership challenge after the election. But actions that appeal solely to their registered party activists suggests certain priorities being defined.

  28. rich

    interest on printed money is made up money just as the printed money was. They’ll just pocket it.

  29. Rich

    Interest debt payments as a percentage of GDP are at historically low levels. Defence spending as a proportion of GDP is at historically low levels. What you are saying is that one low value is smaller than another low value.

    We hear the argument about defence spending relative to interest costs on a regular basis and it is spin. There is one measure and one measure alone of the obscenity or reasonableness of interest payments and it is their affordability.


    “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.”


    They are gonna need it. The loss of a further 144,000 public sector jobs has been rather buried. IFS are describing the explanation of the review as “woeful”.

    “Gemma Tetlow, one of the analysts at the IFS, said that the inconsistencies in the figures meant it was “next to impossible” to establish the size of cuts to individual departments for the whole period from the 2010-11 until 2015-16.

    “The institute’s best estimate found that the biggest cut over the period had been to the communities part of the Department for Communities and Local Government, which lost 60.6% of its budget.”

    Of course, no surprise as councils may get the blame. ToH complains they aren’t rolling back the state but they seem to be really rather keen on it. They’ve cut loads and are still cutting. It just doesn’t help the deficit so much. People in work taking a hit again but wealthier boomers still protected.

    It seems polling indicates people are not convinced that the current economic strategy is working or fair. I’m not sure the spending review will help. People like their services.

    In contrast we’ve had rather more headlines about green stuff. Lots of headlines about green issues lately? Only four people have signed up for the green deal thing, which may not happinate Alec. Headlines all about bigger shale resources and Ofgem predicting power outages more likely in a few years. We could return to the 3 day week!!

    This is mostly future VI. Issues affecting the next government. More gas vs. not enough power stations to use it.

    I was looking forward to some explanation from the bankers here regarding the latest chapter in the saga of “banking takes the mick” to hit the headlines re: Ireland. The “Give us the Moolah” thing. Oh well. Defending banking is probably a lost cause…

  31. @Neil A

    The crown estates are more profitable than the government. One wonders why some people are so grudging, with that point of view.

  32. @Spearmint

    “I guess they’re trying to shore up their right flank, but I don’t see why they think a core vote strategy would work any better in 2015 than it did in 2005.”

    Assuming your guess is correct, in 2005 there wasn’t UKIP at the same level.

  33. Link for the IFS observations…

  34. @Lefty

    RE: Historical debt data. These days Britain does not rule the waves, nor is there an empire to take the brunt of the poverty, while the motherland reaps the rewards.

    In some ways, this debt crisis is unprecedented.

  35. @Rich

    Interest payments are fine if you wind up better off. Before, we were getting growth in return, now we are not. So I share your concern at the current use of our debt.

    In a previous thread you commented we had to avoid leaving debt for future generations regarding pension costs and stuff. Sadly that is already happening. Current boomers are protected while debt is being piled up for the rest.

  36. LOL statgeek. Dunno if you noticed but we dispensed with much of the empire after the war and had huge debt. Still had growth though…

  37. That’s the unprecedented part with this government. All that spending and no growth.

  38. @Carfrew

    Yes, and it took about 50 years to pay it off.

  39. Hey – Con 33 Lab 37 LD 11
    How interesting!!

  40. SN

    Is that Friday’s poll? No big deal if it is. At least, no bigger than today’s. both are consistent with a picture of Lab 39, Con 31 which is what we’ve been bobbing around for a month or so.

    Move along. Nothing to see folks.

  41. Statgeek.

    No it didn’t. It was never “paid off”. It got bigger in absolute terms in 7 years out of 8 in the post-War era. But it reduced as a ratio of GDP through growth and (mostly moderate) inflation. That is how we will (eventually) squeeze down the current debt.

    “Hey – Con 33 Lab 37 LD 11
    How interesting!!”

    Which poll and where did you find the figures because the Sun hasn’t tweeted them nor has Mike Smithson so a pointer would be appreciated.

  43. It seems pretty pointless lobbing a poll result at us without provenance.

  44. One rather sad point about the spending review really is this judgement by the IFS that the explanation of the measures was ‘woeful’.

    The IFS is entirely independent, neutral, and highly respected. Right leaning posters like @Colin used to frequently quote them when Labour was in power. If they are using such unheard of negative terms to describe a major financial announcement, I think we can all be pretty clear that something is wrong.

    Osborne is the most overtly political chancellor we’ve had for a very long time, which really takes some doing after G Brown’s tenure. I think he is blinded by his overarching political needs, at a time when we need a far more sober approach to his role. He isn’t helped by playing opposite Balls – who would probably be equally political given the chance.

    At the end of watching all this, I somehow end up feeling dirty. Osborne brings a total lack of dignity to the role of steward of the nations finances, and his sole interest seems to be headlines, perceptions and what his own MPs think of him. It’s degrading and demeaning, of himself, but also of politics as a whole.

    We really did need a transformational government that would do things differently, and show us that we could trust politicians. Instead, they’ve decided to take the worst of Blair/Brown and multiply them many times.

    We need politicians now who can guide and persuade worried voters through the toughest period this country has had since the war. Instead we’ve got the punch and judy schoolboy debaters in charge. Woeful, as the IFS might say.

  45. There are a lot of council by-election results coming out tonight & they will also have an interesting story to tell.

  46. @LeftyLampton

    “…But it reduced as a ratio of GDP through growth and (mostly moderate) inflation. That is how we will (eventually) squeeze down the current debt….”

    Plus some pretty big currency devaluations: during WWII you could get about $4 to the pound, then by the early 50’s under $3, then it dipped under $2 by 1975. Now it’s about $1.5.


  47. @Barnaby – I noticed that too. 5 Con defending and one UKIP, with the sole Lab seat a shoe in in Tyneside, I would have thought.

  48. Gosh – I’ve just woke up with a jolt – I had a dream that a new poll out showed Con 33 and Lab 37
    Was it true or have I just dreamed it?

  49. @ Statgeek,

    Fair point about Ukip, but in one sense that just makes the core vote strategy worse. If some of the Ukip defectors are irreconcilable then the Tories need even more swing voters than they would otherwise. And winning them back won’t be easy- I was amused to see Ukip denouncing the mandatory ESoL lessons plan as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

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