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. Was it true or have I just dreamed it?

    I doubt I will sleep myself now for laughing so much at such a great jest.

  2. I’ll stick with the predictions from the puppoes- they seem to be better forecasters than SN’s subconscious. Any guesses for Friday’s poll?

    I’ll be conservative and go for 31/39 /11/13.

  3. I love the decription of a mouse, whose tail was used to extract blood to clone another little mousey rascal, as “a living donor” – as though it was a knowledgable and aquiescent party to the whole arrangement.

  4. @Paul – well for goodness sake someone has to have a laugh on here at times Paul -lol – Glad you saw the funny side!

  5. spearmint

    “I’ll stick with the predictions from the puppoes”

    I hope you are not mocking my little princesses? They would be most hurt.

  6. @Spearmint

    There will be some which are moving to UKIP for issues that are irreconcilable, such as the ‘plague on all your houses’ mood of some of the electorate.

    If the Conservatives push into UKIP’s policies a little before 2015, and defectors are faced with a ‘vote UKIP, get Labour’ choice…they might re-defect / un-defect / what is the opposite of defect? Feature? :)

  7. @PC

    So what are the doggies predicting, ruff-ley speaking?

  8. @ Paul,

    Not at all! They’re almost eerily accurate, and I say that sincerely.


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


    Lol, you say that like it’s a bad thing.

    That’s what you want, to pay back over a long period at low interest. Then you get all the benefits and growth up front, while growth and inflation erode the impact of repayments.

    You know, like a mortgage? You are familiar with mortgages? It’s just basic principles of investment, which strangely get thrown out of the window by some when it comes to the economy.

    Why would you back borrowing hundreds of billions without investing in the benefits of growth? So we have to pay it back 14 years later without any benefit…

  10. @MARTYN

    “Plus some pretty big currency devaluations”


    Plus, you also have alongside growth the value of the assets you build, which you may sell later if needed…

  11. @

    “…You know, like a mortgage? You are familiar with mortgages? It’s just basic principles of investment, which strangely get thrown out of the window by some when it comes to the economy…”

    I think the problem is that after 25yrs paying off the mortgage, we get to keep the house. But 25 years after paying off the debt, we don’t get to keep the country. We don’t even get to build that extension (we could add bits on to Cornwall, say) or redecorate (I’m thinking knock down Middlesborough and put up a pergola). We just keep on adding more debt and making our kids poorer.


  12. Sine Nimine,

    You haven’t been smoking the same stuff that that Labour councillor who dreamed he was seduced and abducted by aliens by any chance???

    Would certainly explain a lot.

  13. Some interesting local election results across England.

    UKIP is going a bit backwards but still polling a respectable second virtually everywhere.

    In Aberdeen, in contrast, last week they were totally crushed to a lost deposit in a parliamentary by election.

    They would be well advised to concentrate on their heartlands and try to win something.

  14. statty


    So what are the doggies predicting, ruff-ley speaking?”

    An eight wuffs Labour lead

  15. sine nom

    “@Paul – well for goodness sake someone has to have a laugh on here at times Paul -lol – Glad you saw the funny side!”

    My powers of mockery and sarcasm must be on the wane – unless your own are on the up?

  16. I think the markets will have to correct the deficit as the politicians have abdicated responsibility, forget the rhetoric, when you look at the figures they have all failed and none have a credible plan.

    Given that, I’d rather have something to show for it after the collapse happens. Rather spend it on new schools, new roads, new houses and train people in new skills than use it to subsidise non jobs with tax credits – that will ease the recovery later.

    In local election results tonight, UKIP does look down a bit compared to May, but it is still getting large percentages of the vote, so I think the poll numbers we are seeing this week are probably a bit low for them, should see them back to 12-13%.

  17. ambi at sine nom

    “abducted by aliens ”

    Now there’s a pleasing thought.

    By the way, did you see Spain/Italy? Makes you despair for England

  18. Re the mouse and its clone I also ike the idea of it skweekin’:

    “Crikey!! It looks just like me!!!”

  19. Health Concern have taken The Wyre Forest off Ukip, Labour have taken Dartford with Ukip second.

    Meanwhile, more fun courtesy of Ashcroft…

  20. Good Morning All.

    Only 6% lead/deficit.

    Maybe the poll yesterday was not more than an outlier

  21. From that Lord Ashcroft poll on “Who Would Make Best Prime Minister” I’ve determined that 2% of Tory voters didn’t understand the question and that Boris should become leader of UKIP if he wants the job.

  22. Latest YG –
    CON 33%, LAB 39%, LD 10%, UKIP 13%; APP -32

    For Lab that’s 3 x 39 1 x 40 and 1 x 42 following 2 x 38.

    I think safe to conclude on YG Labour 39 or a tad above.

    Cons 33% maybe on high side of moe but 32%ish is a decent platform for them to build on.

  23. As Hughie Green would say only for fun my friends only for fun but on cross breaks Cons pushing SNP in to 3rd place in Scotland

    Others at only 5% looks low and 33% a tad high for cons so this may explain it.

    I should add on YG of course.

    What is the opposite of defect?
    Affect; as in “I affect to intend voting for UKIP while waiting to see what real policies and commitments come out from the two main parties in the run up to the election.”

  25. Labour Identified how little is happening with many of the Government schemes some are plausible and if enacted might have an effect on the economy.
    The latest example Only four people have so far signed up to a flagship government scheme to make homes more energy-efficient.

    The Green Deal, which was launched six months ago, was designed to provide measures such as home insulation.

  26. Some stats about the cost of living over the last five years.

  27. Regarding the YG a poll which has the Tories ahead of the SNP in Scotland needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

  28. Neil A
    I wondered when someone would mention the Crown Estates.

    These are Not the Personal Property of the Queen .

    If you don’t believe me this is what the Crown Estates say themselves

    “The Crown Estate belongs to the reigning monarch ‘in right of The Crown’, that is, it is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign, by virtue of their accession to the throne. But it is not the private property of the monarch – it cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch.”

    Consequently if they have made more money there is absolutely no reason to hand over the extra profit to Queen Elizabeth the money is ours via the treasury and personally I can think of many better uses for it than paying it to a family already in receipt of £38 million PA from us along with 6 palaces maintained at public expense.

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

    I vividly recall my childhood. Savage, ugly, familial humiliation. The utter shame of it still makes me shiver.

    Before I was born, my parents saddled me and my siblings with a massive debt, when they foolishly borrowed three times their combined income (that’s a 300% debt ratio folks!!).

    We scrimped and saved, seeing the total interest payments climb until we paid back the bank paid twice as much as the original loan cost. Can you imagine having to explain that to my school chums? Shameful.

    As the years went by, my parents income rose little by little, and the debt was gradually repaid, but it took away my childhood, worrying constantly about why they had been so reckless and borrowed with no regard to my future.

    All we had to show for the years of misery was a decent and comfortable house.

    Can you imagine that! I bet if they could have done, they would have spread the repayments for for twice as long, so they could have benefited from lower repayments and a bigger relative return from inflation!

    The folly of it. The fecklessness of it all.

  30. Colin

    For those of us on the centre right in line with recent polls it’s nice to see a more positive poll immediately following a more negative poll which would indicate a fairly large section of the voting population hasn’t yet settled on who to vote for in the GE, Ladbrokes 7-2 bet for a con win, seems good odds at the moment before they close.

    No need for straws just yet dispite the kind offer from our friend recently.

  31. Turk
    If you ever feel the need for dried Grass I am your man!

  32. TURK

    Good morning.

    Yes-an interesting Poll.

    I was pleased to see YouGov asking their “economic competence” questions today, after EM/EB’s considerable efforts to convince the public of their credentials in that area.

    The answers to the last three questions seem to provide a clear response to that initiative.

    Another “6” is encouraging. But Cons need to get back ,consistently, to that gap of 5 in my simple mind before I believe they have a chance.

    I don’t think anyone can anticipate the events & outcomes of a GE Campaign-starting at only 5 behind, & with the economy improving ( & Abu Qatada on a plane ?) I think they would be reasonably placed .

  33. STEVE

    Green Grass is the stuff we are looking for.

  34. I can’t get that to light!

  35. I think that’s the general idea-the green ( conservative) stuff just keeps coming.

    The dried ( labour ) stuff just goes up in flames , leaving a scorched landscape.

  36. Morning everyone – Well, well – my little jest last night for a laugh was actually partly correct in that the Cons have finally got a 33% -lol
    Labour on 39% – so a 6% lead!
    Is it really closing – OR are the polls actually all over the place?
    Interesting stuff though.

    Disappointed in you though Paul – from what you say your sense of humour wasn’t quite as good as I first thought -lol

  37. @Steve.

    So if the Crown Estates have a bad year, and the Queen’s income falls, the state should make up the difference in extra Civil List payments?

    You also forget that the current arrangements are the result of a Grand Bargain that was struck, which is what led to the Crown Estates ceasing to belong personally to the Queen in the first place.

  38. I questioned R and D about their 8 wuffs prediction and they said the last two wuffs were coffs.

    So their 100% record remains intact.

    sine nom

    I have one of those weird sense of humours where I just larf at things that are actually funny.

  39. OMG there’s a poll out which shows the Tories are in the lead! 35C 34L 10LD 9UKIP.

  40. Actually there’s another one out which shows Labour are ahead by 12 today. C30 L42 LD12 UKIP13!

  41. @PaulCroft,

    “By the way, did you see Spain/Italy? Makes you despair for England”

    It does…particularly their ability to take penalties.

    As for the polls….I always suspected the 11% Labour lead on Thursday was a bit of an odd one…the 6% lead today seems a bit out in the other direction.

  42. I bet everybody’s sides are splitting. I am funnier than Dawn French & will probably get several awards. Guess what I could keep this up for hours, days even!

    I bet you are all too busy laughing to realise that people inventing polls isn’t clever or funny & that if we all did it, it would ruin the site.

  43. Rosie and Daisie are still v. fond of ole Dave but wuffed

    “Wotta tosser” when Ozzie was on screen.

    Bit rude for them – but eerily accurate again I thought.

  44. Amber

    Precisely my point. It does seem a bit juvenile.

    I remember giving some figures from the Sun and then saying I’d got it wrong and it was for a v. nice young lady on page 3.

    Now that WAS funny.

  45. @ Paul C

    Yes, that one was funny because it was witty & you posted the punch-line immediately after the gag so it didn’t have people wondering if it was actually a poll & checking the internet for which pollster was tweeting it.

  46. This article on the recent Ashcroft poll looked interesting until I looked at the dates on the data tables attached to the article.

  47. Has something dramatic changed in the Boris/Cameron dynamic since late April to invalidate it?

  48. @ Richard

    Thanks, I’d looked at the Ashcroft-Boris report but not the tables so I hadn’t realised that it is 2 months old. That was around the time that UKIP were at their (first or highest?) peak polling as high as 20 with some firms.

  49. @ Spearmint

    Well all the media speculation about Boris v Cameron seems to have abated & I read somewhere that Cameron has been working to get more personal support in his Party by remembering the names of his backbenchers & having wee chats with them – & also his support for the private members bill on the EU calmed them all down, dear.

  50. @Steve

    “Regarding the YG a poll which has the Tories ahead of the SNP in Scotland needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.”

    Sounds about right. Looks like Con have taken about 5% and 3% from UKIP and Lib respectively in this poll. With MoE of 7-8% points, it’s within MoE.


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