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. What I take away from this Ashcroft personality poll is products with High Brand Recognition are thought of as better than products the customer does not recognise. And if you are shopping around for a new Social Conservative Leader, then the conservative leader you recognise who isn’t DC is going to be top of that list.

    UKIP “voting” respondents may well have had a loose grasp on what Boris has actually said, particularly with regards to Immigration, but recognise him as that bloke off telly who makes the right Home County noises.

    Again, personality polling means nearly nothing to party leaders in a FPTP Parliamentary Election. It *DOES* mean something to any kind of single position vote, such as Mayor of London. And if Boris stood again, it could well be he gets a lot of votes from UKIP transfers because they hear what they want to hear, and ignore Boris’s actual opposition to practically all of the UKIP ‘principles’.

  2. Neil

    The Grand Bargain you refer to was made in 1760!

    I know the Royals are long lived but it wasn’t even reached with Her ancestors and has nothing to do with the current incumbent.

    You also seem to miss the point it is irrelevant what profits are made from the Crown Estates as the revenue raised isn’t the Queens in the first place it belongs to the Treasury.

    In 1760, George III reached an agreement with the Government over the Crown Estate. The Crown Lands would be managed on behalf of the Government and the revenue would go to the Treasury. In return, the King would receive a fixed annual payment, which today we call (in part) the Civil List. Large additional payments are also made basically relating to the cost of upkeep of the 6 State owned palaces.

    The Civil List is the amount of money provided by the Government to meet the official expenses of The Queen’s Household, so that The Queen can carry out her role as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are the only members of the Royal Family to receive an annual parliamentary allowance.

    The Monies paid are unrelated to revenues from the Crown Estate . However, the Royal’s PR team like to confuse the issues to avoid questions of Why for example the Queens own share of the Civil List Her salary effectively is 20 Times that of the President of The USA.

    They also forget conveniently that the Queen One of the Richest Women in the World paid no tax at all on Her income until the age of 68 and currently only makes a voluntary payment .Also She paid no tax at all on the £20 Million She inherited from Her Mother.

    Personally I have no real problem about having a hereditary head of state however, we should get value for money, at a time when Her Majesties Government are imposing cuts which are producing genuine poverty for Hundreds of Thousands it most certainly shouldn’t be a priority to up payments to One of the Richest Families in the World.

  3. Which is better – a chancellor who belts through red lights or one who eats burgers?

    I would go for one who does both at the same time myself.

    I see Rebekkkkkah etc will go to court in September and will presumably still be on trial come conference season.

    Oh dearie me………………..

  4. Steve – first, the Queen is a direct descendent of George III, as his great, great, great, great granddaughter, so the ‘grand bargain’ was reached with her direct ancestors. Additionally my understanding was the rules were changed at the beginning of this Parliament (to the chagrin of several Guardian columnists) which permitted the monarch to keep the profits of the crown estate – while the civil list had remained frozen for the decade 2000-10 and was frozen again at the beginning of the new Parliament. The changes were summarised in this Telegraph article:

  5. Edward (not the prince presumably)

    Crown incomes have risen by around £10 Million in the last decade.

    My Great Great several times removed ancestor was also related to members of the Royal Family as were yours and everyone else in the World.

    If you are right no one appears to have told the Crown Estates about the fact that their profits are now the queens because their website says nothing of the sort and I would have thought they would know!

    The Primary point is that when you are expecting for example the suddenly unemployed and poor to live on thin air for a week then it is utterly preposterous to donate £2 million to a family who clearly don’t need it.

    You are right about HMQ relationship to George 111 Mia Culpa She is also Her Husbands Third Cousin.

    These Royals do like to keep the business in the family

  6. Steve

    What about all that Maundy Thursday money she hands out? Have you taken that into consideration?

  7. This is an interesting article showing how the US has gone from a 10% deficit to an expected 2% by 2015

    Something the article misses is that house prices were allowed to correct in the US. High house prices = high personal debts = high cost of living = less spending = low growth = large deficits.

    Another feature of the US is their policies that allow people in heavy debt to easily walk away and start again, that is needed to help those who foolishly buy at the peak and then face devastation when interest rates go up and prices collapse.

    I think the markets will get UK to the same result in the end, but we just chose a more painful route to get there, and we will have a bigger crash as we keep building a higher debt mountain.

  8. The Civil List ( plus other grants & handouts) was scrapped when it was replaced by the Sovereign Grant.

    This was implemented on 1. April 2012 via the Sovereign Grant Act 2011.


    “Mia Culpa She is also Her Husbands Third Cousin.”

    I think Mia Culpa is a third rate Italian actress………….whereas Mea Culpa is a first rate Italian phrase.

  9. Colin
    I will defer to your expertise on being Third Rate.

  10. @Colin

    I realize it spoils your jest, but “mea culpa” is Latin, not Italian.


    um-the joke was in the continuity from the previous comment about the Italian actress-to have used the word “Latin” would have spoiled that metaphor ( or perhaps metonymy) for mere literal accuracy.

    But-no matter-if rhetoric is not your thing-Latin it is.

  12. “The Index of Services increased by 2.0% in April 2013 compared with April 2012. All of the components of the services industry increased in the most recent month compared with the same month a year ago.
    • The largest contributions came from government & other services, distribution, hotels & catering,
    and business services & finance.”

    Index of Services

    Month vs a year earlier growth rates for the main sectors were :-

    Distribution, hotels & restaurants -+3.2% pa
    TRansport, storage & comms. +1.9% pa
    Business Svcs. & Finance . +1.4% pa
    Government & other Svcs. +2.1% pa

  13. “Is it really closing – OR are the polls actually all over the place?”


    The polls are usually all over the place because of margin of error.

    At the moment it looks as though Labour and Conservatives are both drifting up a bit keeping a roughly seven-eight percent gap between them on average.

    But because of MoE some days the gap might be only five percent, some days ten. They are drifting up because of decline of Ukip from their council elections peak where they had all that exposure.

    Tories, having lost more than Lab to Ukip in the first place, have gained a bit more than Lab as Ukip have declined. Hence the gap is down to eight percent. But it’ll get progressively harder to reduce the gap this way as UKip get closer to core vote.

    So I wouldn’t get too excited. On the other hand… It could change!!! The gap could narrow some more!!! So you can get excited if you want…

  14. @STEVE

    “The Primary point is that when you are expecting for example the suddenly unemployed and poor to live on thin air for a week then it is utterly preposterous to donate £2 million to a family who clearly don’t need it.”


    I doubt you will get much engagement with this point. What you will get instead is a history lesson, with a bit of language thrown in…

  15. Carfew – good summary I think.
    However, I do think that as the UKIP I declines up to 2015 (of course boosted by the euro-elections for a few months) the cons will disproportionately benefit.

    So if the UKIP now 13% and they end up at 6% I would expect a Con-Lab gain of around 3% with both gaining over the LDs.

    Split maybe 4.7/1,7/.0.6 for example.

    A bit to other others of course but my numbers only example.

  16. @Carfrew – well for what its worth I think the gap is definitely narrowing.
    At the very least its now almost always in single figures!

    It only needs for Labour to drop another point and Tories to go up a point and the 6 becomes 4, becomes 2 etc

    If Labour are still only 5-8% by the end of next week following the spending round they must be a bit worried/disappointed.

    Won’t it be interesting if they end up on 35% each!

  17. @Sine

    It has narrowed. Whether it will keep narrowing is something else. Ukip may decline further… The question is whether Tories continue to benefit disproportionately.

    Remember, before the rise of Ukip, the Lab-Con gap was bigger…

    Tories may gain disproportionately, but not a given. Interesting thing is what happens at the GE. Ukip getting more exposure again could take from other parties again. On the other hand, if it’s really just a protest vote…

    It’s possible – though perhaps less likely – come the GE they may even take more from Labour…

  18. Colin

    Restaurants doing well?

    So the recovery is being led by the March of the Bakers then, eh?

  19. Sine

    The spending round will have no effect on VI just like the reversal of the double dip or indeed when the double dip first announced.

    It is people experiences that matter except in the GE campaign itself when programs are scrutinised to a degree.

  20. sn

    “It only needs for Labour to drop another point and Tories to go up a point and the 6 becomes 4, becomes 2 etc”

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh!! !! I’d often wondered how that all worked..

  21. @Jim Jam – fair point and probably correct.

    But there must be some reason why Labour aren’t doing much better at this point.

    As Carfrew said above the gap was bigger even when UKIP was much lower so if a good chunk of the UKIP vote goes back to Cons in time for the GE and some ‘soft’ Labour votes swap to Cons as the economy improves Labour are surely sunk!
    It doesn’t of course automatically mean a Conservative Majority Government but they could be the largest party again!

  22. @Paul – wonderful sarcasm (I presume) -lol

  23. I think the reason Labour are not doing much better is the negative legacy fair or not.

    As per my post above I think the real gap once the UKIP vote falls for the GE is nearer 5 already and as you imply the extent of the Economic recovery will determine how much the Con vote increased over 35%.

    Re Lab soft vote, I think the 35% stratagy never existed but the number emerged from some ideas suggesting that 35% is Labour new core given 2010 vote plus 25% 2010 LD.

    As such I think the real core once the UKIP daliance erodes are very close for the main 2 parties.

    By extension how the floating 6% or splits will determine the outcome in the GE at least in vote share and I agree with your implication that how much the Economy improves will have a large bearing. You may be right about some being soft for Labour but it has been there for 18 months at least now so it may take some clawing back for the cons (a bit LD maybe)

    Seats will depend on marginals of course with LD/Con ones in particular possibly bucking UNS and some cons hanging ion against Lab due to incumbency bonus.

  24. LEFTY

    The sector in the ONS bulletin with the largest yoy growth was “Computer Programming, Consultancy & Related Services.”

    You got something against Bakers by the way?

  25. @Jim Jam – thanks for that – all very interesting.

  26. Sine N

    “@Paul – wonderful sarcasm (I presume) -lol”

    Gosh no, not at all. They was impressive sums.

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