There was an interesting poll the other day from MORI, which found only 20% of people agreeing that rising house prices were good for the country, with 57% disagreeing. This was generally reported as being against the conventional wisdom, and perhaps suggesting that increasing house prices might not be a political positive for the government after all.

Regular readers will be familiar with Twyman’s Law – if a bit of data looks unusual or interesting it is probably wrong. If a poll finding is particularly surprising, then be careful of it. In this case there’s nothing wrong with MORI’s poll, but the reality is a bit more complicated than it suggests. It doesn’t take much hunting about to find other polls showing that more people want to see house prices rise than fall. For example, MORI again from their Halifax housing tracker last year found 33% wanted an increase, 23% a decrease, 31% to stay the same. Much more recently this June YouGov found 32% of people wanted prices to rise, 28% to fall, 30% to stay the same.

These polls make the public look more positive about house price rises, but aren’t actually contradictory. YouGov, for example, might show 32% of people wanting to see house prices rise, but add together those who’d like to see a fall and those who like them to stay the same and 58% don’t want to see a rise. More importantly, they aren’t actually asking the same thing. What people think would be good for the country, and what people actually want to see, are not necessarily the same. In a perfect world we might all wish housing was cheaper, but if house prices fell it would bring with it problems of negative equity and more bad mortgage debts in the banking sector. On a simpler level, what’s good for the country is not necessarily the same as what is good for the respondent personally – the YouGov poll went on to ask homeowners what they would like to see happen to the price of THEIR house, and miraculously support for falling house prices vanished! 64% wanted their own house to increase in value, only 4% wanted it to fall. Presumably people would only like to see the price of other people’s houses fall.

Anyway, from a purely political point of view I suspect we are being somewhat distracted anyway. As with so many things, the political impact of issues is much more than just simple approval/disapproval, it is the wider associations. Increasing house prices are a positive because they are part and package of economic growth, associated with a growing economy, the feel good factor and with homeowning people feeling more prosperous and well off (even if in reality we aren’t, as if we sold our houses we’d only have to buy another one at a similarly inflated price!). Falling house prices are associated with economic decline, falling prosperity and negative equity. Perhaps a day will come when there will be economic growth but falling house prices, and perhaps at that point those associations will change. Until then I suspect that rising house prices will continue to be a political good, whether or not they actually are one.


278 Responses to “Do people want to see house prices rise?”

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  1. @Oldnat

    “There are a number of positions on which Conservative and Labour parties can hold identical positions”

    I’m thinking “kneeling at the trough, facing forward, heads down”, otherwise, I’m a bit stuck. :-p

    I’ll be interested to see the Scottish cross-breaks over the next half a dozen polls. There’s a bit of a Scots v English in the national comments at present, and that Ed took a pasting at that weekly political event that shall not be named.

    If headlines and comments translated to VI shifts, we would be looking at Con / Lab / Lib down and SNP up, but I’ll wager folk won’t change their vote that readily. What is interesting is that if Con / Lib does not rise after these shipbuilding or Unite rows, where on earth can they get more votes in Scotland?

  2. RinN

    Quite.

    What I notice over the decades is that the defence reviews don’t actually review the need for defence.

    It reminds me of when, following the end of the Cold War, it was said that MI5 could now concentrate on the drugs problem. (I just thought at the time ‘they invented something else to protect their jobs’).

    Well we’ve all noted the glittering results of that effort haven’t we?

  3. @SocalLiberal

    Echoing OldNat’s thoughts, thanks very much, as usual, for your insights into US politics. It’s a bit like the voice of clarity cutting through the transatlantic fog!

    On Di Blasio, I know little about him beyond what I’ve read in the English press today in the wake of his election, but I rather like the sound of the fellow and I hope his radical plans for New York aren’t frustrated and thwarted to to the extent that you obviously expect them to be.

  4. Following on from R Huckle’s post this morning.

    LD seats with a majority greater than 5,000 (28 out of 57 seats):

    Portsmouth S… Hancock currently an Independent.
    Redcar… an LD gain from Labour in 2010.
    Carshalton & Wallington.
    Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk.
    Devon N.
    >6,000
    Southport.
    Hazel Grove… Stunell standing down.
    Gordon… Malcolm Bruce standing down, majority down by over 4,000 since 2005.
    Cambridge… 8,579 Labour majority in 2001.
    Hornsey & Wood Green… 10,461 Labour majority in 2001.
    Colchester.
    >7,000
    Thornbury & Yate.
    Kingston & Surbiton… Davey’s majority has halved since 2001.
    Lewes.
    >8,000
    Ceredigion… LD majority was 219 votes in 2005.
    Bermondsey & Old Southwark.
    Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.
    >9,000
    Fife NE… Menzies Campbell standing down.
    Leeds NW… 5,236 Lab majority in 2001.
    Orkney & Shetland.
    >11,000
    Bristol W… 4,426 Labour majority in 2001.
    Norfolk N.
    Bath.
    >12,000
    Twickenham.
    Westmorland & Lonsdale.
    >13,000
    Yeovil.
    Ross, Skye & Lochaber.
    >15,000
    Sheffield Hallam.

    One or two of the above look far from safe?

    Many of these LD majorities grew fast after a marginal gain from either Conservative (during the post-Thatcher decline) or Labour (post Iraq), then to go through a period of fluctuation. 2015 could be especially volatile.

    Even on 23% (+1%) at the 2010 GE, Lib Dems suffered a net loss of five seats.

  5. For those of you who are interested, here’s why the VA results last night are so significant.

    In Terry McAulliffe, you had an absolutely terrible Democratic candidate. He was a consummate Washington DC insider and moneyman. Basically, a sleazy close friend of the Clintons who had never served in elected office before. And in terms of his business success, almost all of it came from his creative use of political connections. He bragged in his biography that upon driving his wife and newborn son home from the hospital, he stopped off at a Democratic fundraiser and left them in the car for an hour reducing his wife to tears. “But hey, it was a half million dollars for the Democratic Party.”

    Now, I’ve met him and I thought he was a nice guy but I can see why voters in general don’t like him.
    He’d only run once before, for the same position In 2009 and lost badly. Plus, in a southern, gun ownership rich state, he had an F from the NRA. Didn’t help.

    Yet, he was elected ANYWAY. The Cooch was such a moralist crusader (he wants to outlaw all abortion and even outlaw birth control) that women went to McAulliffe in droves. The teabagging with the federal government shutdown didn’t help either. Just added to the anger. This may sound hard to believe but McAuliffe actually outperformed Obama in Northern Virginia from his 2012 results. Keep in mind, the turnout in an off year election like this one is going to favor Republicans drastically.

    What this demonstrates is that people are responding negatively to Republicans on social issues and when Democrats run on social issues, they will win. That’s fairly significant.

    More significant than Christie’s blowout win in NJ or DeBlasio’s historic landslide in NYC. Although at an individual level, this may be what Christie uses to launch himself into a Presidential campaign.

  6. STATGEEK

    Iraq War (at the time) : UK’s “independent” nuclear deterrent were the ones in my mind at the time. On many other issues, the differences are nuanced rather than fundamental. There are a lot of positions which don’t emerge as issues precisely because parties share the same set of common assumptions.

    As to the fallout from the shipbuilding cuts, I can see how both Yes and No campaigns can spin the event, and how Labour and SNP can do the same. That might eventually shift public opinion.

    As to the Coalition parties – i agree.

  7. BILLY BOB

    If the current campaign by the councils of Orkney, Shetland, and Eilan Na Siar for increased powers (regardless of the referendum outcome) then we could see island autonomy movements threaten the LDs in O&S (and SNP in Eilan Na Siar).

    All Scottish mainland LD constituencies are likely to fall to Con, Lab, or SNP in 2015 (again, I can’t see the referendum outcome affecting that).

  8. Back on housing, which is such a huge issue in London…

    @ Charles – a policy to try and keep house prices flat is kind of obviously the ‘right’ thing to do but for reasons stated on this thread might be ‘brave’ for a politician. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done though, I think we need some bravery on this issue.

    @ Alec – CLTs sound a wizard idea. I confess that although this is in my area of interest I had barely heard of them.

    Something else that I’d welcome an expert view on is rates vs Council Tax. I read somewhere that rates, particularly at the top end, were (relative to income) hugely more than Ctax is today – like several times more. Council budgets are very largely paid for out of general taxation – even business rates bring councils no benefit and that to me makes a major democratic deficit. Then there is the campaign for Land Value Tax.

    Any comments from the wise (or not) citizens here?

  9. GUYMONDE

    I became convinced of the need for a Land Value Tax some years ago when the SNP and Lib Dems wanted an Income Tax for Local Government, and Labour wanted to reform Council Tax Bands. Neither seemed particularly useful strategies.

    Of course, we could reverse the concepts. Fund Local Government through Income Tax, and National Government through Land Value Tax.

  10. @OldNat

    There are a number of positions on which Conservative and Labour parties can hold identical positions – both at odds with what many voters think
    ——————————————————————-
    Yes, I can think of HS2 which opinion polls tell us no one wants for one.

    It looks like we have a UKIP force of the left starting to rise up

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/05/russell-brand-democratic-system-newsnight

    “The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right”

    “The reason these coalitions are so easily achieved is that the distinctions between the parties are insignificant.”

    9 million people have watched Russell Brand on newsnight on youtube. I think he is striking a chord. Hopefully we can see something like Italy’s 5 star movement emerge, we need something to shake up the system.

  11. Old Nat –

    I’m in full pedant mode this evening, and, alas, you have tripped the switch:

    Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
    is the local government body in
    Na h-Eileanan Siar
    council area
    which has the same boundaries as
    Na h-Eileanan an Iar
    parliamentary constituency

    Eilan na Siar is, I suspect, a figment of your imagination (eilean is singular, and we’re talking about several islands), and even if it’s not, there needs to be an e between the l and the a due to the necessity of balancing broad and slender vowels either side of a consonant.

    (I know it’s sad to correct people’s spelling etc, so there are several invisible smiley things lurking in the above.)

  12. KITSUNE

    You are absolutely right.. Please imagine lots of emoticons displaying a gamut of emotions reflecting my shame.

  13. Richard

    I would be interested in what you think Grillo’s ‘party’ has achieved.

    I regard it as an essentially neutral irrelevance.

  14. Thanks OLDNAT and RiN.

  15. @Howard

    Competition. It means everyone has to up their game. It means parties need to engage with voters and cannot take their votes for granted. No more safe seats.

  16. Oh my god, you guys are doing my head in. House prices can’t rise if there is no new money, going into existing stock, 40% of all newly created money goes straight into the housing market. I don’t often agree with Milton but he had a point when he said “inflation always is a monetary phenomenon”. All the other reasons for the explosion in house prices are bogus, it was a monetary phenomenon, money was electronically printed and shoveled into the housing market, a drastic expansion of the money supply will cause inflation and that inflation will happen where the money touches first

  17. ALLAN CHRISTIE

    I somewhat doubt that even half a dozen Scottish cross breaks of 150 souls (no matter how poor, how wee or how weighted) will tell us anything significant.

    However, Lord Ashcroft or the Wings readership may fund a poll that actually helps to illuminate public opinion in Scotland on political issues.

  18. @ Billy Bob

    Fair points made about the vulnerability of the Lib Dem seats, where they currently hold a majority of 5k plus.

    I am suspecting that in 2015, we will see a major backlash by students against LD candidates. Also if Labour are in with a shout of winning, then those Labour supporters who moved to the LD’s, may move back to Labour. I am not sure what will happen in seats where LD and Tories are the main competitors. If there is a UKIP factor, the LD’s may hold on to some of them.

  19. @ Neil A

    Frankly, if Scotland were to become independent, I can see a future rUK or English government ensuring that shipbuilding resumes in England somewhere (presumably at Portsmouth again).
    —————–
    As opposed to South Korea, where some defence related ships are currently being built?

  20. RiN

    The plural “you guys” seems to lack a certain useful characteristic in terms of specificity.

    Were you including Shaun, who posted with a comment that was not house price related?

    Were you referring to the entire population of the Universe (perhaps with the exception of Norway)?

    Such areas of uncertainty may well damage the entire housing industry on Betelgeuse.

  21. AW, I think we need another ‘bad poll reporting’ post on this load of old nonsense.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-reason-labours-lead-is-shrinking-its-losing-battle-to-keep-hold-of-voters-gained-from-lib-dems-after-formation-of-coalition-8925043.html

    First and most egregiously they did the bloody graph wrong (it shows a consistent Tory lead) and they then go on to say the lead has dropped from 13 points in February to about 5 now (13 was a high point, not an average, and the currently lead is averaging 7).

    Thirdly, they then say that the Labour scores haven’t improved significantly since the price freeze pledge – when actually they’re up ~2 points on where they were before that.

    None of their quotes are attributed, there’s very little real analysis on the polls and it’s only buried midway through that it’s an average of polls from different companies, which AW has informed us is a bad idea.

    I find it pretty atrocious both as a journalist and a poll-watcher.

  22. Oldnat

    What, you ain’t going to get on my case for using a vulgar Americanism

  23. Btw, can anyone guess where the second most popular place for banks to shovel newly created money to, is

  24. Rin

    I’m simply standing up for the independence of Betelgeuse (or Beetlejuice if we are watching vulgar American films)

    For what it’s worth, since I have limited expertise in the area, I find your arguments convincing (on housing – not plurals – even though housing implies a plurality of houses. :-) )

  25. Old Nat –

    Thank you; very gracious of you. ( I should admit that I don’t have the gàidhlig myself to any great extent, I’m just interested in it. Lest I be hoist by my own petard – on my screen I can see an accent on the a, but I have no idea whether this will be reproduced when it posts.)

    I’m straying seriously off-topic here, and need to desist.

  26. @Mr Nameless

    It references the analysis was done by John Curtice, I think he is quite well respected in these polling circles?

    Wikipedia has this to say
    “Professor Curtice graduated from Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and later transferred to Nuffield College as a postgraduate.[4][5] He is one of the UK’s leading psephologists and is the current President of the British Polling Council [6]”

  27. Okay, I’ll let them off on him. Doesn’t make the rest of that article any better.

  28. KITSUNE

    My granny was the last in my direct line to be a native Gaelic speaker. She is probably cursing me in Gaelic at this moment – those are the few Gaelic terms I understand! :-)

  29. @RiN No I can’t guess. What are the first and second most popular places?

    More immediately interesting to me: was my informant correct when he told me that banks had to have four times as much capital when loaning to an SME (including to an SME building houses) as when loaning on a house? And if he was even approximately right is that relevant to your thesis? And can one alter that incentive?

  30. @MrNameless

    I think the article is quite interesting, and if you look at the non yougov/ populus polls and look at the others column, that does seem to have jumped recently:

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

    I thought that Labour made a huge mistake after the conference with the Reeves “tougher than the Tories”, Hunt support for free schools and Cooper saying the immigration bill had sensible ideas.

    I think those other polling firms may be detecting something there, Labour is losing a small part of its core vote, witness the Russell Brand article above, Owen Jones’ recent comments.

  31. @Amber,

    I base my view not on the idea that England cannot buy ships from abroad, but that England will not like the idea that it can only buy ships from abroad.

  32. NEIL A

    Does England like the idea that it can ONLY buy nuclear missiles from abroad?

  33. @Richard,

    It seems to me that the pattern is something like this.

    Democratic parties of the “proper” left enter into the electoral fray.

    They get mauled by the electorate.

    They moderate their policies and become more centrist, in order to widen their electoral appeal.

    They get into power, and make relatively small changes to the system – in accordance with their newly found appealing centrism.

    Armchair revolutionaries declare them “no better than the right” and start talking about “alternatives”.

    “Proper left” parties are founded. We then return to the start of the process.

    I believe this cycle is essentially why violent revolution is so appealing to some on the far left. They just don’t see how they are going to persuade all of those centre-loving voters without some kind of firearm.

  34. @Oldnat,

    I don’t think the land of Drake, Raleigh and Nelson has quite such a romantic attachment to nukes as it does to ships.

  35. @R Huckle

    Thanks… this morning I was pondering if there was anything LDs could do to try and scupper the possibility of local Con/UKIP pacts or a broader rapprochement/clawback. Looking at the evidence of the 2013 locals, LD were able to hold on in LD/Con marginal areas because of a UKIP surge.

    The Eastleigh byelection, though reassuring for LD, presented a confusing picture: an equal number of 2010 voters were swapping from Con to LD and from LD to Con, plus equal numbers from both parties were going to UKIP. You could almost say that Conservative strategy was to split the UKIP vote… the Marta Andreasen defection, her endorsement of Maria Hutchings, use of UKIP colours on Tory literature etc.

    One consistent feature (from Ashcroft’s post-Eastleigh poll, and 2010 data) seems to be that Con and Lab supporters tend to know how they will be voting before the campaign starts… LD or UKIP voters are more likely to make a decision once the campaign gets going – right up to the last moment.

  36. NEIL A

    Even if your thesis reflects the political cycle, wouldn’t it apply equally to the far right (or the “far” position on any political spectrum)?

    Why would your thesis apply only to one extreme of one political spectrum?

  37. @Olnat,

    It really depends what you call “The Far Right”. For me, the real “far right” are the arch Neo-Liberals who want to hand the whole world over to unfettered market forces and the control of large companies. They presumably have no use for revolution and see plenty to support in recent electoral politics.

    Whereas you are presumably thinking of the “Fascist Right”, who to me are pretty much indistinguishable from the Far Left in terms of their makeup and psychology. But I shall stop there for fear of invoking Godwin’s Law.

  38. NEIL A

    “I don’t think the land of Drake, Raleigh and Nelson has quite such a romantic attachment to nukes as it does to ships.”

    You may well be right. So sad that the Empire has gone, but (if you are right) the English still cling to an outdated vision of their role in the world.

    I probably have the expectation that people in England are better than that, but you may know them better than me.

  39. @Oldnat,

    The Armada set sail before England had an Empire. The romance is born more of a sense of security than a desire to impose Englishness on the wider world.

    It would be like the Russians subcontracting their winters to the Chinese….

  40. NEIL A

    It also depends on what you call “The Far Left”. Any thesis based on semantic niceties may not stand up to rigorous examination.

    You could well have argued that your definition of “The Far Right” did conduct a revolution, and subverted the institutions of established states to implement their philosophy. Like you, I won’t risk invoking Godwin’s Law by pushing that analogy further. :-)

  41. NEIL A

    “before England had an Empire” – Want to put a date on when that changed?

  42. @Neil A

    I remember Owen Jones complaining a few months ago about the rise of UKIP and how it had moved the whole political debate to the right across the board. He said at the time we need a UKIP of the left to act as a counterbalance.

    A party doesn’t have to win to influence policy, they just have to upset the balance enough that one of the main parties thinks they may lose if the small party takes enough of their supporters.

    A look at the issues facing Britain today:
    http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/SeptIssuesIndexslides.pdf

    Look at housing, inequality, poverty, unemployment and how those are rising. And no one is talking about them. An an open goal for a new party to emerge and claim those policies, and turn the debate, and change policy as the main parties are forced to respond.

  43. NEIL A

    What I suspect you are actually talking about is what might be described as the English “creation myth”. In those terms, long generations of mythology (frequently dressed up as history, and used as propaganda in schools) can have a powerful effect, and cause people to act wholly irrationally in much changed modern circumstances.

    In that, they are no different to any other nation – apart (possibly) from the British. That creation myth was the Empire, but with it’s demise now seems to be WWI – although that was just another Imperial war.

  44. Given that this come’s from Stewart Wood no less, what does this article herald in terms of the lessons Miliband takes from de Blasio’s victory?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ed-miliband/10430750/What-New-York-Mayor-Bill-de-Blasio-and-Ed-Miliband-have-in-common.html

  45. There are two far lefts and two far rights –

    On the authoritarian far left, there’s hardcore Trotskyists who are single-mindedly devoted to the goal of permanent revolution, until an opportunity comes along to attack and smear other Trotskyists. If they got into power, they’d have no issues using the full force available to them to convert everyone else to their beliefs, whether they want to or not.

    There’s also the libertarian far left, or anarchists, who despise any sort of authority on the grounds that they can’t be controlled as they’re sovereign beings, but also want to create a classless society with common ownership of the means of production. I have some sympathy with their dream, but I think they’re deeply naive. They may want to see what system of government we had before representative democracy.

    The authoritarian far right are obsessed with order, militarism and elevate the unifying concept of ‘the nation’ above everything else. Usually this translates into hating anyone they deem not part of that ‘nation’, based on colour, national origin, or very conservative social norms. Like the authoritarian far left, they tend to devolve into fighting one another over time – notions of purity do tend to eventually filter out everyone else.

    The libertarian far right are market obsessives who consider stop signs a form of statist oppression. To them, there are no such things as discrimination, privilege or disadvantage – if you can’t make money, you’re a sponge and you get to starve. They’re a lot like the anarchists in disliking authority, but unlike the anarchists they have no collective intentions – they’re out for themselves and are very open about the fact that they couldn’t care less whether you live or die.

    Now obviously I’m exaggerating most of these for emphasis, and I do want to stress that nobody here strikes me as any of those. But I think it’s interesting to note that what I’ll call the Hard Right and Hard Left (Fascists and the Trots) share a lot more with one another than they respectively do with the Libertarian Right and Left.

  46. @Oldnat,

    I’d say the origins of English empire (or at least the empire outside of the British isles) began in 1606 with the founding of the London Company. So, after the Armada, and ironically under a Scottish King of England. Of course, that empire rapidly transfigured itself into a “British” one.

    I agree that there is much mythology involved (that’s rather what I meant by ‘romantic attachment’) but I think you’d agree that looking to the seas for their defence and enrichment is rather a natural state of affairs for the people of these islands?

  47. MRNAMELESS

    Good post. You identify two different political spectrums. There are others. For example, centralism v community autonomy (is there a label for that spectrum?)

  48. @Oldnat,

    I never said “Far Left” I said “Proper Left”. ‘Far’ was your word.

    By “Proper Left” I mean “dedicated to bringing about equality by any means necessary”.

  49. @Oldnat,

    I think that spectrum is best described by that lovely EU word “subsidiarity”.

  50. Just to clarify, Proper Left is hovering around Tony Benn and the Greens, while Far Left is Militant and the SWP?

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