1) The Labour lead narrowed

Labour’s lead has gradually eroded over 2013. We started the new year showing a Labour lead of around about ten points. It started falling in the spring as the economy improved, and continued over the summer. There appeared to be something of a reverse in the autumn, one assumes because of the impact of Labour’s energy pledge and the political narrative focusing on gas and electricity prices for a few weeks, but we still ended the year with an average Labour lead of six points, compared to ten. Note however, that the majority of this change came from Labour losing support, dropping from an average of 42% in the polls to 39% – there has been comparatively little increase in Tory support.

2) People got more optimistic about the economy

There has been a sharp increase in people’s view of where the economy is growing. Looking at the monthly questions MORI and NOP both ask on how people think the economy in general will perform in the twelve months ahead shows a sharp increase early this year, thought it has rather stagnated since September. Asked in a more narrative way, earlier this month YouGov found 43% of people now think the economy is showing signs of recovery or is well on the way to recovery, up from 37% in August and just 14% in April.

However, people are less optimistic about their own household finances. YouGov’s economic optimism tracker for the Sunday Times asks about people’s expectations of their own finances, rather than the economy in general, and while it has shown a similar rise the net figure is still much more negative. In November MORI asked the two questions in parallel – 42% expected the economy to improve in the year ahead, but only 23% expected their own finances to improve. In a similar vein YouGov found 35% of people thought the economy as a whole was growing, but only 22% thought it was growing in their own region. More and more people are thinking that the economy is growing, but people are not necessarily feeling in their own pockets yet.

3) The Conservatives have moved ahead on the economy

As the economy has improved, it has had an impact on political attitudes towards the economy. At the start of 2013 the Conservative and Labour parties were essentially neck and neck on the economy. As the year progressed the Conservatives gradually pulled ahead and established a consistent lead.

Other trackers have moved in the same direction. Since the end of 2010 YouGov’s fortnightly trackers on attitudes towards the cuts had consistently shown that while people thought the spending cuts were necessary, they thought they were bad for the economy. That reversed in September and now finds more people think that the cuts are good for the country’s economy, than think they are damaging. However, while preferences on who people trust to manage the economy are heading in the Conservatives direction, Labour still lead on their preferred ground of prices and living standards.

4) But people have started to care more about other issues

The two regular trackers of what people think are the most important issues facing the country (YouGov’s which offers a list and Ipsos MORI’s which is unprompted) have both had the economy as the number one issue for years, and it remains there at the moment. However, it’s dominance has begun to fade over 2013. Back in 2012 well over 50% of people consistently told MORI that the economy was one of the main issues facing the country, YouGov’s prompted question consistently found over 70% picking out the economy.

In 2013 both trackers have shown the proportion of people thinking the economy is one of the big issues facing the country falling, presumably as a result of people starting to think the economy is improving. In the case of MORI the proportion of people saying the economy is a big issue has fallen below 50%, and in their December poll down to 39%. On YouGov’s tracker the figure has fallen below 70%, and in their final December poll down to 58%. At the same time other issues have risen up the agenda, most notably that of immigration – in MORI and YouGov’s December polls they both found immigration the second most mentioned issue, in both cases just two percentage points behind the economy. Note also the increase in the number of people mentioning issues of inflation from Autumn, as Labour started to try and shift the agenda more towards cost of living.

5) UKIP have continued to gather strength

The advance of UKIP in the polls has continued, though perhaps hampered by the lack of any elections or by-elections in the second half of 2013. UKIP’s support so far this Parliament has been a series of spikes and plateaus, seeing sudden increases in their poll ratings on the back of election successes like Rotherham, Eastleigh and local elections and the ensuing publicity and then flattening out again until the next opportunity to demonstrate their support comes along. This has certainly been the pattern in 2013 – they started the year at just below 10% in the polls, enjoyed a big jump in national support following their successes in the county council elections and, since the publicity boost from the county elections faded have rather stagnated. They still end 2013 above where they started, and have the inevitable publicity boost of the European elections to come next year.

6) Ed Miliband’s ratings went down, and up, and down again

Ed Miliband’s miserable job approval questions have continued to go downwards, with one notable exception. Three companies do regular questions on what people think of the party leaders – MORI ask if people are satisfied or dissatisfied, Opinium if people approve or disapprove, YouGov if they are doing a good or bad job. Ed Miliband’s ratings have been on a downwards trend for most of the year, but he enjoyed a reverse after the party conference and his energy price pledge, briefly reversing some of the year so far’s decline. All three measures still showed him ending the year with lower approval ratings than he began with.

559 Responses to “Six public opinion trends from 2013”

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  1. Spearmint – I believe Ashcroft gives embargoed copies of the poll to the print media beforehand (print media as in “I don’t get one”)

  2. @ Tony Dean

    “I see it is a marginal! Good Luck Norbold! Looking at the result in 2011 if there is a UKIP candidate this time will that help or hinder you?”

    The by-eledction is being held under extraordinary circumstances being caused by the resignation of the former Conservative leader of the Council after attacking his own Councillors for various activities, which has led to the police being brought in to investigate by the Chief Executive. There are currently two Conservative councillors suspended from the party. The local paper has been all over it as the Conservatives are shown to be in complete disarray.

    Because of this there will be a very strong UKIP challenge. There would have been anyway in this particular seat but this will give them even more legs.

    I don’t think you can really use the 2011 result as a guide given the circumstances as I can’t see the Conservatives keeping hold of this seat. I think it will be between Labour and UKIP.

  3. Funny that the Cabinet Office papers revealed today showed that Arthur Scargill was more truthful about pit closures than the government of the time.

    I suppose governments find it acceptable to deliberately give out false information, so they can continue with a plan.

  4. Roughly translated, Kevin Maguire?’s tweet…

    “Should’ve woken up and smelled that coffee, David Cameron. Tomorrow night’s Lord Ashcroft mega poll v bad for you (& Lynton Crosby).”

    Some helpful advice about where they are going wrong from the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party?

  5. @Colin Davis:

    It’s not Osborne’s decision, though, is it? What if the BoE puts interest rates up against his wishes?

  6. @ ROGERH

    The BoE will put up interest rates by 0.25% by April 2014.

    There may be a further increase during Q.2, again by 0.25%.

    That is my prediction.

    Interest rates can’t stay at 0.5% for much longer, now that the economy is in recovery. The BoE won’t leave it until after the May 2015 election.

  7. The BNP surely can’t hold on as a party any longer. They’ve no representation, no members and no money. So what’s the story there? Why have they collapsed so?

  8. BNP in the EU elections:

    fielding one or more candidates in
    East Midlands
    East of England
    North East England
    North West England
    West Midlands
    Yorkshire and the Humber

    leaving the field clear for UKIP in
    South East England
    South West England
    Northern Ireland



    Just a few responses.

    I don’t know what difference between a HTB mortgage deal & an unhelped on are. You imply that rates are higher with the former-can you show me some examples ?

    Monetary POlicy is the prerogative of BoE-not the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    Mortgage holders have been at risk for years. HTB has no significant effect. ( indeed if, as you claim, HTB mortgage rates are higher than average-these mortgagors will notice a future rise in interest rates less than the average) .Ever since BoE embarked on a policy of ultra low interest rates, most mortgagors have seen their monthly repayments fall. The record seems to show that many have used this bonus to pay down mortgage debt:

    “According to the latest quarterly housing equity withdrawal data published by the Bank of England, households have not been borrowing more against their properties but looking to reduce their mortgages.

    The data showed that, for the 22nd consecutive quarter – coinciding with the outbreak of the 2008 credit crisis – UK homeowners have been seeking to reduce their liabilities.
    The quarterly drop in total sterling housing equity withdrawal by individuals reached £10.4bn to the end of December 2013. ”

    Those wise enough & able to take this action will have reduced the effect on their domestic budgets when interest rates rise again. No doubt there will be many who have not been in this position-and for whom a return to repayment levels they have long since forgotten, will be a hard blow.

    It is my view that Carney will think long and hard before he exposes all these people to that sort of shock-and bear in mind his 7% unemployment “trigger” is only an indicator-hedged about with many caveats.

    Provided inflation does not suddenly reverse its current downward trend, I can see current monetary policy being maintained unti Mr Carney can see economic “escape velocity” well & truly demonstrated.

  10. “rents rising fast & the renters shifting to owner occupation?”

    My situation precisely (in London). I wanted to put my savings into productive investment rather than a damn flat but prices already up 10% over the last year and going on apace so I decided I would cease being a mug. I’m hoping to exchange in a few days and move this month.


    “Having said that, if the business confidence levels being reported (especially back in November, which was the best month) are real, then it is odd that firms aren’t clamouring to borrow and invest. This does suggest that there remains quite a bit of froth in the confidence figures, and decision makers are still uncertain about the fundamentals.”

    Precisely what I was saying earlier in this thread

  11. @COLIN

    And of course Carney isn’t allowed to can HTB until September

  12. HTB

    Funny old world int it? The concept of Govt-managed demand stimulus was off the agenda since 2010, then comes back in the most dangerous way possible.

    You can see the next 24 months with depressing clarity. An accelerating housing boom (again) encouraging consumer spending (again), leading to increased interest rates while we still have the thick end of 2M on the dole.

    Has anyone sent out a search party for those Makers who were supposed to be marching out of this recession?

  13. Happy New Year by the way.

  14. @Colin

    I am very financially prudent (or, as my wife says ‘tight-fisted’) and had a very favourable mortgage that I was able to transfer, along with a deposit sufficient to satisfy even the most risk-averse bank manager.

    I had no need of Help To Buy and it would have cost me money directly, by giving me a worse mortgage, just as it has indirectly, by making the houses I wanted to buy more expensive. I judge that George Osborne has cost me, personally, a rather tidy sum.

  15. R Huckle.

    In the alternative universes, it’d be fascinating to see the effect on public opinion had that memo been leaked in, say May 84. Hey ho.

    Truth eventually gets its boots on and catches up with the lie, but the lie did its job at the time. Lord Armstrong’s take, that this was perfectly acceptable because the opponents were “malign” is, at least, refreshingly honest in its cynicism. Although I’m struggling to remember who elected him to make a value judgement like that.

    Who knows: maybe this year the IPCC will finally open the Orgreave boxes and let the truth about that episode start to trickle out. There’s another alternative universe of public opinion there too, if the truth on that one had been widely known at the time.

  16. @Colin

    I agree. Once we get a strong, robust recovery with 2%+ quarterly growth, I think we’ll see interest rates rise – and probably quite quickly at that (at least that’s what I’m assuming when I shop for a new mortgage as I’m on a tracker).

    Whoever is Chancellor in the next Government is going to have a tricky balancing act, actually. I am not sure I have confidence in either of the main likely actors to get that act right.

  17. @ R Huckle

    The 30-year rule is really an old hat. Worse than these things happened. And it’s known (in few countries the PM can get away with criminal offence,. The UK is one of them (I don’t only mean MT, it’s a constitutional issue)..

    Completely different – I doubt in such a quick interest rate rises if the US and the ECB don’t do the same, the pound would go to through the roof.

  18. Chris R/Colin

    In the real economy, there is little sign of serious supply-side constraints that would result in rapidly accelerating inflation as growth returns. Output is still well below potential and there is a large pool of unemployed to keep wage demand depressed. So, in that sense, there is no obvious reason for interest rates to rise rapidly with growth.

    What a shame it will be if rates have to climb rapidly to throttle off a housing bubble…

  19. @ Colin

    I largely agree with you.

    There’s a “small” methodological issue about financial flows of households – it also aggregates some of the (hedge) funds and nobody really knows how big it is (as it’s “net”).

  20. @LEFTY

    “there is a large pool of unemployed to keep wage demand depressed”

    And the likes of Hilton and Marriott hotels and Chelsea FC are busy shopping in Romania for “apprentices” who can of course be paid less than the minimum wage (and boost Matthew Hancock when he boasts how many more apprentices there are) – according to Polly Toynbee who has been looking at tjobs.ro

  21. @Leftylampton

    “Output is still well below potential”

    How do you know that? Output is not determined by machinery, workforce and technology (if it was, we would have about 80% higher GDP/capita), but by cash flow and ultimately by the rate of return. The current growth rate is above the current potential and shows surprising resilience of UK business.

  22. @Norbold

    Good luck.

    Can I offer a few (IMO) pearls of wisdom (which you are of course at liberty to ignore) based upon experience of contesting three way marginals in the past.

    1. Leaflets – lots of them, including the non-Labour areas where IMO they’re just as important, and get more than one through each door. Regardless of what’s on them, they reinforce the message “we’re a major player in this election and you’re not wasting your vote by voting for us”.
    2. Posters are really important in getting across the same message. Train canvassers to follow up a “Yes” with asking if they’d like a poster or even better a stake. If you’ve insufficient time for much canvassing, concentrate on sites where posters will be visible i.e. busy roads not cul de sacs, and follow up your known promises with the aim of identifying extra poster sites. Get canvassers to carry posters with them to give out with a bit of blue tack.
    3. The result of the 2011 election lends itself to a last minute leaflet with a bar chart using the aggregate votes in that result (Lib Dem style) with a message “it’s neck and neck between Labour and the Cons, any other vote is wasted”. That is, a message that suggests that a UKIP or LD vote is wasted without specifically either them name recognition. Obviously focused on the Lab inclined areas and your known supporters outside of them.

    Hope this helps, and apologies if you think any of it is stating the obvious.

  23. without specifically giving either of them name recognition

  24. @LeftyLampton

    Did you catch this:

    Miners’ Strike Miscarriages?

  25. RogerH

    Ta for that. I’ll have a listen later. The truth about Orgreave will be out eventually. BBC Look North had a documentary 14 months ago, showing how a huge number of police reports used identical and highly convoluted language to describe how the miners had attacked them and precipitated the police charge. Anyone who was there knows that that was not what happened. It stretches credulity that 31 coppers should all independently state that they came “under a sustained fusillade of missiles”. Someone clearly wanted a story to be told. Just as they did at Hillsborougb a few years later.

    Just as with Hillsborough, the truth will come out eventually. But it’ll be too late for some.

    A friend of mine who I used play cricket with was arrested on the picket line and charged with affray. He was sacked by the NCB. After the strike, he worked as a jobbing builder in London, coming home every other weekend. His marriage failed. He started drinking heavily and died of a heart attack at the age of 40 in the early 90s.

    Oh aye, I forgot. The charges were dropped without the case ever coming to court.

  26. Laszlo

    Every major economic analyst reckons that we have a negative output gap. The consensus is somewhere between 3-5% of GDP, which means we would need a good run of above trend growth to close it. The IFS at the start of 2013 predicted that we’ll still have a negative output gap in 2017.

  27. So does anyone know what this mega poll of Lord Ashcroft is about?

    I’m guessing that will be at least 3 polls tomorrow night as an Observer one must also be due.


    @”Once we get a strong, robust recovery with 2%+ quarterly growth, I think we’ll see interest rates rise”

    I don’t think even Mr. Carney would consider 8% pa GDP growth a minimum demonstration of “escape velocity”.

    This is UK-not China.

  29. LEFTY

    @”What a shame it will be if rates have to climb rapidly to throttle off a housing bubble…”

    Carney has already stated that he will use mortgage supply constraint tools to deal with that ( if he judges he has to)-not a general interest rate rise.

  30. col

    “Carney has already stated that he will use mortgage supply constraint tools to deal with that ”

    Pliers to the testicles usually works.


    @”And of course Carney isn’t allowed to can HTB until September”

    “The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has confirmed that the Bank does not have a veto over the government’s Help to Buy scheme.

    Earlier this year two government ministers suggested the Bank could decide to stop the scheme, should it wish to do so.

    But in a letter to the chairman of the Treasury Committee, Mr Carney said the Bank’s role is purely advisory.
    The chairman of The Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie, said the governor’s letter was a step forward.

    “The Bank of England has no power of veto over Help to Buy,” he said.

    “Responsibility for it lies with the government,” he added.

    The FPC has already been asked to assess the impact of Help to Buy each year.

    Starting in September 2014, it will decide what effect the scheme has had on overall financial stability.

    At the same time it will advise on whether the current price cap (£600,000), and the charges to lenders, are still suitable.

    When the scheme ends in 2017, the FPC will also comment on any possible extension.”


  32. Best thing about HTB is that it flushes out ‘free market’ hypocrites.

    (AW- I won’t be offended if you moderate this.)

  33. COLIN

    I stand corrected.

    Mark Carney is not allowed to review HTB until September.
    Until then he will just have to keep his thoughts to hisself

  34. Thank you, Phil.

    If only we had a) the money and b) the people. Sigh….

  35. @ Anthony,

    Thanks. Seems very unfair, and also somewhat ill-advised, from Ashcroft’s POV- I’d rather have a thoughtful analysis from you than a load of spin from the Mirror! Then again, I suppose his goal is to get the Tories to wake up to their dire predicament, and a batch of terrible Sunday headlines will achieve that better than a UKPR post.

    @ Norbold,

    You have our moral support, for whatever that’s worth (not much).

  36. It seems to me that schemes like Help to Buy, rather than being designed to have any long term benefit to the economy, are attempts by this intensely political Chancellor to align the economic and electoral cycles. This isn’t particularly easy with a fixed term Parliament but I think Osborne realised 18 months ago that he was going to be completely out of kilter with the convergence of the two cycles in May 2015 unless he started to engineer a house price boom, particularly in areas with multiple marginal seats.

    As people know from my many previous posts, I’m very much a minimalist politician and feel that too many people overcomplicate things. A pretty desperate Chancellor circa 2012 read the tea leaves for May 2015 and didn’t like what he saw. Accordingly, he started to throw some money around, as skilfully disguised as was possible, so that some key groups of voters might get that magical feelgood factor come election time. That’s more or less what’s going on here; no more no less. Grand economic plans are for the fairies; winning elections is what it’s all about.

  37. I think rising house prices are as likely to create a feel-bad factor as a feel-good one for a lot of people.

  38. It is a bit sad that I find a mega poll from Lord Ashcroft really exciting! He tends to do marginal polling, so there is lots in it.

  39. Considerable coverage in the Scottish media about the fear of scots voting for independence making Thatcher accept continuing “generous” public expenditure in Scotland.


    In other news, I heard that England were “14 for 3”. I presume that is good news as 14 is almost 5 times 3!
    Even our best shinty players seldom score that many!

    Congratulations to our southern friends.

  40. @Old Nat

    “in other news…….”


    Things are improving at 22 – 4. Even as a non-statistician, I work that out at 5.5 times!!

  41. @ROGERH

    “I think rising house prices are as likely to create a feel-bad factor as a feel-good one for a lot of people.”

    Beg to differ.
    64% of households are homeowners. If house prices go up 10% each one of them on average *feels* £20K richer, tax free, so if their credit card/Wonga debt goes up a bit who cares. If their income goes up with inflation that pays them maybe £800. Less tax and NI that’s probably £500.

    Some will have kids (or be ‘kids’) who are trying to buy and they might have a different view but relatively speaking that won’t be many and in any case GO is pulling out all the stops to help them, isn’t he?

    And if prices are going up that’s because of the damn Bulgomanians coming over here or Russian oligarchs buying everything for buy-to-let.

  42. @ PETER BELL

    Your brother will save the day.

    In other breaking news… good luck to Norbold; Happy New Year to all

  43. “Your brother will save the day.”

    I forgot to say….In the second innings


    “In the second innings”.

    So it’s a home and away fixture where one team is home in both matches. Sounds really unfair.

  45. V low percentage of wimmin candidates selected for [the Conservative party] 2015 seats, reports the Indy.

  46. “64% of households are homeowners.”

    I’m a homeowner but it won’t make me feel better. Unlike in the late ’80s there hasn’t been a significant price fall between the two housing booms and people are all too aware of the downside of ever-increasing house prices, if only for their children.

  47. Things looking up in Oz with the lads less than 300 behind now and still five wickets in hand.


    “….64% of households are homeowners. If house prices go up 10% each one of them on average *feels* £20K richer, tax free, so if their credit card/Wonga debt goes up a bit who cares. If their income goes up with inflation that pays them maybe £800…”

    Those numbers describe a person with a £27K salary (assuming inflation is 3%, 3% of £27000 is £800) and a house worth £200,000 (10% of £200K is £20K). So you got somebody on £27K with a £200K house and no kids. No wonder s/he’s happy…

  49. Highest partnership of the innings so far !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ten runs – and possibly more to come !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The pendulum swings.

  50. I’m swapping between UKPR and PB.com. Cricket is being discussed on both sites. It’s stereo nambypambyness. AAAAARGH!

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