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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    But isn’t such a person seeing a 10% rise going to have a house in London?

    Modelling things on London conditions seems a little inappropriate.


    You could always try an Australian website.

  3. @Roger H (12.29)

    Agreed. Like you, I am a homeowner, mortgage is paid of so no worries about increased payments and yet I am still terrified at the potential long term catastrophe for the economy by the current house price bubble. As we have seen before bubbles burst and this has all the hallmarks of the US prior to 2007.

  4. Ozzies in a panic now; we could reach 60 before having to bat again at this rate.

  5. @pups

    “the pendulum swings”

    You may be correct (53 – 5) but having said this, I would expect the England batting bubble to burst as with the housing bubble

  6. They’re on a roll now Peter – almost scored twice as many as the previous [top] five batsmen.

  7. @Martyn

    It was what I remembered as average income and average house prices without researching it.
    I didn’t say no kids but the ‘kid issue’ has a relatively short life.


    “but the ‘kid issue’ has a relatively short life.”

    Mmm. I suspect you are a lot younger than me to make such an obviously erroneous statement!

  9. OMG I wanted the 10 minute argument not the full half hour.

    I am fairly venerable and my ‘kid issue’ is currently 24. But the house price issue hasn’t arisen very much (at least for her – I do worry about it) because she’s happy living at home.
    In due course no doubt she will want to move out and even a 2 BR flat in a working class area here is more like £400 than £200K.
    Unless she hitches a merchant banker that will certainly be a problem. My point is that it’s not at the front of my mind now and certainly wasn’t when she was 11.
    And as to London… £200K and £28K are nationwide (I believe) and Nationwide say prices across the whole UK are up 8.4% over 2013 and went up 1.4% in December alone.

  10. GM

    “I am fairly venerable”

    I bet ole nat is venerabler.


    “OMG I wanted the 10 minute argument not the full half hour.”

    I presume an English innings is the lesser of these two time periods?

  12. MARTYN

    (Somewhat obviously) Oh no, it isn’t.

  13. @Oldnat

    “…Oh no, it isn’t…”

    Yes it is. An argument is a collected series of statements to advance a position. Contradiction is just automatic gainsaying of what the other person says…:-)

  14. I reckon that dates us all. And you have no faith OLDNAT……84/6. When I wake up England will have a lead. Thank god we have no Scots in the side (just Zimbabweans, S Africans and Irish)

  15. “Yes it is. An argument is a collected series of statements to advance a position”

    No it bleedin’ isn’t.

  16. Actually, yes, it is.

  17. @RosieandDaisie

    “…No it bleedin’ isn’t….”

    I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to argue any more. If you want me to go on arguing, you’ll have to pay for another five minutes.

  18. Its OK Martyn. i’m arguing with myself and charging much less than the going rate.

  19. The England debacle reminds me of a great Punch cartoon in which a badly duffed over boxer is being encouraged in the corner by his trainer, who is saying:

    “You had him worried in that last round – he thought he’d killed you.”


    “@Phil Haines

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    Employees of any organisations are resistant to organisational change.


    Add in the political / union aspects of traditional resistance to Conservative governments, and we can probably deduce that this (the poll result) is a typical reaction to change.

    Can we get an objective opinion on free schools? Politicians and teachers are generally the sources, and neither are objective to be fair. The only measure will be the graduates, and all political parties will muddy the waters (both for and against) long before that happens.”


    Well now, this is an interesting angle, from what one might consider to be a meta-polling perspective. Because many governmental policies involve change, for one section of the electorate or another, and if there is fundamentally a resistance to change, then this may be frequently expressed in VI.

    Now, in the article you cite, it says that people may resist change for a number of reaaons. Firstly, because their sense of competency may be threatened by the changes – one minute they were competent, and felt some mastery, now with the changes suddenly they are having instead to do stuff they haven’t done before.

    Secondly, related to this, in doing these new [email protected] tasks, they may err. Thirdly, the changes may threaten established structures and positions within the hierarchy: people may lose control, status, influence and even money. Fourthly, changing routines and habits disorientates and makes people feel uncomfortable.

    Point is… this is not some irrational resistance to change in itself. They are very real practical concerns, and so the article recommends remedies to address these concerns. Address the threat to competency by providing strategies to deal with the new expectations, adjustment periods and so on. Reduce the fear of failure by instituting policies that are indulgent of mistakes during the transition period. Ensure stability of status by maintaining roles, and make the [email protected] comfortable by making changes gradually, incrementally.

    (I shan’t get into the matter myself, but you can consider at leisure, looking at educational changes proposed, whether teachers are given strategies to meet new expectations and also sufficient adjustment periods, are given freedom to err while adjusting to changes, whether roles are preserved when schools are converted to academies and free schools, and whether changes are phased in gradually…)

    But the article is flawed in the sense that it assumes proposed changes are indeed good and necessary. They may be, but then again, they may not. And hence it may be a good idea to consult staff on the matter of the changes. This is a common aspect of change management. Resistance may be due to the difficulties of adapting to change as in the article, but it may be due to seeing the changes themselves as flawed.

    If the changes are actually sound, but staff can’t see it, then they need to be explained better. It may be that they are sound changes, and staff may know it, but resist because it doesn’t suit them. Critically, it may however be there’s resistance because the changes are rubbish and the staff know it.

    Which is reflected in polling generally. Are people against a policy because they don’t get its virtues? Or because even though they may overall be good changes the changes don’t suit them personally? Or… because it’s a rubbish policy?

    Hence governments of whatever stripe, if a policy is not received favourably, often say they need to explain it better, or that they are fighting vested interests. Rather less often, would they cede the policy itself might have issues.

    It’s not really enough to just assume people will inevitably fundamentally resist change, because it isn’t true. How many resist pay rises with no strings attached? Or tax cuts? Were there riots when they set up the OBR? When people vote, some of the time, they may be voting to avoid some changes proposed in manifestos. But at least some of the time, they may be voting FOR changes proposed. I doubt those voting “yes” in the Scots referendum will be voting to resist change…

  21. Just a point regarding properties.

    The average waged non home owner or those moving from the North to the South are unable to afford the average priced house irrespective of HTB as it is equivalent to 6.5-15 times their annual income and they won’t get a mortgage.

    This is the reason why home ownership levels in the UK are now lower than they were 30 Years ago.

    Irrespective of the issue regarding if those who already own houses feel better off (it happened in the early 2000’s to when wages were rising and they didn’t all troop off and vote Tory)

    The primary issue particularly in London and the South East is the chronic lack of affordable housing a house price boom will make this worse leaving many even on relatively high incomes effectively homeless or dependant on overpriced assured short hold lets with no security of tenure and with real income levels falling.

    I am sorry but I just can’t see the positive spin on this,

  22. The following article in Today’s Guardian illustrates the issue

    Buy-to-let property supremo shuts door on housing benefit tenants
    One of Britain’s best-known landlords, who owns nearly 1,000 homes, has sent out 200 eviction notices and told letting agents that he will not accept any more applicants who need housing benefit.

    The Landlord said
    “Tenants on benefits are competing with eastern Europeans who came to the UK in 2005 and have built up a good enough credit record to rent privately. We’ve found them to be a good category of tenant who don’t default on the rent. With tenants on benefits the number of defaulters outnumbers the ones who pay on time,” he said.

    “Single mothers on benefits have been displaced to the bottom of the pile; sympathy for this group is disappearing. There aren’t enough places for people to live.”

    Welcome to Victorian values Britain

  23. Really sad to hear of Don Everly’s death.

    The duo were an inspiration to so many, including my brother and me when we first started to sing together; we continued to perform their material throughout our own career and it is impossible to pick a favourite song – there were just so many.

    However, one I still do on my own is appropriate –

    So Sad.

  24. Re: H2B

    Does anybody know of any polling to do with the second part of H2B?

    Are the public worried, as Vince Cable is, that property-led debt booms will ultimately result in failure or are they actually quite happy that first time buyers are finally getting help to get on the property ladder?

    I would suspect it’s a case of ‘I’m worried about a property bubble, but I’m quite happy with the effects of one right now’, but does anybody know?

  25. It’s always instructive to imagine what the response from the government might be if current circumstances occurred while they were in opposition, and to consider what they might say about it.

    I think it would stretch most people’s credibility to imagine a Tory Leader of the Opposition would welcome a housing bubble, a slump in business lending, a consumer spending led recovery, with rapidly falling savings ratios, and a high trade deficit. I can imagine the kind of attacks that would be aimed at a Labour administration in such circumstances.

    This isn’t a new phenomena by any stretch – it’s why we tend to distrust politicians, and in polling terms, it doesn’t really matter – all that matters is how the voters will feel come election day.

    I remain uncertain about the polling benefits of HTB and the housing boom. It is actively harming a substantial minority through increased housing costs. Anyone looking to step up the housing ladder in the next year or so will also be harmed – a straight % across the board increase in prices means that trading up costs more, with the cash benefit only arising when you trade down.

    Those not moving may well feel better if their houses are rising in value, but unless this translates into more spending power through, it’s hard to know how house prices alone will affect confidence.

    One big factor is the talk of the boom. Naturally, this will raise the idea of bust in people’s minds, so in one sense rapidly rising prices could actually make some people feel less confident.

    If interest rates rise unexpectedly early, that could well be a very significant issue for the government – it would quite possibly be seen as their fault.

    There are lots of risks here, both economically and politically, and I think Tories would be much better served with a steady uptick in house prices on all fronts.

  26. Meanwhile:

    Buy-to-let property supremo shuts door on housing benefit tenants

    “We’ve found that eastern Europeans are good tenants.”


  27. The other emerging factor is unaffordable rent and the percentage of wages that go on paying rent.

    In some ways, the sooner the bublle bursts the better. The fear is it will take the banks with it when it goes.

  28. ALEC

    @ Anyone looking to step up the housing ladder in the next year or so will also be harmed ”

    If that is indeed so ( & existing & desired properties will BOTH increase in value) -it is nowhere near the “harm” perceived by those who cannot save the requisite deposit , don’t have a bank of mum & dad, and cannot get a foot on that ladder at all.

    These are the people HTB is aimed at.

  29. @R&D

    It’s Phil that has died, not Don.

    I’ll do my crying in the rain.

  30. “The number of first-time buyers increased by 22 per cent in 2013 representing the largest annual boost since 2001, Halifax data has revealed.
    Last year, 265,000 people managed to make their first step onto the property ladder compared to 218,000 in 2012. In 2008 this figure had slipped to just 192,300.
    The rise means that the number of first-time buyers has increased for a second consecutive year, with 2012 also seeing a 13 percent boost. ”

    This is Money

  31. RogerH has provided a link To my moderated Comment However I really think the notion that HTB will produce a net increase of those able to get onto the property ladder has to be bed.

    The Same Criteria applies to HTB mortgages as any others with falling real wages and increasing house prices fewer buyers will meet the basic mortgage criteria. With the increase in house prices and rentals the ability of FTB’s to save anything even a 5% deposit diminishes.

    We will then have a situation where HTB is only helping those who could have afforded to buy anyway and effectively because it has stimulated a property bubble has ruled out hundreds of thousands of potential buyers from the market while increasing their living costs and reducing their savings ratios.

    It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the way the Housing Market is going to meet the demands for places to live is to build more properties and to see real term pay increases above the rate of property inflation.

  32. Help to Buy is a brilliant wheeze. No upfront money just a promise to cover losses later. Those costs will fall on the taxpayer yes, but GO won’t be around to worry about where the money comes from. And if you buy a property for, say, £190,000 you’ll need 10 grand and more and you’ll be paying practially a grand a month for 25 years.

    The better solution of building lots of new affordable housing comes with lots of problems, not least the fact that Tories don’t actually believe in social housing. So we get the boost to spending we wanted for no outlay! What could possibly go wrong?

    Seems to me the real question is just when and how badly things go wrong. If wages start to rise we might get away with it…as long as interest rates don’t have to go up too far.

    ho hum Interesting times, as Confucius might have said.

  33. chordate

    Yes, it is. Was looking at the wrong image.

    Its odd how many of those songs actually work as solos; they are just so good.

    There’s a link from Roy Orbison also as he wrote Claudette for his first wife.

  34. Yes and of course the spin is all about first time buyers. (goodness)
    Buy to let investors (badness) tend no to get a mention but they were up 31% in Q2 (can’t find later figures) and overall mortgage lending was up 37% in November.
    So it looks like this great support for first time buyers has resulted in their activity growing…. less than the general mortgage market.

    Dodgy stats alert – stats hard to come by and that may not be like with like.


    “having just read back through the teaching chat, I suppose the difficulty is when a poll effectively asks about whether there is support for a specific policy. Debate then drifts to the policy concerned.”


    Yep. Polling measures responses to policies. It’s quite hard to discuss polling about policies without discussing polling about policies. This is where Nick P’s observation about polling truth vs objective truth comes in. AW does these comparisons himself, for example in the thread where he compares perceptions of benefit levels revealed in polling, versus the actual objective benefit levels in practice.

    Even if you just try and stick to methodology there’s no escape. The issue of objective truth crops up for example in framing fair polling questions. AW originally set off a bedroom tax debate by questioning whether it was fair to call the bedroom thing a tax…

  36. @Colin:

    Which sounds impressive until you look at historic data.

    Estimated number of first-time buyers in UK:

    1983: 443,000
    1988: 539,000
    1993: 410,000
    1998: 443,000
    2003: 396,000

  37. @Colin – I think @Guymonde answers your post rather well – the increase in first time buyers is less than the overall pick up in the mortgage market, which tends to suggest that this particular policy is, in relative terms, disadvantaging first time buyers.

    I agree entirely that not being able to afford a property of your own is a significant harm, so why would you support a policy that is encouraging investment in buy to let, second home ownership and trading up for existing homeowners, forcing all prices up and harming prospects for first time buyers? A simpler solution would have been to target housebuilding of starter homes, with the sale restricted to first time buyers.

    But let’s all be honest here – as Osborne allegedly told the cabinet, the purpose here is to generate a house price bubble, not to help first time buyers. If the objective really was to help first time buyers, Help to Buy would only be available to first time buyers.

  38. Mr Nameless
    “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?”


  39. ROGER H

    ALL historic data after a recession which destroyed over 7% of GDP & pushed State annual borrowing to 11% of GDP , looks impressive.

    There is an awful lot of catching up to do yet.

  40. ALEC

    @”I think @Guymonde answers your post rather well – the increase in first time buyers is less than the overall pick up in the mortgage market, which tends to suggest that this particular policy is, in relative terms, disadvantaging first time buyers.”

    How would that have worked then?

    I don’t understand.

  41. ALEC

    @”why would you support a policy that is encouraging investment in buy to let, second home ownership ”

    I wouldn’t -HTB is not available for those categories..


    What you think about HTB is as irrelevant as what I think about them.

    They are being used for lower than average cost houses, mostly outside London , and 80% by first time buyers.

    THese are people for whom the average deposit of £31 k ( Halifax data) is an impossible objective.

    I presume all HTB users think it a good thing-whether it will translate into political gain for Cons, I doubt we will ever know.

    Come the GE Labour will presumably say whether they approve or disapprove of HTB, and if the latter-what they propose in it’s place.

  42. @COLIN

    “How would that have worked then?” Well, first stage was ‘Funding for Lending’ – a bank subsidy spun as being to help business but which in practice pumped subsidised money into the mortgage market. No guarantees so banks go for the low hanging fruit – rich individuals trying to get richer, taking risk-free low loan to value mortgages.

    Carney to his credit took one look at that and stopped it.

    Help to Inflate has a better chance of ‘helping’ first time buyers: risk- free for the banks and they can extort higher rates out of desperate first time buyers.


    Ah-Alec thought you said HTB had encouraged Buy to Let.

    FFL was barred to the mortgage market when HTB appeared. Carney said we didn’t need both-he was right.

  44. @Chordata

    “It’s Phil that has died….”

    No, I’m still here.

  45. Lets here the reasons for this trend being mistaken & harmful .:-

    “Meanwhile, the construction sector which accounts for 6.3 per cent of the UK economy continued its excellent performance with a strong performance in the final month of the year, the eighth consecutive month of output growth in the sector.

    Strong output rises were recorded in all three areas of the sector with sharp increases in output, new orders and employment in December.

    The outlook for 2014 is bright with 57 per cent of respondents expecting to see expansion in 2014 against just 10 per cent expecting to see a fall in business.

    Tim Moore, Senior Economist at Markit said: “The latest survey highlights that construction companies enter 2014 with the wind in their sails.

    “Over half of all survey respondents anticipate increased output levels during the course of 2014.

    “Stronger growth expectations and fuller order books are continuing to fuel job creation in the construction sector.”


  46. Mortgage and deposit availability aside, a major problem for FTBs is lack of supply for three main reasons: fewer properties being built, competition from BTL and demand for student accommodation.

  47. ROGERH

    @” fewer properties being built”

    That trend reversed :-

    For Starts -July/Sept 2012
    For Completions-April/June 2013


  48. @Phil H

    Lol, glad to see that.

  49. COLIN

    “…Lets here the reasons for this trend being mistaken & harmful…”

    Capitalism in a free market assigns resources to people most efficiently[1] – money goes to those who can extract the greatest profit from it.

    Trade guarantees result in a reduction of risk for those involved. Money flows from trades without that guarantee to the trade with that guarantee, distorting the market. Money is no longer being assigned most efficiently and overall profit falls.

    Because houses have inelastic supply but elastic demand, house prices intially rise quickly. The total price of UK housing rises by billions[2]. The difference between the total-price-with-guarantee and total-price-without-guarantee (which is billions[2], remember) has to be paid by somebody[3], and that paid money cannot be used for profit nor paid to the exchequer.

    So the problems this policy creates are:
    a) House price rises[4]
    b) Reduced efficiency in allocation of resources

    [1] In a perfect market it does so perfectly, but that’s a conversation for another day
    [2] Back of f*g packet maths: please forgive if order-of-magnitude out
    [3] IMHO It’ll be paid by the higher payments of those who can buy a house and the higher rental payments of those who cannot.
    [4] Which, regardless of feelgood factor, are a cost, not a benefit

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