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. Allan Christie

    Okay I was a little out with my poll quote. I forgot I was amongst polling experts here.

    However I don’t always trust what is written on Wiki so this [political betting] link might be a wee bit more accurate.

    Um no, it’s less accurate because Mike Smithson transposed the figures on the 21 April poll, otherwise the figures match[1]. And I think saying “Labour had a 15% lead over the SNP a week before polling” when it was actually ten weeks is more than “a little out”.

    Arguably Smithson is also being a little naughty in starting with that YouGov poll showing a 16 point lead on the regionals as a MORI poll from the same period shows a 2 point SNP lead. There were clearly big problems with Scottish polling at the time. But his general point about large changes being possible during an election campaign is obviously true, it just isn’t as dramatic or as sudden as you seem to think.

    You are kidding right? The Labour vote collapsed like nothing on earth on election night. It’s a Labour myth that the SNP picked up seats due to the collapse of the L/Dems.

    There was a huge shift with Labour voters flocking over to the SNP all across West Central Scotland and in many seats Libs switched to Labour hiding the true collapse of traditional Labour voters to the Nats.

    Do you have any evidence of that? Because if the SNP vote goes up (+12.5/+13) while Labour only goes down slightly (-0.5/-2.9) the odds are that the votes came directly from somewhere else mainly the Lib Dems (-8.3/-6.1) and to some extent the Conservatives (-2.7/-1.6). The constituency results looked more dramatic because the SNP were comparatively close behind Labour in a lot of central belt seats already, so an “Anyone But Labour” vote from Tories and Lib Dems caused a lot of seats to topple. You can see this in individual seats.

    There will have been some direct Labour to SNP switchers of course and some Lib Dems and Conservatives may have gone to Labour instead because of general squeeze. But most of the SNP’s rise will be from those two parties.

    [1] I used Wikipedia rather than Anthony’s table under Scottish polls as he missed out the last YouGov poll (f/w 2-4 May) before polling.

  2. @Roger Mexico

    Terrible poll that. Better Together focusing on the monies used by the Scottish Government, but forgetting the monies used by the Westminster Government.

    Zero balance and zero credibility for a poll (had the ‘Yes Scotland’ camp done the opposite, the same would apply).

  3. Interesting poll on the political spread of teachers. Should we have appropriate shortlists for teachers to ensure a more politically balanced population of teachers?

  4. norbold

    On the plus side Montana is a long, long way away.

    On the other hand they probably have internet.

    “Reeky lum” is Jockstrapular for smoking chibley.

  5. “Interesting poll on the political spread of teachers. Should we have appropriate shortlists for teachers to ensure a more politically balanced population of teachers?”

    It might be hard to find the 30% who would be willing to vote Tory.

    Probably ever again.

  6. @ Statgeek,

    Interesting poll on the political spread of teachers. Should we have appropriate shortlists for teachers to ensure a more politically balanced population of teachers?

    Before the last election Ipsos Mori found the Labour lead among teachers was only 1%.

    So I think it’s probably not the teachers who need a better political balance, but the Department for Education.

  7. McStattser

    “Interesting poll on the political spread of teachers. Should we have appropriate shortlists for teachers to ensure a more politically balanced population of teachers?”

    Wouldn’t work: the Tory % would be either too old or too dead to teach.

  8. Teacher VI in late 2009 (according to this Ipsos MORI poll: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2535/Ipsos-MORI-Teachers-Omnibus-2009.aspx)

    LAB: 40
    CON: 29
    LD: 23
    GRN: 4
    PC: 2
    OTH: 2

    So an almost 1:1 LD>LAB swing, with some going to the Greens. What’s more interesting is the big drop for the Cons seems to have go nowhere.

    Presumably there are still rightwardly-inclined teachers out there, but that missing 13% are intriguing.

    That 8% UKIP will be largely ex-Cons, and I suppose some could have gone to the LDs, but teachers may be one of the few areas where we have significant Con>Lab switchers.

    Of course, with Lab as unpopular as they were in 2009, many of those might be people who stated Con as a protest.

  9. Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers. A legend in our lunchtime!

  10. amber

    chortle, chuckle, munch.

  11. @Amber
    As is Mackie’s ice cream.

  12. Mr Nameless

    I suspect similar swings in other Public Sector Organisations.

    The Tories could always rely on a huge percentage of Police Officers voting for them ( I remember being labelled a Trot for voting for the Alliance in 1983) A nick name which stuck with me for my entire Police Career.

    Nurses are another Group where conservative support levels were on a parity with Labour.

    These are huge cross sections of the community still around 5 million + family members and not confined to one geographic area so they may be influential in the 2015 GE result

  13. “Do you think the Coalition Government’s academies
    and free schools programme is taking education in
    England in the right direction?”
    Teachers working in academies: Yes 8%, No 81%
    (All teachers Yes 6% No 82%).

    That’s a pretty clear endorsement then, from the people who really ought to know.


  14. @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.

  15. @statgeek

    That’s a pretty desperate defence
    96% of headteachers think this is a mess

    That sounds like a ringing endorsement of Michael Gove.
    I wonder if he’ll have a Huhne moment and ask his wife to take the endorsement.

  16. Just sent off my forms so I’ll soon be registered as a Democrat in Colorado (despite having never lived there, yay citizenship) – SoCalliberal would be proud.

  17. @Guy

    I’m not endorsing any side. I’m pointing out that the average person does not like change in the work place. Add in to that, the political interference from the opposition party and the unions and we have a situation where all organisational changes will be unpopular.

    Gove will be sitting there, knowing that whatever he does or says, it will be unpopular if it involves change.

    [Snip – AW]

  18. Statgeek

    How about parents with school aged children?
    Lab are a long way ahead with that constituency.

  19. Good UK manufacturing PMI figures for December – down slightly from November, but still indicating healthy growth. Normal caveats re opinion surveys.

    Also – strong sales figures from John Lewis and House of Fraser – as expected. High end retailers are performing well it seems, which suggests the recovery/lack of recession is concentrating in different parts of society.

  20. @Bcrombie

    “Do you have any evidence about aversion to change in the workplace? Or is this just your view?”

    Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    It’s an established part of change management in business. Google for change management. You won’t find too many articles on how employees like organisational change. It’s all to do with comfort zones and confidence.

    I did post a link btw. Please reciprocate.

  21. statgeek

    That’s because “organisational change ” is always a code for tearing up agreed terms and conditions and getting more work for less money from the workers.

  22. @Guy / Phil

    If I can sum up my point of view on things, I’ll refer you to this article (and especially the comment quoted):


    “Free Schools and LAs need to be judged on what they do, not on what they are. The problem is when outcomes are confused by ideology. The language of ‘activism’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ etc has no place (or at least should have no place) in the educational debate on improving outcomes for children.

    What springs out of this excellent and even-handed article is the passion each of the schools mentioned has in creating (what they believe) are effective environments for children’s learning and development.

    However, this is not exclusively the province of Free Schools. Many educators working in state schools, Local Authorities and (whisper it) the DfE are driven by this same desire and are not poisoned by ideological dogma.

    Lets move, within education, towards a consensus on outcomes and stop being driven apart by political ambition and misunderstanding.”

    In fact, many of the non-partisan comments following said article are worth a glance.

    Regarding the poll, let’s take into account the following:

    1. Teachers, like nurses, business folk and politicians will always have a personalised opinion on organisational change. Whether it’s simply that the changes involves less pay, more work, different responsibilities and so on. In some cases because they don’t know, so they opt for ‘nothing changed for me, so it couldn’t have been good’, or in other words, it’s been a waste of time and money for no gain (in their opinion).

    2. Teachers, like all public sector employees with a large union, will listen to their union leaders. The unions are generally more towards Labour than Conservative, so the general theme of the union advice or information will reflect this.

    3. As mentioned, people do not like organisational change, and we generally accept this (Bcrombie aside) as normal human behaviour.

    4. The poll link has the words NUT in the code. I have to presume that the National Union of Teachers has commissioned the poll. Let’s see what the NUT think of Free Schools:

    h ttp://www.teachers.org.uk/freeschools

    “The NUT opposes free schools.”

    Lastly, regarding the NUT, one comment above stated that 100% of free schools teachers agree with free schools being bad, and that I may quibble over the sample size. Yes I do. 2 out of 826 people is not representative of the whole of free school teachers, and short of discovering that 100% of free school teachers are in the NUT, we can’t give it any more value than zero, and even than we have to add in caveats regarding the sample size (I could add that 50% of free school teachers have had less than 3 years in teaching, but that would be just as wrong).

    I suspect that a majority of free school teachers would say free schools are good, but that might not be objective either, so I’ll fall back on waiting for the quality of the graduates before applauding or denouncing free schools. I certainly won’t take a union-funded poll, with such samples as being a good reason to change government policy. :))

  23. As far as I can see the only difference between (New) Labour’s academies and the Coalition’s free schools is that Academies are set up to sort out poorly performing schools but free schools can take the place of perfectly good, even exce;;ent, schools.

    In other words, free schools aim to take well run schools away from local authority control no matter how well the local authority has carried out that function.

  24. @NickP

    I have to disagree, and if you were a proponent of positive change management in business, you would understand.

    The point is to avoid disruption and unhappiness in the workplace, so that the workforce, (and ultimately productivity) is not affected. It can cover expansion, contraction, or just simple modernisation.

    It covers things such as a change of site, or a change in stock systems, or computer systems and so on. So I think I’ll start to adopt part of the last quoted comment:

    “Lets move, within education*, towards a consensus on outcomes and stop being driven apart by political ambition and misunderstanding.”

    * or any subject

  25. @Statgeek

    I happen to be a teacher.

    I am used to my views and those of my colleagues counting for nothing, however overwhelmingly they are held.

    Clearly an opinion poll asking teachers of their view of anything to do with education is just a waste of time.

    Apart that is, for YouGov, who made a few bob out of it.

  26. You’ll forgive my saying so, statgeek, but all managers are or should be proponents of positive change management.

    The problem is, since sometime in the ninety eighties, whole organsiations of management consultants have sprung up claiming to be such proponenets and their recipes look, smell and taste like snake oil, and don’t even have as much placebo effect.

  27. @Bcrombie

    It depends on the objectives. Are the objectives to ensure that schools are providing the best possible education for children?

    I’m less bothered about being for or against free schools, as I don’t have children. My concern is more about the poll and all the factors surrounding it. If free schools turn out to be bad, then let’s drop them, but let’s see if they are bad (for the students, and not because the teachers don’t like them) before dropping them.

  28. I thought head teachers were management – and they don’t seem to like free schools at all. There’s a very big difference between people managing change badly and change being forced on management and workers alike – isn’t there?

  29. @Bcrombie

    “I loved Statgeek’s comment that because you are unionised you will automatically follow the views of the union”

    I didn’t say that. I said employees will listen to the union leaders. They will listen to all sources, and in general it will be the ones which make the most noise. If all things are equal and the political compass experiment is accurate, we should all adopt very left-wing and very liberal attitudes, given the imbalance of people on this site.

    Or, we could accept that there’s an imbalance, don’t let it bother us too much, and enjoy the debates which are worthy of this site (i.e. debate the polls, not the policies, which is what I am doing).

  30. @NickP

    Well perhaps that’s your bad experiences, or perhaps your pre-conceptions.

    If I want to get a particularly difficult person in my family to come along with an idea of mine, I have to approach the idea from a particular angle. If I just say “How about this then?” they automatically say “no”.

    Is it the idea or the person? If it was the idea, no amount of angles would change their mind. If free schools were being proposed by Labour and the unions were supporting the idea, would we have different poll results? So there’s always a different angle, and sometimes it’s the fact that the staff don’t like the management. Effective change management tries to get beyond such pointless (but real) problems, and involve the staff positively.

  31. @ Statgeek

    I accept to an extent your argument that people can be resistant to change but I think you are heavily overdoing this level of potential resistance.

    I know in my wife’s school there have been many changes (including stuff to do with working hours). Once the package have been explained and is in place there has been little resistance and any doubts they had were put down by the outside union representative, having queried a few points, saying they should take it and were getting a deal that was good for them and good for the children.

    I think we are far enough into the educational changes now that had these changes been resisted purely for not wanting change or ideological reasons then the opposition would have faded. Indeed NAHT (not a far left union by any means) was very cosy with Gove at the start and appear to have fallen out with him.

    Also, although not completely relevant to your comments, NUT is one of the more moderate teaching unions. If you are more radical you join one of the others. So going too far the line of NUT being a look after number one union (maybe you weren’t saying that) is like saying the Royal College of nurses are too.

  32. Statgeek

    If I remember correctly you were the one who started talking about resistance to organisational change and the influence of unions.

    If you don’t believe the poll numbers then fair enough – but what I can tell you is that I have met no teacher (anecdote alert) who is supportive of the thrust of the changes proposed by Gove and so the poll for me seems reasonable


  33. In 2008 Gove told the Conservative party conference that Sweden’s school reforms would be introduced if he was in government….

    Sweden’s education minister, Jan Björklund, said the Pisa results [December 2013] were “the final nail in the coffin for the old school reform.”

  34. Statgeek

    On previous history I doubt that Labour Free Schools would be supported by the unions and I would still oppose them for the reasons highlighted above – it is expensive, hasn’t worked when tried elsewhere, creates unnecessary problems and, finally, allows certain schools with ‘dubious’ ethics to be promoted.

    I don’t think Labour and teachers have had that good a relationship in the past, having Michael Gove in place has probably helped bring them closer

    You keep coming back to this ‘change management’ as an abstract concept – do you have any views on the point made by me and other people on here

    In view of the widespread opposition from all levels in the profession (including NAHT) do you think that the DoE has managed this change well or do you think, as you seem to believe, that it is ideological, irrational opposition to a all managed proposal?

  35. Surely the only opinion of Free Schools that really matters is that of the parents whose children are educated there? That is, after all, the point of them.

    I am, generally speaking, in favour of progressive approaches to education (for most children at least). There are some Free Schools whose regimen I would hate. There are some (the SCA in Plymouth in particular) that I like.

    Free Schools are about choice, and about not having the education establishment have the final (and virtually only) say in how your children are educated. Unless you’ve got the money to go private, of course.

    As for the idea that Free Schools will be replacing perfectly good schools, I think that will be very rare. Demographics is creating the demand for new schools in most areas, and very few are seeing a fall in demand.

  36. ooops

    ‘irrational opposition to a well managed proposal’

    Nick P – agree with your post

  37. Neil A

    No it is not all about the parents because it is taxpayers money that is being used to set them up and subsidise them – in many cases without a need in the area.

    From the list of schools there seems to be some set up due to middle class angst (Toby Young) to the downright unethical and with only an ideological centralised control with no local overview (although this may change thanks to the LD)

    There is also the fact they have been tried in the US and Sweden with no success

    Some may become adopted ingot the state system because the fulfil a local need but this could be managed within the current system if it was allowed to be – there is no need to create this further tier within the state sector

  38. At least Neil A isbeing honest. Free schools are to pander to religious or other prejudices, possibly even repressive ones.

  39. On a more general point about change, the real problem arises right at stage 1 with “establishing the need for change”.

    The problem in recent years is that “establishing the need for change” seems to constitiute a load of think tank papers, spokespeople on the TV, dodgily worded polls and a suddenly “accepted” wisdom which didn’t involve any evidence at all.

    If you impose a change on people to solve a problem that you’ve invented just so you can change the world to fit an image you like better, you won’t necessarliy take people with you.

  40. “Surely the only opinion of Free Schools that really matters is that of the parents whose children are educated there?”

    I can see your argument, and yes the parents do need to be consulted. But what a parent wants from a school and what society demands from a school are not always the same thing.

    Moreover, shouldn’t the children being educated there at least have some say?

    In addition, you could also ask institutions like the CBI, charities, public services and other employers what they think of the kind of teaching being employed and whether it’s the sort of thing they want.

    Schools are not a treat for children, nor a way of parents ensuring their offspring can associate with “the right sort”. They’re essential institutions that exist because society needs educated, informed people to function properly.

    To suggest that the running of schools should only fall to what parents want ignores those who are affected by the quality of education received.

  41. @ Neil A

    “Surely the only opinion of Free Schools that really matters is that of the parents whose children are educated there?”

    Not if you met some of the parents you wouldn’t :-) Seriously I have some doubts whether even a majority of parents really know what is good for their kids. Eventually they will work out whether a school is good or not but they aren’t necessarily the ones to make that judgment from the outset.

    I would say it was the outcome that mattered- results and other factors in a rounded education not whether the parent kicks off because their kid isn’t allowed tramlines or jewellery.

    I think you are mainly right about the demographic arguments of free schools although I would say a large percentage are set up purely for religious reasons which I don’t think is healthy. As most parents in London at least will know there are many areas where the best school is religious but gives priority to those with ‘practising’ religion on their CV. So there are many who try and get signed up by the vicar on a Sunday morning to make sure of their place.

  42. Nick P

    I think you have highlighted the crux of the issue – and this is where we see people having a perceived aversion to change that Statgeek goes on about

    Facilitating change in large organisations such as education is a complex and difficult thing to do – trying to pretend that it is in the Government’s mind to ensure that it is done with the support of the workforce is fanciful I think.

    Changes are done because the Government wants them and it imposes them – not really caring if it is accepted or not. In that sort of approach there is surely going to be opposition, especially to those ideas that are manifestly, to those concerned, ill-conceived

  43. Free tunnocks’ wafers is the way to go. Bugger the schools.

  44. Unsurprisingly, for an NUT commissioned poll, it’s just of English and Welsh teachers.

    Although Michael Gove has no power over Welsh schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if Welsh teachers reacted the same as English teachers.

    Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mongolian teachers reacted similarly.

  45. As ever (and I don’t understand why this point is so difficult for people who have been posting here for years to grasp) this is NOT a forum for debating if government, or opposition, policies are any good or not.

  46. ………………. and I’d like to add that, by omission, that means this IS the place to discuss Tunnocks wafers.

  47. Ah, just came in with our Great Leader. I don’t know what he is referring to but it saves me reading back.

    What I am about to reveal is like the tune virus, so you are warned.

    I have discovered that the new in-word is ‘hence’. Thus, not ‘thus’, or ‘so’, any longer, hence my use of hence in this sentence.

    Watch how many politicians, commenters, use it from now on. It’s driving me potty but I don’t see why I should suffer alone.

  48. Confused

    My tongue in cheek comment highlighting unanimity amongst free school teachers (both of them) is in moderation despite my opinions as expressed being a lot more moderate (and brief!) than other offenders.

    Yet Statgeek has apparently read it as he/she has criticised it.

    And another thing (this is a REAL POLLING QUESTION): how can 2 respondents be split 36/64% in their replies?

  49. Just popped back to see AW has been a-snipping, and no surprise.

    “this is NOT a forum for debating if government, or opposition, policies are any good or not.”

    Point taken. I did make the point(s) that the poll was as much an issue, in the sampling and source etc.


    So are you sitting on the hence then?

  50. Guymonde – it means one of those respondents was weighted twice as highly as the other (e,g, one had weighting of 0.8, the other of 1.6)

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