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. @Guy

    “how can 2 respondents be split 36/64% in their replies?”

    Good question. I actually glanced at that, and saw two lines (2-3 years and over 20 years), and knowing that there were 2 respondents, I assumed 50%/50%.

    I suppose some sort of weighting, but it’s all a little strange.

  2. GM


    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.”

    If you’re looking for justice, you’re in the wrong place.

    Rosie and Daisie’s Tunnocks’ wafers blog is the go-to place.

    Hence that is where a bloke with such a trendy name as yourself should be contributing, without fear.

    Two things that are great about Tunnocks wafers by the way.

    1/ You can eat ’em.

    2/ They taste nice.

    3/ They wafers annoy allan christie.

  3. Did you know that Tunnock’s wafers are the official confectionary snack of the Metropolitan Police Service?

    Every “Force Feeding” (or whatever they call them now – ‘Service Nutrition Project’ probably) included sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a Tunnock’s wafer.

  4. Just one !!!!!??

    And its “confectionery” please Neil.

    How d’you force-feed someone a grapefruit?

  5. Please… even before the cuts the police refreshment budget never would have stretched to grapefruit….

    And perish the thought that the inclusion of a single Tunnock’s wafer was a cost-saving measure rather than an homage to Scotland’s finest confection. (Whether ery or ary or ory or iry).

  6. They call they wafers “shweeteesh” in Scotland I believe.

  7. Scottish Culture show on BBC2 now.
    Lets hope for a no vote.

  8. @AW : 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.
    What is interesting is whether, as posted above, the Tories can do anything to reverse the swing of public sector workers at this relatively late stage.

  9. To be quite frank, I see very little possibility of any swing to the Tories when they’ve directly cost each public sector worker thousands of pounds through (in effect) pay cuts.

    Whatever the merits or otherwise of the policy, I’m sure we’d all be slightly miffed in the same situation.

  10. Scottish Culture show on BBC2 now.
    That’ll be a short program, unless they’re discussing wafers, teacakes, midges & irn bru. :-)

  11. 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)
    Please may I be the one who is weighted down by 0.8, I’ve put on a few lbs over Christmas. ;-)

  12. amber

    “Please may I be the one who is weighted down by 0.8, I’ve put on a few lbs over Christmas. ;-)”

    Can’t be the Tunnocks – they’re like a slimming programme.

  13. @Amber Star

    “That’ll be a short program, unless they’re discussing wafers, teacakes, midges & irn bru. :-)”

    Deep fried Mars Bars no longer an integral part of the Scottish national cuisine, then?

  14. @MrNameless

    The public servants I know are not as concerned about pay cuts as they are about the perceived attitude of the party and its supporters to them.

    It is hard to support a party who seem to dislike you because of the perfectly reasonable, and often public-spirited, choices you have made in order to make a living.

  15. chris riley

    That’s exactly it. Freeze my pay if you must, but call me names and tell me how lazy and lucky I am too and I’ll hate you.

  16. Howard

    Another word to avoid is Hoards when referring to immigration it should be hordes, as in the horde of Genghis Khan not Hoards as in the amount of expenses Claimed by Nigel Farage as an MEP.

  17. NEIL A
    Did you know that Tunnock’s wafers are the official confectionary snack of the Metropolitan Police Service?
    Every “Force Feeding” (or whatever they call them now – ‘Service Nutrition Project’ probably) included sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a Tunnock’s wafer.

    -Bloody Hell it was like that in 1980 Glad to see some traditions are maintained it was always the Caramel Variety.

    I’ve probably still got a few I didn’t get round to eating.

  18. BNP’s Nick Griffin declared bankrupt

    Mr Griffin tweeted: “Being bankrupt does NOT prevent me being or standing as an MEP. It does free me from financial worries.”

    He added: “I am now turning the experience to the benefit of hard-up constituents by producing a booklet on dealing with debt.”

    Expect future handy hints guides

    Kitchen Cleaning by Godfrey Bloom

    Save Driving by Chris Huhne

    Keeping Warm in Winter by David Cameroon

    Charisma by Ed Miliband


    Minor Parts in the Pantomime by Nick Clegg

  19. More good economic news – UK construction PMI showing strongly for December, with a similar modest slowdown on November, but strongly into positive territory none the less.

    Next also showing substantial growth in the Christmas period. This was expected by analysts, who are suggesting some big winners and big losers within the retail sector. At present, the overall figures really look quite hard to predict, with the complication of online sales meaning that the dire footfall figures aren’t necessarily as bad as they at first appear.

    Elsewhere, more evidence of a housing boom/mini boom/recovery – whatever interpretation you fancy – with surveys also indicating rents are rising rapidly and a substantial number of homeowners are struggling with housing costs.

    We might be moving back to a more 1980’s style economy, where there are well defined winners and losers, rather than the general squeeze that has been the case since 2008. If this is the case, politically it will be highly interesting I would suggest.

  20. Elsewhere, more evidence of a housing boom/mini boom/recovery – whatever interpretation you fancy – with surveys also indicating rents are rising rapidly and a substantial number of homeowners are struggling with housing costs.
    We might be moving back to a more 1980?s style economy, where there are well defined winners and losers, rather than the general squeeze that has been the case since 2008. If this is the case, politically it will be highly interesting I would suggest.

    The Winners are in General those already owning property mortgage free (primarily in London and the South East) and the rich.

    The losers pretty much everybody else.

    Now as most of the wining cohort already vote Conservative the results could as you say be most interesting.

  21. alec

    “More good economic news – UK construction PMI showing strongly for December”

    You are Colin in disguise and I claim my 5 euros.

  22. Of course we’re moving back to that, aren’t we, Alec. That was precisely the intention of the government’s Help to Buy initiatives. [] The political and polling question is, will it work in polling terms?

    Will it affect the marginals? Possibly. London? Very possibly – although its main effect (surely?) will be to firm up a Tory vote in already Tory-voting areas. Will it buy back the considerable chunk of Tory support that went to UKIP after 2010? They will hope so. Will it prevent the small segment of a Labour 40+ percent that left them for UKIP in 2013 from going back to Labour? Possibly. But will it shift that seeming Labour constant (38 per cent)? See one’s own answers to the above and send on a postcard, but I’d say no chance.

  23. @Colin Davis – I’m unclear in my own mind precisely what the polling impacts of Help to Buy will be. The initial phase, which was focused on new builds, did make some sense. This helps construction and encourages economic activity directly. Extending it to existing properties doesn’t have such a direct impact on jobs and growth, and may explain in part why house price inflation is running well ahead of general inflation.

    Presumably people feel happier if there property value is rising, but set against this, for all those people helped to buy, there appear to many more who are seeing housing costs rising even further from their reach.

    My suspicion is that the net political effect of all of this will be contingent on what happens next. Vince Cable’s warning yesterday is being trashed by Tories, but it is essentially a very similar warning to the ones he gave pre 2010, which were proved accurate in time. He is by no means the only observer getting worried by the house price pick up.

    If prices rise, and this installs greater consumer confidence, and encourages more equity withdrawal and spending, then it’s probably electorally good for the Tories. While not good for the fabled rebalancing of the economy, such a scenario would indicate confidence has returned, whether or not that confidence is misplaced. If that can develop and then last up to May 2015, good news for Tories.

    However, Osborne has opened himself up to an attack on his economic strategy from not just the OBR, but also now the BoE. If they decide the risks from Help to Buy outweigh the advantages, that will cause him some problems, and if the price inflation ends up making more people feel like losers than winners, then the risks to the government are significant.

    All upturns become downturns, and vice versa, and in this case, timing will be critical.

  24. @ Colin/AW

    That link sets off my anti virus for some reason!

  25. SHEVII

    Turn off your “Political” Filter .

  26. @ Colin

    Lol! Will it work if I narrow it down to just Tory or do I need to include LD as well!

    Seriously though even going to the front page does this but maybe just it is just me- I have know my anti virus to seem oversensitive in the past.

  27. 23.4 M households in UK (2011, ONS)
    15.0 M (64%) are owner occupiers (2011, ONS)
    9.2M (39%) have mortgages (2008-10, Grauniad)
    6000 (0.03%) have offered under ‘Help to Inflate’ (2014, PropertyWire via Colin)

    Electoral thoughts
    64% of the electorate will see their home increasing in value and feel (somewhat) irrationally rich.
    Good for Con

    If interest rates hold out until the election this will all be good for con. If, as seems increasingly likely, interest rates go up a bit and look like going up quite a bit more that starts getting quite iffy

    6000 in 3 months = 24000 pa = say 40000 by the election will be ‘helped to buy’ – assuming the BoE don’t stop the policy in September which it seems pretty clear they would like to – good for Con but neither here nor there in the scheme of things though no doubt the press will out with feelgood stories as in the propaganda in propertywire

    Help to buy may be ‘moronic’ according to some in the city but it is electoral sweeties and the downside is likely to come after the election

  28. SHEVII

    They are the same button now I think !

  29. @Colin – “Lower cost homes.”

    Highly contentious. It seems clear that the overall impact is higher cost homes for everyone, with an arguably significant level of risk borne by the taxpayer within the scheme itself.

    There are other, far more efficient ways to provide individual buyers with cheaper homes that doesn’t inflate general prices. This is why a number of analysts have recently been questioning whether Help to Buy actually works, as the cost benefits to participants are being cancelled out by market price rises.

  30. Timing is all here.

    Most “experts” believe a hike in interest rates and the end to help-to-buy might lead to property price falls, bubble burst and repossessions. If that happens before may 2015 then that’s all she wrote for the glorious coalition.


    @”6000 (0.03%) have offered under ‘Help to Inflate’ (2014, PropertyWire via Colin)”

    The relevant statistic -at least for those being helped-is the ppn. of those people who have NO mortgage, no house of their own, an no hope of getting one without this scheme.

    In addition, the number of construction jobs which would not have existed without the scheme is a relevant statistic.

    This may or may not have political relevance for those with a new house or a new job.

  32. ALEC

    Yes-I’m aware of the controversy.

  33. I suppose I shall give my bold prediction for the next poll:

    CON 34
    LAB 39
    LIB 10
    UKIP 11

    And a belated happy new year!

  34. Just to illustrate Help To Buy:

    I live in a village with a shortage of affordable homes. As we have a baby on the way, we concluded last year that we would need to move from our lovely 2 bed Victorian terrace to a 3 bed home.

    A large estate is being built on a brownfield site in the village. It is being heavily promoted under Help To Buy.

    House prices locally have dropped year on year in the last 6 years.

    The developer cannily priced the new homes at just *above* the local market average, knowing that it is a desirable area, the Government is subsidising homebuyers and so they would get buyers anyway, which they did. The developers have presold every house they have released so far.

    Local asking prices immediate *jumped* significantly as the new homes are on a site that doesn’t have the advantages of existing homes, and so are perceived (with good reason – the development is behind schedule because of problems with the site) to be worth less than existing homes.

    As a consequence, we found ourselves being unable to sensibly afford the homes we were looking for and expected to be able to afford (I know the new site and I wouldn’t buy there) and have had to settle for a bit less than we thought we could budget for as sellers simply wouldn’t budge on new prices and we have a new baby to house (and we sold our old house, with hindsight, too quickly and for less than we ought to).

    At least around our way, Help to Buy has, in the short term, raised local house prices. Estate agents, have, in fact, pretty much banked on it.

  35. Oh well, back on the front line. I was selected as the Labour Party candidate for the Tendring DC St John’s ward by-election last night….


    It is a shame that you could not take advantage of Help to Buy 2-the Mortgage Guarantee scheme. It applies to home-movers & might have compensated for the price differential you faced.

  37. Congratulations Norbold. Good Luck.

    Lord Ashcroft had a poll out tomorrow night. Kevin McGuire of the Mirror is already gleeful about it so likely bad news for Cons.

  38. 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?

  39. The problem with HTB is you don’t get the good mortgage deals so with resultant higher house prices and higher interest rates it really does not work out well for the buyer.

    Good for the banks though high interest rates plus no risk (what a surprise)

  40. Slightly worrying – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/borrowing/mortgages/10548681/Business-lending-slump-deepens-as-mortgage-approvals-hit-fresh-high.html

    However, I’m unsure if the slump in business lending is actually because company cash flows are better and they therefore need less finance, so I don’t think we should necessarily jump on a news report as conclusive evidence here.

    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.

  41. COUPER2802

    @”The problem with HTB is you don’t get the good mortgage deals”

    If you can’t raise the deposit with which to get the best mortgage deals-that is entirely academic.

    HTB helps those people.

  42. @Nickp

    And if it doesn’t?

  43. @ Colin

    Well thanks for that! 3 hours later and lots of virus checks in case it was my machine I find out it is actually blacklisted by my virus checker for some “dodgy Java”. Having said this the scan wanted me to get rid of some software I have had for 15 years without noticing my bank account going down! So I guess it might be oversensitive seeing as the site is pretty mainstream and worth $50m dollars according to google.

    In future I will stick to the old fashioned holding my hands over my ears and going la, la, la instead of those hi tec political filters :-)

  44. @ Couper 2802,

    Going by historical precedent I think we can more or less assume any Ashcroft poll is bad news for the Cons, but Lord Ashcroft says on Twitter he’s not releasing it until 10:00 PM tomorrow. How can McGuire can possibly know what’s in it?

  45. @Colin

    IMO the only people HTB help is the bankers. Explain the logic: the government gives or guarantees loans that the banks will not. The banks charge higher interest rates on these loans but do not have risk because of the large deposits and the guarantee. Meanwhiles buyers are more in debt because prices are higher and they are paying higher interest on their loan.

    Bankers win, tax payers take the risk, and the homebuyers suffer.

    Increasing supply not demand is the answer HTB is part of the problem not in the remotest sense a cure

  46. The system could be designed to increase house prices. ‘Affordable housing’, for example, is funded by developers out of their market-price builds. This can add 20% to 30% on to the price of those houses.

  47. (1) If G. Brown had introduced Help to Buy, the scheme would have been condemned as Marxist socialism.

    (2) All the insiders in the property market comment that demand is racing ahead of demand. As incomes lag prices then current boom based on ULTRA low interest rates. When these increase by 1 or 2 points . . . .

    (3) My city Manchester = fastest 2013 rise. I wonder why? Staggering number of apartment blocks built in central Mancs in last 10-15 years; the City Centre reclaimed as residential area; but rents rising fast & the renters shifting to owner occupation?

    (4) All post-war British chancellors stoked the housing market for perceived short-term political gain: Osborne no exception.

  48. Hi Colin re COUPER2802

    @”The problem with HTB is you don’t get the good mortgage deals”

    If you can’t raise the deposit with which to get the best mortgage deals-that is entirely academic.

    HTB helps those people.

    That’s the point, isn’t it? Many can’t get a mortgage because they don’t have the deposit. Government scheme helps with that, but banks then adjust interest rates on those deals upwards. Government doesn’t say to banks, ”We’re giving you security, so you have to offer reasonable deals.” So interest rates become more painful for those borrowers, and – if the scheme stops, or base rate is adjusted upwards – downright dangerous.

    People are daring the government not to allow interest rate rises pre-2015, basically. If the government do that (or have to do that) it’s curtains for the coalition. So they won’t, let’s face it, barring GO being suspended over a very hot fire on a frayed rope – but it will then be a matter of time before the inevitable happens.

    Will GO dare to go into the election promising (rather than hoping) to keep interest rates down? Unlikely, surely. So there can’t but be huge uncertainty hanging over all Help to Buy recipients’ heads, and indeed over the heads of all those with high mortgages and/or negative/near-negative equity.

    So the direct appeal of Help to Buy is going to be limited to those who won’t lose from it, i.e. those with no mortgage or lower loan-to-value mortgages, who will see an up-kick in their property values. The policy might generate more general approval if it releases a lot of spending power into the economy in the short term. That’s just another form of QE, but one that involves giving the money to builders and luckier house-owners instead of buying bonds with it.

    It’s all very risky, independently of timing, and the questions remain as to what segment of the national VI will be affected by it. If my last year’s reasoning holds (not long to find out, after all) Labour’s 38 will take up any benefits that fall to them from this scheme, and vote the way they have said they will throughout the parliament. In which case this risky policy won’t deliver the results GO would like it to deliver.

  49. ‘The part of the government that’s interested in building new homes has an absolute requirement to see rents going up,’ said Orr. ‘The part of the government that’s interested in housing benefit has an absolute requirement to see rents coming down. And the bit of government that’s meant to manage all the finances, the Treasury, want to see both of those mutually contradictory things happen at the same time.’

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