This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%. A Labour lead of four points and UKIP at 13%. UKIP are lower than yesterday, but worth noting that they’ve been averaging at around 13% since the second Clegg-Farage debate, compared to around 11% earlier in March.
YouGov also did a Maria Miller question yesterday, now obviously out of date, but which raised some interesting methodological questions. Asking a fair question is often a matter of giving the minimal amount of information necessary in order to get a response. The more information you give, the more you risk leading respondents, the more you risk essentially creating the perception of a public opinion that isn’t really out there. If pollsters ask the public a question, a fair proportion of people will answer, regardless of whether they actually have any real views at all (The classic example of this is the Public Affairs Act, which doesn’t exist, but which 18% of people are willing to express an opinion about.)
When a politician is in a scrape and pollsters ask if they should resign you normally end up prefacing the question with “Harriet Jones has been accused of killing kittens…”, when the respondent might previously have been unaware of the cat murdering rumours or of Harriet Jones. The very fact you are asking questions about Harriet Jones implies there is a fuss about her, and you can never tell what proportion of people would have said she should resign anyway, probably for the crime of being from the wrong party.
Yesterday YouGov asked about Maria Miller resigning, but in a different way. They didn’t mention expenses at all (if people had seen the story, they’ll have seen the story, if they haven’t, they haven’t) and they hid Maria Miller amongst lots of other politicians and asked, for each one, if they should resign or not. 63% of people said that Maria Miller should resign, only 9% said she should not, which is pretty unambiguous. However, 52% also think Nick Clegg should resign, 47% Michael Gove, 46% Ed Miliband, 37% George Osborne. The lowest was for Theresa May, but 30% of people still think she should resign. It seems whoever you ask about a fair chunk want them to resign, though note that in the case of Maria Miller people from all parties wanted to see the back of her, the other cases were mostly political opponents saying politicians from a party they dislike should go.
Two things to take away from this. One, the Maria Miller story was noticed. People did still think she should resign without any prompting in the question about what she was accused of. It still doesn’t imply it will have any effect on voting intention at all (people view these things through the prism of their pre-existing political support, and as I wrote yesterday, looking back it has been incredibly rare for events like this to have any measurable impact on voting intention) but it did get noticed, or her figures would have been the same as everyone else’s.
Secondly, do be careful about “should X resign” questions when you see them asked in isolation. Lots of people will say a politician from a government they are opposed to should resign anyway, regardless of the scandal de jour. Perhaps it’s worth paying special attention to the answers from supporters of the politician’s own party.