The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up on the website here, topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%. Tabs are here

A large part of the poll covered perceptions of Ed Miliband, something that we’ve seen in other polls lately and seen covered a lot in the media. There is nothing particularly new in the Ed Miliband figures in this poll – a majority (51%) think he’s weak leader, 56% think he’s out of touch with ordinary people, 60% think he wouldn’t be up to the job of PM. Nothing here we didn’t already know, though they are still worth asking to see if opinion changes. At this point though I doubt they will unless Ed Miliband actually becomes Prime Minister. Once the public have taken against a politician, whether that perception is fair or unfair, it’s mighty hard for them to shift(the exception tends to be when they actually become PM, then people can see them in a new light.)

The Ed Miliband paradox is something I’ve come back to several times here, partly because it’s one of those things that I think has the potential to make a difference at the next election, partly because I see such partisan idiocy written about it. I see some people writing about it as if a popular or unpopular leader is the utter be-all and end-all of politics, a guarantee or victory or defeat, and see others writing as if it’s a total irrelevance. Both are utter nonsense.

I wrote about it at length here and while the figures have changed, the essential situation hasn’t, in summary:

  • People’s perceptions of party leaders ARE an important factor, the key driver analysis of British Election Study data at recent elections demonstrates it, some respondents will consciously say it is that a primary concern, many others it will be a factor in the mix. It would be almost perverse if the main public face of a party and its policies and principles was not a factor.
  • But it is by no means the ONLY factor. Perceptions of party competence on the issues people consider important are of critical importance, so are party identities. By extension (since they drive those factors) government performance and wider perceptions of the parties and their values are also extremely important. Hence it is perfectly possible for a party with a duff leader to win if it is outweighed by other factors like competence and party identity. Thatcher won in 1979 despite trailing badly to Jim Callaghan, presumably because other factors outweighed the minus of her leadership.
  • Labour have been in the lead in the polls for a couple of years, despite the public being well aware of Ed Miliband and having a negative view of him. That does NOT mean that he is not a drag on Labour’s support (we don’t how whether Labour’s lead would be larger under a different leader), but it does mean that his negative ratings are already “priced into the market”.
  • The questions is whether the importance of the opposition leader grows in the immediate run up to an election. There is the potential for people’s opinions to be driven mainly by unhappiness and disapproval of the government mid-term, but to view it increasingly as a choice between two alternative governments and Prime Ministers as the election actually approaches (thus contributing to the familiar pattern of “mid term blues”). That brings the potential for the “Miliband issue” to matter more as we get closer and closer to the election… but it is impossible to reliably test.
  • In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.

Anyway, looking at the rest of the poll, since we touched on party image and competence as other big issues further up, YouGov re-asked a question from last February essentially exploring the contrast between parties being “nice” and being “effective”. They asked if parties were seen as “nice but dim”, “mean but smart”, “mean and dim” or “nice and smart”. The Conservatives clearly still have “nasty party” issues – 40% think they are smart, but only 26% think they are nice. For Labour it’s the other way around “their heart is in the right place, but…”; 48% think they are nice, but only 20% think they are smart. It might get less attention than Miliband, but right there you’ve got two big issues for the two main parties: people still don’t think the Tories’ hearts are in the right place, and still doubt Labour’s competence in government.

The poll also had a batch of questions about education in England – essentially showing appetite for reform in general, but opposition to the specifics of Michael Gove’s reforms. 43% think schools are doing well, 46% badly and people tend to think they provide worse education than in comparable European countries. 64% think schools need reforming to a large or moderate degree. Asked about Michael Gove though 55% think he’s doing badly as education secretary, people are opposed by 41% to 31% to schools becoming academies and by 53% to 23% to the idea of free schools.

197 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 32, LAB 38, LD 8, UKIP 14”

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  1. Yeah as a university student it’s abundantly clear that higher education in no way makes people more qualified to vote compared to those who haven’t received it!

  2. Amidst talk of judging people by their schooling, parentage, or social background, I found this quite amusing –

    I’m sure those chaps and chappesses at Coutts are all thoroughly good eggs with impeccable breeding, but for this comprehensive boy from a single parent family I view the lack of moral substance of those engaged in the tax avoidance industry with disdain.

    Judge these people by what they do, as @Catmanjeff believes.

  3. Bill Patrick
    “We actually had this, until Labour deviated from the principle of constitutional consensus and abolished it.”

    Presumably you mean in Scotland? Can you give details?

    @Catmanjeff and Mr N
    University education was just an example (I don’t have one myself). Other possibilities might include property ownership, or possibly a ‘politics test’, a bit like a driving test, but if you pass you get an extra vote. I’m only throwing these ideas around because Catmanjeff seems to think that his opinion is worth more than people who judge politicians in a different way to how he does. I suspect I am not alone in also thinking that, but about my own opinion of course :-)


    could, ironically, be a vote winner.

  5. I’m going to play the Devil’s advocate a bit on the presentation front. The PM is the leader of the government, and I think it genuinely does matter whether or not he or she can stand up in moments of national crisis or tragedy and make a statesmanlike speech. This is something which Cameron, for all his sins, does very well. Miliband does it… adequately. I would have concerns about an aspiring prime minister who seemed incapable of doing it at all.

    I also think (I’m obviously in a minority here, or at least my opinion is not widely shared in Westminster) that PMQs is important, and should be taken seriously, and the Prime Minister should be well enough briefed to give factual answers to serious questions even if those answers make his government look bad, and that he should feel a moral obligation to do so, and a politician who is unable or unwilling to do this should not be Prime Minister. And since the Prime Minister will inevitably want to score some partisan points during the session, it really, really helps if they are someone like Thatcher who was clever and quick enough on her feet to simultaneously give a serious answer and take a swipe at the Opposition. If they’re not clever enough to do both, it unfortunately seems to be the serious answer and not the Punch and Judy crap that gets cast aside.

    Miliband’s performance as Energy Secretary was immensely reassuring on this score. His performance as opposition leader has been… less so. But it’s the PM who really sets the tone for PMQs so I suppose we can’t know how Miliband will run them until he’s Prime Minister.

    OTOH whether or not someone can eat a messy sandwich with dignity is a question that might have more relevance for the cast of Big Brother, since I think most of us hope never to watch any politician eat a sandwich, ever.

  6. @PeteB

    I am a strict one vote per person man. Everyone is entitled to one vote, however judged upon. Their vote is worth no more or no less than mine.

  7. IMO it would make a lot of sense if only Labour voters were allowed to vote. Clearly they are the only ones with enough sense to vote the way I approve
    off so they should have ALL the votes.

  8. I remember reading in a biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein that he was against women having the vote on the grounds that every woman he’d met had been an idiot.

    The book didn’t mention how he felt about men having the vote though.

  9. @BP: “We actually had this…”

    Not exactly. Only London and Oxbridge graduates got the extra vote in England so hardly equitable even among graduates. And I’m not sure what constitutional principle you think should have prevented a Labour government from abolishing such an archaic practice.

  10. Couper2802

    Judging from your previous posts you would still be worried.

  11. A philosophy professor who taught in China said that the Chinese find one man, one vote incomprehensible and irrational. He suggested that they would consider that knowledge and experience should at least be recognised by increasing the number of votes in line with age.

    David Cameron might like that idea given average age of Conservative party members and polls for over 60s

  12. 6% Labour lead is quite high compared to recent polls. I know their lead showed signs of extending just after the EU elections, but it has not really gone above 4% since then. Perhaps we shall see it reverting to 4% (polldrums) soon.

  13. @SYZYGY:

    Well I’m not sure anyone would turn to the Chinese for advice on democracy (although the Taiwanese Chinese seem to accept the concept of one person, one vote without any difficulty).

  14. Pete B

    Bill Patrick
    “We actually had this, until Labour deviated from the principle of constitutional consensus and abolished it.”

    Presumably you mean in Scotland? Can you give details?

    I suspect Bill Patrick meant the University seats that existed up to Labour abolishing them in 1948 (the current members remaining MPs till 1950):

    Voting in these constituencies was for all graduates of the relevant University/ies in addition to them having a vote in the Constituency where they lived. It was however initially a Scottish idea and James VI/I brought it South and applied it for the only two English universities that then existed.

    Despite what RogerH said, it was eventually extended to other universities after they were founded, wit ‘Combined’ University seats being et up.

    A ghost of these still exist in Ireland, where graduates elect members to the Senate. Given that other Senate members are basically Party political appointees, they probably have a better democratic mandate than most of their colleagues.

  15. While we’re on the matter of one person one vote, there have been a small handful of people lately on the loonier reaches of the right calling for businesses to be given the vote again, and for the long-term unemployed to be disenfranchised.


    I remember someone on here not so long ago recalling a conversation they had with a Chinese person, who was dumbfounded at why Western justice systems go to such lengths to protect the rights of the accused. The idea that a guilty person walking free is by far the lesser of two evils was just something they couldn’t understand.

  16. @RogerH and DRUNKENSCOUSER

    I wasn’t saying I agreed with the Chinese view but that David Cameron might find some merit in their idea about ‘democracy’. Personally, I’m with Paul and COUPER2802 – restrict votes to only those who agree with me!

  17. Anyone for the jury service model?…

  18. @Carfrew

    The jury system is even worse in my view.

    A jury is just a random collection of people, just like an election.

    However, the sample size is smaller, so is likely to be far less representative, with a massive skew from the ‘normal’ in many instances.

    I have served on a jury, which was a bad experience. I have sworn to myself that should I ever be on trial for something serious, I would never trust my fate to a handful of random strangers that makes up a jury..


    @”Absolutely not.”

    So if social background & education is used in Parliament as a criteria for criticism of one MP by another what does that say about the critic?

  20. Good Morning All.
    Interesting discussion on voting qualifications.
    The voting qualifications in Northern Ireland local elections were those of property ownership. That did not work very well, I think people would agree, as it laid down the conditions in which terrorism would flourish. Wilson and Heath brought an end to all this. Heath’s Cameron Commission of 1971-72 is the authoritative source for this.

  21. @Catman

    Couldn’t we do some statistical voodoo to make it representative? Not that our current MPs are necessarily all that representative anyway…

    Alternatively we could just fashion a parliament out of Ukpr posters. How much worse could it be?

    I mean, is there anyone here who would have advocated the pasty tax?

  22. @Colin

    So if social background & education is used in Parliament as a criteria for criticism of one MP by another what does that say about the critic?

    It says to me very little that’s positive about the critic.

    I assume you are referring the various phrases like ‘toffs’ used to describe the MPs who who been through the private school to Eton/Harrow to Oxbridge route.

    The background of any person should not be used as a personal criticism. With regard to Parliament, I think there is a genuine concern about the narrow set of society MPs come from, and the serious under-representation of women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, for example.

    However, the way some Conservatives are mocked as toffs and the way I’ve seen Dennis Skinner mocked for his his background by Conservatives in unacceptable. If I got any of that in the workplace I would be taking it to grievance. They all need to grow up, focus on the issues at hand, and show a decent example to their constituents.

  23. @Carfrew

    I think the best and easiest way to a good representation is a very large random sample, let’s say 30% + of the electorate.

    It might just work.

  24. Weird discussion on OMOV

    There is no other option as otherwise we need to look on what criteria someone does not get a vote or why someone gets more

    And do you think the choice for extra votes would be in favour of those who have more experience of living on the breadline, use of Government services etc

    Of course not, it would all be chosen on things that would benefit the middle and upper classes……

    That things even get suggested on a site like this makes me worry a bit……I would like to think it is in jest but I don’t think so.

    The more I see the mainstream press and the political rhetoric I start to think this is not the type of country I would like to live in. Tolerance has always been a Great British Value for me but we seem to have a move against the ‘other’ whether poor, disabled or foreign.

    Everyone seems to know a foreign potential terrorist or a benefit cheat these days….

  25. @BCrombie

    I think only one person was suggesting it.

    I think it was in jest.

  26. On social background

    I agree with the last post of Catmanjeff that the problem is the body politic and lack of diversity rather than individuals. I find it disturbing to see the number of people from one, socially divisive school in positions of influence

    Individual politicians though can be criticised for what they say though. I think it is a fair challenge when a politician from a privileged background who has never experienced life on benefit pontificates about ‘shirking’.

    Just attacking someone for coming from a privileged background is not acceptable but in this thread we have talked about restricting/amending omov – is there anyone who has advocated this proposed anything that would limit the rights to vote of the wealth-owning classes…..

    The idea that the privileged are hard done to and are under any challenge is to me laughable and a smokescreen. I think is general the poor are more tolerant of the rich than the rich are of the poor.

  27. Catmanjeff

    It didn’t seem like a joke and then there was a discussion on the old university seats

    I am lacking humour at the moment – to me there is an unpleasant narrative in the UK at the moment

    I don’t like our country very much at the moment

  28. @ Catmanjeff,

    the way I’ve seen Dennis Skinner mocked for his his background by Conservatives in unacceptable

    I am 100% sure that whatever the context for this was, Dennis started it. (And I say this as a big Dennis Skinner fan.)

    He would be the first to argue that one has a right, and possibly a duty, to attack other MPs for their class origin.

  29. @Catmanjeff

    “However, the way some Conservatives are mocked as toffs and the way I’ve seen Dennis Skinner mocked for his his background by Conservatives in unacceptable.”

    If the people who now complain about “toff-bashing” were as vociferous in their complaints about the way John Prescott was treated when he was an MP, then I’d have more sympathy with them. The Tory MPs crying foul about the Bullingdon Club taunts are probably the very same people who laughed when Christopher Soames routinely mocked Prescott for once being a steward in the Merchant Navy. “Mine’s a G&T old boy” whenever Prescott stood up in the Commons used to have them rocking in the aisles. Not so any references to Eton and Bullingdon, it would appear.

    As for the personal approval ratings of the respective party leaders, it does pay to look at how the responses break down on party support lines. Howard has often made this point and I tend to agree with him. Take the latest YouGov which is attracting so much media coverage. Taken in the round, the leader ratings do indeed look dire for Miliband and it would be silly to claim he is in a good place at the moment, but their apparent minimal effect on voting intention could be explained by drilling down into the minutiae. Cameron is on -7 overall, with 50% of respondents thinking he’s doing a bad job against 43 who think he’s doing well. In themselves, those aren’t impressive figures at all but ranged against Miliband, he looks like Mr Popular. He scores particularly highly amongst the 32% of those who say they will be voting Tory and, intriguingly, he’s in positive territory amongst Lim Dem voters (+ 5, 49 v 44). This is a benefit, I suspect, accruing from being the PM in a coalition government. Miliband is in ultra-minus territory amongst Lib Dem voters (-41, 23 v 64). This is a negative effect arising from him opposing two governing parties, I suspect. This could explain why he’s suffering vis-a-vis Cameron.

    However the killer for Miliband is the lack of enthusiasm he is generating amongst his own voters. He’s only +12 here as opposed to Cameron being +80 amongst Tory voters. However, and we’re back to voting intention again, how many of these Labour voters have already factored in Miliband’s performance as party leader into their decision? How many of these are likely to melt away come General Election time?

    Conclusions? Unless Miliband’s image improves in the eyes of voters, and I don’t doubt that it well could, then it may be that Labour are boxed in a bit in terms of greatly increasing their VI. However, conversely, it could be that the capacity for further damage to Labour arising from the Miliband factor is relatively limited.

    Unless he’s caught eating a bacon sandwich with Rupert Murdoch, that is. :-)

  30. If you haven’t seen it already take a look at the latest Thread on PoliticalBetting.

    Robert Smithson is outlining SMERSH; his new model for predicting General elections which can accommodate things like the rise of UKIP and the collapse of the LibDems.


  31. I think background/class does matter (a minority of one it seems). In the words of the famous Pulp song “you will never understand…”

    To express a view on benefits for example you have to have been in that environment and see what the problems are for benefit claimants that stop them getting a job, what the problems are for similar people who are working and what carrots and what sticks are appropriate. Being an MP in a poor area you would hope they would pick up on these things just by contact with their constituents whatever the MP’s background but it must certainly help to have lived or worked in that environment.

    Same with education- if you have never had experience of a school in a poor area how are you expected to know what works and what doesn’t? You cannot look at the middle class school you were educated in as a template for the whole of the education system and assume it will work. The home background of a middle class child is totally different- you don’t have to show them how to use a knife and fork when they are 5 as is the case for some children from troubled backgrounds. Middle class children will have had a wide range of experience and educational opportunities in their home life and a school in a poorer area has to provide this on top of their standard teaching. Some children will have never gone off their estate until the school takes them somewhere. There’s still people around who think corporal punishment is a good idea and that will be down to their own experience of seeing middle class brats brought in line not realising that for that to happen to a child from an abusive background just carries on the cycle of violence.

    Equally of course it is no good just having experience of poor backgrounds. You need to know what businesses/wealth creators need and how to achieve this. When business leaders whinge about something you need to know whether their concerns are genuine or just protecting their interests.

    Obviously background is not the be all and end all and obviously an MP is not good just because they came from a poor rather than a rich background. A well educated MP will have advantages but it has to be a wide education that includes an understanding of all sections of society.

  32. “Despite what RogerH said, it was eventually extended to other universities after they were founded, wit ‘Combined’ University seats being et up.”

    Yes, sorry, from 1918. Still not an equitable distribution, though. The one positive thing was that they used the STV.

  33. If you want to look at a 1 man (or Corporation) Thousands of votes arrangement.
    Look no further than the City of London.

  34. The comment on Ed Miliband and effect of unpopular v popular leader of a party is only partly relevant in that plenty of popular leaders have failed to get elected and anyway people are not electing a leader they are electing a local MP. Yes I agree it is a factor but this is a fairly pointless issue since lots of things are factors, and as you say it is already included in the polls anyway. The key issue in this election is that the maths at this point in the cycle and unless anything changes dramatically is that the UKIP factor and Lib Dems in coalition taken together mean that the Conservatives barring a miracle cannot win as the swing needed to get an overall majority is too big, and parties generally lose support the longer they are in power, therefore mathematically and logically speaking if the Conservatives can’t win then there is only one party left that can win and that is Labour – irrespective of the leader. My guess is we are heading for another hung parliament poissibly down to the Milliband effect but where labour are only short of a majority by a handful of seats, so that it would take everyone in Parliament to vote against them to force them out of office. In short the leader issue wont change the result

  35. “Individual politicians though can be criticised for what they say though. I think it is a fair challenge when a politician from a privileged background who has never experienced life on benefit pontificates about ‘shirking’.”

    Strongly disagree here, you obviously don’t realise (B Crombie) that it’s exactly this attitude which perpetuates class warfare and snobbery (whether inverse snobbery or not).

    If we accept the fundamental democratic principle that anyone from any background has a right to stand for election and be voted into government, we must accept that assumes their competence – or at least their right – to speak on the whole spectrum of issues affecting the country for which they have any influence. The idea that an Eton old boy can’t ever, ever speak about certain types of people on benefits as potentially a shirker because he hasn’t experienced life on benefits, but another MP from a working-class background is allowed to broach the subject, is mean as well as unfeasible / unrealistic. Follow this through to its logical conclusion on every topic parliamentarians ever discuss and see where it would end practically too – eg the amount of SPADs that must not ever scrutinise and comment on legislation on business, and 99% not being allowed to talk about agriculture because they are not farmers, etc. OK I’m getting silly but you get the point.

    If you are not careful you are striking a spear through the heart of democracy with your attitude.

  36. Just to be crystal clear and state the obvious, yes I do recognise the basic right to criticise our politicians – just not on the basis B Crombie was saying directly.

  37. SYZYGY

    At 74 I loved your voting idea. I suggest ten votes for the over 70’s.

  38. I remember reading a science fiction story once (I can’t remember who it was by or what it was called). In it, by a series of opinion polls and surveys etc., the most typical American was found and every four years he and he alone, as the most typical American, would decided who should be President. The candidates would campaign in the normal way but there was only this one vote at the end.

    Perhaps we could try that here. Anthony, start polling!

  39. decide not decided!

  40. “I have never observed a link between the educational level achieved and the quality of reason or judgment.”

    Which, if true, would suggest that education is a bit of a scam.

  41. @ Shevii

    It sounds like I’m your ‘ideal’ candidate. :-) And bonus points for me because I’m a vegetarian, so would never be caught out by the bacon butty thing!

  42. Surely its bleedin’ obvious

    1/ That our parliament is not representative of our population


    2/ We all tend to see things through the prism of our own experiences.

    That is not to say that nobody is capable of getting beyond that – I think Heseltine was/is for example and think he is the best Conservative PM we never had [thanks of course to the Conservative party] – but that the time has come when we need to create a better balance.

    I am not knocking MPs at all by the way [not that it would make any diff if I was] as I think the majority are sincere and hard-working.

    Just not representative as a totality.

    The Eton thing that so exercises Colin is an example: the proportion of MPs who have expensive public school backgrounds is completely out of step with the balance in the country.

    I question whether that’s a particularly good imbalance, just as I would if we had the farming community or classical guitarist/singer/songwriters over represented.

  43. Norbold

    It’s “Franchise” a short story by Isaac Asimov

  44. Far Easterner

    Bit of a rant there….

    I resent your comment ‘obviously don’t realise’ as it appears that only someone as intelligent as you realises!

    Well I bow to your obviously self-regarding intellect

    I suggest you read Shevii’s post

    If you read what I posted there are two words you seem to have missed ‘pontificates’ and ‘shirkers’

    There have been many instances of people from a privileged background that have sufficient empathy and emotional intelligence to understand and try to understand the situation with those with less than themselves. From all parties I may add

    Your last paragraph was particularly execrable – firstly because it is based on a false interpretation (which despite your over-inflated estimation of intelligence does not make it a fact), it is not I that have led to a drop in the number of people who even bother to vote and the contempt of the political classes by the electorate

    On a personal note though, I do find it disturbing when one, privileged school is massively over-represented in Government as also I do with the over-representation of public schoolboys and professional politicos in all parties. Lack of diversity is something we should all be concerned about

    Our political system is broken but apparently it is all to do with me and ‘class war’ – and probably the fault of the poor

  45. @Norbold

    Re. the science fiction story, it’s “Franchise” by Isaac Asimov

    @Far Easterner

    You have a point, in that an attack based completely on someone’s background is unfair. On the other hand, if a politician displays a complete lack of empathy with (for example) the poor, and doesn’t seem to understand their circumstances and experience, I think it’s legitimate at that point to question how much that person actually knows about living in poverty. (Even if someone grew up in wealth, have they listened to any of those in their constituency who live in poverty?)

    Likewise from the other side, one MP may question whether another actually knows any investment bankers and has considered their feelings before undertaking reform of financial regulations.
    ^ joke

  46. @BCrombie, R&D

    I forgot to mention over-representation of course, and that is a big concern.

    Unfortunately my idea of drawing representatives at random from the population is not very popular, especially with psephologists, for obvious reasons. I suppose election day programmes would still exist, to interview the chosen ….

  47. @Carfrew
    Alternatively we could just fashion a parliament out of Ukpr posters. How much worse could it be?
    Be careful what you wish for. AW would be Mr Speaker, and he would have his trusty snippers!

    It is not at all surprising that Public schools are overrepresented in politics. Public schools teach people to speak in public and follow a reasoned debate. Most grammar schools also used to include imparting this skill as part of their job. Unfortunately Comprehensives are less successful in passing on such skills and many do not see it as part of their remit.

  49. RMJ1

    Oh that is all right them – we plebs should just learn to be quiet!

    To be honest though I have seen little evidence of tis ‘reasoned argument’ in our politicians. Not answering the question and arguing black is white.

    And do you really, really think that the reason they are over-represented is due to being good debaters?

  50. @ Amber

    Plus you are Scottish and I go weak at the knees when I hear a Scottish accent! My wife does too so it balances out :-)

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