Just a quick post on Monday’s regular polls from Lord Ashcroft and Populus. The twice-weekly online poll from Populus has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 3%. Tabs here.

Lord Ashcroft’s weekly telephone poll has topline figures of CON 28%(-1), LAB 33%(-2), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 17%(+2), GRN 7% (tabs here).

In my post yesterday I touched on issues of party image – of how the Conservatives lead on competence, but Labour are more likely to be seen as having it’s heart in the right place. Today’s Ashcroft poll has a much bigger section on party image but you can see the same pattern. The Conservative party are more likely to be seen as being “competent and capable”, “having clear ideas to deal with Britain’s problems” and being “willing to take tough decisions for the long term”. However Labour lead on perceptions that are more about values – so they are ahead on “shares my values”, “on the side of people like me” and have big leads on having its “heart in the right place” and “stands for fairness”.

As a general view, I’d say that gap there is what prevents the Conservatives doing much better. The Tories have a leader who rates far more positively than the opposition leader; they now have a consistent lead on the economy, the big issue facing the country. The thing that holds them back is that people do still see them as a party of the rich (and a party of the white) and don’t trust their motives, whereas whatever Labour’s other failings are (and they have their own image problems), the public do at least still see them as having their heart in the right place and caring about fairness.


496 Responses to “Latest Populus and Ashcroft polls”

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  1. So

    Suarez kicked out of the World Cup?

    Labour jump in polls?

    Kevin Pietersen back to captain England?

  2. @Chris Green and Colin

    Unfortunately, I have experienced the comments from both of you as patronising, ill-mannered, unjustified and unkind attacks. I gave you, Chris, an opportunity to apologise for your mistake and unfounded rudeness. However, you have merely continued to interpret what I have said as if it was what you wanted it to mean. You have absolutely no knowledge of my background or educational experiences, yet have had no hesitation in putting out on me bizarre ‘biases’ or some sort of intellectual jealousy.

    As for you Colin! Did I really deserve such sniping instead of a sensible discussion of the issues which incidentally have no bearing whatsoever on your grandson’s academic achievements?

    Thanks to those who have tried to calm the waters… I appreciated your attempts.

  3. Looking at the percentages of students from maintained and private schools who enter Oxford/Cambridge is pointless unless you look at the size of the pool from which they are drawn. Almost 50% of the cohort comes from private education but the vast majority of students are in state education. The problem is that all of those admitted will have top grades at A level and so will many many others who will be rejected. Oxford and Cambridge, and other top universities, have to select in some way and this is where they move beyond the hard evidence of exam results and into things like personal statements, life/work experience and tutor references and it is in these areas that the unfairness arises. I think most of the university admission tutors acknowledge this but it’s hard for them to work around it. Perhaps we all tend to value experiences that are like our own and value references that come from people we know personally – that’s the reality of it. It doesn’t mean state school students don’t get it but it does mean that more of them, with the top grades, are rejected.

  4. Last line should be ‘state school students don’t get in’ – unless of course they don’t get it either

  5. Maura

    Maybe they don’t get why they didn’t get in.

  6. R&D

    Good point!

  7. @Syzygy – How generous of you to deign to give me the opportunity to apologise to you. You have my gratitude.

  8. SUE

    @”As for you Colin! Did I really deserve such sniping ”

    I don’t think I “sniped” at you.

    You advocated the closure of Oxford & Cambridge.
    I said I didn’t understand how anyone could do so.

    RogerH told me no one had so advocated-I drew his attention to your post.

    The Sheep gave a viewpoint on OXbridge school intake, which I countered with a HoC Library source.

    Where’s the “sniping” ?

  9. help…………………

  10. @Colin

    If you’re on a polling site you should always be wary of selective choice of statistics

    “2013 Maintained 55.0%
    Independent 45.0%”

    True, but in 2011 it was 58.5 to 41.5. Oxford have moved backwards. Not exactly 50:50, true, but a long, long way off 90:10, which is (roughly) where you would expect it to be if selection were based purely on ability.

  11. @Chris Green
    ‘So make everywhere like Oxford”: the intensity and rigour of the Oxford experience would be completely unsuitable for most students.’
    Can you explain in what way the Oxbridge experience is so intense and rigorous? What – in essence – is the difference in doing a degree in – say – Maths, History, English, Philosophy or Economics there from studying the same subjects at Manchester, Leeds or Southampton? Does it derive from having to pack the course into 8 week rather than 10 week terms – or do Oxbridge undergraduates physically have to make more submissions to their tutors? I am a little intrigued because most of the Oxbridge people I have encountered , ended up as schoolmasters. Nothing at all wrong with that – but at the same time there was nothing particularly striking about them that made them stand out from their peers!

  12. THE SHEEP

    You said the numbers had “not budged ” since the “80s”.

    I don’t think the data supports that.

  13. @Graham – It’s a good question, and I’ll give you a few examples from personal experience to try to illustrate what I mean.

    Upon my return home from Oxford that first Christmas, my cousin, doing the same degree at Nottingham, was regaling us all with how hard he had to work. “I have to do a fully-researched essay every two weeks!” he said, proud of his effort. I kept quiet. I had to do two such essays every week, and then defend them verbally, one on one, with one of the top philosophers in the world.

    A friend of mine in first year was struggling hopelessly with the content on his course. He couldn’t keep up, and was obviously worse than everyone around him, who were keeping him afloat by kindly spending their own time helping him out. At the end of the first year he left Oxford and went to Sheffield for his second year onwards. We stayed friends, and he reported back his delight that the second year material at Sheffield had all been covered in his first year at Oxford, meaning he didn’t have to put in any further effort for that year; he went on to get a First.

    So, a) there is physically more to do, b) the standards of judgement are higher, and c) the content is harder. An Oxbridge degree is more demanding than a degree from other top British universities. Not that those other universities don’t have great students and produce fine graduates – but it is not the same experience.

    I think feelings are getting too high on both sides, on a subject that is unrelated to polling, so good night to all.

  14. maura – at 8.52 …. Oxford and Cambridge presumably will want to select students that do them credit. Is there any logic to them going out of their way to select inferior candidates because they went to a ‘better’ school?

  15. Hookeslaw

    Of course not – and that’s not what I said. The point I was making is a fairly simple one: all of the students who apply to Oxbridge, or almost all of them, will have equally excellent results -then they have to be selected! That selection consists of personal statement, references and, almost always, interviews. It is in these areas where it is most difficult to remain impartial and, as I said, I think that the great majority of admissions tutors now recognize this fact. Something else which is pushing them towards trying to address this is that recent research both from within and outside universities shows that students recruited from supposedly ‘poorer’ schools will often achieve higher end results than those with the same results who come from the ‘better’ schools which, when you think about it, isn’t surprising.

  16. It’s a bit poll drums isn’t it?, no good stories really. Bacon sandwich brought back up, pointlessly. My local news still peddling the Alibhai-Brown newsnight thing, another nothing story on the grand scheme of how the UK is doing… Only note worthy things are maybe extension of HS2 scale and Cameron’s issue in Europe over Juncker, which he looks to be isolated on. Not sure either of these will impact the polls.

    I did think about Europe earlier, and it occurred to me maybe it is an odd concept the idea that we have to become politically wed to what were other to free democratic nations purely due to their proximity in distance, with those further away excluded on the same premise?

  17. Anybody got the YG for tonight?

  18. @CHRIS GREEN

    “Argh, I need t stop using the word “under-el-wy-ing”! Moderated post:”

    —————

    Goes with the territory. We’re often lookng at, or for, somthing underly-ing: Trends, factors, principles, influences etc…

  19. @ Chris Green
    “So, a) there is physically more to do, b) the standards of judgement are higher, and c) the content is harder. An Oxbridge degree is more demanding than a degree from other top British universities.”

    You may or may not be right, but if all your education taught you to do was to draw massive generalisations from a couple of anecdotes then it must be questioned whether you have really grasped the nature of scholarly debate.

  20. “Bacon sandwich brought back up”

    Poor Ed.

  21. Modesty is fantastic human virtue.

  22. “It’s a bit poll drums isn’t it?, no good stories really. Bacon sandwich brought back up, pointlessly.”

    ————-

    It’s the long dark teatime of the soul in a five-year fixed-term parliament. Government having pushed their main policies through and unwilling to risk anything big before an election… Too early for manifesto commitments.

    Disagree about the sarnie, it was a somewhat different angle and it’s interesting to see different board takes on it. And anyway I wasn’t involved in previous excursions on the matter. There’s a long way to go on sarnies before it catches up on other evergreen topics…

  23. @Ben

    I dread the pointless bickering that will ensue follow the issue you referred to.

    The partisans will love the bickering, but outside the bubble such bickering will do both sides damage.

    Can all sides agree to campaign positively in issues that affect people in the real world please?

  24. @Hookeslaw

    “maura – at 8.52 …. Oxford and Cambridge presumably will want to select students that do them credit. Is there any logic to them going out of their way to select inferior candidates because they went to a ‘better’ school?”

    I believe there have been some studies done that suggest that state school pupils with the same prior attainment achieve better outcomes than privately educated equivalents. Of course it may be (I don’t have the data to hand) that Oxbridge actually admit less qualified state school pupils but I think they don’t.

    There’s another factor here and that is that universities are (not unreasonably) very concerned with their image and status. Is this served better by having alumni who are part of the ruling class (either left or right) and end up in Westminster/Whitehall, at the top of business or the professions, or by a socially committed daughter of Barnsley who ends up as an outstanding teacher in her home community?

    Given the way life works in the UK, it is far more likely that privately educated people will end up in influential positions, whether they went to Oxbridge or not, and my guess this is a pretty powerful motivator even if not acknowledged. There is of course an added bonus of patronage here, also very important to universities.

  25. @Graham

    “…Can you explain in what way the Oxbridge experience is so intense and rigorous? What – in essence – is the difference in doing a degree in – say – Maths, History, English, Philosophy or Economics there from studying the same subjects at Manchester, Leeds or Southampton? Does it derive from having to pack the course into 8 week rather than 10 week terms – or do Oxbridge undergraduates physically have to make more submissions to their tutors?…”

    Oxford (I can’t speak for Cambridge) is very hard work: the frequency and intensity of the assignments are noticably greater than other universities I did degrees at. The tutors are about the same as other unis, but the infrastucture is more responsive. I didn’t see much of the Brideshead yahoos – I did a STEM subject – so I can’t speak to their prevalence, and the dreamy languid ambience is not much in evidence. Mostly the students and support staff are polite, a bit distant, incredibly smart, possibly a bit more than elsewhere. So:

    * The work is more frequent and more intense
    * The students and support staff are smarter
    * The tutors are about the same (an Soton professor is, mutatis mutandis, about the same as a Oxon professor)

  26. Or to put it another way… what Maura said, more quickly and better phrased.

  27. @chris green I find it almost impossible to believe that someone who boasts that he benefited from what is (allegedly) the best education our system can offer could make such an illogical post. Using one example to make a sweeping conclusion is worthy of idiots like The Mail and should have no place here.
    Intellectual snobbery is no better than any other kind.

  28. @Maura
    Makes a nice change

  29. Had a phone call from the ONS earlier this evening asking me questions about political preferences and leaders, both national and constituency.

  30. On the universities debate…

    Maura got it spot on I think. The very leading unis (a group consisting of Oxbridge, a few specialist centres in London and perhaps Durham) have so many strong applicants on grades that they end up selecting more on secondary factors that may favour private school kids.

    Unis lower down, even those just behind the leading ones, will make their decisions largely on grades but, taking into account the guideline that unis shouldn’t discriminate against those getting less than A*AA, the leading unis have too many strong candidates to do this.

    Whilst almost all schools will offer some assistance with applications these days a private school student is much more likely to be able to have their application read through not once but several times by their teachers/advisers before it is ready to go. In a state school a general advice session and one less thorough read through would be the norm.

    As well as personal statements, which many departments dislike because they tend to be artificial lists of faux achievements rather than a clear indication of why the person is suitable for their course, references are important. Inevitably a Headmaster’s reference from a private school might carry more weight than one from Mrs Nobody at an inner city state school.

    Having been to a private school myself it wouldn’t surprise me at all if state pupils with equivalent grades go on to do better on an equivalent course. Many private school kids are used to being dragged along by staff in a way that they won’t be at uni, and lots struggle badly with that adjustment. That said, I doubt this gap is particularly large at the top end. What private schools are excellent at doing is getting low As and Bs for average/ lazy students that would do much worse at state schools.

    Another factor to consider is that private schools are on at pupils about the need to apply to top unis much more so more probably do.

  31. @ RogerH

    Had a phone call from the ONS earlier this evening asking me questions about political preferences and leaders, both national and constituency.
    —————–
    Really? I wasn’t aware that the ONS did political stuff…

  32. Yes, many who apply to Oxford and Cambridge may have excellent “A” level grades, so the question is how to differentiate.

    First thing to say is that in my day at least, people also optionally took “S” levels which were rather more demanding than “A” level.

    But on top of that, for some subjects Oxford and Cambridge also set exams, their own papers, which were rather harder again than “S” level. I had to take papers in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, all set by Oxford itself.

    Then when it comes to the interview, it’s not necessarily a friendly chat about your interests and stuff, like it was at a Redbrick where they said at the outset I had a place already because of my “A” level grades. It was a case of being set problems to solve that take you out of your comfort zone… Trick questions, stuff like that.

    For other subjects like PPE, they might give tricky logic problems to solve. The point being to differentiate by taking people to their limit in problem-solving terms (without it being too dependent on what you may or may not have been taught).

    Obviously, interview strategies can vary, and there’s no authoratative source on the matter I am aware of that keeps records of interview questions and stuff. But it ought to be clear that it is possible to fairly differentiate at interview, and that when this is coupled with additional exams then all the more so.

    Interview strategies can vary, but the aim is to differentiate.

  33. Sorry about the orphaned last line… Editing error…

  34. Just seen the story about news corp. Thought I’d look at circulations compared to the last election.

    In May 2010 The Sun sold 2,936,099 copies. This May it sold 2,081,279. Down about a third – a million copies.

    If it keeps declining at the same rate it will be about 1.8 – 1.9 million by May 2015.

    News of the World was at 2.9m in May 2010. This year the Sun on Sunday is at 1.7m. Could well be at 1.5m by next year – half the level of 2010.

    Newspaper influence is definitely dying. Helps explain why newspaper stories seem to have less and less effect on VI.

  35. Authoratative = authoritative

    ( You have to pass a “Use of English” exam as well for Oxford, which should happinate a few on here!!…)

  36. @Chris Green: ” An Oxbridge degree is more demanding than a degree from other top British universities.”

    Wow. I thought you said your teaching was rigorous yet you can base such a generalisation on one anecdote. Plenty of undemanding degrees at Oxbridge (especially if your talent is more of the sporting type). Different universities excel in different fields (even the old polys).

  37. I went to Durham (same college as my dad, not coincidentally) and I think only one of my entry group had been to a state school. Perhaps things have improved since, though.

  38. @RogerH

    Pink Panther university?

  39. @ROGERH

    “…Had a phone call from the ONS earlier this evening asking me questions about political preferences and leaders, both national and constituency…”

    Here are lists of surveys ONS does. Can you remember which one?

    * h ttp://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/get-involved/taking-part-in-a-survey/information-for-businesses/a-to-z-of-business-surveys/index.html
    * h ttp://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/get-involved/taking-part-in-a-survey/information-for-households/a-to-z-of-household-and-individual-surveys/index.html

  40. @AMBER STAR: “Really? I wasn’t aware that the ONS did political stuff…”

    No, I thought that. Definitely said it was the ONS as I checked at the end.

  41. Maura got it spot on I think. The very leading unis (a group consisting of Oxbridge, a few specialist centres in London and perhaps Durham) have so many strong applicants on grades that they end up selecting more on secondary factors that may favour private school kids.

    ——–

    Maura didn’t get it spot on, because made assumptions about the sekection process that aren’t necessarily valid. The assumption being that it isn’t possible to design a selection process that is fair and challenging enough in interview to discriminate. Also did not even seem to be aware there may be additional exams.

  42. If you think of the interview as an oral exam, where they get you to give your reasoning for each step out loud so they can see how you address problems, and can keep upping the difficulty level on the fly to find your limit, you might get an idea of how it can work…

  43. @Martyn

    I did look on their site but couldn’t see anything similar. The questions were all political – of leaders, parties and policies. Also included question on the candidates in my own constituency, who I’d vote for and which party I expected to win.

  44. @Carfrew

    Applicants don’t usually have any grades as interviews are before A-levels have been taken. If a university/college wants you enough it’ll make a less demanding offer. The fact that offers are based on face-to-face interviews rather than, as with most.universities, only UCAS forms and school references is a significant factor.

  45. Carfrew

    I am aware that there may be additional exams but this is certainly not the case in all subjects. The selection process for different universities, and even within universities, does differ and far fewer students are interviewed nowadays with Oxford and Cambridge really being exceptions in the numbers they interview. The kind of interview process you describe is not universal or, in my experience, even very common. I’m not saying it’s impossible to design a completely fair interview process – I’ve really no idea if that has ever been done or how you could ever prove it has – but I do believe that it must be very difficult and there is a lot of evidence that recruiters, in all walks of life, tend to favour certain types of candidates (these may be different for different jobs/courses but the bias is there)

  46. I took my A levels at a boys’ grammar school in the early 1970s. A friend of mine gained entry to St Edmund Hall, Oxford -having already taken his A levels -to read Modern Languages. His exam results were French – B – German B – English D. He also had to sit the Oxford Entrance Exam which no longer exists as such. Nevertheless he was admitted – despite not having achieved outstanding A level results – not withstanding the hyperinflation in grades that has occurred since that time.

  47. Re Unis, I went to Ponteland Teacher Training College and that was bloody hard.

    I can remember at least one occasion, over the three year course, when I had to stop practising the flute to go to a lecture – and some of my friends went to MORE than that !!

  48. So anyway. The Luxembourg Compromise. Unlike previous episodes, when Cameron’s writers clearly Did Not Do The Research, this one may work: or at least to the point where the courts will have to decide. Thoughts?

  49. @RogerH

    Yes, there has been a shift more towards fourth term applications etc… in my day, seventh term applications were more common, post-A level.

    It’s possible the shift to fourth term could help state school applucants a bit.

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