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. “[I had an hilarious post on yesterday’s big news which you would have loved. But it seems to have disappeared.]”

    Yes, Guymonde’s Second Law of UKPR is that hilarious posts disappear. As a reminder, the First Law is that the most laboriously developed, intellectually stunning posts end up as the last post on a superseded thread.

    Class War appears to have broken out here, with Oxbridgers convinced of their superiority and the infallibility of their alma maters (no doubt someone will pull me up on an incorrect plural).

    It would be interesting to know to what extent Oxbridge is hereditary. I can’t see any research on that but it would not surprise me if there was a strong correlation between parent Oxbridge and offspring ditto. Anyone know?

  2. “Professionals can judge quite closely how many accused are extremely likely to be guilty”

    Very very dangerous claim. If that is the case, these professionals should be used by prosecution to show how watertight the evidence is. However, stats vary between peer-reviewed publications – 20% to 98%, if I recall correctly. Claiming that studies proving one point are better than studies proving the conflicting point are likewise highly subjective.

    With the examples you cite, the devil is in the detail. I can think of hypothetical examples either way where the defence would be either valid or spurious, depending on the context of the evidence. But hypotheticals aren’t helpful. What we really need are real examples of real cases where the defence perceived to be fair or unfair is scrutinised in the context of the accompanying claim, the eventual verdict, and then a decision on whether or not the verdict was fair (including whether the rules of the trial were fair).

    But I am extremely uncomfortable with this mindset which comes very close to equating “not guilty” with “got away with it”. I fear that a lot of people who would cheer at a 50% increase in the conviction rate won’t question too closely whether it’s a guilty 50% or innocent 50%.

  3. @RobbieAlive, @Chris Riley – Like I said, the figures for 2005 that I found [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/students-at-oxbridge-have-twice-the-chance-of-getting-a-first-518089.html] ranged from 10% to 25%, which are very similar to the more recent figures you’re citing. That is (to me, I mean, acknowledging that your mileage may vary) a very small gap given the difference in attainment prior to university, and the difference in attainment after university.

    Again, the only way for you to square the circle is to claim that the entire education system’s marking system prior to degree, which is set externally against consistent national standards, is actually less accurate than the degree marking system, which is set internally by interested parties to fit their own students. I don’t see how you can claim that rationally.

  4. @GuyMonde – “Class War appears to have broken out here … It would be interesting to know to what extent Oxbridge is hereditary”

    This is the biggest problem that working class people who get to Oxbridge face. It’s not discrimination from the posh kids who also got there. It’s the comments from the people who didn’t get in, suggesting that they’re somehow class traitors, just because they dared to have some aspiration. I was the first of my family to go to Oxford. My grandparents didn’t even go to university. But now I am lumped in as some kind of aristocrat lording it over the serfs. I have had to put up with people like you ever since I got accepted all those years ago. Tall poppy syndrome at its finest.

  5. “Class War appears to have broken out here, with Oxbridgers convinced of their superiority and the infallibility of their alma maters (no doubt someone will pull me up on an incorrect plural).”


    Oh do me a favour. Besides, I’m trying to enjoy my coffee without such provocations…

  6. @Carfrew – My coffee-free, provoked comment is in moderation ;-)

  7. @Chris Green: “Harvard has vastly more money than Oxford does, and can give extremely generous bursaries to students who wouldn’t be able to attend university at all otherwise. This suggests that we should give Oxbridge a lot more money.”

    But everybody qualifies for loans in the UK. Taking students from low income families imposes no additional costs on the universities. Nor would it account for Oxbridge taking a smaller proportion of state pupils than other HE institutions.

  8. “It would be interesting to know to what extent Oxbridge is hereditary.”


    From memory I think it was something like 25% had a close family member previously attend…

  9. @CHRIS NEVILLE-SMITH: “Professionals can judge quite closely how many accused are extremely likely to be guilty”

    In my (limited) experience the police assume every defendant to be guilty.

  10. CG

    ” My coffee-free, provoked comment is in moderation ”

    Jolly good.

  11. An slight error – I believe the QC brother was acting for defendents in a linked case…not this one specifically but not far off

  12. Re Unis, I dunno how the ole Oxbridge toddlers’ groups work but at mine, in Plymouth in the late 40s, there were NO entrance exams and some of the little rascals couldn’t even toddle !!!!!

    It was like a bleedin’ scrum in there during the coffee breaks.

  13. Look, it’s really simple.

    They set a load of exams aged 13 and the top schools cherry-pick those who do the best and who might therefore have the best chance of doing well at Oxbridge, and surprise, surprise, they do well at Oxbridge.

    “Fix!!” I hear you cry, and maybe it is a bit, but it can’t be completely a fix… BECAUSE THEY ALSO DO UNCOMMONLY WELL AT “A” LEVELS.

    Which are externally assessed. Especially in my day before all this coursework stuff.

    At my school, a quarter got into Oxford and Cambridge every year. “Fix!!” Or maybe not, because half the school did well enough at “A” level, with As and Bs and “S” levels to put themselves in for Oxbridge.

  14. @RogerH – Student loans mostly just cover the cost of tuition. The Harvard bursaries cover the cost of tuition, the cost of living, and then some.

    I didn’t say that there was one explanation that explained why Oxford accepted fewer poor students than both lower-quality domestic institutions and peer-quality overseas institutions. Several things explain the former, primarily selection by private schools and the better education at private schools. Bursaries mostly explain the smaller latter.

    Can I reiterate that I am a comprehensive-educated student who doesn’t agree with private education? I’m not defending private education. I’m saying that private education itself (and income inequality in general) is the problem, that the disparity at Oxford is nothing but a symptom of that, and that Oxford’s existence is a good thing for poorer kids, because it gives them an opportunity to step up.

  15. @RosieAndDaisie – “Jolly good.”

    Do please enlighten us on exactly what your dogs think about this. I don’t think we could bear to be without their contribution.

  16. If we take the (voting) electorate as numbering nearly 30 million and multiply circulation by readership (say x2.6, but higher for qualities and Sunday papers), plus add in other Tory supporting nationals (Star)… then the penetration is significant among certain-to-vote newspaper readers.

    Like when people say they aren’t influenced by advertising, you will still find people parroting the views contained in their newspaper.

    There is also social media, which seems in many cases to amplify the internet presence of what we know as the mainstream media.

    An important section of the electorate is those who are certain-to-vote (a duty) but are not politically engaged. How are these people influenced? Local papers? I have a suspicion that a second tier of political commentary provides guidance at an almost instinctual level – everyone in the media as a whole will be taking notice of politics during an election campaign (and will go to a newspaper in order to stay informed).

    For instance, I happened to listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon duing the last election campaign (the things I do in the name of research) and was stuck by how on the surface it seemed impartial… everything was conveyed by tone of voice.

  17. @Robbiealive

    I have just read your post, and having almost lost the will to live, shall deal with you later.

  18. @Billy Bob – “was stuck by how on the surface it seemed impartial… everything was conveyed by tone of voice.”

    That’s a very important point in polling too. Online research is able to be a lot less biasing than telephone or face-to-face research, because the biasing factor of the human interviewer is removed.

  19. @Chris Green

    I don’t think that people are saying that Oxbridge isn’t good for state school pupils who get in – it’s a fantastic opportunity for them. What they are saying is that it falls a long way short of being a system that levels the playing field for poorer children in general. In fact the disproportionate number of public school entrants suggests that the system is acting (generally) as a barrier to class mobility.

    On other points, yes the degree grading system is not comparable between institutions – and in any case, Cambridge, at least, doesn’t actually award graded degrees beyond Honours and Ordinary. Exams are graded, degrees are not.


    “Well argued piece on why the public schools get proportionally more places at Oxford and Cambridge.”


    Thanks Howie… it’s a poison chalice of course but it is something that has cropped up before so may as well get to the bottom of it. Besides, it’s interesting to see the board views on the matter. In a run away to the comfort of a Macchiato kinda way…

  21. @TheSheep – But there isn’t much more that Oxbridge can do, given that the rest of society is as it is (controlled by moneyed interests), and still be fair to all applicants on the merits that those applicants display, and stay within the rules of the system (e.g. UCAS).


    You appear to be asking “Oxbridge” to compromise their own standards to compensate for poor educational outcomes in some secondary schools.

  23. @ Chris Neville-Smith

    The consent issue goes to the heart of the matter – go back to BFR’s comment i.e. that many of the victims are not old enough to legally give consent.

    Furthermore, the defence generally works on the premise that consent was implied rather than being sought & received. People who are against this type of violence will continue to press our case: Consent cannot be implied; it must be clearly given by an adult who is in a fit state to freely give their consent.

  24. @Amber Star – I’m fairly sure that Mr Neville-Smith was referring to rape allegations between adults rather than to child sexual abuse.

  25. Ah, Oxbridge and all that. My parents were very keen for me to attend and, after my A Levels, I sat a “Use of English” exam as a prerequisite to sitting the full Oxbridge entrance examinations. This was way back when in 1973 and I have no idea whether that’s the way it works these days but, suffice to say, my early rebellious streak cut in and I defied my parents wishes and said I didn’t want to go to either Oxford or Cambridge. Whether I’d have passed the exams anyway, who knows, but I remember my mother being particularly mortified. However, I stuck to my guns and, to this day, I don’t what little sprite or guardian angel was operating within me, as a 17 year old, to make me so determined to forego the opportunity. My teachers were disappointed too and I have absolutely no idea how my life would have turned out if I’d have taken that turn in the road all those 40 long years ago.

    No regrets though, and because I was a fairly young A Level student, I took a year off before going to Bristol University in 1974. Spent 12 months doing odd jobs, working in factories and on petrol forecourts, played lots of cricket, watched lots of football, drunk lots of beer, chased lots of girls and basically grew up fast. I had to purge 10 years of single sex Catholic education! Three utterly enjoyable and unforgettable years then ensued at Bristol.

    Je regret nien.

  26. Ouch ! Q1 2014 USA GDP contraction looks worrying.

  27. @ ChrisGreen,

    I’m fairly sure that Mr Neville-Smith was referring to rape allegations between adults rather than to child sexual abuse.
    Then he is not addressing BFR’s point: namely that celebrities appear to receive ‘the benefit of the doubt’ from both men & – to BFR’s surprise – women. And the further point was: the main reason that the celebrities have been prosecuted at all, is because many of their victims were below the age where legal consent could be given when the incident(s) happened.

  28. Doohhh……. je ne regrette rien, not Je regret nien.

    If I’d have gone to Oxford, I’d have got got that right first time. :-)

  29. “Je ne regrette rien ” actually , I think.

    Avec mes souvenirs
    J’ai allumé le feu
    Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs
    Je n’ai plus besoin d’eux!

    How can one forget that voice & those words ? :-) :-) :-)

  30. Afternoon All.
    CROSSBAT 11.
    Same age we are.
    Beulah Hill 1973 A Levels, then away for two years, did my Use of English in 1975
    I found Oxford to be very challenging.
    Glad I went though.
    Did not like the Labour Club at all.

  31. I made what I still think was the very wise choice to stay away from student politics of all kinds while at Oxford. “Shun her, a greater Rihanna”, as the cryptic song goes.

    Interestingly, it seems as though Oxbridge graduates are over-represented among commenters on this site. Another example of the insidious Oxbridge conspiracy at work, no doubt.

  32. CG

    “@RosieAndDaisie – “Jolly good.”

    Do please enlighten us on exactly what your dogs think about this. I don’t think we could bear to be without their contribution. ”

    Eh ?? I thought you were clever.. but, to clarify.

    They think that it was JOLLY GOOD.

  33. @ Chris Green.

    “Another example of the insidious Oxbridge conspiracy at work”.

    I’m not axe-grinding but trying to distinguish between what we know — that Oxbridge entrants have better qualifications — & the need to provide evidence for the various assertions tacked on to this — eg., degree outcomes. Your data were deficient.

    You’re a dab hand at hyphens and apostrophes but conspiracies are insidious by definition.

  34. I’m very good with apostrophes and I never went to any university at all, let alone Oxbridge!

  35. I think Oxbridge standards are an interesting and difficult question. I am a current Cambridge undergrad, wholly local-comprehensive educated but from a heavily academic family (my aunt and sister were also both Cantabs) – not going to a private school did, I think, minimal damage to my eventual grades.

    The issue is really in the signficant set of people who move from elite grammars and private schools to Oxbridge and then out to business/politics/finance. In a lot of these cases, their innate ability to cope with Oxbridge is not inherently better than that of state school pupils, and it’s not uncommon for private school pupils to struggle a lot more here than state counterparts. The reason is fairly simple; it is entirely possible to almost rote-teach up to A Level, ensuring you get a pupil their grades by inundating them with loads of work and practice papers. This is something private schools have the time and funding to do, and state schools often don’t. To put it another way, the education needed to get *into* Oxbridge is a subtly but importantly different skillset from that needed to actually do well here, and whilst there are no solid rules private schools do a better job encouraging applications and securing A Level grades for good but not necessarily stellar candidates (stellar here being admittedly by Oxbridge’s quirky and exceptional definition of such).

    I’m not sure what the solution to all that is. Certainly state schools need to push much harder to get their best to even apply in the first place, but I find it hard to fault teachers on the ground who are struggling along with lower budgets and vastly, vastly higher ability ranges than their private school counterparts. If we’re going to keep a private education sector, it does need to start shouldering far more of the real burden of wider education than it does now.

  36. Colin-

    your US GDP comment is of big significance. I think with the ongoing Iraq problems, and the oil spike which could result, we could be going into a difficult 2nd half of 2014, economically.

    This could be decisive re. 2015…

  37. @CROSSBAT11

    “If I’d have gone to Oxford, I’d have got got that right first time. :-)”


    Lol Crossbat, if you’d been to Oxford you might not feel the need to keep making comments like that…

  38. Interestingly, it seems as though Oxbridge graduates are over-represented among commenters on this site. Another example of the insidious Oxbridge conspiracy at work, no doubt.

    This site has many lurkers and occasional posters.

    Many will may not be interested in the debate, therefore haven’t contributed.

  39. This Oxford thread is one of the most boring and tedious I can remember. it’s only marginally less turgid and uninteresting as the endless posts on Scottish politics we get, when new referendum polls are published.


    A decline was anticipated for Q1-weather & other factors-but it is much worse than expected.

    Yes , I suppose there will be some effect on UK-though it has to be said that Net Trade is not a major component here yet !

    Iraq looks really worrying to me. Maliki has spurned the idea of a National Government, so Muslim sectarian strife seems set in stone. The idea that a Fundamentalist Caliphate , with international terror on its agenda emerges across great chunks of Syria & Iraq is frightening.

    I can see USA switching allegiance & support to the Kurds. They now have a de-facto Kurdistan under their belts, a well disciplined army which doesn’t run away-oil , a modern outlook , and stable government.

    They look like the only credible bulwark in the region against Muslim Sectarian wars.

  41. It seems to me that

    1) to get into Oxbridge you have to be academically clever, but there are many more academically clever people who do not go to Oxbridge than who do (e.g Sir Peter Mansfield who won the Nobel prize for his work on MRI, failed the 11+ and left school about 14)
    2) The subsequent success of Oxbridge graduates is far from universal and relates not only to their academic ability but also to other things (like contacts, confidence, an ability to convey the right messages). It is no doubt for similar reasons that Etonians are found in a conservative cabinet and friends from Glasgow university used to be found in a labour one.
    3) There are other sorts of cleverness than the academic kind and other qualities (commitment, interest, the ability to immerse oneself in a problem) are important even in an academic context. (I believe that very high IQ is not a particularly good predictor of success in any field, much to the chagrin of some researchers).
    There are problems in all of this. We need more top class academic education, a wider base for our elites, and parity of esteem for practical, social and academic skills. But while Oxbridge may illustrate these problems and in some ways even reinforce them, a concentration on reforming Oxford or Cambridge is surely not the way to solve them.

  42. Colin-
    Agreed re. US Q1 being worse than expected. I think, from the point of view of the coalition, the economy and Miliband’s perceived unfitness for the role of Prime Minister are the two trump cards heading into the GE of 2015, in little more than 10 months’ time.

    if anything upsets, or seems to contradict, the recovering economy narrative, I think the Tories have had it. the situation in Iraq, the potential US slowdown, and the feeling that the housing bubble in the south east will stall, will damage sentiment and could lead to a sluggish quarter in the Uk. If that happens, i think the tories will be out in little less than a year.

  43. PETER

    I hope the London housing bubble does “stall”-be it a natural slow down , or one imposed by the new FPC lending strictures.

    I can’t believe that exploding house prices in London is good for the economy -or indeed Londoners in general. If you discount the mega rich foreign buyers who are driving it.

    Certainly, a continuing steady trend of improvement on GDP growth, jobs & pay is a key component for Tory success next May.

    But I still can’t see them doing better than largest party. -just can’t see an OM at present.

    But there is plenty of water to go under the bridge yet :-)

  44. no one should under estimate the effect of abuse whether it is sexual physical or psychological and those guilty too often get away with it. however that is life. it should not be the excuse for witch hunts against easy targets and in any event my concern is that because the police have a built in tendency to think that anyone who they come across is guilty so the innocent suffer. forget sex which consumes people and think of a perfectly innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time facing the might of a blood thirsty establishment out for convictions to compensate for those they cannot prosecute.
    it could be you next. then see how you change your perception.

  45. Colin…

    can’t really see largest party, without some reverse…have looked at the marginal seats and they look very vulnerable from the tories’ point of view. I suppose they’ll win some off the liberals to compensate, but it will be tough. have thought this for 18 months now, so it isn’t a spur of the moment thought.

    i think house prices coming off will have a negative effect on the “animal spirits” of consumers and investors. it could be a self-fulfilling thing, where slow price growth leads to poorer sentiment and worse economic outcomes…

  46. Markets don’t seem to worried about GDP figure , DOW currently up.
    A bad economy will certainly harm the Tories and lead to a Labour majority. Hung still looks likely.

  47. At the risk of sounding like Gordon Brown, I agree with Charles. An Oxbridge education is not always very helpful in itself. (Nor Eton incidentally). You have to be able to live up to it. A lack of a public school or Oxbridge background has never caused me any grief although occasionally others have assumed that I had both. The most successful people seem to leave their school days behind them very quickly. I find people’s obsessions with the school you may have attended many years ago a trifle odd.

    I would also advise Colin and Peter not to read too much into the US Q1 numbers. They will make absolutely no impact in the UK and will quickly revert to norm. The US gets real weather but it’s effects are temporary because they just deal with it.

  48. I’m not knocking anybody for getting an Oxbridge education – on the contrary, I admire it – and I believe it’s pretty indisputable that Oxbridge attracts and develops a lot of (but by no means all) the cream in terms of academic aptitude and attainment.

    It’s a concern to me that this group, selected on a rather narrow set of criteria – there’s more to running a country than academic excellence – have a disproportionate influence on our public life and a tendency towards an arrogant view of their own abilities compared to others. Public school people can exhibit similar traits.

    Having worked for many years for French companies, it seems to me that this trait is even more pronounced there: I have seen some rather imbecilic appointments made on the grounds of the appointee having been to the right grand ecole.

    If Carfrew is right that ‘hereditary’ students are at 25% I am somewhat reassured – I would have expected a higher figure.

  49. PETER

    I said largest party was the best I could see-not that I forecast it.

    I disagree on the effect of a London house price pause. I think it will be good news for the ordinary Londoner trying to buy a normal house.
    My concern would be how anyone can stop the foreign mega bucks effect. They aren’t in the mortgage market, so BoE have no tools for this.

  50. One of my sons went to Oxford.
    I mean he didn’t go to the University or anything but he did go to Oxford and his Dad and I were very proud because, to be honest, he was a bit of dope and we were never convinced he’d be able to go anywhere on his own and find his way back.

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