A couple of interesting YouGov findings in yesterday’s Sun and this morning’s Times. Both had questions about perceptions of the state of the economy, and both showed a stark decline since earlier in the year. Regular readers will remember that there had been a pattern of the public still being pessimistic about their personal finances, but becoming more optimistic about the state of the economy as a whole. That appears to have changed.

In the YouGov Sun poll poll yesterday 25% of people expected the economy to get better in the year ahead, down from 39% in March. 32% expected it to get worse, up from 23% (tabs here.)

A similar poll for the Times RedBox done a day later found the proportion of people thinking the economy was either on the way to recovery or showing signs of recovery was down to 40% from 50% in August, and the percentage of people thinking the economy was getting worse was up from 13% to 22% (tabs here.)

Both questions were run prior to the government’s Autumn Statement, and while I doubt many people actually watch it the media coverage of the economy over the last few days may yet make a difference – either positive or negative. Beyond that, as with most political events, I wouldn’t expect the Autumn Statement to make much difference.

432 Responses to “Falling economic optimism”

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  1. Eagerly awaiting our UKPR monthly churn report now that we have a nice new thread!

  2. The punters on Political Betting think the AS has done the Tories a bit of good. At Labour and UKIP’s expense.
    It could jump two ways, “Labour are actually a better bet with the economy”, or, “if things are going south again, we better have a Tory government”.
    Only one thing is sure, you will find out on UKPR.

  3. Drat! I was preparing this for airing on the last thread and Anthony started a new one as I was typing.

    Anyway, I don’t want to waste my efforts even though this is nothing at all to do with ‘falling economic optimism’. So, here goes…

    On Nov 27 @Election4castUK sent out a Tweet saying: “We will have a post soon comparing this latest round of @LordAshcroft polls to where the model had those seats before we had the polls.”
    It will be interesting to see this when it eventually appears.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to download a snapshot of their ‘Nowcast’ before they started feeding in the new Ashcroft data, so there doesn’t seem to be any way of doing this independently. (Someone suggested that Way Back my archive earlier versions of the site, but they don’t seem to do this.)

    In any case, I have been playing around with their numbers to try to get a bit of a feel for how their model works. This exercise has turned up a number of curiosities and I wonder if someone can help me understand what is going on.

    The first thing that struck me is that their Swingback algorithms seem rather strange. You can get a glimpse of this by making a seat-by-seat comparison between each party’s vote share in their GE projection on one hand and in their Nowcast in the other. For the Conservatives, it turns out that the share is increased consistently by 3-4 points between now and May. (In the majority of the seats the increment is exactly 4 points.) Presumably this is in line with the historical Swingback over the last five months before an election.
    So far so good. But things get odd when you look at what they expect to happen to the LibDems. Here the predicted swingback averages 4.2% (range 3-5 points), which is actually *higher* in absolute terms than the benefit they expect the Tories to enjoy. Given current LibDem polling levels of 7%-8%, they are also expecting the LibDems to increase their vote share by 50% by the time of the election.

    I can’t help wondering what evidential basis their might be for this ‘LD-optimism’ (i.e., the suggestion that the LibDems are going to benefit preferentially from any swingback that occurs over the next few months). It occurs to me that they may be anticipating two kinds of swingback: (a) swingback to the governing parties and (b) swingback by voters to the party they voted for in 2010. Anyway, I’d be curious to know where their swingback figures come from.

    According to the figures, the swingback losers are Labour (dropping by 1.6%) and Ukip (losing 5.9%, which is over a third of their current VI share). Can they really point to historical evidence that these Ukip votes will all go “home” in May?

    Turning to their current snapshot of the state of play (as captured by the list of individual vote shares in the Nowcast), there seemed to be other curious patterns. Averaging over all constituencies (barring N. Ireland) the Conservative national vote share comes out as a little under 28% (a figure lower than that in all but about 3 of the last hundred polls). The corresponding LD figure is 9.4% (which is *higher* than all but about 5 of the last hundred polls). If the Nowcast is capturing the here and now, it seems to me that these figures should be much closer to current polling averages.

    Also, the pattern of the modelled LD vote loss doesn’t seem to be well aligned with the structure of the Ashcroft constituency polling data. In particular, the best-fitting regression line for their data (using today’s data) is:

    Electionforecast Nowcast VI for LibDems = 0.7 x (LibDem 2010 vote share) – 6.8%

    This ‘formula for vote loss’ is much more encouraging for the LibDems than is the case for estimates calculated directly from the Ashcroft figures (for which the proportional decline – beta = 0.47- is steeper, and the intercept reduction smaller – at 3%). One wouldn’t expect the relationship to be exactly the same: the Election Forecast model is updated using regional crossbreak data in addition to figures from individual constituencies. But certain aspects of the model do seem to diverge quite noticeably from the figures we have available from other sources.

    For this reason alone it will be interesting to see their own evaluation of how well the model did in predicting the recent batch of Ashcroft findings.

  4. A while ago the telly was saying the economy was improving because GDP was increasing so people naturally believed it for a while but as there isn’t any actual improvement for most people they naturally stop believing it after a bit.


    (GDP increasing = *total size* of the economy is increasing)

    (economy improving = *individual slice* of GDP increasing)

    (GDP increasing != economy improving)

    If GDP is being shared out between more people or distributed differently then most people’s slice can be going down even if GDP is going up.

  5. Sad to see that Jeremy Thorpe has died. May he rest in peace.

    I remember him from my childhood as a decent man who was later betrayed and destroyed by the party he saved from oblivion.

    It is good to see that his old seat is still represented by an honest and independently minded liberal.

  6. @ Richard,

    Sorry, sorry! I’m trying to get the Green and Nat data for the last year and the YouGov website is running like treacle, so we may be a little longer.

    But I know you’ve been wondering about the Lab -> Tory churn, so I checked it just for you. :)

    Sadly the answer is: nothing interesting has happened. It’s basically exactly where it’s been all year. You could maaaaybe conclude there’s a slight upward trend since the start of November, but I think it would be wishful thinking more than anything else. Time will tell.

    Although Tory -> Lab churn is down slightly as has been since Carswell defected- it looks like some of them went over to Ukip- so the Tories are now by about 0.2% of the vote the net beneficiaries in the churn between the 2010 voters of the two main parties.

  7. @Spearmint

    Thanks. I will be patient! And thanks for the pre-briefing. The wiki site has some green and nat figures for the year if that helps – see the detailed bit right at the bottom (but they stopped on 3 Nov)


    Ben has been telling us good things happened for the Greens last month, so it will be interesting to see where that comes from.

  8. Also, here’s a little teaser for everyone: the sources of the Green defectors from the three main parties (or, the two main parties and the fifth party, if we go by last night’s poll) over the past month:


    Mostly it’s as you’d expect- the vast bulk of them are former Lib Dems, followed by Labour- but look how many Tories there are! Maybe cutting the “green crap” wasn’t such a clever idea after all, eh Lynton?

  9. @ Richard,

    You’ve beaten me to the punch, I see! And I thought my little pie chart would be so unexpected. Ah well, enjoy.

  10. Spearmint.

    Nice work. Do you have any figures for how many of the LD(2010)–>Green(2014) actually went LD(2010)–>Lab(2012)–>Green(2014)?

  11. Most of the the key indicators from Ozzy’s Autumn statement were positive but it’s whether the positive news filters through to the public and reflected in the polls that we will have to wait and see.

    ” A similar poll for the Times RedBox done a day later found the proportion of people thinking the economy was either on the way to recovery or showing signs of recovery was down to 40% from 50% in August, and the percentage of people thinking the economy was getting worse was up from 13% to 22% ”

    Well it’s not great reading but it’s not a disaster. Less than a quarter of people polled think the economy is getting worse……………It could be worse!

    Back to the Ozzy statement. I missed most of it yesterday but did manage to catch the start of Ed Ball’s response. I couldn’t hear what he was saying for all the shouting so I turned the volume up…Guess what? The shouting got louder.

  12. Interesting that these questions focus on what people think of the economy, rather then their own circumstances.

    I haven’t checked the detail, but I recall that household finance surveys are generally showing people still broadly negative about their own current circumstances, with this figure having risen from roughly March – August before easing back again, but their assessment of the next 12 months had moved into the positive for a month or two, before going red again.

  13. @ Leftylampton,

    Technically I don’t, because we only know which party panelists are supporting now and who they voted for in 2010. So someone could have gone LD -> Con -> Green and they’d look identical to a straight LD -> Green or a LD -> Lab -> Green.

    What we will have shortly is graphs of how the Green vote has increased since January and where the 2010 Lib Dems have gone over that period, so we can look for correlations and draw our own conclusions.

  14. Just a small point but someone pointing out that ” punters on political betting” think !!! After following that page and Mr Smithson for must be two years my conclusion is the page is a joke . I really would go Opp rather follow what any of them say . Mr Smithson has trouble picking a winner in a two horse race and spends his time telling you what he has done after the event

  15. @ Spearmint

    Yay- although about time and not quite sure why we pay you the big bucks :-)

    I quite like the trickles of information as it is easier to take in although your summaries are always good.

    I’d have thought not that much movement last month as I guess the Lab lead had fallen by end of October?

  16. Does anyone know if the don’t knows or WNV figures are the same as in the last election cycle? Gut instinct tells me a lot more people this time are not yet sure how they are going to vote.

  17. Certainly optimism isn’t high; and that isn’t going to change much between now and GE day.

    What the [Tory] Press will be saying is [an anti-Labour message]

    [I think we’ve all picked up the point that the Tory press will be putting out an anti-Labour message. Making the same point again and again and again just derails every thread… – AW]

  18. GM

    Teedy-Mowce or wot?

  19. Typical brits really, even when things are getting better they want to say it’s getting worse. Such a pessimistic bunch.

  20. @ Maninthemiddle,

    It’s like that Ice Bucket Challenge everyone was doing over the summer.

    I may think the whole thing is pointless masochism and the sensible course of action if you want to help people suffering from MND is just to sit down and write a cheque.

    But if you say you’re going to do it, and then all you do is take a warm shower, and then you run around boasting to all your friends that you’ve done the Ice Bucket Challenge, it’s perfectly reasonable for me to point out that you have not in fact done what you claimed you’d do.

    Especially if you claimed just taking a warm shower instead of doing the full manly ice water immersion was going to lead to a national crisis during your 2010 election campaign.

  21. Spearmint
    Not everyone. I did not pour a bucket of cold water over my head and I regard those who did so with a camera taking photos to spread to the world, with the contempt that I am sure all visitors to this site would share. Most of them had already gained more than their 15 mins of fame in spades. All they had to do was hand over money to the charity.

    Afterthought, I liked some of the bikini ones though.

  22. I have been to parties, but never a “party meeting”. The thought fills me with dread…

  23. I find all the debate about even huger cuts rather manufactured. While the bond market stays benign and debt/GDP is kept below e.g. 100% I suspect the reality to be about the same as this parliament. PlanA followed by unannounced planB. And while inflation stays low a chunk of this will be financed with QE. Continued modest Keynsian reflation in other words. All the tough talk is electoral positioning.

  24. Can people please resist getting into political debates, or debates about what economic policy the government should be following – this isn’t the venue for it.

    And as ever, if someone does step over the line and say something rude, stupid or partisan, can please just ignore it please – not respond, complain, etc, etc. As the saying goes, don’t feed the trolls.

  25. Floating
    Your contributions are most welcomed by this reader. The analyses (I don’t know how you do it so quickly) are incisive, informative and much appreciated.

  26. The key question is at what point Lab and Tory VI will start to diverge. Fisher and others have to Tories breaking free between now at the GE, but when is this expected to happen?

  27. @Spearmint

    “…. look at how many Tories there are.”

    Well I’m looking but am a bit confused by the pie chart because on the current poll the split is 0% of Tory 2010, 4% Lab of 2010, 17% LD of 2010.

  28. @Paul H-J

    Like you, I rather liked and admired Jeremy Thorpe as a politician and while I obviously didn’t know him as a man, his life was pock-marked with personal tragedy; the sudden death of a wife and mother to his young child that he clearly adored, the self-destructive wrestling with his sexuality in an era when it was still a crime to engage in homosexual acts and, in his twilight years, a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

    For a short period, in the early 70s, he was an irresistible political force, taking the old Liberal Party from near death in the immediate post Grimond era to the very cusp of power in February 1974. We’ll never know how close he was to propping up Heath, but the decision not to do so was ultimately proved to be right, not just for the country but for his party too.

    A technicolour politician in a largely monochrome political era. A deeply flawed human being, but I always sensed a decent one too.


  29. It’s been interesting how the AS has been reported.

    Initially, it seemed to be all about a good change on stamp duty etc. The Conservative Party media outfit would have been delighted.

    However, the ‘cuts’ that that the OBR model suggests, that no-one seems to want to talk about, has really taken over. So the good news headlines have been obliterated within 24 hours.

    Perhaps the suggest re-alignment of UK political parties may come sooner than planned. Those who fundamentally believe in shrinking the state (supposedly to 1930s levels) now have a model and blue-print, and whoever wins the GE has some serious decisions to make. Do you see the job through as predicted and agree to slash back further? Alternatively, if the GE winner doesn’t fancy that option and wants to hold line they will need to be more open about what this means for taxation in the UK.

    All the main parties cannot stay where they are now. They will need to make a fundamental choice. If they stick the rules of the game as exist now, who really believes that the deficit can be eliminated in one term, preserving services and doing good stuff, and finding lots of cuts that no-one notices?

    No wonder Labour and the Conservatives are making a hash of taking a winning poll lead into the GE.

    Perhaps neither really fancy taking those decisions.

  30. Crossbat

    Now THERE’s a counter factual history to explore. What would have happened if Thorpe had picked up the phone when Heath called in Feb 1974?

    Inflation was rocketing whoever was in charge. But it would have been the Tories and Liberals, not Labour who would have borne the stigma of oresiding over 20% inflation.

    There would have been an almighty fight with the unions of course, and with the Govt having little of a mandate (or probably even a stomach) to take them on.

    I’d expect a coalition Govt in those circumstances to have lasted maybe till 76 or 77 before it fell apart. But it’s difficult to see how Heath could have been toppled from the Right as party leader, without precipitating an earlier coalition break up and a General Election in which the Tories and Liberals would have been hammered.

    Clear Lab majority in 77?

  31. I think the message “the cuts in the next parliament are going to be even worse” will cut through the noise. Certainly GOs message that all his targets are going to be missed and he’s going to take more years to reach his target (if he ever does) adds to the “we’re taking longer to sort out Labours mess” message, but it doesn’t win him any plaudits.

  32. It will doubtfully be tonight’s report of YG that will produce any big change but the ST one on Sat night / Sunday (fieldwork from this evening till tomorrow teatime) that could do so. There have been some tos and fros in the news media but one assumes that the stamp duty one would count the most.

  33. @Howard

    I think a few folk might like the stamp duty policy, and be worth a blip on the upside for the blues.

    However, the prominence of the story that there are loads more cuts due (almost certainly) while no-one yet is prepared to discuss it openly, could dampen enthusiasm (and therefore VI) to Labour and the Conservatives.

  34. I’m going for a 2 pollint Tory lead tonight!

    Cons 33%
    Lab 31%
    ukip 15%
    LD 7%
    Green 7%

  35. “Bahraini pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja has been sentenced to three years in prison for tearing up a picture of King Hamad.”

    From the BBC.

    The mad world of the Middle East.

  36. The stamp duty thing is attractive to some but hardly a game-changer. I expect a brief Tory boost and then for things to settle down again at level-pegging or small Labour lead. This could happen very soon if the ‘1930s cuts’ story has legs.

  37. @NFR

    Economic credibility is one of the aces for the Conservatives have to play in the GE, as polling evidence on this issue is strongly in their favour.

    If the ‘1930s cuts’ narrative does hang around, that might actually chip away at this. It will do Labour no favours on economic credibility (they precious little), but it might drag the Tories credibility down.

    We might end with a GE with the key strengths of the Conservative campaign being:

    a) A referendum on Europe


    b) Dave can eat a bacon sandwich better than Ed.

    That will be such a great, positive campaign to savour and I’m sure @Pressman can help it along…..

  38. Richard (fpt)

    So what do you think – can we rely on the Survation figures even though the weighting looks all wrong, because the final results match the Ashcroft poll, or does the weighting problem mean the poll is too imprecise to really tell us anything, other than that UKIP is doing well in the seat and taking Conservative votes.

    I think it’s more that the weighting problem is more complex than it looks. Survation by not weighting politically at all may be giving the wrong answers if there is a bias in their sampling – and this particularly applies because they don’t weight for much else in that poll. On the other hand Ashcroft, by weighting fairly exactly to the 2010 results, may be creating a bias by overvaluing the opinions of those who say they voted Lib Dem (or didn’t vote at all) and undervaluing those who say they voted UKIP or Labour.

    You’ve also got to allow for the fact that since the Ashcroft poll was taken Labour have generally lost maybe a point of VI to the Greens, two points to UKIP and one the SNP (which won’t apply here), while the Conservatives are unchanged. This suggests that compared to Ashcroft the Survation poll is overestimating the Conservatives by about 6 points and underestimating UKIP and Labour by about 3 each due to the weighting. If anything Ashcroft may also have a similar effect so it could well be that UKIP are actually favourites for the seat with Labour in third but with a possibility of getting in contention if their general VI improves, especially if they get votes back from UKIP.

    When looking at these Ashcroft marginals we probably need to keep an eye on any bias introduced by exact weighting to 2010. It may serve to lower Labour and possibly UKIP VI by a few points if there has been a substantial Lib Dem collapse and past vote under-reporting. UKIP may also be affected by 2010 Tories saying they voted UKIP, but that seems to happen less – if anything these polls seem to find too many Conservatives, not too few. Camborne and Redruth is a bit of an oddity (the area has had Con, Lab and Lib Dem MPs in the last decade), so this may not be a widespread problem, but it needs keeping an eye on.

  39. Thanks Roger, lots to think about there, and lots of things I didn’t think of. I can see why Anthony rates you!

  40. I fell foul of AW earlier (sorry AW) for raising the issue of household debt, which according to the OBR is expected to reach unprecedented levels by 2020 (180% of income).

    Whoever is in charge after May will be dealing with very intractable problems and I’d question whether building up household debt is a good answer, though no doubt it will boost GDP etc (and continue to drag the current account into the red)

    Someone was saying earlier that we will never have the feelgood factor of the 50s/60s again: I’m not a believer in never but I do think we’ll have to come to a new settlement. The fact that none of the parties – except arguably the Greens and UKIP – seem to me to be offering anything different and that’s why I think they are all so lacklustre. Of course Scots think the SNP have a vision for change, but I suspect indy is an illusion.

  41. @ Phil,

    That’s because today’s poll is atypical. Modal Con -> Green churn over November was 1% of the 2010 Con vote, average was 1.25%. And because the 2010 Conservative vote share was pretty big relative to Labour and the Lib Dems, even a tiny percentage of it makes for a decent-sized slice of the Green pie.

  42. @ Catmanjeff

    I agree that talk of cuts and the scale of them has taken over, but in a strange way that could help the Tories.

    People may well think that even though Labour does have Balls they are of the wrong sort to make tough decisions.

  43. I am guilty, (as ever) of extracting the urine from my own party.
    Anyway, apologies to the spirit of the board.

  44. “@tnewtondunn 4m4 minutes ago
    YouGov/Sun poll tonight: no Autumn Statement bounce for Coalition. Libs 5th + Greens high again. LAB 32%, CON 31%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%, LD 7%.”

  45. Meanwhile TOH and all the other repeaters of Small State rhetoric will be horrified that lots of people appear to actually want a bigger state. YouGov recently asked


    Thinking about the NHS, do you think it would be improved by MORE or LESS private sector involvement?

    Much less 27%

    Somewhat less 19%

    (TOTAL LESS 46%)

    Somewhat more 24%

    Much more 5%

    (TOTAL MORE 29%)

    Neither / Don’t know 25%

    So not only is the majority in favour of reversing what privatisation and outsourcing there has been, but only 5% see radical change as the was forward.

    And it gets even worse. Asked Would you support or oppose the nationalisation of utilities such as gas and electricity?[1] 56% were in favour only 21% opposed.

    Would you support or oppose the nationalisation of Britain’s railways? was even more popular by 59% to 21%.

    Supporters of all Parties were in favour of nationalisation – even the Conservatives (by 45-38 and 38-35). Though the later did favour more private sector in the NHS.

    Interestingly the survey was taken 25-26 November, but only appeared as a Red Box item today, among all the post-AS hubbub.

    [1] It would be interesting to ask about water as well, which I suspect would get even more support.

  46. @Bluebob

    What I find interesting is the fact that both Ed and Dave have sat on the fence, trying to maintain that eliminating the deficit is compatible with harmless cuts.

    This might just flush them out. It could also help Ed, as if he was to be less timid he might just reinvigorate Labour waverers.

    The public would have make a clear choice about which direction they want to go, and I have no idea what they would choose.

  47. Good for the Greens, that poll. But Labour will be happy to be back in the lead.

  48. Rather pleased that my short-term prediction attempts are proven correct. Smug or what.

    So no change so now i await with baited breath, to see if the stamp duty clicks with some electors by tomorrow (which will be of course announced Sat late evening).

    Seriously, it will perhaps dawn on some of us that most people literally turn off the ya boo haw haw cacophony – we did.

  49. Labour will be happy to be in the lead, given such a large Green vote.

  50. YouGov poll splashed on the front of tomorrow’s Sun
    68% say Russell Brand’s a hypocrite, 64% say he’s not funny.

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