While the polling inquiry continues and we all work out what went wrong the Guardian aren’t publishing their ICM/Guardian polls, but they are still being done. Martin Boon has tweeted July’s results, which have topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%.

As I wrote in my previous poll, YouGov released a second bite of budget polling on Friday, this part conducted after the initial press reaction to the budget. This wave highlights some of the public’s rather complex views on benefits and the living wage.

Public attitudes to welfare are complicated, sometimes contradictory and it is easy to cherry pick polling results to show the public support or oppose big cuts to benefits, depending on one’s views. At the simplest level people like the idea of benefit cuts because they think they go to people who don’t deserve them and who haven’t contributed to them. Exactly who they imagine these people are is more difficult to say, since if you ask about most groups who recieve benefits people oppose cuts.

So, overall 38% of people say cuts to benefits have gone too far, 23% they they are about right, 24% would go even further. Asked about the level of benefits and the number of people who can claim them 45% say benefits are too generous, 40% they they are too low (23%) or about right (17%); 57% say too many people are eligible, 30% that too few (19%) or about the right number of people are eligible (11%). Looking at those figures people seem to be pretty pro-cut.

Asked about individual groups of people who receive benefits though and the public suddenly become much more charitable. Only 4% think retired people on the state pension get too much in benefits, only 9% think disabled people do, only 12% think people in low paid work do. 19% think working people with children get too much in benefits, but 33% think they should get more. Opinion on unemployed people is the most evenly balanced, with 28% saying they get too much in benefits, 24% too little, 31% about right. The only group where people come down heavily on the side of too much money being spent on benefits is better off retired people… the group that politicians never cut benefits from because they vote.

This raises the question of why people think benefits are too high and too widely spread if they don’t think the unemployed, pensioners, parents, disabled people or the working poor get too much. I hardly think when people talk about benefit cuts they are thinking of winter fuel payments, rather I expect the support comes from the continuing belief that lots of benefits go to categories not asked about like “people who aren’t really disabled”, “people who could work but can’t”, “asylum seekers” and so on.

Attitudes were similarly complex on the government’s national living wage. We saw in Thursday’s poll that this received overwhelming support. This poll however found rather more nuanced attitude. 31% of people think that the living wage will end up increasing unemployment… yet only 7% think it is being set too high (the implication being that some proportion of people think it more important that jobs pay a decent wage than unemployment is minimised). The principle of the government’s approach is backed – 39% think it’s better for government to reduce in-work poverty by forcing business to pay higher wages (even if it increases unemployment) compared to 19% of people who think it is better for government to reduce in-work poverty by using the tax and benefit system (even if it costs a lot). However, asked about their overall perceptions of the budget people think, by 39% to 28%, that it will leave people in low paid jobs worse off. The question the poll hasn’t asked is how much that matters to people. Too what extent, if any, would people rather low paid workers got more money in wages and less in benefits even if they are less well off.

337 Responses to “Latest ICM poll and more YouGov budget polling”

1 2 3 7
  1. Survation Scottish poll (details not yet on their site) showed

    – 33 per cent of those polled favoured an increase in social security
    – 31 per cent wanted to keep spending at current levels.
    – 18 per cent were in favour of cuts.

  2. @ Anthony Wells

    “The question the poll hasn’t asked is how much that matters to people. Too what extent, if any, would people rather low paid workers got more money in wages and less in benefits even if they are less well off.”

    Perhaps because it is a false dichotomy and also perhaps begging the question and for a good measure non sequitur?

    Although narrative attempted tries it hard, it keeps on stumbling.

  3. Just to make clear: wages and benefits are not naturally related. Any attempt would as many fallacies as you care about.

    Having said that, there is an element of ad populum fallacy in polls :-)

  4. How did the “result in” got cut out on this tablet? …

  5. Scotland?
    Anyone in danger of being in the slightest cheesed off by a consistent morally superior tone from north of the border may be marginally cheered by the panelbase poll showing perhaps unsurprisingly that very few Scots want an increase in income tax rates but perhaps more surprisingly given comments here by far the keenest on cuts in income tax are the supporters of the SNP.

    Within the bounds of English democratic politics, you and I are about as far apart as it is possible to be. However, I have been sick and tired of the “voice of Scotland” shouting the odds about for a very long time.
    I really support the concept of total Scottish independence.

  7. I might get some stick for saying this but this is yet another set of polling that confirms my belief that the bulk of the public don’t have a clue what they want or how things actually work. I’ve often heard it said “if only we had a government as great as the people” well in all fairness I think we do, the public elect clueless governments because they themselves are clueless.

    This isn’t a comment on how to get the publics political knowledge back to acceptable levels though rather its a rebuttal of all the comments I’ve seen made here and in the media that to get re-elected Labour must move left/right/up/down etc nonsense in my view. As much as I may hate that its come to this its my firm belief that for any government to get elected they just have to pick a charismatic candidate and front bench, avoid any major gaffes, hope the government screw up, properly capitalise on said screw up and have a simple, potent and effective argument on the policy front (even if its a total lie). People can be convinced of anything given the correct arguments and circumstances. Which I think we can all agree is quite worrying.

  8. RIVERS10……..There is an old apothegm in the world of sales training, and it presents thus……” No one ever went bust, under- estimating the intelligence of the British public “. :-)

  9. And the SNP to now vote on hunting in England and Wales.
    EVEL max can’t come soon enough!

  10. It rather looks as if the Tory post-election honeymoon may be coming to an end.

  11. FPT


    My original polling point is that if 67% support removing the tax credit after 2 children then Labour is heading up a cul-de-sac if it persists in simply opposing every cut. It’s a valid political stance, it’s just dooming the party to being out of government for a very long time IMO.

    Most of the public would restore the death penalty, but vote for parties that have no intention of doing it.

    Policy adoption by what polls say the public likes leads to the vacuous politics we have today. Principle is replaced by populist managerialism.

    If what was popular opinion at the time had driven policy , women wouldn’t have got the vote. We probably wouldn’t have had equal marriage or race equality laws.

    In my view, politics is about ideas and leadership. Identify the issue and offer your solution based on your principles. Some ideas are radical, and may take time to embed. It doesn’t mean stopping trying when falling at the first hurdle. You explain again your idea. It might take time for the more initially popular idea to prove to be duff, before your idea takes off.

    I remember an old Doctor Who, when in a future society under a dictator, had no government but gave it’s citizens keypads. Every night they voted by pressing the buttons on the keypad, giving the illusion of democracy.

    I have enjoyed Jeremy Corbyn as he sets out his clear principles, and argues that X should the policy because it is the right thing to do.I suspect he doesn’t use focus groups or polls. He follows his principles.

    While I don’t agree with him, Norman Tebbit had the same admirable qualities.

    Oh for principled politicians that dare to suggest something that a focus group doesn’t like.

  12. Catmanjeff

    I remember that episode. The leader was coerced by an evil corporation with the aide of a couple of collaborators.

    So prescient.

  13. “Every night they voted by pressing the buttons on the keypad, giving the illusion of democracy.”


    Wot, you mean like voting…. every single day??!!


  14. Youtube is your friend.


    If the governor lost his vote, he was zapped with radiation.

  15. Yes, they had mini-referendums.


    Yes, I think it’s the one where the villains looked like Bertie Bassett.

    (Bad Doctor, bad stories then)

  16. Barney

    “Anyone in danger of being in the slightest cheesed off by a consistent morally superior tone from north of the border ”

    Don’t be so sensitive! No one has accused you of being morally superior. :-)

    On taxation –
    SNP – 31% want income tax levels to be lowered : 14% want rates to be increased.
    Con – 21% want income tax levels to be lowered : 3% want rates to be increased.
    Lab – 18% want income tax levels to be lowered : 11% want rates to be increased.

    Selective quoting of numbers is so inappropriate, don’t you think?

    Whether any of these positions is better or worse than any other, depends on political attitudes rather than “morality” – a concept that few political partisans do other than pay lip service to.

  17. @LASZLO

    “How did the “result in” got cut out on this tablet? …”


    Prolly automod. When automod gets bored ‘cos peeps are chatting about less incendiary stuff like economics, there’s not much to mod so automod just randomly snips stuff…

  18. Catmanjeff

    You are thinking of the one where Sheila Hancock plays a dictator that in no way resembles Margaret Thatcher.

    Ah, childhood memories!


    “Yes, they had mini-referendums….”


    I suppose under very specific circumstances one could entertain a daily referendum on a very important matter, like storage, until peeps gave the right answer. For maybe about a week, after which one might prefer camping outside St. Paul’s or summat. Or venting on a blog…

    I suppose polling is a bit like regular mini-referendums. People do regular surveys, tell the pollsters the wrong thing, vote differently in practice, pollsters earn money explaining where they went wrong, everyone’s a winner…

  20. Still can’t quite believe some of the guff from parts of Labour on the ‘Harman gaffe’.

    Osborne is proposing to cut child tax credits in a very benign way, giving people two years notice to either expand their families or start taking precautions. In a world of 7b souls and a large deficit of course this should be supported.

    Sadly, I think Labour is throwing away what limited progress it made in the last 5 years by adopting a blinkered, knee jerk reaction to welfare cuts.

    they are falling back into what Blair correctly highlighted as a traditional failure of Labour – namely, to see a high welfare budget as indicative of a compassionate society. It’s not – it’s a sign of failure.

    The terms of reference of this debate within Labour seem stultifyingly unimaginative. Coming forward with an ambition to eliminate tax credits entirely would be far more interesting, and probably more popular if they got the policy framework right.

    ‘Defending the poor’ is a completely ineffective electoral approach. Poverty needs to be eliminated, not defended, and Labour needs to work out how it’s going to do that, otherwise it stops being a political party and becomes just another pressure group.

    It’s five years away, but they’ve really got to wake up.

  21. Alec

    “‘Defending the poor’ is a completely ineffective electoral approach”

    True, if you are trying to gain votes in “Middle England”, but not necessarily so everywhere. There are some indications in the English regional samples of differential attitudes to the issue of cutting incomes for the poor with children and the working poor.

    Might the decision to not oppose some of these changes negatively affect Lab in the North of England for example?

    I’m not sure if one can equate “anti-austerity” and “defending the poor”, but that attitude (or at least the rhetoric surrounding it) can play well electorally. [1]

    “Coming forward with an ambition to eliminate tax credits entirely would be far more interesting, and probably more popular if they got the policy framework right. ”

    Something on which you, Barney and I can all agree! (though specifics are a bit light at the moment, the Green idea of the “Citizen’s Income” may yet end up as a productive area).

    Brown’s tax credit system seems destined to go down in history as an “interesting, but failed, experiment”.

    [1] Scottish Daily Mail tomorrow is releasing the 2016 VI from the Survation poll mentioned above. “SNP Landslide”.

  22. @Alec, that’s all fine and good, but even if Labour came up with some revolutionary new scheme for eliminating poverty, the chances that it can’t be implemented immediately are, to put it lightly, quite high. Leaving people in a bad position with the justification “it’ll turn out alright one day” is not something I want to vote for. People live now as well as one day.

  23. Look Labour people; this ain’t rocket science.

    You try to look principled and authentic until the next time the economy tanks. You cannot win until that happens no matter what you do.

    You then copy whatever the Clinton agenda of the day happens to be (talent borrows, genius steals).

    You win an election.

  24. Not a bad ICM poll for Labour really. On those figures we would be back to a Hung Parliament with Labour on circa 250 seats.

  25. @ Hawthorn

    You are right – on the one hand.

    On the other – have you seen how many social democrats put out their head (including the Slovakian finance minister and the president of the European Parliament? It was the real face of social democracy (without the intention of upsetting anyone, Attlee was one of them).

    Why do you want them (to win)?

    But yes, to a degree economic cycles decide the outcome of the elections. But in a contrary manner. Sometimes boom, sometimes bust helps a particular party.

  26. @ Hawthorn

    With all my agreement about your opinion.

    Labour actually won in 1997 – pretty much good times (the EMU helped, nut it was not the main issue).

    And I don’t want to list all the recession periods when Labour lost.

    As to the economic cycle, there are many unknowns, and some may actually help the British economy.

    In spite of what Clinton said, it’s not the economy, but the socio-economy …

  27. Laszlo

    The current Clinton programme at the moment looks to be well to the left of European social democracy. The Democrats (who know how to win elections) seem to think it can win a country that is more tight wing than the UK. Labour needs to look at the latest Democrat tactics and stop living in the 1990s.

  28. @Hawthorn

    Very good advice to the Labour Party, I suspect.

    An economic downturn is by far their best chance. And it could easily happen, although I am not as pessimistic as you.

    In the meantime, Labour has to seriously develop socio-economic policies that are more than soundbites and mantras, whilst continuing to hold the Government to account.

    ‘We are not the Tories and we don’t like them’ is not an inspiring and coherent policy framework.

    The current leadership contest has, above all, lacked gravitas, and has resembled a school debate. Perhaps that is inevitable in a OMOV election played out through the media.

  29. That should read more right wing of course.

    I find the actions of supposed social democrats such as Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Martin Schultz utterly disgraceful. No wonder social democrats are in such decline across Europe. They have lost the plot.

  30. JASPER22

    Totally agree, really irritated by the further delay to EVEL.

  31. In other words, the only reason why people support benefit cuts is because they are completely and utterly ignorant about benefits.

  32. William

    “It rather looks as if the Tory post-election honeymoon may be coming to an end.”

    Why do you think that? Cannot see any evidence of that myself although of course it will happen at some time, it always does. What I do see at the moment is an opposition in total disarray, which is not good for the country in the longer term.

  33. @Oldnat

    So getting into bed with the reactionary fascists of the Scottish Catholic Church over abortion hasn’t harmed you then.

  34. David

    I think i’s also because the alternative is higher taxes and they don’t like those.

  35. @Millie

    The best way for Labour to convince the public that it doesn’t know what it stands for is to try and be some poor imitation of the Conservatives. And that I’m afraid is what you’re advocating, though I don’t think you realise it.

    The consequence of standing for nothing is that you then let your powerful opponents wield their vast resources to define what you stand for in the public mind, in terms of some unfavourable caricature topped up with heaps of ridicule. There is no mileage in Labour being seen to say anything to try and get elected, because the obviously unprincipled nature of that is that:
    (a) even fewer of those people who you are trying to appeal to will believe you mean what you say at a time when they are yearning for politicians who say what they mean
    (b) many of those who want Labour to remain firm to its principles are likely to finally give up on them
    (c) in the absence of putting up any principled arguments, the mythical fixed centre ground of public opinion will continue to shift even further in the Conservatives’ direction.

  36. Alec

    We frequently disagree but i have to say i agree with every word in your post above. Labour are well on the way to losing the next election if they persist with there current muddled approach. I really dislike HH but she has at least talked some sense recently and would make a much better leader of Labour than any of the current candidates apart from possibly LK.

  37. @Hawthorn

    I’m likewise appalled. And it’s pushed me firmly into the “No” camp for when we have our own referendum. Pan-European solidarity? Bah! Better now to have nothing to do with of this crumbling dysfunctional and undemocratic institution and to start again while hopefully hastening its demise than to hold out hopes of reforming it from within.

  38. A very revealing interview in the NS:


    Looks like Tsipras bottled a potentially winning position by failing to put in place contingency measures advocated by Varoufakis that could have convinced the Troika that they could jump ship if necessary, rather than having nothing to fall back on and thus no alternative to agree to whatever Schauble demanded. Absolutely lousy negotiating tactics.

  39. Phil Haines

    I agree with all that.

    I would still go for Burnham or Cooper as Corbyn is far too left wing for me.

    If Greece is still a debt colony and Germany is still running Europe when the referendum comes then I shall vote no. It would be good for Germany too because I don’t believe for one moment that the German public want to run Europe (the politicians – who knows). It is just the economic “logic” of the Euro that is pushing them in that direction.

  40. I am saying this as someone who until yesterday had his house keys on an European Community keyring which I have had since the age of 12.

  41. @ Catmanjeff

    Why so dismissive of focus groups? Isn’t paying some attention to them simply listening to people’s opinions? Isn’t that what Labour keeps promising us it will do? How many times has Labour promised to set off round the country and talk to ordinary voters? Unless the intention is to take on board what is said and adjust your policies accordingly what is the point? Why is Dan Jarvis asking on Labour List for people to contact him to tell him why Labour voters switched to UKIP?

  42. OLLYT

    Because they are no more reliable than pollsters (in fact probably less so). Also because politicians are supposed to provide something called leadership.

    To any Blairites reading:

    If you want hard truths, read my last two posts.


    Totally agree with you, nice to see at least two converts to my view long held of the EU.

  44. @Top Hat – “@Alec, that’s all fine and good, but even if Labour came up with some revolutionary new scheme for eliminating poverty, the chances that it can’t be implemented immediately are, to put it lightly, quite high.”

    I think it’s the limited scale of Labour’s ambition that is being exposed here. ‘Best when boldest’ was Brown’s line I think, but there is a distinct lack of boldness within Labour at present. Labour needs an overarching theme that it’s unnacceptable to have such inequality and that there should be no need for the state to spend billions subsidising working people in a properly functioning economy.

    I disagree with @Oldnat that tax credits were a failed idea. I think they worked very well for the time they were introduced. Business needed to strengthen and help needed to be targeted at the poorest, in a manner than didn’t create disincentives through the benefits trap. Tax credits weren’t perfect, but they were alot less imperfect that what went before. It’s also worth remembering that tax credits were a Tory initiative – Brown just expanded on Major’s initiative.

    Where I think the mistake was made was that the credits system should have been seen as a time limited state intervention, filling a gap (low wages) while other measures were adopted to promote higher productivity, higher earnings etc.

    As it was, they became a permanent feature of the economy, distorting wages and influencing business decision, and promoting a low skilled, low wage economy.
    There was also the problem of the ‘client state’ issue, something that I don’t believe Brown consciously wanted to create as some right leaning commentators suggest, but there is no doubt that if you give half the working population tax credits, you’ve set the conditions that make it very difficult for any government to downsize the welfare spend.

    I am pleased we have a government that is trying to tackle this issue, but for my money it’s the wrong colour, although I’ll reserve my judgement for a while yet. My problem is that they are doing the reverse of what we did in setting up tax credits. Simply reversing these without addressing the root causes of why they were needed in the first place gives us only half the solution, and will leave too many people worse off.

  45. Alec

    I am not a big fan of tax credits either, but it is a choice between that and high unemployment if firms carry the whole cost of wages.

    I have no problem with the principle of shifting the balance a bit, but Osborne is also cutting millions of people’s income whilst inflation is nearly zero, interest rates are nearly zero and with significant potential global economic headwinds, That, to put it mildly, is not sensible.

    Personally I think that technology now means that there is an increasing dislocation between hard work and economic output. However, the logical solution (paying people more whilst working fewer hours) is not something the UK is culturally ready for yet.

    You cannot expect the poor to wait several decades for outdated morality to catch up with reality (as it did with women’s rights).

  46. Scottish Greens to be the big winners from next year’s Scottish elections, according to Survation poll. http://t.co/dZAPcWp4ga
    Evidence of SNP/Green tactical voting?

  47. Good morning all from a sunny Mount Florida.

    CON 38%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%

    Not much of a budget bounce. In fact it seems to have deflated the Tory VI.

    Interesting figures on benefits and where I think everyone agrees we need to keep a limit on the amount we spend on welfare, screening programs such as Benefits street and Benefits Britain doesn’t help and gives the public the wrong impression that people on benefits get it easy when in reality most can’t afford to eat a proper meal.

    The RSPCA England & Wales have put a post up on their Facebook page congratulating the SNP’ for saying they are going to vote against the fox hunting proposals. Over 30,000 likes so far

    I don’t see it as a England only bit of legislation because foxes don’t recognize borders and some of the foxes in England might be Scottish ones.

  48. This thread really illustrates the problem Labour has with leadership.

    On the one side, the Tories have recognised the problem of the growing cost of Tax Credits and come up with a solution. You can agree or disagree with the solution they have chosen but it is coherent and reasonably astute politically – looking to offset some of the costs to recipients with higher wages.

    On the other side you have the Labour response which, after a promising start by Harriet Harman has just come down to blanket opposition.

    If the leadership candidates can’t do better than opposition with no constructive alternatives proposed then it’s difficult to see that Lbour are going to be any further forward in 2020 towards being trusted on welfare, the economy….

  49. LUKE

    That’s a good poll for the Greens. Scottish Labour are in deep trouble because they are likely to lose all 15 FPTP seats they currently hold and if the Greens poll well on the list then it will damage Labour even more.

    Two things I noticed in the graphs. Lib/dems up two seats to 7 and UKIP sneak in with 1 seat. Both disturbing thoughts .

  50. The Monk

    Not really, switching from tax credits to a higher minimum wage is what pre-distribution was all about. It is just nicking stuff from Ed Miliband.

    The problem is that the way it is done has taken money out of poorer worker’s pockets, which is deflationary and unjust.

1 2 3 7