I really don’t like “does X make you more or less likely to vote” questions. On policy questions they are particularly abhorrent as they are used to try and measure salience – or more often, to try and deliberately overstate the salience of an issue. It’s inevitably some pressure group, the campaign for ponies or whatever, asking a question saying “If party X offered you a pony would you be more likely to vote for them?”. Everyone says yes, as they like free ponies, and you end up with a press release saying that 70% of people will change their vote based on the issue of pony-ownership, and ponies are going to be the key election deciding issue. Sigh.

When it comes to questions about party leadership the question isn’t that bad (it’s one of the few contexts where I use that question structure myself) because it isn’t normally being used to gauge the salience of party leadership, it’s normally being used to see if a leader or potential leader has a positive or negative impact.

There is nothing wrong with a question asking if Jeremy Corbyn has made people more or less likely to vote Labour… but you need to be careful with interpretation. The overall figures will include a big chunk of people saying Corbyn makes them less likely to vote Labour who would never have voted Labour anyway, and a big chunk of existing Labour voters saying Corbyn makes them more likely to vote Labour (it’s why when YouGov ask the question we try to encourage those people to say no difference by offering opinions of “No difference, I was/wasn’t going to vote X anyway”).

The interesting bits are people who DID vote Labour last time, and say they are less likely, and people who voted for parties other than Labour last time and say they are more likely. But even then “more or less likely” is not a particularly high criteria to meet – “less likely” is a long way short of “not going to”. So a headline like the Independent’s today saying “Corbyn loses fifth of Labour voters”, based on 20% of Labour voters agreeing with a statement that with Corbyn as leader they are more likely to vote Tory is over-egging it. Those voters aren’t necessarily lost, they may still vote Labour tomorrow, their likelihood of Labour has just dropped to some degree. We’ll have to wait for some voting intention polls to see if there has been any substantial net damage to Labour’s support.


81 Responses to “Interpreting more or less likely to vote questions”

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  1. I wonder if it would be any help to ask whether people were more or less likely to vote for x on a scale of 1 to 5, where 3 means no difference? That would give at least a rough guide as to the likelihood of a vote change.

  2. “you need to be careful with interpretation”
    Questions so badly framed that their answers are subject to a wide range of interpretations should be ignored.

  3. It looks like the Guardian is interpreting things literally – https://twitter.com/bothybuddy/status/645184880293355520

  4. As I said yesterday I can understand why VI polls aren’t being published often at the moment and don’t have a problem with that. However, there is a danger that the type of questions we’ve seen get headlines this week are more misleading than a bad VI poll would be.

  5. @ Statgeek

    To be fair, the article is more nuanced, but of course the headline is silly.

  6. @Aw

    Given the first paragraph do you have any comment on a recent YouGov question ‘Do you support British military action to end the war in Syria’ which was spun into the headline ‘Bomb Syria Now’?

    Do you think that question was leading and therefore not what we should expect from professional pollsters? I feel that since the GE I am seeing more and more of these type of trick questions and wonder if it’s pollsters desperately trying to please their clients after the GE mistakes ?

  7. @Couper

    I await AW’s reply on that one with interest. My guess is that there is a difficult dilemma. On the one hand you want to remove the potential to lead – in which case ‘Do you support British military action in Syria?’ is most appropriate. On the other hand you want to try and disaggregate general feelings about military action from what has been shown to be a quite different view on military action aimed against ISIL/Daesh. Asking would people support military action if it ended the war in Syria is perhaps the best way to tease that out. Though, of course, it shouldn’t be spun into ‘Bomb Syria Now’ as the implication is only ‘Bomb Syria Now If we can end the war’, not ‘Bomb Syria Now – even if it goes on for years and doesn’t end the war’.

  8. On Syria, presumably we’d be bombing ISIL, not Assad. Russia is helping Assad too, so why doesn’t NATO talk to Putin regarding joint action and aims? If they don’t it’s making an already complex situation even worse.

  9. “The interesting bits are people who DID vote Labour last time, and say they are less likely, and people who voted for parties other than Labour last time and say they are more likely.”

    What about people who did not vote at all last time, some of whom might be much more likely to vote for a party led by Corbyn?

  10. The more likely question is quite important in Scotland because of the AMS elections to Scottish Parliament and STV for councils

    Will the ‘more likely’ SNP voters give Labour their List vote in May and a higher preference under the STV system in 2017. I’d guess possible Labour will pick up some SNP list voted and I’d say definitely an advantage under STV but the article doesn’t say how many said less likely so don’t know net effect.

  11. The poll for the Independent was carried out by ORB International, who seem to have been doing a lot of the Indy’s polling recently. They haven’t done much VI work however[1], just testing opinion without political cross-tabs (or presumably weighting).

    The tables aren’t up yet, though they’re BPC members and I would expect them on Monday. I suspect the polling for the Indy is piggybacking on private work for others – in the past it’s not that extensive in number of questions and I get the impression that the Indy’s polling budget is pretty minimal. Previous surveys have been online with a sample of around 2000 and this looks to be the same.

    [1] As their name suggests they do a lot of overseas and cross-country polling, most of which is presumably private, maybe more for organisations than companies. They tend to be involved what you might call ‘extreme polling’ – their latest ones cover Iraq and Syria:

    http://www.opinion.co.uk/article.php?s=orbiiacss-poll-in-iraq-and-syria-gives-rare-insight-into-public-opinion

    (but only the more dangerous bits of Iraq mind). Links to separate tables for Iraq and Syria from above.

  12. COUPER2802

    Given the first paragraph do you have any comment on a recent YouGov question ‘Do you support British military action to end the war in Syria’ which was spun into the headline ‘Bomb Syria Now’?

    Do you have a link to that. The only recent questions I could find was here:

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/0f34cl5n9e/TimesResults_150916_Corbyn_W2.pdf#page=4

    and had the wording:

    Would you approve or disapprove of…The RAF taking part in air strike operations against Islamic State/ISIS in Syria?

    (Approve 59%, disapprove 19%)

    and:

    Would you approve or disapprove of Britain and the USA sending ground troops back into Iraq to help fight Islamic State/ISIS?

    (Approve 40%, disapprove 36%)

    Neither suggest that the actions would end the war in Syria. The second is explicitly about Iraq.

    There has been support for airstrikes on ISIS for over a year there’s a YouGov article with graph here:

    ht tps://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/07/05/most-would-approve-raf-air-strikes-syria/

    though whether there would be approval for anything else (and whether such bombing would do much good) is another matter.

  13. @Roger Mexico

    I’ll find it I posted about the questions at the time

  14. frankly the idea that current Labour voters and the Tory-Labour swing voters would abandon Labour under Corbyn is hardly surprising. I’d suggest a lot of those positive about him are normally non-voters, many of whom have been counted as Corbyn voters by his supporters.

    Now, if the restraints of actual responsibility starts to make people who’re now thinking they may vote for the first time lose their enthusiasm and simply don’t vote, these stories may be a distant happy memory.

  15. Agreed the polling doesn’t mean very much, but what it does mean isn’t good news for Corbynite optimism.

    Corbyn dismays more Labour voters than he charms Conservatives.

    He drives more UKIP voters towards the Tories than Labour.

    Lib Dems are equally split and Corbyn only wins among SNP voters.

    That’s a recipe for modest Labour progress in Scotland and total wipeout in England. The Tories will be thrilled.

  16. I know its awful to hark on about the salacious but I just can’t stop myself. I have two questions.
    1. How on earth did you get a motorbike into East Germany in 1979 for a holiday when apart from day trips into east Berlin through checkpoint charlie, the only way in was on a business visa (which meant you were probably a spy), as part of a monitored, ‘Intourist’ group, or as a diplomat (which also meant that you were probably a spy)?

    And (this ones rhetorical)….

    2. If the second MP mr corbyn is reported to have had a fling with was also one of the 36 MPs who nominated him, then his two lady friends would have actually ‘tipped him over the magic number of 35’. Would it then be true to say that he slept his way into the job? :)
    September 19th, 2015 at 2:05 pm

  17. lol UKPR just does not learn.

    It spent the whole of last parliament telling us lab would win, or was too close to call, and as we know Conservatives still won despite the spin.

    Now a week into to the disaster that is Corbyn UKRP is running damage limitation saying “oh well these people werent voting for us anyway, there not pure enough to understand the wonder that is Corbyn” while talking to an empty room as the others have left to join the libs, or ukip

  18. You’re not really in the middle at all, are you? Ive never seen you make anything except right wing comments. I want my money back!

  19. @Joe

    It’s not right-wing to think Corbyn is a disaster, I am definitely left wing and agree with a lot of his policies but I have been doom-mongering about him for months.

  20. @Jack Sheldon

    Surely a better question would have been…

    Do you think increased British military intervention in Syria would

    1. Make matters better
    2. Make matters worse
    3. Make no difference

    But of course you probably couldn’t spin a ‘Bomb Syria Now’ headline from the answers.

  21. @Joe

    I am to the left of the conservatives on many issues, and to the right of labour on others.

    I would have voted Labour 1997 – 2005 and voted Lib in 2010.

    If Labour chooses to run off to the fringes, it is they that have moved off the centre, not me!

  22. @Joe

    I think of MiM as our single person focus group of middle England swing voters.

  23. ComRes poll for Indy on Sunday and Sunday Mirror with VI tomorrow. should be online tonight.

  24. Couper

    Thanks. The actual question in that one was Would you support or oppose Britain playing a greater military role in…? Bringing an end to the war in Syria which is basically a “Something must be done” question, which is always going to get majority support. Why the Sun couldn’t just use the tracker figure from about six weeks previously is a mystery as that does actually support the “Bomb (some bits of) Syria” line.

    What I thought interesting about the response was how evenly spread politically it was. Even the usually isolationist UKIP voters showed the same degree of support.

    Mind you I think the whole thing was done while Anthony was on his hols. There was another question that said Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper has called for every council area in Britain to accept 10 refugee families – a total of 10,000 families. which would imply 1000 LAs not 433 (it also isn’t what Cooper said exactly). Can’t see Anthony making that mistake.

  25. DAVID COLBY

    How on earth did you get a motorbike into East Germany in 1979 for a holiday

    I’ve a vague feeling that travel restrictions into the Eastern Bloc began to loosen up a bit at the end of the 70s, though I would imagine that tourist infrastructure would be a bit ropey. Some parts had opened up even earlier – package holidays to Bulgaria started in the 60s. Corbyn would probably be a member of various ‘fraternal’ organisations anyway so he might be able to fix up formal invitations and so on if they were needed.

    It’s just the thought of Diane Abbott on the back of a motorbike that gets me. She’s always struck me as the sort of person very much in favour of creature comforts – I can’t imagine her on the back of a bike for longer than it takes to get to a TV studio in a hurry.

  26. Mcdonnell ,Abbott ,Watson ! The colourful world of Mr Corbyn and his cohorts aka ” THE GIFT THAT JUST KEEPS ON GIVING” If the day does come of a prime minister Corbyn I’d be waiting with bated breath for his appointments , George Galloway for ambassador to the U.S.

  27. maninthemiddle
    Just saying how I see it – can you show me one comment you’ve ever made on this site that could be construed to have even a moderate left-leaning view?
    By the way, polls consistently showed people thought Miliband was closer to the centre than Cameron. So maybe you aren’t as centrist as you like to think.

  28. @ David Colby

    In 1974, as a child I could fairly freely travel around in East Germany (although I came from the other direction). Also most restrictions were lifted after the Berlin World Youth Meeting. In any case, you could get individual tourist visa (so your claim is incorrect) as long as you booked your hotels in advance, and it was pretty common (also going through Czechoslovakia to the GDR was an option and well used).

  29. Typically good advice from Anthony, though I’m not sure that he was following the advice about ‘over-egging’ himself in the previous post when he said “There is, however, a significant minority of 2015 Labour voters who really aren’t happy at all”. Only 14% of them in that YouGov poll (see p 1 of link in my Syria comment) said they were ‘dismayed’. The 13% who said they were ‘disappointed’ presumably supported another candidate and so you would expect them to be, well, disappointed. But it doesn’t mean that they will automatically stop supporting Labour, or even that many of the dismayed will. The 45% who were ‘delighted’ or ‘pleased’ matches the sort of support that Corbyn got among the ‘selectorate’ which suggests that they were fairly representative of Labour supporters in general[1].

    I was actually more intrigued by the supporters of other Parties who said they were delighted or pleased: 20% of Cons, 18% of UKIPers and 30% of Lib Dems. The usual explanation is that they are happy because they think his selection dooms Labour. There will be some who think this way, but it is too easy to think that most people indulge in this sort of ‘clever’ political reasoning. So there is clearly some potential for Labour to win votes, though many of these may just like Corbyn personally or think he will make politics more interesting.

    That 14% ‘dismayed’ is still a worry for Labour though, and we’ve certainly had a number of them commenting on here. I suspect most may reconcile, or alternatively become part of the ‘churn’ that all political Parties have. The real problem is that the 14% are massively over-represented among Labour’s parliamentarians, staff and supporters in the media. And so many of them were so violently anti-Corbyn during the leadership campaign, that they may prefer to see Labour fail in 2020 than to be shown up as being wrong.

    [1] The actual Delighted / Pleased / Disappointed / Dismayed / Don’t really mind either way / Don’t know is very good one because it asks how people feel at the moment rather than what they think they will do in five years time. Or even worse what they think will happen in five years time, for example If Jeremy Corbyn remains leader of the Labour party, how likely or unlikely do you think it is that they will win the next general election?
    . When hardly anyone knew who would win the general election in May the day beforehand.

  30. MARK SADLER

    If the day does come of a prime minister Corbyn I’d be waiting with bated breath for his appointments , George Galloway for ambassador to the U.S.

    Admit it. You’d pay to see that. (Actually I suspect that Corbyn loathes Galloway just as much as everyone else of any long-standing on the Left seems to).

  31. ROGER MEXICO & DAVID COLBY
    How on earth did you get a motorbike into East Germany in 1979 for a holiday
    I’ve a vague feeling that travel restrictions into the Eastern Bloc began to loosen up a bit at the end of the 70s, though I would imagine that tourist infrastructure would be a bit ropey. Some parts had opened up even earlier – package holidays to Bulgaria started in the 60s. Corbyn would probably be a member of various ‘fraternal’ organisations anyway so he might be able to fix up formal invitations and so on if they were needed.

    RM is right, but in fact the DDR opened up a bit by the mid-70s.

    At the time my brother-in-law was an engineering officer with the BAOR stationed near Hannover and wishing to see both Germanies, my wife and I took our then new Saab 96 to visit him and his family then move on to West Berlin via the corridor before entering the DDR via Checkpoint Charlie and exploring Potsdam, Weimar, Wittenburg, Colditz, Leipzig and Dresden then exiting near Eisenach.

    We did have to produce a detailed itinerary with copies of confirmed overnight stay bookings to get visas from the DDR embassy, but being a spy was not compulsory! We did get followed pretty often by police cars in towns, though.

  32. The quite substantial changes in Labour recently make the results of “more” or “less” likely to vote polls interesting for those who claim to have been Labour voters and maybe Green and SNP voters. as well.

    I’m not sure it’s worth even reading what other parties’ supporters think regarding Labour changes. There can’t be many Lib Dem supporters, for instance, who will now jump to the Labour Party, but who wouldn’t have before. I guess there must be one or two Lib Dems who are actually closet fairly hard left-wingers, but who live in a non-Labour supporting area, but surely not enough to matter.

  33. A mate of mine went on holiday to East Germany in the 1980s, independently with camera (although he put that away when he came across a Soviet military column).

  34. Tonight’s Comres has Con 42 Lab 30.

  35. No change then….nothing significant anyway.

  36. No real change – though 30% is Labour’s highest Comres rating since the election. Also worth remembering that compared to ther pollsters since May, Comres has been giving lower Labour % shares and bigger Tory leads.

  37. Here is is

    ComRes/Indy/Mirror:

    CON 42 (+2)
    LAB 30 (+1)
    LIB 7 (-1)
    UKIP 13 (=)
    GRN 3 (-1)
    SNP 5 (=)

    16th-17th Sep
    N=2,015

  38. The last Comres poll in the Daily Mail had Con 42 Lab 28.

  39. If this poll gets spun as not a bad start for Corbyn then that pretty much sums up Labour’s predicament…

    For reference, number of times between 2010 and 2015 that there was a Tory double figure lead: One. Has now been true in six polls since May.

  40. It’s been pointed out on PB that Corbyn’s favourability ratings are comparable to Nick Clegg’s. Now that would have been a really interesting move by Labour in 2010: elect Clegg as leader.

  41. Jack Sheldon
    ‘For reference, number of times between 2010 and 2015 that there was a Tory double figure lead: One. Has now been true in six polls since May.’

    But they are pretty well all from Comres on the basis of ‘adjustments’ that are uncertain in terms of their validity.

  42. ComRes’s article (very extensive for once) is here:

    http://comres.co.uk/polls/independent-on-sunday-sunday-mirror-september-2015-poll/

    with link to tables. (This is the ComRes online poll rather than the Daily Mail one which is done by phone).

    Almost twice as Britons say they are unfavourable towards Jeremy Corbyn as say they are favourable (24% favourable v 42% unfavourable).

    Although a similar proportion of the public view David Cameron unfavourably (42%), over a third view the Prime Minister favourably (35%) and his net favourability score is higher than Mr. Corbyn’s (-7 v -18).

    So Corbyn is currently as popular as the PM – it’s just that more people haven’t made up their mind yet. As you would expect. There’s loads more stuff, some of it spun in a slightly desperate manner:

    The public are far more likely to disagree than agree that Jeremy Corbyn should smarten up his appearance by shaving off his beard. Despite this, around one in five still think he should shave off his beard (22% agree, 54% disagree).

  43. Of course that should read “as unpopular as the PM” – and both are in negative figures.

  44. Another poll

    Opinium/Observer (Chg vs GE):

    CON 37 (-1)
    LAB 32 (+1)
    LIB 6 (-2)
    UKIP 14 (+1)
    GRN 4 (=)
    SNP 5 (=)

    15th-18th
    N=1,942

    Methodology difference between the two pollsters

  45. Good Evening All,after a beautiful sunset by the sea,following a home win for AFCB and an away win for West Ham.

    Can anyone explain how the polls can be trusted given the variety of results, the high LD figure and the swingback problem?

  46. You have to say, Corbyn has really impressed some people in his first week. He’s already being compared by them to Keir Hardie; not bad praise for a week’s work.

  47. Opinium tables are here:

    http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/vi_15_09_2015_tables_0.pdf

    as well as the usual VI questions there are 90(!) pages of responses to questions about Party leaders.

    (% Approve / % Disapprove / Net rating / Net rating(own party)

    David Cameron 42% / 41% / +1% / +84%

    Jeremy Corbyn 28% / 35% / -7% / +55%

    Tim Farron 9% / 29% / -20% / +40%

    Nigel Farage 26% / 43% / -17% / +76%

  48. @Roger Mexico

    (Scotland only as only voters that matter)

    Nicola Sturgeon 63% / 25% / +38% / +96%

    That’s the type of ratings that can be achievable

  49. Polls may hide a lot of information, there may be a lot of ebb and flow, regional differences etc etc
    Labour may rise in the polls, but that might be in their strongholds and not in marginals and “middle England”
    Bring back Ashcroft constituency polls. Seriously there are very few marginals after 2015, so I think polling should focus there.

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