YouGov and the Times have some fresh Syria polling tonight, conducted on Monday evening and during the day on Tuesday. It shows a sharp drop in support for airstrikes since YouGov’s polling a week ago, but the overall balance of opinion is still in favour: 48% now support RAF airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, 31% are opposed. A week ago the figures were 59% to 20%.

Some of this may be the fading impact of the Paris attacks, some people recoiling from the reality of intervention. I suspect a lot is also partisan polarisation: there is little movement amongst Conservative voters, but there is a huge turnaround amongst Labour voters. Whereas a week ago 2015 Labour voters broke in favour of airstrikes by 52% to 26%, they have now turned against. Among 2015 Labour voters 42% are now opposed (up 16 points), only 35% now support (down 17). While Jeremy Corbyn’s stance is still at odds with wider public opinion, now both Labour voters and Labour members agree with him: it is his opponents within the PLP who are at odds with the rest of the Labour family.

But if public opinion is moving against intervention, there’s not a sign of it helping Jeremy Corbyn with the wider public, or hurting Conservative support. Corbyn’s own ratings are down – 24% of people now think he is doing well as leader, down from 30% last week; 65% think he is doing badly. Voting intention figures are CON 41%, LAB 30%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%.

Peter Kellner’s commentary for the Times is up here.


328 Responses to “Syria polling update”

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  1. All fairly understandable. Labour bouncing along on their core vote I think. In some ways, quite reassuring for them.

  2. I think Labour will win the by-election tomorrow with UKIP a distant second.

    Although the whipping thing is a problem – the anti-war stance and the headlines screaming ‘terrorist sympathiser’ tomorrow will galvanise the Labour core vote and in a December by-election they will be the only ones voting

    My guess a comfortable % majority win for Labour, slashed numerical majority on a turnout of around 35%

  3. I’m not surprised at the drop in support for airstrikes. Cameron’s case has been very well challenged, mailnl, but no only from the left. Even the likes of the Daily Mail have run articles coming out against.

    I suspect that once the airstrikes start, the “yes” camp will see a small bump in support, but that will quickly turn around.

  4. Anthony

    “I suspect a lot is also partisan polarisation”

    Difficult to have an opinion on that, without access to the tables.

    However, I’m not sure what you mean by that comment.

    Did you mean that Tories & UKIP were already partisanly polarised in favour of extending the war, and remain so – so they don’t add to the partisan polarisation?

    Or were you referring to “partisanship” between the factions in the Labour Party? If so, then that looks to be better news for Corbyn, as his extreme opponents (why are they termed “moderates”?) appear to be losing ground.

  5. I think the YouGov question has an issue

    Do you approve or disapprove of the RAF taking part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

    Asking people to disapprove of the RAF??

    A more neutral and accurate (as the RAF doesn’t decide whether to take part or not) question would be..

    Do you approve or disapprove of the UK taking part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria

  6. @Neil A

    “All fairly understandable. Labour bouncing along on their core vote I think. In some ways, quite reassuring for them.”

    Bit of a perfect storm for them, really, given that they’re Internally divided (at PLP level); and against the Government of the day on a foreign intervention motion.

  7. RAF

    I don’t think Couper was thinking of you when she suggested approving/disapproving of RAF was an issue. :-)

  8. A week focussed on what Corbyn would describe as his bread and butter- putting the case for pacifism.

    It has worked slightly: in that the gap between those in favour/ against taking the fight to Daesh in Syria/ implementing UNSC resolution/ responding to a direct request from French comrades – has fallen to 18%.

    Another part of his bread and butter- polarising the country- has fared a tiny bit better in that Labour/ the left are being torn apart.

    But his personal ratings and the VI for Labour are dire, just absolutely dire.

  9. Kellner link gives “page not found”?

  10. Some of this may be the fading impact of the Paris attacks

    It can’t be, because the Paris attacks didn’t increase support for participating in airstrikes. That had been pretty constant at around 58-60% all year. Support hasn’t been as low as 48% since September 2014.

    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/10/01/cooperation-russia-syria/

    Consolidation may be a more plausible reason, but you would expect that to have moved earlier if it was.

  11. ROB SHEFFIELD

    “A week focussed on what Corbyn would describe as his bread and butter- putting the case for pacifism.”

    If Corbyn was a pacifist (which he isn’t) and had described putting the case for pacifism as “his bread and butter” (which he hasn’t) – then that would have been a brilliantly incisive post!

    Alas ….

  12. @OldNat
    “RAF
    I don’t think Couper was thinking of you when she suggested approving/disapproving of RAF was an issue. :-)”

    Lol! There are occasions where even @RAF disapproves of @RAF.

  13. The question pollsters should be asking is..

    “Do you approve or disapprove of the UK taking part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria knowing that it will make little or no difference and the government has no clear exit strategy?”

  14. @AC
    The exact quote made by DC to the 1922 Committee seems to have been:
    “You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers’.

    DC will probably say if questioned on it, that he was referring not to JC but to others in the Labour Party.

  15. Cameron’s behaviour over the ‘terrorist sympathisers’ remark looks strange even for him. According to Nicholas Watt in the Guardian

    Amid Downing Street concerns that support among backbench Labour MPs is weakening, the prime minister told a meeting of the 1922 committee that he needed to win the vote solely on the basis of Tory MPs’ support to achieve his goal of securing a clear consensus.

    But if that’s his criterion, all it needs is for six Conservative MPs to vote against and he’s ‘lost’. Of course if he means the number of Tories for being more than the total number against, it’s a lot easier, but it’s a hostage that he didn’t need to give all the same.

    Cameron seems to prone to saying odd things on this topic. When he was the CHOGM he seemed to be more concerned with denouncing Assad as “ISIS’ recruitment sergeant” and stressing the importance of getting rid of him rather than tackling ISIS and the people actually recruiting for them.

    http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/59723/cameron_stresses_need_to_replace_isis_recruiter_assad#.Vl4Pt_nhCUk

    (the UK press didn’t seem to pick up on it, though he did say similar things a few months ago)

    It does rather give the impression that mission creep is not just possible but planned. That’s certainly something that wouldn’t have public support.

  16. Allan Christie

    are you suggesting that the UK Government has a “half-cut” strategy? That would have a certain resonance in the HoC bars.

  17. RAF

    “DC will probably say if questioned on it”

    I might have some respect for the MSM if they did closely question Cameron on what he meant by the remark.

    Very simple to do – just ask him “Did you mean to include [group of MPs]/[individual MP] in that category?” – and go through every single MP who votes against the Government motion.

    I can’t see it happening though. The journalists seem increasingly to be a remarkably supine group.

  18. Couper

    The inclusion of the RAF in the question is the usual ‘legacy’ problem. YouGov have been using that wording since at least September 2014 – here for example:

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/9cr35g8rud/SunResults_140925_Iraq_IS_W.pdf

    If they changed the wording, we wouldn’t know if there was genuine movement or it was because a different question had been asked.

  19. Roger Mexico

    That does raise an interesting polling issue though.

    If a polling company has used a badly phrased (so potentially misleading) question previously, should they carry on replicating the error, just so the same question can be compared over time?

  20. ROGER MEXICO

    I think Cameron’s inconsistency over the whole Syrian issue is more inconsistent than Labour’s inconsistency over whether to back air strikes or not.

  21. OLDNAT
    Allan Christie
    “are you suggesting that the UK Government has a “half-cut” strategy? That would have a certain resonance in the HoC bars”
    ________

    It would also have a certain resonance in the HoC bakery….”half baked” if they had one. ;-)

  22. Tomorrow I am going to listen to the whole 10 hour debate.

    MPs are far better at questioning the government than journalists, although mostly it doesn’t get reported. Luckily we have social media to communicate through.

    I am not convinced the LibDems will vote For bombing, I can imagine ‘we’ve listened to the debate and decided the case has not been made’ – now they’ve seen the latest polls.

    The ‘terrorist sympathiser’ remark might drive some Labour MPs into the Corbyn camp.

    The foreign affairs committee saying the case not made, might encourage a few more Tories into the against lobby.

    A lot of things would have to come together to defeat Cameron but there’s a chance.

    Does anyone have a clue what the political calculation was for the LibDems voting for war?

  23. @Couper

    LD’s will vote in favour:
    http://www.libdems.org.uk/five_tests

  24. The LibDems might not have voted for war out of political calculation, but because of the now seemingly outmoded approach that opposition parties generally support the government over matters to do with the defence of the realm.

    Re Cameron’s “strategy”: Could he be deliberately trying to whip up opposition in order to give himself an excuse for NOT bombing ISIS in Libya, or is that too devious?

  25. PETE B

    Re Cameron’s “strategy”: Could he be deliberately trying to whip up opposition in order to give himself an excuse for NOT bombing ISIS in Libya, or is that too devious?

    I doubt that Cameron is capable of any such thing (at least not successfully). But you bet that if it does all go pear-shaped, all his mates in the media will be claiming that.

    The Lib Dem justification that Raf posted is truly delusional – accepting all sorts of ‘assurances’ from Cameron that he is in no position to be able to guarantee. They seem trapped in the charade of acting ‘responsible’ – which has obviously worked so well for them over the last five years.

  26. COUPER

    “Does anyone have a clue what the political calculation was for the LibDems voting for war?”
    _______

    Yes I do. The majority of people in Oldham West (by-election tomorrow) support air strikes and the best way the Lib/Dems can hold onto their deposit is to support air strikes. They should poll around 5.1% if my calculation is correct.

  27. @ROGER MEXICO

    Couper

    “The inclusion of the RAF in the question is the usual ‘legacy’ problem. YouGov have been using that wording since at least September 2014 – here for example:”

    ———-

    Ah, so as long as they made the faux pas earlier that makes it ok, and it even justifies repeating it later on then?

    Which I’d that sooner, woulda made all kinds of things much easier…

  28. @oldnat

    Apols for repeating your point: shoulda guessed you’d be on the case!!

    Still, not a disaster to have agreement, eh?

  29. I hope someone in the commons asks Cameron to guarantee that these attacks on Isis won’t suddenly – by complete accident – turn into regime change in Syria.

    I predict lots of entertaining wriggling.

  30. Cameron losing the vote doesn’t seem feasable to me, but if it does go that way, it could do wonders for Corbyns “doing well as leader” score.

  31. OldNat & Carfrew

    I’m not sure that it’s that bad a question though. It’s not inaccurate and it makes clear that airstrikes are already happening – the question is whether the Brits join in. Anyone who stops reading halfway through the question is not going to give a particularly considered response anyway. The gains of sticking probably outweigh the losses.

  32. @Roger

    Yes, you’re not really engaging with Coups’ point. Which is that there is no need to mention the RAF, and to do so risks skewing responses owing to the regard in which such an institution is held.

    Plus it flies in the face of the idea of giving more minimal info. in other questions.

  33. @ Carfrew – But it will be the RAF carrying out bombing raids. That is fact. How is including a fact ‘skewing responses’?

  34. “Terrorist sympathiser” comment very rude and uncalled for – a touch of Cameron’ inner Flashman revealing itself.

    Too late for it to make any difference, though. Any MP who yesterday believed that airstrikes were justified, but today decides to vote against because they’re angry at Cameron probably isn’t giving their consideration of the question the weight it deserves.

    Fortunately for Cameron, so much new news will be generated by the end of the week (the debate, the vote, the bombing, the diplomatic reaction – and that’s before anything else in the news) the remark will probably slide by without too much issue. It would be tactically unwise for Labour to bang on about it, as it would just leave the echo of it in people’s ears and give journalists an excuse to reprint some of McDonnell’s old quotes.

    If I were Labour, I’d be looking for a chink in the government’s armour on another front (perhaps the steep rise in Council Tax that’s coming?) and prepare an offensive on that – which the whole party can throw their weight behind.

  35. OLDNAT

    You forgot to put IMO on your post to Rob Sheffield. We could say alas………………… about most of your posts but we have better manners.

  36. @Watchit

    For the reason I gave, and indeed Coups gave. Because of associating with feel-good facts.

    It’s also a fact that women and children may lose their lives in the raids. But if we included that fact in the question, can you see the problem?

    If not, I can’t help you…

  37. The Tory lead of 11 points is now in line with my own views on the current position. Labour doing badly and it’s leader worse.

    Not surprised at the drop in support for action, parts of the media have been pushing the civilian casulties agenda hard but without reminding us of the thousands murdered by ISIL.

  38. @Wood
    “Cameron losing the vote doesn’t seem feasable to me, but if it does go that way, it could do wonders for Corbyns “doing well as leader” score.”

    Corbyn’s score was always likely to fall sharply after Paris. Whether he has been right or wrong about what he has said since, the public overall were in no mood to hear it.

    John Rentoul has calculated that the Government should win the vote by about 100 – assuming the support of around 30 Labour MPs and about 40 Labour abstentions.

  39. Anthony doesn’t mention it here but according to the Times, men support Cameron on this, 58% to 26% but women support him only 39% to 36%.

    How would it change if there was a Paris style attack in a major city tomorrow?

  40. @CarFrew – I don’t really think of the RAF as ‘a feel good fact’. Just as a fact that it’s the RAF that will be carrying out any raids, should we go to war.

    As for women and children losing their lives, yes, that will inevitably happen and has already been happening for 5 years in Syria, along with genocide, mass rapes, the institution of slavery, massacres of POWs, the murders of gay men, and everything imaginable that can occur under the auspices of war and an accompanying reign of terror. The idea that Syrians are safe so long as the RAF doesn’t bomb Islamic State is laughable.

  41. My view is that this latest polling data demonstrates that the incompetence surrounding Corbyn’s party management skills has had a major impact, and denied him a rel opportunity. He really is an appalling leader.

    It was very noticable to me, that last week and across the weekend, the story was about the Labour process, not the decision for war. Clearly, this was going to be disastrous for Labour, as the inability to present any kind of united front and move the story on was impossible, until their approach to any vote was resolved.

    Corbyn made a huge, huge mistake in not taking the simple, ethical and obviously required option early, which was to accept that acts of war in these circumstances involve difficult judgements, with multiple uncertainties, and rest heavily on the individual conscience. A free vote was clearly the only way Labour could have handled this, and that blindingly obvious decision should have been taken by Corbyn weeks ago. It could have been presented in a far more moral light, rather than as a retreat and as a sign of weakness, and the manner of coming to the same conclusion rather shows how little Corbyn understands his parliamentary colleagues.

    Having made that decision after such a disastrous delay, almost instantly the media has turned to analysing the actual situation in Syria, and dropping the Labour procedural issues. This is why, all of a sudden, the ‘give ’em hell’ brigade is losing support.

    I don’t think there is a single foreign policy specialist or Middle East analyst that thinks Cameron’s strategy is remotely plausible. The 70,000 ‘moderate’ ground troops are made up of 100 separate factions, many of which are accused of human rights violations themselves, and without a clear end game in site it’s likely that some will switch sides, once they see Assad becoming a greater threat than IS.

    The paucity of the thinking behind the intervention strategy is now under examination, rather than Labour’s inability to function as a parliamentary party, so the levelling of the somewhat hyperbolic support for war is understandable, in my view.

  42. On the YouGov question

    I think there’s actually a case to be made for mentioning the RAF. It’s more specific than just saying ‘the UK’ and may thus prompt a more detailed consideration of what ‘UK airstrikes’ means in practice. Concrete over abstract if you like. And most people are terrible with abstract thinking.

  43. @Watchit

    Yeah, as I feared, you’re not really getting it.

    You may decide you don’t see the RAF that way, but it’s how people on the whole feel about the institution that matters.

    And sure, you can counter with what’s already happened in Syria, but I was not putting forward a case for or against any action, but pointing out the difficulty of sticking in a one-sided fact about civilian losses and how that might skew the question unfairly against action.

  44. “I think there’s actually a case to be made for mentioning the RAF. It’s more specific than just saying ‘the UK’ and may thus prompt a more detailed consideration of what ‘UK airstrikes’ means in practice”

    ——-

    Lol, that’s a bit of a stretch. And if you want a detailed consideration, then have one. Mention the factors in more detail instead of kinda alluding…

  45. @CarFrew – I get it. I just don’t agree with you :)

  46. @Watchit

    No, you didn’t get it, as I pointed out. You gave a response that completely missed the point. But that’s ok, I’ve missed the point myself before now…

  47. @Alec

    Completely agree – it was obvious weeks ago that the only way Labour could handle the situation was a free vote. Not just politically inevitable but morally compelling. And in tune with Corbyn’s rebellious past. What was he thinking?

    As for Cameron’s remarks, they will not go down well – people are prepared to put up with toffs running the country, but they don’t like it when they sneer behind closed doors at the rest of us. More damaging, I’m sure, than McDonnell’s Little Red Book.

    I had the same feeling of disappointment as when Hague tried to unseat the Speaker in an unworthy way.

  48. AW

    I noticed a couple of my comments went into the naughty corner and I do admit they went beyond the comments policy. It has been over a month since my last comment went into the naughty corner.
    ……………

    ALEC
    “My view is that this latest polling data demonstrates that the incompetence surrounding Corbyn’s party management skills has had a major impact, and denied him a rel opportunity. He really is an appalling leader”

    “It was very noticable to me, that last week and across the weekend, the story was about the Labour process, not the decision for war. Clearly, this was going to be disastrous for Labour, as the inability to present any kind of united front and move the story on was impossible, until their approach to any vote was resolved”
    _______

    Two questions..

    Do you think the Labour VI would be in a better position had one of the other leadership candidates won?

    Admittedly ole Corby has made a hash of the whole Syrian vote but had one of the other leadership candidates won do you think as many Labour MP’s would (currently between 60 and 90) would back Syrian strikes?

    IMO a large chunk of the Labour MP’s voting for Syrian strikes says more about what they think about Corby than the actual principles regarding the UK striking bearded men in Syria.

  49. A focus group polled before the debate and re-polled after the vote would have been interesting.

  50. @Carfrew – this is a rather pointless argument but I repeat: I get it, I just don’t agree with you. You think that mentioning the RAF will bias responses and I don’t think it will and, even if it did, is as likely to bias them against bombing raids as much as for them in any case, by virtue of making the raids less abstract.

    The ‘killing women and babies’ isn’t really comparable, for the reason I gave above (though I appreciate I may not have made that point as clearly as I could have – intended to indicate that your example applies whether we bomb or not, whereas there’s no ‘RAF versus some alternative British air force).

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