Support or opposition to strike action is often largely influenced by people’s attitudes to the people going on strike and the inconvenience it causes them. If it’s a profession that people admire and think is generally hard done by they’ll sympathise, if it’s a profession that people don’t think much of they won’t. If the inconvenience it causes people is relatively minor, people will understand; if it really puts out large numbers of people, like school or tube closures, then sympathy is less forthcoming. The specific ins-and-outs of the dispute are often impenetrable or irrelevant. It’s who we trust, who is the good guy.

The public hold doctors in extremely high regard and unless they happen to have had a hospital appointment today it’s unlikely to cause most people any direct noticable inconvenience, so you’d expect fairly high support. That’s what the polls show. Ipsos MORI had a new poll for yesterday’s Newsnight which found the public supported strike action emphatically (66% to 16%) when junior doctors would still provide emergency care, and much more narrowly (44% to 39%) if junior doctors would not provide emergency care either. Full tabs are here.

Late last year before the intitial round of strikes were postponed YouGov found a similar pattern – people clearly supported strike action by 51% to 32% when junior doctors would still cover emergency treatment, when strike action would also cover emergency care people were more evenly divided (45% to 37%). Tabs are here.

At present this breaks the way you would expect in an argument between politicians on one side, and trustworthy and overworked people who come to your rescue when you’re ill on the other. If strike action that also involves emergency care goes ahead though public opinion may become more finely balanced.

111 Responses to “Polling on the Junior Doctors Strike”

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  1. @Oldnat,

    Are you aware from this poll or previous polls, where the 35% “out” vote is coming from? One sometimes gets the impression that EU membership is a core ingredient of SNP independence plans. Is there a significant body of Scots who are “all out” voters (leave UK, leave EU) or is “out” sentiment very high amongst opposition voters?

    We sometimes focus a lot on the high support for the EU (relative to England) in Scotland, but 35% is still quite a big chunk.

  2. In the 1975 Referendum the highest % votes to leave the EEC were in Scotland.

  3. Alas, 69 seems a very vulnerable age. First Bowie, now the great actor Alan Rickman.

    Didn’t know until reading his obituary today that he was a lifelong Labour activist and that his wife was a Labour councillor in London for 20 years until about 2006.

    Knowing that, I’m surprised he wasn’t asked to appear in a few Labour Party Political Broadcasts. David Tennent, Steve Coogan, David Morrissey and Alan Rickman all together in one PPB? That would have swung it for Labour, wouldn’t it, certainly amongst female voters.

    A trick missed, maybe. :-)

    Master actor, though, and another great talent taken away from us far too soon.

  4. Crossbat

    In 2010 PPBs, Gordon Brown had David Tennant, Peter Davison, Sean Pertwee and Patrick Stewart.

    Two Doctor Whos, a son of Doctor Who and a captain of the starship Enterprise.

    Still didn’t win.


    ‘Not enough Tories in polls’.
    I understand what Curtice is saying but am unclear as to why this became a particular problem in 2015 as compared with earlier elections. A sharp decline in response rates perhaps

    It’s a very good question and applies not just to UK general elections, but also to how well (or not) polling did in other elections such as the euros. But any explanation of the polling failures[1] has to also account for polling successes, otherwise the danger is fitting to one data point and throwing out for the rest. And of course that includes the polling that was correct in May as well – in Scotland and London for example.

    Curtice’s paper, based on the British Social Attitudes survey:

    doesn’t really mention this – it’s more with making the case for these big-sample random surveys and what they tell us. As such it’s a useful confirmation of similar conclusions from the British Election Study random survey and the paper contains useful comparisons of the results of the two[2].

    But it is strange that while pollsters got 2010 fairly close[3], with a similar result for the top two they got 2015 wrong, using very similar methods. Both BSA and BES (see p 8) did better, though both over-estimate Lab and Con by a few points each mainly at the expense of UKIP and also (by about a point) the Lib Dems[4].

    I don’t think a decline in response rate can really be responsible for all of this (though it doesn’t help). That shouldn’t affect online polls and the drop off in phone polls seems to have been happening a while. The contact rates for BSA and BES also seem to be dropping. So there must be other reasons as well, perhaps related to the sort of the people the hard-to-contact are.

    [1] As I keep on pointing out there really needs to be a look at constituency polling as well – specifically in the Lib Dem held seats. It might be interesting to compare with polling in the recent Canadian federal election where there also seemed to be a lot of polling in individual ridings.

    [2] One thing that Curtice doesn’t emphasise is that the two surveys use slightly different samples – BSA looking at all British adults (except those NW of the Great Glen) while BES is concerned only with those who can vote (ie not most EU nationals etc). This probably explains the slightly lower percentage of respondents who said they voted in the BSA (70.3% versus BES 73.6% – both as weighted). Both are higher than the actual figure 66.4% which you would expect for some technical reasons which Curtice mentions, but also because non-voters would be more likely to refuse to take part. Even after all the chasing up only 51% of the BSA sample agreed to take part (and only 56% of BES’s).

    [3] They tended to over-estimate the Lib Dems at the expense of both Lab and Con but most got the 7 point Con lead or thereabouts. In 2015 most predicted a tie or a 1-2 point Con lead rather than the actual 8 points.

    [4] The discrepancies are actually made worse by weighting. I suspect that this may partly be a ‘shy UKIP’ factor which we have seen in telephone polls as well. Though in this case ‘shy’ may be more being unwilling to take part rather than giving the wrong answers.

  6. Meanwhile, to return to the poll that is the topic of this thread, we seem to have another case of a poll the has vanished into the black hole of the Evening Standard. When this came out on Tuesday, I said that this looked like a sub-set of the usual MORI monthly Political Monitor, both from the date and the sample size[1]. You expect the usual questions VI and so on to appear the next day. Instead we’ve had nothing.

    We’ve seen this before with polls for the ES (for example by YouGov) where they seem to ask the pollster to hold back the tables and then publish nothing (or something appears a week or more later). The strike questions don’t seem to have been commissioned by the ES and got published straight away (f/w 8-10 Jan), but up to now nothing.

    [1] If it had been a dedicated phone poll you would expect a sample of about 1000. This is 869 which you’d expect to be the English sub-sample from 1000+ UK poll.

  7. @Neil A & Old Nat

    My guess is that a fair number of fishing folk & co. are for coming out of the EU. That doesn’t make 35% of the population, of course, but there will also be many Scots Tories and others living in the Empire who don’t realise that we’ve entered another world, so to speak. Add together the bulk of the Tories, the coastal fishing communities, the Scottish Socialists and so on and you might end up with 35%…..

  8. Roger Mexico
    ‘In 2015 most predicted a tie or a 1-2 point Con lead rather than the actual 8 points. ‘

    Just a point of detail – the Con lead in 2015 was 6.6% not 8%! This was very slightly smaller than the 2010 Con lead of 7.3%

  9. Roger – the sample size does imply that it was asked on a GB poll, though it would be anyway – if you are commissioning just a couple of questions you do it on a Omnibus survey, not your own bespoke sample. It doesn’t mean it’s the same one as the Political Monitor though, I’m sure MORI do more than one poll a month!

  10. Neil A

    “Are you aware from this poll or previous polls, where the 35% “out” vote is coming from?”

    Good question.

    All figures below come from this poll which, as per normal, over represents those who are voters/politically aware. There is no reason, however, to assume that Tories are under represented, as they seem to be in English samples. It is a different political system with its own dynamics.

    There is no gender difference, or any massive regional one either (range is 32% in the West to 39% in Central).

    The difference among referendum voters (39% of Yes, 30% of Noes) probably reflects the socio-economic divide rather than attitudes to indy – a much higher proportion of C2DE voters voted Yes (and currently vote SNP too).

    The “Leave” % increases along the socio-economic range – 28% of AB : 32% of C1 : 40% of C2DE.

    By voting patterns, the Tories are the most inclined to Leave (50%) as opposed to 32% SNP and 24% Lab.

    This may be reflective of a greater “British” identity (especially after the referendum and/or underlying demographics. Scots Tories are 15-16% of the AB&C groups, and 7% of DEs. In age they are 10% of 16-34 : 13% of 35-54 : 18% of 55+.

    I don’t think that there is a “typical” Scots Leave voter. Many different interests may have their own reasons for Leaving/Remaining.

  11. Thanks OldNat.

    It’s interesting to see SNP support is quite heterogeneous (as of course is that of other parties).

    The SNP have done well to appear as united as they are, it seems.

    Is EU membership a relatively low salience issue for nationalists?

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