Ipsos MORI have re-asked their questions on the junior doctors’ dispute ahead of the second strike today. The overall level of support remains the same, with two-thirds backing the strike, but underneath that opinions appear to be polarising. While the 66% of people supporting the strike is the same percentage as last month, within that the proportion saying “strongly support” has risen, those saying “tend to support” has fallen. Among the other third of the population the proportion of people saying they don’t know or have no feelings either way has fallen (from 19% to 12%), the proportion of people saying they oppose the strike has risen (from 15% to 22%).

Asked who is to blame for the dispute continuing this long 64% blamed the government, 13% the doctors and 18% both equally. Full details of the poll is here, and my write-up of the January figures is here.

As well as the quality polling by MORI, there is also sadly a new outbreak of newspaper reporting of voodoo polls on the issue. The Indy and Mirror are reporting a “poll” apparently showing 90% of junior doctors would resign if the contract was imposed. We’ve already had one outbreak of voodoo polling in this dispute, that one claiming 70% of junior doctors would resign… which turned out to be a “survey” conducted among the members of a Facebook group campaigning against the contract. This time the two papers reporting it are very tight lipped about where it was conducted, so I don’t know if it’s the same forum – the only clue is that it was organised by Dr Ben White, who is campaigning against the contract. From the Mirror’s write up Dr White did at least ensure respondents were real doctors, but false or multiple responses is far from the only thing that stops voodoo polls being meaningful, it’s also where you do it, whether you recruit respondents in a manner that gets a representative and unbiased survey. You would, for example, get a very different result on foxhunting in a survey conducted on a Countryside Alliance Forum or a League Against Cruel Sports Forum, even if you took measures to ensure all participants were genuine countryside dwellers.

Questions along the lines of “If thing you oppose happens, will you do x?” are extremely dicey anyway – people pick the answers that will best express their anger and opposition (Dr White himself seems to take that perfectly sensible angle in his quote to the Mirror, presenting his findings as an expression of anger). To quote what I wrote last time…

From a respondent’s point of view, if you are filling in a survey about something you oppose, you’re are likely to give the answers that most effectively express your opposition. Faced with a question like this, it’s far more effective to say you might leave your job if your contract is changed than say you’d meekly accept it and carry on as usual.

We see this again and again in polls seeking to measure the impact of policies. For example, before tuition fees were increased there were lots of polls claiming to show how many young people would be put off going to university by increased fees (such as here and here). After the rise, they miraculously continued to apply anyway. Nobody wants to tell a pollster that they would just swallow the thing they oppose.

I don’t doubt that many or most junior doctors are unhappy with the new contract […but…] you shouldn’t necessarily believe people telling pollsters about the awful consequences that will happen if something they don’t like happens. It’s a lot easier to make a threat to a pollster that you’ll resign from your job than it is to actually do it.

And that’s before we get to fact that “considering resigning” is very different to “resigning”. I consider taking up jogging every January, yet the people of Dartford are yet to be subjected to even the briefest glimpse of me in jogging gear.)

112 Responses to “Latest junior doctors polling and an update from voodoo corner”

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  1. @Andy Shadrack (February 12th, 2016 at 6:20 pm)

    “So I think that your turnout projection is a tad low given that I suspect that 16 and 17 years olds are going to be highly motivated to vote”

    You could be right there. However, John Curtice postulated that during the referendum, 16-17 year olds were encouraged to vote by their parents (for whatever side of the debate). Turnout was very high by UKGE or ScGE turnout standards. Will said parents be just as keen to have their kids vote in the ScGE? Maybe. Maybe not.


    “On the one hand, encouraged perhaps by mum and dad to make the journey to the polling station, 16 and 17 year olds were more likely to vote than were those aged 18-24, many of whom would no longer be living at home. On the other hand, they were still less likely to vote than those who were more than twice their age. To that extent, the referendum turnout amongst 16 and 17 year olds still reflects the general tendency for younger voters to be less likely to make it to the polls.

    More precisely, according to ICM’s survey, 75% of 16 and 17 year olds voted, compared with 54% of 18-24 year olds and 72% of 25-34 year olds. The turnout in all three groups is markedly lower than the estimate for 35-54 year olds (85%) and those aged 55 and over (92%).”

    It should be interesting to see if the 16-17 year olds of the referendum, aged mostly 18-19 in May will still turnout and push up the 18-24 turnout.

    Make pubs polling stations, and a free half for voting. Brewers would go for it. Punters would go for it. Traffic police would warn of doom and gloom for months about it. Ergo, make the GE on a Friday, and the 18-24s will vote at the pub that evening.

    In fact, the old tradition of GEs being on Thursdays for market day is long gone. Modern shopping habits should make it a Saturday, and people can wake up on a Sunday to the result and the usual dose of Sunday political commentary.

  2. At the risk of reigniting what was a rather sterile debate about ‘boomers’. this confirms the problems faced by the current generation:


  3. “Make pubs polling stations…”


    Dear God, no one should have to face such a thing. It’ll be coffee shops next…


  4. ICM
    Con 39 Lab 32 LD 7 UKIP 11

  5. @ Alec

    “For example, if we had had a US set up, I suspect a UK version of the supreme court would have struck down ‘ever closer union’ as unconstitutional very quickly. This remains one of the biggest decisions ‘we’ have ever made, without once being asked.”

    Always rather surprised that people insist they were never asked about ‘ever closer union’.

    It was in the founding Treaty of Rome of 1957 and all subsequent major EC/EU treaties have reiterated the aim one way or another. I fail to see how those who voted in the referendum on whether to remain or withdraw from the European Community could have been entirely oblivious to the fact.

    Unless, that is, there was no debate of the constitutional consequences of continued EC membership at the time, which isn’t borne out in the contemporary reporting of the period.

    The 1975 referendum is a cautionary tale on the electorate’s propensity for collective memory failure when asked to recall a past event they have come to view ambiguously (or possibly any past political happening).

    Relevance here to current polling, where adjustments to headline figures so often seem to rely – in part at least – on respondent’s ability to recall who they voted for previously.

    On the substantive point, whether or not a UK Supreme Court would have prohibited UK membership of the EC and accession to the Treaty of Rome would depend much more on the substance of the constitution that the UK had – and the willingness of Parliament to change it.

    As I recall there was a more than two thirds pro-EC majority in Parliament at the time, so in most systems that would have been sufficient to allow the legislature to amend the constitution so as to allow membership anyway.

  6. The tables for the latest Welsh Barometer poll are here:


    Roger Scully’s projections for the Assembly are:

    Labour: 27 seats (25 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

    Conservatives: 12 seats (7 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

    Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

    UKIP: 9 seats (9 list seats)

    Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

    That said, there may be some doubt about the Lib Dems hanging on to their constituency seats, given how poorly personal votes worked last May. A minority Labour administration seems the most likely, I suspect repeating the 2007 Lab-PC coalition would be unwelcome to either unless Labour drop more seats and it’s difficult to see who they would lose constituencies to.

    One point that Scully has made in the past is that since May YouGov have been consistently returning the highest UKIP figures of any pollster in GB polls (though the online pollsters are bunched closer than they were before). Because only YouGov are doing Welsh polling at the moment, if they are consistently over-estimating UKIP in Wales as well, then they might be doing less well than appears (though their recent movement up could still be happening). It might make little difference though because, despite the movements, the seat breakdown is identical to the previous Welsh barometer.

  7. Those figures show UKIP ahead of Plaid on headline intention but Plaid leading UKIP on both constituencies and the list. What are we to make of that then?

  8. Thanks to Anthony, Bill P and Alec for explaining the politicisation of the US justice system.

    One small quibble with Alec:
    “Incidentally, the differences between the US and UK models are fascinating, with our primacy of Parliament and their primacy of the constitution. ”

    I would just change the word ‘Parliament’ to ‘Brussels’, unfortunately.

    On the latest polls, it’s interesting to see UKIP ahead of Plaid in Welsh voting intention for Westminster. A side-effect of the forthcoming referendum perhaps?

  9. I’m not sure I think “originalism” is odd.

    I think that if you want your country to have laws that its founding fathers wouldn’t have agreed with, then you should pass new laws.

    That’s the main beef with judicial activism, and what makes the Supreme Court such a highly politicised beast. It makes as many new laws as Congress does, in effect, so of course its members are politicians.

    That’s not to say that I agreed with Scalia on very much (virtually nothing I expect) but on that I’m with him.

  10. Polltroll

    “Those figures show UKIP ahead of Plaid on headline intention but Plaid leading UKIP on both constituencies and the list. What are we to make of that then?”

    Well, the obvious thing to make of it is that a large number of Plaid supporters at a Welsh GE vote for UK parties at a UK GE.

    The same thing used to happen in Scotland.

    I don’t know whether it was YG or Scully who decided to label Westminster as the “headline figure”, but it is no more logical to do that than to label the Senedd constituency or list VI as the “headline figure” – less so, since the Senedd elections are in May, and Westminster won’t be till 2020.

    Simply look at the Westminster VI of the Plaid constituency voters –

    Con – 97% loyalists (2% LD : 1% UKIP)
    Lab – 91% loyalists (3% Con : 3% PC : 2% UKIP : 1% LD)
    UKIP – 91% loyalists (7% Con : 2% Lab : 1% LD)
    PC – 65% loyalists (19% Lab : 10% Con : 4% UKIP : 1% LD)

  11. Oh right, didn’t realise headline VI was for general elections.

  12. Polltroll

    Westminster-centric reporting does make things hard to understand:-)

    On a technicality, the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish (I think) elections in May are also “general elections”.

    It’s just Westminster-centrism that wants to abrogate that term to the election of those sitting in that disintegrating edifice on the Thames.

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