Petitions are a rubbish way of measuring public opinion. In fairness, that isn’t actually their purpose – a petition is a way for individuals to record and express their opinion, a way of highlighting an issue and exerting pressure. They can indeed be very good at that job. Some people however assume that because a vast number of people sign a petition it must, therefore, reflect wider public opinion. That is not the case – if a million people sign a petition hey are not necessarily representative of anyone but themselves. It shows only what those themselves think, the rest of the population may think the opposite, but not be bothered to sign petitions about it (and some demographic or attitudinal groups may just be more inclined to express their opinions through petitions).

So it appears to be with the petition on the Trump visit. Well over a million and a half people have signed a petition against the visit, but a YouGov poll in the Times this morning shows 49% of people think the visit should go ahead, only 36% think it should cancelled (Though it’s important to note the poll question does not relate to the petition specifically. The poll asked if the visit should go ahead at all, the petition is about the more technical issue of whether it should be downgraded from a full State Visit).

This does not mean there’s a silent majority of the British public who like Donald Trump – quite the opposite, British public opinion is very hostile about him and getting worse. 62% now think he will be a poor or terrible president (up from 54% just after the presidential election) and people here are overwhelming negative about his policies. The ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries gets the thumbs down from 50% of British respondents and the support of only 29%. Other policies are even less popular (67% think his wall is a a bad idea, similar figures disapprove of his environmental policies)

One can only assume that the public think the invite to Trump should stand despite their dislike of the man and his policies because, like it or not, he is the leader of a country we need to work with. Asked what the attitude of the British government should be towards trump 51% say we should try to work with him, rather than distance ourselves from him (32%). Opinion there is moving swiftly though – there has been a large drop since November when 66% thought the government should work with him.

I do ponder what sort of reception Donald Trump will get of the visit goes ahead. The British public really don’t like him, and if that petition doesn’t measure the balance of opinion, it probably does give us a good idea of the pool of people available to turn up to any visit to protest. That said, there have been plenty of State Visits by unpopular world leaders in the past that have been managed without incident. I just wouldn’t count on too many large public events…

786 Responses to “YouGov finds 49% think the Trump visit should go ahead”

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  1. “I think you ought to post under the name “Eyeore”in future.”


    May he just spelt his name a bit wrong. It should be ‘Alack’, not Alec…

  2. @TOH – “Yes short term disruption is probable but long term many think we will be much better off. I accept you have finally come down to become a remainer and feel strongly about it but it is just your opinion.”

    Do many think we will be better off long term? There aren’t very many credible analyses around saying this, but I might have missed something.

    Also, you have made a mistake in labelling me as a strongly committed remainer – I remain a remainer on balance only. What I am aghast about is that this government appears to be leading us towards the most damaging and fruitless kind of Brexit imaginable.

    Aghast I say – aghast!

  3. @sea change

    It seems that Ruth Davidson is saying tonight that agriculture should not be fully devolved to Holyrood after Brexit in order to maintain the UK “Single Market” . In other words policy will be set in London and Scotland will be allowed to implement it to some degree. This will reflect the UK Government’s views as she does what she is told on these matters as she has in changing her policy on the Single Market.

  4. Alec
    “What I am aghast about is that this government appears to be leading us towards the most damaging and fruitless kind of Brexit imaginable.”

    What you want, so called “soft Brexit” is leaving the EU in name only , not in reality. The people voted to leave the EU, and in the way I want to, (see polling of YouGov / Portland Communications Survey Results Sample Size: 1654 GB Adults Fieldwork: 25th – 26th January 2017).

    As to who is right about the economic effects I give you the same challenge I gave Somerjohn , if we wait until 2015-230 and take a rain check we will have a good idea who is right. I am increasingly confident I shall be proved right, IMO of course although the ex GoBE seem to be as about bothered as I am.

    Mind I guess at my age I cannot guarantee still being around but I promise to do my best to keep going.


  5. @TOH – we’ll disagree, but I have to say I find you and many like you charmingly naive. You seem to think this government has some kind of clue about where it is going and what it is doing.

    This week, Private Eye discusses why city currency traders were given copies of May’s speech a week before anyone else. That’s why sterling fell when it did, because No 10 didn’t want the speech itself to trigger a run of sterling which would have become the story.

    Eye quotes a senior serving Civil Servant as saying this is the first time since MacMillan in Suez that someone in government actively tried to collapse the pound to suit their political agenda, adding that it was ‘disgraceful’.

    This is how much your favourite PM cares about her country, and I think it’s time some people woke up to how they are being made fools of.

    I don’t think it’s remotely a coincidence that people with higher educational achievements tended to vote a different way. And that’s a matter of polling fact.

  6. TOH

    In a way you are right, Brexit has created a huge amount of uncertainty which actually increases the value of an option.

    I think it makes treating being a member of British society as an option quite rational. (Amusingly it should be classified as an American Option). If Brexit pays off in 2030, having the right to return will have some residual value which can be exercised. If it doesn’t and standards of life here fall, then nothing is lost. I’m now resigned to treating my status as a British Citizen as “free spins” with all the emotional attachment that entails.

    I don’t need to believe Brexit will work or fail long term, I can sit back and watch as an indifferent observer. With all the volatility that is coming, I think being entirely indifferent about the fate of British Society is probably the healthiest.

    In the interests of maximising volatility and the value of my option I might be tempted to vote for Corbyn, at least it’ll be funny to watch from overseas if he does get into power.

  7. Chris Riley

    “The trouble with your thesis is that it’s testable (actually, that’s unfair – it’s a good point of your thesis).”

    Yup, testable thesis is good. I’ll take that as an implied “yes” to the question:

    if a hypothetical country from April 1st this year only allowed immigrants to work at jobs below their national average productivity would the national average go down?

    that’s the possibility argument settled.


    Secondly there’s the argument over whether it makes economic sense to import unskilled labour for low productivity work like crop-picking. The reason people quibble over the first question is because if they answer it honestly it answers this second question in a non-PC way.

    The only sensible response to a shortage of labour for the lowest productivity (and therefore lowest paid) work is technology.

    The worst option of all is to import the labour first and then have to switch to technology eventually anyway.


    Thirdly there’s the argument over what has actually happened in the UK over the last 20 years or so.

    “For your thesis to be correct we’d need to have seen an expansion of low paid work, not a contraction of it.”

    I agree that is one testable condition, there’s another but let’s stick with this one for now.

    “If you use Annual Population Survey data you can see that as a consequence of the recession, we only have net 20,000 more jobs across the whole of the UK in the three lowest skilled occupational groups than we did *a decade ago*, and it’s only positive because of mass unskilled job creation in London (which has the highest productivity).”

    So you’re saying the total number of people in low skilled jobs has increased but not by enough to account for the drop in productivity?

    That begs various questions like how much of the productivity drop had already happened before the recession but it doesn’t matter – i’m not suggesting it’s all to do with low-skilled immigration just that if you have more low-skilled immigration than high-skilled your national average will *obviously* go down.


    Other things that may effect the national stats which don’t get on the telly so you either know or you don’t.

    “For your thesis to be correct we’d need to have seen an expansion of low paid work, not a contraction of it.”

    One of the things that has been happening in inner city areas for years is the replacement of native workers with illegal workers causing the native workers to move away.

    The net effect of this is an over supply of unskilled workers in both the areas people move away from and the areas they move to.

    This has shifted people from single full-time jobs to multiple part-time jobs or unemployment/underemployment.

    The net effect is you have more people sharing out the same work for less money.

    I don’t know if effects like that gets recorded in the stats but it’s a thing you only know about if you’re “one of the uninformed.”

  8. BigFatRon

    “People in Middlesbrough, with (per the BBC) the highest Leave vote wards have very low levels of immigrant population locally and are not in any meaningful sense impacted by the ills of immigration, whether they are real or not.”

    How many of the people in those wards have moved away from other areas and how does that effect the supply of low-skilled workers?

    For example at one election a while back the media very rapidly found out that UKIP’s small business guy’s restaurants were mostly staffed by illegal workers.

    If the media were interested in finding out the scale of this rather than nobbling UKIP they might find that a large percentage of low-skilled work in some areas was being done by illegal workers meaning less jobs for the locals who then move away – causing an over supply in the areas they move to.

    Fair enough you don’t know that’s true (and there’s no reason for you to believe me over the BBC anyway) but the BBC covers all this stuff up for PC reasons so only the uninformed know about it.

    That’s why polling has a schism. The “informed” are misinformed.

  9. Good evening all from another cold night in rural Hampshire.

    PETE B
    Allan C
    “Younger peeps more likely to have educational qualifications than their older peers…”
    “I was just about to say pretty much the same thing. I hadn’t realised you were so young. Most of your posts are so sensible that I assumed you were older! (I hope you take that the right way) :-)”

    Thanks….although confession, I’m almost 26 (2 weeks time)

    I spend a lot of time with my grandparents and have some great conversations with them. We agree and disagree and will always try to compromise. The conversations usually come to a halt when my Gran stands up and says “well that’ll be that then” and off she goes into to the kitchen to put the kettle on.

    My grandparents have a lot more life experience than I have and that’s one of the reasons why I take exception to people my age or younger babbling on about how the older generation robbed them of their future. It was the same older generation along with my parents through generosity that gave me a great starting point in my current career and without their help and support, I would never have been able to find a deposit for my home and make the transfer south.

    Thanks to the older generation I was able to have a secure future.

  10. Re: partisan

    You can see a confusing of a poster’s motive for posting, and being partisan. Some want to advance a cause, for example. This need not make them partisan. For example, if someone promotes warnings of global warming, this need not make them partisan, but simply well-intentioned. If evidence stacks up against the global warming thing though, and they continue to promote it regardless… Then it starts becoming partisan.

    Similarly it’s not partisan if AW promotes understanding of MoE. Unless someone proves MoE is flawed and yet AW carries on promoting it. Etc.

  11. Carfrew

    Actually using a normal distribution to model voting percentages is flawed, particularly if you use a constant MOE of +/- 3% (it leads to finite probabilities that the true voting percentage is less than zero or greater than 100%).

    A Beta (or Dirichlet for the case of multiple options) distribution is much more appropriate. However for polling of the major parties it’s a reasonable approximation.

    “There are lots of equally intelligent people who don’t agree with you”

    It’s they doom & gloom forecasts Alec comes out with….Pure legendary. ;-)

  13. Panelbase Scottish poll asked a previously run question about whether Scotland would become independent (change from that in brackets)

    38% (+3) believe Scotland is likely to become independent within 5-10 years
    16% (-2) believe Scotland is likely to become independent, but not for at least 10-15 years
    7% (-1) believe Scotland is likely to become independent, but not for at least 20-30 years
    27% (+1) do not believe Scotland is likely to become independent in the next few decades
    13% (n/c) don’t know

    As you’d imagine, Yes voters from the first indyref are most bullish about the likelihood of independence, but the total number of No voters who anticipate independence at some point over the next few decades (40%) is almost equal to the number of No voters who don’t think it will happen at all (43%). And intriguingly enough, as many as 49% of English-born voters expect independence, and only 36% don’t. However, the subsample of English voters is relatively small, so those figures should be treated with caution.
    (via James Kelly)

    Of course, thinking something will happen in the future doesn’t make it any more or less likely – unless the thought changes voting behaviour.

    It’s easy to speculate about who might move from Yes to No, or No to Yes – or suggest that it will make no difference.

    As with everything else, we’ll need to wait and see! :-)

  14. I wonder if the Speaker’s intervention in the subject of POTUS’s state visit will have any bearing on public opinion on the subject.

    Probably not, but it makes an entertaining sideshow.

  15. @Alan

    Well I didn’t advocate a particular distribution but yes, there are others, e.g. for some things might switch to a T test for small sample sizes etc. etc.

  16. @Alan

    What we really wanna know is does God play dice. If you’ve got anything on that…

  17. @Mr Jones

    Problem with your approach is that you don’t account for immigrants getting a foot in the door with low productivity work but then going up the ladder to more productive work.

    So you would have to offset lower productivity of some new arrivals against rising productivity previous batches.

    Secondly, the employers themselves could up the productivity of the workers over time, but if they don’t, then you might consider management to need attention, as this government is doing.

    Thirdly you have to offset jobs taken by immigrants against jobs created by them.

  18. Carfrew

    Yes, although the corrections for the T-distribution aren’t really the ones that cause problems for creating a credible interval for parties on small amounts of the vote.

    It’ll depend on your definition of god. As a theoretical omnipotent, omnipresent being, nobody could stop it playing dice wherever it chose to.

    It’s more likely that we are an experiment sitting on god’s lab bench and the petri dish is about the be washed up as a failed experiment. I’m sure the emergence of Trump will make for an interesting research article in the next edition of “Planetary Synthesis”

  19. I find Bercow rather pompous. Shouldn’t he be impartial?

  20. Rich:

    The Speaker should be impartial between the political parties in the HoC, but he has to defend its activities against any outsider who directly or inadvertently damages them.

    A visit from Donald Trump is likely to cause a major disturbance, judging on his present outspokenness, so is best avoided or postponed.

    Similarly any involvement with DT forced on our Royal Family at his request, ought to be turned down.


    re your post @ 7.46pm

    May I say how much I admire the respect you show to your grandparents. I am sure the gratitude you express is well deserved-they sound like a wonderful couple.

  22. @rich

    The Speaker’s role, amongst.others, is to protect the independence and integrity of the House of Commons. Speaker Lenthall was not impartial when he faced down Charles I when he wanted to arrest the 5 members. He was doing his job. As was Bercow tonight.

  23. Hireton

    To be fair, Rich is simply echoing Farage’s opinion.

  24. The DTel opinion piece, to which Richo gives a link, would seem to have grossly exaggerated the Speaker`s statement and its implications.

    Is the Speaker really “wading deep into foreign policy”? Is he not speaking for the majority of MPs and Lords?

    Certainly Mr Bercow has acted in a way that the majority in the UK will approve, and he may reduce the poisoning of UK-US relations that is bound to arise unless Donald Trump soon moderates his behaviour.

  25. Indeed I am on this one.

  26. @Alan

    “Yes, although the corrections for the T-distribution aren’t really the ones that cause problems for creating a credible interval for parties on small amounts of the vote.”


    I was giving a more general example. It would be great if you would spare me the quibbling…

    Equally, to take issue with the nature of God is to quibble off the point. The issue with the playing dice comment is the question of whether things are determinstic or not…

  27. New thread, new quibble. Oldnat has already kicked off the quibbling right from the off…

  28. New thread!

  29. Carfrew

    It’s in my nature to be precise with my language, particularly when it comes to statistics. If you wish to dismiss it as quibbling then fair enough.

    As for are things deterministic? I suspect the answer to that to be indeterminable (for us). Perhaps there are a hidden set of parameters that determines exactly when a nucleus will decay, perhaps not. The question about whether an omniscient god can know when a particular nucleus will decay seems to be more a question of philosophy and as with all good philosophical questions, an answer will never be produced.

    If a god is omnipresent and omniscient then it will act as an observer for every interaction and the wave functions would immediately collapse and we wouldn’t observe quantum mechanics in the same manner as we do. This seems to be a strike against the existence of god. If one can find out whether or not the cat is dead by answered prayer it would have serious implications.

    I didn’t see there was a main point to a fruitless philosophical discussion about determinism and so there was no real way to go off topic. I apologise if you meant it as a serious topic for discussion.

  30. Carfrew

    “Problem with your approach”

    i’m sure the full story is complicated.

  31. @Alan

    It isn’t the precision, it’s the rather too frequent replies to my posts in which you write as if correcting an error I haven’t actually made. Not only is it tiresome but dilutes the value somewhat.

    Well we don’t necessarily need a god to address the issue of whether there’s an underlying set of parameters. That’s what we may need to determine when a nucleus decays. Though I like the idea of God collapsing the wave function.

    I don’t think it’s entirely off topic, because it relates to probability and hence polling. I think stuff that has us stretching our brains about such concepts to be useful. In moderation, of course. Especially because not as incendiary as some polling topics. It’s useful to connect a little over less contentious things. Provided not an opportunity to quibble etc….

  32. @Mr Jones

    Agree it’s prolly complicated, and don’t dismiss the issues you raise. I just think maybe there are additional issues and some may cancel a bit. Be boring if it was easy, innit…

  33. “Adding the DUP in means that there has to be 13 or so more Tory rebels than Labour ones in total as SF have said they will come to Westminster to vote on this if necessary as it affect the whole of Ireland if necessary.”
    @Jim Jam February 5th, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Did I read this right? I thought SF would not go to Westminster because doing so means taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Would Parliament let them vote without such an oath?

    Until the oath or affirmation is taken, an MP may not receive a salary, take their seat, speak in debates or vote.

    Weirder and weirder!

  34. Carfrew

    Rather too frequent replies? I have made barely any posts in the last couple of months (and no replies to you that I can remember) and only check in occasionally to see if anything different is happening here.

    Still I can always reply to you even less if you prefer. Seems it would suit us both.

  35. @Alan

    It goes back to our earliest exchange in fact. But in saying it’d suit me if you didn’t reply, that’s another example of what I’m on about. I’m not saying that, I’m interested in what you have to say, just not the quibbly stuff.

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