Over on the YouGov website I’ve an article about what people recall from the Conservative and Labour manifestos. One of the reasons manifestos don’t usually matter is, put simply, that most people don’t read them. The reason policies don’t really matter is that most people are largely unaware of them. The way to judge a manifesto is not whether people approve of the policies in them, but whether people approve of the policies that they actually noticed.

At the start of the week YouGov asked people an open ended question, asking without any prompting if they could remember any of the promises that Labour or the Conservatives had made in their election manifestos

For Labour there were clear cut throughs by positive policies: 32% of people recalled the promise to axe tuition fees, 21% remembered promises to increase NHS funding, 20% recalled promises to nationalise the railways, Royal Mail or National Grid. All of these are policies which polling has found the public generally support, and which are relatively clear and easy to understand.

For the Conservative party only one policy was recalled by more than one in five people – the changes to care funding (which was often described as dementia tax, or taking old peoples homes, or similarly negative terms). In contrast to the simple and popular policies that people recalled from Labour, the one cut-through policy from the Tory manifesto was both unpopular and complicated. The next most recalled policies were going ahead with Brexit (recalled by 12%) and means-testing the Winter Fuel Allowance (10%).

Of course even when people do recall policies, that’s not really what they vote on – voting behaviour is much more about the broad perceptions of the parties, what they stand for, their leaders and their perceived competence. There are clear signs that the poor Conservative manifesto launch fed through into that.

Before the manifesto launches 35% of people thought the Conservative party’s policies seemed well thought-through, 38% did not. A week later only 19% think their policies are well thought-through, 54% do not. Contrast this with the positive impact of Labour’s manifesto. Before their launch only 25% of people thought they had well-thought through policies, now 31% of people do.

When a key plank of the Conservative party’s offering to the country has been the claim that they are the strong and steady party of competence, the drop in the proportion of people thinking they’ve well thought-through policies for the country should be worrying for them.

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163 Responses to “What people noticed from the manifestos”

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  1. “The reason policies don’t really matter is that most people are largely unaware of them.”


    Yes, this is to maintain the error. Because people not noticing is summat parties often STRIVE for. That’s gold for a party, policies that affect VI without people noticing.

    Like, as I said before, a policy of changing the voting registration may well impact on VI, but many may not be aware of this.

  2. What should parties take from this, for future reference?

    I would say, offer as the main focus in the manifesto a small set of places that are straightforward and already known to be popular.

    Leave all complicated details out of the manifesto – and just don’t have a policy at all on anything controversial: possibly say that “cross-party support” would be needed for anything unpopular.

    I’m not convinced “costing” is important in terms of policy, but prior popularity is.

    For example, it’s likely that quite a few people within Labour are in favour of a “land value tax”, and Labour do mention it in their manifesto. But to lead on it would have been a disaster – it has the word “tax” in it and would instantly be toxic. It’s only popular with those who already champion it and not generally.

  3. Does a 6% “well thought through” improvement for Labour matter in terms of voting intention?

  4. This backs up some of my reason why I think Labour will keep narrowing the gap and we will see a hung parliment 8th of June with Prime minster Corbyn

    Torys will lose some kippers back up ukip this week, Labour will hit 38 Torys down to 41

  5. @Sorrel

    I think costing prolly is of significance, but people have a basic idea of what’s liable to be really effing expensive. My dream of everyone having their own storage unit has obvious big cost issues, without giving any figures. So Corbyn gains if he proposes things that are obviously not going to cost a fortune. Tuition fees is an easy example to sell, because we pay for it upfront already and a big vague on whether we’ll get the money back.

  6. So far then things have gone much better for labour than they had any reason to hope, Nevertheless I still don’t think they can win if they don’t take on the Brexit issue. I see that UKIP are pressing for a really hard Brexit – no net immigration, no interim deal but straight out in 2 years etc. These two policies strike me personally as mad but if they start to attract any Tories and Theresa May moves to harden her position, it would create a space for a ‘soft Brexit’ or ‘Sane Brexit’ or whatever you want to call it into which Labour could move. This would be the only hope of remainers, might attract the odd soft Brexiteer who does not wish to go over a cliff and would leave the right mildly split on what is the key issue for the election. Not perhaps a very likely scenario and probably dependent on people thinking that the Tories are bound to win, But then that’s what I still think and who knows.

  7. Anthony was this polling weighted or just anyone who completed the survey?

    [Weighted – AW]

  8. Labour also had a rolling manifesto roll out, lots of teasers. Notice that at the beginning of the campaign the number for well thought out policies was very low, most of the improvement actually happened in the lead up to the manifesto

  9. Yes AW, that is very interesting about what people remember and how they match that against already prior perceived strengths and weaknesses of a party rather than the policy itself. I am struggling to remember an occasion when a policy outlined in a manifesto caused such a negative reaction that was on ordinary local people’s lips in that way. I knew something was up before we got the polling evidence. What were the Conservative election strategists thinking when they put that policy in? It’s an election manifesto – not a White Paper? If I were TM heads would roll, as it is a fundamental blunder and is contrary to all good and well thought out election strategy practice. As you write at the end public perception of competence has been damaged. Perhaps the robust response to the atrocity will restore some of that confidence? We await further polls with baited breath!!!

  10. The most surprising and unexpected of narratives which has emerged so far in this campaign, is that against all expectation and perceived wisdom, Labour are not crashing and burning into the mid-low 20’s which some predicted with certainty would happen.

    Corbyn’s ratings are up (although still pretty bad). LAB VI is up significantly. The so-called ‘hard-left’ manifesto is popular and achieved cut-through to the average person who does not pay much attention to politics.

    And aside from all of this, which happened independently of the CON impacting LAB perception, you have the CON manifesto omnishambles compounding matters further.

    After Brexit and Trump, I am taking nothing for granted. I still think a CON victory is by far the most likely outcome, but the shattering landslide everyone ‘knew’ was a certainty certainly looks far less likely. And I can now imagine the small possibility of a hung parliament with Prime Minister Corbyn.

    4 weeks ago, no-one would have predicted this.

  11. @Gaz,
    I believe we have reason to think this is significant since it ties in with the evidence that the polling gap narrowed over the week leading up to this.

  12. The remarkable thing is that Friday’s papers (okay, the right leaning ones) gave the Tory Manifesto a good write up with queries on the social care proposals.

    By Saturday there was only one subject for discussion.

    Possibly the choice of a senior aide – made possible by May’s centralising tendencies – will turn this into the biggest collapse since Brazil took on Germany at the last World Cup.

  13. @sorrell:

    I would say the lesson is that parties are coalitions, so getting a central cabal to decide everything is a very bad idea. A maniefesto that otherwise could have bored its way to victory turned into a loser.

  14. Excellent question Ed G – was thinking the same – would say with Antony’s write up it was a weighted poll

  15. Many thanks AW. Plenty of food for thought there – at least until we get the first post-atrocity poll.

    It is possible that Corbyn’s position on Brexit and the EU – more laissez-faire than pro or anti any specific policy, but founded in the Labour policy of reform of the EU, rather than leave – may pay off. The drop in immigration numbers by some 20%, for example, in 2015/2016 may play into a policy of valuing immigrants and investing in their integration and the strengthening of services and housing in host communities,, but requiring confirmed employment. This leaves open staying in the Single Market or an equivalent framework, which will continue to get the support of unions and industry and become more clearly understood in the run-up to the election.

  17. On the ground today at a local level here in Bishop Auckland there are dissatisfied potential Conservatives due to the social care policy but I hear many opinions about Mays statesmanship over the last few days and sorry to say but how would Corbyn respond to such a crisis but also the big question about how would he lead Brexit negotiations? I believe there is a sufficient movement in the traditional Labour voting areas to see the seat elemct Christopher Adams MP This was a dead cert two weeks ago for the Conservatives, maybe a few doubts now but I expect them to still come through.

  18. On the ground today at a local level here in Bishop Auckland there are dissatisfied potential Conservatives due to the social care policy but I hear many opinions about Mays statesmanship over the last few days and sorry to say but how would Corbyn respond to such a crisis but also the big question about how would he lead Brexit negotiations? I believe there is a sufficient movement in the traditional Labour voting areas to see the seat elect Christopher Adams MP This was a dead cert two weeks ago for the Conservatives, maybe a few doubts now but I expect them to still come through.

  19. @Andy

    Nice review of the door game there, Did you find anyone of the Torys mind out at easy by the May U-Turn on social care or are they still very worred about it?

  20. I would of thought a blue 41 vs red 38 wouldn’t give red the seats to form even a minority government. Unless SNP collapse in Scotland, may be a hung parliament but probably with no group being able to get the numbers to effectively govern.

    LibDems could hold the balance of power, lol

  21. Whilst the positive reception to the Labour manifesto will not turn the result, the manifesto has cheered up the rank and file no end. Far from a ’83 suicide note its a good set of positive policies. It’s also helped change the perception of JC. This was no death or glory charge but a coherent left-wing alternative. There is a lot more enthusiasm in Labour ranks than when the election was called.

  22. Here in Somerset N E, very few posters, some blue fields and 1 red one. In neighbouring Bath lots of orange and green.

  23. @John Pilgrim – Left to my own devices, the policy you outline is the policy I would like. My guess, however, is that it is not a winning one and even some remainers are now feeling that we have to make the best of a bad job. In practice we can;t negotiate a full deal in two years and we will not have reoriented ourselves to grasp all these Brexit opportunities if we do. So we have to negotiate an interim deal that will stick and gives everyone time and a measure of certainty while we agree something that works for us and the EU. In the end that could be good for the EU too because they are never going to shoehorn all those different countries into an ever closer union and ours could be a useful option.

    Anyway while you have not been as absent in the Spring as Paul Croft, you have not been around as much of late as you used to be unless I am wrong. So its really nice to be able to benefit from your erudition once again.

  24. @Porrohman

    Hello to you.
    You raise an interesting hypothesis. If the polls narrow further I suspect that the Democratic Unionists are the party most likely to hold the balance between Con and Lab-SNP. In which case TM will still be PM but what nightmares she would then have with Brexit with no majority!

  25. Lmzdee
    Some questions raised and some disennting voices but If you profess to be a Tory in this seat you historically remain so.

  26. Looks encouraging for Labour, I wish the bookies would look at this cos the best odds for the Conservatives to win the most seats is a miserly 1/16…-

  27. @Andy

    Sorry what I was trying to get at, Did any change back to Labour with the social care policy but after the U-Turn move back to the Torys.

  28. what time is yougov poll expected?


    If it’s a hung parliament, the SNP would probably give Lab confidence and supply and indyref2 off the table until 2022 provided a Swiss or EEA style arrangement is sought in the Brexit negotiations, which would also allow a soft border to remain in Ireland, of course.

  30. @Charles

    The Labour PP broadcast tonight completely dedicated to Brexit, obviously realise an area they need to catch up on

  31. @IAN Bet 365 are out to 1-10. I wonder if they have heard something about the Yougov?

  32. Prospero

    I missed it, what would you say was the main thrust of it?

  33. Meanwhile, here on the ground in UKIP Clacton, the Labour Party restarted the campaign today. There was a noticeable number in a predominantly Conservative part of the Constituency who were not happy with Theresa May’s performance over the last few days since Manchester. The issue of her cutting police numbers came up again and again and there were lifelong Tories saying they would be switching their vote to Labour.

    Of course, I don’t for one minute think there will be any other outcome in Clacton than the former vicar in Bread getting elected, but I have to say that I have been surprised by the very positive support Labour has received from unlikely parts of the Constituency. UKIP may even slip to third place here.

  34. LMZDEE
    Saw little movement after Mays so called U turn and those that returned to the Labour fold remain so but my point is that to me sufficient voters from Labour heartlands in the East of the constituency whether they be ex Ukip or ex Labour are moving in sufficient numbers for this to be a Conservative gain. Still time for all this to change though!


    I agree, but at 41 -38 I don’t believe the seat numbers will add up to make that viable.

    I can’t see labour taking enough seats from Tories to allow those numbers. Especially if tories pickup a couple of libdems and lose some themselves.

    I think, even at 38 it will be thought for labour outside to the metropolitan areas. I see the most likely scenario being no change from where we started from, seat number wise

  36. QUOTE (Tony Dean) ” What were the Conservative election strategists thinking when they put that policy in?”


    I think the word here is hubris. The Tories had a massive lead – close to 25 points – just a few weeks ago. Labour were in the 20’s and a lot of people had written them off.

    Theresa May knew it would lose her some votes, but, she thought that she could get a sizeable majority with the ‘nasty’/unpopular stuff upfront and center stage.

  37. Reality check

    hung Parliament, Labour majority etc

    where is the polling evidence for this? The lowest Tory poll gives them a 9% point lead and highest 14%. If anyone but Corbyn was leading the party this would be catastrophic.If I remember Labour were the party of Government once.
    Unless my wits have left me altogether i cannot see any circumstances where Corbyn gains an electoral advantage from sad events..The best result is neutral.

    Labour has clearly attracted support through his promises. If i had
    a child going to university this autumn i might vote for him and save my child a lifelong debt burden.Personally if the country was running a surplus i think it should be state funded.But If jC wishes to really win this election he should promise to pay for it and Care out of the foreign aid budget.Whether he does so or not will show whether he is merely a socialist dillatante or a true bolshevik.

  38. Fareham Grecian

    I wonder if they have heard something about the Yougov?

    Maybe So ?

  39. Labour probably needs to hit 40% to stand a chance of being in government, despite [the] manifesto from the Conservatives. Still seems unlikely middle england will swing back to Labour.

    Not enough people pay attention to policies and the Tories still have their final weapon of deploying all the fervour of the right-wing press to rip into Corbyn in the final days.

    What it may have done though is shore up support for Lab in Wales and the North East / North West and London, saving quite a few seats.

  40. @Woody

    That the Cons will make Brexit for the few and Lab will for the many, a couple of economic references and to bad memories of Con govs of the past

  41. @S Thomas,

    Re; question time. I agree sadly. I doubt there will be any tough questions about how we sort the root cause.

  42. I missed the rumour on YouGov. Is the suggestion it’s still looking better for Labour?

    I am guessing;

    Cons 44%
    Lab 35%

  43. The manifesto error was a mixture of hubris and a mistaken belief that making difficult choices would seem more statesmanlike than promising giveaways.

    I think we might be heading towards hung parliament territory (but, hey, what do I know?): the unknown factor being whether people – when they realise this – will be prepared to contemplate Prime Minister Corbyn, propped up by the SNP. It would mean no brexit, which is probably an idea now what Labour need to counter.

  44. “I wonder if they have heard something about the Yougov?”

    I have just check the odds tracker. The lowest odds (most likely) for Con seats is 376-400 (13/8) followed by 401-425 (12/5)
    For Lab the lowest odds are 150-199 (4/6), follwed by 200-249 (3). What is most interesting is that the odds for Lab 200-249 are drifting, which means less probable. Also Lab majority and no overall majority are also drifting.

  45. Good Evening from Bournemouth where there is less evidence of a GE campaign than I can ever remember; in terms of posters, speakers, meetings and leaflets.
    For Corbyn, I think the interview with Andrew Neil will be critical, in terms of how he answers the questions on the appropriate response to terrorism.

  46. What is it about “do-gooders” [especially the rotten, liberal ones that one hears about] that people disapprove of so much?

    They [whoever they are] were mentioned in a very negative way on the last thread. Personally, were I to need a bit of support, a do-gooder is the very person I’d be turning to.

  47. That “what” was supposed to be “that”. But ungrammatical might be the new style.


    The latest Lucid Talk poll predicts just one seat will likely change from UUP to SF, with their forecast being: DUP 8 UUP 1 SF 5 SDLP 3 IND 1

    See the Belfast Telegraph here.

    In any event, although the DUP are still pro-Brexit, I suspect they may be first to blink if a border poll becomes necessary.

    A different Lucid Talk poll for the Irish Sun put supporters of one at 51%. See here. That’s about the last thing the DUP want, particularly because they know that the irish population of NI is growing faster than the unionist part.

  49. I thought national campaigning wasn’t supposed to start till tomorrow so how come that got broadcast at all ? Interesting he talked about bad Tory govts from the past.. did he mention the bad labour govts and the winter of discontent ?

    Presume that slipped his mind

  50. By the way, thanks to all those on the previous thread who welcomed me back into the UKIP fold and it does feel as if I’m re-visiting old friends here. It’s good, and somewhat surprising, to see so many of the names that became so familiar to me over my many years of almost daily contributing still sallying forth. The debates seem as civilised and erudite as ever, leavened with welcome humour too, and when you visit other political discussion websites and blogs, as I occasionally did over the last two years, you do get to appreciate UKPR’s distinct civility and balance.

    I have to confess that the last General Election, and Labour’s turmoils thereafter, did give me some dark nights of the soul, as did the ascendancy of Trump and Brexit, and I bordered on disillusionment with the whole damned political scene at times. Villa’s disastrous 15/16 campaign and ignominious relegation added to the overall feeling that everything I was touching was turning to dust.

    Anyway, enough of this morbid introspection. What to make of this General Election campaign? Surreal doesn’t do it justice, and while I have a horrible feeling that its outcome was determined many moons ago, probably when Labour made their choice as to whom they wanted to lead them, I’ve seen enough over the last week or so to convince me that there may be some flickers of interest to be had, certainly more than when May’s serene coronation appeared inevitable only one week ago. Let me be clear, I think the Tories will win fairly comfortably, but the real interest may reside in how much damage May’s opponents can inflict upon her brand before she bursts through the finishing tape in a fortnight’s time. That will be key to how successful a government she can form and lead and the scale of any political implosion that may occur thereafter. The more May looks “weak and wobbly”, the quicker the sheen comes off PM May after June 8th and, quite probably, the smaller her electoral victory.

    I think Labour’s role and democratic duty in all this is to hound and harry the victors all the way to the line. Therein lies possible redemption and restored self-esteem. If I was a Corbyn adviser I’d be a little like the Manager of a relegation-doomed team. Have some fun, keep swinging and go down fighting.

    Promotion campaigns to come, maybe.

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