While the polling inquiry continues and we all work out what went wrong the Guardian aren’t publishing their ICM/Guardian polls, but they are still being done. Martin Boon has tweeted July’s results, which have topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%.

As I wrote in my previous poll, YouGov released a second bite of budget polling on Friday, this part conducted after the initial press reaction to the budget. This wave highlights some of the public’s rather complex views on benefits and the living wage.

Public attitudes to welfare are complicated, sometimes contradictory and it is easy to cherry pick polling results to show the public support or oppose big cuts to benefits, depending on one’s views. At the simplest level people like the idea of benefit cuts because they think they go to people who don’t deserve them and who haven’t contributed to them. Exactly who they imagine these people are is more difficult to say, since if you ask about most groups who recieve benefits people oppose cuts.

So, overall 38% of people say cuts to benefits have gone too far, 23% they they are about right, 24% would go even further. Asked about the level of benefits and the number of people who can claim them 45% say benefits are too generous, 40% they they are too low (23%) or about right (17%); 57% say too many people are eligible, 30% that too few (19%) or about the right number of people are eligible (11%). Looking at those figures people seem to be pretty pro-cut.

Asked about individual groups of people who receive benefits though and the public suddenly become much more charitable. Only 4% think retired people on the state pension get too much in benefits, only 9% think disabled people do, only 12% think people in low paid work do. 19% think working people with children get too much in benefits, but 33% think they should get more. Opinion on unemployed people is the most evenly balanced, with 28% saying they get too much in benefits, 24% too little, 31% about right. The only group where people come down heavily on the side of too much money being spent on benefits is better off retired people… the group that politicians never cut benefits from because they vote.

This raises the question of why people think benefits are too high and too widely spread if they don’t think the unemployed, pensioners, parents, disabled people or the working poor get too much. I hardly think when people talk about benefit cuts they are thinking of winter fuel payments, rather I expect the support comes from the continuing belief that lots of benefits go to categories not asked about like “people who aren’t really disabled”, “people who could work but can’t”, “asylum seekers” and so on.

Attitudes were similarly complex on the government’s national living wage. We saw in Thursday’s poll that this received overwhelming support. This poll however found rather more nuanced attitude. 31% of people think that the living wage will end up increasing unemployment… yet only 7% think it is being set too high (the implication being that some proportion of people think it more important that jobs pay a decent wage than unemployment is minimised). The principle of the government’s approach is backed – 39% think it’s better for government to reduce in-work poverty by forcing business to pay higher wages (even if it increases unemployment) compared to 19% of people who think it is better for government to reduce in-work poverty by using the tax and benefit system (even if it costs a lot). However, asked about their overall perceptions of the budget people think, by 39% to 28%, that it will leave people in low paid jobs worse off. The question the poll hasn’t asked is how much that matters to people. Too what extent, if any, would people rather low paid workers got more money in wages and less in benefits even if they are less well off.

YouGov have their immediate post budget poll out tonight here, overall the budget was seen as fair by 43% of people, unfair by 33%. Compared to Osborne’s past budgets this is pretty so-so, the net rating is less positive than his last two budgets, but better than the mid-term budgets in the last Parliament. The rest of the poll asked about some of the individual measures in the budget:

  • The most popular are, predictably, the introduction of the National Living Wage and the increase in the personal tax allowance which both get overwhelming support.
  • After that limiting child tax credits to two children and lowering the benefit cap both get the support of two-thirds of respondents. There are some areas where government cuts to benefits are pushing up against public opposition, but with the benefit cap and limits on the number of children benefits are given for they still seem to have public opinion firmly on their side.
  • Meeting the 2% NATO target on defence spending and raising the inheritance tax threshold both get majority support. So, slightly to my surprise, did stopping housing benefit for under 21s (some previous polling had suggested opposition to this)
  • Moving the cost of television licences for over 75s to the BBC was supported by 49% of people (34% opposed), freezing working age benefits was supported by 46% (opposed by 36%) and cutting corporation tax was supported by 40% (opposed by 33%).
  • Only two of the measures YouGov asked about were opposed. Limiting public sector pay rises to 1% for the next four years was opposed by 51% of people. The abolition of student grants was opposed by 52% to 24%, the least popular of all the measures tested.

A so-so reception overall, though many of the individual measures were supported. A few important caveats – the first is that budgets are often a lot more or less than the sum of their parts. It is the overall impression a budget creates in people’s minds that matters, not an accounting exercise of “8 measures I like vs 2 measures I don’t like”. The second is that first impressions, while important, can sometimes be misleading. This poll was mostly taken on Wednesday evening and overnight, so most respondents will have answered it before seeing the newspapers’ reactions on Thursday morning and much of the response and debate about the budget on Thursday daytime (not least the IFS verdict on Thursday afternoon). YouGov will have some more in depth polling on the budget going out tonight and reporting tomorrow…


The full results of YouGov’s weekly Sunday Times poll are now up here. Topline figures are CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%. The rest of the poll dealt mainly with perceptions of Labour and the Conservatives on tax, spending and business, plus the row over Trident and “stabbing in the back”.

60% of people expect that taxes would rise if Labour won the election and formed a government, including 48% of their own supporters. Asked which taxes they expected to see increase under Labour the top rate of income tax came top (unsurprisingly, given Labour have promised to increase it!) followed by capital gains tax, the higher 40p rate of tax, petrol duty and national insurance.

Asked the same about the Conservatives, only 38% of people expect taxes to rise if they win (including 23% of their own supporters). Amongst those who do expect Tory tax rises, VAT is most expected to rise, followed by fuel duty. I suspect fuel duty being high up for both parties reflects a public belief that its one of those taxes that always ends up going up…but that alone doesn’t suggest that the Conservatives are getting much public credit for repeatedly freezing fuel duty in past budgets.

If there is a 22 percent gap in expectations of whether a Conservative or Labour government would increase taxes, there’s an even bigger gap on increasing spending. Only 11% of people think that a Tory government would increase spending on public services, 52% of people think that Labour would increase spending on public services, including a majority of Labour’s own voters. This could pose a problem for Ed Miliband if he is the next Prime Minister and does stick to his stated plans – if most Labour supporters genuinely do believe a Labour government is going to increase spending, and Labour are genuinely committed to tough spending limits to close the deficit, someone is going to be disappointed.

Turning to attitudes towards business neither leader is perceived as being in the right place. Only 29% of people think Miliband’s attitude to business is right, 33% of people think he is too hostile. 27% of people think Cameron’s attitude to business is about right, 50% that he is too close.

On those figures, while the political debate is often about whether Labour’s positioning towards business is right or not, it’s David Cameron who has the bigger problem. I suspect, however, that this is actually tied into the wider problem of perceptions of the Conservative party and the rich. YouGov asked about that too in the poll with questions on what would happen to the taxes paid by the very richest and wealthiest in society under a Labour or a Conservative government. 69% think that the wealthiest should pay more tax. If Labour win, 75% expect the richest to pay more tax, if the Conservatives win 34% expect them to pay less tax.

Turning to Trident and Michael Fallon, 38% of people think that Britain should replace Trident with a similarly powerful system. 28% think Trident should be replaced with a cheaper and less powerful system than Trident and 19% think Trident should not be replaced at all. Turning to people’s expectations, 44% think that a Labour government reliant upon the SNP for a majority would still replace Trident – getting support from MPs from other parties. 27% think that Labour probably wouldn’t replace Trident if they needed SNP support.

That suggests most people don’t really buy into Michael Fallon’s argument anyway – while most people want Trident replaced, on balance people think a minority Labour government would still manage to do so. The language about Ed Miliband stabbing his brother in the back gets a further thumbs down – 51% of people thought it wasn’t a fair description, and 51% thought it wasn’t fair to link it to Trident.

People reacting badly to negative campaigning only really matters it if is noticed though. Despite the timing of the poll just after Fallon’s comments, there really wasn’t much difference in perceptions of how positive or negative the two main parties’ campaigns were. 22% thought that Labour’s campaign was mostly positive, 34% mostly negative. 23% thought the Conservative campaign was mostly positive, 38% mostly negative. Supporters of both parties perceive their own campaign as being positive, their opponent as negative (and presumably filter out evidence to the contrary!)

YouGov’s weekly Sunday Times poll is now up here. Topline voting intention are CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%.

Most of the survey was made up of questions about the budget and government spending. If George Osborne has money to spend in the budget 44% would prefer it goes on public services, 25% on tax cuts, 20% on the deficit. In general people would like to see any spending focused up helping low paid people in work (59%), followed by people looking for work (31%), small businesses (25%) and homebuyers (25%). People saving for their retirement, incidentally, comes bottom.

On specific measures most of those YouGov tested got the thumbs up – the most widespread approval was for increasing the personal tax allowance again (83%), limiting child benefit to three children (73%) and raising the NI threshold (71%). Letting people buy back annuities they bought when they were compulsory gets low support, but mainly because of a very high don’t know (I expect people simply don’t understand the change). The only measure that was actually opposed by more people than supported it was cutting taxes on alcohol (33% would support, 50% would oppose).

Moving onto government spending in general the areas people would most like to see protected from government cuts are the NHS (79%), education (50%) and policing (35%). The areas people most wanted to see cut were overseas aid (66%), welfare benefits (36%) and environment and climate change (29%). As I discussed in the weekly round up, defence and welfare were unusual in being issues that had both significant numbers of people wanting to prioritise them for cuts and significant numbers of people wanting to protect them from cuts.

Asked specifically about whether the government should commit to 2% of GDP spending on defence, 52% think they should, 27% that they should not. Asked the equivalent question about overseas aid only 24% think the government should commit to the 0.7% target, 59% think they should not. On Trident, 31% think it should be replaced with an equally robust system, 29% replaced with a cheaper system, 24% scrapped completely.

Outside of Scotland itself, the idea of the SNP being in a position of influence at Westminster is seen negatively – 63% think it would be a bad thing if they held the balance of power in Westminster, 64% think it would be bad thing if they were involved in a coalition. Overall 53% of people think that Labour should rule out doing a deal with the SNP, but this is largely made up of Labour’s opponents, their own supporters are far more split over the idea. If there was a choice between a minority Labour government or an SNP/Lab coalition with a majority, Labour voters would be evenly divided but if the alternative was another Tory government Labour voters would back a deal with the SNP by 6 to 1.

This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times poll is out here. Topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 6%. YouGov’s average for UKIP this week has been running at only been 14%, so the 18% here looks unusually high – it could be an effect of the the events in Paris, or could just be a random blip.

Part of the rest of the poll addressed the attack on Charlie Hebdo – of course, these figures need to be seen in that context and people’s opinions may very be different in circumstances that are not so emotionally charged (it’s an issue I’ve sometimes commented on about polling about the death penalty – people only commission polls on the death penalty when there is a particularly heinous murder in the news, so polls are always influenced by a particular event).

Looking at the polling, a strong majority of people think the press should be free to criticise, mock and ridicule religion, but even in the current context a sizeable minority disagree. Around a quarter of people think the media should not be allowed to mock or ridicule religious beliefs or figures, 18% think the media should not even be allowed to criticise or question religion. More specifically, 69% of people think it was acceptable for Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, 14% unacceptable. In the aftermath of the attack, 63% think that other newspapers should have reprinted the cartoons, 71% that the media in general have an obligation to show controversial items that might offend people if they are newsworthy.

Moving back onto party politics, YouGov asked about the two issues that dominated the first few days of campaigning last week – the economy and the NHS – along with expectations and preferences for the result.

A majority of people (58%) think that the pledges and promises that Labour have made mean they would end up having to increase taxes on people like them. However, people feel almost the same about the pledges and promises made by the Conservative party – 51% think they would end up having to increase taxes for people like them. Overall 37% think George Osborne has been a good Chancellor, 44% a bad one – a net rating of minus 7. This actually compares relatively well to people’s recollections of past Chancellors – Alistair Darling scores minus 19, Gordon Brown minus 18, Ken Clarke minus 8 and minus 19 for Norman Lamont.

Labour maintain their normal lead on the party most trusted to deliver NHS services – 31% would trust a Labour government under Ed Miliband more, 22% a Conservative government under David Cameron (there was a ComRes poll late last year that showed David Cameron more trusted than Ed Miliband on the NHS, which caused some comment. I think that’s probably just a salutory lesson of not paying too much attention to single polls with unusual results – the overwhelming majority of polls on the NHS show Labour are more trusted on it even if you do mention David Cameron and Ed Miliband in the question.

Asked about their own experience of GP services, 15% say their local GP service has got better, 34% worse, 40% that is has stayed about the same. 49% of people say they are normally able to get an appointment when they need one, 36% that they are often unable to. 8% say they have had to go to A&E when they were unable to get a GP appointment. Long waits at Accident & Emergency are mostly blamed on people turning up with minor ailments, rather than funding shortages from this or the previous government. 54% blame people turning up with minor problems, 29% blame immigration and health tourism, 28% not enough social care and 27% lack of GP out of hours service.

Looking towards the next election people are split down on the middle on their preferences – 38% would prefer the Conservatives to have the most seats, 38% for Labour to have the most seats. 52% would like one of the parties to win an overall majority, 24% would prefer a hung Parliament. Asked what they think the result will actually be, 59% expect a hung Parliament, only 18% expect a majority government. The Conservatives are seen as slightly more likely than Labour to be the largest party, 42% to 35%. Asked a more detailed question about coalition preferences, Tory voters would prefer another deal with the Lib Dems to one with UKIP (48% to 37%). Labour voters would prefer a Lib Dem deal to one with the SNP or UKIP (42% Lib Dem, 29% SNP, 12% UKIP).