This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times polls is now online here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 29%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%. The eleven point Labour lead is at the high end of YouGov’s recent results so could be a sign of the infighting over Europe reversing the recent picture of narrowing Labour leads… or could equally well just be normal variation within the standard margin of error.
Last night I grumbled about the problems with polls purporting to show what issues affect people’s voting intentions. YouGov have asked it in a way that gets round one of those problems, that of giving a single issue false prominence, by asking people to pick from a list of all sorts of issues. Same-sex marriage remains an issue that only a small minority (7%) pick out as one that will affect their vote, and by 58% to 42% those people say they would be more likely to vote for a party that supported gay marriage. More people, 28%, say that Europe is one of the three or four issues they think would affect their vote at the next election, with most of them saying they would be more likely to vote for a party that promised a referendum.
Even asked this way strong caveats still apply – people still are not very good at understanding the motivations of their own decisions, and people still really don’t vote on individual policies or policy areas. They vote on broad perceptions of party, of competence and of the leaders. Individual issues play into those perceptions of course (does this party consider the same issues to be important as I do? Do they have similar values and beliefs?) but so do things like strength and weakness, competence, unity and so on.
It also gives the opportunity to point out something else that, while I think is beginning to get through to the commentariat and politicians, still needs to be repeated whenever possible. Only 49% of UKIP voters named the issue of Europe. In other words, 51% of UKIP voters don’t even consider Europe to be in the top three or four issues that affect their decision. The simplistic view that UKIP support is all about Europe and, by extension, it is policies on Europe that will suddenly win back UKIP voter is just that – simplistic.
Moving on to those wider perceptions of how the Conservative party is seen, only 10% of people now see the party as united, 73% divided. YouGov have been asking the same question since 2003 and this is highest proportion so far seeing the Tories divided, more than under Iain Duncan Smith. The party is not seen as widely divided as Labour was towards the end of Tony Blair’s leadership (6% united) or under Gordon Brown (just 3% united at its worse), but it is certainly in that sort of territory. Also note, however, that while perceptions of division are widely seen as negative they are not necessarily fatal – in 2004 over 60% of people saw Labour as divided but they still won the 2005 election. Personally I think there is some truth in the idea that division drives away voters (constant infighting makes a government look incompetent, and we know perceptions of competence are a key driver of voting intention), but its not as simple as division equals defeat.
A majority (54%) of people continue to support the introduction of gay marriage. Asked if the subject should be decided by a referendum or by Parliament it only narrowly follows my past comment that people support a referendum on absolutely anything you ask about – just 39% think there should be a referendum on gay marrige, compared to 34% who think it should be left to Parliament.
On Europe, referendum voting intention asked using the wording in the Conservative party’s draft bill has 36% of people saying they would vote YES (to stay), 45% saying they would vote NO (to leave). Asked about the Conservative rebellion over the Queens speech people are pretty much evenly split on whether they are more sympathetic towards David Cameron or Conservative MPs (most are sympathetic towards neither!). Conservative voters are far more on David Cameron’s side – 52% are more sympathetic towards Cameron, 19% his rebellious MPs.