This week’s results for the YouGov/Sunday Times poll are online here. Topline voting intention stands at CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 9% – so very much in line with the typical YouGov Labour lead of about 10 points. There’s no sign of any remaining effect from the EU referendum pledge here.

Horsemeat

Almost three quarters of people blame food manufacturers (26%) or meat processors (46%) the most for the horsemeat scandal, rather than retailers (11%) or the government (6%). While a majority of people think that there is more the government could be doing to keep the food chain secure, broadly speaking the government is seen to have handled the horsemeat scandal well – 47% say they have handled it well, 39% badly.

68% of people do not think there is any actual health risk from horsemeat getting into the food chain and 37% say that, if it was properly sourced, they would be prepared to eat horsemeat.

Relatively few people say that they will substantially change their behaviour as a result of the horsemeat scandal – only 5% say they might change which supermarket they use to they buy their groceries, only 13% that they will reduce the amount of meat or beef that they will buy. However, a third of people say that they will reduce the amount of *processed* meat they will buy. In reality all these are likely to be gross overestimates: it is much easier to say in a survey that you will change your behaviour than it is to do so in real life – in practice most people will probably continue as usual.

Eastern European Immigration

On the general principle of the freedom to work and live anywhere within the European Union, 33% of people think it is a good thing, 56% a bad thing.

On balance immigration from western European countries like France and Germany is seen as a positive thing (39% think it has had a positive effect on Britain, 16% a negative effect, 31% neither). Immigration from Eastern Europe and from outside the European Union are both seen as having had a negative effect on Britain by a majority of respondents.

70% of people think that the rules on immigration into Britain from the EU should be tougher, almost the same as the 73% who think the rules on immigration into Britain from outside the EU should be tougher. On the specifics of the extension of the right to live and work across the EU to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, 20% of people think there is no problem with this and Britain should welcome them, 19% think it will have a negative impact on Britain but we have no choice but to meet our legal obligations, 48% think Britain should limit the right of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to live and work in Britain, even if it means breaking the law.

Foxes

There is little support for fox hunting being legalised. Only 23% want to see the ban lifted, compared to 65% who would like it to remain. This includes 50% of Conservative voters.

29% of people who describe the area they live in as “urban” say the number of foxes in their local area has increased in recent years, but the overwhelming majority, 92%, say that they have never been attacked or felt threatened by a fox. Nevertheless there is significant minority support for a cull of urban foxes – 38% would support a cull, but 41% would oppose it.

Long term care and inheritance tax

52% of people say they support the government’s plans on capping the cost of long term with only 21% opposed. 50% of people say that it is right that the plans to reduce inheritance tax were shelved to fund the long term plans, 26% would rather they had been funded in some other way.

Asked a straight choice of whether they’d prefer inheritance tax to be reduced, or the cost of long term care to be reduced, far more people choose the later – 57% to 18%. This is particularly the case for older voters, people over the age of 60 say they would prefer a cut to long term care costs over a reduction in inheritance tax by 66% to 13%

Workfare

Finally, 76% of people support the principle of withdrawing benefits from unemployed people who refuse to work. On the more specific recent court case, 55% of people think the government should be able to withdraw benefits from unemployed people who refuse to do unpaid work experience, 34% think they should not.


Puppy Dogs’ Tails

The Animal Welfare Bill comes before the Commons on Tuesday. MPs are due to have free votes on two amendments – one banning all docking of dogs’ tails, the other banning docking dogs’ tails, except for working dogs such as rescue dogs, police dogs and gun dogs. As seems to be the norm with questions of animal welfare, the respective lobbying groups have entered the fray with their own commissioned polls – a MORI poll for the RSPCA, and an ORB poll by the Countryside Alliance.

Both polls show overwhelming support for a ban on docking tails for cosmetic reasons – MORI asked if respondents supported or opposed the practice, 75% opposed it with only 8% supporting it. ORB specifically asked about whether it should be banned – 70% (including those who wanted a ban on all docking) thought docking for cosmetic reasons should be banned, 30% did not (the higher figure is presumably because most of those who neither opposed nor supported cosmetic docking opposed a ban).

The more controversial question is whether docking should be banned for working dogs. The ORB survey found that only 39% of people would support banning docking for working dogs. Supporters of the ban have questioned the finding because the ORB question said that docking of working dogs was “to prevent serious tail injuries to them”, when organisations like the RSPCA (who support the ban) question the contribution docking does make to preventing injury. The question should probably have said that “supporters claimed that” docking was to reduce injury, rather that stating it as a fact. That said, it is unlikely to have had a huge effect on people’s answers.

As I write I also notice another poll on the Bill – another proposed amendment would ban all but permitted animals from travelling circuses. No sign of exactly where the government would draw the line on which animals were permitted, but Zippos Circus are clearly worried about being allowed to keep horses – they’ve comissioned a MORI poll that found 43% of people think it is acceptable to have equestrian displays in circuses, while 39% think it is unacceptable.


With hunting now banned, the League Against Cruel Sports seems to be targeting shooting – or at least, they commissioned a new poll from Communicate Research asking about people’s attitudes to shooting. Communicate asked if people thought shooting wild birds or mammals for sport was acceptable or unacceptable – 71% thought it was unacceptable, 85% thought it was unacceptable to make money from the killing of wild birds or mammals for sport and 80% thought the rearing of pheasants in intensive conditions to supply shooting estates was unacceptable.

Personally I’m rather wary about the wording of the questions in the poll – gamebirds obviously aren’t “wild birds” in any real sense of the word, though one of the League Against Cruel Sports’s objections to shooting game birds is that many wild birds and animals are killed by gamekeepers to protect the pheasants. It’s unlikely that people answering the question were looking at it in those terms though. Equally, you can’t tell from the last question whether people find the breeding of birds to be shot unacceptable, or breeding birds in intensive conditions unacceptable. Despire these shortcomings, the poll does suggest that a majority of the public would be receptive to a campaign against shooting.

On a different “animal welfare” issue, the government this week said they were reversing their earlier decision not to pursue a ban on docking the tails of dogs. While it isn’t up on MORI’s website yet, the RSPCA commissed a poll last month which found that only 8% of people supported docking tails for cosmetic reasons, while 75% were opposed. Of course, those opposed to a ban frequently argue about the desirability of docking the tails of working dogs to avoid infection and injury – either MORI didn’t ask about docking for these reasons, or the RSPCA didn’t report the figures.


The start of what was the hunting season was greeted by a new opinion poll from ORB, commissed by the Countryside Alliance, which they claimed showed that support for a ban had dramatically fallen over the last 6 years, and now had only minority support. It was immediately rebutted by the League Against Cruel Sports claiming that the Countryside Alliance’s figures showed that “the support for a ban has increased since 2002, so they must be gutted”. So, they can’t both be right, has support for the hunting ban gone up, or down?

The ORB poll asked a straightforward question on whether or not people supported the ban, “To what extent do you personally support or oppose a ban on hunting with dogs?” This found that 45% supported the ban, 30% opposed it, and 23% didn’t really care either way. This is identical, or close enough to compare, to the wording used by MORI in their previous surveys on hunting, which found that in February 2005 47% of people supported the ban, and 26% opposed it while all the way back in 1999 63% supported it and 24% opposed it.

Now, if we compare the change in the figures between February and now, there is a small move against the ban – although it could probably be explained by sample error and differences in methodology between the two pollsters. On the other hand comparing the figures today with those back in 1999 it’s pretty undeniable that the level of support for a ban on hunting has fallen dramatically, though the majority of the change seems to be people who once supported a ban now having no opinion either either way.

So, what was the League Against Cruel Sports talking about? I think they are, rather cheekily, referring to an NOP poll commissioned by the Countryside Alliance back in 2002, which gave people the choice of either a ban (36%), no ban (18%), or hunting continuing under regulation (41%). The Countryside Alliance used the combined figures of people who wanted to keep hunting under regulation and keep hunting unchanged to claim in newspaper adverts that 59% wanted to keep hunting, adverts which became the target of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency. The pro-ban option in the poll was worded “hunting should not be allowed to continue at all as cruelty is more important to me than civil liberties”, which reads like rather leading wording to me, although in fairness ICM polls giving a three way choice with more neutral wording gave pretty similar results.

So the League Against Cruel Sports seems to be having a bit of fun at the Countryside Alliance’s expense – if you compare this poll with the answers to the polls that gave a three way choice – ban, no ban or regulation, which the Countryside Alliance always used to use as its statistics of choice, then the number of people supporting an outright ban has indeed gone up since 2002 – but in reality you cannot compare the two question designs at all, since we don’t know what those people who supported regulation would have said in a straight choice about whether they supported a ban or not.

The only real change in opinion seems to be that, now there is a ban in place, a lot of people who once said they supported a ban no longer seem to hold an opinion either way. That could be because people have seen the ban in action and no longer think it such a good idea, or it could simply be that now hunting is no longer a hot political issue, people no longer care one way or the other.