The BBC have quite a Ipsos MORI have quite a detailed poll on public attitudes towards funding the NHS. So far I think the BBC’s coverage has only briefly mentioned it in relation to (predictable) public support for increasing the charges on foriegn visitors who use the NHS, but the full tables have a lot of interesting things.

MORI asked people if they thought it was acceptable or unacceptable to increase funding for the NHS in various ways. The least popular method was – obviously – a move to an insurance model of NHS funded. The defining feature of the NHS is that we don’t have to worry about insurance and suchlike, people are free to go to the doctors without worrying about money. Nevertheless, a surprisingly high 33% of people thought this would be acceptable. People also rejected (by 51% to 37%) the idea of charging for services that are currently free. Asked about specific charges, 43% of people say they would be willing to pay for a guaranteed GP appointment within 24 hours, 51% would not (the average amount was £11).

Increasing income tax to fund the NHS was rejected by 40% to 50%. This is in contrast to a recent YouGov poll that asked a similar question and found slightly more people supported paying more income tax for the NHS than opposed it. I think this difference is down to wording – YouGov asked specifically about increasing income tax from 20% to 21% while the MORI poll did not specify the size of the increase – indeed, a later question in MORI’s poll asks more specifically about an increase in the basic rate from 20% to 21%, and this bumps support up to 50%. It looks like people are happy to pay more income tax for the NHS… so long as its only a modest rise. Support for increasing the higher rate of income tax (which most people wouldn’t have to pay themselves) is more popular, with 61% support.

As with the YouGov poll MORI also found a higher level of support (53%) when it asked about funding the NHS by increasing National Insurance. For the majority of respondents a 1p increase in income tax would be functionally identical to a 1p increase in national insurance, yet the NI increase is always more popular. Part of this difference may be down to the responses of over 65s, who do not have to pay national insurance, but looking at MORI’s breakdown the increase is across all age groups, so it is presumably also down to the fact that people are less aware of how National Insurance payments work. For what it’s worth, the MORI question did not specify employees NI contributions, so some respondents may have been thinking about employer’s NI.

MORI also asked about the potential for charging people for illnesses that are “caused by their lifestyle” or for missing appointments. These are similar in a way – the logic behind both is presumably that people are, through their behaviour, costing the NHS money. Public attitudes are completely different though – 71% think it is acceptable to charge the public for missing appointments, only 44% think it would be acceptable to charge for lifestyle related illnesses. Perhaps they view it as different levels of moral culpability, different potential costs, different likelihoods of being personally affected by it, or just infringing too much on the principle of being free at the point of delivery. When MORI asked about two specific cases later on in the survey people were far less forgiving: only 33% think liver transplants should always be available for free for alcoholics, only 27% think weight loss surgery should be freely available for obese patients (25% think it shouldn’t be available at all). That said, both these are quite unsympathetic examples.

So what can we conclude from all that? Well, around about half the population say they would support an increase in general taxation to pay for the NHS, depending on the level of the increase, which tax it was or which tax band. Only a minority (though perhaps a larger minority than you’d expect) would consider a change to the funding basis of the NHS acceptable. Asked in general, only a minority of people would support charges for treatment for conditions that are seen as “self-inflicted”, but shown some specific examples most people would support restrictions on treatment for some specific examples like transplants for alcoholics or weight loss operations for the obese.


ComRes have a poll in the Independent/Sunday Mirror tonight. The finding that has got the most attention is a question asking who people think would do “a better job at managing the NHS this winter”. 31% of people picked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, 43% of people picked Theresa May and the Conservatives.

This is a very unusual result. The NHS is, essentially, Labour’s issue of last resort. Whatever happens, however bad things look, the public will almost always say they trust Labour more on the NHS. Over on Ipsos MORI’s website they have data on the question going back to 1978… and you have to go back to 1978 to find the Tories ahead. If you go back to the time of the Brown government when the Conservatives were on a high there were a couple of polls from other companies when the Tories scraped a lead on the NHS, but it is extremely rare. A twelve point Tory lead on the NHS would be unheard of.

The reason for this strange result is probably the wording. YouGov ask “best party on issues” regularly, and still consistently find Labour ahead. Just this month they found 28% trusted Labour most on the NHS compared to 20% for the Tories. The difference with the ComRes question is that they did not ask just which party people trusted on the NHS, the choice was between “Theresa May & the Conservatives” or “Jeremy Corbyn & Labour” to manage the NHS. The introduction of the two leaders into the question probably explains why May & the Conservatives were ahead.

While this probably explains the difference, it should be scant comfort for Labour. If the mention of Jeremy Corbyn in a question is enough to make respondents doubt whether they’d trust Labour with the NHS – normally a banker for them – then imagine what he would do to people pondering whether they would trust Labour on the economy, security or whatever.

The other questions on the NHS were far more typical. While 71% agreed that the NHS provides a high standard of care, by 47% to 36% people did think the Red Cross were right to say the NHS was in crisis. That May/Conservative lead on the NHS should not be taken as an endorsement of their management either: only 12% of people agreed that Jeremy Hunt was doing well as Health secretary and 56% of people agreed with a statement that NHS care is worse than ten years ago.

Another question asked about high pay and is more encouraging for Jeremy Corbyn. A YouGov poll in the week asked about a pretty tough policy on high pay (a maximum earnings limit of £1m a year) and got a negative response: only 31% thought it a good idea, 44% a bad idea. ComRes asked about a much subtler policy (giving tax benefits or government contracts to companies with a maximum ratio of 20 to 1 between top and average salaries) and this got a much better reception, 57% thought they should, 30% thought the government should not interfere.

Opinium also have a new poll out tonight for the Observer – details here. They have topline voting intention figures of CON 38%(nc), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 14%(+1). The eight point lead is lower than most other polls show, but this seems to be a consistent pattern from Opinium – presumably for methodological reasons – rather than a drop since their previous poll.


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The Times this morning had new polling on the junior doctors strike (the fieldwork was completed shortly before the strike later this month was called off). It shows that more of the public support the strike than oppose it, but only just, and that support has fallen significantly since earlier in the year.

42% of people said they thought junior doctors were right to go on strike (down from 53% when the question was last asked in April), 38% think they are wrong (up from 29%). While people still think the government are more to blame for the dispute ending in industrial action, support for the strike is clearly flagging.

The decision to move to five day long strikes also looks risky in terms of public support. 34% of the public say they support junior doctors taking five day strike action, 48% of people say they are opposed.

Full tabs are here.


With a week to go until the Scottish Parliament elections Ipsos MORI have published their latest Scottish voting intention figures. Topline figures are

Holyrood constituency vote: SNP 51%, LAB 19%, CON 18%, LDEM 6%
Holyrood regional vote: SNP 45%, CON 19%, LAB 17%, GRN 10%, LDEM 7%

The SNP are, obviously, set for another landslide win. The more surprising finding is that the Conservatives are in second place in the regional vote, which would likely leave them with the second largest number of MSPs. YouGov’s online polling has been showing a tight race between Conservative and Labour for second place for a while, but this is the first time MORI’s Scottish phone polling has shown the Scottish Tories catching Labour. Full details are here.

On the second day of the junior doctors strike, I should also update on public support for their action. MORI and YouGov have both released new data over the last two days, and both of them showed a majority of people continued to support the strike action. The MORI poll for the BBC found 57% of people supported the strike, 26% opposed (details here), YouGov for the Times found 53% thought strike action was right, 29% wrong (full details here).


Ipsos MORI have re-asked their questions on the junior doctors’ dispute ahead of the second strike today. The overall level of support remains the same, with two-thirds backing the strike, but underneath that opinions appear to be polarising. While the 66% of people supporting the strike is the same percentage as last month, within that the proportion saying “strongly support” has risen, those saying “tend to support” has fallen. Among the other third of the population the proportion of people saying they don’t know or have no feelings either way has fallen (from 19% to 12%), the proportion of people saying they oppose the strike has risen (from 15% to 22%).

Asked who is to blame for the dispute continuing this long 64% blamed the government, 13% the doctors and 18% both equally. Full details of the poll is here, and my write-up of the January figures is here.

As well as the quality polling by MORI, there is also sadly a new outbreak of newspaper reporting of voodoo polls on the issue. The Indy and Mirror are reporting a “poll” apparently showing 90% of junior doctors would resign if the contract was imposed. We’ve already had one outbreak of voodoo polling in this dispute, that one claiming 70% of junior doctors would resign… which turned out to be a “survey” conducted among the members of a Facebook group campaigning against the contract. This time the two papers reporting it are very tight lipped about where it was conducted, so I don’t know if it’s the same forum – the only clue is that it was organised by Dr Ben White, who is campaigning against the contract. From the Mirror’s write up Dr White did at least ensure respondents were real doctors, but false or multiple responses is far from the only thing that stops voodoo polls being meaningful, it’s also where you do it, whether you recruit respondents in a manner that gets a representative and unbiased survey. You would, for example, get a very different result on foxhunting in a survey conducted on a Countryside Alliance Forum or a League Against Cruel Sports Forum, even if you took measures to ensure all participants were genuine countryside dwellers.

Questions along the lines of “If thing you oppose happens, will you do x?” are extremely dicey anyway – people pick the answers that will best express their anger and opposition (Dr White himself seems to take that perfectly sensible angle in his quote to the Mirror, presenting his findings as an expression of anger). To quote what I wrote last time…

From a respondent’s point of view, if you are filling in a survey about something you oppose, you’re are likely to give the answers that most effectively express your opposition. Faced with a question like this, it’s far more effective to say you might leave your job if your contract is changed than say you’d meekly accept it and carry on as usual.

We see this again and again in polls seeking to measure the impact of policies. For example, before tuition fees were increased there were lots of polls claiming to show how many young people would be put off going to university by increased fees (such as here and here). After the rise, they miraculously continued to apply anyway. Nobody wants to tell a pollster that they would just swallow the thing they oppose.

I don’t doubt that many or most junior doctors are unhappy with the new contract […but…] you shouldn’t necessarily believe people telling pollsters about the awful consequences that will happen if something they don’t like happens. It’s a lot easier to make a threat to a pollster that you’ll resign from your job than it is to actually do it.

And that’s before we get to fact that “considering resigning” is very different to “resigning”. I consider taking up jogging every January, yet the people of Dartford are yet to be subjected to even the briefest glimpse of me in jogging gear.)