Sunday polls

The Sunday Times carries a new YouGov poll. Voting intention, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, is CON 37% (-1), LAB 33% (+2), LDEM 18% (nc). The changes are well within the range of normal sample error, but like the recent ICM polls show the the Conservative lead is falling, despite Labour’s interenal wranglings. 24% of people say the arguments over the Labour leadership has made them less likely to vote Labour, but it isn’t showing up in their voting intentions.

64% of people would like Blair to set out a leaving date in his conference speech, and 69% of people would like it to be before next Spring. Asked who they would like to see as the next Labour leader, Brown continues to lead, but once again his margin has fallen. 23% of people say Brown is their choice for the next Labour leader, compared to 28% in the last YouGov poll – though once again the options given were different, so the figures are not strictly comparable. John Reid is in second place on 10%, Jack Straw on 5%. Despite the media commentariat continually mentioning him as a potential runner, Alan Johnson was named by only 3% of people.

Brown’s charm offensive, such as his TV interview talking about the death of his daughter, hasn’t had any real effect. 13% said they had become more sympathetic towards Brown, 12% less sympathetic (though that is a conscious response, while people may not think seeing a more human side to Brown has changed their opinion, it may be gradually changing their attitudes in a way people don’t realise themselves). 48% of people think that his recent conduct towards Blair has raised questions over his suitability to be Prime Minister.

A separate NOP poll for ITV found 81% of people wanted a proper leadership election, not a coronation, and, as found in previous polls, a majority supported a general election soon afterwards. (This was echoed in YouGov’s poll, were 51% supported a general election).

A third poll for the Independent on Sunday by Communicate Research found that 59% of people thought Labour was headed for defeat at the next election. 71% though Labour was split into warring factions, 55% thought Blair had been badly treated by the Labour party and 64% of people thought the public would feel cheated if there was a coronation rather than a contest.

Moving away from the Labour leadership YouGov and Communicate Research also asked about environmental taxes and found conflicting attitudes. YouGov asked respondents if they would be prepared to pay substantially more in motoring and energy taxes in exchange for lower income tax, only 22% of people said yes, with 65% saying no. The rejection was strongest amongst Tory voters (20% support, 71% opposition) but even a majority (56%) of Liberal Democrat voters rejected the offer.

In contrast Communicate found that 55% would support an increase in energy taxes if it was offset by a cut in income tax (presumably the different results were because of the mention of motoring taxes in YouGov’s question). On air taxes Communicate found the public split down the middle 48% said it should become more expensive to combar climate change, 49% said it shouldn’t.

Communicate also asked whether people thought that David Cameron’s concern for the environment was a “deeply held conviction”. Surprisingly, given most people’s cynicism towards politicians, 46% of people did. Obviously this was largely Conservative supporters, but also included 45% of Lib Dem voters.

I somehow missed this NOP poll earlier this month, conducted for the BBC just before September 11th. Most of the results were in line with the myriad of other polls on the war on terror which were commissioned around the 5 year anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers – 56% of people thought the West was losing the war on terror, with only 20% thinking the West was winning. 52% supported withdrawing British troops from Afghanistan, 50% supported withdrawing British troops from Iraq. 55% thought the government was too closely aligned with the US on foreign policy.

The most surprising finding was on the question of whether Western governments should negotiate with Al-Qaeda. Most other polls have asked questions along the lines of whether Britain should be more conciliatory towards the Muslim world on a unilateral basis. This is the first one I’ve seen that has asked if Western Governments should actually negotiate with Al-Qaeda. A majority of respondents (52%) said no, we shouldn’t, but 32% of people think that we should.


Channel 4 has commissioned a NOP poll of British Muslims for Dispatches. Some of the results are in a pdf here, other questions are included. The Channel 4 website has all the questions here, but with results that differ slightly in places – possibly because they haven’t yet been weighted. Either way, the differences between the two sets of figures are trivial.

The pattern that emerges from the survey is familar from other surveys of Muslim opinion in the last year or so. There is no universal, monilithic Muslim opinion – there is as much variety as among non-Muslims. While a small minority of Muslims sympathise with extremism and Islamist terror, the vast majority do not.

Asked how important religion was to them 78% of British Muslims said very important, but 48% of them also said they never attended a mosque, with another 6% saying they only attended for special occassions. The actual religious observance of Muslims doesn’t seem to match with how important they say religion is to them (in some ways this is comparable to Christianity in Britain – in the census around 70% of people self-identified as Christians, but many of them say they don’t believe in a god and only a fraction attend church aside from for weddings and funerals).

61% of British Muslims said they thought of Britain as “my country”. There was support for some degree of integration – 94% of respondents disagreed that Muslims should live separately from non-Muslims but at the same time, given the choice 36% would prefer to have fellow Muslims as neighbours. Asked if they would prefer to live under Sharia law or British law, 30% said Sharia while 54% preferred British law. I mentioned in my comments on an earlier ICM poll Sharia law does not necessarily equate to the hand-chopping, adulterer-stoning version in the tabloid press, Western countries like Canada have in the past allowed the use of Sharia law under limited circumstances for things like inheritance law, so it was then impossible to tell exactly what people were supporting. In contrast NOP specifically stated in their poll “Sharia law, as practiced in such countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran” – perhaps explaining why the proportion of British Muslims supporting it was 10 percentage points lower than in ICM’s poll.

28% of British Muslims agreed that they dreamt of Britain one day becoming an Islamic state. Again, it’s worth putting this in proportion – I am sure many evangelical Christians would dream of the day when the whole world would embrace Christianity.

Asked about attitudes towards free speech, there was little support for freedom of speech if it would offend religious sensibilities. 78% of Muslims thought that the publishers of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed should be prosecuted, 68% thought those who insulted Islam should be prosecuted and 62% of people disagree that freedom of speech should be allowed even if it insults and offends religious groups. This is one of those areas where it would be useful to have parallel polling of non-Muslims – we know from past polls that the general public think that things like the cartoons should be able to be published, but then, non-Muslims are not the ones offended by them. Perhaps the closest parallel of something that Christian groups thought was offensive and wanted banned was Jerry Springer the Opera – in that context a poll of the general public suggested that only 17% of people thought that programmes that might offend religious sensibilities should not be shown at all.

Back to the Muslim poll, NOP also asked if British Muslims thought that relgious leaders who supported terrorism should be removed – 68% agreed, with 22% disagreeing. Cross-referencing these results, NOP characterised 9% of the Muslims they surveyed as “hardcore Islamists” – people who thought that it was perfectly okay to speak in support of terrorism, but thought people should be prosecuted for insulting Islam. This small minority tallies with NOP’s other questions on terrorism – 9% of respondents said it was acceptable for religious or political groups to use violence, 13% of people said they understand why young British Muslims might become suicide bombers (though again, this needs to be put in context. Parallel polls of Muslims and non-Muslims have shown that there are a small minority of non-Muslims who think terrorist attacks on civilians can be justified).

NOP also gave respondents a list of people and asked them if they respected them or not. The most respected figure amongst British Muslims (out of those in the survey) was the Queen (69% respected her highly, or a fair amount), followed by Sir Iqbal Sacranie (48%) and then, perhaps surprisingly, Tony Blair (44%), narrowly ahead of George Galloway on (40%). More worryingly 19% say they respect Osama bin Laden (6% say they highly respect him), 17% respect Saddam Hussein and 16% respect Abu Hamza.

NOP also found a tendency for British Muslims to believe some, well, strange things. 45% thought that 9/11 was a conspiracy between the USA and Israel. 36% thought that Princess Diana was murdered to stop her marrying a Muslim. More seriously, only 29% thought that the holocaust occured, 2% denied it happened entirely, 17% think it was exaggerated (which is the stance proposed by most of today’s holocaust deniers), 24% said they had “no opinion” and 23% didn’t know what the holocaust was. Again though, putting this in context, non-Muslims think odd things too – an ICM poll in 2004 found 14% of people in the UK thought that the scale of the holocaust had been exaggerated, 27% of the general public told NOP in 2003 that Princess Diana had been murdered (a poll commissioned, unsurprisingly, for the Sunday Express). I can’t find a British poll on whether 9/11 was a US conspriracy, but I have little doubt that a substantial minority would say it was. Yes, a minority of Muslims believe bizarre things, but then a minority of non-Muslims do too!

NOP has conducted a poll in Blaenau Gwent for the two forthcoming by-elections caused by the death of Peter Law. Law was the Labour Welsh Assembly member for the constituency until 2005, when he stood as an Independent at the General Election and took what had been one of Labour’s safest seats.

The two by-elections are both being contested by independent candidates close to Law. The Parliamentary candidate is Dai Davies, Law’s agent in 2005, while the Welsh Assembly seat is being contested by Law’s widow, Trish.

The topline figures for the Westminster by election are LAB 47%, IND 35%, LDEM 6%, PC 6%, CON 5% and for the Welsh Assembly, the figures are IND 43%, LAB 40%, LDEM 6%, PC 6%, CON 3%, GRN 2%, suggesting that the Independent candidates have a good chance of taking at least one of the two seats.

NOP’s poll is based only on those certain or very likely to vote – given that the total sample size was 1,000, this means that the actual number of responses upon which the voting intentions are based is probably quite small, with a consequentially large margin of error. Bear in mind also that by-election polls do not have a particularly good track record, not least because voting intentions have been know to change wildly during a by-election campaign. There are still four weeks until voters in Blaenau Gwent actually go to the polls, and both seats could easily go either way.