Two polls in the Sunday papers. Opinium in the Observer have Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck, with topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7% (tabs). Fieldwork was between Tuesday and Friday, so was largely before the debate debate flared up again. YouGov in the Sunday Times had fieldwork conducted on Thursday evening and on Friday, so was conducted when the media fuss over the debates was in full flow. It had no obvious effect upon the results – topline figures were CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5% (tabs).
The YouGov poll contained several questions about the debates – people support the principle of leaders debates by 69% to 19% and by 57% to 8% think they are good for democracy. The 7-7-2 format of debates is supported by 45% of people. 21% would prefer a different format, 14% would prefer no debates at all. The idea of just a straight debate between Cameron and Miliband is supported by 42% of people, opposed by 42% of people (the result here makes me think that many respondents interpreted the question as meaning the two way debate as the ONLY debate, as opposed to supporting that as one of three debates).
If David Cameron doesn’t agree to take part in the debates 55% think the debates in general should go ahead without him, but they are more evenly split on whether the head-to-head debate with Miliband should go ahead without Cameron – 39% think it should, 41% think it should not. 38% blame Cameron for the breakdown in the debate negotiations, 13% the broadcasters, 23% both equally, 26% say neither or don’t know. Despite this there is no obvious damage to David Cameron’s own ratings – 44% think he is doing a good job, 50% a bad job, completely unchanged from a week ago, voting intention is similarly unchanged. I expect it’s an instance where people would like the debates to go ahead and blame Cameron for blocking them… but really don’t care enough for it to change their opinion of him. If there is any impact from this, I expect it would be when (or if) the actual debates happen.
YouGov also asked some questions about Russia, immigration and tuition fees. 72% of people think that Russia under Putin poses a threat to the West (22% a serious threat, 50% some threat). The West’s current regime is seen as being not tough enough by 46%, compared to 23% who think it is about right and 11% who think it is too tough and counterproductive. Despite this there is limited support for tougher action in Ukraine – only 27% would support supplying arms to Ukraine, only 18% would support stationing troops there. People are more supportive about posting British troops to NATO states bordering Russia like Estonia and Latvia – 44% would support stationing British troops there, 34% would be opposed.
76% of people think that the government should be trying to reduce immigration and almost as many (72%) think the government should try to put a cap on the maximum amount of immigration allowed each year. Asked about the principle of an specific figure 52% of people would prefer an annual cap or limit, 36% think a limit isn’t practical and governments should not try to set a specific figure. Despite Nigel Farage’s recent rejection of the idea of a specific cap, the idea is most popular amongst UKIP voters – 72% of Ukippers think governments should be setting a specific cap on immigration.
Labour’s proposal to cut tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 meets with majority support, with 54% supporting and 27% opposed. Asked who it would benefit, 37% think all students, 28% students who earn low or average wages. Only 20% of people believe that the policy would mostly benefit students who go on to earn high wages – the main criticism that’s been thrown at the policy. Asked about the abolition of pension tax breaks that Labour are using to fund tuition fee cuts and that the Conservative party may be using to fund a national insurance cut, 24% would rather see it spent on a tuition fee cut, 32% would rather see it spent on a national insurance cut.