The full results for this week’s YouGov/Sunday Times survey are now up here, with the usual grab-bag of subjects. The poll covered the economy, workfare, Syria, police attitudes to sexual assault, strikes during the Olympics and smoking. On the regular leader ratings Cameron is at minus 6 (from minus 10 last week), Miliband at minus 44 (from minus 42 last week), Clegg at minus 47 (from minus 44).

The question on economic strategy still shows a pretty even split, 38% of people think the government should stick to the present strategy of prioritising the deficit, 34% think they should concentrate on growth instead. If there is money for tax cuts, a cut in petrol duty (34%) or an increase in the personal tax allowance (31%) are people’s most preferred options.

On workfare, YouGov repeated the same question as last week but – now that the government have changed the policy – without the threat of people losing benefit if they dropped out half way through. A week ago 59% of people had said they supported the policy with the threat of sanctions for dropping out half way through. This week 67% of people support the unpaid work experience policy without the threat. Asked what types of company people should be placed at, three-quarters think they should be placed at charities & voluntary organisations, 62% at public sector organisations and just under half (48%) at private sector companies (respondents were able to pick more than one option).

Following Len McCluskey’s comments in the week, the overwhelming majority of people (70%) think it would be unacceptable for Trade Unions to strike during the Olympics. The same proportion think it is wrong for Rail Unions to seek pay bonuses for working during the Olympics.

On smoking there is majority support for banning the display of cigarettes in stores (59% support) and mandating blank packaging for cigarettes (57% support). 60% of people support banning smoking in cars with passengers, but only 37% would support a blanket ban on smoking in cars. Respondents were evenly divided on banning smoking in public parks – 44% supported, 46% opposed.

Turning to the questions on the police and sexual offences, 64% of of people think the police take sexual offences very seriously (23%) or fairly seriously (41%). There is, however, less confidence in how effective they and the justice system are at prosecuting these crimes – only 31% think they are effective, 52% think they are ineffective. 7% of people say that if they themselves were the victim of a sexual assault they would not report it to the police (the large majority would).

Finally on Syria the picture is largely unchanged from last week – there is still majority support for economic sanctions, but very little support for any sort of military intervention.

The full tables for YouGov’s weekly voting intention poll are now up here. Topline voting intention stands at CON 36%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, Others 15%. The rest of the poll covered the economy, the pension strikes, Northern Rock, smoking in cars and attitudes to Margaret Thatcher.

The regular economic trackers show their normal dire figures. People remain evenly split on whether the government’s economic strategy is correct, or whether they should concentrate more on growth and less on cutting the deficit. However, people do tend to accept the claim that Britain would risk similar problems to Greece or Italy were we not to reduce the deficit – 27% think Britain’s economic situation is better than Greece/Italy and we could afford to borrow more, 47% think Britain needs to reduce the deficit or risk going a similar way to Greece/Italy. Asked about how different groups of people have fared during the recession, young people are seen to have been hit the hardest. 65% of people think young people have suffered more than most, 48% think retired people have, 39% public sector workers, 24% women.

There is very little support for reducing the minimum wage for younger people to encourage employment, with only 17% of people saying they would support this and 73% opposed. A majority (56%) also oppose the idea of reducing employment rights to make it easier to hire and fire people. On the subject of foreign workers, 51% think employers should give priority to British workers over foreign workers, even if they are better qualified. 69% think the government should do more to give British workers priority in applying for jobs.

Turning to Northern Rock, people support the sale to Virgin Money by 48% to 23% – not a surprising result in itself. Slightly less predictable was that people trended to think it was a good deal: 50% agreed that the government was always going to make a loss and £747m is a good deal, 34% think the government is losing too much money on the deal and should have held on for a better deal.

Turning to the public sector pension strikes, 49% of people now think it is right for public sector workers to contribute more to their pensions, 35% think it is wrong. 52% of people now oppose public sector workers going on strike over their pensions (up from 49% in September), 35% support it (down from 38%). Asked about the threshold for strike ballots 58% of people think that trade unions should require the support of 50% of eligible members to call a strike, as opposed to 50% of those taking part in a ballot – virtually unchanged from when YouGov asked a similar question in June.

On smoking there is majority support for blank packaging (56%), banning the display of cigarettes (58%) and for banning people smoking in cars with passengers (59%). Only 34% of people, however, would support banning people smoking in all private cars regardless of whether they have passengers. YouGov also broke these questions down by whether respondents themselves smoked, around a third of regular smokers supported the restrictions on packing, display and smoking with passengers in the car.

Finally there were some questions on Margaret Thatcher. She came top when people were asked who was the greatest post-war Prime Minister, picked by 27% of people (more than Churchill, though this may very well be people correctly discounting Churchill’s premiership, though clearly the fact that Churchill comes up second suggests many people didn’t!). Blair was chosen by 9%, Wilson by 6%.

Overall, 50% of people think that Thatcher was a great (20%) or good (30%) Prime Minister, 33% a poor (8%) or terrible (25%) Prime Minister. Only 8% of people thought she was an “average” Prime Minister, people either admire or loathe her. Compare this to when YouGov asked the same question about Tony Blair at the end of September, 6% thought he was great, 33% good, 14% poor, 21% terrible, 24% average – this is a far more even distribution, opinions on Thatcher remain extremely divided.


Hot on the heels of the ASH survey last month which suggested that people support a smoking ban in pubs, Forest have commissioned a Populus poll to show they don’t.

As I showed last week, the different is all in how the question is presented – if you give people a list of different options, then only a relatively small proportion plump for the total ban. If you give them a straight yes or no, then they tend to support the ban, suggesting that people would broadly support a ban if it happened, but they would prefer a different solution.

This particular poll asked people to chose between the four options set out in the Government’s white paper: the present voluntary approach, giving local authorities greater powers to limit smoking, a total ban, or the governments’ prefered option of a partial ban. The partial ban was the favoured option of only 18% of respondents, 23% supported devolving powers to local authorities while the rest of the sample was evenly split between a total ban, or keeping the present voluntary situation.

Populus also repeated the same question they have used in their previous polls for Forest and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, asking people their attitude towards smoking in pubs. 62% of people thought that pubs should have separate smoking and non-smoking sections (the majority favouring non-smoking pubs with smoking sections) with 32% favoring a complete ban. This has risen from 24% and 26% in Populus’s two previous polls, suggesting that support for a total ban continues to rise.

There is a little press release spat going on between the Tobacco Manufacturers Association and ASH, the anti-smoking pressure group over a poll published by ASH earlier this week. The poll, carried out by the BMRB, claimed to show that 73% of people would support a complete ban on smoking in pall workplaces, including all restaurants and pubs, some of which are to be excluded from the government’s proposed ban. A couple of hours later, the Tobacco Manufacturers Association hit back with a press release claiming that the figures were distorted and that in reality less than a third of people supported a total ban. So, what’s the real picture?

Obviously where you are allowed to smoke is a long running argument and both sides like to use rival opinion polls to demonstrate that everyone agrees with them. You get issues like this sometimes, business support for the Euro was one (which resulted in a long running argument between ICM and MORI about whether businesses with under 10 employees should be included in such surveys or not), fox hunting was another.

The simple picture is this – if you conduct polls that ask a straight yes or no question about whether people would approve of a complete smoking ban in pubs, about two-thirds say yes.

If, on the other hand, you ask people what they would like done about smoking in pubs, and give them a list of options such as a complete ban, or making all pubs have a no-smoking area, or better ventilation or so on, then most people opt for making pubs have no smoking sections (or making pubs no smoking with special smoking sections, which amounts to much the same thing) and against having an overall ban.

In the first group there is the recent BMRB poll commissioned by ASH, but there are also several polls commissioned by non-partisan companies. In an ICM survey for the BBC back in July 2004 they asked whether “the Government should ban smoking in enclosed public spaces such as pubs and restaurants” – 65% of people thought they should. A second ICM survey for the Guardian, in October 2004, asked if respondents approved or disapproved “of a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, such as pubs, restaurants and offices?” 66% of people approved. A YouGov poll for KPMG found almost identical results – 64% supported a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants. So, all the recent polls seem to agree on a figure of around two-thirds support.

Meanwhile, if you ask people how they would like to see smoking in pubs dealt with, and give them a list of possible options including things other than an outright ban, you get very different results. The Office of National Statistics carry out an annual poll that asks about attitudes to smoking. It shows that around 65% of people would like “restrictions” on smoking, but asked what sort of restrictions people would like to see only 31% say they would like a complete ban; most people prefer seperate smoking and non-smoking areas.

Populus have done at least two polls with this sort of question design. A May 2004 poll on behalf of Forest found that only 24% of people supported a total ban, a May 2005 poll, this time for the TMA, found that only 26% wanted a complete ban. In both cases respondents were given alternative choices to a straightforward ban, and in both cases respondents preferred to have smoking and non-smoking sections in pubs. If you ask the question in this way, then support for a total ban stands somewhere between a quarter and a third.

So, what’s really happening is that the anti-smoking lobby and the Tobacco lobby are both telling the truth, both their figures are accurate and supported by figures from various different companies. They are just measuring entirely different things. Given a free choice of how best to deal with smoky pubs, people prefer to opt for only partial bans, with smoking sections in non-smoking pubs or vice-versa. A complete ban is only the first choice of a minority of people, most people prefer a more tolerant approach. However, if a government was going to actually introduce a total ban, then the majority of people would be supportive of it. The obvious implication is that there is a substantial section of people out there whose personal preference would be to have smoking and non-smoking sections in pubs, but if it was introduced would also be supportive of a total ban.

What the polls do tend to agree on is that support for a smoking ban seems to be rising – the annual ONS surveys have seen support for smoking restrictions in pubs rise from 48% back in 1996 to 65% in 2004. Given alternative options, support for a total ban went from 20% in 2003 to 31% in 2004. Back in 2001 a similar BMRB poll for the TMA showed only 17% in support of a total ban.

Finally it’s worth remembering that the govenment’s actual proposals is not to ban smoking in all pubs, but to ban it in pubs that serve food. AYouGov poll in June 2005 found that 50% of people were strongly in favour of the actual proposal, with a further 29% favouring it on balance. Only 7% were strongly opposed. This is up very slightly from an indentical question last November, when 47% were strongly supportive.