Over the New Year the Times had an end of year YouGov poll, conducted in mid-December. The tables went up on the YouGov website today here. Topline figures were CON 39%, LAB 29%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 17%, GRN 3%. The rest of the poll, covering a lot of the trackers that YouGov used to ask on the regular daily polls, illustrate some of the real problems facing Labour as well as a couple of opportunities.

The net doing well/doing badly figures for the party leaders are minus 6 for David Cameron, minus 13 for Tim Farron, minus 18 for Nigel Farage and minus 32 for Jeremy Corbyn. Not long into the job Corbyn already has pretty dire figures (to be fair, they are up since YouGov last asked when it was minus 41 – albeit at the time of the Syria vote). On who would make the best Prime Minister David Cameron has a solid twenty-six point lead over Corbyn, on 49% to Corbyn’s 23%.

However, on any “best PM” questions we need to keep in mind that Cameron probably won’t be there. Corbyn still trails behind the likely replacements for Cameron, but not by quite as much, head-to-head against Boris he would be fourteen points behind (Boris 43%, Corbyn 29%), head-to-head against Osborne he would be twelve points behind (Osborne 39%, Corbyn 27%).

Asked about which party they’d trust to handle the big issues of the day Labour are ahead on their reliable banker of the NHS (though by only seven points) and on housing (by five points). The two parties are essentially neck-and-neck on education (Con 28%, Lab 27%) and on immigration UKIP lead (29%, to the Tories on 24% and Labour on 15%). On law and order and on economic issues the Tories lead – on tax by 13 points, the economy in general by 23 points, on unemployment by 12 points.

Unemployment is an interesting one here. As I’ve written many times before “best party on issues” questions tend to move in tandem, if the Conservatives improve on education, they also improve on tax, on housing, on transport and so on. Each party has strong and weak issues (so Labour will always do better on the NHS, the Conservatives will always do better on crime) but a lot of the change in figures seems to actually reflect underlying perceptions of a party’s general competence, rather than their specific statements or policies on that subject. What is really interesting on these questions therefore is when a measure moves relative to other ones – over time unemployment appears to have done so. If you go back to old Gallup or MORI questions from the 1980s and 90s, under Thatcher and Major unemployment became an issued “owned” by the Labour party, up there with the NHS. Whatever their other failings, people trusted Labour with the issue of unemployment. A decade ago YouGov were giving the Labour party a lead of 13 points on the NHS, and 25 points on unemployment. Now it’s switched over, the NHS is still a safe issue for Labour, but unemployment is an issue where people trust the Conservatives.

The other economic questions in the survey were also relatively optimistic (or in the case of personal economic expectations, not as pessimistic as in the past). By 35% to 26% people now think the economy is in a good state, and 21% of people expect to be financially better off in the coming year, compared to 25% who expect to be worse off.

Improving economic expectations are a two edged sword for the government of course. At one level, George Osborne still has a lot of cuts to make to hit his targets, and if people think the economic problems of the country are solved it will be harder for him to sell them to the public. Equally, as perceptions of the economy improve people stop worrying about it. On the question of which issues are most important to the country the economy was practically nailed on to the top spot for years after the financial crisis began in 2007-2008. For a while seventy to eighty percent of people regularly named it as a major issue facing the country. Then, as the economy improved, it started to fall. By 2014 it began to dip below immigration, now it’s down in third place behind health, with just a third naming it as an important issue. Despite the Conservative party’s current strong position in voting intention, UKIP and Labour are the parties people trust the most on what they see as the two big issues facing the country, immigration and health. Then again, perhaps that just illustrates that it’s not really issues that drive voting intentions.

Finally YouGov are still finding a very close EU referendum race – 41% would vote to stay, 42% would vote to leave.


YouGov and the Times have some fresh Syria polling tonight, conducted on Monday evening and during the day on Tuesday. It shows a sharp drop in support for airstrikes since YouGov’s polling a week ago, but the overall balance of opinion is still in favour: 48% now support RAF airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, 31% are opposed. A week ago the figures were 59% to 20%.

Some of this may be the fading impact of the Paris attacks, some people recoiling from the reality of intervention. I suspect a lot is also partisan polarisation: there is little movement amongst Conservative voters, but there is a huge turnaround amongst Labour voters. Whereas a week ago 2015 Labour voters broke in favour of airstrikes by 52% to 26%, they have now turned against. Among 2015 Labour voters 42% are now opposed (up 16 points), only 35% now support (down 17). While Jeremy Corbyn’s stance is still at odds with wider public opinion, now both Labour voters and Labour members agree with him: it is his opponents within the PLP who are at odds with the rest of the Labour family.

But if public opinion is moving against intervention, there’s not a sign of it helping Jeremy Corbyn with the wider public, or hurting Conservative support. Corbyn’s own ratings are down – 24% of people now think he is doing well as leader, down from 30% last week; 65% think he is doing badly. Voting intention figures are CON 41%, LAB 30%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%.

Peter Kellner’s commentary for the Times is up here.


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YouGov have published some fresh polling on Syria to coincide with David Cameron’s statement today, though the fieldwork obviously preceded it. Approval for British participation in air strikes against ISIS in Syria now stands at 59%, 20% would disapprove. Asked about sending British and American ground troops back into Iraq 39% would approve, 34% would disapprove. The majority of those who back military action think that it should require the permission of the United Nations. 44% think military action should only take place with UN permission, 28% that it should take place regardless of what the UN say, 11% think it should NOT take place whatever the UN say.

47% of people say they trust David Cameron to make the right decisions in regard of Syria and ISIS, 43% do not. In comparison only 21% trust Jeremy Corbyn to make the right decisions, 68% do not (among those people who voted Labour in 2015 40% trust Jeremy Corbyn to make the right decisions on the issue, 46% do not).

Islamic State is seen as a threat to Britain by most people (45% a very serious threat, 40% fairly serious) and the situation in Syria is seen as impacting upon British interests (42% a major impact, 30% a minor impact). 47% of people think that airstrikes by Britain, France and the US would be effective at helping to defeat ISIS, 37% think they would not. This is not actually much different to the proportions who think ground troops would be effective (49%, with 32% thinking they wouldn’t). On the other hand a large majority (69%) of people think that Britain taking part in action against ISIS would increase the risk of terrorist attacks here in Britain – it would appear that many people think it is a risk worth taking.

Looking in some more detail at people’s attitudes to the Syria conflict, by 41% to 30% people think we should be prepared to work alongside President Assad to defeat ISIS. However, this is clearly seen as only a short term solution, only 12% think a peace plan that allowed Assad to remain in power would be acceptable, though a further 31% think it would be acceptable to allow Assad to escape prosecution for war crimes if he stepped down from power. 27% of people think that it is essential that any plan involves Assad being removed from power and tried for war crimes.

If some of British public can stomach the idea of dealing with President Assad, few can imagine any deal with ISIS. Only 15% think that the West should seek some form of negotiated peace with Islamic State/ISIS, 64% think their actions and views are so extreme that a deal is impossible and they must be defeated.

Full tabs are here.


Today’s Times has a new YouGov poll of Labour party members and registered supporters (so members, registered trade unionists and £3 supporters – the same group who were able to vote in the Labour leadership election). Full tabs are here.

65% thought Jeremy Corbyn was doing well as leader, 34% badly as leader. Less promisingly, only 46% think it’s likely Labour will win the next election under Corbyn and only 38% think it’s likely he will ever be PM. Labour party members think Corbyn is doing well and expect him to lose. This apparent contradiction is easily resolved: 56% of Labour members think parties should say what they believe, even if it’s unpopular and loses elections, in comparison 32% think they should compromise in order to put foward policies that allow it to win an election and put policies into action.

Looking forward there is little appetite amongst Labour members for a change of leader: 57% think Corbyn should remain leader and fight the next election, 20% think he should hand over the leadership to someone else at some later point during the Parliament, 18% think he should go now.

There’s a sharp division between those who voted Corbyn and the minority who didn’t – 86% who voted Corbyn think he’s doing well, 66% who didn’t vote Corbyn think he’s doing badly. 82% of people who voted Corbyn think he should stay till the election, 43% who voted differently think he should stand down now. The vast majority of people who voted for Corbyn think he is doing well and think he should stay on, at least for now; there is no sign at all of buyer’s remorse amongst Corbyn’s voters. Equally, Labour party members who opposed Corbyn in the leadership election continue to oppose him, there is little sign of them rallying round their new leader. The Labour party remains divided.

It’s quite hard to judge whether these figures are good or bad. Surveys of party members are quite rare, most of the time they only happen in the middle of a leadership election when there is no incumbent leader whose ratings we can compare. There were no polls, for example, of Labour party members when Ed Miliband had been in the job for a few months that we can compare to see if David Miliband supporters had rallied round the leader or all still wanted Ed to resign.

79% think the shadow cabinet is divided, but Corbyn’s opponents are much more widely blamed for this than Corbyn himself – 54% think the fault is mostly his opponents’, 19% Corbyn and his allies, 25% both equally. On balance, there is support amongst the Labour selectorate for mandatory re-selection of MPs – 39% think MPs should be automatically reselected unless they’ve failed badly or are very unpopular, 52% think all MPs should face a full reselection anyway.

Finally YouGov asked about two specific policy issues facing Labour. On Europe the party membership is clear: 80% would vote for Britain to stay in the EU and 62% think Jeremy Corbyn should actively campaign in favour of EU membership. On Syria Labour party members divide two-to-one against airstrikes and three-to-one against the use of British ground forces in Iraq or Syria. 48% of Labour members think Corbyn should oppose the RAF taking part in airstrikes against ISIS, only 25% think he should support them.


YouGov have some polling for the Times on attitudes to terrorism and Syria following the attack on Paris. The full results are here, and the Times’s write up is here.

There are two important findings in there. One is attitudes towards Syrian refugees. Back in September YouGov found 36% thought we should accept more Syrian refugees, 24% keep the numbers about the same, 27% that we should admit fewer or none. That support has dropped sharply, now only 20% think Britain should accept more (down 16), 24% the same number (no change), 49% fewer or none (up 22).

It would be wrong to assume this is necessarily connected to the attack upon Paris. The previous poll was conducted at the start of September, a week after the photos of the body of Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach and amid sympathetic media coverage of refugees trudging across Hungary seeking a route to Germany. At the time there was evidence that the public had become more favourable towards the idea of accepting more Syrian refugees. However time has passed, the media coverage of sinking boats and desperate refugees has faded away again, and I expect a significant chunk of the change in public opinion is because of that – some heartbreaking photos and coverage did provoke a temporary change in opinion, but it was only temporary.

The other interesting finding is on sending British and US troops back into Iraq to fight Islamic State/ISIS. 43% of people now support sending in ground troops, 37% of people are opposed. The change since the last time YouGov asked is barely significant, but it’s part of a longer and much more clearer trend. Back in August 2014 when YouGov started asking this question the British public were strongly opposed to sending troops back into Iraq, but since then opinion has steadily moved in favour of intervention. We are now at the point where there are significantly more people in favour than opposed.

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On other matters, the monthly ICM poll for the Guardian came out yesterday, with topline voting intention figures of CON 39%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 12%, GRN 3% (tabs here. Their weekly EU referendum poll has figures of REMAIN 43%, LEAVE 38%. Survation have also put out some new figures, voting intentions are CON 37%, LAB 30%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 3% and EU referendum intentions are REMAIN 42%, LEAVE 40% (tabs here.