There are new new polls in the Sunday papers, but both are from before the local election results (Opinium wholly before, YouGov mostly before) so don’t expect too see any impact from them yet. YouGov’s topline figures were CON 30%, LAB 40%, LD 11%, UKIP 12%; Opinium’s were CON 28%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 17%. The last two YouGov polls looked as if the recent narrowing in the polls may be fading away again, but Monday’s polls will likely be affected by the local elections so we may never know for sure.
The first thing to note in the YouGov results is not one of the ad hoc questions, but the regular economic tracker of the “feel good factor” – that is, the proportion of people who expect their economic situation to get better minus those who expect it to get worse. In recent years this normally pootles along at around minus 40, extremely negative. Last week it perked up a bit to minus 35, equalling the highest since May 2010. This week it has risen again to minus 31, now the highest since 2010. It would probably be premature to talk of optimism, but perhaps the pessimism is softening. Keep an eye on it.
There were a brief couple of questions on UKIP, 49% of people think Ken Clarke’s description of UKIP as a collection of clowns was unfair, 31% was it was a fair description. Whether they agreed with it or not, a large majority (77%) thought it was bad tactics to describe them in that sort of language (an opinion the local election results would seem to have vindicated!)
YouGov also repeated a series of questions about how well Ed Miliband is doing as Labour leader, last asked in September 2012 (actually some were also asked just after the Labour conference too, but that had given Miliband a big boost in his ratings so would have been a bit of an unfair comparison). They don’t show any obvious improvement in perceptions of Miliband – only 22% think he has provided an effective opposition, only 22% think he has made it clear what he stands for and only 25% think he would be up to the job of Prime Minister.
Asked whether they think Miliband will ever be Prime Minister, 33% think it is likely, 54% unlikely. However, when YouGov ask what people think the result of the next election will be 49% say they expect a Labour-led government which, barring a surprise change of leadership suggests they do actually expect Ed Miliband to be PM! I suspect the apparent contrast between these two answers is an artefact of people just not seeing Miliband as Prime Ministerial… when they stop and think about the next election, they expect Labour to win, but their gut reaction to Miliband is that he doesn’t look like someone who is going to be PM.
Whenever I write about Ed Miliband’s negative ratings it provokes a lot of discussion so I may as well repeat what I’ve said earlier. However bad his ratings (and compared to many past leaders of the opposition they are bad), Labour do have a substantial lead in the polls, so they can’t be that much of an obstacle. Even if it he is drag on their support, right now it is clearly not preventing them getting enough support to win. The question, therefore, is whether it will become more of a factor in an election campaign. Are we currently seeing mid-term polls where people are just driven by opinion of the government and opinion of the opposition doesn’t matter, but nearer the election it will be more of a choice between two alternative governments and poor opinions of Miliband will matter more? Or have Miliband’s negative ratings already been “factored into the price” and won’t matter anymore come the election than they do now. It is beyond the ability of polls to tell, and most opinions I have seen on it so far have said far more about what the person saying it would like to be true than anything else.
Finally, on the back of the various operation Yewtree arrests YouGov asked about the naming of people who have been arrested or charged over offences, but not yet found guilty. There is a widespread belief that people who have been arrested but not charged with any crime should remain anonymous. For allegations of sexual assault 74% of people believe that those accused should remain anonymous, with only 15% thinking they should be named. Public opinion is more evenly split towards people who have been charged, but have not yet faced trial – 43% think those charged with sexual assault should remain anonymous until trial, 45% think they should be named. The figures shift slightly when asked about other crimes, with a clear majority of people thinking those charged with murder or terrorism should be named.