A YouGov poll for the Telegraph was interpreted as suggesting that support for animal testing is growing in response to the actions of animal rights extremists. The YouGov survey certainly found strong support for animal testing, but I’m not sure it suggests such a trend.

YouGov found that 70% of people thought that it was acceptable to test new medicines on animals while 18% thought it was “not acceptable under any circumstances”. 72% of people thought that tighter restrictions on animal testing would simply force the companies testing to do so overseas.

Asked whether various actions carried out by those opposed to animal testing were acceptable, a large majority of people thought it was acceptable to hold peaceful demonstrations or display placards showing pictures of animals being experimented upon. However, only 10% thought publishing the names and addresses of shareholders of companies using animal testing was acceptable, only 2% thought damaging property was acceptable, and less than 1% thought making death threats or desecrating graves was acceptable.

Last year an ICM poll found only 50% of people in favour of testing new medicines on animals – so, does this mean that support for animal testing is growing? Perhaps not.

On animal testing most people have pretty nuanced views – there is a very small proportion of people who think any animal testing is fine for whatever reason, and a small proportion of people who think all animal testing is wrong. Between that the large majority of people think that animal testing is okay under some circumstances, but not in others. Hence the answer you get depends upon the exact wording of the question. In YouGov’s poll the “No” option required people to say that they disapproved of animal testing in any circumstances – quite an extreme stance. In ICM’s poll last year, the question was far less strict and people were only asked to generally approve or disapprove of animal testing for new medicines.

Attitudes towards animal testing have been very well examined by a series of polls for Medical Research Council and the Coalition for Medical Progress (a pressure group supporting the use of animal research) in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

In the 1999 survey, only 27% said they agreed with all animal experiments when there was no alternative. However, narrow it to research for medical purposes and the percentage shoots up – 64% said they could accept it. With the proviso there was no unnecessary suffering, it rose to 69%. If there was no alternative 60% approved of animal testing for all medical research. (This read strangely to me to start with- how come 64% agreed with animal experiments for medical research, but only 60% agreed when there was no alternative – it’s because the word “all” has been added).

39% said they did not support the use of animals in any experiments. This apparantly contradicts the 69% of people who said they could accept testing for medical purposes that caused no unnecessary suffering – but the terms support and accept are clearly different. You can not support something, but accept that the same thing needs to happen sometimes. 26% said government should ban all animal research.

The 2002 survey also identified differences depending on what animals were used – 66% thought it was fine to experiment on rats, but only 39% thought it was okay to experiment on monkeys. There are also differences depending on exactly what type of medical research is being conducted – in this 1999 MORI poll for the New Scientist only 38% thought testing cosmetics on mice for allegic reactions was okay, 56% thought it was okay to test insecticides, testing painkilling drugs was 73-74%, testing an AIDS vaccine was 77%, testing a drug for kiddies’ leukemia reached 83% approval.

The 2005 survey asked series of questions asking about experiments to various ends using different animals and either involving pain or not. Less than 10% of people thought putting monkeys through painful experiments was okay for cosmetic research, rising to just under 50% for testing drugs for childrens leukemia. Painful experiments on mice had a higher approval rating (raising from just over 10% for cosmetics to just over 60% for leukemia), pain free experiments on monkeys a higher approval rating than that, and pain free experiments on mice the highest (from just under 40% to just over 80%).

The majority of people’s attitude towards animal testing is nuanced and conditional. The difference between the YouGov and ICM polls isn’t due to a change in opinion, just different question wording. Leaving those polls aside though, the series of MORI polls does suggest that over the last 7 years does suggest that support for animal testing is growing. The proportion of people who say animal testing is acceptable in some circumstance is steady at around 89%, but the proportion of people taking a very liberal line (saying they aren’t bothered by animal testing and/or saying they support animal testing when necessary for all medical purposes) has been gradually rising since 1999 and the proportion of people objecting (those saying they do not support any testing and/or supporting a government ban) has been gradually falling.

As with most complicated issues, a straight yes or no question doesn’t begin to explain public opinion on animal testing. The bottom line is that most people accept animal testing under some circumstances and reject it in others, and while the recent YouGov poll alone isn’t enough to demonstrate it, public opinion is gradually becoming more supportive.

Populus/Daily Politics – Happiness
YouGov/Royal & Sun Alliance – 1 in 6 people have been drunk at work in the last six months


The Da Vinci Code is – or at least, prior to some of the atrocious reviews it’s received, was – supposed to be one of the year’s big blockbuster films. The Catholic Church meanwhile has been making a big PR push to make sure people realise that the film is fictional, that the Priory of Sion and the documents the theory are based on were a 1960s hoax and that Ruth Kelly isn’t really part of a cult of murderous albinos.

The Catholic “Da Vinci Code Response Group” (which is apparantly an unofficial group of Catholic clergy and laymen put together to respond to media queries about the book/film) commissioned a poll by ORB to find out how many people who had read the book actually believed any of this.

Asked what they thought about the book’s premise that “Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children and that this has been kept quiet by the Church over the past 2000 years” – 42% of people thought it was rubbish, 19% thought there was “some truth” in it, 17% thought the book was “partially” based on historic truth, and 5% thought it was true.

27% of people thought that the Catholic church was covering up the truth about Jesus, and 7% thought that Opus Dei had really carried out murders.

On all these questions there was an obvious correlation with age – amongst those over the age of 65 only 1% thought the Da Vinci Code was true, 19% thought the Catholic church was covering up the truth about Jesus and 4% thought that Opus Dei carried out murders. Amongst those under the age of 24 the figures were 10%, 36% and 15% respectively.

There was also a correlation between believing these things and having read the Da Vinci Code. 22% of people said they had read the book, and those people were more likely to believe the claims – though this obviously doesn’t necessarily imply causality. It might be that if you believe such things already you are more likely to go out and read the Da Vinci Code!

YouGov’s monthly poll shows the Conservatives maintaining their six point lead over Labour. The full topline figures with changes from YouGov’s Telegraph poll taken straight after the reshuffle are CON 38%(+1), LAB 32%(+1), LDEM 16%(-1).

The Conservative leads reported immediately after the local elections, taken admist an air of crisis around the government, could very well have been merely a short term reflection of bad headlines. This poll, along with ICM’s poll from yesterday, suggest that the Conservative lead is somewhat more sustained – though with the Home Office still reeling from internal problems, it remains to be seen what happens to the polls once the government gets onto more even ground.

The underlying figures on economic competence and who would make the best leader also show the Conseratives gaining ground – Labour now have only a 3 point lead on which party would be better at running the economy well and Blair is only 1 point ahead of Cameron on who would make the best Prime Minister. Looking at the changes from the last election though, it is clear that the change is due to a collapse in confidence in the government, not any great surge in Conservative support. In 2005 49% of people thought Labour would be best at running the economy compared to 27% for the Tories. Labour have now fallen 17 points to 32%, but the Tories have only risen two points to 29%. On best Prime Minister – Blair has fallen 10 points since the election, but Cameron’s 27% is only 2 points above Michael Howard’s 25%. In fairness Cameron is still a relative newcomer, and people’s opinions on him are not yet fully formed. Last month he only scored 21% in the same question – so this is a large improvement.

At 16% the Liberal Democrats are again falling after having previously recovered from their difficulties at the start of the year. A 1 point fall is, obviously, not significant in itself and YouGov’s methodology does normally produce the lowest level of Liberal Democrat support of the main pollsters. Ming Campbell has faced considerable criticism over the last month, but it is debatable whether that has spread outside the Westminster Village.

The other parties continue to receive the support of 14% of people, down only slightly on last month. The BNP, who had made up the majority of the other vote, are now down to 4% with the Greens and UKIP on 3% and 4% respectively. It will be interesting to see what happens with the “other” vote – it is probably partially down to increased publicity for minor parties (especially the BNP) around the local elections, which will almost certainly fade with time, but it may also be down to people abandoning the Labour party but not being prepared to support one of the main three parties. Previous boosts for fringe parties have always declined and it will be interesting to see who gains when this one declines. It could go any way – BNP and UKIP voters are presumably more likely to move to the Tories than elsewhere, or the other votes may drift towards the Liberal Democrats, the traditional repository for voters disillusioned with both main parties, or these may merely be protesting Labour voters who will return to voting Labour once Tony Blair himself is replaced (or, of course, things could be different this time and the high level of “other support could persist into the next election – it is impossible to tell).

YouGov’s poll also asked about which party had the best policies on various issues. Like ICM it showed the Conservatives catching up Labour on the public services – YouGov gave them a 3 point lead on education (2 points in ICM’s poll), just a 2 point deficit on the NHS (2 point lead in ICM’s poll) and a large (20 point) lead on law and order. Labour’s strength remains the economy – though there are subtle differences within that. Overall Labour have a two point lead as the party with the best policies on the economy overall. YouGov also asked about “economic growth”, “inflation” and “interest rates” – on economy growth Labour had only a 1 point lead over the Tories, where they have a significant advantage over the Tories is inflation (6 point Labour lead) and interest rates (7 point Labour lead). The memory of 15% interest rates is still haunting the Tories.

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian shows Conservative support up to 38%, a similar level to the recent YouGov and Populus polls. The full topline figures with changes from last month are CON 38%(+4), LAB 34%(+2), LDEM 20%(-4).

The Conservatives have clearly received a boost from their local election successes. The Guardian’s coverage says that this is the highest level of Tory support for 13 years – it isn’t, it’s just another example of newspapers rather annoying tendency to be blind to all but the polls they themselves publish. In fact at the height of the Cameron honeymoon in January ICM put Conservative support at 39% in a poll for the News of the World.

The Labour party have, as one should expect, lost support from their recent difficulties but have also recovered slightly in this poll. This could potentially mean they are past the worst and are beginning to rally, but equally could just be sample error – until we see their support recovering in more than one poll we sharn’t know. The Liberal Democrats have dropped sharply compared to last month – this could be the local election results suddenly presenting the Conservatives as the party making gains against Labour rather than the Lib Dems, but looking at the trend in ICM’s figures it seems far more likely that last month’s 24% figure was a blip.

The poll also asked the, now rather regular, question of how people would vote if Gordon Brown were Labour leader. As usual this slightly increases the Conservative lead to 9 points (CON 40%, LAB 31%, LDEM 19%). The usual caveats apply – these are just hypothetical questions and are not strictly comparable to normal voting intention questions since they prompt people with the names of the party leaders. It does once again suggest however that Gordon Brown becoming leader will not necessarily improve Labour’s fortunes. As has been hypothesised here in the past, the Guardian suggests that these figures contain some degree of churn – while only 85% of people saying they’d vote Labour now say they would vote Labour under Brown, Brown would also pick up support from people not presently voting Labour, particularly Lib Dem voters.

Asked which party has the better policy on various issues, the Conservatives are now ahead on all the public services – they are ahead by two points on the NHS, previously an issue that Labour could call their own, and education and have big leads on law and order and immigration. Labour however retain their lead on the party best able to run the economy, arguably the most important policy issue.

ICM also asked respondents to rate out of 10 Labour’s achievements in office on various issues. They scored 5.9/10 on running the economy, 5.2/10 on getting people off of welfare into work and 5.3 on education. However, they scored only 4.6/10 on the NHS, 3.8/10 on sleaze and 3.6/10 on the war in Iraq.