Booze and new cars

We probably won’t get any actually polling evidence on the budget until tonight at the very earliest. If the two biggest changes in the budget were taxes on alcohol and cars, what can we expect to see?

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association commissioned an ICM poll on the public’s reaction to potential rises in alcohol taxation back in January, and unsurprisingly it doesn’t look like they’ll be positively received. Asked whether they were in favour of the Government raising taxes on all alcoholic drinks in order to “tackle problem drinking”, only 33% of people said they were in favour, with 65% opposed. 61% of respondents agreed with the statement “Only a tiny minority of people actually abuse alcohol so adding more regulations for the drinks industry and raising the prices of alcoholic drinks by raising taxes will unfairly penalise the majority who drink sensibly”

Interestingly enough, there was a noticable difference between the attitudes of middle class and working class respondents. Opposition to tax rises on alcohol was overwhelming amongst ABs – 71% were opposed with only 28% in support. Amongst DEs, where perhaps problem drinking is more visible, opinion was more balanced – 54% were opposed, but 44% were against.

On the new ‘showroom tax’ things look more positive. Polls on possible environmental taxes normally show relatively positive reactions towards taxes that are directly linked to more polluting cars – my guess has always been that the reason is people always imagine that the tax will fall upon cars more polluting than the car they own. Anyway, there is a general tend in such questions that taxes that people can avoid – like taxes on large cars – are more popular than blanket taxes like road charging or fuel tax hikes which will effect everyone.

I’m not aware of any polls that have asked a direct question about a ‘showroom tax’ that only applies to brand new cars, but my guess, given that it is a tax that will only affect people when they buy a new car and one that is directly linked to the most polluting cars, that the polls in the next few days will show that it is relatively popular compared to other announcements.

See, it does happen

A special in response to the criticism you sometimes see that “no one I know ever gets called by a pollster”. Remember there are only a couple of hundred voting intention polls carried out each year, and they include a one or maybe two thousand people. The chance of any individual being polled in any given year therefore is only around 1 in 200. Anyway, just to demonstrate that it does happen Mark Pack over at Lib Dem home got called up by ICM yesterday. I suspect he said he would be voting Lib Dem!

That interesting first question that Mark writes about is “Some people have said they would not vote in a new General Election, while others would go and vote at their polling station. I would like to know how certain it is that you would actually go and vote in a general election?” The bit of bumpf there are the start about some people not voting and some going to polling stations is to try and get over the social desirability bias and letting people know that it is alright to admit that you might not both to vote.


Budget Day

Today is budget day and it is normally the excuse for lots of newspapers to commission polls, so in the next few days we can expect to get lots of data to paw over. Meanwhile, here’s a pre-budget poll for accountants BDO Stoy Hayward by YouGov.

It looks as though Alistair Darling faces his first budget with something of a reputation to mend following a pretty bad start. His reputation as a politician has hitherto been as a safe pair of hands. His repuation as Chancellor though looks poor – 31% of respondents thought that he had done a worse job than Gordon Brown so far (only 1% thought he had done better) – of course that could be a reflection of Brown’s high repuation rather than Darling’s low one; more crushingly 46% said they had “no confidence at all” in his ability to look after the economy in the current slowdown, with only 3% saying them had a lot of confidence. Asked to rate his first 9 months in the job out of ten his average score was 3.36.

The only positive sign for Darling is that there was no great swell of support for George Osborne and the Tories as an alternative – only 28% thought they would do a better job, 40% thought they would not.

YouGov asked what people thought Alistair Darling should do if he had no option but to raise taxes. The most popular (or least unpopular!) option was an increase in corporation tax, backed by 37%. Next least unpopular was capital gains tax, suggested by 20%, income tax 9% then inheritance tax 7%. Only 2% would like to see increased national insurance or stamp duty. The pattern is unsurprising, people would much rather businesses suffered than them themselves.

UPDATE: Just as I typed this I’ve been sent details of a new MORI poll. They have 28% of respondents satisifed with Alistair Darling’s performance as Chancellor, but have 44% disatisfied – a net rating of minus 16.


MORI have published their annual survey on trust in professionals, carried out for the Royal College of Physicians. Doctors are the most trusted of the professions MORI asked about (as indeed they always are!). As Bob Worcester says on the results page, the most surprising thing about the survey is probably the lack of change over the years.

We might expect to find that politicans and ministers are distrusted as never before, but while they are indeed two of the least trusted professions, with net trustworthyness ratings of -49 for ministers and -58 for politicians, this isn’t actually vastly different to the scores they’ve had for the last 8 years, and higher than they were in the final days of the last Conservative government. (The other highly distrusted group was journalists, though this probably does them a disservice – YouGov occassionally do similar surveys and separate out broadsheet and tabloid journalists: it’s the latter people really distrust, broadsheet journalists are viewed quite positively.)

Nearly all the professions asked about are trusted slightly less than they were last year, with the exception of judges (they were also the odd ones out in the YouGov poll above), though the movements are all small. The only group where there does appear to be a really significan trend over time is TV newsreaders. Their net trustworthyness is now +34, whereas in most previous years they tended to be in the 40s or 50s – in 1997 their net rating was +60 and they were the third most trusted profession. It’s interesting to ponder what has made the shift, the signs were there before the various crises of trust in the BBC last year, perhaps it is just the general movement towards younger presenters rather than the gravitas of past decades.

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intention figures, with changes from last month, of CON 37%(-3), LAB 34%(+3), LDEM 19%(+2). The poll was conducted between the 7th and the 9th.

It’s always a mistake to read too much into a single poll, the normal random variation we see from poll to poll could have one drawing conclusions in any direction you wanted – for example, given their methodology is almost identical to ICM’s the 9 point Tory lead recorded by Populus last month seemed somewhat out of line and probably flattered them somewhat – in this case though the collective picture across all the polls now seems to be one of a falling Tory lead, even YouGov who in recent months have recorded the largest Tory leads have shown leads in the 6-7 point range rather than the 8-10 point leads they showed at the start of the year.

The increase in the level of Lib Dem support in this poll may be thanks to the increased publicity they received during the EU referendum debate – an exampe of the old maxim that no publicity is bad publicity, though it could equally be just a reversion to the mean after an outlier; again, Populus’s methodology is almost identical to ICM’s, so January/February figures with Populus showing the Lib Dems at 17% and ICM with them at 21% could never have been sustained. The fieldwork was carried out before Nick Clegg’s conference speech, so any boost they recieve from his first real set-piece outing won’t show up until the next polls.

Even if publicity has boosted the Lib Dems, it hasn’t boosted Nick Clegg. The average rating of his leadership is now at 4.16, slightly below Ming Campbell’s nadir (for contrast, IDS fell to 4.00 in Spring 2003.) The only saving grace for Clegg is that there were probably a large proportion of don’t knows to the question (in January it was 39%, but we won’t know till the tables come out). For the other leaders Gordon Brown remains down at 4.59 and David Cameron is up at 5.23, only marginally below his position during his honeymoon in January 2006.

On other underlying figures there is no shift back to the government either. The percentage of people dissatisfied with the government also crept up. This is a pattern we’ve seen in other companies polls too – a position where the underlying figures on things like the economy, best PM, leader approval and so on suggest no shift back towards Labour, but where the topline voting intention figures show a falling Tory lead – my guess is that the reason is that the larger Conservative leads at the end of last year were never ‘real’, they were the product of a government that appeared to be in crisis – now they have ridden that out we are seeing a more genuine position.

Meanwhile, after those contradictory polls for the Lib Dems and iwantareferendum Populus also asked a question on the EU referendum that gave people all the options – no referendum at all, a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, a referendum on EU membership or a referendum on both the treaty and EU membership. The latter was the most popular, the preference of 36% of respondents, 19% no referendum at all, 18% on just the treaty and just 16% on EU membership alone.