This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 11%. The poll suggests an increase in UKIP support on the back of the EU summit, the child fostering row and the coverage of Michael Fabricant’s calls for a Con-UKIP pact. YouGov has occassionally shown UKIP ahead of the Lib Dems in the past, but their support in YouGov polls over the last month has typically been at around 7% or 8%. 11% is the highest they have shown them to date.

On the subject of the UKIP fostering row, YouGov also asked some more detailed questions about fostering children. 50% of respondents thought that people with extreme political views should not usually (32%), or never (18%) be allowed to foster children.

However, this was clearly not thought to apply to UKIP. Asked if people who were members of several named political parties should be allowed to foster children only 4% of people thought that UKIP members shouldn’t be able to foster (55% said there was nothing wrong at all with it, 27% said they disliked UKIP’s views but it shouldn’t be a block to their members fostering children). Figures were very similar for the Respect party, with 4% saying a Respect party member should not be allowed to foster children.

In comparison 36% of people said that members of the BNP should not be allowed to foster children (and only 18% said there was nothing wrong with a BNP member being a foster parent). As a control YouGov asked about the three main parties too – the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of people said that their party members should not be able to foster children.

Yesterday we also had the weekly TNS BMRB poll. Topline figures are CON 31% (nc), LAB 41% (+2), LDEM 8%(-3), UKIP 8%(+1), OTHER 10%(-1).

Finally I’ve been meaning to write something about Leveson and polling on press regulation for a week or so, but have been distracted by gay marriage, UKIP and so on. Luckily Peter Kellner has done it for me here.

The brief media fuss over Michael Fabricant’s paper on some sort of Con-UKIP pact has included various references to old canard that UKIP cost the Conservatives 21 or more seats at the last election.

“At the General Election in 2010, UKIP cost the Conservatives, on a realistic estimate, around 20–40 seats, just by standing and taking a mere 3-4 % of the vote.”

This is nonsense of the highest order, but however often the argument is knocked down it refuses to lie down and die. At the last election there were 21 seats where the number of votes that UKIP got was larger than the number of extra votes the Conservatives needed to win. Where the argument that UKIP cost the Conservatives up to 40 seats comes from is beyond me, if every single UKIP voter has instead voted Conservative they would have got 21 more seats, no more.

However that is something of a big ask… every single UKIP voter voting Conservative? UKIP support has historically come disproportionately from the Conservatives, but not exclusively so, they take some votes from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and people who would otherwise not vote. Neither would those people miraculously go back to the Conservatives in the absence of UKIP – they were, presumably, unhappy enough with the Conservatives to want to vote against them, many would have found an alternate route to express their unhappiness, or just stayed at home.

Back in 2010 YouGov did a survey of 706 people who voted UKIP in the 2010 general election. It included questions asking which parties they would consider voting for in the future, and which parties they had voted for in the past.

Looking forward only 27% said they would consider voting Conservative in the future (compared to 9% who said they would consider voting Labour and 8% who’d consider voting Lib Dem). Looking back 20% of them had voted Tory in 2005, 12% were people who had backed Labour in 2005.

If we use that data, we can make an estimate of how many seats UKIP might have actually cost the Conservatives. Say UKIP had vanished, the 27% of 2010 UKIP voters who said they’d consider voting Tory had done so and the 8% and 9% who said they’d consider voting Lib Dem and Labour had done that…the Conservatives then would have won an extra five seats. If instead we look at how people voted in 2005, and assume people went back to their old voting habits in the absence of UKIP, then the Conservatives would have won one or two extra seats.

The idea that UKIP stopped the Conservatives winning 21 seats is lazy nonsense based on unsustainable assumptions (delightfully called “the politics of not understanding data” by Justin Fisher yesterday), a myth that deserves putting to bed for once and for all. A better estimate is around five seats.


ComRes’s monthly telephone poll for the Independent has topline figures of CON 35%(+2), LAB 42%(-2), LDEM 10%(-2), UKIP 6%(+1). As with the ICM poll earlier this month, that 6% for UKIP doesn’t look that high compared to the levels of support they register in online polls, but is high by the standards of ComRes’s telephone polls.

The rest of the poll had questions showing people agreeing that Britain should stay in the European Union by 46% to 45% and, um, agreeing that Britain should pull out of the EU and maintain close trading links by 54% to 36%. Other than another lesson on why you should be very careful in interpreting questions asked as agree/disagree statements (imagine how differently someone could interpret this poll if only one of those questions had been asked), the reason is probably mostly to do with people wanting to stay in the EU because of trading links and therefore being happy to say they’d leave if they thought it was possible to maintain trading links outside the EU.

We are also still due a Populus poll for the Times this month. So far I haven’t heard or seen any sight of it.

This week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now online. Topline figures are CON 33%, LAB 44%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 8%. The rest of the poll mostly covered the EU summit (all the fieldwork was completed before the summit broke up without agreement)

On the EU budget 41% of people think that David Cameron was right and realistic to request a freeze in the budget, 35% think he was not ambitious enough and should have called for a cut, 10% think it is unrealistic to expect a freeze and that he should have accepted some level of increase in the budget. 59% of people think he should be willing to use the veto if other countries do not agreed to a freeze..

Looking at broader attitudes towards Europe, in a referendum on EU membership 49% of people say they would vote to leave, 32% would vote to stay and 19% wouldn’t vote or don’t know. Asked a less black-and-white question, 19% of people say they would like to see Britain’s relationship with the EU stay as it is, 46% would prefer Britain to stay in the EU but with a more detached relationship that is little more than free trade, 26% would like to see Britain leave completely.

YouGov asked about a series of areas and how much power the European Union should have. On most areas (justice, the economy, farming, fisheries and employment rights) a majority of people think the EU should have fewer powers. The two exceptions are the environment and relations with foreign countries outside the EU.

The public remain hostile towards the idea of giving prisoners the vote. 32% of people think that some prisoners should be given the vote (with them tending to opt for the most limited option of only those serving sentences under 6 months). 63% oppose giving any prisoners the vote.

78% of people think that the Church of England should allow women bishops and 76% of people consider the church to be out of touch, this includes 71% of people who identify themselves as Anglicans (though of course, many people identify as Anglican without actually attending church or even believing in God – a more interesting measure would probably be churchgoing Anglicans… but the incidence is too small in a standard sample). Despite support for female bishops, the public do not support Parliament intervening to overrule the general synod. Only 34% would support Parliament intervening compared to 49% who think the Church should be left to decide for itself.

On the related issue of gay marriage people think the church is wrong to oppose it by 48% to 38%. Asked specifically about David Cameron’s support for gay marriage people are evenly split over whether this makes them think more positively or more negatively about the Conservative party. 19% say it makes them think more positively about the Tories, 20% less positively, 52% no difference. There is a strong age skew here – younger people are far more likely to think more positively about the Conservatives because of it, older people are more likely to think more negatively about them.

Finally on wind farms 61% of people think they are good for the environment, 23% bad for the environment. People would, however, much rather they were build offshore than onshore.

I return once again, with a heavy heart, to the issue of gay marriage. There is more rather one-eyed polling by the campaign against gay marriage, dutifully reported the Telegraph. The way polling commissioned by the lobby opposed to gay marriage is reported by the newspapers and those commissioning it is almost a masterclass in poor interpretation of polls.

Firstly we have the problems of polls conducting using agree/disagree statements, which risk bias in the direction of the statement asked (which I have written about at length here) and often give contradictory answers if properly balanced with statements in the other direction. For example, in this poll 62% of people agreed with the statement “marriage should continue to be definied as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman”. The campaign against gay marriage have consistently focused on this question and interpreted this as meaning that 62% of people are opposed to gay marriage. However, the same poll found people agreeing by 44% to 38% that “legalising gay marriage is important because maintaining the distinction between civil partnerships and marriage worsens public attitudes towards gay people”. One could just as easily cherry pick that question from the poll and claim that more people support than oppose gay marriage.

As I have written before, we have a multitude of polls that have actually asked directly whether or not people support the legalisation of gay marriage, and they should really be the starting point for anyone looking for polling evidence of whether people support or oppose gay marriage. I summarised the main polling on the issue earlier this month, but suffice to say, polling asking a straightforward question on whether people support or oppose gay marriage consistently finds more people support it than oppose it. Polls that offer more nuanced options, and ask if people support gay marriage, only civil partnerships, or neither gay marriage nor civil parterships, still consistently find support for gay marriage in the mid-40s, but normally find a substantial minority of people who support civil partnerships but not gay marriage, so sometimes show more people opposed to gay marriage than support it.

Secondly we have “would X make you more or less likely to vote for party Y” questions. Again, I have ranted about these at length before, but essentially it is a type of polling question which gives false prominence to and therefore greatly overstates the importance of specific policies when voting intention is actually driven by broad perceptions of parties, their competence, leaders, capability on major issues like the economy and so on.

Now we have that hoary old chestnut of a poll showing people want a referendum on gay marriage. As previously discussed, if asked in an opinion poll people want a referendum on almost everything – unsurprisingly, given that questions on referendums basically boil down to “would you like to have a say on this or should it be left to the hated politicians to decide”. It doesn’t mean there is some huge untapped demand for a referendum on that particular issue, people support a referendum on anything you ask about (the one exception I have managed to track down was a MORI poll back in 2001 that found people did not want a referendum on abolishing the monarchy)

Why do I keep coming back to this? I think its mostly the consistently credulous and one-sided reporting of polls on gay marriage in some sections of the press. Readers of some newspapers could be forgiven for thinking that the polling showed that the public were opposed to gay marriage, when any fair minded look at the broad range of polling on the issue would show that the balance of opinion is broadly positive towards it.