This morning’s Sun has YouGov’s first polling on perceptions of Thatcher since her death – full results are here. The majority of people think Thatcher was a great or good Prime Minister (indeed, 28% see her as the greatest of Britain’s post war Prime Ministers), but a significant minority also have strongly negative views: very few people see her as average, they were either for or against.

Overall 25% said Thatcher was a great Prime Minister, 27% good, compared to 23% who said she was terrible and 7% poor. Just 10% said average. Her ratings were not vastly different across the social spectrum, both men and women rated her highly, and while younger people born after she left office are less likely to have an opinion, those that did were still more positive than negative. Opinion gradually becomes less positive as you go northwards, but not drastically so – even in the North 49% have a positive opinion of Thatcher, 35% negative. Only in Scotland is the balance of opinion negative.

People’s views of Thatcher herself are very much in line with the media image of the “Iron Lady”. Asked what qualities she had 72% said she stuck to what she believed in, 66% thought she was strong, 59% decisive, 42% good in a crisis, 41% a natural leader. The lowest figure was being in touch with the concerns of ordinary people, something which only 11% of people now think that Thatcher was.

Her legacy for Britain is seen as more mixed. 47% think her period as Prime Minister was good for Britain, 36% bad for Britain. On balance people think her premiership left Britain economically better off, and 60% think she left the country more respected in the world. 51% think she left behind a country where there were more opportunities for women. By 36% to 31% people also think she left Britain a freer country. However 49% think she also left a less equal society behind her.

Asked about what they see as her successes and failures, Thatcher’s greatest achievement is the least political – 44% picked being the country’s first female Prime Minister. This was followed by winning the Falklands War (33%) and defeating the Miners’ strike and taming the Trade Unions (27%).

Her biggest failure was seen as the one that finally brought her down – 44% named the poll tax. This was followed by overseeing the decline of mining and manufacturing (37%) and the privatisation of utilities like British Telecom and British Gas (31%). The right to buy was picked by a significant number of people on both lists – 21% thought the introducion of the right to buy and the growth in home ownership was one of Thatcher’s greatest achievements, 22% thought selling off council housing through the right to buy was one of her worst failures.

Meanwhile the YouGov voting intention this morning was CON 33%, LAB 41%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 10%. Right at the lowest end of Labour leads by YouGov’s recent polling, but usual caveats apply (it could be the impact of the Thatcher coverage, but could equally well be normal sample variation). In contrast the latest TNS-BMRB poll, conducted over the weekend, had figures of CON 25%(-2), LAB 40%(+3), LD 10%(nc), UKIP 14%(-3).

ICM on Thatcher

I expect there will be a lot of polling on Thatcher in the days to come, but ICM are first out of the stalls with a snap poll conducted this afternoon for the Guardian.

As with other polling prior to her death, it shows a mainly positive rating… but a divisive one. More people rate Thatcher positively than negatively, but very few sit on the fence. Overall 50% say her record as Prime Minister was good, 34% bad, just 11% say “neither good nor bad”.


The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now up here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 30%, LAB 40%, LD 11%, UKIP 13%. The bulk of this week’s questions were on benefits (and there is a second YouGov poll in the Sun on Sunday also asking benefit related questions, though tabs for that probably wont be up till tomorrow morning).

Looking at the broad findings, a chunky majority of people think that the present benefit system needs reform in some way. Overall, 70% of people think the current system works badly and needs significant (38%) or major (32%) reform.

However, looking beneath that concern seems to be more widespread about who benefits go to, rather than the level of them (though it would be wrong to deny many were not also concerned about that!). 63% think that the benefit system is not strict enough and too open to fraud, 22% think it is too strict, 9% about right. Compare this to 37% who think it is too generous and benefit payments are too high, 21% who think they are too low and 26% who think they are about right. In previous polling we’ve often seen that overall people want to see less spent on welfare, but are actually well-disposed towards benefits for some groups like the disabled or the elderly – the driver of disatisfaction with the system does seem to be exactly who it goes to.

The YouGov/Sunday Times survey asked people what proportion of welfare they thought went to people who genuinely needed and deserved support, and what proportion went to people who did not deserve it and were taking advantage of the system. 36% of people think that half (23%) or more than half (13%) of people claiming benefits do not deserve help and are taking advantage of the system. A further 42% of people think there are a minority of claimants who are not deserving help. (Again, we’ve seen previously that people vastly overestimate the level of fraud in the system, but this is not actually the same question – people may well think that people are perfectly legally claiming benefits within the current rules, but that the rules should be tighter).

Asking more specifically about some of policy proposals and whether they are fair or not, 78% of people think it is fair to put a £26,000 cap on the benefits a household can receive each year (10% think it unfair) and 59% think it is fair to limit the increase in working-age benefits to 1%, less than the rate of inflation. People are more evenly split over the “bedroom tax” – 47% of people think it is fair that people have their housing benefit reduced if they are considered to have more rooms than they need, 40% think it is unfair. The survey in the Sun had a similar batch of questions that asked if people supported changes, rather than if they were fair/unfair – the results were very similar though – 79% supported the cap on total benefits and opinion on the “bedroom tax” was 49% support/44% oppose.

Asked about the challenge made to Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 pounds a week, only 26% think it would be reasonable to expect someone to live on this amount of money. However when asked about whether it would be reasonable to live on £71 – the current rate of income support or jobseekers allowance for a single adult over the age of 25, 57% of people think it would be reasonable to expect someone to live on this compared to 31% who do not . That said, people are slightly less optimistic about whether they themselves could live on that much money! Only 44% say they could, 48% say they could not.

Incidentally, there was also a question on welfare in the Opinium poll for the Observer. In the Observer’s write up here I was somewhat bemused to find that “When asked for their views on the need for further welfare cuts, just 10% of people said they believed more should be made. Only 14% of Tory supporters backed further welfare reductions compared with 10% of Lib Dems and 5% of Labour supporters”, given how it flew totally in the face of all other polling on the subject. The actual Opinium results are now up here and give a rather different picture – while only 10% think there should be “more cuts”, a further 15% think the government should continue with their present cuts and 57% support a rather “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” option of thinking there should be cuts, but only if they are targetted to protected the poor and disabled. 14% think there should not be any cuts to welfare.

The fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer is out tonight and has topline figures of CON 28%(nc), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 17%(+1). Voting intentions are pretty much identical to a fortnight ago – the UKIP score looks startling but Opinium have had them this high for a month (they tend to prodce one of the higher scores for the party, which Opinium themselves put down to the fact they don’t use any past vote weighting.)

I like data from tracking polls. There is often no “correct” way of asking about a subject and answers can come down to how you word a question, but if you ask a question in the same way over a long period of time then – all things being equal – any significant change you see should reflect a genuine change in public opinion. For that reason I am always very loathe to change the wording of tracking questions, as you are throwing away all that past data and any change you see is as likely to be due to different wording as it is to changing opinion. However, there comes a time when the vocabulary used in the public debate changes, and the wording you’ve used in the past really isn’t the wording you’d use if designing a question today.

In past years YouGov has asked about public opinion towards climate change using this question:

On the subject of climate change do you think:
The world is becoming warmer as a result of human activity
The world is becoming warmer but NOT because of human activity
The world is NOT becoming warmer
Not sure

  • In 2008, 55% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 25% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 7% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 13% weren’t sure.
  • In 2010, 39% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 27% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 18% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 16% weren’t sure.
  • In 2012 43% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 22% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 15% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 20% weren’t sure.
  • Now 39% think human activity was making the world warmer, 16% think the world is getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 28% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 17% weren’t sure.

For what its worth the percentage of people thinking that human activity is making the world warmer fell between 2008 and 2010, but has been pretty constant for the last 3 years. However, the proportion of people who think the world isn’t getting warmer at all has markedly increased – from just 7% in 2008 to 28% now. This isn’t really surprising given some of the weather we’ve had of late (before anyone points it out, localised weather is Britain is clearly not necessarily reflective of global temperatures… but that doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on public opinion!).

However since 2008 the debate has also changed, and has often concentrated upon wider impacts of climate change, on weather patterns, on making weather more extreme or unpredictable and so on, rather than just the narrower issue of rising global temperatures. You can imagine this may have a significant impact on someone’s answers – there may well be people who think that climate change is happening… but not in the sense of increasing global temperatures. This month YouGov asked two questions in parallel, on two separate samples – one asking about the world getting warmer, the other asking about the world’s climate changing. It produces very different results.

39% of people think human activity is making the world warmer. 53% of people think human activity is changing the world’s climate.
16% think the world is getting warmer, but not because of human activity. 26% think the climate is changing, but NOT because of human activity
28% think the world is NOT getting warmer. 6% think the climate is not changing.