This week’s YouGov results for the Sunday Times are up online here. Topline voting intention is CON 30%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%, so no obvious effect on voting intention from the Woolwich murder. Economic optimism (the proportion of people expecting their financial situation to get better in the next year, minus those who expect it to get worse) is minus 30. This is still very negative, but is once again the least negative it has been since May 2010.

Turning to the Conservative party and their “modernisation”, 61% of people think David Cameron is not in control of his party, compared to only 24% who think he is. Only 16% of people think David Cameron got modernisation right – 33% think he did not go far enough (including most Labour and Lib Dem voters), 32% think he went too far and abandoned too many traditional Tory subjects (including three-quarters of UKIP supporters).

Asked about the famous description of the Tories as the “nasty party”, 18% reject the whole idea and think the Tories were never seen as the nasty party anyway, 14% think David Cameron has manage to make the Conservatives less of the “nasty party” but the largest group – almost half of respondents – think Cameron has failed and the Tories are still seen as the “nasty party”. YouGov asked the same question in 2011 when 23% of people thought Cameron had managed to detoxify the Conservatives, suggesting a gradual reversal of the progress he had once made.

Moving on to the Woolwich murder, 41% of people think the government are tackling extremism and terrorism effectively, 47% ineffectively. Asked about people’s own fear of being involved in a terrorist attack, overall 10% of people think that there is a very or fairly high chance of them, a friend of member of their family being killed in a terrorist attack. As one might expect this is marginally up on before this week’s attack, but less than it was at the time of the 7/7 attacks in 2005 when YouGov asked exactly the same question. Whether or not they agree with British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vast majority of people (70%) think that it has increased the risk of terrorist attacks against Britain.

Asked about attitudes to British Muslims, 60% of people believe that there is a dangerous minority of British Muslims who feel no identity to the country and would condone terror, 14% think that a large proportion of British Muslims have no loyalty to the country and would condone terrorism. The question was again a repeat of a question YouGov asked straight after 7/7, comparing these results they are marginally worse than 7/7, but the change is hardly significant.

There was a second batch of YouGov polling conducted for Dr Matt Goodwin at Nottingham University, who specialises in studying extremism (of the EDL & BNP sort), and reported in the Observer. Full tables for that are here. Again the questions are mostly repeats from earlier, in this cast from October-November last year (originally done for Matt’s work on the EDL here). This makes it a slightly different comparison to the 7/7 questions, comparing results of questions asked during a normal period to the same questions asked just after an emotive event. One might have expected an increase in Islamophobia and anti-Islam opinions. The actual picture that Matt’s research finds is more nuanced.

On a few fronts opinion has moved in a negative direction, with an increase in the proportion of people who think that conflict between different groups is inevitable and an increase in those who think there will be a “clash of civilizations” between British Muslims and native white Britons (though worth noting there were similar shifts when asked about different religions and ethnicities too).

However on other figures there has been no movement, or even positive movement – 63% of people agree with a statement that “The vast majority of Muslims are good British citizens”, by 40% to 23% people agree that “Muslims make an important contribution to British society” – both questions essentially unchanged from last year. The proportion of people agreeing that “Muslims are compatible with the British way of life” is up from 24% last year to 33% now.

I suspect the contradicting trends in the figures is a case of the Woolwich murder reinforcing people’s existing attitudes. For those people who were suspicious, hostile or prejudiced towards British Muslims to begin with it has strengthened those negative feelings. For those with more positive opinions towards British Muslims it has strengthened their resolve not to stereotype British Muslims and not to let terrorism divide communities.

Matt’s poll also asked about the EDL and BNP anti-Muslim demonstrations, using a split sample. Half the sample were asked about their opinion of demonstrations against what the organisers call “Muslim terror” and whether they had a positive or negative opinion of such demonstrations – a majority (51%) said they had a negative opinion, 20% a positive opinion. The other half of the sample had the same question, but with the demonstrators of the demos identified as the EDL and BNP – that knocked support for such demos down to 17%, and opposition to them up to 60%.

There was also a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday, which had topline figures of CON 24%(nc), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 10%(-1), UKIP 22%(nc). It shows the very high UKIP score we associate with Survation, but again no obvious impact on voting intention from the Woolwich murder.

This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline voting intention figures of CON 29%, LAB 42%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 13%. Full tabs are here. It’s the highest Labour lead for a while, but all the normal caveats apply.

This is the first poll conducted since the murder in Woolwich, although I would not necessarily expect any impact on voting intention yet. Events like disasters or terrorist attacks can have a political impact if a government is seen to have handled them in a competent manner, or just by virtue of taking other stories off the front page, but time will tell.

I expect we will see some more detailed polling on attitudes towards terrorism over the weekend.


Long after I should have, I have finally got round to collecting up polling for the Scottish Independence Referendum next year on its own page here (though I’ve put the polls as they stand in this post too). This should include all the polls so far that have asked the referendum question since it was set last year (both before and after the Electoral Commission tweaked it!).

As you can see, there isn’t actually any obvious trend in the polling, each company’s figures seem to be roughly steady. The main variation there is actually between Panelbase, who do regular polling for the Sunday Times, and the polling done by Ipsos MORI, TNS BMRB and other companies, with Panelbase tending to show a much tighter race than the others. One can only speculate what the reasons might be. Panelbase take the slightly strange decision of only including people certain to vote in a Scottish Parliament election in their samples for referendum voting intention, which could have an impact. There could also be a mode effect – Panelbase use online fieldwork, MORI conduct interviews by telephone, TNS BRMB use face-to-face polling (a method that has otherwise all but vanished from British political polling). It is no doubt something we will return to closer to the actual referendum.

  Survey End Date Yes No Wouldn’t vote D/K Yes Lead
Panelbase/Sunday Times (1) 16/05/13 36 44 <1 20 -8
Ipsos-MORI/Times (1) 05/05/13 31 59 n/a 10 -28
Ashcroft (1) 02/05/13 30 56 2 11 -26
TNS-BMRB/Herald (1) 02/04/13 30 51 n/a 19 -21
Panelbase/Sunday Times (1) 22/03/13 36 46 0 18 -10
TNS-BMRB/Scottish CND (1) 28/02/13 33 52 n/a 15 -19
Ipsos-MORI/Times (1) 09/02/13 34 55 n/a 11 -21
Angus Reid/Mail on Sunday(1) 01/02/13 32 47 1 20 -15
Panelbase/Sunday Times (2) 22/01/13 34 47 <1 19 -13
Angus Reid/Sunday Express (2) 04/01/13 32 50 3 16 -18
YouGov/DC Thompson (2) 24/10/12 29 55 2 14 -26
Panelbase/Sunday Times (2) 19/10/12 37 45 0 17 -8
Ipsos-MORI/Times (2) 15/10/12 30 58 n/a 12 -28
Panelbase/Sunday Times (2) 10/08/12 35 44 0 21 -9
Panelbase/Sunday Times (2) 17/07/12 36 45 0 20 -9
Ipsos-MORI/Times (2) 14/06/12 35 55 n/a 11 -20
Panelbase/Sunday Times (2) 01/02/12 37 42 <1 21 -5
Ipsos-MORI/Times (2) 29/01/12 39 50 n/a 11 -11

UPDATE: With remarkable timing, the Sun Politics team have put up tonight’s YouGov figures (for Great Britain!) just as I put up a new post. Tonight’s daily poll stands at CON 27%, LAB 38%, LD 10%, UKIP 16%. The Conservative 27% matches their lowest score this Parliament with YouGov (previously seen just after the locals at the start of the month). Usual caveats apply, it may be a blip and be back to normal tomorrow, but coming after that Survation poll at the weekend it could be we are seeing damage from the latest bout of infighting. Keep an eye on it.

Usual caveats apply

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.

In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.

More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

Two further comments, I’ve written before about people making the error of looking at the changes in a poll over a month and assuming that events in the last few days are the cause. Survation’s last poll was at the end of April before the local elections, so changes are just as likely to be down to the local elections and the Conservative infighting over Europe as anything more recent.

Secondly there is a tendency for the media and the denizens of Twitter to get all excited about unusual polls that give newsworthy stories when this is, of course, the exact opposite of what you should do if you actually want to understand public opinion. The correct approach is to look at the broad underlying trend and ignore the odd looking polls, the media normally do the opposite. The trend is that UKIP support has jumped substantially following their local election success, and that the Labour lead has been narrowing. The Conservative figure here may yet suggest a new direction, but let’s wait and see.

This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times polls is now online here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 29%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%. The eleven point Labour lead is at the high end of YouGov’s recent results so could be a sign of the infighting over Europe reversing the recent picture of narrowing Labour leads… or could equally well just be normal variation within the standard margin of error.

Last night I grumbled about the problems with polls purporting to show what issues affect people’s voting intentions. YouGov have asked it in a way that gets round one of those problems, that of giving a single issue false prominence, by asking people to pick from a list of all sorts of issues. Same-sex marriage remains an issue that only a small minority (7%) pick out as one that will affect their vote, and by 58% to 42% those people say they would be more likely to vote for a party that supported gay marriage. More people, 28%, say that Europe is one of the three or four issues they think would affect their vote at the next election, with most of them saying they would be more likely to vote for a party that promised a referendum.

Even asked this way strong caveats still apply – people still are not very good at understanding the motivations of their own decisions, and people still really don’t vote on individual policies or policy areas. They vote on broad perceptions of party, of competence and of the leaders. Individual issues play into those perceptions of course (does this party consider the same issues to be important as I do? Do they have similar values and beliefs?) but so do things like strength and weakness, competence, unity and so on.

It also gives the opportunity to point out something else that, while I think is beginning to get through to the commentariat and politicians, still needs to be repeated whenever possible. Only 49% of UKIP voters named the issue of Europe. In other words, 51% of UKIP voters don’t even consider Europe to be in the top three or four issues that affect their decision. The simplistic view that UKIP support is all about Europe and, by extension, it is policies on Europe that will suddenly win back UKIP voter is just that – simplistic.

Moving on to those wider perceptions of how the Conservative party is seen, only 10% of people now see the party as united, 73% divided. YouGov have been asking the same question since 2003 and this is highest proportion so far seeing the Tories divided, more than under Iain Duncan Smith. The party is not seen as widely divided as Labour was towards the end of Tony Blair’s leadership (6% united) or under Gordon Brown (just 3% united at its worse), but it is certainly in that sort of territory. Also note, however, that while perceptions of division are widely seen as negative they are not necessarily fatal – in 2004 over 60% of people saw Labour as divided but they still won the 2005 election. Personally I think there is some truth in the idea that division drives away voters (constant infighting makes a government look incompetent, and we know perceptions of competence are a key driver of voting intention), but its not as simple as division equals defeat.

A majority (54%) of people continue to support the introduction of gay marriage. Asked if the subject should be decided by a referendum or by Parliament it only narrowly follows my past comment that people support a referendum on absolutely anything you ask about – just 39% think there should be a referendum on gay marrige, compared to 34% who think it should be left to Parliament.

On Europe, referendum voting intention asked using the wording in the Conservative party’s draft bill has 36% of people saying they would vote YES (to stay), 45% saying they would vote NO (to leave). Asked about the Conservative rebellion over the Queens speech people are pretty much evenly split on whether they are more sympathetic towards David Cameron or Conservative MPs (most are sympathetic towards neither!). Conservative voters are far more on David Cameron’s side – 52% are more sympathetic towards Cameron, 19% his rebellious MPs.