There was an interesting poll the other day from MORI, which found only 20% of people agreeing that rising house prices were good for the country, with 57% disagreeing. This was generally reported as being against the conventional wisdom, and perhaps suggesting that increasing house prices might not be a political positive for the government after all.

Regular readers will be familiar with Twyman’s Law – if a bit of data looks unusual or interesting it is probably wrong. If a poll finding is particularly surprising, then be careful of it. In this case there’s nothing wrong with MORI’s poll, but the reality is a bit more complicated than it suggests. It doesn’t take much hunting about to find other polls showing that more people want to see house prices rise than fall. For example, MORI again from their Halifax housing tracker last year found 33% wanted an increase, 23% a decrease, 31% to stay the same. Much more recently this June YouGov found 32% of people wanted prices to rise, 28% to fall, 30% to stay the same.

These polls make the public look more positive about house price rises, but aren’t actually contradictory. YouGov, for example, might show 32% of people wanting to see house prices rise, but add together those who’d like to see a fall and those who like them to stay the same and 58% don’t want to see a rise. More importantly, they aren’t actually asking the same thing. What people think would be good for the country, and what people actually want to see, are not necessarily the same. In a perfect world we might all wish housing was cheaper, but if house prices fell it would bring with it problems of negative equity and more bad mortgage debts in the banking sector. On a simpler level, what’s good for the country is not necessarily the same as what is good for the respondent personally – the YouGov poll went on to ask homeowners what they would like to see happen to the price of THEIR house, and miraculously support for falling house prices vanished! 64% wanted their own house to increase in value, only 4% wanted it to fall. Presumably people would only like to see the price of other people’s houses fall.

Anyway, from a purely political point of view I suspect we are being somewhat distracted anyway. As with so many things, the political impact of issues is much more than just simple approval/disapproval, it is the wider associations. Increasing house prices are a positive because they are part and package of economic growth, associated with a growing economy, the feel good factor and with homeowning people feeling more prosperous and well off (even if in reality we aren’t, as if we sold our houses we’d only have to buy another one at a similarly inflated price!). Falling house prices are associated with economic decline, falling prosperity and negative equity. Perhaps a day will come when there will be economic growth but falling house prices, and perhaps at that point those associations will change. Until then I suspect that rising house prices will continue to be a political good, whether or not they actually are one.

Sunday Polls

The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times. Topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 41%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 12%. YouGov have had a couple of polls in recent weeks with polls leads up around 9 points, suggesting that beneath the normal random variation the Labour lead has crept up slightly over the last fortnight with energy prices back in the news. The rest of the polls was largely taken up with questions about confidence in the workplace, but there were a few questions on Labour and the Unions and unqualified teachers.

57% of people think the trade unions have a lot (23%) or a fair amount (34%) of influence over Labour, and on balance this is seen as a bad thing: 41% think they have too much influence, compared to 10% who think they don’t have enough and 24% who think it is about right. This is largely due to Conservative voters though, amongst Labour’s own supporters 48% think the level of trade union influence is about right. On Falkirk 41% of people think Unite probably did fix the selection, but almost half of respondents said don’t know, suggesting it is an issue that has not really caught the attention of the general public at all.

People are evenly split on whether unqualified teachers can be as good as qualified ones – 42% think it’s possible for people with expertise in other fields to be just as good, 43% that teachers with proper qualifications and training will always be better. Despite that a clear overall majority (63%) still think that schools should only be allowed to employ qualified teachers.

Meanwhile the fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer has topline figures of CON 31%(+4), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 7%(-2), UKIP 16%(-1). It shows a sharp decrease in the Labour lead, but it’s almost certainly just a reversion to the mean after the anomalous eleven point lead a fortnight ago. Putting that one unusual poll aside a seven point Labour lead is typical of Opinium’s polls over the last few months.

Opinium also asked about people’s perceptions of BBC bias. 37% of people think the way the BBC covers the news is politically neutral, 27% think it is biased towards the left, 14% think it is biased towards the right.


Tonight’s polls

Tonight we should have the fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer, plus the usual weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile the lastest Populus and YouGov polls from yesterday had a four point lead from YouGov – CON 35%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 10% (tabs) and a seven point lead from Populus – CON 33%, LAB 40%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 9% (tabs).