ICM’s regular poll for the Guardian came out today, topline voting intention figures are CON 42%(nc), LAB 27%(+1), LDEM 10%(nc), UKIP 12%(-1), GRN 4%(-1). There is no significant change since a fortnight ago and the Conservatives retain a formidable lead.

The poll also asked about expectations of Brexit. People tend to think it will have a negative impact on the economy (by 43% to 38%) and on their own personal finances (34% to 12%), but on the overall way of life in Britain they are slightly more positive (41% expect a positive impact, 36% a negative one). All these answers are, as you would expect, strongly correlated with referendum vote – very few Remainers expect anything good to come of Brexit, very few Leavers expect any negative consequences. Full tabs are here.

For those who’ve missed it, I also have a long piece over on YouGov’s website about the Brexit problem facing Labour and how to respond to it. Labour were already a party whose electoral coalition was under strain, with sharp divides between their more liberal, metropolitian middle-class supporters and their more socially conservative traditional working class support. Brexit splits the party right down that existing fault line and their choice on whether to robustly oppose or accept Brexit will upset one side or another of the Labour family.

More of Labour’s supporters backed Remain than Leave and a substantial minority of Labour voters would be delighted were the party to oppose Brexit. However, such a policy would also drive away a substantial chunk of their support. 20% of people who voted Labour in 2015 say they would be “angry” if Labour opposed Brexit. In contrast, if Labour accept Brexit but campaign for a close relationship with the EU once we leave then while it would delight fewer voters, it would also anger far fewer voters (only 7% of Labour’s 2015 vote would be angry). If Labour’s aim is to keep their electoral coalition together, then a “soft Brexit” would be acceptable to a much wider segment of their support.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. This is only how voters would react right now. Labour may want to gamble on public opinion turning against Brexit in the future and get ahead of the curve. Alternatively, they may think Brexit is such an important issue that Labour should do what they think right and damn the electoral consequences. That’s a matter for the party itself to decide, but in terms of current public opinion I think Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit may actually be the one most likely to keep Labour together. Full article is here.


The BBC have quite a Ipsos MORI have quite a detailed poll on public attitudes towards funding the NHS. So far I think the BBC’s coverage has only briefly mentioned it in relation to (predictable) public support for increasing the charges on foriegn visitors who use the NHS, but the full tables have a lot of interesting things.

MORI asked people if they thought it was acceptable or unacceptable to increase funding for the NHS in various ways. The least popular method was – obviously – a move to an insurance model of NHS funded. The defining feature of the NHS is that we don’t have to worry about insurance and suchlike, people are free to go to the doctors without worrying about money. Nevertheless, a surprisingly high 33% of people thought this would be acceptable. People also rejected (by 51% to 37%) the idea of charging for services that are currently free. Asked about specific charges, 43% of people say they would be willing to pay for a guaranteed GP appointment within 24 hours, 51% would not (the average amount was £11).

Increasing income tax to fund the NHS was rejected by 40% to 50%. This is in contrast to a recent YouGov poll that asked a similar question and found slightly more people supported paying more income tax for the NHS than opposed it. I think this difference is down to wording – YouGov asked specifically about increasing income tax from 20% to 21% while the MORI poll did not specify the size of the increase – indeed, a later question in MORI’s poll asks more specifically about an increase in the basic rate from 20% to 21%, and this bumps support up to 50%. It looks like people are happy to pay more income tax for the NHS… so long as its only a modest rise. Support for increasing the higher rate of income tax (which most people wouldn’t have to pay themselves) is more popular, with 61% support.

As with the YouGov poll MORI also found a higher level of support (53%) when it asked about funding the NHS by increasing National Insurance. For the majority of respondents a 1p increase in income tax would be functionally identical to a 1p increase in national insurance, yet the NI increase is always more popular. Part of this difference may be down to the responses of over 65s, who do not have to pay national insurance, but looking at MORI’s breakdown the increase is across all age groups, so it is presumably also down to the fact that people are less aware of how National Insurance payments work. For what it’s worth, the MORI question did not specify employees NI contributions, so some respondents may have been thinking about employer’s NI.

MORI also asked about the potential for charging people for illnesses that are “caused by their lifestyle” or for missing appointments. These are similar in a way – the logic behind both is presumably that people are, through their behaviour, costing the NHS money. Public attitudes are completely different though – 71% think it is acceptable to charge the public for missing appointments, only 44% think it would be acceptable to charge for lifestyle related illnesses. Perhaps they view it as different levels of moral culpability, different potential costs, different likelihoods of being personally affected by it, or just infringing too much on the principle of being free at the point of delivery. When MORI asked about two specific cases later on in the survey people were far less forgiving: only 33% think liver transplants should always be available for free for alcoholics, only 27% think weight loss surgery should be freely available for obese patients (25% think it shouldn’t be available at all). That said, both these are quite unsympathetic examples.

So what can we conclude from all that? Well, around about half the population say they would support an increase in general taxation to pay for the NHS, depending on the level of the increase, which tax it was or which tax band. Only a minority (though perhaps a larger minority than you’d expect) would consider a change to the funding basis of the NHS acceptable. Asked in general, only a minority of people would support charges for treatment for conditions that are seen as “self-inflicted”, but shown some specific examples most people would support restrictions on treatment for some specific examples like transplants for alcoholics or weight loss operations for the obese.


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Petitions are a rubbish way of measuring public opinion. In fairness, that isn’t actually their purpose – a petition is a way for individuals to record and express their opinion, a way of highlighting an issue and exerting pressure. They can indeed be very good at that job. Some people however assume that because a vast number of people sign a petition it must, therefore, reflect wider public opinion. That is not the case – if a million people sign a petition hey are not necessarily representative of anyone but themselves. It shows only what those themselves think, the rest of the population may think the opposite, but not be bothered to sign petitions about it (and some demographic or attitudinal groups may just be more inclined to express their opinions through petitions).

So it appears to be with the petition on the Trump visit. Well over a million and a half people have signed a petition against the visit, but a YouGov poll in the Times this morning shows 49% of people think the visit should go ahead, only 36% think it should cancelled (Though it’s important to note the poll question does not relate to the petition specifically. The poll asked if the visit should go ahead at all, the petition is about the more technical issue of whether it should be downgraded from a full State Visit).

This does not mean there’s a silent majority of the British public who like Donald Trump – quite the opposite, British public opinion is very hostile about him and getting worse. 62% now think he will be a poor or terrible president (up from 54% just after the presidential election) and people here are overwhelming negative about his policies. The ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries gets the thumbs down from 50% of British respondents and the support of only 29%. Other policies are even less popular (67% think his wall is a a bad idea, similar figures disapprove of his environmental policies)

One can only assume that the public think the invite to Trump should stand despite their dislike of the man and his policies because, like it or not, he is the leader of a country we need to work with. Asked what the attitude of the British government should be towards trump 51% say we should try to work with him, rather than distance ourselves from him (32%). Opinion there is moving swiftly though – there has been a large drop since November when 66% thought the government should work with him.

I do ponder what sort of reception Donald Trump will get of the visit goes ahead. The British public really don’t like him, and if that petition doesn’t measure the balance of opinion, it probably does give us a good idea of the pool of people available to turn up to any visit to protest. That said, there have been plenty of State Visits by unpopular world leaders in the past that have been managed without incident. I just wouldn’t count on too many large public events…