The full results of the YouGov poll are still up on their website here. As usual they asked a wide variety of subjects, so here’s a run down of some of the other findings.

Gordon Brown’s figures continue to plummet, his net “good job” in the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times was down to -20, as compared to -10 in November. Cameron’s figures are up at plus 25. There were figures for Nick Clegg, but so far these mean very little indeed, with well over half of respondents saying don’t know.

Less good for Cameron was one of those focus group style questions asking what animal people thought politicians resembled: Brown was seen as a bear, a nice strong image there. Cameron was seen as a snake, oh dear.

In reality these questions aren’t really suited to a quantative survey, it depends too much on what options you give them, I remember arguing about the wording for we did about whether tortoise should be included in the list, since it was so obvious it was just leading people to give that negative response about Ming Campbell. In this case there was one very obvious “positive” animal for Brown, so Labour supporters all said bear – negative repsonses from Conservative supporters were split between things like Ostrich, Hippo and snake. For Cameron it was the opposite, negative responses were concentrated on snake, but positive responses from Tory supporters were split between leopard and bear (neither of which are particularly Cameronish). If the question tells us anything, it is that for those who still have a positive view of Brown, his qualities are very well defined. In Cameron’s case his negatives are well defined, but his positives aren’t. (My favourite outcome in one of these comparison questions was an ICM focus group that found Cameron was seen as a some upmarket BMW saloon car, the type slightly flashy salesmen would drive. Ming Campbell was a nice old Jaguar. Brown was a tank.)

Moving on, the Sunday Times poll also covered nuclear power. Asked if they approved of a new generation of nuclear power stations to replace current ones, a majority (59%) approved, with 27% opposed. Conservative supporters were most supportive, but even a plurality of supporters of the Lib Dems – the only one of the three main parties to oppose the plans – were in favour, 48% to 39%. Overall 39% of respondents thought the proportion of Britain’s energy needs filled by nuclear power should increase in the future, 17% though it should stay the same, 25% though it should be reduced or entirely phased out.

It’s worth pointing out again the unusual contrasts between men and women on the issue of nuclear power. On most issues men and women think much the same, nuclear power is an exception. Men overwhelmingly favoured the decision to build a new generation of nuclear plants by 74% to 20%, women were far more cautious, with the balance in favour 44% to 32% against.

The Sunday Times also did a series of questions on “rip off Britain”, which had a nuggest of good news for the big supermarkets, who were very much the whipping boy last year. Overwhelming majorities of respondents thought that the public were ripped off by petrol companies, rail companies, dentists, banks and local councils…supermarkets alone broke the trend, with 61% of people thinking the public got a good deal from them.

Finally there were a couple of “are you are heartless unfeeling bastard?” questions. 57% of people claimed they paid great attention to the way food they bought had been produced. 60% said they would pay £1 extra for chickens reared in more humane conditions.

Questions like this where there is an option that is obviously the more socially desirable invariably give worthless results, it’s so much easier to say it in a survey than actually fork out the money. Have sales of non-free range chicken collapsed as over 60% of consumers spurn them for more humane alternatives? Of course not, the supermarkets report sales of chicken slightly up, with Tesco saying the proportion of customers buying their Willow Farm bird which have a higher standard of welfare are “slightly up”.

My favourite example of this type of question was done by Populus after the Boxing Day tsunami, they asked respondents how much money people in their household had donated to the relief effort…and came up with a figure considerably larger than the actual donations made by the entire country. People will very rarely tell pollsters they are heartless bastards.

64 Responses to “More from the Sunday Times poll”

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  1. Alasdair.
    Actually the Electricity Grid in Scotland is owned by Scottish & Southern/Scottish Power. The National Grid plc owns the transmission network for England & Wales.
    However-The National Grid as GREAT BRITAIN System operator has the resonsibility of ” balancing demand on a continuous real time basis” across the UK.
    SNP will refuse to implement in Scotland the UK Government’s plan to replace Nuclear base load capacity for the UK Grid. Instead SNP will press ahead with environmentally damaging intermittent renewables-the very part of the mix which gives rise to balancing management-despite the fact that around half of the Scottish people expressed a view in the YouGov Times Poll in support of replacing Scotland’s two nuclear plants.

    This seems ironic to me -to put it mildly-hence my flippant, but by no means bizarre question about an Independent Scotland, with a self contained ( see Peter Cairns post) generation mix relieving The National Grid of it’s responsibility to balance out Scotlands electricity demand.
    To the extent that the increased imbalance imposed across the UK by SNP incurs additional costs for The National Grid-I would like to be relieved of my small contribution to them.

    However-judging by Opinion Polls, Scotland will never become Independent-which actually makes this whole situation -to pinch your word-bizarre -but then I have no doubt that the more the practicalities of separation are examined, the more bizarre it will become-and the more SNP take separatist actions whilst still being joined at the hip-the more pissed off we will all become down here.

    Still-no doubt that’s what Mr. Salmond intends.

  2. I noticed the gender difference on nuclear power.
    Perhaps it’s a bit wimpish not to be pro nuclear.

    I fear the waste isn’t resolvable – even deep cylinders it could leak out if an earthquake. Also, unless we’re determined to be balanced, it’ll inevitably take our eye off the ball developing alternatives.

    But I suppose when we had mad cow disease, West Cumbrian roast beef was best because if you went mad, at least you’d grow an extra head from the nuclear power station.

  3. The nuclear waste problem would not be something new – we have it already from the present nuclear reactors, and will have to find safe options anyway. (As will the French, and others). So this is a red herring.
    The question is, can any other existing technology be guaranteed to deliver enough, safe (and yes, nuclear is safe), reliable, base load, which is also low-carbon and relatively free from threats of being cut off by international blackmail? If not, it would be criminal negligence not to give the go-ahead, in view of the long time scale for getting the new generators installed.

    Of course other measures must be promoted too, including renewables and energy saving. But this, alone, cannot guarantee our future supplies.

  4. JohnH

    In a nutshell.

  5. John H
    I like your site – particularly the Settle railway.

    You have valid points, but
    We have to resolve the nuclear waste – the fact that it has been accumulating without a solution even in France surely has to raise the alarm – and means we don’t know the cost of all this.

    A vast amount of electricity can be generated from the Bristol Channel/Severn alone.

  6. “A vast amount of electricity can be generated from the Bristol Channel/Severn alone.”

    6% of UK generation-but with huge adverse ecological effects ( if as a barrier)

  7. The current estimated cost of cleaning up nuclear waste in the UK is £70bn and rising, and we still have no site, no plan, no timetable and no budget.

    In a nice piece of spin the nuclear Industry is saying the next generation of stations will only increase the amount of waste by 10% , which is true.

    What they haven’t been so forth coming on is that they will increase the amount of highly radioactive long half life waste, which makes up only 1 or 2% of the total now to almost five times that amount.


    The Consequences of Failure….

    Before adopting any future option you should think about what happens if it goes wrong.

    If Scotland’s renewables policy doesn’t deliver the possible negative consequences could be,

    Falling tourism, Higher use of Coal (all be it low carbon with carbon capture, and locally mined), More reliance on Gas or Oil (all be it we have plenty it will still be at the market price), More electricity imported from Norway or the UK ( in the longer term potentially Iceland), much higher electricity bills.

    The CoF for the UK,

    The private sector won’t build them, The Government needs to bale them out, Still growing reliance on unstable imports, escalating costs for waste storage, A technical failure that undermines the waste strategy, The industry holds the country to blackmail over price, escalating fuel bills and ultimately a major accident.

    On balance I think our route even if it does have higher costs is lower risk.


    Every country in Europe shares electricity across their borders, it’s just daft to expect Scotland to be different. They also share Gas in the same way.

    Oh and Germany generates over a quarter of it’s electricity from renewables and the lights stay on as far as I know.


  8. Peter
    THe UK has a NationaL Grid charged with the responsibility of balancing electricity demand across the UK.THe UK government has decreed an energy strategy which will continue to include a nuclear component ( as now!).
    Scotland is part of the UK.
    THe SNP is therefore frustrating a UK energy plan. I think this is wrong.

    If and when Scotland becomes Independent, I would be very happy to see you contained within your own grid with whatever mix you choose-provided the English Grid can decide when & if it wants to share.

    RE Germany-do your own research and ask why they now see the unpredictable variable intermittency as a problem for assured supply-the lights do go out.They are building 26 coal fired stations because they are anti-nuclear.

    RE Scottish wind power-if SNP chuck out Isle of Lewis ( Barvas Moor) I will begin to believe that some vestige of sanity prevails-if not I will never accept your environmental arguments for Scottish wind power.


  9. Why is not having any new nuclear plants in Scotland frustrating a UK plan?.

    Are you suggesting that as it’s a UK Plan the plants must be evenly divided geographically regardless of need or market. Are Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool getting one? Where’s the Northern Ireland and Cornwall sites.

    If the plans are for ten Nuclear Stations to make up 20% of all Nuclear power for a nation of 60 million, Scotland’s share with 5 million people would be 0.8, but that is a daft way to locate power stations.

    So what’s wrong with having the 20% the UK government wants from renewables where that’s most economic, and the 20% that’s nuclear where the bulk of the population is.

    You seem to think that as it’s UK policy then Scotland should have a nuclear plant instead of wind power even if we don’t really need it and other UK renewable sites aren’t as good.

    As to Germany there decision to replace nuclear with coal still won’t change the fact that they will still generate 25% from renewables and have a stable grid, Scotland therefore can do the same and the nuclear or the lights go out is daft, because the target for both is still 20%.

    The UK target for renewables can probably best be met by letting Scotland push ahead because we have the best renewable resources.


  10. Colin – any costs incurred by the national grid for incorporating wind power will be offset by the extremely low cost of wind generted during peak load hours.

    Any costs incurred to the grid by short-term intermittancy (ie. if the wind suddenly stops blowing for half an hour when it wasnlt predicted to) will be picked up by the companies owning the wind generators (this is already what happens and is a non-compliance penalty).

    Incidentally, I would not say that nuclear waste is a red herring. While we do have some waste storage, it is not ideal and we still haven’t got a long term solution. Furthermore if every country follows our lead and goes nuclear we will have a lot more waste, being stored in far more unstable places, or being shipped continuosly around the world. Something only needs to go wrong once to negate all the alleged ‘cost savings’ associated with nuclear.

  11. Peter-
    Germany has around 20% of its CAPACITY for electricity in INSTALLED MAX OUTPUT of wind turbines.
    Wind turbines produce a load factor of around 30% ( BWEA)of INSTALLED CAPACITY-because a) they do not operate at wind speeds lower than 10mph & are shut down over 50mph…and b) the wind doesn’t blow all the time.
    Therefore Germanies OUTPUT ( the stuff you can actually use)of electricity from it’s wind turbines is around 7% of total output-from tens of thousands of turbines….that is why-having said no to nuclear, they are massive users of coal & gas-mostly imported.

    Alex Salmond had to be corrected in the SCottish Parliament for similarly misunderstanding the difference between INSTALLED/MAX output of wind turbines and ACTUAL AVERAGE output( Load Factor) !!

    I hope the SNP remember these basic facts when they consider desecrating habitat on Lewis of international ecological importance ,by installing
    200 wind turbines on it despite Protective Designations and 20,000 objections ( not forgetting the miles of sub-sea interconnectors pylons & cables to get the output to England.)


    Your second paragraph-with great respect -shows scant understanding of the way wind turbines work, the market in ROCs-or indeed the nature of the weather.


  12. Hi Colin, just for the record I have a fair deal of knowledge about how wind turbines work as I was professionally involved in the energy and renewable energy sector for several years…

    The point is that grid operators charge penalties for non-compliance. So if a company says it will sell XX MWh of electricity to the grid from their turbines, but fail to do so, they are charged a penalty. This is factored into the cost and profit projections made by electricity companies and applies to all forms of power, although it is obviously of more concern to intermittant renewables.

    Furthermore, problems with the grid are just that- problems with the grid, not the energy source. Strehgthening the grid is important in increasing the amounts of renewables we can bring online, but should not be a reason not to do it. Otherwise its a bit like saying airbags don;t fit into old cars, so the problem is with the airbag.

  13. Alasdair-thanks-I meant no offence.
    Airbags don’t cause environmental damage-wind farms can & do-but-
    a) Its a long story
    b)Its off topic here
    c) I have pushed Anthony’s forbearance enough

    So will leave it there


  14. No worries!! And I agree wind farms are nowhere near perfect. We could go on for days.

    Next topic.

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