I haven’t posted the daily YouGov figures for much of this week – simply because there hasn’t been much change – but after a while that itself is noteworthy. For the last three days YouGov has showed the Conservatives with a 2 point lead over Labour, with the Conservatives on 40-41%, Labour on 38-39% and the Liberal Democrats on 11-12%. If there ever really was a slight narrowing of the Conservative lead after the spending cuts it rapidly disappeared again – YouGov’s polls now are basically identical to those before the spending review.

The political debate for most of the week has been about housing benefit, which clearly hasn’t had any effect on support – not that we would expect it to. Straight after the budget in June when the housing benefit cap was first announced YouGov found 78% of people supporting it, ICM found 68% of people supported the cap. YouGov asked again in August as part of a poll to mark David Cameron’s 100 days in power and found 72% in support.

Of course, that was two months ago and it’s possible the focus on people in London losing their homes may have changed opinions… but I wouldn’t count on it. I expect we’ll see some more up to date polling on housing benefit sooner rather than later.

Public Sector voters

There was also a rather unremarked methodology shift from one of the pollsters this week. Back in 2008 when MORI reviewed their methodology after wrongly showing Ken Livingstone ahead in the London mayoral race, they discovered they had too many public sector workers in their telephone samples and started weighting according to it (quite drastically, it’s sometimes a case of almost halving the number of public sector workers). At the time I pondered whether, if MORI have too many public sector workers in their phone polls, would other phone pollsters have similar problems? At the time Andrew Cooper of Populus pointed out – correctly – that it was worth looking at but if there was a problem it shouldn’t affect voting intention as past vote weighting should sort that out.

Well, this month Populus have gone down MORI’s route and weighted their poll by public and private sector employment. As with MORI’s experience, it’s quite a big shift, weighting public service employees down from 19% of the sample to 12%. This may well still not make any difference to voting intention, but it might well make an impact on questions about the cuts, were there are big differences between public and private sector opinions – for example, Populus found 46% of private sector employees thought the cuts were fair, but only 27% of public sector employees.

Voting intention amongst public sector employees is hard to judge, since the sample size of public sector voters in standard polls is often under 200, so is very volatile (for example, this month Populus found the Lib Dems on 17% amongst public sector voters, ICM found them on 8%). Looking at the handful of polls in recent months that have included a public sector cross break though the rough position seems to be that the Conservatives are at around 25%-30% and Labour around 45%-50%. The polls from the last Parliament showing the Conservatives ahead amongst public sector workers seem to be a distant memory.


Today there have been a couple of interesting posts by Mike Smithson and James Frayne on how salient an issue Europe is, or more to the point, how salient an issue it isn’t. Essentially there is no conflict between their views. Europe is, as Mike says, an issue of very low salience that currently excites no one but Conservative diehards and some UKIP supporters (yes, only some, YouGov polling at the time of the last European election suggested that many UKIP voters were more motivated by immigration than Europe as an issue). However, James is also correct that it has potential to be more salient – you only need to look at the graph Mike uses to illustrate his piece to see that back in the 1990s more than 30% of people used to cite Europe as one of the most important issues facing the country.

248 Responses to “End of the week round up”

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  1. Another typo, sorry

    “I suggest that this is one process that HMRC do NOT want faced as it is with massive cuts in costs and capital expenditure eg new computer programmes. “

  2. Have just seen the story on Hattie.

    Given the picture of her on this link, bit hypocritical of her to refer to anyone else as a ‘rodent’

    or are beavers mammals? ;-)

    h ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/11658840

  3. @John Fletcher
    “‘ginger rodent'”
    Not sure whay this is under my name. Some mistake me thinks?

    Anyway, HH calling DA this is regrettable. Even if it is funny and only partly true. Can’t see what the fuss is actually. Nothing to do with his Scottish heritage.

    Regarding Lab being rattled. It’s no bad thing IMO that people see that Lab are angered by the proposed changes.

    Oh, and are there not Con and LD MPs also upset by the proposals too?

  4. Off out to get some fresh air in me lungs.

  5. I doubt Hattie’s remark will inflame anybody – except those who dislike her already.

    I must confess, I always wrongly interpret the ginger remark as standing for ginger beer (my bad). :-(

    I have never automatically linked ginger to hair colour; I thought Ginger Spice was either full of energy or a lesbian. It took a friend to point out the obvious – she was the Spice Girls’ redhead.

  6. @John Fletcher – “The 0.8% growth in the last quarter certainly threw them.”

    It did, but it shouldn’t have done. Clearly (to any non partisan economic view) GDP figures for at least 6 months (and probably more like 9 – 12 months) after an election ‘belong’ to the previous government. After all, we’ve had plenty of Tory posters over the years claiming that the economc growth of the 1997 – 2000 period was down to Ken Clarke, so those same posters should certainly accept that the c 2.5% growth since late 2009 is thanks to Darling.

    What would be interesting is how the growth was spread over the quarter. It appears that the early part was characterised by rapid growth, as Q2, but with new orders in manfacturing, house prices and the service sector appearing to slow or contract in the third month it doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods yet.

  7. Isnt Hattie a bit ginger herself? :)

  8. @ Mike N
    Not sure whay this is under my name. Some mistake me thinks?

    My response was to a MIKE posted at 2.01. Confusion reigns. :D
    Regarding Lab being rattled. It’s no bad thing IMO that people see that Lab are angered by the proposed changes.
    My point is, and has been for some time, that Labs current strategy is not working for them.

    The battle cry of “a lttle less and a little later” viz a viz cuts, is just not going to make much difference for them.

    Ok the election is probably 4.5 years away still, but EdM has not made much of an impression and HH’s ginger rodent comment, funny though it would be in the conference bar after the speeches, is IMO a sign of their current weakness.

    Also ( and since the coalition are rapidly discovering the law of unintended consequences) all the grtauitous LD bashing might have an uninteded consequence LAB could come to regret. It will make it that much easier for Tories and LD’s supporters to vote tactically for the other party.

  9. Amber!!! Yay, I thought you’d forgotten me!! So glad you’re reading.

    Alec, I’m afraid, I think you do need a google account. however, your economic updates are unrivalled, so if you do reconsider I’d be delighted.

    Howard – I do remember and I totally understand. You’ve been a constant friend. Maybe I’ll start to put a little “H” in brackets after posts that are just political!! lol

    Ken – you’re a gent.

    I keep asking Anthony what I have to do to get on his blogroll on the left, but he doesn’t reply :( – maybe I just missed his answer.
    Maybe you can all ask him for me ;)
    As Amber says (blush) he’d be in good company. I shall refrain from naming names, but I have indeed been mildly successful. Am a top tweet on Twitter today!!

    Thanks so much for all the UKPR support – drop in any time :)

  10. @ John Fletcher

    The only reason the 0.8% threw anybody (if it did) was because 0.4% was being trailed before the official figures were released.

    Bad news management doesn’t make slightly better news into good news; although it is a strategy that the Coalition are employing relentlessly.

    Will the public grow tired of being managed in this increasingly obvious way? Time & the polls will tell.

  11. MIKE N “Can’t see what the fuss is actually”

    You clearly don’t realise that the highest percentage of natural redheads in the world is in Scotland (13%). A few of them are already on the local radio programmes accusing HH of racism.

    I suspect she will be forced to apologise soon. What will it be e.g. a Brownian apology “it hurts me that some people have been offended by what I said” or will she grovel? I suspect the former.

    John Fletcher “Has the coalition got Lab rattled?”

    I think so and that this sort of name calling is because they have recognise they have lost the argument on economic policy. Having lost the argument all they have left is to insult. However I think some voters will recognise this sort of name-calling is extremely childish.
    What I find amazing is that a Lawyer who was previously a Law Officer of the Crown and strong on “Equalities” would resort to personal insults.

  12. @ Alec

    it doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods yet.

    Far from it.

    However my point is that Lab seem to be constantly caught out by these event.

    They have simply come to believe their own publicity in that the cuts will lead to a disaster os apoclyptic proportions.

    Though I doubt whether everything will turn out as the bed of roses the Govt would like, it certainly wont lead to a melt down of the country either. Somewhere inbetween is likely.

    Lab are becoming like the boy whe cried wolf.

    They need IMO to pull in their horns, oppose sensibly, rationally and courtously where there are obvious weaknesses. Meanwhile they should be thinking of a NEW set of policies and strategies for 2015 in a post cuts, post recession world.

    But as a Tory I hope they go on just as they are. :D

  13. I suspect the Q3 figures only belonged to the last government because they were good. If it had been 0.1% I doubt anyone here would have been blaming Gordy.

  14. @ amber S

    The only reason the 0.8% threw anybody (if it did) was because 0.4% was being trailed before the official figures were released.


    But my point is that they and their allies in the BBC are being wrong footed all the time at the moment. The morning of the GDP announcement the BBC spent vast amounts of news time predicting with glee .4% growth figures and linking it to the draconian cuts announcement.

    When the real figure came out they just looked foolish.

    If Andy C is that good at media management then DC was right to keep him in the number 10 bunker, whatever he did or did not know about the phone hacking.

  15. @ John Fletcher

    If Andy C is that good at media management then DC was right to keep him in the number 10 bunker, whatever he did or did not know about the phone hacking.
    You have got to be kidding. If it is proven that Coulson knew about the phone hacking, he will become a huge liability. 8-)

  16. Presumably if it’s “proven” then he’ll be arrested and charged, and will cease to work for Number 10. Wouldn’t be great for DC, granted..

  17. Following on from Alex’s example

    “I’m going to demonstrate the veracity of a comment from Eoin on an earlier thread regarding posters saying what they support, as opposed to what they oppose, and try to put together an outline of what I think should be done. ”


    Instead of all the complexities and contradictions of HB, CB etc wouldn’t it be better and fairer for people to be paid a proper wage.

    In real terms, wages for the majority have not increased since the 70’s. People cannot live or support their families on the minimum wages paid out by, for example, supermarkets , care homes etc..They exist and get by with HB and tax credits. Why should ordinary tax payers be paying out to subsidise Tesco, Asda et al.?

    Furthermore reinstate the rent control legislation abolished by Margaret Thatcher. Why should ordinary tax payers be paying out vast sums to private landlords? It is not those on no or low wages that should be penalised for the greed of the richest… and that includes the bankers and the CEO’s who have just awarded themselves massive pay rises.

    This coalition government is using the banking crisis and the structural deficit as an opportunity to treat the majority like idiots. It is not “We” who are all in it together, because the “we” certainly does not include the cabinet of multimillionaires.

  18. @ Amber S
    If it is proven that Coulson knew about the phone hacking, he will become a huge liability

    If, and its a big if.

    It does not matter now what we all may believe.

    Fo what its worth I am sure he knew. How could he not?

    However it will all end up hearsay

    Unless there is documentary proof then he is in the clear.

    Meanwhile he seems to be doing a pretty good job for his master. Loyalty repaid.

  19. I have some sympathy with the living wage aspect. I think the “rent control” can be achieved in various ways. Whatever the private landlord sector say at the moment (and obviously they are agitating for a change in policy) I think reducing HB will reduce rents across the board.

  20. I would be happy to see Sue’s DBS blog (it would need an abbreviation to fit?) listed on this site… but then it is not up to me. :)

    Btw what happened to the Jay Blanc blog that used to have a link from UKPR?

  21. @ Neil A

    I think reducing HB will reduce rents across the board.

    Of course it will.

    For someone working to pay an annual rent of £20,000 , they would need to devote £40,000 of their earnings, since they would be paying 50% tax and Ni.

    In addition to the £40,000 they would need for rent they would presuably need to earn another £40,000 at least to live on.

    So we are talking about people with an income in excess of £80,000 wanting to rent.

    But such people don’t usually rent ,they buy.

    If the landlords eveict the folk on housing benefit, where will the alternative tenants come from?

    Market forces will drive rent down to the levels the govt is prepared to pay in housing benefit.

    Good news alround, except for landlords like me :-(

  22. @ Alec – Apologies I spelt your name incorrectly as Alex – sorry.

  23. I think the sting will be for the “Buy to Letters” who will see rental incomes fall just as interest rates start to creep up. But hey, Buyer Beware…

  24. @ Neil A

    I think the sting will be for the “Buy to Letters”


    But we are all in it together Eh!!!! :D

  25. I see Hattie’s apologised already. Smart move. Fast enough that I (for what it’s worth) can forgive her at least.

  26. Eoin

    I promised I’d get back to you about Margin of Error (MoE), so here I am to bore everyone else rigid (and probably you as well). ;)

    I think you misunderstood what Anthony meant about MoE and Harris polls. He didn’t mean that there wasn’t one or that it was too small to matter, just that it was difficult for Harris to work out what it was.

    To understand MoE, you have to understand how sampling works. Anthony has a very good section on this in the sidebars; as usual in these explanations, he starts off with taking a sample from a bag of differently coloured balls and how you can estimate how many balls of each colour there are from the sample. He shows how the bigger the sample is (the more balls you take out of the bag) the closer you would expect to get to the real answer.

    In this nice, simple, mathematical example, you can even work out how close your estimate is likely to be to the real answer. The most usual way to express this is the Margin of Error. As the name suggests this is a range within which we expect the real answer is of the estimate we have. By convention the figure we use is the number of percentage points we add to or subtract from our estimate, so that are 95% sure that the real figure is within that range. So if our estimate of the number of blue balls is 49% and our MoE is +/-2.5% we can be 95% sure that the true percentage of blue balls in the bag is between 46.5% and 51.5%. Of course there’s still a one in twenty chance that the real figure is outside this range.

    The 95% is arbitrary, but is usually thought to be good enough for polls and whenever you see “margin of error” used it will be 95% unless it says otherwise. You sometimes see 99% used, but those would be wider, perhaps +/-3.8% in the above example.

    The most important factor in working out MoE is the size of the sample. The size of the population you are taking the sample from (n) can also have an effect, but when it is as large as the YouGov panel (300,000) or the voting population (40 million), it doesn’t really matter providing it is big enough: the different MoEs for those two figure with a sample of 2,000 are 2.18 and 2.19 respectively.

    So the important thing is sample size. If you look at ComRes’s calculator:

    ht tp://www.comres.co.uk/star-calculator.html#

    and put in 40,000,000 as your population, you can play about putting different sample sizes in. As samples get bigger the MoE gets smaller

    n = 100 MoE = 9.80
    n = 200 MoE = 6.93
    n = 500 MoE = 4.38
    n = 1000 MoE = 3.10
    n = 1500 M0E = 2.53
    n = 2000 MoE = 2.19
    n = 3000 MoE = 1.79
    n = 10000 MoE = 0.98

    However the larger the sample is, the less you gain in reducing MoE by adding another 100 or 1000 to your sample. So unless you want great detail and accuracy (as with the Government’s general household survey) most pollsters use a sample of 1000 – 2000 to optimise between accuracy, cost and time to do the survey.

    But this all applies to what is known as a perfect random sample – the perfectly mixed and randomly taken out balls from a bag. Even in this Platonic situation, there is inherent uncertainty about the figures you derive from your sample – that is what the MoE represents.

    Unfortunately outside the National Lottery, life doesn’t work that way.

    In his essay on Sampling, Anthony explains some of the problems pollsters have in trying to get that perfect random sample. They take various measures, both in how they get the sample and in adjusting the figure afterwards, to try to get the sample as close as possible to a perfect random sample. Indeed all the arts and sciences of polling are basically directed towards that aim – so they can get the truest representation of the population they are sampling that they can. But they can never succeed completely.

    In theory you could work out a modified MoE for the sort of sampling that modern pollsters do. However it would involve so many unknowns and complicated mathematics that it would not be practically possible. What we do know however is that it would be greater than the simple MoE you work out using the sample size – because that’s what the pollsters are trying to improve their results towards. How much greater is the unknown.

    That’s why Harris didn’t quote an MoE for their poll. Not because it didn’t exist or was negligible, but because they didn’t know how much more it was than the 3 percentage points each side of their figures which are due to any sampling process with a sample size of about 1,000.

    Similarly when you said that the MoE on a sample of 2500 was negligible, you were wrong because it was at least +/- 1.96 either side of the figures you were looking at. In reality, despite all the cleverest adjustments of YouGov, a 40% figure will really be at best between 38-42% – and there’s still a one in 20 possibility of it being a rogue poll out side those limits. In those circumstances trying to see meaning in movements of under one percent is pointless. It’s like seeing pictures in the fire.

    I’m sorry to have gone on at such length, but I know myself how difficult it is to understand that, after such careful and skilled adjustments, pollsters still produce figures which are more “unreliable” than picking balls out of a bag. But the “simple” MoE gives you the basic uncertainty that is due to any sampling process and all the best arts of the pollsters aim at is reducing any further error.

  27. Neil A
    “I see Hattie’s apologised already. Smart move. Fast enough that I (for what it’s worth) can forgive her at least”

    No Harman hasnt apologised, a spokesperson on her behalf did and there is already pressure on her to personally apologise

  28. Astounding own goal by Harman. Managed to move all the focus from the conference to her own balls up. Why anyone would stoop to “ginger” jokes in scotland is beyond me.

  29. @ Roger Mexico

    Kudos, you must’ve been up all night prepping that comment. 8-)

  30. @ Neil A

    I see Hattie’s apologised already. Smart move. Fast enough that I (for what it’s worth) can forgive her at least.
    Red squirrels throughout the land have also forgiven HH for comparing them to Danny Alexander. ;-)

  31. Neil A
    Not only do I think that the Q3 figures are ‘down’ to Labour but Q4 will be too. That’s because the new Government has not implemented any of its own financial meddles – yet.

    I agree there is this confidence factor but that is not as significant in the short term as the market in which business operates. A failure to invest for instance, due to a lack of confidence, would take at least months to manifest itself in consequence, the reverse being also true.

    The Chancellor pointed out that the most significant ‘meddling’ he was proposing was simply a confirmation of Labour’s existing plans (50% tax rate , NI hike, etc) so I don’t see the sense of the eternal partisan exchanges on here about who’s boom or bust is who’s.

    In my view voters are more exercised about cake share than its size. Politics is about who gets the sweets and who gets the medicine.

  32. HH is not a patch on Alex Salmon when it comes to flowery language, he seems to me to be always auditioning for an actor – very pleased with his wit, he is. I have seen one or two debates in the SP and found them a right turn off.

    I suppose HH thought ‘when in Rome’,

  33. Amber :-)

  34. @John Fletcher

    “Lab are becoming like the boy whe cried wolf.”

    Lets hope so :-)

    Their language is certainly exhibiting signs of stress & strain lately.

  35. “: “There’s only one thing left to do – these political mutants must be got rid of next May at the ballot box.” ”

    H Harman

    Wow she was certainly dishing it out a bit up there!

    Good job these Lib Dems are such fluffy gentle creatures, or she might have received a dose of her own medicine.

  36. As one who was (very) ginger when I had hair in my younger days, and who has 2 very ginger sons, I have been incensed enough to make a decent online donation to the Scottish Lib Dems to help rub this offensive woman’s nose in the dirt.

    Nothing to do with politics, everything to do with sheer, unbridled hatred of Harriet Harman.

  37. @ Colin

    LOL :-)

    The Dems are trying to appeal to the right of center now but their manifesto was an appeal to the left. Mutants? Seems fair enough to me.

    Their campaign in Scotland was: Vote LD to keep the Tories out!

    HH stopped short of calling them frauds & liars so she showed restraint, IMO. 8-)

  38. Mmmm…

    Just catching up with the recent rhetoric after a lovely week with grandchildren…

    “Social cleansing”
    “Final solution”

    Is this the new themed opposition message?-has a strangely familiar ring.

    ” The past is another country as far as I am concerned,'” still working for EM though :-

    “Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford. And we will continue to crack down on those who try to cheat the benefit system.”

    The Labour Party Manifesto, 2010.
    ( Author, Ed Miliband)

  39. COLIN

    “H Harman

    Wow she was certainly dishing it out a bit up there!”

    I prefer Alexander’s follow up on Twitter ” I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind. Red squirrel deserves to survive, unlike Labour”

    Another view is that HH/Labour was much more sinister than generally recognised. We should bear in mind that Harman carefully planned her comments regarding Alexander. They were highlighted in the advance copy of her speech sent to journalists. There is a parallel between this and what occurred just before the 2005 general election. Many at that time had no idea Michael Howard was Jewish. Labour set out to ensure that the working classes (not overly friendly towards Jews) knew it by issuing a prototype propaganda puff portraying Howard as Fagin. It never got any further but the job was done. Similarly Harman (not personally) has now apologised: but job done. As with Howard, Labour’s aim is to demonise any who dare to oppose it.

    It would be interesting to guage what impact HH’s comments have on next May’s Scottish Elections but
    we will unfortunately never know.

  40. Tony Fisher

    “As one who was (very) ginger when I had hair in my younger days, and who has 2 very ginger sons”


    Same follicular history as you-one ginger grandaughter of whom I am very proud!

    Having presumably derived mine from my Scots antecedents, I am amused that she chose Scoltland of all places to use ginger hair colour as a term of abuse :-)

  41. Mike

    I wasn’t aware of the Michael Howard incident.

    That begins to create a pattern indeed .

  42. Colin et al

    Harman, no doubt, made the comment because the speech was written in London and she is also, no doubt, wholly ignorant of the genetic basis for red hair.

    Ignorance combined with a willingness to make jokes about the physical characteristics is foolish to say the best.

    I suspect that she misspoke when saying “Now, many of us in the Labour Party are conservationists”. From her background “Now, many of us in the Labour Party are conservatives” would be far more believable.

  43. OldNat

    “no doubt, wholly ignorant of the genetic basis for red hair.”

    Yes-hadn’t thought of that.

    I certainly didn’t put the two remarks together-to be honest that would seem to stretch a point.

    But the whole episode falls somewhat short of Ms H’s well known insistance on addressing people in the correct manner ;-)

  44. COLIN

    If you GOOGLE “LABOUR DEPICT HOWARD AS A JEW” then the story is shown on BBC NEWS/ UK/ POLITICS 31 January 2005

  45. Mike


    Very very nasty.

  46. Colin


    “no doubt, wholly ignorant of the genetic basis for red hair.”

    Yes-hadn’t thought of that.

    I was being ironic! I don’t know of an emoticon for irony – though typing (Fe) might have served. :-)

  47. @OLD NAT
    I served in my countries armed forces for a number of years and saw a few things I would rather not have seen, particularly in the north of Ireland. I did not require rehabilitation when I left the army and neither do most people. However, through no fault of their own some service people do need it , due to having limbs blown of in Afghanistan. The difficulties can be mental as well as physical. I very much hope you live to see your dream of an independent virtually pacifist Scotland come true. In the meantime please do not make cheap stupid jokes at the expense of British service personnel.

  48. @ Old Nat

    From her background “Now, many of us in the Labour Party are conservatives” would be far more believable.
    :-) LOL so much – Tea in the keyboard! ;-)

  49. I do seem to remember Neil Kinnock getting attacked on the hair colour front (among practically everything else to do with his appearance). If anyone compared this to racism, I’m sure the cry of “political correctness gone mad” would have been heard throughout the land.

    And as far as Michael Howard as Fagin goes, while I can’t see the reason for it (was he sending Young Tories out to pick pockets?) I can also remember some people (not here) making remarks about the Milibands being “funny-looking” in a rather coded manner.

    Unfortunately the border between humour and racism does seem to move about a bit depending on the (political) colour of the on-looker.

    Amber – I’m afraid it did take a while. Writing about mathematics without formulas is a bit like dancing about architecture, to adapt the old joke. Margin of Error is an area that Anthony doesn’t really cover as far as I can see, but then his Sampling essay is already quite long as it is.

    Hooded Man – Did you get my reply on the previous thread last night? Oh and by the way all rodents are mammals – even MPs. :P


    Very very nasty.

    Really? I’d say it was pointing out one of his good points. 8-)

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