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.

278 Responses to “Do people want to see house prices rise?”

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  1. @ RiN

    “Laszlo will come by later on to mention Hungary as an example of a modern day right wing authoritarian states but it’s still technically a democracy, of course the same could be said of Greece.”

    You correctly described today’s Hungary. But technically even the interwar Hungary was a parliamentary democracy, while it was really only a backward version of fascism (and today it’s a backward version of a right wing, chovinist cleptocracy).

  2. Neil A

    I have been there, and militarism is an essential component of American culture, school children are required to do the pledge of allegiance everyday, which is basically worship of the flag(I just realized that it could be construed as a fascist ritual), flags and yellow ribbons abound, especially in times of war which is basically always, but I have to admit that you have a point as well. America is a weird place full of contradictions

  3. @ Tingedfringe

    In German political philosophy (to be precise: organised capitalism theory) it is a common place that Parliaments are coalitions of the ruling class (that is, the different mainstream parties are only platforms or factions of the same party).

  4. And the police forces in the states especially at federal level are extremely militaristic, it worries me that it seems to be catching on in the rest of the western world

  5. Do the Americans still believe in manifest destiny? There’s a fascist concept to be sure

  6. I think America is so big and so diverse that it’s hard to classify it in one term, but there certainly are fascist-looking elements of it.

    The flag worship and military culture have been brought up, but the fact that there’s a significant part of the population which is heavily armed and deeply mistrustful of outsiders should probably worry people more than it does.



    “I somewhat doubt that even half a dozen Scottish cross breaks of 150 souls (no matter how poor, how wee or how weighted) will tell us anything significant.

    However, Lord Ashcroft or the Wings readership may fund a poll that actually helps to illuminate public opinion in Scotland on political issues”

    So true and we can only live and hope.

  8. @Lefty

    We have plenty of both here, thanks.

  9. @RiN

    Interesting that everyone points at the US when looking to make negative benchmarks. For example, every time there’s a death with automatic weapons, the UK media goes nuts and all the anti-folk pop up to criticise the US gun laws.

    Also interesting that the laws regarding automatic weapons by country are:

    UK: Prohibited
    US: Prohibited without appropriate registration
    Norway: Permitted under licence

    Note the distinction of the latter two. It’s all in the perception.

  10. @Neil A

    “Noone has satisfactorily explained to me how the public’s rejection of socialism at the ballot box is in someway not “real” and therefore not valid. I hear the arguments about political lobbying and a right-wing press, but honestly if there was a huge appetite for a socialist program someone would be winning large numbers of votes on that manifesto”

    Labour has won big in the past, including at times when Clause IV was an integral part of the party’s raison d’etre and, even post Blair, there were elements of the party’s programme that could have been deemed vaguely socialist. Were we voting for socialism in 1945, 1964, 1966, 1974, 1997, 2001 and 2005? Probably not in the sense of embracing all of its creeds, but we weren’t self-consciously rejecting it either. 1979 came close, but I think that was more to do with a weariness with almost 15 years of old fashioned Labourist corporatism and the most avowedly socialist of all administrations, Attlee’s in 1945 to 50, received a colossal popular vote when seeking re-election. However, the vagaries of our beloved FPTP electoral system favoured the Tories in those days.

    As we move into ever more apolitical days, with far less attachment to the old parties and their comfortable verities, I’m really not sure we can any longer be remotely confident in stating what people are either endorsing or rejecting when they vote. What happened in 1997? Was that an epoch-changing rejection of Toryism and Thatcherism or just an overwhelming statement of a preference for what appeared to be an appealing version of change?

    Of course, one of the most enduring monuments of socialism, the National Health Service, remains one of our most cherished institutions. Would that be so if socialism and all its evil works had been resoundingly rejected? There seems to be a growing appetite for re-nationalisation too, if the polls are to be believed.

    You alluded to the influence of the right wing press and we shouldn’t underestimate their ability to traduce and misrepresent what socialism is about. They’re extraordinarily skilled at frightening the horses and, as daft as it sounds, some people really do think that Unite demonstrators armed with inflatable rats are really the signal that the Stasi will be stalking the land again should Miliband ever get the keys to Number 10.

  11. @Catmanjeff

    Are those figures for the opposition parties 18 months ahead of the GE ?

    If so then the Dan Hodges frequent utterances of ‘Ed Miliband needs to be 20 points ahead at this stage’ is just nonsense.

  12. @Neil A

    I’d agree about some of the chaos in the US, but within bounds. They actually have a more rule based society than people tend to imagine. I also can’t think of many western democracies where the head of state flies around their own country with an armed military presence (Marine 1 is regularly supported by Apache gunships).

    Having said that I do love the USA.

    On the other hand I’d take issue about nationalism in the USSR – they explicitly favoured internationalism, hence ComIntern. Hell, they even went to the work of invading neighbouring countries to spread the message of peaceful communism.

  13. @Crossbat11

    Clause IV part 4 was/is significant to those inside the Labour movement, but what proportion of the wider electorate really knew about it prior to Blair’s decision to change it?

  14. @The Sheep

    “Clause IV part 4 was/is significant to those inside the Labour movement, but what proportion of the wider electorate really knew about it prior to Blair’s decision to change it?”

    Not many, and I agree with you that the trappings of socialism, rather like the singing of the Internationale at the end of the Conference, were/are there primarily for internal consumption within the Labour Party rather than anything else.

    Maybe Herbert Morrison got it absolutely right when he said, “Socialism is what a Labour Government does.” If you agree with that then the definition of socialism becomes endlessly malleable!

  15. New YouGov poll – Political systems

    % who think that Britain’s political system needs “major reform” or is “completely broken”

    Total 46%
    by party
    Con 22%
    Lab 56%
    LD 36%
    UKIP 52%

    2010 Con 35%
    2010 Lab 51%
    2010 LD 52%

  16. lefty

    “One day we WILL fulfill our destiny and shake off the imperialist yoke.”

    Its not all about Yorkshire you know – what about………. well, Scotland for example? That never gets a mention.

  17. Phil

    That’s crazy, I suppose that all the libdems that left were the ones who believed that the system was broken. But wtf are the remaining libdem identifiers thinking of, constitutional reform is the liberal democrats raison d’etre, if you don’t think the system needs changing why the hell are you a libdem?

  18. So the brokeness or functionality of Britain’s political system is entirely dependent on whether or not it put your team in power at the last election. How utterly depressing and predictable.

    (And honestly, wake up, Labour YouGov panelists: the left is now united and the right is split. FPTP is our new best friend! Anyone would think they wanted to go into coalition with the Liberal Democrats.)

  19. @Phil

    Interesting poll. So 46% of people think our political system doesn’t work, 46% think it does. And given turnout at election time is much lower than the number of “would not vote” in that poll it means a clear majority of the country think our political system needs an overhaul.

    London and ABC1 voters are more likely to say it works. The further away you go from London, and the poorer you are the more likely you are to say it is broken.


  20. @Spearmint

    ” honestly, wake up, Labour YouGov panelists: the left is now united and the right is split. FPTP is our new best friend”

    But why should a left voter vote for Labour? Don’t blame the poll, they are telling you something. Read what Brand is saying and the reaction on twitter, look at the article from the Independent linked earlier, look at recent non yougov/populus polls and look at turnout weighted polls. Labour is not as safe as it looks.

  21. @Richard

    Indeed, and based on current average VI, if 50% of Labour voters (20% of VI share) shifted to Lib Dem on just that issue, the lay of the land would be:

    Con 33%
    Lib 29%
    Lab 20%

    EC calculates the seats as:

    Con 316 (10 short of OM)
    Lab 177
    Lib 127

    Which would leave the Conservative looking at the nationalist parties, or a Lib Dem coalition and an almost certain pledge to reform the system.

    Pie in the sky, but short of a a Lib/Lab coalition, that’s probably the other opportunity for electoral reform.

  22. @Phil Haines

    Sadly, every time someone with the power to make a change actually anywhere near proposing a change that might make a difference, people with vested interests in maintaining the status quo set up a front group pretneding to be anti-establishment, pass off the people proposing the reform as vested interested set on maintaining the establishment, and the public fall for it. At least, that was the tactic for the AV referendum.

    As a broad simplification, the only people with any grounds to complain over a political system that shafts smaller parties are the minority of people who voteed yes in the AV referendum. The rest of you have no-one to blame but yourselves.

  23. RiN
    They have sold their souls for a partial seat on the big chair.
    As I have said before, the LDs were happy enough with the coalition agreement at the time,they thought they could exterminate Labour(replace th as the main left wing party) that 36% must still be happy with the bargain. Roll on 2015, it couldn’t happen to nicer people.

  24. @ Richard,

    But why should a left voter vote for Labour?

    Fair point. But the overwhelming rejection of AV does seem to indicate they’re not all that keen to move to a system that would make their Green/TUSC/Spearmint Rainbow Dream Party vote meaningful (or at least safe).

  25. “But the overwhelming rejection of AV does seem to indicate they’re not all that keen to move to a system that would make their Green/TUSC/Spearmint Rainbow Dream Party vote meaningful (or at least safe).”

    I think the reasoning went along the lines of “Okay, proles, so you are cementing yourself into decades more of being represented by parties you don’t want any attempt attempt to vote for something different being worthless – but, hey, it’s one in the eye for Nick Clegg, and that’s much more important.”

  26. I think the logic was more along the lines of “If Nick Clegg wants this, it must be bad.”

    Which, to be fair, is not an unreasonable baseline assumption if you’re a prole…

  27. @Crossbat,

    When I said “socialism was rejected” I wasn’t really thinking of the Labour Party per se but of a political program of “real socialism”.

    The parties that actually propose to nationalise key industries, abolish the aristocracy and the monarchy, strip land and assets from the rich and break our close links with the US do stand, in various forms, for election. They measure their votes in the hundreds, not the thousands.

    What Russell Brand is saying (to my, jaded, ears) is that because parties like that can’t get themselves elected, the system is worthless and revolution is required.

    If Labour wants to once again become the type of party it was in the 1940s, they are perfectly free to do so and there is nothing Paul Dacre or “Atlantic Bridge” can do about it. The reason they don’t is because they anticipate electoral slaughter if they stray too far from the centre ground.

  28. The reason why western capitalism was so successful in defeating socialism was that it continued to provide improved living standards for the majority.
    After the initial “giant leaps” in Eastern Europe living standards dropped under the dead weight of bureaucracy and the US/Soviet arms race.
    Now that living standards are stagnant at best and falling for most, the assumption that capitalism and liberal democracy can continue to work for the majority is slowly being questioned.
    I believe that another period of social democracy is vital for capitalism, Miliband comes not to destroy capitalism but to save it from itself.

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