The death penalty is normally cited as the classic example of disconnect between politicians and the people they represent, one where a majority of MPs consistently oppose the death penalty and a majority of the public consistently support it. This is pretty much true (whether it is a good or bad thing is an entirely different matter!)

Support for the death penalty has fallen over the decades – it used to be over 70%, these days roughly half of the population support the death penalty for “standard” murder – indeed there was a YouGov poll in 2006 that showed marginally less than half of people in support of it, the first time it had occured. More recently, a YouGov poll in September 2010 found 51% supported the death penalty for murder, 37% opposed. A MORI poll in July 2010 found 51% supported the death penalty for adult murder. An Angus Reid poll in 2008 found people supported the death penalty for murder by 50% to 40%.

Support for the death penalty is higher for specific crimes, such as murder of a police officer, murder of a child or multiple murders. The MORI poll in July 2010 asked people which of a list of crimes they thought should have the death penalty – 62% supported it for child murder (and 70% supported in at least some circumstances). A YouGov poll in November 2010 found 74% of people supported the death penalty for murder in some circumstances, though only 16% supported it for all murders.

If we go all the way back to 2003, a YouGov poll asked people if they supported the death penalty in various circumstances of murder. 57% supported it for murder , 62% for murder of a police officer, 67% for the murder of a child, 69% for a serial killer (note that the figures may be slightly higher than more recent polling because of the timing of the poll, conducted just after the Soham murder trial – 63% would have hanged Huntley).

So, generally speaking about half of people support the death penalty for murder, with slightly more than that typically supporting it for particularly circumstances of murder, such as that of children or police officers. Support for the death penalty tends to be strongest amongst Conservative voters, but Labour supporters also tend to be more likely than not to support it (Liberal Democrats tend to oppose). There is a strong class divide – middle class respondents are much less likely to support the death penalty than working class respondents.

Looking at the other end of the comparison, what about MPs? Historically the House of Commons voted on the death penalty rather a lot, up until the 1990s there was usually one vote per Parliament on whether the death penalty should be restored. Over time, these were defeated by solid majorities.

In 1994 the last attempt to reintroduce the death penalty was rejected by 403 to 159. The death penalty for the murder of a police officer was rejected by 383 to 186. Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs voted solidly against, while Conservative MPs were split (a typical pattern on death penalty votes) – 122 voted against, 148 in favour. If there is a similar pattern amongst current MPs (Labour and Lib Dem MPs solidly against, Conservative MPs split pretty evenly) then a large majority of MPs will oppose the death penalty.

UPDATE: Tonight’s YouGov/Sunday Times poll has voting intention of CON 35%, LAB 44%, LDEM 10%, so still very much in line with the Labour lead of 8 points or so YouGov have been showing.

There are two new polls out tonight. Firstly YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 41%, LDEM 10%. This is something of a narrowing of the Labour lead, in the last week leads of 8 points or so were becoming pretty standard, but I’ll add my usual caveat about being cautious about any single poll that shows something useful: sure, it could be Labour’s lead falling in what will be the first poll taken since the hacking saga has (temporarily) fallen off the news agenda, but just as likely it’s an outlier and we’ll be back to bigger Labour leads tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’re due the GDP figures, so perhaps it’s also worth a look at the regular YouGov trackers on cuts in today’s tables. The broad picture remains as we’ve seen for much of this year – a majority of people (53%) think the cuts are being carried out too quickly (27% about right and 8% too slowly), 46% think they are too deep (27% about right and 10% too shallow), 48% think they are bad for the economy (36% think they are good). However, despite all this 57% of people think they are necessary, and people are still more likely to blame the last Labour government than the coalition.

Secondly we have the monthly ComRes telephone poll for the Indy. Topline figures with changes since the last ComRes phone poll are CON 34%(-2), LAB 40%(nc), LDEM 13%(+2), Others 13%(-2), so once again the Conservatives taking a small knock from the phone hacking saga.

The other questions are on the phone hacking saga. 65% agreed with a statement that the phone hacking scandal showed News Corp were not a fit and proper organisation to own part of BSkyB. There were also some questions asking if people viewed the party leaders more positively or negatively as a result of the phone hacking saga – these suggest that people view all three more negatively, but I’d suggest that tells us more about the deep uselessness of asking questions in this format! Proper tracker questions asked before and after the phone hacking saga reached its peak, asked by YouGov, MORI and ComRes, all show pretty conclusively that perceptions of Ed Miliband have increased substantially, even if respondents themselves don’t realise it!

UPDATE: There is also a new Angus Reid poll, their first since April (I thought they had faded away!). Topline figures with changes from April are CON 34%(+3), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 10%(-1). The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.


Angus Reid have just released a new AV poll. It echoes the last YouGov and ICM polls in showing a NO lead of 16% once don’t knows and won’t votes are excluded – YES 42%, NO 58%. The poll was conducted prior to the bank holiday weekend on Wednesday and Thursday.

Note that while in recent days we’ve appeared to see contradictory polls on AV, with some showing big NO leads and some showing the campaign neck and neck, this is almost wholly down to some polls being published a long term after their fieldwork has finished. The three most recent polls (from, in chronological order, ICM, YouGov and Angus Reid) have all shown identical results of YES 42%, NO 58%. The TNS and Harris polls, while being published more recently than some of these, were actually conducted at the same time as or before that ICM poll.

There is a new Angus Reid voting intention poll out, topline figures are CON 31%, LAB 42%, LDEM 11%, Others 16%. This is the lowest figure any company has shown for the Conservatives since the height of Cleggmania last year, but Angus Reid have been showing consistently lower levels of support for the Conservatives than other pollsters anyway. So far the only other companies to put the Conservatives below 35% are a single Opinium poll showing them at 34% at the end of March, and a couple of YouGov’s daily polls in early March when they briefly dropped to 33/34% before recovering.

The difference would appear to be connected to a higher score for “other” parties – this is something we also saw during the last Parliament, when newer online companies like Angus Reid, Opinium and Harris tended to show significantly higher levels of support for “other” parties. Harris aren’t conducting regular polls at the moment, but we are certainly seeing the same pattern reappearing with Angus Reid and Opinium (though it seem to have different knock on effects – Angus Reid are showing higher “others” and lower Conservatives. Opinium are showing higher “others” and lower Labour.) I’ve never been able to come up with an obvious explanation of why newer online companies would produce higher “other” scores than phone pollsters or YouGov.

The normal YouGov/Sun poll will be out later tonight at 10pm. We are also overdue the monthly Populus telephone poll for the Times, though perhaps their online AV poll earlier this month was instead rather than in addition too.

There are two new voting intention polls tonight. Angus Reid have topline figures of CON 32%(-1), LAB 41%(nc), LDEM 10%(nc), Others 17%. Changes are since their previous poll at the start of March, and clearly show no significant movement. That 17% for others is particularly high (I think it equals the highest any company has put them since the election – the previous 17% was from Opinium).

The daily YouGov poll for the Sun meanwhile has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%, others 14%, again a comparatively high “others” result.