This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times results are here. Topline voting intentions are CON 32%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%.

People’s opinion of how Cameron has handled the floods has crept up slightly since last week, but a solid majority still think he hasn’t done well. 29% of people think he’s handled the flooding well (up 4 from a week ago), 60% badly (down 2). The figures for the environment agency are still very similar – 27% say well, 63% badly.

While opinion has moved slightly in Cameron’s favour, on the question of whose fault the flooding is blame is gradually shifting towards the government. Compared to a fortnight ago 27% now blame the government (up 10 points), 23% the environment agency (down 5), 41% say it is just freak weather and nothing could have been done (down 8). Support for more spending on flood defences has also steadily risen – now 50% of people, from 49% a week ago, 38% a fortnight ago. People have also become more likely to think the flooding is connected to climate change – 47% now say the weather causing the floods is likely connected to climate change (up 7), 39% think it is not (down 5).

Looking forward, 57% of people would support a ban on building houses on flood plains, 33% think it is acceptable with appropriate anti-flooding measures. The public are almost evenly divided on whether we should keep on defending the most vulnerable areas – 39% think we should defend all settled areas, whatever the cost, 38% think there are some settled areas that are such a high risk of flooding it is not worth the cost to try and defend them. 47% of people think those people who have bought property in areas of high flood risk and ended up being flooded deserve our sympathy, 22% think they have only themselves to blame.

There was also an Opinium poll in the Observer with topine figures of CON 28%(-1), LAB 37%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 17%(nc). Their flooding questions had very similar results to YouGov – people thought Cameron hasd responded badly to the flood by 51% to 23% thinking he’d done well. 51% think the floods were related to climate change, 24% did not.

This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times results are here. Topline figures are CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11% – closer to the recent YouGov average than the two very close Sun polls on Wednesday and Thursday. As usual fieldwork was Thursday afternoon until Friday afternoon, so finished before Labour’s policy announcements and almost all of the reporting of Godfrey Bloom’s eventful day at UKIP’s party conference.

As you’d expect in the week of Labour’s conference there was a batch of questions on Ed Miliband (as there was in the ComRes poll for the Sunday Indy), but they only really show the pattern we’ve already seen – only 16% think he’s provided an effective opposition, only 17% think he’s made it clear what he stands for, only 9% think he is a strong leader, only 17% think he is up to the job of Prime Minister. Predictably Conservative voters have a low opinion of Miliband, but in many cases even Labour voters have a negative opinion. While Labour voters do tend to see Miliband as trustworthy and in touch with ordinary people, most think he has not made it clear what he stands for and has not provided an effective opposition and only 44% think he’d be up to the job of PM.

In one sense it will be interesting to see whether perceptions of Miliband improve as a result of the Labour conference. I expect they will a little bit, but it probably won’t make any major or lasting difference to the negative perceptions of him; it’s a hard task to change the public’s opinion on a politician once it’s set. The question is more how much it matters (thus far Labour have remained ahead in the polls despite Ed Miliband’s poor ratings) and how much it might or might not matter when we get closer to the election, a question that’s impossible to answer right now.

The poll also asking about banning the wearing of traditional Muslim dress for women and about climate change. Two thirds of people would support a ban on people wearing the burqa or the niqab in Britain (a quarter of people would even support banning the hijab). Three quarters of people would support allowing schools to ban the wearing of veils, 81% support hospitals being allowed to ban staff from wearing the veil.

56% of people think that the world’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, 23% think that the climate is changing, but not because of human activity, 7% think it is not changing at all. This is a marginally higher level of public believe in man-made climate change than the last couple of times we’ve asked, but realistically it isn’t something that changes massively from month to month. 39% think that the risk of climate change has been exaggerated, 47% think it is every bit as real as scientists have said.


I like data from tracking polls. There is often no “correct” way of asking about a subject and answers can come down to how you word a question, but if you ask a question in the same way over a long period of time then – all things being equal – any significant change you see should reflect a genuine change in public opinion. For that reason I am always very loathe to change the wording of tracking questions, as you are throwing away all that past data and any change you see is as likely to be due to different wording as it is to changing opinion. However, there comes a time when the vocabulary used in the public debate changes, and the wording you’ve used in the past really isn’t the wording you’d use if designing a question today.

In past years YouGov has asked about public opinion towards climate change using this question:

On the subject of climate change do you think:
The world is becoming warmer as a result of human activity
The world is becoming warmer but NOT because of human activity
The world is NOT becoming warmer
Not sure

  • In 2008, 55% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 25% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 7% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 13% weren’t sure.
  • In 2010, 39% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 27% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 18% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 16% weren’t sure.
  • In 2012 43% thought human activity was making the world warmer, 22% thought the world was getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 15% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 20% weren’t sure.
  • Now 39% think human activity was making the world warmer, 16% think the world is getting warmer, but not because of humanity, 28% thought the world was NOT getting warmer. 17% weren’t sure.

For what its worth the percentage of people thinking that human activity is making the world warmer fell between 2008 and 2010, but has been pretty constant for the last 3 years. However, the proportion of people who think the world isn’t getting warmer at all has markedly increased – from just 7% in 2008 to 28% now. This isn’t really surprising given some of the weather we’ve had of late (before anyone points it out, localised weather is Britain is clearly not necessarily reflective of global temperatures… but that doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on public opinion!).

However since 2008 the debate has also changed, and has often concentrated upon wider impacts of climate change, on weather patterns, on making weather more extreme or unpredictable and so on, rather than just the narrower issue of rising global temperatures. You can imagine this may have a significant impact on someone’s answers – there may well be people who think that climate change is happening… but not in the sense of increasing global temperatures. This month YouGov asked two questions in parallel, on two separate samples – one asking about the world getting warmer, the other asking about the world’s climate changing. It produces very different results.

39% of people think human activity is making the world warmer. 53% of people think human activity is changing the world’s climate.
16% think the world is getting warmer, but not because of human activity. 26% think the climate is changing, but NOT because of human activity
28% think the world is NOT getting warmer. 6% think the climate is not changing.

Tonight’s YouGov figures are CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 11%, Others 14% (inc UKIP on 7%). The 11 points for the Lib Dems is the highest YouGov have shown since April (though normal caveats apply, it is most likely a blip that will return to usual tomorrow).

The Guardian has part of their monthly ICM poll, but it looks as though they may be keeping back the voting intention figures for tomorrow, as so far they have only published the results of questions on the Rio summit. Like YouGov yesterday ICM asked a tracker question on public belief in man made climate change. ICM found 57% of people thought that man-made climate change was happening (up 1 point from 2009), 30% thought climate change was happening, but not due to man (down 3 points) and only 7% who thought that the world was not getting warming at all (up 2 points).

The full tabs for this week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are now online here, covering a wide range of topics including Jimmy Carr’s tax, GCSEs, global warming and Julian Assange.

On the regular trackers David Cameron’s net approval is minus 18 (from minus 25 last week), Ed Miliband’s minus 27 (from minus 25), Nick Clegg’s minus 53 (from minus 55). There were also shifts towards the government in some of the other regular trackers – the proportion thinking the government is bad for people like them has dropped from 62% to 55%, the proporton thinking they are handling the economy well is up 5 points to 34%. This tallies with the voting intention figures, which are marginally less bad for the government than they have been for the last month or two… but still show them trailing badly.

Turning first to tax avoidance, 60% of people think it is unreasonable for people to use artificial schemes to avoid tax, compared to 36% who think it is reasonable enough and the government should pass stricter laws if they want to stop it. 67% also agreed with a statement that tax avoidance was as bad as benefit fraud…nevertheless, asked directly whether Cameron was right to criticise Jimmy Carr only 38% said yes and 50% said no. Part of this will be as suggested in the question – distate at the Prime Minister commenting on an individual, but it will also be a reflection of partisan viewpoints – Labour voters are most critical of tax avoidance, but are also least likely to view David Cameron or his actions in a positive way.

Moving onto GCSEs, people think they have got easier in recent years by 60% to 22% and by 50% to 32% would support a return to an O-level style system, with less academic pupils taking some equivalent of the old CSE. There is also very strong support for the idea of moving to one single exam board, supported by 75% with 12% opposed. People are less suportive, however, of abolishing the national curriculum. Only 20% think this would lead to a rise in standards, compared to 38% who think it would make things worse.

Turning to the topic of climate change, 70% of people think that the Rio conference will make little difference, with only 9% expecting it to lead to a better environment. YouGov also asked about broader attitudes towards climate change, a repeat question from 2010, and found a slightly larger proportion of people believing in man-made global warming. 43% of people thought the world was becoming warmer due to man (up from 39%), 22% thought the world was becoming warmer but not because of man (down from 27%), 15% thought the world was not getting warmer (down from 18%). 20% of people said they didn’t know, up from 16%. While the trend here is towards belief in manmade global warming, it is still lower than the same question was showing in 2008, when 55% of British people thought the world was getting warmer due to man’s activity.

Finally the survey asked about Julian Assange. 60% of people wanted to see Assange extradited (44% to Sweden and 16% to the US, though I believe the US haven’t actually asked for him to be extradited), 16% think he should not be extradited. However, a majority of people (60%) also think that diplomatic norms should be respected and Julian Assange should be allowed to take sanctuary in the Ecuador embassy. 24% think the police should breach diplomatic rules (and, indeed the law, though this was not made clear in the question) and arrest him regardless.