The weekly YouGov/Sunday Times poll is now online here. Topline voting intention is CON 30%, LAB 39%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 15%. Most of the rest of the poll concentrated on immigration and calls for a broadcasting ban on Islamic extremists.

The Woolwich murder does not appear to have led to any increase in anti-immigration feeling – the public remain negative about immigration from Eastern Europe and from outside Europe… but no more negative than they were a few months ago. More interestingly YouGov also asked about people’s perception of whether immigration was rising or falling. Despite recent figures showing net immigration falling, the majority of people (59%) think that immigration has continued to rise over the last year or two, underlining how difficult it would be for David Cameron to convince people that he has met his targets on immigration even if does manage to do so. As I often say on here, public opinion is about perceptions of how the government is doing, which is not always the same as reality – the classic example is crime, which has been falling for about twenty years, but which all polls show people believe to be increasing.

Moving onto broadcasting bans, by 53% to 32% people think it was wrong for the BBC to interview Anjem Choudary so soon after the Woolwich murder, and more generally speaking 59% would support a ban on named Muslim radicals like Choudary from appearing on television or radio. An even higher proportion (76%) think that websites like Google and YouTube should refuse to link to sites encouraging extremist views.

Despite the support for such restrictions, people don’t necessarily think they would do any good (suggesting support for bans is perhaps more a way of people expressing their disgust at Choudary’s views than from people thinking it would do any real good). Only 38% think a broadcasting ban would be effective at stopping radical Muslims like Choudary from spreading their message, 49% think it would not. People are slightly more optimistic about the effect of mainstream websites like Google not linking to extremist sites, with 57% thinking this would be effective at stopping their message reaching people who may be influenced by it.

Overall 36% of people think that broadcasting bans or being excluded from mainstream websites would be an effective way of fighting terrorism, as people who may be radicalised would be less likely to be exposed to extremist messages. However, the majority (56%) think such bans might make us feel better… but wouldn’t actually help fight terrorism in the internet age.

This week’s YouGov results for the Sunday Times are up online here. Topline voting intention is CON 30%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%, so no obvious effect on voting intention from the Woolwich murder. Economic optimism (the proportion of people expecting their financial situation to get better in the next year, minus those who expect it to get worse) is minus 30. This is still very negative, but is once again the least negative it has been since May 2010.

Turning to the Conservative party and their “modernisation”, 61% of people think David Cameron is not in control of his party, compared to only 24% who think he is. Only 16% of people think David Cameron got modernisation right – 33% think he did not go far enough (including most Labour and Lib Dem voters), 32% think he went too far and abandoned too many traditional Tory subjects (including three-quarters of UKIP supporters).

Asked about the famous description of the Tories as the “nasty party”, 18% reject the whole idea and think the Tories were never seen as the nasty party anyway, 14% think David Cameron has manage to make the Conservatives less of the “nasty party” but the largest group – almost half of respondents – think Cameron has failed and the Tories are still seen as the “nasty party”. YouGov asked the same question in 2011 when 23% of people thought Cameron had managed to detoxify the Conservatives, suggesting a gradual reversal of the progress he had once made.

Moving on to the Woolwich murder, 41% of people think the government are tackling extremism and terrorism effectively, 47% ineffectively. Asked about people’s own fear of being involved in a terrorist attack, overall 10% of people think that there is a very or fairly high chance of them, a friend of member of their family being killed in a terrorist attack. As one might expect this is marginally up on before this week’s attack, but less than it was at the time of the 7/7 attacks in 2005 when YouGov asked exactly the same question. Whether or not they agree with British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vast majority of people (70%) think that it has increased the risk of terrorist attacks against Britain.

Asked about attitudes to British Muslims, 60% of people believe that there is a dangerous minority of British Muslims who feel no identity to the country and would condone terror, 14% think that a large proportion of British Muslims have no loyalty to the country and would condone terrorism. The question was again a repeat of a question YouGov asked straight after 7/7, comparing these results they are marginally worse than 7/7, but the change is hardly significant.

There was a second batch of YouGov polling conducted for Dr Matt Goodwin at Nottingham University, who specialises in studying extremism (of the EDL & BNP sort), and reported in the Observer. Full tables for that are here. Again the questions are mostly repeats from earlier, in this cast from October-November last year (originally done for Matt’s work on the EDL here). This makes it a slightly different comparison to the 7/7 questions, comparing results of questions asked during a normal period to the same questions asked just after an emotive event. One might have expected an increase in Islamophobia and anti-Islam opinions. The actual picture that Matt’s research finds is more nuanced.

On a few fronts opinion has moved in a negative direction, with an increase in the proportion of people who think that conflict between different groups is inevitable and an increase in those who think there will be a “clash of civilizations” between British Muslims and native white Britons (though worth noting there were similar shifts when asked about different religions and ethnicities too).

However on other figures there has been no movement, or even positive movement – 63% of people agree with a statement that “The vast majority of Muslims are good British citizens”, by 40% to 23% people agree that “Muslims make an important contribution to British society” – both questions essentially unchanged from last year. The proportion of people agreeing that “Muslims are compatible with the British way of life” is up from 24% last year to 33% now.

I suspect the contradicting trends in the figures is a case of the Woolwich murder reinforcing people’s existing attitudes. For those people who were suspicious, hostile or prejudiced towards British Muslims to begin with it has strengthened those negative feelings. For those with more positive opinions towards British Muslims it has strengthened their resolve not to stereotype British Muslims and not to let terrorism divide communities.

Matt’s poll also asked about the EDL and BNP anti-Muslim demonstrations, using a split sample. Half the sample were asked about their opinion of demonstrations against what the organisers call “Muslim terror” and whether they had a positive or negative opinion of such demonstrations – a majority (51%) said they had a negative opinion, 20% a positive opinion. The other half of the sample had the same question, but with the demonstrators of the demos identified as the EDL and BNP – that knocked support for such demos down to 17%, and opposition to them up to 60%.

There was also a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday, which had topline figures of CON 24%(nc), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 10%(-1), UKIP 22%(nc). It shows the very high UKIP score we associate with Survation, but again no obvious impact on voting intention from the Woolwich murder.


911 Ten Years On

YouGov also have some polling out for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. In a same way that older generations say they remember where when Kennedy was assassinated, 91% of British adults say they can remember what they were doing when news of the 9/11 attacks broke. 53% of people say that the 9/11 attacks changed the world completely, 38% think it changed the world a little. Only 7% of people think the attacks did not change much or anything.

In comparison 84% of people remember where they were when Princess Diana died, 68% when the 7/7 attacks on the London Underground took place, 25% when Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister, 22% when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and 29% when the Berlin Wall fell, the oldest event asked about (on the older ones I suspect some people have false memories – under 25s were around 3 years old at most when the Berlin Wall fell, so I do rather doubt 7% actally remember were they were. Perhaps it’s people who’ve been told by their parents where they were on the day!)

YouGov also repeated some questions that were first asked for the fifth anniversary of 9/11, five years ago. Back then YouGov asked if people thought there was a “War on Terror” and if Britain and the US were winning. While the phrase “war on terror” has fallen out of use – a relic of the George W Bush years – compared to five years ago, people are more likely to think there is a war (69% think there is, compared to 63% five years ago) and slightly more optimistic about whether the West is prevailing – perhaps because of the death of Osama bin Laden, or the absence of recent major Islamic terrorist attacks on targets in the West.

In 2006 only 7% thought Britain and the USA were winning the “War on Terror”, 22% thought they were losing and 50% thought they were neither winning nor losing. Now 13% think Britain and the USA are winning (up 6), 11% losing (down 11).

There is not, however, much difference in how worried people are about the chances of terrorism affecting them as they were five years ago. 7% of people think there is a very or fairly high chance of them, a friend or relative being caught in a terrorist attack (compared to 8% in 2006), 60% think there is a low chance (compared to 59% in 2006), 25% think the chance of being the victim of a terrorist attack (unchanged).

Neither have attitudes towards British Muslims and Islam itself softened much over the last five years. While respondents overwhelmingly think that the great majority (63%) or practically all (17%) British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, a significant minority of respondents (15%) said they though a large proportion of British Muslims would be prepared to condone acts of terrorism, down from 18% five years ago. The religion of Islam itself is still seen as a threat to western Liberal democracy by 51% of people, barely down from 53% in 2006. 37% think Islam poses little or no threat to the West.

The full tables for the Sunday Times are now up here. Voting intention is much as usual (though the Lib Dems are at 12%, confirming that 9% really was just a blip), but government approval is down to minus 10.

Up until Tuesday the government’s approval rating had been in the range -1 to -5, with around about 40% approving and 44% or so disapproving. In the three sets of results since then government approval has been minus 9 or minus 10, with 37-38% approving and 46-48% disapproving. Whether it was tuition fees, votes for prisoners or the European budget deal, something appears to have given the government a knock.

Turning to some of those issues, on tuition fees 11% think the government should have gone with Browne’s full recommendation and introduced unlimited fees, 26% think they got the balance right with fees of £9000, 50% would have preferred lower fees (or a total abolition). A plurality support the government’s proposed measures to force universities charging over £6000 to introduce special measures to encourage students from low income families, and to raise the repayment rate and charge higher interest rates to high earning graduates, but all the same 62% think it will result in fewer people from low income households going to university.

On votes for prisoners, as with the YouGov/Sun poll earlier in the week, the idea was overwhelmingly opposed. 17% think prisoners should be allowed to vote, 76% think they should not.

The final group of questions were about government powers on terrorism, and showed the normal public appetite for robust anti-terrorist powers (and comparative lack of concern for civil liberties in relation to terrorist issues). 45% of respondents thought terrorist suspects should be able to be held for 42 days or longer without charge, 27% supported the current 28 day limit and 19% wanted a lower limit. 73% supported the government having the power to impose control orders. 50% thought the security services should be allowed to use information passed to them from other countries that may have been obtained by torture, 31% disagree. On the overarching question of whether people suspected of terrorist offenses should benefit from the full protection of human rights or not, 31% of people thought that should, but 60% thought that some human rights should be suspended for people suspected of terrorist offenses.

In all of these terrorism questions, Conservative voters were the most robust in supporting anti-terrorism laws, and Liberal Democrat supporters the most, well, liberal.

And another – ICM have also carried out a poll on al-Megrahi, a specific Scottish poll, this time for the BBC.

32% of Scots told ICM they thought the decision was right, with 60% saying it was wrong. This is slightly less supportive than in the YouGov poll, but still shows a majority of Scots disapproved of the descision, but with a large minority in support (the difference is likely to be the question wording, which with a question like this that needs some introductory blurb is inevitably different. YouGov, for example, included the fact that al-Megrahi had advanced prostate cancer in their question, ICM didn’t. YouGov asked whether it was the right decision, ICM asked if the Scottish government was right to do it).

Other questions in the poll included whether people thought Kenny MacAskill was right to visit al-Megrahi in gaol before making his decision (52% thought it was wrong), whether the decision was taken on legal grounds alone or was influenced by other factors (68% thought there were other factors). As with YouGov’s poll, despite disagreeing with his decision only around a third (36%) thought MacAskill should resign.

52% of people thought it was right that the UK government did not get involved in the decision, nevertheless 68% thought that Gordon Brown’s reputation had been damaged (though I expect we’ve reached the point that a lot of people just give a negative answer to any question about Gordon Brown).

(A side note about methodology – I’ve already seen some criticism of this poll on the basis that it probably wasn’t past vote weighted. I’m a supporter of past vote weighting, but it really doesn’t make a huge difference in questions like this. In a poll about voting intention it really matters if Conservatives are on 38% or 40% and how a pollster weights it politically is critical. If a question is strongly correlated to voting intention, like which party is best on the economy then it makes a difference and it matters, since the Conservatives being 2 points ahead gives a different story to Labour being 2 points head.

In the context of this poll however, answers aren’t that strongly correlated to voting intention, so past vote weighting would probably only have shifted answers by a couple of points at most…and whether 31% or 35% of people supported the decision doesn’t really matter a huge amount in terms of what it tells us about public reaction. Either way around about a third of Scots supported the decision. In a perfect world I’d still say it’s always better to have a politically weighted sample for any political questions, but it would be wrong to obsess about it on questions where it wouldn’t really change the conclusions we draw from it.)

Full tables are here