There is a new Ipsos MORI poll on attitudes towards cannabis here.

The answers appear somewhat contradictory – asked how cannabis should be classified the most popular response was that it should be a class A drug, supported by 32% of respondents. 26% thought it should be class B, 18% class C and 11% thought it should be legal.

While this seems to suggest support for much stricter regulation, it seems to be contradicted by the questions asking what the current punishment for possession of cannabis for personal use is, and should be. 70% of people thought the current penalty was up to 2 years, 18% longer and 12% didn’t know. 0% thought there was no penalty (which does make one wonder about the 4% of people who thought that cannabis was legal, but still thought there might be a punishment for possessing it. Still, people give strange answers).

Asked what the penalty should be, support seems to be for liberalisation rather than for harsher punishments. 24% think the punishment should be up to 5 or up to 7 years. 41% think it should be up to 2 years, 27% think there should be no penalty.

I think the apparant contradiction is best explained by the definitions given to respondents of the three classifications. Rather than saying that class A was most serious, or that class A carried the highest penalties, they were told Class A were drugs like “Heroin and Ecstacy”, Class B drugs like “Amphetamines and methylphenidate (Ritalin)” and Class C was drugs like “GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) and Ketamine”. Heroin and Ecstacy are obviously far more easily identified as illegal drugs, if you know Heroin and Ecstacy are illegal drugs, you don’t know what the other 4 are, but you do know cannabis is also an illegal drug, where would you think it should fit?

Anyway, the recent media coverage of cannabis in connection with mental health problems seems to have become widely accepted amongst the public. An overwhelming 80% of respondents agreed what “cannabis use has associated mental health risks for users”. 61% agreed that strains of cannabis had become stronger within the last 10 years. Only 25% agreed with the statement that cannabis use did not give rise to physical health problems.

A new ICM poll for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust suggests 50% of people now think ID cards would be a bad idea, with 47% thinking them a good idea.

The wording in the question was the same as used in the series of polls done for No2ID by ICM, so it is directly comparable to previous questions – back in September before the loss of benefit data the same question was showing 54% in favour and only 42% against, though it should be pointed out that the opposition isn’t unprecedented, a poll in July 2007 found a majority against cards.

Despite the drop in support for ID cards and the recent data loss incidents, the public still seem positive about other proposals whee data security would be an issue – 51% said they would be comfortable with the government building a database of everyone in the country including their fingerprints (48% were uncomfortable), 67% were happy with the government collecting travel information on British citizens going in and out of the country (31% were uncomfortable), 53% were comfortable with the idea of the government making a database with information on every child in the UK (45% uncomfortable). Only with the idea of allowing government departments to share information provided to one of them to others were a majority (52%) uncomfortable.


Sharia Law

Various people in my comments have asked if there is any polling about attitudes toward Sharia law. Well, I don’t know of any polls of the general population – I suspect that it would be overwhelmingly, uniformly hostile. ICM did, howeer, ask the opinion of British Muslims back in February 2006.

Asked “Would you support or oppose there being areas of Britain which are pre-dominantly Muslim and in which Sharia law is introduced?” 40% of British Muslims said yes and 41% said no. This was not, of course, actually what the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested – he was talking about a parallel system where Muslims could opt to use Sharia courts for things like family and inheritance law rather than geographical areas where Sharia law was used.

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from their last poll, of CON 40%(+3), LAB 31% (-2), LD 17% (-2). The poll was conducted between the 1st and 3rd of February.

Personally speaking the figures are a bit of a surprise, polls throughout January showed the Conservatives falling back and Populus tend to produce figures that are more flattering for Labour than some other pollsters. I’d expected a narrower Tory lead. With the last four polls showing Labour back in the 30%-33% range and the Conservatives still up in the high thirties or low forties, it looks increasingly like the ICM and MORI polls taken in late January were a brief blip.

As with the ICM poll at the weekend there does not appear to be any damage to Conservative support from the Conway affair, even though this poll would have been conducted over the weekend when the media were scrabbling around for other Tory MPs with various familial employment arrangements. In his commentary over at Political Betting Mike Smithson raises his theory that the Conservatives tend to do well whenever David Cameron is on the television even if it isn’t very good for the Tories. He may be right. It may be that David Cameron just acted swiftly enough to neutralise any damage to the Tory brand.

Populus asked some specific questions covering sleaze and the Conway affair. 59% of respondents thought that MPs should be able to employ family members providing (and this is the important bit) that they are qualified, they do the job and their employment is disclosed. Compare this to the ICM poll at the weekend that asked without the qualifiers and found 74% thought MPs shouldn’t be able to employ family members. The difference suggests that if you don’t specify that MPs are employing familiy members who are qualified and do the work, people’s natural assumption is they are on the fiddle, which probably says rather a lot about the public’s view of politicians!

Asked which parties are tainted by financial sleaze, 69% thought Labour were, 51% thought the Tories were and 26% thought the Lib Dems were.

Finally, on Populus’s question about whether people would trust Brown and Darling or Cameron and Osborne to run the economy if it were in trouble, Cameron and Osborne are now narrowly in the lead by 36% to 33%. With people’s perceptions of the state of the economy plummetting, this is an important factor – if Labour were still ahead then people might swing back to them as the known quantity, safe hands in troubled times. The Populus figures suggest they haven’t even got that card to rely on.

A new poll by ICM in the Sunday Telegraph has topline voting intention figures (with changes from their previous poll) of CON 37%(nc), LAB 32%(-3), LDEM 21%(+1). The poll was conducted between the 30th and 31st January.

Since ICM last did a poll we’ve seen two significant events – Peter Hain’s resignation and the Derek Conway scandal. Looking at the raw figures would suggest that Hain damaged Labour, but Conway didn’t damage the Tories. I suspect that isn’t actually the picture, the last ICM poll was already showing an unusual Labour increase that I suspect may have been overblown and this poll merely underlines a Conservative decrease we’d already seen.

That aside, the first post-Conway poll is still suggesting the Tories haven’t suffered huge damage, doubly surprising since coverage of it would have been all over the press when people were replying to this poll. Why not? Perhaps it’s sample error, the Tories are really down but this poll is falsely showing them static. Perhaps it really hasn’t damaged them, or the benefit has balanced out the damage. We expect a story like this to damage a party, but it doesn’t always do so – Mike Smithson has a theory that the Conservatives always improve when Cameron is on the telly, even if it’s a negative news story. It could even be that the (relatively) swift dismissal of Conway helped Cameron.

My own expectation is that the story will damage the Conservatives, it certainly still has legs(though there is no reason to think it won’t spread to other parties, MPs across the spectrum employ family members) Populus are next up, tend to give some of the more favourable figures for Labour and I wouldn’t be surprised to see findings similar to MORI’s last poll from them next week, but we shall see.

Beyond voting intention, the poll asked about policies that would make people more likely to vote Conservative. Amongst non-Tory supporters the most popular potential policy was putting more police on the street – a net +63 (i.e. 63% more people said it made them more likely than said it could make them less likely) said it would make them more likely to vote Tory, +38 would more likely to vote Tory if they forced people to reduce greenhouse gases, +30 if they reduced immigration, +29 for allowing terrorist suspects to be held for longer, +22 for allowing more grammar schools.

Allowing a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was lower, with a net plus of only 13. Cutting taxes and spending was a negative of -6: it would repell more people than it would attract, though as Tim Montgomerie rightly notes, there are some tax cuts like council tax or inheritance tax that polls suggest are more popular (Tim is also right to say that it these questions would be far more interesting if they were restricted to only those who might change – realistically many of the people answering these questions would actually never vote Tory whatever policies they promised.)