Archive for October, 2011

Sexism and support for the rules of succession

Posted in Social on October 30th, 2011 by Leo – Comments Off on Sexism and support for the rules of succession

A poll on the reforms to the royal succession rules has shown the extent to which some men still think women should have lower priority in line to the throne.

When asked by YouGov whether men and women should be treated equally in the succession, five in six women agreed, but only two thirds of men supported the change – a gap of 17 points:

It certainly looks like sexism: men are significantly more likely to think that royal women shouldn’t have the same entitlements as royal men. Could there be another explanation?

Perhaps men are less likely to agree because they think the monarchy should be abolished entirely rather than reformed. But another poll, in April, found that men and women were equally likely (63%) to think that Britain would be worse off without a Royal Family, so it can’t be that.

Alternatively, maybe the response isn’t about sexism so much as about tradition. Perhaps men are more likely to think that, since the monarchy represents continuity with the past, it should be changed as little as possible. So their weaker support wouldn’t be because they don’t trust women to rule them, but because they don’t believe in changing the rules.

But another question in the YouGov poll, on support for changing the rule about marrying Catholics, undermines this. Men are slightly less supportive than women, but only by seven points. Given that this change would have much greater constitutional significance, there’s no way attachment to tradition can explain the response to the gender question.

Finally, we might suggest it’s about salience. Perhaps men are less interested in the monarchy, and so don’t want the government spending time amending it.

But even if this were true it couldn’t explain the gap in the gender question, for two reasons. Firstly, the gender question doesn’t explicitly ask whether the rules should be changed, but only whether men and women should be treated equally. Secondly, there’s again salience argument can’t account for why the Catholic question should produce a much smaller gap than the gender question.

So having considered alternative explanations, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the debate about the succession has exposed a sexist view that some men continue to hold: that men are more suited than women to be our rulers.

Closing a London landmark and other ways to lose supporters

Posted in Media, Protests on October 27th, 2011 by Leo – 4 Comments

A week ago the Occupy London protesters at St Paul’s Cathedral had a strong level of public support.

Even just after the Cathedral closed its doors, ICM found a majority agreeing with the protesters’ demands:

This seems impressively high. Only two in five saying that there is no practical alternative to capitalism is certainly at odds with the dominant view in the media.

But this isn’t the same as finding support for the way the protest is unfolding, and opinion may well have changed since the poll was conducted.

The day after the fieldwork, the Telegraph was the first to run with the claim that nine in ten of the tents are empty overnight. Along with repeated stories of ordinary people’s lives being disrupted, the coverage has also targeted the supposed wealth of some of the protesters to suggest that they’re out of touch or hypocritical.

The thing is, this was all utterly predictable. After one day of most protests there will always be some bad headlines for the protesters, but barring disaster there’ll also be some positive ones. But after several days of protest, the fact that there’s a protest will no longer generate news: only the chaos will be of interest.

After the coverage of the UK Uncut occupation of Fortnum and Mason, and the most recent Climate Camp, there should have been nothing surprising in the protests receiving this kind of negative coverage, especially if they went on for several days.

The Fortnum and Mason protest also indicates the impact this can have on opinion.

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What would happen in an EU referendum?

Posted in Europe, Politics on October 23rd, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

The front page of today’s Sunday Express claims that 75% want Britain to quit the EU now. This is pure nonsense.

As described on Tabloid Watch, to get to their 75% figure, the Express have added together the proportion who say they’d leave (28%), with the much larger proportion who say they’d vote to renegotiate membership (47%).

But putting this dodgy reporting aside, we’re left with the timely question of what the UK does think of EU membership, and how any referendum would fall out.

Fortunately, we’ve had plenty of polls that can answer this, and which lately have had a good level of consistency.

Starting with a straight up ‘should I stay or should I go’ question, polls over the last few months give us about 3 in 10 wanting to stay, and about half wanting to leave. An August YouGov poll was typical:

But break this down further, and the desire to leave becomes less clear.

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What’s in it for Cameron to support same-sex marriage?

Posted in Politics, Social on October 16th, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

Earlier this month, Cameron told his party conference, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

It’s been said that the announcement was bold, putting Cameron to the left of his party, and restaking his claim to a socially progressive agenda. The polls certainly suggest some interesting consequences for Cameron in taking the position.

Firstly, it’s not clear that others share his view that supporting gay marriage is a Conservative thing to do.

The official speech text confirms he was talking about capital-C Conservatives. Yet only about a third of those who voted Tory last year would support gay marriage. Three in five expressly oppose it.

So, Conservatives don’t think it was a Conservative thing to do, and despite the applause at the time, they may not rejoice in the announcement. But perhaps, regardless of Cameron’s explanation, it was really aimed at supporters of other parties.

It is certainly the case that gay marriage is much more popular with other voters, particularly Lib Dems:

But beyond any attempt to win other parties’ supporters, there are two other polling-based reasons why the announcement could be helpful for Cameron.

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A new home for Climate Sock

Posted in Climate Sock on October 8th, 2011 by Leo – Comments Off on A new home for Climate Sock

When I set up Climate Sock in 2009, there was a lot to look at. No-one had worked through all the polls that had been published in the years up till then on public attitudes to the environment.

Since then, we’ve seen polls on politics, energy sources and supposed climate fatigue, and some international comparisons too.

But new polls aren’t published as often as I’d like, nor does opinion usually change all that quickly. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new things to write about on a regular basis while remaining within the boundaries of what people think about the environment.

So Climate Sock is moving, to become part of a new site. In Noise of the Crowd, I’ll be looking at interesting things about public opinion: not only about the environment, but including anything that’s surprising, counter-intuitive or adds to current new stories.

Climate Sock will continue to live in Noise of the Crowd. All the old posts and comments have been transferred across, and everything about the environment has the tag ‘Climate Sock’, which you can access on the left of the site.

When new and interesting data about the environment are published, I intend still to write new articles, building on what we’ve already seen. I hope that readers of Climate Sock will carry on finding things that interest you in the new site, including environment articles but perhaps also including other ones as well. The change will mean that the site will keep being updated with fresh articles, even when there’s not been anything new about the environment.

I always appreciate your comments and would love to hear what you think about the new site, and any suggestions about how I could improve it.

Before I go. Following the last post’s linkfest, I wanted to pick out a couple of old Climate Sock posts that I thought were more interesting than others.  If you’re new to the sites, they’re probably a good place to start.


We shouldn’t be spending too much energy worrying about ‘belief’ in climate change.


Climate change campaigners often target altruism when appealing to self-interest may be more effective.


While people want action to tackle climate change, they’re deeply suspicious of government involvement.


Nuclear power is seen to have some advantages over gas, coal and oil, but it’s still greeted with suspicion.


The UK Greens get many fewer votes nationally than UKIP and the BNP, but they’re in a much stronger position to win seat.

What PowerPoint slides could the party leaders use in their speeches?

Posted in Politics on October 2nd, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

Given his dislike of tedious slide presentations replacing inspiring speeches, Max Atkinson was no doubt being whimsical when he suggested a competition to devise slides that the party leaders could use in their conference speeches.

But never one to miss out on a bit of competitiveness, I wanted to have a crack. Max imposed a restriction of 3 slides per speech, and in keeping with the theme of this site I’ve also restricted myself to slides that are based entirely on published polling data.

So, taking the leaders in the order of their speeches:

Nick Clegg’s audiences are first his party – potentially rebellious, but apparently still loyal – then his remaining voters, and finally his lost voters. To all of these, the message is not only that going into coalition with the Tories was the only non-suicidal option, but also that the Lib Dems are shaping government policies in ways that should please their supporters. If it weren’t for my restriction on using only polling data, I’d replace the third slide with quotes from Dorries and others saying how the Lib Dems are frustrating good Tory policies.


Ed Miliband’s job is probably the clearest – though perhaps the hardest. He needs to show the country that Labour can be trusted with the economy. The slides don’t set out any policies: they’re intended to show his party that Labour won’t be listened to until it shows it has a solution for the economy, and to show journalists that he recognises this.

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