Archive for February, 2012

Over to you: what should be next?

Posted in Politics on February 23rd, 2012 by Leo – 4 Comments

I’m going on holiday for a bit, so it’ll be quiet here for a little while.

In the meantime, it would be great to hear from you with any thoughts on what you’d be interested in seeing covered when I’m back. Has there been too much politics lately? Want more climate change?  Or is Boris vs Ken all you want to know about?

Your suggestions below would be most welcome.

Boris vs Ken: London polling 10 weeks from the election

Posted in London, Politics on February 22nd, 2012 by Leo – 1 Comment

Since we’ve now had three polls on the London mayoral election since mid-January, now seems a good time to look at what they tell us about the race.

When the last poll came out, Ken’s lead seemed a real surprise. In retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t have done. Despite the shocked reaction, previous polls had suggested the race would be close: Ken’s January lead didn’t represent a sharp reversal in opinion, but actually a restatement of what we’d seen before.

So in this context it’s not hugely surprising that the two more recent polls have also found the race to be on a knife edge. Two of the three put Ken narrowly ahead, and the third gives it to Boris – but all are within the margin of error:

In terms of where these numbers might go, I would echo my previous suggestion that Boris could be boosted by an incumbency effect, but Ken might expect Labour’s overall showing to increase a couple of points in the next few months if, as seems likely, the Tories gradually lose the boosts they had from the EU walk-out and Miliband’s bad January (bad in terms of immediate poll reactions).

There also continues to be a ‘Labour for Boris’ vote as well as a ‘Tories for Ken’ crowd, as pointed out by Mark Gettleson at Politics Home.

But the ComRes poll in particular demonstrates an interesting point about where the polls might go from here.

A set of questions about each candidate suggest stark differences in their strengths and weaknesses. While Ken is seen as understanding ordinary Londoners’ concerns, it is Boris who is seen as the man with the plan, and the ability to deliver on his promises. This is reflected not just among the whole sample, but also in the opinions of each candidates’ own supporters:

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Do the public care about the NHS reforms?

Posted in Politics on February 19th, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on Do the public care about the NHS reforms?

A lengthy and complex bill to radically restructure a public institution is never going to capture the popular imagination. But the mess that is the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill suggests more than just a failure to inspire.

According to today’s Mail on Sunday, Cameron’s pollster Andrew Cooper has told the inner circle that the party is vulnerable on the NHS. He’s not alone in this, with Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome reporting that a Tory Cabinet minister has likened it to the poll tax. The e-petition to abandon the Bill has easily passed 100,000 signatures, and Ed Miliband has warned that the NHS will be ‘a defining issue’ at the next election if the changes go ahead.

But even if the NHS reforms are unpopular, that doesn’t mean that people particularly care about them. The crucial question is one of salience: whether or not the reforms can attract the attention of many outside the Westminster and medical villages.

There’s no doubt that the reforms are unpopular. According to YouGov, only about one in five (18%) supports them, with nearly half (48%) opposed. On the central question of the impact of increasing competition in the NHS, two thirds (66%) think health services will be unchanged or made worse.

Even among the government’s supporters, there is little enthusiasm for the Bill. Fewer than half of Tory voters (44%) think more competition would make services better, with an equal number saying they would be unchanged or worse. Lib Dems are even less supportive:

So there really is very little love for the reforms. But these are prompted concerns: they don’t tell us how much this actually matters to the public.

Over the last few weeks, the issue has shown some increase in salience, according to YouGov’s issues tracker. At the start of January, health was only the sixth-most named issue as the most important facing the country. Now it’s third, behind only immigration and the economy.

But we should keep some perspective here. Health may have increased in salience, but the economy is still seen as an important issue by 2.5 times more people.

Looked at another way, the results show that only one in three people thinks that health is one of the top three issues facing the country. It hardly seems the defining issue of the age:

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Indifference to the monarchy, hostility to Britain becoming a republic

Posted in Social on February 11th, 2012 by Leo – 3 Comments

In the 60 years since Elizabeth II came to the throne, Britain has become vastly less religious and less deferential. You might expect such trends to have undermined support for the continuation of an institution whose authority comes from God and superior birth – yet support for the monarchy is overwhelming.

But while there is little appetite for Britain to become a republic, attitudes to the monarchy have changed in recent years. Far fewer people now think it brings any overall benefit to Britain, and there continue to be doubts about whether Prince Charles should inherit.

Better than the alternatives

Over nearly 20 years, Ipsos MORI have been asking whether people would prefer Britain to become a republic or remain a monarchy. In that time – covering the emergence of Charles’ relationship with Camilla, the death of Diana, and Harry’s appearance in a Nazi costume – support for keeping the monarchy never dropped below 65%, compared with a high of 22% wanting a republic:

A question from YouGov adds an interesting point of comparison. In July 2003, 41% said they would support keeping the monarchy in its current state, 41% said they would only support keeping it if it modernised, and 16% opposed keeping it altogether.

At that point, MORI’s data suggest that given a straight choice between keeping or abolishing the monarchy, only about 20% would abolish it. So of the 41% who told YouGov they would keep the monarchy only if it reformed, nearly all would, if pushed, prefer to keep it than scrap it.

The growth of indifference

But this solid opposition to republicanism doesn’t equate with full-throated support for the monarchy.

Another tracking question from Ipsos MORI suggests that, since the early ‘80s, there has been a significant fall in the numbers who think that the monarchy brings an overall benefit to Britain.

In 1984, 77% thought that Britain would be worse off if the monarchy was abolished. Now, that figure is just 46%. In keeping with the continued lack of support for a republic, there has been little change in the proportion that thinks Britain would be better off without royals. Instead, the growth has come in the numbers who say it would make no difference.

While the tracking stopped in ’02, the pattern is clear: since the early ‘90s, barely more than half think that Britain would be actively worse off without a monarchy:

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Should new energy minister Ed Davey talk to the public about climate change?

Posted in Climate Sock, Communications on February 4th, 2012 by Leo – 1 Comment

Britain has a new energy and climate change minister. Ed Davey will have a packed ministerial in-tray, and among the files about nuclear power, shale gas and feed-in tariffs will be the question of how, if at all, the public can be engaged on the need to deal with climate change.

Fortunately a new Ipsos Mori poll for Climate Week shows what the public think about climate change, and gives some idea about the communications options open to the new minister.

In short, the British public are worried about climate change, are prepared to take action, and believe that their collective action can make a difference. But they think that more time is spent talking about climate change than addressing it and are particularly suspicious of politicians who they hear on the subject.

The results of the poll may come as a surprise to some, after the British Social Attitudes survey in December seemed to suggest that Britain was becoming less concerned about climate change. But that survey may have been picking up reactions against left-wing green activists in general, rather than any disagreement that climate change needs to be addressed.

The new survey supports that interpretation. It shows clearly that people are concerned about climate change, feel motivated to take action themselves, and think that domestic actions will make a difference:

But if the public think that action is needed to address climate change, they don’t believe that enough is being done. Nearly two thirds (64%) agree that “there’s a lot of talk about climate change but not much action”.

This present a challenge for the new climate change minister. A response to the fact that the public want action and don’t think enough is being done could be for him to get in the TV cameras and cut the ribbon on a wind turbine factory.

But the new poll also suggests that politicians are among the least trusted group to talk about the issue. Just 3% say they would most trust politicians’ views on climate change, putting them at the same level as religious leaders and the royal family. All trail far behind scientists, who are on 66%.

The level of distrust of politicians in general is such that even when they are trying to do what the public wants – tackle climate change – they still struggle to cut through the cynicism that surrounds their motives. As we have seen before, the immediate reaction of many is that politicians use climate change as an excuse to raise taxes and draw attention from other issues:

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