Archive for July, 2012

Have the Tories really lost a third of their vote?

Posted in Politics on July 25th, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on Have the Tories really lost a third of their vote?

Since the last election, a third of Tory voters have switched how they say they’d vote. While the current Tory voting intent is kept up a little by support gained from elsewhere, the permanent loss of so many of their 2010 voters would rule out any chance of the Tories being in the next government, let alone winning a majority.

But this is how things stand at the moment, and the election could still be almost three years away. New data from Lord Ashcroft suggest that the lost votes aren’t that far from the Tories’ reach.

On the question of where the 2010 Tory vote has gone, the single biggest group of defectors is those who say they don’t now know who they’d vote for. After that, UKIP have slightly more than Labour, with a small number saying they wouldn’t vote.

The table below shows the various pollsters’ latest scores for this. The results are pretty consistent across pollsters and some of the differences are explained by alternative weighting practices.

So excluding the don’t knows, the defectors have split fairly evenly between those who’ve gone to the right and those who’ve gone to the left of the Tories.

If this were to happen in a ballot (eg at the 2014 European elections), such a substantial boost for UKIP would destabilise the government, giving increasing ammunition to rebellious Tory backbenchers. Equally, defections of votes from the Tories directly to Labour count double in the parties’ head-to-head scores. So the table spells very bad news for the Tories.

But the new data from Ashcroft suggest that many of those voters may not yet have given up on the Tories. His poll looks specifically at those who voted Tory in 2010 and now would not, with a large enough base size to analyse them separately.

Despite no longer saying they would vote Tory, comfortable majorities of defectors still say they trust Cameron and Osborne more than Miliband and Balls to run the economy (76% vs 24%), and most think that Cameron would make the best PM (69% vs 21% for Miliband and 10% for Clegg). Of course this isn’t altogether surprising since we’ve seen that only about 17% of the defectors would go to one of the other main parties.

This touches on the main problem with giving too much weight to voting intent questions at the moment, years away from an election. They ask people which party they currently favour, not which party they actually want to run the country.

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The five trends that will shape British politics

Posted in Europe, Politics on July 15th, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on The five trends that will shape British politics

On New Year’s Day, I wrote about five trends, where public opinion last year shifted on issues that could change the political landscape.

It’s time now to revisit those questions to see where we are, half-way through the year.

1) More attention to growth

The international debate of the last few years has been about whether governments should prioritise deficit reduction or growth.

In the first few months of 2012, the deficit hawks were winning in the UK. But after the Budget, that lead was reversed, and since late April there was been a 6-11pt lead for those who say the government should prioritise growth.

See more on this question here


2) Speed of the cuts

Labour’s central criticism of the government’s economic programme is that the cuts are not only going too far, but also are too fast. Over 2011, the proportion who agreed that the government was cutting too quickly fell from 58% to 48%, suggesting trouble for Labour.

But this year, that trend has stopped. The proportion saying the cuts are too fast is about the same now as it was in autumn 2011.


3) Blame for the cuts

Views on who is to blame for the cuts showed little movement in 2011, with about 15pts more blaming Labour than the coalition.

This changed after the budget, when the gap fell to single figures. Since then, it has been between 5-10pts.

It’s interesting that the government appears now to be returning to the argument that they’re clearing up Labour’s mess, presumably in anticipation of making this central to their next election campaign. If so, this question will be increasingly important.

See more on this question here


4) An old and tired party

Last year, the question of which party was most seen as ‘old and tired’ moved (in Labour’s favour), when voting intention didn’t change.

Now, Labour have established a lead on being seen as less ‘old and tired’ for the first time since the election. Unlike voting intent, this view has strengthened in Labour’s favour over the last two months, with Labour now having a nine-point lead.

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Climate change opinion is now up to pre-Climategate levels

Posted in Climate Sock, Climategate on July 1st, 2012 by Leo – 10 Comments

Over a short period at the start of 2010, belief that climate change is real and manmade fell sharply. Since then, it recovered slightly but had remained lower than it was at the end of 2009.

But now three polls have shown that the decline has been fully reversed.

The fall in agreement with climate science was widely covered at the time. A BBC poll in February ‘10 was typical of the shift and reporting:

This fall in agreement with climate science followed ‘Climategate’, the Copenhagen Conference, and a particularly cold winter. Individually, none of these are good explanations for the fall – see here  – and I think the most likely explanation is that they together prompted a change in media tone about climate change, which then affected public attitudes.

Since then we’ve seen some evidence that concern about climate change has been increasing again. But these new polls are the first to indicate that level of belief that climate change is real and manmade has returned to where it was at the end of 2009 (note the distinction between ‘concern’ and ‘belief’: both matter, but while it’s symbolically important we shouldn’t get too hung up on ‘belief’).

Each poll asks the question in different ways:

The Guardian/ICM poll found that the proportion that thinks climate change is real and manmade is the same now as it was in December ‘09 (and credit to them for including a link to the data in the article – still unusual).

Although Dec ’09 was after ‘Climategate’ broke, it was before public opinion changed, so this is a good ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison.

The Guardian’s analysis is that the poll shows that the economic climate has had little impact on public attitudes to global warming. I disagree with this for two reasons.

Firstly, the Guardian didn’t ask the question between Dec ’09 and June ’12, so didn’t pick up concern falling and then coming back up.

Secondly, other polls have showed that the recession took attention away from everything non-economic, including climate change.

So from this poll it looks like we’ve overcome some doubts about climate change. But to say there’s been “a remarkable pattern of stability in acceptance of climate change as established fact” isn’t likely.

The second poll, by the Sunday Times/YouGov, finds a similar pattern. Agreement that climate change is real and manmade has increased over the last two years:

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