Issues with the YouGov poll on LD policies

Sunday’s YouGov voting intention poll for the UK contained a number of questions on policies. Commisioned by the Sun newspaper it seeks to gauge support for Liberal Democrat policies.

Now as people (according to recent media reports) have been completely ignorant of the Liberal Democrat party for years and are only now becoming interested in them since the recent televised debate, we can’t expect them to know much about their policies. Terrible I know.

So in order to gauge people’s support for these policies you’re going to have to explain them to people too. Asking them to read the manifesto first just isn’t going to work.

Now I wasn’t (randomly) selected for this poll, I think typically only about 1000 people are for these things, I found it via the Guardian election blog here, where they wrote this:

“YouGov asked about 10 Lib Dem policies. Only three of them are popular (in the sense that more people support them than oppose them.) Six are unpopular, and opinion is evenly split on one other (replacing Trident with a cheaper nuclear deterrent).

The three popular policies are:

Raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 Р66% in favour
Limiting public sector pay rises for two years – 57% in favour
Changing the voting system – 54% in favour

The six unpopular ones are:

Giving more power to the EU – 65% against
Joining the euro eventually – 65% against
Scrapping short jail sentences – 50% against
Giving an amnesty to illegal immigrants after 10 years – 49% against
Increasing taxes to fund abolition of tuition fees – 48%
Not building new nuclear power stations – 41%

YouGov did not tell its respondents that these were Lib Dem policies.”

These are very short paraphrased policies and some are quite misleading, even more so that the actual questions that I’ll get to shortly. Now I think that’s bad reporting, but it is just a quick blog post, and you can follow the link they provided to the actual questions that were asked. You can find them here.

Now I’m not going to analyse each of the questions asked; a number of them dont fit with what’s written in the Lib Dem’s manifesto or use language that might be polarising, but I’m no expert on polling bias and such things. I’ll just pick up on the examples I’m more sure about. Here’s one:

Euro: scrap the Pound and join the Euro when the conditions are right.

That’s all it said, do you agree or disagree with this position. Never mind that the manifesto clearly says ‘Britain should join the euro only if that decision were supported by the people of Britain in a referendum.’ So despite how this 65% against result might be reported, a Liberal Democrat government does not neccessarily mean the loss of the pound.

Prisons: Allow 58,000 criminals a year to do community service instead of going to prison by banning jail terms of less than six months.

I checked and the manifesto talks about ‘reducing the number of short sentences’ and introducing¬† ‘a presumption against short-term sentences of less than six months’. Not a complete ban.

Higher education: scrap university tuition fees over six years, and increase taxes to pay for this

Again I checked. There’s a levy on bank profits and new taxes on commercial flights, but I doubt they’re so unpopular with the public. There are vast sums of money listed at the end of the manifesto that pay for this many times over, limiting public sector pay rises alone would be enough. If the question were phrased ‘..and limit public sector pay rises to pay for this’ would the result have been the same ?

Energy: Stop any new nuclear power stations from being built and attempt to solve the energy crisis by coal-fired power generation plants and wind turbines instead.

Now that’s probably somewhat disappointing to anyone environmentally aware. Coal powered generation is hardly a great way of saving the environment. But the manifesto says that they’ll block any new coal-fires power station unless they ‘are accompanied by the highest level of carbon capture and storage facilities’, which is quite different to what you’d expect if all your information came from the poll. The manifesto is full of green tabs at the side of enviromentally focussed policies like reinsulating homes and public buildings. It’s far more than turbines and coal.

I dont think this poll can really tell you whether people support Lib Dem policies as they aren’t well explained but I dont envy the job of writing one that does it well. As its results are reported in the press, I expect many people will get a rather skewed impression of Lib Dem policies as a result. If you’re interested in leaning about their policies, read their manifesto and dont rely on anyone to tell you what it says.

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