Polling Matters review of the week: Immigration, Blair and looking ahead to Copeland and Stoke

Polling Matters review of the week: Immigration, Blair and looking ahead to Copeland and Stoke

Keiran Pedley reviews the events of last week and looks ahead to a big few days for Labour.

On this week’s podcast I was joined by Leo Barasi and Harry Carr of Sky Data. We looked at Trump’s approval ratings in their historic context, YouGov polling for Channel 4 on ‘fake news’ and our latest Polling Matters / Opinium survey. You can listen to the episode below or by clicking here.

Our Polling Matters survey this week was on immigration. Our aim with these surveys is to go beyond the soundbites and try to understand some of the issues that we know are important in more detail. With that in mind we put 9 statements related to immigration to a nationally representative sample and asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed with them.

Perceived impact on public services drives public immigration concern

A summary of the results can be found in the table below. Some findings will not surprise. The public is divided over whether immigration is good for the UK overall and there is consensus that immigration is currently too high (65%). That said, the public do recognise some of the pragmatic arguments for immigration and 65% agree that they want people that come to the UK to feel welcome.

Note: Opinium surveyed a representative sample of 2011 UK adults online between 10 and 14 Feb

However, by far the most striking finding in my opinion is that 68% agree that ‘immigration places too much pressure on public services like housing and the NHS’. For me, this finding represents the untold story of the Brexit vote last June. It is my view that the perception, right or wrong, that immigration places an unreasonable burden on public services is what turns a relatively niche right-wing issue into something to cuts through with the majority of the public. How political leaders address this perception in the future, particularly on the left, is going to be very important in how this debate is resolved in the years to come (if indeed it is resolved).

Blair: right message / wrong messenger?

Tony Blair was in the news this week arguing that the British people should ‘rise up’ to stop Brexit. His plea is likely to be ignored. A Polling Matters / Opinium survey last week showed that 49% of UK adults think Blair did a bad job as PM. Part of Blair’s problem, as Leo Barasi wrote on this site last week, is that his brand is toxic not only among Conservatives but Labour voters too. YouGov data backs this up, showing that some 74%(!) are unfavourable towards Blair overall (including 68% of current Labour voters).

Blair’s supporters will argue that the former PM has every right to intervene and that no one else is championing the pro Remain cause within Labour. Both of these things are true. The problem is that the public are more likely to be turned off than persuaded by Blair’s intervention (see below).  With 82% of Leave voters unfavourable toward Blair it doesn’t look like he is the right person to persuade Leave voters that they made the wrong decision last June.

Looking ahead: Corbyn to limp on?

This week sees the people of Copeland and Stoke go to the polls (well some of them anyway) and the pressure is on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to deliver. Rumours are swirling that even his allies in the Labour Party are pondering life beyond Jez.  However, his opponents are still plagued by the twin problems of the lack of an obvious successor and the burden of low expectations. Labour should be walking both by-elections at this point in the electoral cycle but with expectations so low holding either will feel like a win for Corbyn and holding both will strengthen his leadership further.  At least it will among Labour members.

If Labour does hold both seats, don’t be surprised if the story this time next weekend is Paul Nuttall rather than Jeremy Corbyn. This week’s Polling Matters / Opinium survey will be worth a look. We ask if Corbyn and Nuttall are the right or wrong people to lead their parties into the next General Election. We will be looking at the numbers by all voters, those definitely voting Labour and UKIP and those that will consider voting for each party. The difference between committed voters for each party and those on the fence ought to be very interesting.  Results will be published with next week’s podcast.

You can listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast with Keiran, Leo Barasi and Head of Sky Data Harry Carr below:

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley

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