by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 19
July 2021
Behind the news
13:45

Anti-Freedom Day polling is not what it seems

Voters' reluctance to support reopening has a marked political bias
by Freddie Sayers
According to the polls, this protestor is an outlier.

One of the stranger aspects of the past eighteen months has been the opinion polls showing relentless public support for lockdowns. Whatever the array of options, voters always seem to opt for the most risk-averse/authoritarian one.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise to see, in this morning’s Times, a YouGov poll showing that on Freedom Day, most people don’t want it to happen. 55% of people are think it is the wrong thing to do, and only 31% of people support it.

But when you dig into the underlying data, you notice some odd things going on. You would expect that younger people, who we know from rocketing case numbers and queues outside nightclubs last night are not exactly avoiding contact with each other, would be in favour of restrictions being lifted while older people would be more cautious. Not so. In fact, the youngest cohort of 18-24 year olds are less likely than average to say they support the reopening (with only 28% in favour).

So what is going on?

The explanation, as so often, is at least partly political. The question YouGov asked begins with “The Government” and is presented as a “right or wrong” judgement — as such it is in part a measure of whether or not you endorse the Conservative Government.

Sure enough, when you look at the responses by voting intention, the only group that is in favour of the Government’s re-opening is… Tory voters! Can it really be the case that the opinion of individuals on the pandemic is so dramatically aligned with their political persuasion? Well, perhaps. But it also seems fair to suspect that it is exaggerated by the fact of answering an opinion poll and the wording of the question.

Earlier in the same survey, YouGov asked respondents who they would vote for in a general election. 55% of 18-24 year olds said Labour, while only 22% chose Conservative (the national figures are 44% Conservative, 31% Labour). This is by far the most anti-Tory, pro-Labour age group in the country.

So if you’re a 20 year old on the YouGov panel, answering a quick survey to earn 50p before heading out to get in line for a Freedom Day nightclub re-opening party, you still might not want to lend the evil Tories your support. At best, you might put your cross in the ‘don’t know’ column — which fully 19% of them chose to do, more than any other age group.

The net effect is surely an exaggeration of the apparent opposition to reopening, because the demographic groups that ought to be most in favour are also the most politically opposed to the Government. It’s left to the older, Tory voting, respondents to overcome their greater anxiety and offer their support. These effects don’t balance each other out because, as any pollster will tell you, survey respondents are generally more inclined to criticise politicians than defend them.

We know from Dominic Cummings’ leaked WhatsApp messages that Boris Johnson pays close attention to opinion polls and focus groups when making decisions about Covid. He ought to take care — public opinion is more complex than the headline finding might suggest.

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

Another question needs to be asked by these polls – “Do you work in the public sector?” Not one public sector employee has lost a single penny due to Covid lockdowns or restrictions, regardless of their work arrangements. The same cannot be said of everyone else.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Exactly. There could be another column for non public sector people who still draw full salaries.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Good point, but to be fair, most young people, indeed most people, do not work in the public sector.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Excellent point.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago

Outside of general elections, when political engagement rises, most 18-24 year olds don’t bother with politics, even less opinion polling. Polls like this are typically a middle class eco-chamber. If you want to know if people are ready to end restrictions, look at the footfall in shops, bars and restaurants. That will give you a better indicator.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

This is an example of one of the great challenges of the pandemic. How do you know who to trust when trying to understand any issue related to covid?
We are not all statisticians and cannot go back to the raw data from a survey and figure out if the survey was biased, or whether a particular journalist has an axe to grind.
At the end of the day, I think the best we can do is find one or two publications/news outlets/commentators we think we can trust to be reasonably impartial and follow them.
The current level of disinformation, even in previously unimpeachable publications, is truly depressing.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Time to raise the voting age if this is anything to go by.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 year ago

No thank you, Britain has a problem with gerontocracy already. Let’s not make it even worse.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Facebook, Twitter, Google, Ticktock…

No point bothering to do these polls, just find how the Social Media algorithms promote each position, and that is how the poll will work out. This whole covid response is pure social engineering by the Davos Global Elites NWO, WEF of Claus S. ‘You will own nothing, and you will be happy’, and as they own the MSM, Social Media, entertainment, and education industries, the sheep will believe as they are told, and run towards the carrot, and away from the stick.

That the WEF is out to forever change the global economy they want more and more harm to be done to it, so it will require a total re-make, one which will make them for ever in control, and that means getting the sheep like people to do as much harm to the economy as possible, and they are.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree with you, Sanford. I’ve noticed a worrying trend in media reporting lately where people who question the mainstream news channels are labelled ‘far-right extremists’ thus lumping them in with conspiracy-theorists and racial supremacists. My belief that is being done in order to delegitimize those who speak out against government overreach.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Thanks Freddie!

(And please, do interview Debbie Hayton and the author of that blog on CRT and American private school wokeness)

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

Why do politicians, particularly tory politicians, care so much about the views of those who will never vote for them no matter what? Surely Boris should only consider the views of tory voters.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

not sure that strategy is working so well for Labour

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago

Young people don‘t have steady jobs and get support from The Government or their parents. Many voters who are employed by the State, especially Labour voters, are still being paid. Big government produces dependants, not in the least concerned if their business will fail or if business they work for collapses. Once the money runs out, maybe they wake up to reality

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
1 year ago

“Do you think ending the arrangement under which you are paid to sit at home watching Netflix and eating chocolates is the right or wrong thing to do today?”Reminds us of Mrs Merton’s question to Mrs Paul Daniels: “So, Mrs Daniels. What first attracted you to millionaire Paul Daniels?”.