Welfare rise polling: Pick your own reality

So far, we’ve had two polls ask specific questions on the decision to limit rises in benefits to 1% over the next three years.

One poll by YouGov, one by Ipsos-Mori. Both are incredibly reputable firms.

Rather frustratingly, they’ve come up with almost completely contradictory results.

In the spirit of trying to confuse the hell out of everyone, the results of both polls are below, with the full questions and answer options, so you can decide what has led the public to give such different answers.

As for what I think, I initially thought it might be down to references to inflation, but both poll questions reference a “below inflation” increase. Now I suspect that one factor might be that the Mori poll named the benefits to be frozen in their question, while YouGov did not.

Another factor might be that Mori ask ‘what “should” happen, while YouGov ask if the government decision was “right” or not. For example, people might feel that benefits “should’ rise by inflation, but that special circumstances might apply at the moment, making it the “right” decision.

Anyway, all this means is that everyone gets to pick the reality which suits them best!

8 Responses to “Welfare rise polling: Pick your own reality”

  1. Tom

    The question probably has some effect, but so might the options, if they’re given as prompts. In the YouGov poll, there are three options: this was too much, this was right, this was too little. In the Ipsos poll, there were four: this was too much, this was right, this was too little, this was far too little. Given multiple options, there is a fairly large tendency for people to go for the middle answer(s).

    (A famous example was with college students in America given a choice between potential places to live: either A, somewhere near campus but not particularly nice, or B, somewhere nicer but further out. They split about 50/50. But adding the option of C, even nicer but even further from campus, caused *more* students to choose B.)

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  2. Brian Hughes

    Here’s an eccentric notion. How about politicians telling us what they, themselves really believe should happen without any reference to opinion polls, focus groups or (Lord help us) policy forums?

    What is it about the verb “to lead” that leaders find so difficult to grasp nowadays?

    [exits left mumbling incoherently]

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  3. Richard Nabavi

    Hopi, I think you’ve probably got it right in your penultimate paragraph. People may well think that, in general, benefits should rise in line with inflation, but that, in current circumstances, and with wages having risen more slowly than inflation for several years (and probably set to continue doing so), it is the right decision to increase benefits by less than inflation for a limited period (the next three years).

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  4. Andreas Paterson

    My interpretation is similar to the one in your penultimate paragraph, the framing of the second poll seems to imply much more urgency “..a decision needed to be made..was it the right one…?” compared with “what ought to happen about this?”

    I’d say that the fact the question gives such different answers depending on how it’s asked would indicate that it’s a subject that’s wide open and (as Brian says) asking for someone to take the lead.

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  5. PooterGeek

    The phrases “working age benefits” and “Job Seekers’ Allowance” appear in the first question. I suspect these say “strivers” rather than “skivers” to respondents, disposing them more favourably to increases in payments.

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  6. Laurence Janta-Lipinski

    Having dwelt on this a little longer, I now think the inclusion of child benefit in the Mori question was a deciding factor between their results and ours. I think respondents answered our question and thought only of people not like them, who they typically have a negative view of whereas, for Mori’s question, a lot of respondents were able to link the 1% increase to themselves.

    My suspicion is that if you asked the same question about each of the three benefits mentioned by Mori (JSA, income support and child benefit) you would get results closer to YouGov on the first two and closer to Mori on the third.

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    • Rich

      Indeed. Child Benefit freezes were a shibboleth for “uncaring Conservatism” in the 1980s. And the benefit will have helped a uniquely large proportion of the population at some time in their lives.

      Even parents of grown-up children will have more sympathy for Child Benefit, which they themselves used to receive for many years, compared with “benefits” in general (which newspapers misleadingly use as a shorthand for “means-tested payments to feckless layabouts”).

      Alternative hypothesis:

      Did some respondents in the first poll wrongly infer that the exclusion of “disability or carer benefits” from the 1% rise meant that those benefits were instead being frozen, i.e. being treated MORE harshly? Notwithstanding Mike Smithson’s preference for phone polls, the precise meaning of the Mori question was dependent on the interviewers’ intonation and the listeners’ diligence, so the parentheses are particularly vulnerable to being misconstrued, rendering “these benefits” ambiguous.

      That confusion would make “these benefits … should rise in line with inflation” a much more compelling answer than MORI intended!

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  7. Mike Smithson

    When you’ve got a choice between a phone poll and an online one the former wins everytime.

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