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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

European elections: UK voting intentions

From the invaluable UK Polling Report, we have the first UK voting intention figures for the 2009 European elections, released in today’s Sunday Telegraph.

The results, plus changes from the 2004 EU elections, are as follows:

Conservatives 35% (+8)
Labour 29% (+6)
Liberal Democrats 15% (+/-0)
UKIP 7% (-9)
Green 5% (-1)
British National Party 4% (-1)
Scottish National Party / Plaid Cwmru 4%

As UK Polling Report notes, “this would lead to the Conservatives winning 30 seats (up 3), Labour 24 (up 5), the Liberal Democrats 9 (down 2), the SNP and PC one each and UKIP 4 (down 8). The Greens would lose both their seats, while the BNP would fail to secure one.”

Polling stationPlease note that the poll was carried out (between the 6th and 8th January) by a web-based polling organisation (YouGov) founded by a former Tory pollster, commissioned by the Tory eurosceptic campaign group Global Vision in partnership with the Tory-linked “small government” campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance – and the results were first published in the staunchly eurosceptic, Tory-leaning Telegraph. Whether this means that the questions were loaded and the results skewed is hard to tell, as I haven’t seen the full results or the questions asked. The sample was made up of 2,157 adults.

It is also unclear whether a vote for newly launched pan-EU political party Libertas was an option – or how many people said that they would not be voting at all. Considering turn-out for EU elections in the UK has averaged about 30% in the last two, if the figures above are only based on those who will definitely be voting, the final sample size could be as few as 650 people (30% of 2,157) – statisticians will be able to tell you if that’s statistically significant for a UK population of 61 million. Either way, only 1% is unaccounted for in the above figures, and I very much doubt we’ll see a 99% turnout.

The dramatic drop in UKIP support (with further drops for fellow eurosceptic parties the Greens and the BNP) is one of the biggest points of interest. How to account for it? A pro-Tory bias in the questions from two Conservative-leading organisations conducting the poll, or a general collapse in UKIP support thanks to the party being, well, a bit rubbish? As Polling Report notes,

Back in 2004 YouGov included minor parties like UKIP in the main question prompt and, as a result, ended up over-stating the level of UKIP support – it will be interesting to see exactly how this question was prompted. Either way, how well UKIP will do is a hard one to predict. At the moment they get practically zero publicity in the mainstream media, so a huge drop in support is not a particular surprise. At the last European elections they received a lot of publicity because of Robert Kilroy-Silk, something that won’t be a factor this time… Accorded to the Sunday Telegraph report 10% of those who say they would vote Tory in a general election would vote UKIP in a European election, which implies that straight voting intention questions were also asked.

There were also some more general questions asked about the UK’s relationship with the EU which, as reported in the Telegraph, reveal the following:

16 per cent of voters want Britain simply to withdraw from the EU, while 48 per cent would like to see a much looser relationship, with the government taking back powers from Brussels and ending the supremacy of the European Court of Justice over British law.

Added together this makes 64 per cent in favour of weakening Britain’s ties with the EU, compared with just 22 per cent in favour of keeping the UK’s current full membership including the Lisbon Treaty, which was passed by parliament without a referendum.

Much worth noting there. The mention of “taking back powers from Brussels” (a key Tory promise under David Cameron, though it’s unclear quite how he could achieve this) would suggest a pro-Tory bias to the questioning. The mention of the European Court of Justice is also odd – this is an institution rarely explicitly brought up in the UK EU debate (in fact, it’s more often the non-EU European Court of Human Rights that is bandied about by press and politicians alike), though “the supremacy of European [law]” is a favourite buzz phrase of the eurosceptic right. Please also note the final part of that second paragraph: if “passed by parliament without a referendum” was included in the poll’s own questioning, that’s almost certainly going to result in some pretty hefty result-skewing, as by all accounts the British public was overwhelmingly in favour of a Lisbon Treaty referendum, while remaining overwhelmingly ignorant of its contents.

One final statistic of interest, from the Telegraph:

Some 45 per cent of voters, meanwhile, believe none of the three main political parties adequately reflects their views on Britain’s future relations with the EU

That sounds about right – and you can count me in among that 45%. As EU elections in the UK are based on a party list form of proportional representation, I will not have the option of voting for an individual candidate come June – which is what I usually base my vote on. Given the option of ONLY voting for a party, I find myself genuinely stumped. Indeed, it’s increasingly looking like the upcoming European elections will well be the first elections of any kind for which I have been eligible to vote at which I will reluctantly find myself abstaining.

Yes, you read that right: Despite being one of the most engaged and aware people in the British Isles when it comes to the EU – and arguably one of the most prominent and persistent online advocates for the UK’s continued involvement with the European integration – I may not bother to vote in the EU elections. That’s just about as damning an indictment of the way the EU currently works as you can get.

33 Comments

  1. So 29% of the electorate are fucking idiots?.

  2. Good post, and it builds on what I was thinking having read this at Political Betting.

    Essentially the UKIP vote is the unpredictable one: can their message gain ground between now and election day? Is the mild euroscepticism of Cameron going to be adequate to keep UKIP at bay?

    I’m also astounded by this figure for Labour. At the last elections in 2004 Blair was not exactly popular, but the opinion polls for Westminster still showed a Labour lead. Now nationally the Tories are in front and yet the figures for Labour look better than that time around – and there are not many people that would jump from UKIP to Labour (or vice versa).

    In short we’re going to need a lot more polls and a lot more analysis until we can determine a fuller picture here.

  3. Re: Where the UKIP vote comes from, according to the Telegraph article, “10 per cent of Conservative voters at a general election would switch to UKIP in the euro-election, compared with 2 per cent of Labour voters and 1 per cent of those backing the Lib Dems.”

    The 2% Labour makes sense – there’s still a few old Labour types knocking about, from the eurosceptic days of the 70s/80s. The 1% Lib Dem/UKIP crossover is utterly bizarre, though – they’re the only party I’d call properly europhile. It’s one of their key attributes, surely?

  4. A looser relationship may sound great, if you have sucked the teats of British tabloids long enough, but have the electors thought about the consequences?

    Would any potential government party in the UK really want the “fax democracy” of the European Economic Area, with the EFTA Court ruling on the application of the EEA Treaty?

    No Commission member, no voice or vote on the Council, no Prime Minister “fighting Britain’s corner” at the European Council meetings, and no Europarlamentarians even to posture wearing silly costumes at plenaries?

    Or with the UK as a third country – like Zimbabwe – outside altogether?

    If the Irish, too, happened to take leave of the fundamental idea of an evolving European Union for a second time, would English even remain an official EU language?

    Could the tabloids themselves survive if the UK had seceded?

    How would the anti-European bloggers redeploy their energies when deprived of their favourite hate object as a meaningful issue for their readers? They would have to hate something or somebody else, wouldn’t they?

  5. I’m also surprised about the concern over the ECJ. Though in the Irish referendum campaign there were similar concerns, so maybe that had an influence on the questions in the poll? During the referendum nobody suggested ending the ECJ’s supremacy anyway (and quite right*); the concerns in Ireland were more that with the new Charter of Rights the ECJ could somehow change family law.
    …Though it shouldn’t really have been a concern if the Catholic Church, the biggest anti-abortion organisation in the world, stated that the Treaty wouldn’t affect Ireland’s abortion law…

    On not voting in the EP elections: is that just because of the electoral system or because of the quality of the EP’s work?
    I think I heard that the EP is pushing for a uniform electoral system throughout the EU for the EP elections, but I’d have to check that.

    *Legally, the doctrine of supremacy (EU law is supreme over national law) is vital to the whole running of the EU, or at least the single market. Removing that would certainly throw the EU into meltdown – you can’t have common rules and a functioning single market if everyone makes up whatever rules suit them. Anyone advocating this might as well just openly campaign on leaving the EU.

  6. Come on, Ralf – don’t over-egg the pudding. Your first three paragraphs are fine, but then you get progressively more hyperbolic to the extent that I hope you’re taking the piss. If you’re not, you’re making exactly the kinds of ridiculous, over-the-top arguments that the eurosceptics always accuse everyone pro-EU of employing (“because they haven’t got any real ones” being the standard eurosceptic explanation), and so damaging the cause you love.

    To use Zimbabwe – one of the least economically-successful countries in the world – as an example of one outside both EU and EFTA? To suggest that English may cease to be an official EU language, when it’s the European language spoken by the largest number of Europeans, and remains the prime language of global trade?

    Come on – you’re one of the most technically knowledgable EU bloggers out there, judging by the reams of detailed legal jargon you publish at your place. You can do far better than that. How about some positive reasons for continued close engagement rather than negatives based on a highly unlikely hypothetical world in which a withdrawalist party actually has a chance of gaining power in the UK? (Note: Though Tory EU policy is highly confused and confusing, and there are some hardline eurosceptics among Tory ranks prompting lots of silly populist rhetoric, the party remains committed to EU membership.)

  7. Eurocentric – on the voting thing, it’s primarily the voting system (I’m sure I could find a decent candidate for the EP somewhere in London), but the weakness of the parliament is also a concern. Why bother taking the time to vote for an institution that has so little real power? Until someone can come up with a convincing argument for that one, little wonder turnout’s so low.

    (And I say that despite being one of the few people in this country who knows what the EP is actually for, and what its powers actually are…)

  8. I’d agree that the EP is quite weak, though in my opinion it has overtaken the Commission in terms of power over the last 15-20 years.

    The EP is in dire need of reform – especially the party group system: the selection of candidates needs to be more centralised. I don’t really mean candidates purely appointed from the centre, but some from of input from the centre is needed.

    Still, I think I would personally vote, if just because I believe in making the most out of what’s there, as flawed as it is. And although the democratic deficit has its own force as an argument for strengthening the EP, higher turnout might help the reform process along. I mean, look at how many treaties we’ve had over the last 20 years compared to the 20 before that. The quaility of these treaties really needs to pick up if we don’t want to go through the same old crisis again and again.

  9. A good analysis of the state of play. I am wondering whether it will be worthwhile going under the skin of UKIP again and making my UKIP Uncovered blog more active as June approaches but am waiting to see how Libertas progresses, particularly here in France and also to see the full UKIP candidate list.

    Both UKIP and the Conservatives have a major problem in the coming contest with the anti-democratic basis on which their party lists will be drawn up. I understand the English Democrats will be fielding a candidate in each region and they could be dark horses in England!.

    Ralf Grahn misses the point on EU withdrawal for the UK. The fact English will be dropped in the EU is immaterial as we will revert to our old ways of sailing straight past or in this day and age ‘overflying’. We are economically crippled by the EU! (See my graph posted yesterday on “Ironies Too” regarding the extra billion pounds we lost over Xmas).

    There are plenty in the world already using English as their mother tongue who are ready to do business without over-regulation and crippling bureaucratic constraints.

  10. Full poll results can be found here, including breakdowns by region, party etc:
    http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/

  11. Mark W, thanks for the link to the results, they’re quite interesting. The tax question is a bit dodgy. Also:

    a) 51-33 % of voters think it unrealistic for Britain to move to a free-trade area (instead of political and economic union)

    b) Only 46-54 % of UKIP voters want to leave the EU!

    c) The question about inadequate representation by the three main parties, among people who will vote for those parties at the EU elections:
    44% of Tory voters
    48% of Labour voters
    38% of Lib Dem voters

    so voters for the most europhile party feel the least represented

  12. Nosemonkey,

    I was just – soberly – trying to catch the tone of the Telegraph and most of the British blogs reporting and commenting on the opinion poll. (They see themselves as highly factual, don’t they?)

    Aren’t the Conservatives committed to renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU in case they win the elections, and to arrange a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty has not entered into force by that time?

    By the way, it is astonishing that outcries against “encroachment” by the EU into “the daily lives of people” are nowhere more vehement than in the member state which has opted out of most new and evolving core areas (the euro and eurozone governance, Schengen and now the Area of freedom, security and justice, the Charter of Fundamental Rights) and done the most to obstruct progress by the EU as a whole.

    Only Denmark is in the same league, but their government has publicly declared that the opt-outs are against the national interest.

  13. Mark W – thanks for that. A few questions from a quick skim through:

    1) The chart says “Excluding Don’t Knows and Wouldn’t Votes, n=1,494” – so 69% of those polled are planning on voting? That sounds almost exactly the opposite of what I’d expect based on past elections and past polls. Or does that instead mean that your final sample size was 2,157-1,494, i.e. just 663? Either way, can those polled really be considered representative – either through their significantly higher than usual likelihood of voting (if the former) or the small sample size (if the latter)?

    2) How was the question about the “Euro referendum” phrased? Was it specifically about the Lisbon Treaty, or about EU membership more generally?

    3) There’s only three options in the “ideal relationship” section – two of which are very detailed indeed. In polling, detail tends to lead to skewing results. e.g. The option to keep the “current status” includes the phrase “including the Lisbon Treaty” – considering that the Lisbon Treaty hasn’t entered into force, yet has picked up very negative connotations thanks to high-profile campaigns for a referendum, is this fair? Equally, the option for “taking powers back” refers simply to “the European Court”, rather than the EU institution the European Court of Justice (which rarely gets a mention in the press) – could this have skewed results, as the majority of the population think that the Council of Europe institution the European Court of Human Rights (which gets a lot of mentions in the press) is something to do with the EU?

    4) Do you have any figures to show cross-over between the 48% who apparently want to reneogtiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and the 51% who don’t think such a reneogtiation is realistic?

    Ralf – Agreed entirely on the rhetoric about EU encroachment. But the reason for that is the same as the explanation for the Tories’ supposed commitment to renegotiating the UK-EU relationship and a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – over the last 25 years or so, the EU has become the automatic political scapegoat of choice for both press and politicians in the UK. The EU takes the blame for almost every ill in this country, whether it had any hand in it or not. In making promises they can’t keep about EU renegotiation, the Tories are simply tapping into a populist sentiment that’s been fired up by the eurosceptic press (especially the Sun, the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph). They know they can’t really keep their promises – but when they fail to, they’ll just blame it on the EU again.

    Polically short-sighted? Yes. Definitely. But this is because political careers are short, and of little worth if you don’t gain power. By the time the real crisis of the UK’s relationship with the EU comes, Cameron’s probably counting on having been safely retired with a lucrative, Tony Blair-style career jetting around the world giving after-dinner speeches.

    (Blair, please note, had a superb opportunity for reversing the antagonism towards the EU that started up in the Thatcher and Major years. In 1997 he was so wildly popular he could easily have convinced the country of the EU’s merits, had he bothered to make the effort. But instead this self-professed “passionate pro-European” spent his decade in power pandering to the eurosceptic Murdoch press and doing bugger all to promote the benefits of EU membership to the public at large. Because he was the biggest populist of them all. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Thatcherism, Dude, but at least it was an ethos.)

  14. Ralph Garn,

    Dont worry if we leave the EU, about EUrosceptics having nothing to hate. If that blessed day comes, I will be able to go back to the way of life I had that our membership of this project has destroyed, albeit due to the indolence and stupidity of our senior civil servants.
    Unless of corse, halfwits who cant imagine a life outside the EU except as Zimbabwean doom and gloom still infest the corridors of power.

  15. I cant see why it`s astonishing about the encroachment of the EU into our daily lifestyles is in the country that is not signed up to the Shenengen Agreement, EUro, Working Time Directive etc,treaties and agreements that would encroach even more into peoples daily lifestyles. For your side though, it`s a good job most people in the UK dont realise just how much the EU does encroach into all aspects of peoples lifestyles and the governance of Britain.

  16. Re the Lib Dem/UKIP vote crossover.

    The party policy position is strongly in favour of EU membership, and of democratic reforms to the setup (I wish they’d stres the reform outlook more than the pro-EU one myself, naturally).

    But many Lib Dem voters are a lot less sold on the EU, but like them domestically (or, simply, vote Lib Dem as the anti-Tory party in their area). Indeed, I know a lot of Lib Dem members who aren’t that keen on the policy, and the continuity Liberals are in favour of withdrawal.

    Private polling data I’m aware of (I haven’t seen it myself, but my source is damn good) shows that a lot of the UKIP vote in Newton Abbot and Torbay at the last Euros voted for Adrian and Richard at the General Election–that was one of the reasons why Richard broke the whip on the Lisbon vote (correctly, in my view, we promised a referendum and I really want to fight and win that one).

    @Jon: I would not be at all surprised to see a crossover between Labour and UKIP voters in traditional Labour areas as well–they won’t be members, or even strong supporters, but they’ll normally vote Labour. Same as polling in some areas shows that the BNP and Labour has a strong crossover, etc.

    National polling never truly reflects Lib Dem voter behaviour, the votes are so concentrated in areas they can afford to be active that the polsters don’t pick them up properly (see the 25% vote share last May compared to the less than 20% polling numbers, etc). YouGov in particular have never got the LibDem vote share even close to being right (and I was saying that long before I joined them).

  17. Nosemonkey said:
    4) Do you have any figures to show cross-over between the 48% who apparently want to reneogtiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and the 51% who don’t think such a reneogtiation is realistic?

    Well, the poll indicates that 44% of those intending to vote Tory at the EU elections think that it is not very realistic. In fact, would-be Tory voters are more sceptic about the idea of renegotiation that would-be Labour voters, according to the poll.

    Of course this is something The Daily Telegraph (et al) forgot to mention when reporting the poll!

    The phrasing of the question is also, unsurprisingly, somewhat loaded. More often than not, the “ideal” is wholly unrealistic!

    Full poll here: http://www.yougov.com/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/TPA%20results%2009%2001%2008.pdf

  18. I don’t think it’s such a good idea to argue over one percentage here and another percentage there. It’s within any margin of error. The amount of Lib Dem voters moving over to the UKIP can be near an absolute zero.

    Internet polls aren’t scientific at all, so I really don’t think it’s a good idea to get rallied up or over-analyze those numbers.

  19. “…the final sample size could be as few as 650 people (30% of 2,157) – statisticians will be able to tell you if that’s statistically significant for a UK population of 61 million.”

    Maths quibble – the confidence intervals for a random sample are effectively independent of the population size, unless the sample is so large that it’s a sizeable proportion of the total population. So a survey of 650 people would be an equally good (or bad) estimator for 6.1 billion people as for 61 million or even 61,000. With a sample size of 650, I think the confidence interval (at 95% confidence) is something like 4-5% each way.

    Of course, all a survey can hope to predict is how the population at large would respond to that particular set of questions, if they all got asked. The interpretation of how people respond to questions isn’t really a matter of statistics.

  20. Robin wrote:”For your side though, it`s a good job most people in the UK dont realise just how much the EU does encroach into all aspects of peoples lifestyles and the governance of Britain”.

    Damn right. And “ignorant” they may be, but they know when they’re being shafted.

    Ralf .. your simmering anglophobia is becoming tiresome.

  21. Some oil refinery workers on Humberside today seem to be getting the message that the EU might impact their lives!

  22. Nosemonkey – “Eurosceptic right” – that would include Tony Benn, Kate Hoey, Frank Field etc., etc., would it? Or farther afield the Icelandic Greens (the new govt. there)? Seen their latest statement on the EU? Or is everyone who disagrees with you “right” by definition, and it’s some some of generic bad word?

    Ralf G. It certainly will be interesting post EU. Of course we will be a position to reinstate the free trade/migration arrangements we used to have with other non EU countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Did you know far more British citizens live and work in these countries than in the mainland EU? The UK, Irish Republic and Iceland all joining an enlarged NAFTA would be another obvious possible development.

    p.s. I’m enjoying the way the British “left” is splitting over the anti EU Labour Laws strikes by the way. Most entertaining.

  23. Erm, no – Eurosceptic right means exactly what is says it does, hence me specifying “right” as well as Eurosceptic. The Eurosceptic left doesn’t seem to care too much about the supremacy of European law most of the time – or at least, lefty Eurosceptics don’t bang on about it all the time.

  24. Perhaps you just mix in the wrong circles? By the way, using what I think are rather simplistic labels, I’m a “lefty” Don’t know whether you saw Sharma’s “History of Britain”? If not, may I commend the final episode to you.

  25. Ukip is on the right and EUrosceptic, the BNP is on the left and EUrosceptic.
    Nosemonkey, which are the “swivel eyed” ?

  26. Mark – nope, can’t stand Schama, so have no idea what you’re referring to, I’m afraid. If it’s of any relevance, I’d place myself as a centrist – and so have most political alignment quizzes I’ve ever taken.

    Robin – All of the BNP (who are only on the left if you focus exclusively on their economic policies and ignore the vast majority of their other proposals – left and right are not just economic terms, as much as many right-wingers who wish (unnecessarily, I’d say) to disassociate themselves from fascist ideology by trying to make them so), and some – though by no means all – of UKIPers are swivel-eyed loons, I’d say. (Don’t leave out the loons bit – that’s the most important part. Otherwise it sounds like I’m just accusing them of having ocular defects, rather than mental ones.)

  27. Nosemonkey;

    It’s sometimes worthwhile to at least acquaint yourself with what people you can’t stand are saying, to better understand their point of view?

    fyi Sharma argued that when push comes to shove there isn’t a significant emotional difference between the Britsih “left” and “right” when it comes to how they view the world outside the UK.

    Guess maybe Lord Halifax sort of represented the centrist view in the Sharma programme.

    Robin;

    From memory of a politics course I studied years ago Fascists were treated as “Centre Extremists”. Academic papers drew attention to how the NASDP got traction from first taking practically all the centrist National Liberal vote. Of course things may well have moved on from my student days.
    Fascists are also internationalists – see Heinrich Himmlers’ 1944 speech hailing the Waffen SS as the new “United Europe army” for example.

  28. Fascists were internationalists now?

  29. Mark,

    I think Himmler and the Nazis embraced a more “internationalist” look at the ending of the war, when they were losing.

  30. Nosemonkey,

    The BNP perhaps could be described as left-authortarian. The same applies to Stalin.
    UKIP could be described as right -libertarian.

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