Polls on prisons suggested complex views on crime
In the latest monthly Poll Watch, the BBC's political research editor David Cowling casts his expert eye over August's political opinion polls.
My alternative career as a clairvoyant crashed only seconds after take-off. I went on holiday declaring there would be hardly any polls in August. How wrong can you be?
The European Union featured prominently in the polling. An ICM poll for the Daily Mail (sampled 15-16 August) was devoted exclusively to it, but the findings illustrated some of the difficulties we face when we try to interpret public opinion.
The greater part of the poll was devoted to the premise that the proposed new EU treaty equalled a new EU constitution and therefore Labour should honour its 2005 manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on any new EU constitution.
However, when asked if they thought the new treaty "does or does not represent a constitution for the EU", only 24% thought it did, whereas 44% thought it did not and 31% did not know.
Additionally, 58% thought the EU had too much power over the lives of British people. Yet, when push came to shove, barely one-in-five (21%) thought we should withdraw from the EU.
A MORI/Sun poll (sampled 8-9 August) asked whether the decision to sign "the EU Constitutional Treaty" should be made by Parliament or by the British people in a referendum: 17% favoured Parliament and 81% a referendum.
In the event of such a referendum, 31% said they were fixed in their determination to vote against, compared with 10% who were determined to vote in favour.
The middle ground was occupied by 24% who said they were slightly against but could be persuaded otherwise, and the 27% who were slightly in favour but could also change their mind.
The 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death created a flurry of poll questions reflecting on that event as well as broader issues relating to the Royal Family.
A ComRes (formerly Communicate Research) poll for the BBC (sampled 24-26 August) found 37% stating that the public display of grief over her death in 1997 was "too much" (50% thought it "about right").
And 56% thought the Royal Family was out of touch with the public. ICM for the Daily Mail (sampled 1-3 August) found opinion divided over the effect of Prince Charles's marriage to Camilla - 39% thought this had strengthened the Royal Family, compared with 37% who thought they were weakened by it.
However, if Charles does become King, 59% thought Camilla should not be allowed to take the title of Queen.
Brown vs Cameron
The monthly ICM/Guardian poll (sampled 22-23 August) found responses which suggested a more complex view of crime than might be supposed from many news headlines.
Whereas 77% thought court sentences were too soft, 51% thought the government should not build more prisons but look for other ways to punish criminals and deter crime; and 49% agreed with the view that prison doesn't work because it turns people into professional criminals who then commit even more crime.
Needless to say, with no polling holiday, politics also featured throughout the month.
And Gordon Brown's bounce continued. MORI/Sun found those rating David Cameron as untrustworthy had risen to 50% (from 46% in June), compared with 54% who thought Mr Brown trustworthy (up from 37% in June).
Mr Cameron continues to lead Gordon Brown in terms of having most personality (42% versus 31%). However, Gordon Brown led David Cameron as best at understanding the problems facing Britain by 51% to 17%; and as best in a crisis by 69% to 10%.
ICM/Sunday Mirror (sampled 8-10 August) found 59% satisfied with the way Gordon Brown was doing his job as prime minister (19% were dissatisfied). Some 38% were satisfied with Mr Cameron's handling of his job as leader of the Conservative Party (42% were dissatisfied).