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Poll Watch: February 2008
In the latest monthly Poll Watch, the BBC's political research editor, David Cowling, reviews the political opinion polls published in the UK in February.

Derek Conway
MP Derek Conway was in trouble over payments to relatives

Populus/Times (sampled 1-3 February) tested opinion over the controversy surrounding MPs' expenses.

Some 59% thought MPs should be allowed to employ family members out of public funds as long as they were qualified for the job, did the job they were paid for and if their employment was fully disclosed.

By contrast, 38% thought family members should not be employed regardless of qualifications or ability.

The survey then broadened out to address political sleeze. When asked which of the three main parties they regarded as "tainted by financial sleeze", 69% nominated Labour, 51% the Conservatives and 26% the Lib Dems.

However, when asked whether the Labour government was more or less sleezy than its Conservative predecessor, 73% answered "about the same", 14% said "more" and 8% said "less".

Spending

Guardian/ICM (sampled 15-17 February) concentrated on taxation and public spending and revealed some of the ambiguities in public opinion over these issues.

Firstly, about half (51%) agreed that people they knew would be more inclined to support a party that promised "to keep government spending on public services at current levels or higher".

Meanwhile, 36% thought they would support a party that promised to reduce taxes "even though it might mean less spending on services like welfare and the NHS".

But when those same people were asked what they thought about the level of tax they paid, 67% answered it was "too much".

When asked whether the tax they paid made a fairer society, 54% answered "less fair".

And when asked if their tax was put to good use, 65% said "no".

The overwhelming majority (75%) thought the gap between highest and lowest incomes in Britain today was too large.

Northern Rock

Populus had two bites of the cherry over Northern Rock. In the Times (519 respondents sampled on 20 February) 51% said that Northern Rock's management was a great deal to blame for its problems, compared with 32% who said the same about the American mortgage market and 21% who said the Labour government was greatly to blame.

Opinion was split over whether nationalisation was the right decision - 49% thought it was and 40% did not. However, 69% thought the government should have tried harder to find a private sector buyer.

Populus/BBC Daily Politics (sampled 22-24 February) found 39% agreed that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had handled the Northern Rock crisis as well as they could "under the circumstances" (50% disagreed).

But when asked if David Cameron and George Osborne would have handled the crisis better, 28% agreed and 52% disagreed.

The bad news for Gordon Brown was that 51% agreed he was indecisive and a ditherer.

The slightly better news was that 46% disagreed that David Cameron and George Osborne were better trusted to take the best decisions on tax and the economy (39% agreed they were).

Welsh future

ICM/BBC Wales (sampled 22-24 February, among 1,210 respondents in Wales) asked how people would vote if there were to be a referendum on turning the National Assembly into a full law-making Welsh parliament.

Some 49% of those questioned said they would vote in favour, whilst 42% said they would vote against (9% were undecided).

As far as the Olympics are concerned, ICM/Guardian (sampled 15-17 February) registered 19% in favour of boycotting the games in protest at China's human rights record, as opposed to 72% who thought British athletes should compete.

MORI, in two surveys (sampled between 1-14 February) on behalf of several animal welfare organisations, found 71% who disagreed that people should be allowed to break the law banning hunting with dogs.

They also found that 73% thought fox hunting should not be made legal again, compared with 96% who thought the same about dog fighting, 93% about badger baiting, 82% about hare hunting and coursing and 81% about deer hunting.

SEE ALSO
Poll Watch: January 2008
08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Poll Watch: Review of 2007
21 Dec 07 |  UK Politics
Poll Watch: November 2007
07 Dec 07 |  UK Politics
Poll Watch: October 2007
08 Nov 07 |  UK Politics



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