It is a truth universally acknowledged that those who read a newspaper and those who comment on it are not the same – and that this applies to the Daily Mail, to the Guardian, to any publication…and indeed to ConservativeHome.
If you want proof of the claim, look at one of the results of our last monthly survey. We asked whether money should be taken from the international aid budget to help the victims of Britain’s floods.
Anyone who reads the comments below the line on this site will know that any article proposing that aid be cut or ended wins universal support from those who read it. (Indeed, the suggestion of moving aid money to flood relief duly did so on the article announcing the poll.)
63 per cent of those who responded to the survey approved of the proposal. But 32 per cent did not. Those are the figures for all readers – not Party members. So what did the latter say?
59 per cent of them said that money should be taken from the international aid budget to help the victims of Britain’s floods. And 37 per cent did not. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that a slightly larger proportion of Party members readers than non-readers are sympathetic to aid provision.
For roughly two-thirds of a sample to support the aid transfer constitutes a decisive majority, of course. But it is nothing like as big as the one that would be found “below the line”.
We also asked respondents to rate some political figures on how they have responded to the floods, marking them with one as the worst possible response and with five for the best. The result returned by Party members was as follows:
- David Cameron: 3.4
- Owen Paterson: 2.8
- Eric Pickles: 2.7
- Nigel Farage: 2.4
- Nick Clegg: 2.3
- Ed Miliband: 2.0
- Lord Smith: 1.8
No garlands for anyone, then, though the Prime Minister’s score is very respectable. Although Paterson and Pickles took different initial views of how publicly to criticise the Environment Agency, there’s little difference between their ratings.
Farage does much better in this question than he did in our last survey when Party members were asked who should be Britain’s next EU Commissioner. But the basic pattern is the same: he scores below Conservative politicians but above Clegg. Lord Smith wins the wooden spoon.
We also asked: how necessary, where 1 is “not at all necessary” and 5 is “crucial”, are the following measures for dealing with Britain’s floods? Here are the responses:
- Build structural defences, such as levies, around high-risk waterways: 4.0
- More dredging of rivers: 3.8
- Hand responsibility for preventing floods to local authorities: 3.4
- Tax cuts for individuals and businesses affected by flooding: 3.2
- Abolish the Environment Agency: 2.9
- Reintroduce beavers to British rivers: 2.3
- Green policies to help decarbonise the economy: 1.8
Almost 900 Party members responded to the survey. Their return is tested against a Control Panel which was set up by YouGov.