Gove was polarising but policies harder to assess

Gove was polarising but policies harder to assess

What?s interesting is the different levels of intensity among supporters and critics. Of the people who said Mr Gove did a good job, 30% said he did a ?very good job? while a far higher proportion of critics (56% of those who said he did a bad job) say he did a ?very bad job?. Similarly, 15% of Conservative voters said Mr Gove did a ?very good job? while fully 40% of Labour voters said he did a ?very bad job?.

UKIP voters are very negative ? 43% saying Mr Gove did a bad job, 21% that he did a good job ? though they were among the strongest supporters of making the curriculum ?more British? as one might expect (69% support vs. 57% among all voters in England).

More generally though the reactions to Mr Gove?s signature policies are a reminder that it?s hard to do polling on policy. I wrote about this last year and, not coincidentally, the example used was also to do with schools policy.

The key thing is that it?s easy to ask something like ?Do you think David Cameron is doing a good job? because almost everyone knows who Mr Cameron is and most have a view on him. However it?s a lot harder to poll on complex policy issues because most people won?t know much (if anything) about what?s being proposed, what the impact would be and what the alternatives are. You therefore have to give some background information about each one and summarising complex policy arguments into brief bullet points is difficult and fraught with risk which is why we always make sure to include the explanations when we publish the results so it?s clear what people are responding to. The alternative is to allow respondents to give an answer without providing any context but the danger here is that people are very reluctant to say ?don?t know? and there?s no way of distinguishing an informed ?approve? from someone who?s just ticked it so they have something to tick.

Education is an interesting one because there are two large chunks of the adult population (namely teachers/school staff and parents) who deal with education system on a day-to-day basis while if you?re in neither of those groups then your last experience of schools was many years ago.

This is perhaps why two of the four signature Gove policies we asked about, namely free schools and academy schools, saw more mixed responses while the more easily understood options were a little more clearly supported or opposed:

Academies and free schools may have been a little complex for survey respondents

The full explanation we gave for each policy is below:

  • Expanding academy schools (state-funded schools which are free of Local Authority control)
  • Introducing and expanding ?Free schools? (schools individuals can set up free from Local Authority control but funded by the government)
  • Curriculum reform (including making the study of history and English literature more ?focused on Britain?)
  • Abolishing ?re-sits? for A-Level and GCSE exams