Just because you’re paranoid, the old joke runs, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. By the same token: just because I’m an egomaniac, doesn’t mean that YouGov isn’t commissioning polls of upwards of 50,000 people aimed at me, personally.
Seriously, that particular pollster has form for this: almost exactly a year ago, it published the results of a poll about London’s tube network that I’m about 98 per cent certain* was inspired by an argument Stephen Bush and I had been having on Twitter, at least partly on the grounds that it was the sort of thing that muggins here would almost certainly write up.
And, I did write it up – or, to put it another way, I fell for it. So when, 364 days later, the same pollster produces not one but two polls, ranking Britain’s cities and counties respectively, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that CityMetric and YouGuv are now locked in a co-dependent and potentially abusive relationship.
But never mind that now. What do the polls tell us?
Let’s start with the counties
Everybody loves the West Country
YouGov invited 42,000 people to tell it whether or not they liked England’s 47 ceremonial counties for some reason. The top five, which got good reviews from between 86 and 92 per cent of respondents, were, in order: Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Somerset. That’s England’s four most south westerly counties. And North Yorkshire.
So: almost everyone likes the South West, though whether this is because they associate it with summer holidays or cider or what, the data doesn’t say. Perhaps, given the inclusion of North Yorkshire, people just like countryside. That would seem to be supported by the fact that...
Nobody really likes the metropolitan counties
Greater London was stitched together in 1965. Nine years later, more new counties were created to cover the metropolitan areas of Manchester, Liverpool (Merseyside), Birmingham (the West Midlands), Newcastle (Tyne&Wear), Leeds (West Yorkshire and Sheffield (South Yorkshire). Actually, there were also new counties covering Teesside (Cleveland) and Bristol/Bath (Avon), too, but those have since been scrapped, so let’s ignore them.
Not all of those seven counties still exist in any meaningful governmental sense – but they’re still there for ’ceremonial purposes’, whatever that means. And we now know, thanks to this poll, that – to the first approximation – nobody much likes any of them. The only one to make it into the top half of the ranking is West Yorkshire, which comes 12th (75 per cent approval); South Yorkshire (66 per cent) is next, at 27th. Both of those, it may be significant, have the name of a historic county in their name.
The ones without an ancient identity to fall back on are all clustered near the bottom. Tyne & Wear is 30th out of 47 (64 per cent), Greater London 38th (58 per cent), Merseyside 41st (55 per cent), Greater Manchester 42nd (53 per cent)... Not even half of people like the West Midlands (49 per cent, placing it 44th out of 47). Although it seems to suffer also from the fact that...
Everybody hates the Midlands
Honestly, look at that map:
Click to expand.
The three bottom rated counties, are all Midlands ones: Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire – which, hilariously, with just 40 per cent approval, is a full seven points behind its nearest rival, the single biggest drop on the entire table.
What the hell did Bedfordshire ever do to you, England? Honestly, it makes Essex’s 50 per cent approval rate look pretty cheery.
While we’re talking about irrational differences:
There’s trouble brewing in Sussex
West Sussex ranks 21st, with a 71 per cent approval rating. But East Sussex is 29th, at just 65 per cent.
Honestly, what the fuck? Does the existence of Brighton piss people off that much?
Actually, we know it doesn’t because thanks to YouGov we have polling.
No, Brighton does not piss people off that much
Click to expand.
A respectable 18th out of 57, with a 74 per cent approval rating. I guess it could be dragged up by how much everyone loves Hove, but it doesn’t seem that likely.
London is surprisingly popular
Considering how much of the national debate on these things is dedicated to slagging off the capital – and who can blame people, really, given the state of British politics – I’m a bit surprised that London is not only in the top half but the top third. It ranks 22nd, with an approval rating of 73 per cent, higher than any other major city except Edinburgh.
But what people really want is somewhere pretty with a castle or cathedral
Honestly, look at the top 10:
|City||% who like the city||Rank|
These people don’t want cities, they want Christmas cards.
No really, everyone hates the Midlands
Birmingham is the worst-rated big city, coming 47th with an approval rating of just 40 per cent. Leicester, Coventry and Wolverhampton fare even worse.
What did the Midlands ever do to you, Britain?
The least popular city is Bradford, which shows that people are awful
An approval rating of just 23 per cent. Given that Bradford is lovely, and has the best curries in Britain, I’m going to assume that
a) a lot of people haven’t been there, and
b) a lot of people have dodgy views on race relations.
Official city status is stupid
This isn’t something I learned from the polls exactly, but... Ripon? Ely? St David’s? Wells? These aren’t cities, they’re villages with ideas above their station.
By the same token, some places that very obviously should be cities are nowhere to be seen. Reading and Huddersfield are conspicuous by their absence. Middlesbrough and Teesside are nowhere to be seen.
I’ve ranted about this before – honestly, I don’t care if it’s how the queen likes it, it’s stupid. But what really bugs me is that YouGov haven’t even ranked all the official cities. Where’s Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, which attained the dignity of official city status in 2012? Or Perth, which managed at the same time? Or St Asaph, a Welsh village of 3,355 people? Did St Asaph mean nothing to you, YouGov?
*A YouGov employee I met in a pub later confirmed this, and I make a point of always believing things that people tell me in pubs.