Populus surveys done for Heathrow show only 48% back its expansion (26% back it strongly, 23% oppose it strongly)

To quote Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli;  “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  And so it is when opinion polls are done, and the organisation that commissions the poll wants a particular result out of it.   Heathrow often gets Populus to ask people in boroughs near Heathrow what they think. They usually ask similar questions each time. One asks “Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?” Over all boroughs surveyed, 26% strongly supported this; 22% somewhat supported;  11% somewhat opposed; 23% strongly opposed. See link  So 48% support, and 34% oppose, with 18% neither supporting nor opposing. The figures were broadly the same a year earlier (with 46% supporting, but 43% opposing, and 10% neither supporting nor opposing).  Heathrow says this is large, and growing, support.  It is difficult to interpret the  figures, as Populus only publishes a small bit of its results, with no methodology, such as the script of the interviewer, tone of the questions etc. Questions need to be asked about what information is given to people by Populus before they are asked their views.


Heathrow’s Populus Poll: not all that it seems


Heathrow Airport has released the results of a poll asking people if they were more or less likely to support candidates in the local elections who back Heathrow expansion.  http://mediacentre.heathrowairport.com/Press-releases/One-quarter-of-local-residents-more-likely-to-vote-for-local-councillor-if-they-back-Heathrow-expa-8a4.aspx .

It found that only 42% of people expressed an opinion on the issue:  of those, 25% of people said they were more likely to vote for their local councillor if they support expansion and 17% more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes expansion.

On the wider issue of support for a 3rd runway, people in the boroughs around Heathrow remain split, with just under a half supporting it and just over a third opposed.

The fact that a third of people stubbornly refuse to back expansion will worry politicians.  It adds up to a lot of people: over half a million in total. (Each borough contains about 250,000 people.  The 7 boroughs Populus surveyed contain about 1,750,000 people in total.  A third of that is 525,000).

The results are similar to the previous polls carried out by Populus.  But remain out-of-kilter with other polls.

Last year referenda and polls carried out in three West London boroughs found that 72% of people were opposed to a third runway at Heathrow.  That is also the message MPs get on the door step.  Questions need to be asked about what information is given to people by Populus before they are asked their views.




The Heathrow airport press release

One quarter of local residents ‘more likely’ to vote for local councillor if they back Heathrow expansion

23 April, 2014

  • 25% more likely to vote for their local councillor if they support expansion, 17% more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes expansion
  • 48% support Heathrow third runway, 34% oppose
  • 57% feel positively towards Heathrow, 37% neutral, only 6% negative


Local residents in west London, Spelthorne and Windsor are more likely to vote for their local councillor if they support Heathrow expansion than if they oppose it according to new research from independent polling company Populus.

The research suggests that far from being politically difficult, supporting a third runway at Heathrow could actually be a vote winner for local councillors. 48% of residents said they supported expanding Heathrow, while 34% were opposed.

57% of voters said they feel positive towards Heathrow, while 37% feel neutral and just 6% feel negative towards the airport.

The research is significant because it covers a statistically representative sample of those who stand to be most affected by Heathrow expansion and who have traditionally been perceived as opposed to growth. It confirms that a large proportion of people in local boroughs support the airport and its plans for a third runway.

Only one local authority – Richmond – had more residents who opposed expansion than supported it, all other areas saw many more people supporting than opposing a third runway.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, said:

“A third runway at Heathrow has traditionally been seen as the best option for the UK but politically difficult in West London. This research suggests that the political costs of supporting a third runway at Heathrow have been overstated.”

“Far from being a political challenge, there is widespread local support for Heathrow. Many more people around Heathrow support a third runway than oppose it. More than 100,000 jobs depend on Heathrow and people want to see the airport flourish.”

Notes to editors

Populus interviewed 1,000 adult residents (18+) in seven London Boroughs local to Heathrow Airport by telephone between 25 February and 23 March 2014. In total, 7,000 residents were interviewed. Results were weighted to be demographically representative of all adults in each borough.

Selected polling results:

[Question asked].    “Taking everything into account, based on what you have seen, read and heard, how positive or negative would you say you feel towards Heathrow Airport? On a scale of 0-10, where 0 means very negative, 10 means very positive, and 5 is neutral.”


TotalSpelthorneHillingdonHounslowEalingWindsor and MaidenheadRichmondKingston
Positive (7-10)57%63%62%60%57%56%51%48%
Negative (0-3)6%4%4%6%4%6%10%5%
Neutral (4-6)37%33%34%33%39%37%37%46%


“Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?”


TotalSpelthorneHillingdonHounslowEalingWindsor and MaidenheadRichmondKingston
Neither/Don’t know19%18%18%16%22%18%13%24%
Net support/oppose+14+17+20+16+26+31-11+15


” If your local councillor supported Heathrow expansion, would it make you more or less likely to vote for that candidate, or would it have no impact?”


TotalSpelthorneHillingdonHounslowEalingWindsor and MaidenheadRichmondKingston
More likely to vote for candidate if they opposed expansion17%16%15%19%14%15%28%12%
More likely to vote for candidate if they supported expansion25%26%25%31%28%23%20%20%





Heathrow: local support for 3rd runway growing

West London airport says it has more support from communities than it did last decade when it was pushing for a third runway on a different site.

28 Apr 2014 (  Telegraph )

Heathrow Airport claims it has significantly more local support for a third runway than in 2010, when the Coalition put an end to its expansion plans in the face of fierce opposition from residents, councils and environment campaigners.

The West London airport held a public consultation in February and March on its latest plans for a third runway, to the north-west of its current site. It will submit improved proposals next month to a government-appointed commission investigating the thorny issue of aviation capacity.

José Leo, finance director of Heathrow, said he felt the airport “definitely” had more support from local communities despite continued opposition from a number of high profile groups, including London’s Mayor Boris Johnson.

The airport says a recent opinion poll of more than 1,000 local residents by Populus showed 48pc are in favour of a third runway while 34pc oppose.

Although the same level of polling was not carried out last decade, a spokesman for Heathrow said the airport would have expected last time that a majority of residents in local constituencies would have said they opposed a third runway.

Mr Leo, who was speaking after Heathrow’s first quarter financial results on Monday, said: “Over the last two months we have been engaging in a significant, extensive and intensive consultation with the communities around us.

“One thing we have discovered – and obviously that will be included in our submission [next month] – we have more supporters than the headlines would say because normally people remain silent when they want these things to happen but they are very vocal when they oppose.”

Mr Leo added: “We are learning from the potential errors and gaps from the former proposal – the one which was dropped in 2010. We think the [new] north-west runway option is much more consistent with the need to be responsible in terms of noise and impact on local communities. It will be a very different proposal from the 2010 one and I think this is recognised locally.”

However John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN), said the two third runway campaigns cannot be accurately compared as the same level of data was not collected last decade on how many people supported – and opposed – expansion.

He said: “They [Heathrow] are in no position to make inaccurate comparisons with 10 years ago.”

Heathrow will submit its refined proposals to the Airports Commission, which is chaired by Sir Howard Davies, on May 14. Its latest proposals will address claims about the potential impact on the M25 of building a north-west runway.

The airport on Monday reported a significant reduction in its first quarter pre-tax losses, from £196m to £15m, and a 31.8pc increase in adjusted operating profit to £319m on revenue of £576m, up 10.8pc.

However Mr Leo insisted the first quarter result was exceptional and operating profit is likely to grow at a more moderate rate of 8.5pc over the full year.

Heathrow has been at loggerheads with airlines over take-off and landing charges, which are passed on to passengers via ticket prices.

Until March 31, Heathrow was able to raise fees by 7.5pc above inflation every year but a new settlement with the UK’s airports regulator, which came into effect on April 1, will limit annual increases to inflation minus 1.5pc until December 31 2018.

“This is not what we expect for the rest of the year,” Mr Leo said of the first quarter results.




 Past Populus surveys on attitudes to Heathrow: 

Looking at the three most recent Populus surveys (all the back editions of Populus surveys do seem to be available, at http://www.populus.co.uk/Poll/ )
Comparison of the figures from the three surveys, to the question about backing for Heathrow expansion.   Link comparing Heathrow Populus May 2013 and Nov 2013 with March 2014