Lord Ashcroft has released another batch of constituency polls: four Conservative seats in England & Wales, and eight more Scottish constituencies. All the detailled results are here.

England and Wales

The four Conservative seats all have majorities between 8.8% and 10.6%, but other than the similarity in majority don’t have a huge amount in common. Two are relatively straightforward marginals: in High Peak Ashcroft finds a swing of five points from Con to Lab, bigger than the national average and enough to give Labour a one point lead; in Vale of Glamorgan Ashcroft finds a swing of only 1.5 points from Con to Lab, well short of the national average and hence leaving the Conservatives with a six point lead.

The other two seats are a bit more unusual. Colne Valley actually had the Liberal Democrats in second place in 2010 and could be fairly described as a three-way marginal. Given the Liberal Democrats’ national woes though Labour are obviously the main threat to the Conservatives – Ashcroft found a five point swing to Lab, leaving them just a point behind the Conservatives. Finally there was Norwich North – most of the Con-Lab marginals Ashcroft has polled are seats the Conservatives gained in 2010, so places where the Conservatives can reasonably expect to benefit from new incumbency. Norwich North is an exception, it was gained in a 2009 by-election so Labour had already lost their incumbency, and any Conservative incumbency was already factored into the equation in 2010. Here Ashcroft found a swing of 5.5 to Labour, again bigger than the national picture suggests and enough to put Labour a single point ahead.

Scotland

Moving to Scotland, Lord Ashcroft polled eight seats. Two Lib Dem seats, five Labour seats and the sole Tory seat in Scotland.

The first batch of Ashcroft’s Scottish polling last month concentrated upon Labour seats in those areas where there was a high YES vote in the referendum, leaving open the question of whether the SNP would be doing quite so well in those areas that had voted NO. Today’s polls are from areas that voted NO and show the SNP surge almost as strong here. In the NO areas polled in January Ashcroft found a swing from Lab to the SNP of 25%, here he finds a swing of 22%. It may be a little smaller, or it maybe a little movement back to Labour, but this is still a huge swing and would still see some extremely safe Labour seats fall, most notably Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the seat being vacated by Gordon Brown.

Ashcroft also polled East Renfrewshire, the seat of Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy. This used to be a Tory seat, voted heavily NO in the referendum, and in 2010 the SNP were 42 points behind Labour. Ashcroft found Labour holding on by a single point over the SNP, with a 20.5% swing from Lab to the SNP.

Moving to the two Lib Dem seats, Ashcroft found a 14 point SNP lead in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and a 5 point SNP lead in Ross, Skye and Lochaber. The latter is a seat that people often include in seats they would expect to withstand the SNP tide due to the solid majority and incumbency of Charlie Kennedy. His presence clearly does have a substantial effect – the Lib Dem share rises 10 points in the seat when people are asked to consider their own constituency and candidates – but not enough to put him ahead.

Finally the lone Conservative seat in Scotland, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale is spoken of as a potential hold for similar reasons to East Renfrewshire. It’s an area that voted heavily NO in the referendum where the SNP were in fourth place in 2010 and while Labour support has collapsed across Scotland, the rump Tory support seems broadly static. Even here though Ashcroft found the SNP competitive, equal with the Tories on 34% with a swing of 13.5% from Con to SNP.

In discussions of Scotland at the general election I keep seeing assumptions that the SNP will actually win 20 to 30 seats, that their support will naturally fall back to some extent as the election approaches, that this degree of landslide won’t really happen. That might end up being true – I am normally the first to sound a note of caution to people getting excited over polls showing some unbelievable shift in public opinion – but in this case, the polling is very steady and consistent in showing a surge in SNP support, the constituency polling backs up the national polls and the reality of First Past the Post is that a big lead in the vote can be exaggerated into an overwhelming dominance in seat numbers.

UPDATE: The YouGov/Sun poll tonight has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LD 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%, so back to neck-and-neck after two Tory leads. Not, of course, that the day-to-day back and forth really matters – it almost certainly isn’t the case that the Conservatives moved ahead for two days and moved back, the question is actually whether the average that lies beneath the day-to-day noise is moving. Only time will answer that question.


Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 34%, LDEM 5%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. The unusual three point lead Tory yesterday clearly wasn’t a one off. I will urge all my usual caution, two polls in a row do not necessary make a trend. However, of the last seven YouGov polls they’ve now shown three Tory leads, three draws and one Labour lead so something may indeed be afoot.

As ever, keep watching the broader trend and see what the rest of the week brings. I can’t see any obvious reason for a big shift in support over the last few days, so if there is a change, it’s likely to be the slow drift in public support that’s difficult to be certain about rather than an obvious step-change.


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Monday’s polls

We have three GB polls today, from Populus, Ashcroft and YouGov.

  • The twice-weekly Populus poll has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5% (tabs).
  • The weekly Lord Ashcroft poll has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 31%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7% (tabs). Labour have dropped five points since Ashcroft’s previous poll, but this will be largely a reversion to the mean after they jumped up five points a week ago.
  • Finally the daily YouGov for the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%. The three point Tory lead is the largest that YouGov have shown since back in January 2012.

Two three point Tory leads on the same day. All the usual caveats apply – it is only two polls and Populus showed a two point Labour lead. It wouldn’t be the first time that two polls have popped out on the same day showing something unusual, only for it to turn out to be pure co-incidence when polls in the following days showing everything back to normal. Keep an eye on it though…


Just the two regular polls in Sunday’s papers. The weekly Opinium poll for the Observer has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6% (tabs), the weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5% (tabs). Both very much in line with the broader picture of Lab & Con almost neck and neck, Labour just a touch ahead.

YouGov asked whether people would consider voting for each of the main GB parties and their awareness of their policies. Of the two main parties, 40% would consider voting Conservative, 42% Labour – a slightly bigger pool for Labour but only just. The pool of potential voters for the other three substantial parties is pretty similar – 23% for the Lib Dems, 26% for UKIP, 25% for the Greens.

Asked about how aware of are of each party’s policies, 63% say they know a lot or a fair amount about Tory policies, compared to 59% for Labour, 45% for UKIP and 37% for the Lib Dems, 27% the Greens. Note how more people think they know about UKIP policies than those of the Lib Dems – a sign of how the Lib Dems have struggled to get a clear message out from within coalition.

YouGov also reasked the “protest party” question they asked about UKIP last year about the Greens. They found 15% of people think that the Greens are a serious party with workable policies, 56% a protest party for those unhappy with the main parties. These are very similar to the figures for UKIP, with UKIP 17% thought they were serious, 62% a protest party.

Moving onto other issues, 51% of people would support a ban on MPs having second jobs, but only 25% would support it were it to be offset by a higher salary. Asked about the current £67,000 salary for MPs and the appropriate level or reward for the sort of people they’d like to be MPs, 32% think the current salary is too much, 16% too little, 46% about right.

Finally there were some questions on defence and what sort of threats Britain should be prioritising. 16% of people think that Britain spends too much on defence, 49% too little, 20% about the right amount. By 52% to 18% people think we should be focusing resources on defending against threats from Islamist terrorism and insurgents, like Islamic State, rather than potential threats from states like Russia. 50% of people think that the West’s sanctions against Russia haven’t been strong enough, but on balance people are opposed to even the sending of British troops to help train and advise the Ukrainian army – 43% are opposed with only 36% support.


Ten weeks to go

Here are this week’s polls.

YouGov/S Times (20/2) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
Opinium/Observer (20/2) – CON 35%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
Populus (22/2) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%
Ashcroft (22/2) – CON 32%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 8%
Survation/Mirror(23/2) – CON 28%, LAB 34%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 19%, GRN 4%
ComRes/Mail (23/2) – CON 34%, LAB 32%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (23/2) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (24/2) – CON 35%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (25/2) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%
YouGov/Sun (26/2) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
Populus (27/2) – CON 31%, LAB 33%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 16%, GRN 6%

The voting intention polls are continuing to show the same stasis we’ve had for the whole of the year so far, Con and Lab almost neck and neck, Labour just a smidgin ahead. Of this week’s polls five showed Labour leads, three Tory leads, three with a draw. The UKPR polling average is wholly unchanged from last week, remaining on CON 32%(nc), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 15%(nc), GRN 6%(nc). Perhaps the most notable change among some very unnotable polls was a change in who commissioned them – ComRes had been the pollsters for the Independent since 2006, but this week switched their monthly telephone poll over to the Daily Mail (they will continue to carry out online polls for the Independent’s Sunday stablemate).

Scottish, London and Constituency polls

TNS put out a new Scottish poll this morning with topline figures for Westminster voting intention of CON 14%(-2), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 3%(-1), SNP 46%(+5), UKIP 3%(+1) (tabs). The previous TNS poll had shown an SNP lead of only ten points, this TNS poll is far more similar to the Scottish figures being shown by other companies.

YouGov put out a new London poll earlier in the week for the Times with topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 42%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 9%, GRN 6%. This gives Labour an eight point lead in the London, but given they won the vote in London at the 2010 electon is actually a slightly smaller Con>Lab swing that in the country as a whole. I wrote more about the poll here.

Finally there was a new Survation poll of Thanet South for UKIP donor Alan Bown, showing Nigel Farage with an eleven point lead. This compares with the Lord Ashcroft poll of Thanet South last November that had, once corrected, shown Farage one point behind the Conservatives. It may be that UKIP have managed to open up a lead in Thanet South since November, but there were also substantial methodological differences between the two polls – the new Survation poll prompted using the candidates names, which may well have helped Nigel Farage as the most well known of the candidates. There were also differences in weighting – Lord Ashcroft weights by recalled vote and by social class, whereas Survation don’t; Survation weight by council wards within the constituency whereas Ashcroft doesn’t. Finally there were don’t knows – Survation exclude them, Ashcroft assumes some vote for the party they did last time. And of course, this is a poll commissioned by a party – that should make no difference to how the poll is done (apart from adding candidate names this is Survation’s regular methodology), but it brings with it publication bias: if parties commission polls and don’t like the results, they don’t publish them.

Week 8

  • Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind were caught in a newspaper sting on MPs taking second jobs. Rifkind stepped down, Ed Miliband promised a ban on second jobs. YouGov polling found only 26% thought that MPs having second jobs helped keep them in touch and was better than full time politicians, 60% thought they should concentrate on their main job and second jobs risked corruption. 54% would support a ban on MPs having second jobs.
  • Immigration figures came out showing net immigration way above David Cameron’s stated ambition to reduce it to “tens of thousands”. I suspect the Conservatives failure to meet the target has long been accepted by the public and priced into their opinion though – early last year the proportion of people thinking it was likely the government would hit their target had already fallen to just 9%. Still, coverage of immigration will likely keep UKIP’s strongest issue high on the agenda.
  • Labour announced their policy on tuition fees. On the principle of who should pay for higher education the public are actually quite evenly split – 43% think it should be paid from general taxation, 42% that students should pay it through tuition fees or a graduate tax. For a reduction in the level of tuition fees though I expect Labour will get the thumbs up – in December YouGov found people were in favour of a reduction in tuition fees by 54% to 21%, even if it meant less funding for universities
  • And the debate debate struggled onwards. At the weekend the papers quietly suggested that the debates may now be dead, on Monday the broadcasters announced the order of the debates (the two big ones first, followed by the Cameron-v-Miliband head to head). For the moment though, it seems to have gone quiet.

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015 and Elections Etc are below, along with the Guardian’s new election projection. As usual, everyone is projecting an extremely hung Parliament, with the two main parties close together in seat numbers.

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 279(-2), LAB 283(+1), LD 23(nc), SNP 40(nc), UKIP 3(nc)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 285(+3), LAB 276(-4), LD 27(+2), SNP 39(-1), UKIP 1(-1)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 270(+4), LAB 271(-4), LD 26(nc), SNP 56(nc), UKIP 4(nc)
Guardian – Hung Parliament, CON 275, LAB 271, LD 27, SNP 51, UKIP 4