This week’s YouGov/Sunday Times results are here. Topline voting intentions are CON 32%, LAB 35%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 16%, GRN 5%. The rest of the poll is a bit of a grab bag of other issues. Perceptions of the party leaders and the debates, some questions on UKIP and the Conservatives, rape and the former footballer Ched Evans, and assisted dying.

Cameron has the highest ratings of the party leaders on trust – or at least, the least untrustworthy. 32% trust him to tell the truth, 62% do not. The comparable figures for the other leaders are 25% for Ed Miliband, 22% trust Nigel Farage, 18% trust Nick Clegg.

88% and 87% think David Cameron and Ed Miliband should be included in the leader debates (presumably those opposed are those who don’t support the idea of debates at all, or whose support is wholly conditional on whether or not one of the other candidates are included), 79% think Nick Clegg should be included and 67% think Nigel Farage should be included. After that support drops away quickly, 51% think that the Green party leader Natalie Bennett should be included, only 25% think George Galloway should.

There is still very little support for a UKIP-Conservative pact. Nationwide only 14% of people would support one, Conservative party voters would oppose a pact by 50% to 30%, UKIP voters would oppose one by 56% to 26%). Local Conservative/UKIP pacts aren’t really any more popular, only 16% think the Conservative party should allow their candidates or members to agree local pacts with UKIP, Conservative voters would be opposed to it by 54% to 30%. In the event that the Conservatives lose Rochester 57% of people think that Cameron should remain leader and the overwhelming majority of Tory voters (92%) would back him – only 3% of Tory voters would want him to go. For the public at least, it doesn’t seem to be a resigning matter.

66% of people think that all instances of rape should continue to be treated as the same offence – that “rape is rape”. 25% think the law should have different categories of rape, depending on factors such as whether violence was involved. There is a significant gender difference, though perhaps not as large as one might have guessed – 31% of men think that there should be different categories of rape in law, 20% of women. There is widespread support for anonymity for both victims of rape and people accused of rape. 84% think it is right that people who are the victims of rape should have their identities protected, 77% think that people accused of rape should have their identities protected unless they are found guilty. 37% of people think that Ched Evans should be allowed to return to professional football, 45% think he should not. There is a sharper gender difference here – by 45% to 39% men think that he should be allowed to play, by 51% to 30% women think that he should not.

There is still very strong support for legalising assisted suicide for the terminally ill (72% support, 12% opposed), and more support (48%) than opposition (30%) for assisted suicide for those with painful, incurable but not terminal illnesses. Asked about whether people should be prosecuted for assisting a suicide, 14% think the current law should be enforced unless it is changed, 71% think the authorities should turn a blind eye.


ComRes have done their monthly online poll for the Independent on Sunday. Topline figures are CON 31%(+2), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 19%(nc), GRN 4%(nc). For clarification, given some of the misunderstandings on Twitter earlier today, this is using ComRes’s normal methodology and prompting, they haven’t changed anything (I have no idea if they intend to do so or not… though I expect they’ll be getting a lot of people asking them tonight!). The sample size however was smaller than usual, as with the other half of the sample ComRes carried out an experiment asking the voting intention question including UKIP in the main voting intention prompt. The result using that different method was CON 29%, LAB 31%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 24%, GRN 5%.

Now, I should underline the importance of noting that this is just one poll. It is comparing two samples of 1000 or so people, with the usual margins of error that implies – so not all the difference will necessarily be prompting, some could just be normal sample variation. Please don’t go away with the idea that prompting for UKIP will always has the effect of bumping up UKIP by 5% – it’s just one data point. I think it probably does make a difference (we’ve tested in the past), but five points does seem rather high. Also remember that prompting may affect different methods differently, so the way it affects a ComRes online poll using their methods would not necessarily reflect the way it would affect any other poll (I am personally intrigued by the possibility that prompting may have a different impact in telephone polls, where people may feel obliged to pick one of the options offered by a human interviewer, than in an online poll where it’s just clicking through to another list of options – but obviously I don’t have phone polls to test it on!)

Knowing that prompting does make a difference – something that pollsters knew anyway – doesn’t actually get us any closer to an answer to the real question though, whether prompting for UKIP produces more or less accurate results in GB election polls. It the ComRes figure of 19% more or less accurate than the figure of 24%? Whether polls prompt or not for UKIP is often a issue that produces a lot of comment. Part of that is from people whose concern is, shall I say, more to do with maximising the reported level of support for UKIP than it is to maximise the accuracy of polling. Part of it is that, prima facie, it does seem somewhat strange that a party (normally) running in third place isn’t prompted for when the party that’s (normally) running in fourth place is. Another part is people looking for an explanation for the big difference in reported levels of UKIP support between different pollsters; typically the companies showing the highest levels of support, Survation and Opinium, show UKIP at about twice the support of ICM or MORI, who typically show the lowest. In the latter case I think the attention is misplaced – the reason for the biggest differences in levels of UKIP support in the polls appears to lie elsewhere – companies like Opinium manage to show some of the higher figures without any prompting! Rather they appear to be a contrast between telephone polling and online polling, for some reason online polls show consistently higher levels of UKIP support than telephone polls. That may be something to do with the mode (perhaps people are more ready to admit they are voting UKIP to an anonymous computer screen than to a human interviewer) or it could be something to do with sampling (for some reason phone samples have fewer of the sort of people who vote UKIP than online samples do).

As a pollster it is more important that methods produce the most accurate results than it is whether they appear “fair” (and certainly it’s more important to be accurate than to produce the higher possible score for UKIP!). The fact is that there isn’t a hard and fast rule about when you do and don’t prompt, we don’t have the evidence to say the cut off point is x% support, or y place, or z number of MPs. It’s a matter of judgement. We know from experience over the last couple of decades that prompting for smaller parties tends to overestimate their support (probably because it gives them a prominence and perception of equality with the major parties that may not be there among the general public), we also know that in the 1980s NOT prompting for the Lib Dems used to underestimate their support, so getting it wrong either way can produce error. Sometimes you can get it wrong by prompting, sometimes you can get it wrong by not prompting. There is no real way of knowing when a party switches from a position where prompting risks overestimating them to one where not prompting risks underestimating them – but clearly we are equally keen to avoid both errors. If UKIP establish themselves to the point that they have lots of MPs, consistent support over time, have known people and policies, are treated as a major established party that is given equal treatment by the BBC and OfCom and so on the time will come when the risk of not prompting outweighs the risk of prompting (it has already come, for example, in European elections)… but when you reach that point? It’s a judgement call.

It’s in a bigger context too. The last general election was held in the middle of “Cleggmania” and a surge of enthusiasm for the Liberal Democrats. The polls overestimated their support. The European elections earlier this year saw a great big surge of enthusiasm for UKIP… and of polls in the last week all but one company overestimated their support. In the Scottish referendum I don’t think anyone could deny that the YES campaign were the more enthused, and the polls seem to have all slightly overestimated their support. I may very well be reading something into these that isn’t there, but you get my drift – polls may be overestimating support for parties and movements that have particularly enthusiastic and zealous supporters. There’s also that unexplained difference in UKIP support between telephone companies and online companies, and what might be behind that. Getting UKIP right at the next election is the big challenge facing pollsters, but its about more than just prompting.


This morning’s Populus poll has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%, GRN 4% (tabs here). Meanwhile this morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 32%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 18%, GRN 7% (tabs here).

Earlier in the week we also had a fresh lot of Ashcroft marginals polls that I didn’t get chance to look at – details are here. This batch were back to Con-Lab marginals, in this case those seats with majorities between 3.1% and 4.8%, so needing a swing between 1.6% and 2.5%. These are still seats that on current national polling should fall to Labour, though given there is variation between the swing in different seats they are not such easy pickings as the ultra-marginals in Ashcroft’s previous polls (in one of the seats polled – Pudsey – Ashcroft found Labour and the Conservatives equal).

The average swing across the eleven seats polled was 5%, the equivalent of a 3% Labour lead in national polls. The average position in the national polls when this fieldwork was being done (10th September – 3rd October) was a 3.6% Labour lead, so once again the difference between the swing in the marginal seats and the swing in the national polls is tiny.


Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor is out in today’s Standard. Topline figures are CON 30%(-4), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 16%(+1). The 16% for UKIP is up only one since last month, but that makes it the highest UKIP score MORI have yet recorded. There was a similar pattern in this morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun – topline figures were CON 30%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 18%, beating YouGov’s previous UKIP high of 17 (Tabs are here: MORI, YouGov)


So far today we have three new opinion polls, all conducted since the Clacton by-election result. Yesterday’s Survation poll was conducted just on Friday, in the immediate glare of the post by-election publicity, and saw UKIP spikng up to 25%, three points above Survation’s record high for the party. Today’s polls were conducted over the weekend and seem to show a more mixed picture.

Populus – CON 35%(+1), LAB 36%(+1), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 13%(nc), GRN 3%(-1) (tabs)
Ashcroft – CON 28%(-4), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 19%(+2), GRN 5%(-2) (tabs)
ICM – CON 31%(-2), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 11%(+1), UKIP 14%(+5), GRN 4% (tabs)

Populus have UKIP unchanged at 13%, and have recently had UKIP as high as 15% so this certainly doesn’t reflect any sort of new high. Ashcroft has UKIP up two points since last week, equalling their record high from an Ashcroft poll, but not breaking new ground. ICM have the most impressive showing for UKIP, up five points on last month’s poll – a significant boost compared to the 9%-10% UKIP have been registering in recent ICM polls, but below ICM’s previous highs for UKIP. We still have the daily YouGov/Sun poll to come, but so far the overall picture from today’s polls is looking like a respectable UKIP boost on the back of their by-election success, rather than a huge breakthrough.