We have our usual rush of Monday polls today, all showing a slightly healthier Labour lead than of late.

The first of Populus‘s two twice weekly polls had topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5% (tabs). Populus’s average so far this month has been CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, so this has the Conservatives a little lower than usual, UKIP a little higher than usual.

Lord Ashcroft‘s weekly poll had topline figures of CON 27%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 7% (tabs). Compared to his recent polls this has the Conservatives down a tad, Labour and UKIP both up a tad.

The daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 30%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 18%, GRN 6%. YouGov’s average figures so far this month have been CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 16% – so again, the Conservatives lower than usual, UKIP higher than usual.

None of the figures are different enough from recent polls to be sure the difference isn’t just normal sample variation, but the fact all three are showing a shift in the same direction (Conservatives down, UKIP up) means it’s possible we are seeing a bit of a publicity boost for UKIP following Rochester & Strood last week. Time will tell. Note also what it doesn’t show – any decrease in Labour’s support following several days of fussing about White Vans and Emily Thornberry.


Full tabs for the YouGov/Sun on Sunday poll are now up here. The slightly larger sample than usual was to make sure they had a good sub-sample of Sun readers, which the Sun used in yesterday’s analysis of the poll to look at what their own readers thought. The Express, however, has decided to report the Sun reader crossbreak as a national poll – obviously it wins the coveted UKPR crap media reporting of polls award. Just to be crystal clear UKIP are not in second place in this poll. The headline figures for this poll were CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%. The figures quoted in the Express relate only to respondents who read the Sun.


Sunday polls

There are three polls in this Sunday’s papers – Opinium in the Observer and two separate YouGov polls, one in the Sunday Times and one in the Sun on Sunday.

Opinium has topline voting intention figures of CON 30%(+1), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 7%(-2), UKIP 19%(nc), GRN 4%(nc) (changes are from their last published voting intention figures a fortnight ago (tabs are here).

YouGov’s two sets of voting intention figures are CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15% in the Sun on Sunday poll, and CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 16%, GRN 6% in the Sunday Times (Sun Times tabs are here, Sun on Sunday should be up tomorrow) – so still showing the two main parties very close to one another.


Today is the Rochester and Strood by-election. After every by-election I see the same questions and I write essentially the same post. Given that, I thought I might as well write it before the result: whatever happens in the Rochester and Strood by-election it won’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about public opinion.

By-elections are very unusual beasts. They are fought with huge intensity and media attention, but with very little direct consequence – the government will still be the government the next day, it’s only one single seat that can change hands. They also often have unusual local circumstances – in this case a defecting member of Parliament. When a by-election behaves in line with the national polls, it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. When it behaves differently to the national polls, it’s probably because of the unique factors of by-election.

Assuming that the by-election polls from Ashcroft, ComRes and Survation are all correct and Mark Reckless wins tonight’s by-election we’ll probably see lots of comments tomorrow about UKIP doing well and being a threat to the Conservatives. I’d also expect lots of comments about how Labour didn’t win when they should have. Plus perhaps some comments about the derisory vote the Lib Dems will almost certainly get. Perhaps they’ll finish behind the Greens or even the Loonies or random independents.

To take those one at a time, UKIP are not likely to do as well nationwide in a general election as in a by-election where they have an incumbent MP, so this won’t tell us anything about their likely level of support come the general election – nor will it help answer the question of how concentrated their vote will be, and how well it will translate into returning MPs to Westminster. In terms of Labour, this is the sort of seat that an opposition doing really well in the polls and headed for a landslide win could reasonably expect to win… but we don’t need a by-election to tell us that Labour are not soaring ahead in the polls, and are not currently in a position that would translate to a landslide win. We already know that they are struggling to maintain first place in the polls and are seeing the anti-government vote split between them and other parties. As for the Liberal Democrats, the embarrassment of finishing lower than 4th place and losing their deposit is no longer anything new for them and doesn’t tell us anything new about the dire straights they find themselves in.

The other thing I invariably say after explaining how by-elections tell us virtually nothing about wider public opinion is that it doesn’t make the result any less important. A lot of politics is about the press narrative, about Westminster personalities and morale and in all those senses tonight’s result really does matter – if UKIP do really well it should keep UKIP’s momentum rolling, help them persuade voters they are a viable choice at the election. Perhaps we’ll see them get a boost in the polls from the publicity. Perhaps it will give the Conservative party’s morale a knock, perhaps encourage another defection(s) and turn the media pressure back onto David Cameron after an unpleasant few weeks for Ed Miliband. By-elections are very important – but because of their effect on the narrative, not because they really tell us much about wider public opinion.


Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. It has a Tory lead of one point, following a Labour lead in yesterday’s YouGov/Sun poll. Realistically we are in a position where the two main parties are so close that normal random variation is going to regularly spit out both Labour and Tory leads until and unless one party manages to pull substantially ahead of the other.

Rather out of the blue there was also a Survation constituency poll of Stockton South earlier today – a Conservative held ultra-marginal, currently represented by James Wharton. The poll had topline figures of CON 39%(nc), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 3%(-12), UKIP 18%(+15). Changes are from the general election and technically represent a tiny swing from Labour to the Conservatives. Clearly this is better than the Conservatives are doing in the national polls and they’d be pleased to hold such a vulnerable marginal, but it’s also just one single poll with a relatively small sample size (35% said don’t knows, so the topline figures are based on 571 people). Tabs are here.