It’s Monday, so as usual we are spoilt for polls, with new figures from Populus, Ashcroft and ICM (who are now on a weekly rota until the general election), with YouGov to come later on tonight.

Populus have voting intentions of CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 4%. Tabs are here).

ICM have topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 32%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%, GRN 5% (tabs). The Conservatives are down 5 points since last week, UKIP up four points – something that is almost certainly a reversion to the mean after the incongruous six point Tory lead last week.

Lord Ashcroft has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 30%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4% (tabs). Ashcroft has also updated his Scottish constituency polls from last week with two new polls in Scotland, both in Edinburgh. Edinburgh North and Leith and Edinburgh South were both Labour -v- Lib Dem marginals at the last election, with the SNP in a poor fourth place. Ashcroft’s latest polls finds the SNP ahead in both, with a 13 point lead in Edinburgh North and Leith and a narrow three point lead in Edinburgh South (tabs, tabs).

YouGov are still to come later on tonight…

UPDATE: The last GB poll of the day – YouGov for the Sun – has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 35%, LD 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%. So we have two polls giving Labour leads, two giving Conservative leads, and the polls apparently still fluctuating around an underlying picture of Labour and Conservative neck-and-neck.


After the first leaders debate there was a single poll showing Ed Miliband with a better approval rating that David Cameron. It produced a typical example of rubbish media handling of polls – everyone got all excited about one unusual poll and talked about it on news bulletins and so on, giving it far more prominence than the far greater number of polls showing the opposite. Nevertheless, it flagged up a genuine increase in Ed Miliband’s ratings.

I talk about leader ratings, but the questions different companies ask actually vary greatly. Opinium, for example, ask if people approve or disapprove of what each leader is doing, YouGov ask if they are doing a well or badly, ICM if they are doing a good or bad job. To give an obvious example of how these could produce different figures, UKIP have quadrupled their support since the election, so objectively it’s quite hard to argue that Nigel Farage hasn’t done well as UKIP leader…but someone who supported EU membership and freedom of movement probably probably wouldn’t approve of his leadership.

The graph below shows the net ratings for David Cameron and Ed Miliband from the four pollsters who ask leader ratings at least monthly (ComRes, ICM and Ashcroft all ask their versions of the question too, but not as frequently).

leaderatings

You can see there is quite a lot of variation between pollsters, but the trends are clear. Ed Miliband’s ratings have improved over the course of the campaign, though on most pollsters’ measures he remains significantly behind David Cameron. The main exception is Survation’s rating – I suspect this is because of the time frame of their question (Survation ask people to think specifically about the last month, other companies just ask in general – my guess is that the difference is people thinking Ed Miliband has done well in the campaign). Cameron’s ratings too have improved from three of the four pollsters, but not to the extent of Miliband’s.

What’s the impact of this? Theoretically I suppose it makes the potential for voters to be deterred from voting Labour by their lack of confidence in Ed Miliband that bit smaller. Whether that’s any real difference or not is a different matter – on one hand, while it is one of the Conservative party’s hopes that Miliband’s poor ratings will drive people towards voting Tory at the last minute, that’s very different to it actually happening. This could be the case of a window closing upon something that didn’t see to be happening anyway. The alternative point of view is that no one realistically expects some vast last swing producing a Tory landside – we are talking about grinding out a few percentage points at the margins. Hence Miliband’s ratings overall don’t necessarily make much difference – much of the increase is amongst Labour’s own voters anyway – it’s how he is seen amongst those small groups who are undecided whether or not to vote for Labour, and those who undecided whether or not to vote Tory to stop Miliband.

As we come to the final weeks of the election campaign, that’s a key to understanding a lot of polling. Most voters have already made their minds up (and even many of those who say they haven’t, are probably less likely to switch than they think they are). As postal votes have started to go out, an increasing number of people will have actually voted anyway. Most things that happen over the next two and a half weeks will have no impact on public opinion anyway – for those that do, it’s not national opinion that will make a difference, it’ll be the impact on that dwindling group of people who may yet be persuaded.


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Two polls tonight – the regular Opinium/Observer and YouGov/Sunday Times weekend polls:

YouGov have topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%
Opinium have topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 32%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%

A three point Labour lead from YouGov, a four point Conservative lead from Opinium. They are each a nice corrective for anyone liable to get too excited about the other one, we are probably just seeing normal variation about that same old underlying position of Labour and Conservative being pretty much neck and neck.


Three weeks to go

Here are this week’s GB polls:

Opinium/Observer (9/4) – CON 36%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 6%
YouGov/Sun (10/4) – CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%
YouGov/S Times (11/4) – CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
YouGov/Sun (12/4) – CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%
Ashcroft (12/4) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
ICM/Guardian (12/4) – CON 39%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 7%, GRN 7%
Populus (12/4) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (13/4) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
TNS (13/4) – CON 34%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (14/4) – CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (15/4) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%
Ipsos MORI/Standard (15/4) – CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 10%, GRN 8%
Panelbase (16/4) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 16%, GRN 4%
YouGov/Sun (16/4) – CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%
Populus (16/4) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 4%
Survation/Mirror (17/4) – CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 17%, GRN 3%

Voting intention continues to be pretty much static, with levels of Conservative and Labour support extremely close. There were sixteen polls published in the last week, nine had the two parties within a point of each other. The UKPR polling average is back to showing a tie – CON 34%(+1), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 5%(nc). It is hardly been an exciting election campaign anyway, but certainly nothing seems to have made any significant impact upon voting intention and we are running out of time for anything to do so. The first postal ballots will have gone out this week.

Other polls

This week we’ve also had ComRes polling of Lib Dem seats in the South West and Ashcroft polling of some seats in Scotland. I’ve written about both of them at length already – Ashcroft here and ComRes here.

Week fifteen

This week was manifesto week – the five main GB parties all published their manifestos, though the SNP are saving theirs for later in the campaign. YouGov have done two bits of polling on the manifesto for the Times and the Sun.

The most widely supported policy in the Labour manifesto was to reduce the deficit every year (76% support – largely because it got the backing of Tory voters too), followed by the promise to raise the minimum wage to £8 (71% support), freezing utility bills (65%) and the mansion tax (61%) – none of their main policy announcements got a thumbs down.

Looking at the Conservative manifesto the most popular policy was linking the personal tax allowance to the minimum wage (supported by 80%, again because it got wide cross party support), followed by stopping above inflation rail fare rises (67%) and lowering the benefit cap to £23k (65%). Unlike Labour some of the main Conservative policies got a thumbs down – opening 500 new Free Schools only got 26% support, the flagship announcement of extending right to buy to housing associations only got 28% support.

I shall make my usual caveats about overestimating the importance of individual policies. Despite Labour’s individual policies polling better, in the same poll the Conservatives had a narrow lead on having the best policies and ideas for the country (29% Conservative, 26% Labour). Neither do people pay much attention to these announcements – a separate YouGov poll for the Sun found that the right to buy policy was the only one of the manifesto policy announcements tested that a majority of people could correctly link to the right party – in most cases less than a third of people were able to say which party had proposed it.

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015, Elections Etc, the Guardian and YouGov are below, as well as the less regular prediction from the Polling Observatory team who released some new numbers today. As ever, all show a hung Parliament, but most are now showing Labour with more seats in a hung Parliament – with the notable exception of Steve Fisher’s model, which has the Tories with about 30 more seats than Labour. On the subject of the differences between the models, Chris Hanretty of the Election Forecast team wrote a blog post earlier this week.

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 292(+3), LAB 260(-6), LD 22(nc), SNP 51(+2), UKIP 4(-1)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 280(-2), LAB 277(+2), LD 27(-1), SNP 42(+1), UKIP 1(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 268(+3), LAB 276(-3), LD 26(nc), SNP 54(nc), UKIP 3(nc)
Guardian – Hung Parliament, CON 269(-2), LAB 271(nc), LD 29(nc), SNP 55(+2), UKIP 4(nc)
YouGov Nowcast – Hung Parliament, CON 266(+2), LAB 279(+2), LD 27(-1), SNP 50(-5), UKIP 5(+1)
Polling Observatory – Hung Parliament, CON 268, LAB 278, LD 28, SNP 49, UKIP 3


Lord Ashcroft has released a new batch of Scottish constituency polling. Full details are here. As regular readers will know, national polls in Scotland suggest an SNP landslide with no sign of the SNP lead narrowing as the election approaches. In fact the most recent Scottish polls from YouGov and TNS showed the SNP lead growing. Lord Ashcroft has previously carried out two waves of Scottish polling, both showing the SNP winning in seats that were previously thought very safe.

Across the two previous waves Ashcroft polled nineteen Labour seats, finding the SNP ahead in all except East Renfrewshire and Glasgow North East. He has also polled four Lib Dem held seats (finding solid SNP leads in three and a narrow SNP lead in Ross, Skye and Lochaber) and the one Tory seat in Scotland where he found a tie.

In this latest wave Ashcroft has returned to the five of the tighter races he polled earlier, and polled three more Lib Dem held Scottish seats for the first time. Most of the close races are no longer close – in Glasgow South West (where Labour have a 46% majority) Ashcroft found the SNP 21% ahead. In Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Douglas Alexander’s seat, he found an SNP lead of 11%. In East Renfewshire he found a 9% SNP lead – this is the seat of Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy and one of the two seats where he previously found a Labour lead.

People commenting on the Scottish election seem to fall into two groups – those who expect an almost complete SNP walkover, and those who expect them to merely do extremely well, to take “only” thirty or forty seats. I think the logic of most people in that second group is simply down to the scale of the SNP landslide looking unrealistic – the belief that they can’t be doing that well. I am often the first to advise caution towards polls showing huge shifts, so it’s fair to be sceptical – with a landslide of this scale perhaps the polls could be overestimating the swing… but they are consistent across national and constituency polling, online and telephone, and if they are correct the SNP are headed for an overwhelming victory and Scottish Labour towards something close to wipeout.

The polling in the sole Tory seat in Scotland remains extremely close. In his last poll Ashcroft found a dead heat between the Conservatives and the SNP, this time he found an SNP lead of two points.

Turning to the Lib Dem held seats, last time round Ashcroft found only a five point SNP lead in Charlie Kennedy’s seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber, that has now grown to fifteen points. He has now additionally polled North East Fife (Menzies Campbell’s seat) where he found a 13% SNP lead and East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson’s seat) where he found an 11% SNP lead. Finally he polled Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk – here he found a 20 point boost for the SNP, which is enough to make it into a three way marginal but not to put the SNP ahead – the poll found the Conservatives ahead on 30%, SNP 29%, LDEM 28%.

Note that the East Dunbartonshire is one of the seat where the Lib Dems have recently released their own private polling (which may or may not be a co-incidence!). Their own polling showed figures of CON 13%, LAB 16%, LDEM 35%, SNP 32%. The SNP are 8 points lower than in Ashcroft’s poll, the Lib Dems 6 points higher. I wrote about the Lib Dem’s own polling at more length here. The primary differences are that the Lib Dems prompt using candidate name, which is fair enough, and ask about how favourably people see their local MP before they ask that voting intention question, a more questionable approach. We shall see which is the better guide. The Lib Dems have not released any of their private polling for the other three Lib Dem seats Lord Ashcroft released polls for today, from which one must draw one’s own conclusions.