A very quick update on voting intention polls over the last few weeks. As usual August is a relatively quiet period – opinion pollsters have holidays too. The fact that we have a new Prime Minister hasn’t made much change to that. In August so far we’ve had five voting intention polls:

BMG/Independent (Dates TBC) – CON 31%, LAB 25%, LDEM 19%, BREX 12%, GRN ?
ComRes/Telegraph (11th Aug) – CON 31%, LAB 27%, LDEM 16%, BREX 16%, GRN 4% (tabs)
Survation (11th Aug) – CON 28%, LAB 24%, LDEM 21%, BREX 15%, GRN 3% (tabs)
Opinium/Observer (9th Aug) – CON 31%, LAB 28%, LDEM 13%, BREX 16%, GRN 5% (tabs)
YouGov/Times (6th Aug) – CON 31%, LAB 22%, LDEM 21%, BREX 14%, GRN 7% (tabs)

Note that the BMG tables aren’t up yet, hence I don’t know the level of support for the Greens or their fieldwork dates. These polls continue to show the boost in Conservative party support following Boris Johnson’s accession filtering though. It is the first “Post-Johnson” poll for BMG and Survation, and they show the Conservatives up by 3 and 5 points respectively. We’re now at a point where the most recent polls from all the regular polling companies show the Conservatives back ahead, though the size of their lead differs given the variation in figures between pollsters.

Normally I would be speculating about how long the government’s honeymoon boost would last. It’s not really the case here given how many political events are going to be crammed into the next few months. Events will likely preempt its natural unwinding: whatever diplomatic negotiations or stand offs occur between the government and the EU (starting with the G7 meeting this week), whatever Parliamentary moves there may be against the government or against No Deal, the party conferences, whatever preparations or announcements there may be on No Deal and, of course, the actual outcome at the end of October. The current levels of party support seem rather irrelevant in the face of that – the Conservatives are probably happy to have a lead at the moment, but there are ten weeks ahead of us that are packed with events that can throw everything up in the air.


So far we have had six opinion polls since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, from Ipsos MORI, Deltapoll, Opinium, ComRes and two from YouGov (one for the Sunday Times, one for the Times). Voting intentions from them all are below.

YouGov (30 Jul) – CON 32%, LAB 22%, LDEM 19%, BRX 13%, GRN 8% (tabs)
Ipsos MORI (30 Jul) – CON 34%, LAB 24%, LDEM 20%, BRX 9%, GRN 6% (tabs)
Deltapoll (27 Jul) – CON 30%, LAB 25%, LDEM 18%, BRX 14%, GRN 4% (tabs)
YouGov (26 Jul) – CON 31%, LAB 21%, LDEM 20%, BRX 13%, GRN 8% (tabs)
Opinium (26 Jul) – CON 30%, LAB 28%, LDEM 16%, BRX 15%, GRN 5% (tabs)
ComRes (25 Jul) – CON 28%, LAB 27%, LDEM 19%, BRX 16%, GRN 4% (tabs)

The trends across all these polls are very consistent – compared to pre-Johnson polling everyone shows the Conservatives gaining support (up 10 points in Deltapoll, 8 in MORI, 7 with Opinium, 6 or 7 in YouGov, and 3 with ComRes). In each case support for the Brexit party has dropped by a similar amount, while support for the other political parties remains broadly consistent. While in practice things will be a little more complicated (people will have moved in and out of don’t know, likelihood to vote will have gone up and down and so on), you can fairly characterise it as Johnson’s leadership immediately winning back a chunk of support from the Brexit party.

While The Conservatives will no doubt take some cheer from being ahead again in the polls, they should perhaps not take too much. The polls show them back at around 30% – where they were in March – as opposed to figures in the high 30s or low 40s that they recording at the tail end of last year. Boris Johnson has not magicaclly repaired all the damage they have suffered in the last few months – primarily it would seem because they are still losing a significant chunk of their 2017 support to the Brexit party. The fact they are ahead again is as much because of the splitting of the anti-Brexit vote between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In the early months of this year Liberal Democrat support was around ten percent and Labour were mostly in the thirties; now the Liberal Democrats are typically in the high teens and Labour normally in the twenties.

Secondly, it is very much the norm for a new Prime Minister to receive a boost in the polls. They normally come to power with a flurry of announcements and activity (and that often contrasts with the drift of whatever moribund government they’ve just replaced), their natural supporters once again project all their hopes and dreams upon them, and a fair chunk of the media are normally treating them as the messiah. It happened with John Major, Gordon Brown, Theresa May and now Boris Johnson. Generally speaking those factors don’t last, and neither does the boost – though the temptation is always to think this time is different. Gordon Brown narrowly avoided calling an election during his bump, aborting just before his lead collapsed; Theresa May’s boost in the polls stretched on far, far longer than expected, finally tempting her into an election before rapidly deflating. One probably shouldn’t get too excited about this one either – more important in terms of public support will be what happens in terms of Brexit in September, October and November.

(A couple of quick notes on methodology. You’ll note the usual big gap difference between pollsters in terms of Labour support – with YouGov and Ipsos MORI showing lower Labour support than Opinium and ComRes. My best guess, which I’ve written about elsewhere in more detail, is that this is to do with how and if pollsters weight for past vote. Secondly, I should flag up a methodology change from MORI – previously they hadn’t been including the Brexit party in their question wording for the voting intention question, resulting in lower support. This month MORI included the Brexit party in the prompt for half the sample – presumably in order to see how much difference it made.)


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ComRes have a new poll out in the Telegraph. Topline voting intention figures with changes from last month are CON 25%(+2), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 16%(-1), BREX 19%(-3).

The Telegraph headline their report on hypothetical questions asking how people would vote if Boris Johnson was Tory leader, I’m rather sceptical of the worth of such questions when it’s a hypothetical that actually appears to almost certainly happen in a week or two’s time, but there goes. For what it’s worth, in the hypothetical Boris question the voting intentions are CON 32%(-5), LAB 25%(+3), LDEM 17%(-3), BREX 14%(nc) – a substantial drop in Conservative support from the same hypothetical question a month ago, suggesting perhaps it wasn’t such an effective prediction of Boris’s future impact.

Anyway, my general assumption is that parties normally do get something of a boost from new leaders, if only from the news coverage, enthusiasm of their supporters and whatever the new leader has planned to make an early impact. We shall see for real in the coming weeks.

As ever, other polls are also available – there have been two other voting intention polls this month:

Opinium in the Observer at the weekend had topline figures of CON 23%, LAB 25%, LDEM 15%, BREX 22%, GRN 8% (tabs here)
YouGov in the Times last week had topline figures of CON 24%, LAB 18%, LDEM 20%, BREX 23%, GRN 9% (tabs here)

There remains a significant difference between polling companies, most notably on the level of support recorded for the Labour party. The reason for this is unclear – polling companies these days are not taking radically different approaches towards turnout modelling or reallocating don’t knows, nor in how the questions are asked (though whether the Brexit party or Greens are prompted may be making a difference in some cases). By default that means the differences are more likely to be down to sampling make up – whether by the way respondents are sampled or weighted, companies are interviewing slightly different people. Specially, some companies seem to get Labour voters who are more loyal than others. I suspect some of this may be down to weighting variables (the measures polling companies choose to use, such as whether they control on education or political interest), perhaps some down to when past vote weighting data is collected – whether it is collected in the survey itself, or was collected at the time of the election (or in the case of MORI, whether past vote weighting is avoided entirely).

My advice, as ever, is to avoid the temptation of assuming that the polls that you’d like to be accurate are the ones that are, and that polls with results that you dislike are wrong ones that can be ignored.

However, it is probably worth paying some attention to polling for the European election results in May. At those elections we saw a very similar difference across polling companies, with extremely large spreads in terms of Labour support (final polls varied from 13% to 25%). It did tend to be the same companies showing high and low Labour support, the most obvious explanations did appear to be down to sampling, and when comparing to final results those companies showing low levels of Labour support were substantially more accurate. I am cautious about how much weight to put on these – after all, along with Ipsos MORI who were most accurate, my own company did conspicuously well here, and I wouldn’t want to fall into wishful thinking myself. There are obviously different challenges in polling low and high turnout elections (and other companies have other questions to ask about, for example, Brexit party support), but I would have thought that, in the absence of changes or explanations, it would sensible to be somewhat cautious of polls at the top end of Labour support if those same polls have very recently overstated Labour support in a national election.


On Saturday YouGov released a new poll of Tory party members for the Times, timed to coincide with ballot papers going out and members actually starting to cast their votes. If the race was to be in any way close it would really need to have shown a substantial drop in Boris Johnson’s lead. It did not show any drop at all – Boris Johnson continued to have a 48 point lead over Jeremy Hunt, 74% to 26%.

Boris Johnson’s private life was seen as irrelevant, members would be happier with him as leader, trusted him more, thought he would be a better Prime Minister. In terms of the race itself, the poll was very much cut and dried. With that in mind, perhaps the more interesting thing to look at is members’ expectations. Despite Boris Johnson’s stated aim, only 45% of party members think he will actually be able to negotiate a better deal. His attraction seems more because 90% of members think he would be prepared to leave without one. Even then, only 54% of party members think a Johnson led party would actually end up leaving without a deal by Oct 31st (26% think he will leave with a deal, 13% that we won’t have left by then). Even so, most party members don’t seem to be in the mood to set red lines – only 34% think that it would be a resigning offence if the new leader failed to deliver Brexit by October 31st.

Full tables are here.

Since I’ve been asked about it by a lot of journalists over the last week or so, I should probably also explain a bit more about how polling party members works. First up, it is hard. If you think about the traditional approaches towards polling, they simply aren’t plausible for polling members of political parties. The Conservative party themselves are not likely to provide polling companies with a list of party members’s contact details to randomly select people from. Given far less than 1% of the population are Conservative party members it is certainly not feasible to randomly ring people up in the hope of finding Conservative party members, neither do members live in geographically concentrated areas that would make the sort of clustered face-to-face sampling that is sometimes used for BME polling feasible. Apart from an academic study in the 1990s that had the co-operation of the party itself, polling of party members was simply impossible before the advent of internet polling.

The only way that it is possible these days is to use an internet panel, either a small, specially recruited one like ConHome’s mailing list, or the way YouGov do it – by having a panel of the general public that is so large that you can draw very niche samples like party members from within it. YouGov identify Conservative members as part of the general process of collecting demographic information about respondents – as well as age, gender, occupation and so on panellists are asked if they are a member of organisations such as the National Trust, WI, RSPB, English Heritage, Conservative party, Labour party and so on. The parties are asked alongside other organisations, at neutral times (and the occasional clever bugger who claims to be a member of every party to get into all the surveys is excluded from them all). Party membership is asked again during the survey to check answers are consistent.

It remains tricky however because of a lack of demographic targets. For normal polling of the British public quotas and weights will be set based on known demographics of the target population. For example, we know from the census and ONS population estimates that around 49% of the adult population in Britain are male, 51% female, so polling companies will ensure samples reflect that. The Conservative party does not publish any such targets, so polling companies are flying a little blind. YouGov estimate targets based on the demographics of party members on our wider panel and known skews within it, but it poses an additional difficulty.

So polls of party members pose particular challenges, but in this case Boris Johnson’s lead is so large and, more importantly, so consistent across groups that he is likely to win regardless. He leads among different age groups, men and women, working class and middle class, and every region – so in the event that the balance of those groups were a bit off, it wouldn’t change the victor. The only group Jeremy Hunt leads amongst is those party members who voted to Remain.

For whats worth, YouGov’s record of polling party leadership contests has been extremely good in the past. If anything, the problems that have bedevilled polls in recent decades and companies have spent so much time and money addressing – getting respondents who are too interested in politics – have been a positive in recruiting respondents to polls of party members.


I am a little cautious of the value of voting intention polls at this point, we can expect the appointment of a new Prime Minister to have a significant impact on political support, so voting intention polls right now seem a trifle redundant. However, for what they are worth there have been two new VI polls this week so far.

YouGov for the Times had topline figures of CON 22%(+2), LAB 20%(nc), LDEM 19%(-2), BREX 22%(-1), GRN 10%(+1). Fieldwork was Monday to Tuesday, and changes are from mid-June. Tabs are here.

Ipsos MORI‘s monthly political monitor in the Standard had topline figures of CON 26%(+1), LAB 24%(-3). LDEM 22%(+7), BREX 12%(-4), GRN 8%(-1). Fieldwork was over the weekend, and changes are from last month. Full details are here.

Both the polls have the Conservatives and Labour at similar levels of support, both have the Liberal Democrats close behind them and doing far better than in recent years.

There is a significant difference in levels of support for the Brexit party – 22% or 12%. Some of this may be down to one survey being online, one by telephone, with all the potential differences that leads to in terms of sample and interviewer effect. However at the European Parliament elections YouGov and MORI had the Brexit party at pretty similar levels to each other (YouGov had them 2 points higher than MORI), which doesn’t suggest that’s the main reason.

The more likely cause appears to be prompting. YouGov now include the Brexit party in their main prompt when they ask which party people will vote for, Ipsos MORI have not, so as not to upset their trend data. How much difference this makes is unclear… and indeed, it may have a different impact on online polls (where the answer options are there in front of people) and telephone polls (where people may be prompted with options, but can say what they like). MORI note in their write-up that it remains under review, and they may add the Brexit party to their main prompt in the future.