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.


14 Responses to “Polling party members”

  1. it’ll be Boris.

  2. Good post Anthony. I’ve wondered about how you find party members to ask.

    Your Scots subsample shows 7% of Tories samples as being in Scotland. That doesn’t seem unrealistic,

    BBC Scotland’s claim the other morning that 20% of Tory members lived in Scotland, on the other hand, is patent nonsense.

    While neither % is definitive, BBC Scotland seem to have based their figure on nothing more than happening across an occasional reappearance of the Brigadoon community, and sampled them.

  3. Here’s something more interesting than the Tory 110m hurdles.

    Westminster Voting Intention:

    LAB: 28% (+1)
    CON: 25% (+2)
    BXP: 19% (-3)
    LDM: 16% (-1)

    Via @ComRes. Changes w/ 7-9 Jun

    direct from ComRes, so don’t blame me for limited set of parties. ComRes did pretty well in EP elections I think. They are now very different to YouGov for Westminster.

  4. Can anyone explain to me Labour’s newly emerging Brexit policy.

    If understand right, if Labour win GE they will still carry on with Brexit and then have a referendum anyway. And potentially campaign against their own deal.

    ???

    Lol

  5. No sorry, misremembered, it was IPSOS/MORI that did well in the EP elections, ComRes were fairly rubbish.

  6. @Tonybtg: “If understand right, if Labour win GE they will still carry on with Brexit and then have a referendum anyway. And potentially campaign against their own deal.”

    That’s about the size of it.

    Of course, Starmer’s dream Brexit deal would mean we stay under pretty much all of the EU’s rules anyway. So the referendum question would be: “Do we give up our voting rights, or keep them.”

    But then I have been saying all along that Labour had no intention of carrying through Brexit.

  7. Tweet from another pollster –

    https://twitter.com/AGKD123/status/1148325734429155334

    Worth mentioning that for something like this they (and indeed anyone) don’t just ask “are you a Tory member”, there’s a series of other questions on different topics to whittle it down and validate it

    On a typical omnibus about 3% of people tell us they’re members of the conservative party, 5% Labour (often both). That would equate to 1.5m and 2.6m members respectively

  8. Westminster Voting Intention:

    LAB: 28% (+1)
    CON: 25% (+2)
    BXP: 19% (-3)
    LDM: 16% (-1)

    Via @ComRes.
    Changes w/ 7-9 Jun

  9. Good evening all from a very warm Winchester.

    I highly recommend Dubrovnik in Croatia for a holiday. Superb and quite cheap.
    …..
    “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”
    _________

    I agree BoJo’s private life should be seen as irrelevant unless it actually undermines his credibility to hold office. . Nosey parker neighbours shouldn’t determine the leadership outcome if they have an agenda.

    According to dispatches tonight the average Tory party member is older than ET.

    When BoJo becomes PM he’d better hurry up with Brexit before the ol Grim Reaper ravages the Tory party faithfuls.

  10. OLDNAT

    “BBC Scotland’s claim the other morning that 20% of Tory members lived in Scotland, on the other hand, is patent nonsense”
    _________________

    That would equate to about 24,000 members based on the UK party having a total of 124,400 as of 2018.

    I don’t like using wiki as a source because it’s open to anyone to chop and change info but the Scots Tory wiki page has the party membership at 8895 as of 2011.

    After the Scots indy referendum the SNP membership went up 10 fold so it may not be beyond the realms of possibility that the Scots Tory party membership have gotten a post boost Brexit boost and a Ruth boost after the 2017 GE.

  11. Anthony Wells, you are really spoiling us. Another new thread.

  12. Allan Christie

    Undoubtedly, there was a bit of a boost in Scots Tory membership, but the BBC Scotland figure suggests that the Tories in Scotland have more than twice as many members per 1000 of population than is the case in England.

    If you believe that ………

  13. OLDNAT

    Maybe Scottish Tory party members have two membership cards, 1 for the Scottish party and another for the UK party and the BBC has just added them together .. ;-)

    Seriously though, I can’t really see Tories in Scotland having twice as many members per 1000 than in England….BBC rubbish as per usual.

  14. Given that 54% of Tory party members polled think that Donald Trump would make a good UK prime minister, I think that BoJo may have this in the bag https://www.businessinsider.com/poll-donald-trump-would-make-good-british-prime-minister-tories-2019-7

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