When I reported the YouGov poll following Gordon Brown’s speech I cautioned that it a snap poll taken right after the speech and it would probably fall back – a couple of days later the 11 point lead it showed was confirmed in a normal poll. On Thursday I again cautioned that the Tory increase was in a snap poll and the immediate Conservative boost would probably decline…and again it hasn’t. In fact it has grown.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has voting intentions, with changes from YouGov’s snap midweek poll for Channel 4, of CON 41%(+5), LAB 38%(-2), LDEM 11%(-2). The changes from the last full size YouGov poll a week ago are a stunning plus 9 points for the Conservatives, minus 5 for Labour and minus 4 for the Liberal Democrats.

This is the first time YouGov (or indeed any pollster) have shown a Conservative lead since June, the highest Conservative share they’ve ever shown (and highest of anyone since 1992). The last time I can find that the Liberal Democrats sank this low was in 2001. There is no longer the possibility of an imminent election of course, but were these figures repeated at a general election it would produce a severely hung Parliament – CON 296, LAB 316, LDEM 12 – even Labour and the Liberal Democrats together would have a majority of only 6.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to be extra sceptical about polls that show big shifts of opinon (there is a statistical ‘law’ called Twyman’s Law that runs along the same lines – “Any figure that looks interesting or different is usually wrong.”). Until we see some more polls backing up these findings it may just turn out to be a blip. There is support though in a BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday that has figures of CON 39%(+5), LAB 38%(-3), LDEM 12%(nc).

The further increase in Conservative support is plausible – most of the fieldwork for the YouGov poll in the week would have been completed before the newspapers had reported Cameron’s speech (ICM’s whose fieldwork would have included a greater proportion of interviews from Thursday had the parties neck and neck) and the media narrative since the party conference has been working in the Conservatives favour.

Then there is the question of the Liberal Democrats – it is clear that they have been savagely squeezed out by a Labour party revived by Gordon Brown and a Conservative party that has pulled itself together in the face of a possible election. I find it hard to believe that they won’t recover from this level, but with figures this low there must come a point where they need to address their situation.

Normally with a big shift in the polls like this I would say wait to the next polls to see if the changes are confirmed – in this case I’d be surprised if they weren’t even if this poll is a blip. The media reaction to Gordon Brown’s decision not to call an election shows every sign of being savage and I would be surprised if they didn’t suffer further in the polls. With no election in the offing though, the most interesting thing to watch in the coming weeks will not be voting intention but how attitudes to Gordon Brown change. At the moment he has a repution of being strong, tough and competent – will the decision not to have an election change that? We will see.


52 Responses to “YouGov show the Conservatives back ahead”

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  1. “One little mentioned fact is the Lib Dems seem to be going through the floor” – Bit ‘chicken and egg’ that. Are they little mentioned because they’re going through the floor, or are they going through the floor because they’re little mentioned? My thought is that its likely a vicious self-fulfilling circle. The more irrelevant they seem, the lower the coverage, the lower they’ll poll, the more irrelevant they seem etc

  2. Isn’t it all froth got up by the press and the Westminster hothouse? None of the issues mentioned above ranks high on the list of policy areas that are known to engage voters.

    Do I rememer correctly that the historical evidence is that a government party with a new leader has the best chance of re-election if they call an early election?

    This is all a storm in a teacup, and there are signs that a volcano is about to erupt in Holyrood which will change the landscape for ever. On this site an SNP councillor has said that the SNP minority government is not merely doing as well as its supporters had hoped, but much better!

    The consequences for Trident, energy policy, the number of Labour MP’s, the Union itself, temporary bipartisan policies in Scotland and even Gordon Brown’s constituency majority are almost unimaginable.

    That’s where the real political story is.

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