A new Populus poll for the Times has topline voting intentions of CON 38%(+2), LAB 40%(+1), LDEM 12%(-3). The poll was conducted between Friday and Sunday, and the vast majority of the fieldwork was conducted before Gordon Brown announced there would not be an early election, so unfortunately it doesn’t shed any light on how people have reacted to the non-election.

Labour are just ahead in this poll, but like YouGov’s at the weekend it shows both the main parties up in the high 30s and low 40s, with the Lib Dems way down. We’ve come to expect lower levels of Liberal Democrat support in YouGov polls, figures this low in one of the phone pollsters are something new.

There is also a shift in the overwhelming advantage Labour had on economic competence in a crisis last month – at the height of the Northern Rock crisis 56% of people said they would trust Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling rather than David Cameron and George Osborne come economic troubles, against only 18% the other way round. The figures have now shifted to 43% preferring Brown/Darling and 28% prefering Cameron/Osborne. Still a big gap, but it’s also a big shift. For the really interesting figures though we’ll have to wait for some polls conducted after the non-election announcement.

135 Responses to “October Populus poll”

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  1. Is it not also worth also pointing out that this polls fieldwork was taken when the media was lauding Cameron as deliving the speach of his life and when polls in the press where pointing to polls showing Conservative leads???

  2. T Jones, that is factually false.

    Talk in the press was of a narrowing of Labour’s lead – the first poll with a Tory lead came out on Sunday so the fieldwork for this was before that was announced.

    Interesting poll, good improvement but it already feels “old” as Anthony says because its before the most recent news about the non-election.

    With this one now out, any idea when the next one will be out now?

  3. I’ve looked at Populus’ scores in the archive. Only once in the last two years have the Conservatives polled higher than this 38%- on one occasion in 2006, when they had 39%. So it seems Populus tends to give the smallest Conservative percentages generally- all the other main polling companies have had at least a few Tory scores of 40%+ in the last couple of years.

  4. This seems to be pretty well spot-on with the Weighted Moving Average (37.5:39.3:13.1) but as noted it was taken before the Bottling. But is the you.gov poll in fact more up-to-date because the fieldwork takes fewer days? It certainly feels like “old news”. However overall Populus seems no more erratic than the others (Std 2.3 mean error 0.2 vs std 2.4 mean error 0.1 for the polls as a whole)

  5. This is an excellent poll for both the main parties. Labour must be pleased to be on the 40% mark despite Brown’s recent difficulties. As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, Nick Clegg must be getting very excited now.

  6. Crisis time for the LDs. The thing is I’m not sure a change of leader will have that much of an impact, we are back to two party politics in the eyes of the media and LD press releases will be given as many column inches as Peter Andre’s chest wax.

  7. Very quick change again here, but to be expected, once again Labour in the lead. Labour still on 40% or more, once again there does not seem to be any drop in Labours support, could they be stuck in 40 or more from now to 2009? I think it looks as if the Tories have had a boost not from Camerons speech but more from the tax cut promised.

  8. I will not feel confident of a sustainable Tory improvement until votes are moving from Labour, rather than from LDs. A change to Clegg would give them a boost-and at present that would probably be from Conservative.
    There is encouragement in the Conservative improvement in “competency” ratings.They need to be hammering the manifest “managerial” failures of Labour as well as their own policies.
    Brown’s terrible misjudged ( yes hindsight is a wonderfull thing!) splitting of the BoE oversight role off to FSA, and the abject failure of the new system in the Northern Rock affair has not been highlighted enough.
    THe Times Business Editor suggests 10 question today for the Treasury Select Committee-I hope they get asked.
    THe consensus on the Polls seems to be that “it’s IHT relief what done it”. Labour’s response to that today will be fascinating to watch.Given the apparent groundswell of public support, will a continued attack on the validity of the Non-Dom revenue resonate with voters?…it amounts to 0.6% of total government spending! How could an error in such a figure amount to a “risk of economic instability”?-it’s the equivalent of a Dome & a couple of failed IT systems.
    I feel strongly that managerial incompetence is the card Conservatives should be playing much more strongly.

  9. Colin – bit biased for me,that one, but, while I agree that “waste of money” is the best line Caameron can take, it doesn’t make sense for him to draw attention to “misjudgements” re Northern Rock. The need for better regulation is a Labour vote-winner, not a Tory one.
    The debate on IHT will be an interesting one – we haven’t heard yet what underpins Labour’s threshold raising, or whether they plan to raise it to something higher than £325k (was £250k until a few years ago).

  10. Colin,

    Both main parties are taking voters from the Lib Dems. I am though impressed (and surprised) that Labour’s vote is holding up.

  11. This poll demonstrates what should be apparent by now. That the polls are extremely volatile and are heavily affected by whichever party leader gets good face time on the news. Cameron is once again having to struggle to get more than his customary 10 second soundbite and Brown, if he has any sense, will revert to serious, solid and safe pronouncements on real issues such as Iraq and the CSR and get on with the real business of governing. I firmly expect Labour to recover a small lead in the short term.

    That does not mean however that we are back to where we are before the conference season. Brown has taken a hit as to his judgment and he is also now acutely aware that any poll lead he has is necessarily fragile until such time as the British public form a decisive view on Brown and Cameron. Cameron is painfully aware of the same point having led comfortably for many months on the back of a largely uncritical press. At the moment the jury is very much out in that Brown is a new PM and Cameron has only just started coming out with policies.

    By May 2009 it is extremely unlikely that we will be talking about IHT, Iraq and the election that never was. I expect that by that time, even the issue of the EU treaty will be resolved one way or another. By May 2009 we will be talking about the parties’ policies and “events” neither of which can be predicted with any certainty.

  12. Ralph

    … I am though impressed (and surprised) that Labour’s vote is holding up…

    I’m not; Labour actually has not done anything wrong, they have, though, been outflanked by the hip pocket nerve otherwise called the Inheritance tax. I expect to see action on that today.

  13. And I remain firm in the belief that the idea of ‘bedrock party members’ (as in ‘I’m party X’ no matter what) has dropped solidly since the 1960s but I suspect is now in freefall. Why? With both parties fighting for the centreground can the normal person see any meaningful difference between them? Hence the immediate poll reaction to hip-pocket nerve politics.

  14. Well, we will see if it does hold up after the so-called bottling. This poll doesn’t really tell us anything new, other than the flurry of polls after Cameron’s speech were correct and there has been a major Tory recovery.

    Re: Expenditure and ‘black holes’. I simply think the Tories need to say that ID cards cost £15BN, the failed NHS computer system which needed to be replaced cost several billion, the millenium Dome cost over a billion, the Olympics is going to cost £10 Billion with that figure rising all the time. So compared to these, £3.5 billion is not an ammount which is going to endanger economic stability, and will (easily) be generated by relatively modest economic growth. I think the Tories are being rather unintelligent in not countering this line of attack, as it can be done so with a quite simple argument voters should be able to understand. The Tories are not making enough of an attempt to attack this percieved Labour advantage on financial management in my opinion.

  15. Jack,

    ‘Labour actually has not done anything wrong’, lets agree to disagree on that.

    On ‘bedrock’ support for the Tories and Labour it is circa 32%. As for the Lib Dems I would guess at 16% but as the polls underestimate Lib Dem support it is hard to tell. These figures have been static for over a decade.

  16. Arnie;

    an excellent overview of the current situation in my opinion.The polls are as solid as mud and it may take some time for the voters to form a solid opinion of which party is best placed to get their vote.


    Lib Dem bedrock vote, in my opinion and experience as a political activist, is somewhat lower than 16%-possibly as low as 7%.They poll far more than their core vote because they are experts at ‘squeezing’ votes to ‘keep out’ other parties. Nothing wrong with that I may add.

  17. In terms of some of the comments on what the Tories should attack on, opposition parties need to be careful. For example, I don’t think Cameron’s ‘broken society’ line is very productive – it’s a negative, frightening message, and many people may think that ‘society was alot more broken when your lot was last in power’.

    As with Luke’s line about the cost of the Olympics – everyone wants to see the Olympics become a big success, and to use this as a stick to beat a government risks alienating people who want to see a great sporting event. One of the trademarks of the Tories in recent years has been to constantly talk of impending recession, crises, and general doom.

    Unless voters feel that a) there is a real crisis, and b) the Tories have the tools to deal with it, this type of attack will portray them as impotent hysterics. Opposition is more difficult than government in many ways, and attacks have to be more nuanced. To date I don’t see much evidence that the Tories have grasped this.

  18. The Olympics was supposed to cost £2Billion originally, now it’s £10 Billion already! I don’t think its unpatriotic or doom-mongering to point out the discrepency! The Olympics is a bit of a sacred cow, but I don’t think public opinion is particularly pro-olympics at present, what with that Logo and all the rest of it and the spiralling budget.

    I disagree that attacks like the broken society are without potency, although I do not happen to like them- I believe society is broken, but this has been an inevitable (and ultmatly worthwhile) price for the freedom we have gained since the 1960s. In general, it’s simply a matter of waiting until the incumbant government is so unpopular that people believe ‘time for a change’ is better than ‘sticking with the devil you know’. I think its impossible for an opposition to demonstrate they have the tools to do anything! Even if they announce a popular policy, the Government will simply say it is unfunded and them do it themselves in a few months.

  19. Dragging you back to safety, does anyone know whether incumbent governments of host nations enjoy a lift in the polls as a result per se of hosting the Olympics? Little data will be forthcoming from next year’s I suppose!

  20. One thing i do agree with whole heartedly, is that the Cons are far less adept at slinging mud or highlighting erors whereas Lab are experts. “sums don’t add up”, “economy at risk”. Say it enough times and it sticks.

    Alistair Darling will today implement “Bowns vision”, no doubt pinched tory policy on IHT and stampt duty, paid for by taxing private equity funds.

    They will likely implememt the tory IHT policy and then try and destroy tory credibibiity with the 3.5 bill non-dom claims. The Tories, as discussed need more than just good policy they need to go on the offensive and highlight shortcomings, as they see it. This last week is the first time in years that has seen Labour being hit with a stick by the Cons, it’s always been the other way around.

    A party of opposition needs to oppose the government and not be a government wipping boy.

    If Brown signs up to the EU reform treaty, he will not recover. the Murdoch press will switch sides completly and the polls with it.

  21. Adam 8
    I confess I’m currently having a spot of fun on Iain Dale’s diary. When I came back here, I thought I was still there. It’s just too contentious, and makes little sense, evemn if one wanted to contend it here.

  22. What is contetious John T and “makes little sense”. the fact the cons are not adept at all out attack. or the EUreform treaty statement?.

  23. Whether or not the opposition is a whipping boy is neither here nor there when it comes to the polls. Has it really always been the other way round anyway? “say it enough times and it sticks” – well true of anything, even the truth, but you’re using it to peddle
    your view that it has no merit. “Pinched”? How neutral is that? “more than just good policy” In whose eyes “good”? 38% of those polled? I could go on, but I’m not here for a blargument about policies!

  24. Another great result from the Tories in this latest POLL – showing an increase of 2% for the Tories from the last Populus POLL .

    As mentioned above – a more accurate POLL will be the next ones after Labour’s disasterous week in politics .

    My prediction is neck and neck POLLING for Labour and Conservatives for the next few weeks tll about Christmas time when the Labour postion will drop back to the mid to low 30’s and the Tories will remain high 30’s and the Liberals will make a comeback to about the mid teens .

    This will all come about as the media look into everything Brown says and does with great scrutiny .

    Even today we see Brown taking on board the Tory policies from the conference – ho hum !!

  25. What i would be interested to know, Adam 8, is whther you think it would be better tactics for Osborne / cameron to welcome threshold increases by darling, while hinting that they were triggered by Osborne’s speech, or whether it will play better to carry on “hitting them with a stick” I get the impression that the Tory revival would be more emphatic if they hadn’t been so strident about “spin” and Brown’s “behaviour” – drawing attention to those things gets the argument onto ground which is more or less neutral as far as poll data goes. Apologies if my criticisms were too strong

  26. As far as the EU Reform Treaty goes, if Murdoch did switch sides over it, he’d probably switch back if it turned out that Labour’s chances in a general election hadn’t been damaged. That’s only my view, and i respect yours!

  27. BTW I haven’t seen this Poll anywhere on the Timesonline website?

  28. no offense taken John, firstly I am genuinely of no political persuassion as a matter of course and have been in favour of and voted for both major parties at differing times. I guess you may be right about Murdoch, he will back the winning horse, but “it was the sun wot won it” is probably true and if Brown does go against the Labour manifesto pledge I think they will give him a very tough time, which will transpose into the opinion polls. I would suggest that you and most on a site like this have some political savvy and can see beyond the point scoring and party lines, There will however be a lot of the tabloid readers with not much connection to the political process and will swallow what is being told to them in the Murduch media, this could cause irreperable damage, in my opinion.

    I think it would be wise for Cameron/Osbourne to welcome the changes if they are genuine and of course they will highlight the fact it was their policy proposal. “pinched” i would think is fair and objective, both parties do it if it’s popular, and one could not defend a position that this is a Labour idea, it is being adopted, and rightly so, because it’s popular and therefore is “pinched” from the tories. I don’t suggest that the sums do always add up, we all now politics is often based more on perception than fact. But I just think that Labour are far better at destroying Tory perception, no matter how factual, and the tories do not go after Labour to the same extent.

    “Apologies if my critisms were too strong”

    If only politicians had that attitude!

  29. It’s not there (yet). It was on page 8 of the paper, with an article by Peter Riddell, who heade it with the shift in opinions as to Brown/Darling versus Cameron/Osborne to be trusted to run the economy.
    There always seems to be a small percentage of Labour voters who think Cameron/Osborne are better, and a small number of Tory voters who believe Brown/Darling are better. Is this a by-product of the weighting procedures, or are there really Labour voters who want Tory economics, and the other way round? Or are the policies so similar, taht it doesn’t matter?

  30. Adam 8 – If they did have that attitude, they’d probably disappear. Never Apologise is written in their collective rule book, presumably because to apologise loses more votes than it gains. The stakes aren’t quite so high for me, thank goodness, and I’d go further – I come onto sites like this hoping to “pinch” arguments that I can use to stir things up with my mates!
    Tabloid readers might well be able to understand the difference between a Constitution and a Treaty, in terms of concept. The Constitutuion is certainly dead, but its contents live on in much less scary vehicle. That’s fact, not opinion, and Brown’s ability to “handbag” attempts to rub out our red lines should define the debate. His problem is that the argument could run and run over the other reform treaty parties’ (France, Germany etc) possible erosion over time of those red lines.

  31. I thought I would change the subject! Past talk in these pages has often focused on the electoral disadvantage the Tories are now apparantly under as if this was a new occurance and how they need to be 10 points ahead in the polls to even get a working majority. So I thought I would do a little research into the number of times since 1900 that the party getting the most votes has ended up with fewer seats than an opponent. Well it has happened FIVE times since 1906 with the Conservatives losing out in four of them, twice to the Liberals and twice to Labour. The election which perhaps sticks out the most happened in January 1910 when the Tories got 3.3% more of the votes than the Liberals but ended up with 2 fewer seats.In the 2 cases-1929 and 1974- where the third party got sizeable votes clearly this was the main reason behind the lopsided result but in the other instances the third party was a negligible factor.So there is no common denominator other than the fact that the Tories have been there before rather too often for their comfort. However to suggest that they need to be 10 points in front does not seem to be born out by history and the election calculators which rely soley on a uniform swing are probably no guide to what will happen in an election. Past performance of all three main parties in those constituencies with few boundary or profile changes must come into the reckoning as much as the mathematical swing required to unseat the incumbant. The Tories clearly have to be 4 points in front of Labour to get a mjority but how much further than that the bar should be set is indeed the 64,000 dollar question.

  32. Intersting perspective Nick. Maybe the time has come to set agreeable boundaries to all parties that would better reflect the overall points advantage. Though no party in power would approve. I believe the point was made on another thread, that Labour will likely need a strong Scottish vote to maintain its advantage and with the SNP rising in voter popularity, that could be a key point. I also think the LD’s with their current leader will play more into the hands with the 2 majors as the polls suggest.

  33. Thanks Nick!
    I hope any polls out this week-end will be doing the field-work after to-day’s budget announcements (and replies). It’s somewhat frustrating to see one where the research has straddled an announcement.
    Are constituencies that remain the same generally regarded as more indicative than those which change their make-up enough to be reviewed? I’d have thought the opposite, that changing communities would contain less rigidity and therefore be more sensitive to political movements

  34. Well it seems that the eye catching measures from the Chancellor’s announcement are that the IHT threshold for couples will be raised to £600,000 and that corporation tax will be cut by 2 points to 28%. Nothing on stamp duty. Non-doms and private equity firms will be reviewed also.

    The Tories will (rightly) portray this as some clothes stealing although I suspect the IHT change was one that Labour were planning on springing today in any event in advance of the ghost election. The difficulty for Cameron is that he has little option but to run the line that he welcomes these reforms but that they were his ideas. Of course by the time the next election comes, these will be non issues which is precisely what the government hoped to achieve.

    I agree entirely with the poster who said that polling should be done after this review so that we can assess its impact. I suspect that (for once) Mike R will be right in one respect and that Labour will have a small to medium lead in the short term.

  35. IHT threshold to be raised, non-domiciles to be targeted and flights to be taxed instead of passengers. What a bunch of exciting and original ideas to be implemented by Labour (!)

    Wonder whether yet another flagrant grab of Tory policy will have an impact on the polls?

  36. The one surprise measure in the package is probably the most significant. Capital Gains Tax will now be levied at a flat rate of 18% with no taper relief. While this represents bad news for private equity bosses, it is very good news for individuals owning property and stocks who currently pay 40% CGT.

    This proposal ought to get some attention from the media but I just wonder in the current febrile atmosphere whether it will go through under the radar.

  37. Well, I am not really surprised by this announcement and who would be. Perhaps the public don’t really care who does the things they want, they just want them done – a substantial and long-overdue rebalancing of the tax system for a start.

  38. Had Labour raised the IHT threshold to £1m, definitely said ALL non-domiciles were to be taxed at a flat rate to fund it that would have been blatant clothes stealing. However, the non-domicile issue is going to wider consultation no doubt as to ascertain its feasibility and practicality. Do the ‘gains’ trump any potential ‘losses’? It’s important to establish that before moving ahead on it.

    I actually think the government had been looking at IHT long before Osborne’s proposals came to fruition. The same with the non-domicile thing. Brown, seemingly, considered this as far back as 1995 when Shadow Chancellor.

    As I’ve stated I have misgivings about taxing non-domiciles since I’m concerned it could pose wider economic risks. I feel much the same re-private equity; though most will agree they are too lightly taxed. Economic stability means more to me than tax-cut giveaways here or tax-hikes there.

    As for the tax on planes, this irks me since the cost will, ultimately, fall on passengers not the airlines. Still, there seems to be something of a tri-partisan consensus here. Not enough of that in British politics.

  39. As I have argued before, thenext election will see an end to anti-Tory tactical voting, and a beginning of anti-labour tactical voting. Thus, I expect some of the bias that began in 1997 to even out. I also expect Labour may do better in places where it does not need to, which may also adversely effect their seats-to-votes ratio.

    This 10 point stuff is just nonsence, I think about 4 or 5 will be enough.

  40. Luke,

    Were the Tory ‘malcontents’, despite a sugar-coated party conference, to jump out of their tree again to the point of destabilising Cameron, I’d be very surprised if their fortunes didn’t slide. Of course, if they remain disciplined then they should hold their own and then some.

    Of course, much will depend on what happens with the Lib Dems. Does Ming stay or does he go? The Lib Dems will certainly benefit from some Labour tactical voting, where Labour doesn’t have a chance. They won’t be polling as low as 12% on the day. I don’t think the UK will be returning to two-party politics any time soon despite what the polls are suggesting right now.

    I suspect the fall-out from Iraq hit a max on Labour in 2005. Labour will, of course, be judged on its performance as it was in 2001 and 2005.

  41. Philip Thompson – The fieldwork was between Friday and Sunday,the first poll with a Conservative lead was Sunday,therefore some of the fieldwork would have been done with the Conservatives in the lead in the polls….or was the last bit of fieldwork at 03:45 on the Sunday morning before the papers hit the street?

  42. Why is it that the Coservatives are not pollimg more positively? We are right in what is usually described as the mid-term blues for governments and the best they can do is scarcely more than ocasionally keep level. The govermment has had a bad press and has had a number of crises to deal with which would normally help an opposition into a healthy lead. It is often said that elections are won some considerable time before polling day. Can the Conservatives recover or are they doomed to many more years in opposition? Should they be offering more right wing policies? Perhaps the wiser, more perspicacious contributors to this site can give Mr Cameron and his colleagues some advice?

  43. Arnie-“Well it seems that the eye catching measures from the Chancellor’s announcement are that the IHT threshold for couples will be raised to £600,000”

    Actually there is no “couples ” IHT allowance now.
    IHT bands currently relate to individual estates.
    KPMG have said “This change, although likely to grab headlines, is in practice only giving to most people what they already have,” At present, couples can take out a zero-rate Discretionary Trust which in practise pools their inheritance tax allowances. Only those who have not availed themselves of this would be helped by today’s announcement. Yet Brown estimates this will cost him £1.4 billion-it probably won’t-but then the Tories plan probably wouldn’t have cost £3bn either !

    “corporation tax will be cut by 2 points to 28%.”

    This was already announced by Brown in last years Budget-as was a 2% increase for small businesses which Darling didn’t remind us of today.Given removal of CGT taper relief , many genuine, long-term family businesses will see their tax rate almost double when they come to sell up.The CGT measures announced today are good news for some individuals, but in trying to get at the private equity sector , this very blunt instrument will cause great collateral damage in a very important sector of the UK economy which is getting a pasting from Labour.

  44. I don’t doubt things could go wrong for the Tories easily. It will only take one bad poll- they’re an unruly rabble. But they do respect ability to win above all else, which is a lesson the Labour party have also learned.

  45. Certain individuals continue to devise posts which are entirely informed by their own political bias. Whilst this may occasionally be vaguely entertaining I thought that this biard was meant to be for reasonably objective discussion. There are a number of rational explanations of recent events one of which is that the effect of ramping up an election has been to flush out a few Tory populist policies and then deal with them in a very prompt fashion…..and that’s politics. Now, is that being objective or not?

  46. David – Couldn’t agree with you more.I believe it to be a good political tactics , as upto a couple of weeks ago no one knew what policies they had.At least they now have something to scrutinise and critisise.Short term pain for long term gain?

  47. John H:-

    “Should they be offering more right wing policies?”

    I,m not sure what you mean by that term-but no-absolutely not.
    What they must do is what they thought they were about to do in a GE Prospectus-tell the public at large-repeatedly-about the philosophy, intent & practical effect of all the policy areas covered in Cameron’s speech.:-The effect & practice of handing more control of the NHS back to practitioners, The effect of academic streaming in schools, and the freeing up of school management & ownership, THe meaning of “broken society” to those inner city & town communities crushed by drugs & violent crime, and proposed solutions, The effect of Tory policy on immigration….indeed the very role and purpose of The State in a modern free enterprise economy.

    The public currently is being treated like children in a sweet shop-by all political parties. The minutae of the smaller budgetary numbers are being used in a sort of bizarre version of a tv gameshow. And the whole thing is often presented in a way which seeks to confuse & conseal.

    It’s time for this appalling Ballsite approach to politics to stop.
    Lets get back to real political philosophies & let the people choose.

    I would welcome some serious political debate -on tv & in the press.-but don’t expect for one minute we will get it.

  48. …and of course I would welcome a proper explanation of Labour’s current political philosophy -just what is Gordon’s “Vision” for the country & how will it effect us all.

  49. We’ll never get a TV debate I wouldn’t think, simply because both sides feel they must have something to gain. Blair has refused in recent elections because he knew he simply had it to lose. I fully expect Cameron to challenge Brown to one, but he won’t agree. And judging by Mr. Brown’s performance at dispatch box, he’d be wise not to.

  50. The press reaction seems to be that Darling has ‘stolen’ Tory clothes- it’s pretty hostile. I guess Labour are prepared to take a short term hit to blunt these trump cards unveiled by the Tories.

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