I expect the benefit data incident will result in a deluge of polls over the next few days – the first one is already out, a snap YouGov poll for Channel 4 news. The topline figures with changes from YouGov’s last poll are CON 41%(nc), LAB 32%(-3), LDEM 14(+1).

Labour’s support is down, as might be expected, but it has not benefited the Conservatives who remain static at 41% (the same level they’ve been at for the last 4 polls), the benefit going instead to the Lib Dems, continuing to creep upwards from the appalling figures last month, and “others”. Not that this is likely to dismay the Conservatives too much, it is the largest lead YouGov have given them so far.

It is a snap poll, taken straight after the news of the missing discs that would have been conducted when the news of the missing data was still all over the news. That said it doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour will automatically recover in any later, full-size polls. I remember putting similar caveats in my reports of the snap YouGov/Channel 4 polls after Brown and Cameron’s conference speeches and in the end their findings were supported by full size standard polls the following weekend. I would be amazed if we don’t have many more polls to compare this one to in the next few days.

UPDATE: There are also reports of a snap Populus poll for the Times, this one done on Wednesday night. It reasked the question on whether people would trust Brown & Darling or Cameron & Osborne to handle economic problems. In September, just after Northern Rock first faced problems, Populus found 56% of people trusted Brown & Darling more with only 18% trusting Cameron & Osborne more. The figures now are 28% for Brown & Darling and 34% for Cameron & Osborne. 44% think Darling should resign.

Strictly speaking the figures may not be directly comparable – this survey was conducted online, rather than by phone, so we don’t know what difference the sampling and the absence of an interviewer effect may have had, but realistically any difference would be small and this represents a crushing collapse in confidence in Brown and Darling. Again, we don’t know to what extent it will last and, as yet, most people aren’t suddenly enamoured of Cameron & Osborne.

The poll also found the percentage of people who think the government is competent has slumped from 56% to 25%, the percentage of people who think they are honest and principled has fallen from 37% to 20%. If these figures are maintained in polls when the newspapers aren’t full of hostile headlines, as they were when this poll was conducted, they will be very bad indeed.

UPDATE 2: A lot of commentary in the last couple of days has the air that Labour have blown it, that the next election is all but over. It is worth pointing out that a 9 point lead for the Tories really doesn’t justify this, especially given that on a uniform swing it would deliver the Tories only a small majority. The more significant finding is disasterous drop in people’s trust in Brown and Darling to run the economy, as shown in the Populus poll.

Labour’s big trump card for the last 15 years has been the economy. The Tories have been ahead on things like crime and immigration for years. I’ve seen polls where the Conservatives have pulled ahead on core Labour issues like education and the NHS, certainly people’s perceptions of how well Labour have done on the NHS is very poor. The one thing solid banker Labour have always had though is the economy. The public think that Labour have delivered on the economy, that Gordon Brown can be trusted on the economy and that Labour are, if not far more trusted than the Conservatives on the economy (which polls almost always show) at the very least pretty much equal with them. If Labour lose their advantage on the economy, they have lost their biggest advantage and probably are in deep trouble.

That said, this is a poll done in the midst of bad news for the government. We really want to look at opinion when it has settled to see if permanent damage has been done to the government’s reputation for economy competence. It’s also important to note that the collapse in trust in the government’s running of the economy wasn’t echoed in the YouGov poll which asked people to rate Brown & Darling and Cameron & Osborne separately on competence and found the two of them neck and neck.

UPDATE 3: It would have been conducted bang in the middle of a poll asking about data security, so let’s see what happens when that leaves the headlines, but it’s still worth noting that Populus also found only 29% of people in favour of ID cards, with 55% against.

66 Responses to “First poll since the missing discs”

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  1. Anthony is certainly right. Labour members are noted for their loyalty to their leaders through prosperity and adversity, whereas the Conservatives, ever since they adopted a democratic method of selecting their leaders in place of the ‘magic circle’ fiasco, following their 1964 defeat, have had little compunction in disposing of their leaders. There are still those who are even now are smarting at their colleagues’ treatment of Margaret Thatcher, just 17 years ago this week.
    The remakable feature of the current polling is that the Conservatives are still flat-lining. Yet, this week they surely could not have had more favourable cicumstances in which to rout Labour. People clearly have longer memories than they are given credit for as they recall the way we were governed in the late eighties to the late nineties.

  2. “The remarkable feature of the current polling is that the Conservatives are still flat-lining.”

    Perhaps that will change over the next year. Fortunately for the Tories, at least if it doesn’t change they are flatlining above 40% as opposed to below 30% as they were doing a few years ago. In fact the Tory share of the vote between 1979 and 1992 was remarkably steady at 41-44%.

  3. Firstly, I’m very relieved the poll lead for the Tories isn’t well into double figures, given the disastrous headlines of the past few weeks I’m amazed yougov could find a single Labour voter.

    Secondly, I’m not overly alarmed YET at Labour falling behind on the economy question. If a party takes a hit as big as Labour has taken over the past couple of months it will invariably damage its standing on every issue.

    That said, if Labour are still way behind ,AND behind on the best party to handle the economy, next spring then I’ll start to be concerned.

  4. ” The remarkable feature of the current polling is that the Conservatives are still flat-lining”

    Nothing remarkable about this at all. It appears that another wadge of Labour voters have left Labour for ‘Others’ as a halfway house whilst they decide what to do next. Moving from Labour to Tory or vice versa is not undertaken lightly-it involves a change of mindset and way of looking at things. That said the Tories having at long last broken through the 40% mark must be setting their sights on 45% by this time next year. It looks to me to be eminently achievable- except in Populus!

  5. ‘The remakable feature of the current polling is that the Conservatives are still flat-lining’

    Can you flat-line and be 9 points ahead in the polls? I would have thought that for the Tories to be flat lining they would be in the low 30s.

  6. Mark,

    Of course you can make a case that Labour’s doing badly in the long run in the south – it’s hardly headline news; but your post specifically referred to last night’s by-elections and you simply cannot draw any conclusions from that.

    In fact, take a look at Lib Dem Voice today and lo:

    “There were too few comparable contests to indicate how Labour support has stood up in the face of crises over Northern Rock and the data loss debacle and England’s exit from Euro 2008.”

    You usually come up with far more reasonable observations than you managed today is all I’m saying.

  7. Maybe “Peaked” is better than “Flatline”, or “Hit a ceiling”.

    However one thing to bear in mind is that the higher you go the more difficult it is to go higher with every extra 1% harder one than the last.

    Thus although some people are talking about 45% and the like, I think that we should expect any Tory climb from now on to be slow and step by step.

    Unless it turns out that Brown and Darling are trustees of the Off shore trust that owns half NR’s assets.


  8. New ICM/Guardian poll has Con 37 Lab 31 LibDem 21 . Looks like LibDems will be back to the levels of May this yesr much earlier than I forecast .

  9. I’m not sure that Arnie has the right perspective on the cost aspect of the Data loss at HMRC.

    According to some reports the IT service provider would have charged around £5k to disaggregate the sensitive data.We know that HMRC are under cost constraints and the manager who made the decision was clearly making it in that context.
    But the result was that he placed a max value on the confidentiality of data held by him in respect of 7 million families, of fractions of a penny.
    The merger of Inland Revenue & Customs was no doubt pursued by GB for very sensible cost saving reasons. But this appears to have resulted in a massive department where by all accounts, errors and lack of control are endemic, and in which -at least in this case-cost control is applied in a blanket fashion without any idea of priorities.

    I think that people assimilating these matters will see resonances in the botched GP contract,the botched Qinetiq sale,the failed IT projects too numerous to mention, the disastrous Pathfinder Housing scheme, the Home Office blunders etc etc.

    -And that is an addiction to central command & control-but without the control.Ministers appear to think that they only have to issue a target, or an edict and their objectives will be fulfilled.There is no seeming follow up-or in the parlance of the the commercial world where people are responsible for their cock-ups-no management.

    I believe that this is the source of the Populus poll result for Government Competence -ie halved to 26% in two months. If Cameron can tie these factors in to Labours use of Central Top Down edicts masquerading as management of change, and contrast them with Conservative plans for a more bottom up/ localised approach then he can convert a series of assorted Government administrative cock-ups into a Systemic flawed approach to governance.

    THe Populus Poll makes the Conservatives ahead of Labour on Competence. That is a huge achievement from an opposition party-but at 33% it isn’t much better than Labour in that Poll.

    As the economy slides, Labour-and Brown specifically-will I believe find it very difficult to get those competence ratings back up. They had the economic accolades whilst they lasted-they will be blamed for a downturn.
    Cameron and his team have to concentrate on building credentials for competence. Policies are important of course-but when eveything seem to “be going wrong” people look for a safe pair of hands.
    Its an election winner.

  10. I don’t say a leadership challenge would succeed (as such) and I don’t say it is likely: I merely say you can’t rule it out. I’d guess a probability in the range 0.5-2.5%. Would anyone give me 200:1 odds against one happening during 2008?

    the C lead in the Weighted Moving Average is now increasing by just over 3% per month since the big correction ended on 28 Sept.

  11. Re: the ICM poll.

    I think this a rogue poll. I do not believe that given the media coverage the LIb Dems have had- which had been fire – that 21% is the correct figure. I expect this to go down to 14-16% in the next poll. It’s not that I don’t think the Lib Dems can get 21%- it’s just that it runs entirely contary to the media narrative. 14 to 21% is an increace of 50%- it’s the same as Labour or the Tories increacing from 30 to 45%. This is too big a leap to be believed in my view.

  12. Last ICM poll ( 10yh Nov 2007) had

    Tory 43%, Labour 35%, LibDem 15%, Others 8%, the new poll has,
    Tory 37%, Labour 31%, LibDem 21%, Others 11%.

    The guardian has it as bad news for Labour, but they will like most papers be comparing it to “their” last poll, not the most recent.

    It actually has the Tories down more than Labour (-6% as opposed to -4%), the Libdems up 6% must be a relief for them, but then it’s only one poll.

    The “Other”s being up is interesting, I wonder if the Yougov figure showing the SNP ahead of Labour would be replicated when we see the tables, although I don’t think ICM show Scotland as such.

    Yet again I’d love to see a good (1,000+) poll for Scotland.


  13. Luke you cannot say that the LibDems have gone from 14 to 21 so this poll is a rogue . Because of their different methodologies Yougov always give LibDems a low rating and ICM a high rating . Populus and Comres with their methodologies being in between . The change in ICM from the previous ICM/Guardian poll is + 3 which is feasible .
    What nonone knows of course is whose methodology is the correct one . Is Yougov’s 14 the right level or ICM’s 21 or somewhere in between . Of course we will all prefer to believe that the one most favourable to the party we support is the right one .
    I therefore put more trust in ICM than Yougov , you probably the opposite but this is really just faith on our parts. I would submit that yesterday’s good LibDem byelection results fit ICM’s 21 rather than Yougov’s 14 , what evidence can you submit to support Yougov’s figure ?
    When the detailed data for this poll is out , you can calculate pretty well what Populus and Comres and to a large extent Mori would have put out as a published figure and do the same for their polls but because of their very different polling and methodology you cannot do this with Yougov’s data .

  14. Peter , the ICM poll you refer to had some peculiar features which Anthony and I discussed on a previous thread . I am not convinced that it is wise to quote the changes from that poll , better to use the last Guardian poll but that is just my opinion .

  15. Mark,

    fair enough, the last guardian/ICM was,

    28th Oct 2007, Tory 40%, Labour 35%, LibDem 18%, Others 7%

    That would make it Tories -3% Labour -4% LibDems +3% Others +4%

    That could potentailly be even better for the SNP if we have done well from the “Others” going up.

    Given the election for LibDem leadership and the governments bad week I am not surprised at the LibDems rising, but I doubt they will stay at 21% for long.

  16. 21% simply intuitively seems far too high. I might be prepared to believe 18% from the most favorable pollster, but not higher. The poof of the pudding will be in further polls.

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