Sunday polls

There are apparently new polls tomorrow in the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday. The News of the World poll is by MSL, a sister company of ICM – both are owned by Creston plc. I’ve never them do political media polls before, if I had to make a wild stab in the dark I’d guess that the News of World phoned up ICM for a poll and found that ICM were already contracted to do a poll on the same subject for the Guardian this weekend, and were hence given MSL as someone else who might be able to do it for them. No news of any voting intention questions in the MSL poll, but it found that 54% thought ministers had handled Northern Rock badly and 49% of respondents wanted Alistair Darling to resign.

Overall 46% now thought that the government was bad at handling a crisis, compared to 42% who though they were good at it. Labour’s lead on the economy has dissappeared – asked which party they thought better at managing the economy Labour and the Tories are equal on 38%. The News of the World apparently draws comparisons with a poll a couple of months back when Labour had a twelve point lead – different pollsters and the wide variety of ways this question is asked produce different answers. I can’t recall ICM showing the Conservatives catching Labour on the economy in recent years, but YouGov have often shown the parties neck and neck – we don’t really know what these figures are comparable to.

I’ll update once we find out details of the BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday (or any other polls that surface).

UPDATE 1: Nothing about this Sunday’s polls yet, but this post on the Sky News blog reveals they have the first poll of Lib Dem members of their leadership campaign which will be released on the 2nd December (so a week tomorrow). Presumably this is the YouGov one that various people have reported being polled for.

UPDATE 2: The BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday has the Conservatives on 40%, down 1, and Labour on 35%, down 2. The Lib Dem figure isn’t available yet. While the Conservative’s are down, a one point shift isn’t significant in itself, its more consistent with broad picture we’ve been seeing in most polls lately of the Conservative vote having stabilised at around 40%. Labour at 35% is also consistent with the sort of support they’ve been recording in recent weeks…that is, doing better than in the two recent snap polls by YouGov and ICM. There is no drastic collapse in Labour support here.

Other questions in the poll are embarrassing for Labour, but probably don’t tell us much. Voting intention with Blair still in charge is CON 37%, LAB 37%… but this is probably just as unrealistic as the hypothetical polls from before Brown was leader, if Blair was still PM he’d probably have been tarnished by Northern Rock and the loss on benefit data which would have damaged him. The poll also suggested people think Brown is less competent than John Major and Alistair Darling a worse Chancellor than Norman Lamont.

Finally, BPIX found 46% of people were now opposed to ID cards, with 43% in favour.

UPDATE: 3An ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraoh doesn’t have voting intention figures either. The overall picture there is Labour suffering a drop, but not a disastrous one. Net approval ratings for Alistair Darling are down at minus 18, while Gordon Brown retained positive ratings as Chancellor until almost the end of his time there (to put the BPIX question about comparing Darling with Norman Lamont into context, there was an ICM poll in November 1992 where Lamont got a net rating of -57.)

ICM also asked the same question as Populus about whether people would trust Brown & Darling or Cameron & Osborne to deal with economic problems. While the trend is the same, it is less drastic – Brown/Darling remain ahead on 39% compared to Cameron/Osborne’s 32%. In the polls during the week I said it was the answer to this question that would be most damaging to Labour if it held true…it hasn’t.

Gordon Brown’s approval rating is almost unchanged from last month at minus 2 (compared to minus 1 last month), suggesting no drastic damage to his ratings either.

Apart from the Populus poll in the week, the overall picture in these latest polls seems to me that Labour are damaged by the disc affair, but really not fatally so. Judging by the polls the damage seems to be a lot less than you’d think from reading some of the commentary. Of course, it’s not other yet, the disc story was still running when these polls were taken, and was being accompanied by criticism of Labour’s defence policy and now the strange story in the Mail on Sunday about one of their major donors. So far though, I think the picture is looking less bad for them than everyone assumed and expected.

UPDATE 4: It’s worth noting that the ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph appears to have been carried out in the same set of fieldwork as the one for the Guardian in the week. This changes the picture slightly – we don’t have horrible YouGov and Populus polls for Labour, contradicted by two ICM polls showing less bad news for Labour and some poor results for the Tories. Instead we have horrible YouGov and Populus polls for Labour, and a single ICM poll showing a different picture. It could be that the ICM poll just happened, through the normal vagueries of random sample error, to get a sample that was more sympathetic to Brown and Darling – we shall see in the next lot of polls.

39 Responses to “Sunday polls”

  1. These polls should hopefully show if the earlier large Lib Dem was a blip or outlier or not.

  2. MSL will be no good for that even if there are voting intention figures, which there don’t sem to be: they have no track record so we won’t be able to look at any trends.

    BPIX normally show very low levels of Lib Dem support compared to other companies (presumably because of their weighting, but since we don’t know how they weight their polls we can’t be certain about that), so if they a figure in the low or mid teens we shouldn’t think that it contradicts the ICM polls. Their last poll had the Lib Dems right down at 11%, so a BPIX poll showing the Lib Dems at a 14%, 15% type figure would actually support ICM’s findings.

    As it happens, nearly everyone seems to be showing the Lib Dems on the up and everyone seems to be showing Labour declining, so as far as they are both concerned I think can be confident about the trend. The surprising finding in ICM’s poll was the decline in Conservative support, when everyone else seems to have them pretty static. The last BPIX poll had them at 41%.

  3. I took part in a short Yougov survey on Thursday evening which had a Clegg/Huhne choice and question as to whether I was a member of the LibDems . Seems to be too early for a poll to be published on Dec 2nd so there may be another one in the offing .

  4. Partial BPIX figures are Con 37 Lab 32 LibDem ?? Others ??

  5. Mail on Sunday/BPIX has Lab 35 and Con 40, Conservative lead of 5 points.

    Interestingly, they also claim that it would be Lab 37, Con 37 with Blair was still PM.

    Yeah, right.

    Also claims that Brown is seen as less competent than Major and that Darling is a worse Chancelor than Lamont.

  6. until we see the LibDem figure it’s hard to see what is going on. But if people think Brown is less competent than Major and Darling less competent than Lamont it makes no sense that Labour’s support is “up” compared with other recent polls. BPIX have a lower Std than average (1.4) and tend to over-estimate C leads, but on this occasion it looks a bit wrong: the C lead “should” be about 6% according to the trend: let’s see what the NoW poll says.

    PERHAPS what is going on is that people are now embarrassed to admit that they voted Labour at the last election, and this may be distorting the results because the pollsters are weighting “past labour voters” and it’s only the (declining) band of loyalists who admit to this??

  7. I am a little surprised at the Major v Brown and Lamont v Darling results. I had thought that Black Wednesday had in an odd way come back to haunt the Tories in recent days. All we have heard in the past few days is the question of whether this is Labour’s BW. Of course the effect is to remind everyone of BW.
    The papers have actually been quite generous in retrpspect about it and its effects. The Inde saying they supported Majors decisions – as did the then Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown. The Sun compared said its cost were dwarfed by the potential of Northern Rock and claimed Major then set us on the path to 15 years of growth etc. I can’t help wondering if there are going to be some unexpected outcomes and assessments as a result of recent events.

  8. I think Black Wednesday has been fading, although agree it’s best for the Tories not to have any mention of it atall as it was a fundamental turning point at the time.

    The real trouble for the Tories on the economy/competence has been that the upturn which started in late 1992 handed a revived economy to Gordon Brown who reaped the benefits of it.

    But there are question marks over the economy now.
    Sadly, because I don’t want the country to suffer for the Tories to do well.

  9. The News of the World is reporting 38/38 according to ToryHome???? Seems strange. Taken together these results are hard to make sense of. Sleep on it I think [and see what Anthony says in the morning]

  10. The News of the World poll is online.

  11. Curious poll in the Sunday Telegraph, seems to be aimed at Mr Darling.

  12. The question of who to credit for the upturned economy would be interesting to debate. My younger sister is currently studying economics at ST. Andrews. She told me that her economics professors believe the economic growth for the past 15 years is due to long-term effects of Thatchers policies, and that Brown has basically taken the glory.

    It is a realistic theory. People have a tendency to praise the government of the time for economic prosperity, yet unless they have implemented policies as radical as Yeltsin’s, then the government of the day probably deserves little credit. Britain’s economy today was written yesterday. We need to see what happens tomorrow, before we can accurately Brown.

  13. Oliver – that’s economics professors for you. They would need to explain why the world economy has proven remarkably resilient over the last 10 years, (nothing to do with Thatcher)and also why the Conservatives managed to have not just one round of real economic pain to get the economy in order, but three – with the second and third of these largely due to economic incompetence. And don’t forget – with massive public debts the national finances were not in great shape when Brown took over, so the rosy glow you’re painting is somewhat false.

    Overall these polls do seem difficult to interpret. My guess is that as always, it’s not ever as bad or as good as it might appear. Labour is in a mess, with events playing a disturbing role for them, and if this continues it may cement the ‘time for a change’ feeling. However, like I said in the summer, Cameron has failed to build a real sense of credibility – even now with a seriously troubled government. As Anthony says, even with a 9 point Tory lead, the next election is all to play for. If I had to put money on it, I would still go for a Labour win, but with no great certainty.

  14. I think it’s almost impossible for oppositions to achieve credibility if their frontbench team haven’t held office for ages. Gordon Brown often points his finger at them and says ‘All talk, no action!’ (this is a verbatum quote I’ve heard several times). Er, yes- they’re the opposition- all they can do is talk.

    For that reason I think it’s simply a question of the government becoming so unpopular that the desire for change outweighs any uncertainty about the credibility and experience of the oppisition team. So what I am saying is there is only so much Cmaeron can possibly do. The rest is down to the government, and how forgiving the public decide to be to it.

  15. Lukw
    I agree. The Opposition always have along road convincing the electorate they can take a punt on them. Gone are the days when leaders could expect to survive one election defeat let alone do a Gladstone/Disraeli and come in and out of office. The Opposition leader will always be a “new boy”.
    The public have to see you in action for a while until you become such a familiar part of the political landscape; they think they know what to expect.
    One Labour minister is reported in the press as saying the next election will be based on “better the devil you know” theory.
    We have come along way since “a vision”…. which was replaced by “competence” and now …
    But still not far enough to know that Labour will be out of office and the Tories in at the next General.
    We shall have to wait and see if his luck has just run out.

  16. Alec, the concerns you raise can be fundamentally addressed.

    1: It is not just global success, though that’s been a large part since the 90’s (especially w.r.t. inflation). In 1979 the UK had a GDP/capita half of what Germany and France did, now is has a higher one.

    2: When there are serious, structural, flaws in the economy, like there was in 1979, sometimes a recession becomes necessary. Too many people stuck in unproductive jobs, a recession ends that and then more productive ones come in. Plus the ’91 downturn was global too.

    3: As for the national finances, that claim is just bizarre. In 1979 the UK economy was a basket case being bailed out by the IMF, by 1997 the economy was strong and Brown followed the Tory economic plans for 2 years and we ended up with budget surpluses.

  17. while John Major was in charge ( with Kenneth Clarke as Chancellor) after 1992 the PSBR and inflation went down while balance of payments improved. Manufacturing industry benefitted from the lack of money going in to speculative ventures. Major got slaughtered because he wasn’t Margaret Thatcher not because he couldn’t run a strong economy.Blair got lucky through Ken Clarke’s good work.
    Interesting hearing Vincent Cable on TV today – I think he’s doing a pretty good job.

  18. I have to note that there is not much evidence to support the “Black Wednesday destroyed the Tories” theory. A quick look at the polls from 1992-1997 shows that the Tories were on a downward trend from mid-June-1992 to mid-December 1992. Black Wednesday (September 1992) clearly resulted in some horrible polls for the Tories but they also quite clearly recover “to trend” very quickly afterwards. It is just that the trend was down.
    Now you could argue that the trend would not have continued down without black Wednesday – but I know not upon what evidence.
    It may be that (would Anthony would be able to tell us) that “Economic Competance” figures dropped like a stone and stayed there, in which case maybe there was a lingering effect, but Black Wednesday itself shows-up only as a blip, not a lasting effect.

  19. Malcolm,

    Comparing polls in 1992 to those today will give you a false impression as polling methods have changed a lot since then.

  20. Malcolm Hewson. Yours are interesting comments that give food for thought.
    It is possible that these events are perceived differently, however, years down the line. Many who lived through Black Wednesday would remember the poor economic preformance of the previous Labour Gov and therefore view it in a context not available to all. Older voters [more likely to be Tory still do – if my parents are anything to go by.]

    The middle aged may see it out of that context. Whilst younger voters do not remember it at all.

    The effect on some voters is bound to be distorted by the media [ big/small the perceive the effect to have been].This may, however inaccurately, help determine the way which it is judged in hindsight. An exaggerated media hype of the effect on public oppinion may have a self fullfilling effectfurther down the line..
    However public reassessments of it are now taking place in the media which may have the effect of bringing back the assessment to a position nearer that held at the time.

    Your comment highlights the importance of the underlying trends as they more clearly indicate a Gov’s potential to weather further storms. They may not be sinking but they can be fatally wounded below the water line.

  21. Sally C-
    Interesting thoughts on the perspective of personal memories.

    I’m old enough to remember Wilson’s Governments-and trying to manage a company under the Orwellian gaze of The Prices and Incomes Commission.
    I lived near Longbridge when Red Robbo ran both British Leyland & the country.
    I remember George Brown and The National Plan.
    Those memories are certainly jogged under a Gordon Brown premiership.

    On the topical question of Government “Competence” which is receiving much attention in the Polls, last Friday’s Public Administration Select Committee received a couple of interesting contributions:
    The Sunday Times reports thatEd Milliband admitted that ministers are “probably undertrained for their jobs”-“Government doesn’t do enough-a lot of things the private sector would take for granted aren’t done sufficiently” he said.
    Nick Raynsford said as a follow up ” The only difference I would take with him is his use of the three letters “der” in undertrained”

    Is this true for both Labour and Conservative? Does a background in private industry/commerce make for a more competent minister than say a career in Law, The Public Sector or Journalism? Gordon Brown’s career before Parliament was as a Lecturer and Journalist-is this relevant I wonder?

    An article by William Rees-Mogg today in MoS states that since 1945 there have been six occasions when the Prime Minister has lost power after calling a General Election.With reasons these are :-
    1951 Attlee—devaluation 1949.
    1964 Douglas-Home—–Profumo 1962.
    1970 Wilson—–devaluation 1967.
    1974 Heath —–Miners’ strike 1973.
    1979 Callaghan—-Winter of Discontent.
    1997 Major—–Black Wednesday

    I make that Labour 3 ( 3 Economy/ Industrial relations)-Conservative 3 ( 2 Economy /Industrial relations & 1 Sleaze)

    So “it’s the economy stupid” appears to ring true in UK as well-and the omens for GB on that score are not entirely helpfull.

  22. >

    Agree – but not relevant.

    My point is to refute the claim that “Back Wednesday did for the Tories”.
    My case rests entirely on polls conducted between June and December 1992, which showed a blip within a trend.

    My further unstated point is that there is little point asking if there has been a “Black Wednesday” effect against Labour. The “Black Wednesday” effect didn’t happen in 1992, there is no point making comparisons to it now.

  23. Aplogogies, my last posting is intended to answer Ralph when he said,
    “Comparing polls in 1992 to those today will give you a false impression as polling methods have changed a lot since then.”

    To reiterate, I didn’t compare polls in 1992 to todays. I looked at polls through the summer and autumn of 1992. There is no evidence of a Black Wednesday effect.

  24. I don’t see how anyone can deny the effect ‘Black Wednesday’ had on the popularity of the Major government in September 1992.Generally because of the harsh medicine Maggie Thatcher had been obliged to hand out to the country and resentment over such issues as the hated Poll Tax the Conservatives were in truth already rather unpopular come the 1992 election at which event anti-Tory tactical voting was clearly evident hence the loss of seats like Bath to the Lib Dems.Had Labour then been a credible opposition they surely would have won that election.Once the Tories subsequently lost their reputation for economic competence in September 1992 people began to remember all the other things they disliked them for and that feeling persisted until the coming of David Cameron. Even today I think that the occasional wobbles in the Tories’ opinion poll ratings are because floating voters with long memories are still not entirely sure about them. Indeed those negative feelings will not at least in my view disappear until the Tories are actually in office and demonstrated their worth anew. I believe that applies to Scotland in particular where a Catch 22 situation exists. Nobody there will trust the Tories until they prove themselves in power-but they have to get there without the support of Scottish voters!

  25. It’s fascinating going down the ‘what if’ path and trying to assess the long term effect of such happenings as Black Wednesday. Mao Tse Tung, when asked what influence the French Revolution had on the world, responded that it was too early to say.
    Would Tony Blair still be in Downing Street with a huge majority had he accepted George Bush’s offer to pull out of the Iraq war commitment?
    Would the Conservatives be ahead in the polls if they had chosen Daviv Davis as their leader?

  26. More on the hypotheticals….

    I distinctly remember Ken Clarke criticising Brown in 1998 for sticking to the Conservatives’ spending plans so enthusiastically, and claiming that he’d have relaxed fiscal policy to ease the difficulties of those first years.

    I also remember some-one on this site pointiong out that Maastricht rules make it very difficult for a new government (ie former opposition) to make short-term changes to the plans they inherit. Hence Osborne has committed to sticking to Labour’s plans for two years, whereas a re-elected Labour government would not have to!

    The main reason I voted Labour in 1997 was that a further term of Conservative government would have effectively meant we had a one-party system, and that the “sleaze” epithet would no longer be seen as a vote-loser. I suspect that if I vote Tory in 2010 it will be because of a continuing slide in Labour’s reputation – competence, economic management, and if you add future scandal, they’re toast.

    Major’s initiatives to repair the Tory slide (“back to basics”, “the cones hot-line”) made things worse. Brown’s challenge is to come up with initiatives that actually make things better.

  27. Nick Keene


    Just plot the graph. There was a steady drift from the Tories from early July to early November – the all was steady until December – after which a further drift took place.
    I ought to note that until I looked at the polls, I thought Black Wednesday had had an enormous effect. May be that the effect was insidious and that infighting broke out amongst Tory ranks which effected the polls over a period.

  28. Malcolm,

    Black Wednesday really was a decisive moment (sadly there aren’t many regular trackers we can look at for Lamont, or economy competence, but Lamont’s approval in March 1992 was something like -16 and was -52 come March 1993, the government’s economic approval figures were awful after Sept 1992. It also put Labour ahead on economic competence. John Major’s approval figures were polled more regularly, and fall off a cliff immediately after Sept 1992.)

    It wasn’t the be-all and end-all though, there was other stuff going on at the time as well, for example mine closures. The headline voting intentions didn’t just drop after Sept 1992, they plunged, then recovered a bit, bumped around…only in 1993 do they really do into terminal decline.

  29. Like John T -sleaze caused me to vote Labour in 1997( mea culpa!)The Hamiltons loom large in my memory-as does Teresa Gorman for some reason!

    The Conservative Party had become such an embarassing rag bag they had to be put out of their misery.

  30. In themselves , the crude poll figures do not tell the whole story . As we have seen recently opinion is volatile and it was probably the same in 1992 . Some may have swopped their opinion from Conservative to Labour prior to Black Wednesday but were still wavering and persuadable to change back but Black Wednesday may have confirmed him for the forseeable future as a Labour supporter .

  31. Anthony


    I know I’m getting to be like a dog with a bone here, but I have looked at the figures again and again, I’ve compare ICM Guardian to ICM Guardian, MORI to MORI, HARRIS to HARRIS – I’ve looked at actuals and rate-of-change. Anyone looking at the numbers only would not have found a Black anything. The Tory rate of decline in the two months leading up-to Black Wednesday was more than the rate-of-decline afterwards.

    I remember Black Wednesday and I do not believe the Major Government recovered from it and the only explanation that I can come up with goes something like:
    pre-Black Wednesday – Tories slide from election winning levels – to be expected.
    post-Black Wednesday – Tories not dealt mortal blow, but act as if they have been. Infighting begins, Major looks weak ==> some Tories start to think about how to get rid of him ==> infighting continues – Tories slide. May 1993 local elections bad plus Newbury By-election. ==> Summer bring Christchurch By-election. Slight recovery by spring 1994 and then Tony Blair ==> Tories begin to look like losers ==> they become losers.

  32. My memory of 1992 was that until BW the Tories were still seen as generally good on the economy, but lost it at that point. Against a backdrop of percieved social failure, sleaze etc this then became terminal. Taking this into the current position, and trying to be neutral, I wonder if the idea of a crunch moment for Labour will be borne out. Somehow I doubt it.
    To date we haven’t had any Labour minister’s being sent to prison, or accepting bribes. The economy is shaky, but not terminal. Recent crime figures were in historical terms excellent. Education remains messy, while with health the question seems to be has the money been well spent, rather than why do we have a 3rd world healthcare system. Clearly there are problems, and this doesn’t mean that the ‘Time for a Change’ argument won’t hold sway at the next election, but I don’t see the last week as Labour’s Black Wednesday equivalent. Put simply, I don’t think for most people things are that bad.
    My best guess is that we are back to more conventional politics, where either side could win. It’s certainly, and perhaps quite righty, the end of Labour’s dominance of politics, but whether it’s the start of a new Tory era is yet to be determined.

  33. Iain Dale reports Comres/Independent poll Con 40 Lab 27 LibDem 18 Others 15 . Labour figure VERY low , Others high as they usually are for Comres and LibDem 18 with ICM weighting would be 20ish ( and ICM with Comres weighting would have been 19ish ) so consistent level .

  34. Anthony. Can you please explain briefly the link between ComRes and Communicate?Can the whole series be read as one?

  35. It was just a name change similar to British Telecommunications becoming BT . They did introduce substantial changes in their weighting with their Feb 2007 poll so polls before that date should not be considered as part of the same comparable series .

  36. Looking at ICM, the one that stands out for scotland, is Cameron/Osbourne v Brown/Darling. Where as the Uk figure is 32% to 39%, a 7 point labour lead, the Scotland figure is 15% to 61%, about 4 to 1.

    No I know it’s a small sample, but that can’t be a statistical error. When you look at the other questions on both Darling and Brown they still do better but by nothing like as much.

    It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Scotland still doesn’t trust the Tories. Whether that means that the SNP will be the focus of he antilabour vote, or that Scots will rally to Labour to prevent a Tory government is the question i don’t think we ca answer until we get a decent Scottish poll preferably one that asks the question outright.

    ” If there was a UK General Election, would the prospect of a Conservative Government make you more or less likely to vote for , Labour/SNP/Libdem”.

    The answer to that could shape the electoral stategy of every party in Scotland.


  37. 13% is the biggest Tory lead of any poll since August 1988.

  38. Collin – what Mark says. It was just a name change, but they have shifted their methodology a couple of times, most significantly in February when they made a major adjustment. Since Febuary their new weighting seems to be particularly favourable towards the Conservatives and ‘others’.

  39. For those that are gleeful at the Conservative 13% lead,the same party was 13% behind a only few months ago.

    Don’t count your turkeys before Christmas arrives.