I didn’t expect anymore polls this year, but the Sunday Times has a final YouGov poll that shows a recovery for Labour. The topline voting intention figures with changes from YouGov’s previous poll are CON 40% (-3), LAB 35% (+4), LDEM 15% (-1).

It suggests the beginning of a turnaround for Labour, as did the last ICM poll. It is also the first poll conducted entirely after Nick Clegg became Lib Dem leader and, despite the publicity around his appointment, shows a complete absence of any sort of leadership boost. The huge caveat that needs pointing out though is the timing of the poll: the dates are the 20th to the 27th of December. The way that YouGov polls are conducted means that most of the respondents answer in the first couple of days, so actually people would have answered this poll over the weekend before Christmas, very few if any at all would have been filling in their voting intention between opening presents on Christmas morning.

Still, even the weekend before Christmas has the potential to be skewed by the holiday effect, with people travelling to relatives, being out shopping or just generally having better things to do. The fact that only 1566 people took part in the poll, despite it being open for seven days rather than three, does rather underline the effect of the time of year (it could, of course, have been a smaller sample size to begin with, but I suspect it was more likely a low response rate). There’s no obvious reason for this to skew polls in one direction or another, it can just do funny things. With this and ICM there does seem to be a pattern of Labour recovering as the immediate air of crisis which hung about the government in November lifts, but I’d be wary of drawing any firm conclusions until we’ve seen some January polls that aren’t at risk of being skewed by the holiday period.

63 Responses to “Labour recovering in YouGov Xmas poll”

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  1. Anthony – I agree with your analysis. This poll is interesting but I agree that polls taken over the holiday period should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Once Westminster reopens after the holiday break we’ll have a clearer idea of where things are headed.

  2. I would agree, as I’m not sure what would account for a 3.5% swing to Labour in such a short period of time and a drop in LibDem support despite their getting a brand new leader. A lot of voters (particularly the better off) will be away on holiday as well.
    I wouldn’t take these polls too seriously until they are conducted from January 2nd onwards.

  3. “Still, even the weekend before Christmas has the potential to be skewed by the holiday effect,”

    I think this comment, and those of the two posts before this, sums it all up. The New Year, the impact if any of the new LibDem leader, will begin to tell us if things are shifting one way or another.

    Thanks for the analysis.

  4. Incidently , the detailed figures from the recent Yougov/DT poll are not on the Yougov website . The detailed data for this poll is available via the times online website . The raw unweighted data shows once again a large bias towards respondents over 55 with a far greater percentage intending to vote than in the electorate as a whole . Unweighted figures are Con 34.0% Lab 25.8% LD 11.5% Others circa 8% .

  5. Clearly we are seeing a lot of volatility in the most recent polls. ‘Events’ have been most unfortunate for Brown in November and well into December. Perhaps the confusion and indecision about the election that never was, will fade in most voters’ minds, while the loss of data can scarcely be the fault solely and personally of the PM. Most commentators agreed that his last two PMQs were showing an improvement in his performances. DC has done remarkably well during the last three months and the question will be whether he can maintain his momentum to the point of stablising at 43/45%. I expect that January and February polls will tell us much more about how the electorate is thinking. A fascinating year ahead!

  6. Yougov puzzles me. I am on their panel but never once have been asked to respond to a political poll. Mind you, I did say originally that I am a Conservative or perhaps I said “Right of Centre”, it is some time back.

    If recent Yougov polls had any validity then it is hard to think of what could cause a 3.5% swing to Labour in such a short period.

  7. Don’t governing parties usually get a boost around Xmas when people are feeling more jolly? I’m sure that used to be the case when the Tories were in power, although I haven’t bothered to check any previous polls as I’m feeling too jolly.

  8. While I agree with the analysis as usual, it always strikes me as slightly amusing that whichever poll is being analyzed, it never seems to be accepted as demonstrating anything at all!
    This time it was because it was over the Christmas period. Other recent ones were not taken too seriously because the LibDem election had not been completed. Earlier in the year, it was because the ‘Brown bounce’ either hadn’t happened yet or was not over yet.
    I know it’s good to be always looking forward, but can’t we accept that there will always be some event that has not yet fully unravelled, and try to put more emphasis on conclusions that can be drawn and less on the caveats?

  9. Anthony,

    The Sunday Herald in Scotland gave a report of a poll of polls for Scotland going back to October, based on the Scottish part of 10 pools, but it didn’t give any details of who has done it, Do you have any ideas.

    Unfortunately the article on page 8 doesn’t seem to show on the on-line version.

    It’s quoting Labour 30.7%, SNP 35.3%, Tories 17.2% and LibDems 11.3% and gives seat predictions of Labour 27, SNP 22, LibDem 6, Tory 3. How it gets these figures I just don’t know as like i said the details are very sketchy.


  10. I haven’t analysed this one in detail, and it could well be a holiday blip.

    But, as a Conservative, there could be a slight warning here – as what happens in a holiday is a partly valid test – we need to continue setting out a positive vision on a range of domestic policy (like in the Conference which had some solutions mapped out), and not be too dependent on negative things whipped up by the media which are more out of the news.

    That said, it’s another solid performance with the Tories on 40 per cent or more.

  11. I’m sceptical about this poll but FWIW the WMA is 41:33:16, and the “error” seems to be -3pts, which is high by YouGov standards but by no means unprecedented. And given the seasonal variations I think we need to wait until the end of Jan before we see a clear trend. My prediction is that by end Jan the C lead will be over 10. Let’s see.
    Happy New Year!
    PS did you see Cameron’s NY Message?

  12. Everyone still assumes a shrinking Tory lead is a blip. Why? It’s perfectly expected that after several weeks of better (or not really bad) coverage for the government the Tory % would slip back to around 40 and the lead would shrink. I don’t see how we can be sceptical about some polls but not others – not liking the result is not a valid reason.
    The Tories themselves know that 40% at this stage is not good enough, and Labour have shown remarkable unity in the last 3 months. The underlying national mood is by no means settled yet and I think that should worry Cameron more than Brown.

  13. Newselephant – a pet theory of mine I’ve ever really taken the time to look at in detail is that governments tend to recover in holiday periods like summer and Xmas because the news agenda moves away from politics and no news is good news – there suddenly aren’t stories about data being lost, prisoners being released or whatever (or if there are, people are bothering to read them).

    P Banks – I wish there was too! It did seem until the last couple of weeks that the Conservatives and Labour were stabilising around 40% and the low 30s respectively. My expectation was that Labour would rise from the canvas a bit as people stopped bothering about politics and current affairs over Christmas, but I suspect this poll is indeed just a freak result of strange Xmas sampling.

  14. P Banks – I suspect the reason why the comments are primarily about the future and the caveats is because they are interesting.

    40/35/15 is 40/35/15 however you want to slice it. The headline figures are there at the top for every poll and not as much can be said about it, that isn’t already said well by Anthony at the top. Discussion generally congregates along the Rumsfeldian “known unknowns” rather than the “known knowns”, so the discussions about the future – either events yet to happen or caveats because of current events.

    Ultimately there is one* poll every few years that we’re really all interested in, what can change today’s opinion poll numbers between now and then isn’t as certain as the figures being quoted hence it leads to more discussion.

    * Apart from people like Peter (Scottish Parliament) or Mark (Every single local by-election)

  15. P Banks:- “try to put more emphasis on conclusions that can be drawn and less on the caveats?”

    If I have learned anything from my brief aquaintance with this splendid thread, it is that individual Political Opinion Polls appear to produce no credible conclusions at all.Those here who have the knowledge about how Polls work , have convinced me that there are indeed caveats-mostly caveats-in some instances, of a magnitude to render the supposed “opinion” indentified as misleading at best, and eroneous at worst.

    Seems to me the best way to view these things is as a torchlight rather than a laser beam.Trends over time rather than precision at a point in time are what they convey.

    IMHO 2008 will be tough for Cameron. Brown will fight back with a blizzard of initiatives. He will have no compunction about moving to the right in doing so.He will offer co-operation with Clegg on matters where he thinks the Tories will be seen as isolated.

    Cameron has certainly established personal credentials which could support his candidacy as a PM.But his parties ratings are as much to do with Labour’s run of incompetencies, and Brown’s perceived dishonesty with the public, as Tory policy announcements.

    Can Brown stem the accidents-or are they inherant in his policies?
    Can Brown retrieve the “Honest Son of The Manse” label which he destroyed in a matter of months?
    Can Cameron make Tory Policy alternatives as interesting as Labour cock-ups ?
    Can Cameron appeal to the Northern die-hards ?

    Who knows?-the current Polls tell us nothing about these things.

  16. Since we may be about to enter a General Election year, I wondered if anyone else had read this fascinating analysis about historic swings towards the end of an administraion?


    Brilliant piece of counter-intuitive research?
    Arithmetic gobbledygook?

  17. Welcome to Victor, NW Kent.

    Another refugee from the dodgy censorship of Adam Boulton’s “blog”. Unfortunately – despite a higher calibre of commentators (and less-obvious political bias) – the forest of polls tend to obscure the trees from the rest of the woods.

    Any hows, in the spirit of the time, and as a new outlook on tradition, I propose that we merry men (and women) offer our New Year’s slogan for 2008. In light of the current craze for recycling one will proffer one that one has used this year – “Have they [the Scots] gone yet…?” ;)

  18. I agree that one shouldn’t get too excited about this poll. However it’s only fair to point out that the gap has been the same in 2 of the last 3 polls. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the next month or so. If this improvement by the Government is sustained, one would have to conclude that Labour is right back in the game. Happy New Year from Richmond.

  19. I have to say, a holiday poll is partly valid.
    Perhaps it reveals something about the underlying position when the scandals etc are out of the news.

    2008 needs to be the year when the Tories redouble their efforts from the successes in 2007 and set out a positive range of domestic policy.
    There are also lots of undecided voters looking for something else.

  20. Could it be that we’re actually SEEING the Clegg effect (rather than a bounce)? i.e. there is a Con -> LD masked by a LD ->Lab of disenchanted Labour voters who had switched to the LDs but won’t back Nick Shameron?

  21. Next year’s local election results will be very interesting indeed. Will Cameron retain or build on the support gained at the last two local elections in the South West or will he lose it to Clegg?

    I believe that the Lib-Dems will have an average poll score of 20% next year and will continue to be overshadowed by David Cameron and the Conservatives. The Government will continue to withdraw troops from Iraq and the Lib-Dems will lose their 2005 election wild card.

    I am certain however that two party politics will continue to dominate the whole UK landscape during next year.

    Best of wishes to all of you for 2008.

  22. Philip , there are very few local elections in the South West in 2008 . Exeter , Plymouth , Cheltenham , Gloucester and Swindon ( if you class that as South West ) . I agree that two party politics will continue to dominate in the Met districts with 1/3rd of next years elections the Conservatives are not one of those two parties .

  23. this is a good result for Labour, and such a considerable drop in the Conservative lead will allow Gordon to relax a bit over new years.

    I have to say it again though, the last ICM guardian poll did not show a significant recovery. The Conservative lead was only 1 point less than the previous ICM guardian poll.

  24. Thanks to everyone who replied to my earlier post.
    For what it’s worth, in my experience when the government changes it’s because the government of the day has lost the election rather than the opposition winning them.
    For example Callaghan in the late seventies and Major in the 90s. I can’t remember the details of the Heath-Wilson battles.
    It seems to me that this government has run its course, and there have been so many disasters that they must surely go next time. I’m just staggered that so many people still apparently support them.
    Specifically on the poll (all caveats excepted), I agree with those who say the Tory lead should really be higher when criminal charges are hanging over so many of the Labour Party.

  25. P Banks-“I’m just staggered that so many people still apparently support them.”

    Much as I might share that thought I hope that no one in the Conservative High Command does. It’s their job to know & to know what to do about it.They now have plenty of experience in losing.

    As a matter of interest what”criminal charges”-and which members of the “Labour Party” ?

  26. P Banks – what we need to remember is that (so far) the ‘disasters’ that have befallen this government are relatively minor compared to previous governments. You refer to criminal charges for example – to date no government minister has been imprisoned or lost a major civil case in court – compare to the Major government. Economic factors may change the perspective in due course, but it has to be recognised, even by Tories, that in general things are better than they were in 1997. This is why there are still many Labour supporters, but of course this could change.

    Happy New year to all.

  27. No ministers were imprisoned or lost major civil cases during the Major government either :) (Well, Michael Howard used to regularly lose court cases over exceeding various powers, but I assume that’s not what you are thinking of!).

    The big criminal cases associated with sleaze under Major both actually happened after the Major government had already shuffled off into history – Aitken’s perjury first came to light in June 1997, and he was finally imprisoned in 1999. The evidence of Archer’s perjury turned up in 1999, he was charged in 2000 and imprisoned in 2001. The only time Neil Hamilton actually ended up in court was attempting to sue Al Fayed for libel in 1999 and 2000.

  28. Colin: “Since we may be about to enter a General Election year, I wondered if anyone else had read this fascinating analysis about historic swings towards the end of an administraion?”

    I’ve been ranting about that here for what feels like forever LOL. Although I highly doubt we’re now in a General Election year, I doubt what is now next year will be one either ;)

  29. As I’ve said before, I believe the old model of oppositions enjoying huge leads and then governments recovering is outdated, and only applies when the Conservatives are the incumbant with Labour in opposition. Given that, and that I believe there will be a tactical unravelling in the next election which will make FPTP benefit the Tories more, I believe Labour will lose unless they are able to do something significant and make a few positive moves. The opposition is unlikely to simply fall apart of its own accord- but it might if they can put some pressure on it.

    The problem is, I don’t really see how. Competent handling of a national crisis might be just what Brown needs. But as far as policy is concerned, the coming years are ones where retrnechment is in order, and flagship schemes like ID cards are not particularly popular.

    I just saw a sign in a shop that said that it’s now illegal to buy tabacco and ciggerettes until 18 now. That was sneaked through pretty stealthily, I missed that….

  30. Alec:- “but it has to be recognised, even by Tories, that in general things are better than they were in 1997.”

    ” In General”-it does not -certainly not by me Alec-you must be living in a parallel universe.

    Sorry I must have missed your reference to the article-I only saw it just before Christmas on PoliticalBetting.

  31. Good to see a reduction in partisan ranting while i have been away – much calmer !

    Not much to say about the POLLS over Xmas but to agree with one or two on here that are bewildered like me that Labour have shown any kind of recovery (even if it is just a short lived one over the holiday period)& the Liberals have stayed static.

    Still 2.5 years before an election – Fun times ahead in the POLLS and squirming politicians .

  32. Happy New Year to all contributors and I look forward, as do others I’m pleased to note, to a reasonably non-partisan blog for the rest of the year.. There will NOT be an election this year and economic conditions may dictate that we’ll all have to wait until Spring 2010. Some very interesting comments about polls above and I think that the volatility of the last three months makes things difficult to read. If there’s some economic downturn during 2008 I’d say that if Labour are doing better than they are now by 01/01/09 then they’ll have had a good year even if they aren’t actually ahead and if the Tories haven’t moved above 40% on the rolling averages then they have problems. I reckon it’s going to be an interesting year and one of the most fascinating electoral events will be the London Mayoral and I’m looking forward to some decent polls on this one!

  33. Colin: “Sorry I must have missed your reference to the article-I only saw it just before Christmas on PoliticalBetting.”

    That’s not what I meant, sorry I wasn’t clear. What I meant is that I have been saying for a very long time on this blog that in the last two election Labour did not improve from mid-term, barring the exception of the fuel crisis they actually did significantly worse both times than the mid-term polls showed. So I meant that the article you referred to made the same point I’ve been making for a long time before it.


    Luke: The 18 year old restriction on tobacco I thought was widely publicised at the time and was one thing I agree with the government on wholeheartedly. The UK was one of the only countries in the world not to have the restriction as 18+ and I saw no reason why smoking should be viewed as less dangerous than alcohol and have a restriction 2 years lower. If anything it should be the other way around.


    I don’t see how things are better now than in 1997. Aside from things that are not government-related like technological improvements etc


    “Good to see a reduction in partisan ranting while i have been away – much calmer !” – Quote of the year so far :D

    Happy New Year to all

  34. OK Philip-I understand.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  35. Wasn’t so much commenting on whether I thought the tabacco age rise was good or bad, but it didn’t seem too widely publisised to me, and there wasn’t much of a fuss made about it, which I am quite surprised about. Driving age is going up as well to 18. And I hear increacing the drinking age to 21 might be on the cards. Uping the age limits for various things seems to be rather in vogue now. Anyway, this is something of a derail.

    I look forwards to clashes in PMQs. I feel these will be more important than before and will be more widely reported. I feel Brown must try to not get flustered and Cameron must try to go for the jugular a bit more, even at the risk of seeming punch-and-judy. As for the Liberals, well, I think the political narrative- which might turn into a national standards verses individual choice/freedom dicotomy may suit the oenage bookers, but they may find themselves pushed to the side by the Tories.

  36. One thing I have never understood about this forum and the analysis it gives to polls.How come if the poll shows anything near a reduction or decrease for the Conservatives it is described as an outlier,a blip or it is skewed.If it shows the conservatives in a good light it is gospel.

    Would it have anything to do with the fact that the vast majority of people who post on here are conservatives and you are giving them what they want to read??

  37. Colin – The criminal charges I referred to are the ones over the ex-general secretary of the Labour Party (Wade, was it?), and the possibility of further ones over ‘donorgate’ = e.g. Wendy Alexander in Scotland. I didn’t mean to imply that they have actually been charged yet. In theory, unlike under Major, it’s possible that cabinet ministers such as Peter Hain could be implicated in criminal activities re donations.
    I remember the press having a field day with ‘Tory sleaze’ when Major was in power – e.g. David Mellor and others – but there doesn’t seem to be as much hysteria about Labour sleaze – e.g. Blunkett, Cook, Davies etc.
    I’m trying not to be partisan, it’s just my impression.

  38. Putting the driving-age and legal-age for purchasing cigarettes up to eighteen (the age of adult-hood, and current legal age for purchasing alcohol) seems a sensible option, and has been mentioned in the press in 2007. This is also the age at which service-personnel are no longer considered as “child-soldiers” – another New-Labour change (however misguided).

    So it is strange that many on the left are so keen on reducing the voting-age to sixteen. Surely this change is not a vote-rigging gimmick…?

  39. T Wright – No, it’s because the overall consistent picture for the last three months has been the Conservatives moving ahead significantly, so polls that departed from this pattern were exceptions. The recent ICM and YouGov polls may suggest a change, we don’t know yet because it is sensible to be cautious about polls showing a switch in opinion taken over the Christmas period.

    Go back to August, September and October and you’ll find me taking polls showing a big Labour boost under Gordon Brown at face value and advising caution over polls showing a Conservative recovery. My conclusion on the leaked Conservative internal polling was that due to the conflict with YouGov’s polls “More simply it could just be that one of the polls is an outlier”, YouGov’s snap poll after David Cameron’s speech “this is a snap poll with a somewhat sample than a normal YouGov poll. It’s also important to note that it was taken immediately after Cameron spoke, when he was still splashed all over the newspapers and new bulletins, so you would expect him to get a boost”, the polls the weekend after showing the Tories recovering “It’s always a good rule of thumb to be extra sceptical about polls that show big shifts of opinion. Until we see some more polls backing up these findings it may just turn out to be a blip”.

    On this part of the site people can’t register, but on the election guide part where people do register and do enter their political affiliation, the proportions of party support amongst registered users are about 40% Conservative, 30% Labour and 20% Lib Dem, so not that far off national levels of party support.

  40. There are perfectly clear reasons for the change in the polls over the Christmas period. Cameron is out of the news – out of sight is out of mind etc….and so the Tories are down. Brown is also out of the voters thoughts…so Labour are up.
    Or it could just be a Christmas blip… the Tories didn’t reply to the YouGov poll because they were too busy [they have more mates.]

    Happy New New Year to you ALL [on a non-partisan basis, of course].

  41. Only joking… Happy Hogmanay Peter[SNP]Cairns.

  42. P Banks-thanks-yes I am not aware of charges being made as yet.
    I suspect that like “cash for honours” the Labour Party funding misdemeanours will not result in criminal charges-but will leave a similar smell hanging in the air.
    Party Funding is clearly a problem for all political parties-particularly when they are addicted to such ridiculous and gross overspending.

    Unless I’m mistaken the names mentioned in your penultimate para were all involved in sexual conduct of one sort or another which hit the headlines.Is that really “sleaze”?

    I remember that Profumo was finished because he lied to The House-not because he had it away with Ms Keeler…and of course he did resign-you don’t get much of that these days!

  43. Colin – “I remember that Profumo was finished because he lied to The House-not because he had it away with Ms Keeler”


    Oh what have you done? cried Christine
    You’ve wrecked the whole party machine
    To lie in the nude
    May be terribly rude
    But to lie in the House is obscene

  44. On the times web site it has voting intentions for Scotland (all be it on a 140 sample), of Labour 45%, Others (including SNP) 27%, Tories 16%, LibDems 11%.

    That suggests a figure of Labour mid forties, SNP mid twenties, which is in my view a far more realistic set of figures for Scotland than some of the predictions recently showing the SNP way ahead of labour. At 16% there is still no sign of any Tory revival, while 11% for the LibDems would translate in to about 15 to 16% in Uk terms, which is where most have them right now.

    On a positive note, from an SNP perspective, it puts us in a strong position to overtake the LibDems and become the second largest party in Scotland in terms o seats and votes.


  45. I think that people who support one party tend to appear and post more when their guys are ahead. When Labour were ahead prior to the election-that-never-was, there were many more Labour supporters on here. Oddly, I felt the need to post here more when it seemed we were destined for a fourth term of Labour Government, because I suppose – as a strange freedom loving Gladstonian Liberal I was more worried, and wanted to try to understand why things were going the way they were and to chew the cud.

  46. Any idea when the first poll of 2008 will be?

  47. Luke –
    I’ve been away!

    I do feel much better off than in 1997 – My house has earned almost as much as I have for a start, and I no longer have to walk through places like cardboard city in London.

    I would like to mention that there seems to me to be a lot more stability and good practice in the area of industrial relations than in 1997. Not so much by the Government (eg police pay) as by employees. While the rest of Europe contends with strikes, we seem to be avoiding them, albeit at the last minute in many cases.

    Are there any statistics to support my feeling that we are losing fewer man-hours to strike action, or am I in a parallel universe (along with the other 30-35%)?

  48. I’m amazed at the complacency of the Labour bloggers on this site. Can’t see any good news for the Labour party in the next year.

  49. Wolf – the calling off of airport strikes doesn’t count as good news, I suppose, because it happened last year (on New Year’s eve)?

  50. John tt – there are certainly reliable figures for annual working days lost through strike action. Figures up to 2006 are available here (page 2 of the pdf). Labour’s first term in office was very good, with very low figures indeed. Since then (with the exception of 2005, a record low) the figures have crpet back up again, though obviously not to the levels of pre-1990.

    Judging by the timing of last years results, the 2007 numbers probably won’t turn up until June, but I’d expect them to be very high compared to recent years based on the Royal Mail figures alone. Royal Mail employs around 195,000. IIRC the strikes this year involved about 60% of workers, and in total lasted for seven days, so that strike alone is probably going to approach the total number of workdays lost through strike action in all 2006 strikes.

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