There are two new polls in the Sunday newspapers, our first chance to see what the public’s response is to David Davis’s shock resignation. A new ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday began its fieldwork prior to Davis’ resignation so contains no specific questions on the subject. The topline voting intentions, with changes from their last poll, are CON 44%(nc), LAB 26%(-4), LDEM 17%(+1). Fieldwork was conducted between the 11th and 12th June.

This suggests a further fall in Labour’s support, but is actually almost identical to the last ComRes poll for the Indy on Sunday, so the difference may be just variations due to sample error or a difference produced by doing the fieldwork mid week rather than over the weekend.

Other questions in the survey asked respondents whether two potential alternate Labour leaders would make better Prime Ministers than Gordon Brown, and provide, if not a wholehearted endorsement of Brown, at least a rebuttal of the idea that absolutely anyone would be better than Brown. Asked if Alan Johnson would be a better Prime Minister than Gordon Brown, 37% agreed, but 41% disagreed – including 66% of remaining Labour voters. Asked about David Miliband, 37% thought he would be better than Brown, but 43% disagreed.

Looking at the timing of the interviews, those conducted after David Davis’ resignation would appear to show a lower Conservative lead, but I would be wary of reading anything at all into this – firstly the numbers of people in each subsample are very small, so any contrast could easily be sample error, secondly you do tend to get different political skews at different times of the day when conducting a poll simply because different socio-economic groups are at home answering the telephone.

A second poll, this time by YouGov for the Sunday Times, was conducted between the 12th and 13th of June and was done post-Davis’s resignation. The topline voting intention figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, are CON 47%(nc), LAB 25%(+2), LDEM 18%(nc). Here, therefore, Davis’s resignation doesn’t seem to have made any obvious difference to Tory support, though Labour are up slightly.

The one single question on Davis (suggesting it was very much shoved in at the last minute as the news broke) asks if people think it was a genuine act of principle or a cynical ploy to help the Conservative party or his own career – 29% thought it was an act of principle, 41% thought it was a cynical ploy. Of course, this would have been asked people people had had time to digest the news or read the print media’s reaction, so opinions may since have changed massively – given the last responses from David Cameron and media speculation of internal ructions and Conservative bewilderment, I suspect considerable fewer people would now think it a cunning party ruse! I’ll be more confident judging the public’s response to David Davis – both directly and in terms of voting intention – when we see polls conducted once the news had time to sink in.

As usual with the Sunday Times, there are also both trackers and questions on a wide variety of other subjects. On the performance of the party leaders, Gordon Brown recived another dire score, with a net rating of minus 62, one down from his record low last month. David Cameron’s net rating was at +37 from +33 last month, so no damage to his leadershuip yet from the Davis affair (though again – it’s still early).

Respondents’ economic outlook is pessimistic, but not quite at panic stations. 5% think the present state of the economy is quite good, compared to 49% who think it is quite bad and 24% who think it is very bad. Around 90% of respondents think economic growth will get worse over the next 12 months, but only 31% think there will be an actual recession. 68% think house prices will drop. A majority (67%) of people blame Gordon Brown to some extent for the present economic problems.

On the 42 days law, 53% thought Gordon Brown was right to press for the new law, 37% disagreed (this is a lower level of support for 42 days than some other polls have shown, but I suspect the reason is that the question involved saying Gordon Brown was right!). Asked how the balance should be struck between civil liberties and defeating the threat from terrorism, 38% thought defeating terrorism should take precedence, 14% thought civil liberties should – 41% thought both should be equally important.

On the question of the EU referendum (the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the responses to the survey would have been collected before it was clear that Ireland had voted No) 63% of respondents saud that Britain should have had a referendum. 44% said they would vote against the treaty in a referendum, 19% would vote yes.

Finally, the poll asked about attitudes towards the Conservatives. 40% now think that the Conservatives are ready for government (you may well ask why this is less than the percentage who would vote for them – it probably isn’t, remember voting intention excludes don’t knows and wont votes, while this question doesn’t), with 33% disagreeing. However, only 32% say they know enough about what David Cameron would do if he was in power, 37% of people say they don’t.

30 Responses to “Sunday Polls post Davis”

  1. Highly anticipated results with many people wondering what the Davis effect would have on Tory support – Im personally interested to see that voting intention is influenced far less by the changeable newspaper headlines than I was expecting. Obviously the whole Davis crusade is only just starting and who knows how it will go on to influence the fortunes of the Conservatives, but the initial shock of the event seems to have had a surprisingly small effect in these polls.

  2. The initial very early indications are that there hasn’t been much damage, but I’m saddened that such an effective spokesman has probably thrown away his career, and he did a very good job – I think Labour MPs would agree, and they feared him taking them to task in that Home Office job. The full effect of this could be more long term in depriving a future Tory government of experience (if we get one).

  3. WMA is 45:26:18 – when YouGov gave a 44:26:17 on 23 April it was a big outlier but as I think I said at the time it may have been just ahead of the trend. The WMA C and L figues are at an all time high and low resp.

    If the blogosphere is a leading indicator of public opinion (as I suspect) then the omens re David Davis are favourable for him. Although the MSM have been pretty well uninimous in condemnation the Blogosphere seems to be cheering loudly. It is far from clear that he has thrown away his career. But Dominic Greive is one of the most trusted and effective parliamentarians around and will be an outstanding member of the Shadow Cabinet.

  4. The Indy is spinning thier poll as showing a reduction in C support after David Davis’s resignation was announced. But from the tables it is nothing of the kind. ComRes separate interviews before 1pm and after 1pm but the fieldwork was on both days. I also v much doubt if the sub-sample sizes are big enough to make such a comparison. Any thoughts Anthony?

  5. There are so many high profile stories hitting the media just now – more lost secret data, the EU crisis etc, that the David Davis saga will soon fade and in my view, have little impact on the polling figures.

  6. Anthony,

    Given NBeales comments above i was reminded that you have never shared your thoughts on the debate about whether on line pollsters like YouGov pick up trends sooner or not.

    Come on, stop dodging and give us an opinion. Hell i am not even asking for a graph any more.

    while I am on, Is there any change of adding Alex Salmond to the list of the “Who would be the best Prime minister, as I have a funny feeling he would do better than Clegg at least and even give Brown a shock.

    That might seem a daft question but since last weeks BBC trust report I have noticed ( and I’ll ask if anyone else has) a distinct change in the BBC News coverage where they are intentionally pointing out when something isn’t UK wide but only English.

    What I am interested in his just how much the SNP’s reputation has filtered South and made an impact of the wider Uk electorate. It might be curiousity more than anything else but just how much do the voters of the whole UK rate the Scottish First minister.

    I know that just over a year ago their were Cabinet ministers who couldn’t get Jack McConnel’s name right.


  7. If the Tories are undamaged by the Davis affair, we perhaps might conclude they are developing an early-Blair like ability to avoid taking damage from events, while even small hiccups harm their oppoennts. Why? Because perhaps the public has made its mind up, and any change to that will face with massive intertia.

  8. Peter, whilst itis only my opinion with no facts to back it up, I think Alex Salmon does get a favourable coverage south of the border. Several reasons would be that he is a well known figure anyway, we know one of his principle aims (Scottish Independance), he is not seen as a Govt lacky/yes man like previous First Ministers from Labour, he has his own mind and he has brought in some populist measure that we English are a bit envious of (tuition fees, perscription charges etc).

    As for these polls, its too early to predict any changes after the Davis episode but I secretly thought in a funny way it might actually help the Tories.

  9. Is see the unholy alliance of Guido and the BBC have resurrected Spelman’s nannygate story. Whilst I agree with Guido, it appears the public don’t.

    Has the public become cynical, or has trust in our representative-democracy broken down completely? Strange that you can have a criminal record for putting the wrong refuse in the wrong bin, yet fraud by our betters result in nothing more then a shrug of the shoulders!

    As to future polls, 42-days does not seem to be an issue either way, though it looks as though it may make a cult-hero out of David Davis. Economics aside (as many on here tend not to understand this science) the next polls will reflect in Ireland’s glorious rejection of the EU Constitutional Treaty (doublespeak: Lisbon Treaty). It will be interesting how this will be seen to play out…! :)


    To my shame I skip the Celtic regional news on the BBC website, and SkyNews is so anglo-centric. So Mr Salmond is seen by me as an irritant more then anything else. This may be a cunning ploy on his part, but I doubt it will endear him to the average English-voter.

  10. This site seems to have lost it’s doubters – that’s good / especially the ones who kept on saying – let’s see a string of POLLS showing a Tory lead before we agree that there is no turning back !

    The Davis affair will have little or no effect on the Tories , either one way or another – it will filter away with time / as someone above said , the Tories have started to build their “teflon” coating just like Blair’s.

    Cameron is now looked at , as some kind of saviour to the people as Margaret Thatcher was in the late 70’s.

    I sat through the 4 hour BBC4 replay of the results coming in , in the 1979 general election – and all i kept thinking was , this is like deja vu – the scenario we are going through now is so similar to 1979 – an old incompetent Labour leader in denial & ignoring the people ,the country crippled across the board & the Tories taking seats in Labour heartlands including Scotland !

    Remember the outcome of that election – 18 more years of the Conservatives – the Labour Party breaking up – that is exactly what is going to happen again – but as i have quoted before (please cut n paste) this time the Labour Party will NOT recover – the Liberals will come back as the 2nd party in the England & Wales not 3rd. Apart from Scotland – which will take slightly longer , perhaps to a 2nd general election after the Tories have won at least 12 Scottish seats this time round – that will increase 4 years later to make them the 2nd party and the SNP the top party in Scotland.

    My new forecast based on the last 4 weeks POLLING results are below !!

  11. Based just on the POLLING results for the last 4 weeks (not on my own personal forecast) I predict the following :-

    A Tory majority of 168

    Breakdown – Cons.409 / Labour 177 / Liberal 35

    Aberdeen South
    Edinburgh South West
    Edinburgh North & Leith
    Ochil & South Perthshire
    Edinburgh South
    Perth & North Perthshire
    Renfrewshire East
    Dumfries & Galloway
    Argyll & Bute
    Berwickshire , Roxburgh & Selkirk

    WELSH WINS :- 17
    Cardiff South & Penarth
    Newport East
    Clwyd South
    Cardiff East
    Newport West
    Vale Of Clwyd
    Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South
    Vale Of Glamorgan
    Cardiff North
    Clwyd West
    Preseli Pembrokeshire
    Brecon & Radnorshire

    Sunderland Central
    Middlesbrough South & Cleveland
    Stockton South
    Scarborough & Whitby
    York Outer

    ALL GUARANTEED – cut n paste

  12. NBeale – I address it in the article, but to reiterate, the comparison is pretty much worthless. The diffence in Tory support between the “pre-Davis” polling and “post-Davis” polling is 7 points. The margin of error on the sample sizes for those two sub-sets is around 5 points. More importantly, you interview different socio-economic groups at different times of the day when doing a poll, so the two groups won’t be comparable.

  13. Peter – I think it’s entirely illusionary, based on two things. Firstly YouGov tend to do the most polls and often turn them around marginally quicker, so its more likely they will be the one to have the first poll after opinion has shifted. Secondly, in recent months the trend has been towards the Conservatives and YouGov have tended to show bigger Tory leads – so it appears they are ahead of the trend.

    If you look back to previous changes in opinion though, YouGov were not ahead of the trend – when the Brown boost subsized MORI were the first to show a smaller Labour lead, ICM the first to show it vanishing, YouGov the first to show a Tory lead. When the Brown boost began, Ipsos-MORI and ICM were the first to put them ahead.

  14. MoS has an ICM Poll on DD-taken in his constituency-which is where it actually matters I suppose.

    By-election result-(2005)
    Con 59 (48)
    LibDem 26 (37)
    Lab 12 (13)

    The LibDem & Labour results would be remarkable given the absence of candidates to vote for.

    Do you support DD’s decision?:-
    Yes 57
    No 32

    Have we become a Nation of snoopers?:-

    Yes 59
    No 33

    Do you think DD’s actions are principled?

    Yes 69
    No 23

  15. I’m wondering if the initial Westminster/Fleet St view on Davis and the relief from GB/Labour may be turning already. I think the poll wobble may not actually come for Cameron.

    Scanning the Sunday’s, the appearance of Labour Rebels willing to support Davis’s campaign means I believe there is every chance the main problem (currently with the Tories and lack of ‘team’ strategy on this decision) could move back to Labour on whether the clunking fist is portrayed as running away from a challenge or not (again). With Marshall Andrews and the Norwich Lab MP (forgotten his name), if eg Diane Abbott signs up to, there could be an even more public split for Lab Whips to face.

    Surely, GB should ask one of the DUP to stand in DD’s by-election for his pro-42 campaign (again not with any ‘incentives’ of course)….

  16. Peter

    IMHO Alex Salmond gets a pretty good press south of the border. I wouldn’t say its fluffy and warm , but perhaps that is coloured by my own perceptions [he seems abit cold].

    I believe he is seen as sharp, cutting, on the ball. He gets respect as a strong leader – very topical at the moment.

    [Clegg v Salmond for me would be…..drum roll…your man.]

  17. The YouGov question of polling accuracy is an interesting one, but I’d hazard to say that it is impossible to state where it is more or less accurate, or whether it is ahead or behind emerging trends.

    The simple reason for this is that the section of opinion polled is drawn differently and therefore behaves differently. Being net-based this group will likely be both faster to make up it’s collective mind and faster to unmake it’s collective mind. So, if it is useful in balancing traditional media methodology to create greater texture if opinion, I also doubt it will change the overall colour of it.

    I think it helps it to create a measure for volatilivity of opinion – which reflects the prominence of specific arguments and counter-arguments given at any particular time across the media, but this won’t reflect party coherence in any significant manner. In fact the increasing prevalence of polls in opinion forming is leading to more individuals doubting what truth resides in opinion and from thence to starting a search for real information.

    So ultimatly we are headed towards a divergent situation which is more complex and more difficult for pollsters to disentangle with empirical results from singular sources.

  18. Thomas, despite this pollsters and pundits still have a pretty good track record of predicting trends early.

    On using polls and research, it is a nonsense and always has been to suggest that those charged with developing policies and strategies shouldn’t use market research as a significant contribution.

    I’m not sure that polls are that significant in opinion forming either – there must be a best seller factor involved in published opinion polling but most of the polling done by political parties isn’t published. My main worry is that those charged with developing policy are too risk averse to gainsay polls when they don’t appear to say the right thing.

    The 42 Day issue is a good example. Polls say the public support the Government’s position just as they did with ID cards. But when the detail of the debate impinges on the public the level of support appears to drop substantially.

  19. The Oracle will get perhaps 2 of the Scottish seats he guarantees, by the last Scottish poll, giving the Tories four seats overall.

    No, that’s not a typo. By the 04/04/08 poll, another seat not seen by the Oracle would fall to the Tories. I’m not going to say which seat it is, but I will say that this seat can only be won by the Tories due to the different politics of Scotland. Perhaps if I tell The Oracle the seat, he might concede that Scotland is different?

  20. ZX
    The Oracle may be unduly optimistic about the Tories chances in Scotland. We know he backs away from his pronouncements when the flag drops-he was incredibly windy over the Crewe by election. However there is every hope for the Tories that they will pick up more than 3 new seats and to continue to deny that is not sensible.In 1970 and 1979 the polls suggested that the Tories would do badly in Scotland by comparison to England but belatedly the Scottish public came rouund.

  21. Mike, I think you are right in that the sustained leads are indicating the likelihood of a big Tory majority in 2010, though I do think Labour will recover some support pretty late in the day (late 2009 onwards) providing the economic outlook improves by then. However, disagree that Caneron is viewed as “a saviour of the people”. The sense I get is that they are disillusioned by Labour and are now prepared to give Cameron a shot but have pretty low expectations of what he will actually achieve. They are voting for him because he is NOT Labour rather than because of any vision he offers.

    Also, I think the Tories already hold Hexham and would elect a sheep if it had a blue rosette on it so I’m not sure them winning this next time round is significant ;)

  22. The Oracle – Any predictions for the Tories in the North West?

  23. Mike:

    Now that I have your 12 constituencies, I’ll put the ones I havn’t done into my spreadsheet next. I will get round to all the Scottish ones eventually.

    There will be a huge loss of Labour votes. There will be an uncertain and variable loss of LibDem votes. Where these votes go is what matters. Any application of a general swing has to take account of whether, for example, Labour are a poor fourth and have so few votes to lose that it doesn’t make much difference, or whether their majority is so great that can afford to lose thousands of votes.

    I’ll run your 12 through various “What If?” situations. As I’ve said before +2 would be about the limit, +3 astonishing but ….


    That’s facinating. I should find it eventually, but I’ve only got 5 in my spreadsheet so far, one safe high profile MP and the rest on Mike’s list.

  24. Simon, I dissent. Pollsters have no track record of spotting future trends, only of measuring emerging trends. It is a vitally important difference which distinguishes between leading and following.

    The speculating commentary which accompanies any new poll essentially mitigates for the failure of pure numbers to describe a rounded picture of real opinion and the consequential shift which can only be guessed at.

    So, for example, while Conservatives may crow at their current 20pt lead the distribution factor may well come into play and leave them racking up huge majorities in their heartlands and failing to pick up seats elsewhere, or alternatively we may see a continuation of the current propensity towards landslide elections.

    Either way the conservatives have much to be concerned about because the difference between the two opposing scenarios is paper thin and indicative of the current volatile nature of our politics. Assuming the 20pt lead is borne out at the next election a failure to gain a majority would show a failure of our democracy and highlight the divisions in society, while a large majority above 100 seats will create an unstable parliamentary force liable to suffer from internecine splits.

    Whether we choose to analyse the implications for strong leadership, healthy institutions or the expansion of well-being and prosperity across the nation we are completely ignoring the threat to the stability of our affairs by the growth of our polity and the destabilising effects caused by growing power inequalities (economic, political etc).

    One easy way to see how this works is by identifying and splitting the safe, marginal and three-way seats from each other to show how the fluctuations in support vary relative to each other, but balance out across the board. Traditional weighting factors used by YouGov are becoming too blunt to be more than generally informative, yet their results are afforded equal if not special consideration when it would be more helpful to integrate these figures in a more complementary manner.

    This and other similar sites could easily lead the way in presenting interactive user-oriented methods of differentiation which simultaneously enable additional original feedback covering the detail of such variability beneath the headline figures (by comparison central bank inflation measures cover a breadth of data from m0 through to m4 variously according to the country covered – which can be argued is a development that has proved a formidible tool in smoothing the transition of growth and contraction cycles).

    The diffusion of democracy can only be defused by recombining the proliferation of political measurement tools available to us – the electorate is getting more sophisticated at judging the range of choices available to us (or lack thereof), so pollsters need to develop new methods to compensate for the abstraction of their broad-brush approach inherent in traditional poll questioning.

  25. Thomas:

    “One easy way to see how this works is by identifying and splitting the safe, marginal and three-way seats from each other …”

    That is true overall, but even more necessary in four-party Scotland. If you think Labour will lose 10% of their vote it won’t make any difference at all where they hava a huge majority in Glasgow, nor where the are a poor forth in a LibDem highland constituency.

    I am still developing my spreadsheet to apply a “What if?” percentage loss or gain of the previous election result in each constituency. So far I get the impression that the number of seats changing hands could be far fewer than some imagine; that all three parties will gain at Labour’s expense; and the most important change in many constituencies will be the positioning of the SNP in a winnable second place for next time.

  26. I’ve thought about the position of the SNP and I’m just not convinced their chances in Westminster elections are helped by their strategy at Holyrood. The two are different forums and require coherent, but different strategies (unless, of course, there is real and positive appetite for independence, which there is considerable reason to doubt).

    In many areas I’ve been on the ground there is an increasing trend for divergence where support for one party at one level doesn’t carry across at other levels (at least for the winning side, opposition parties seem to count on entrenched support). This naturally confuses the national (sorry, UK-wide) picture and indicates the greater complexity which can lead to unpredictably volatile results, which I can’t emphasise enough.

    Different parties are taking different strategies which play on their strengths – ie wealthy Tories using national and regional media to reach the widest possible audience, Labour unionists using their official status to build themselves into the social framework, LibDems using the strength of local organisation to develop targetted campaigns, SNP/PC mixing and matching. What this means for the result of GE outcome is that none can be treated equally, only compared on like-for-like terms where they are in competition.

    In the run-up to the GE I fully expect each side to play games of subtefuge in order to maximise their capacity to take seats without engaging in full-on battle (partly to keep costs down), so the idea of ‘key battles’ is particularly up in the air at this time.

    Trying to make a complete or completely accurate prediction from this far out is futile guesswork, and is probably more helpful to predict ‘probable’ victories with an additional column for ‘uncertain’ outcomes (as distinct from ‘marginal’ or ‘swing’ seats).

    I’ve tried calculating my prediction using this formula and the best I’ve come up with, taking all these factors into account is currently Con 230, Lab 150, LD 45, uncertain 186, based on a May2010 date. Not wildly helpful, I know, but it is still indicative that Labour will struggle not to be overwhelmed by hosting the majority of battles on their turf and seemingly positive for the LDs.

    Of course an earlier date for the GE reduces the uncertainty factor (significantly in the favour of the Conservatives, which mitigates against the likelihood). Additionally the outcome should become more certain the closer we get as polling trends become clearer and more defined, but, equally, continued poll volatility works against this.

    Adding this information into spending calculations suggests Labour will struggle to reach 200, while LDs could realistically make some gains. Under this model the Conservatives are still only heading for a small overall majority, though I think that is a message they will hope to exploit to their advantage and create additional forced choices to further encourage an increase in tactical voting levels, thus boosting future volatility again.

  27. thomas:

    “In many areas I’ve been on the ground there is an increasing trend for divergence where support for one party at one level doesn’t carry across at other levels (at least for the winning side, opposition parties seem to count on entrenched support).”

    With up to four parties in contention in different rankings in different parts of Scotland, and an electorate now accustomed to the potential of split votes for the SP, complexity is an understatement.

    I’m not so sure that volatility is the right word, unpredictability and inconsistency would be better. There are entrenched LibDems and huge Labour majorities. There are also three party marginals.

    If the Labour vote crumbles where there is a narrow majority over the LibDems, and the others are well behind, the LibDems can gain a seat even if they too lose votes. On the other hand, whether Labour are a poor fourth, or have an unassailable majority it doesn’t really make any difference what they lose or who benefits.

    In my own LibDem held constituency, ex-Labour voters aren’t going to vote Conservative, and if the LibDem loses, (which I doubt) it is more likely to be to the third placed SNP than to the Conservative.

    I think the Scottish results will demonstrate that apart from the last redoubt of Old Labour in the West, the class war tribalism of the past is gone; that very few vote for any party’s philosophy; and that most results are determined by regional opinion of the least-worst choice.

    FPTP is like a gyroscope. It works just as well upside down. The GROT’s will win.

  28. Well that’s north of the border and the dynamic is influenced by the additional factor of a significantly powerful assmbly not seen in the English shires. It would certainly be interesting to see various regional parties gaining footholds in every corner of the UK, but that is only likely if the Westlothian question is solved by fully extending a similar intermediate tier of government.

    Generally I agree with your points, but the outcome of the election will still be determined south of the border, whether or not the tories reestablish their representation in the junior partners. The question remains how large any majority will be: 20-60? we shall see.

    So I wonder how you’d call the forthcoming Glasgow East by-election where it stands Lab 60.7%, SNP 17.0%, LD 11.8%, Con 6.9%, SSP 3.5%… this sounds like an ideal indicator for how the picture will change.