ICM’s monthly poll

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 42%(nc), LAB 30%(nc), LDEM 21%(+4). Changes are from the last ICM poll, done at the beginning of October right after the Tory party conference.

There is no obvious boost in Labour support, thought the other questions in the poll show that people are positive about Brown’s handling of the crisis – 61% of people think he has done well compared to 33% who think he has done badly. Significantly, the banking crisis has been rumbling along for long enough now that the last ICM poll also asked how Brown was doing, and his rating is up 6 since them. The poll also showed Brown/Darling pretty much neck and neck with Cameron/Osborne on economic competence, 35% to 36%. Note the continued small Conservative lead here when the question asks more generally about economic competence, as opposed to the Labour leads we see when people are asked about handling of the crisis.

The media commentary about the polls seems to me to be switching a bit to “no real boost for Brown”. There doesn’t seem to be an ongoing trend towards Labour anymore, but it is important to note that Labour are still in a significantly better position in the polls than they were in the summer. They had a conference boost, then their handling of the crisis seem to have solidified that into a slightly better polling position. I wouldn’t want to overegg this – they are, after all, still 12 points behind and the boost is probably less than Labour supporters would have hoped – but their position is much healthier than the dire rathings they were getting a few months back.

There is better news for the Lib Dems, up four at a time when they’ve seen some very poor results in other polls. It is somewhat unusual for such a shift to come solely at the expense of “others”, but there goes. I am sure it will boost morale a bit, though as ever, when a poll shows a trend at odds with all the other polls you should treat it with some caution until confirmed by other polls.

47 Responses to “ICM’s monthly poll”

  1. Martin Kettle in the Guardian makes interesting comment on this poll too.

    It will be interesting to see if after this brief ‘comeback’ story, media take on news is that we start to revert back to sub-prime minister bashing again… the next couple of polls and PMQs on Weds will be crucial for short term momentum.

    Brown was seen as demolishing Cameron in the last PMQs and then ducked last weeks.. can he do it again or will normal service be resumed?

  2. The sound of a dead cat bouncing?

    Whilst this may be construed as an outlier but ultimately it’s about press coverage and nothing else. Gordon Brown has been everywhere and Cameron has been nowhere to be seen. Given the rise in negative equity and unemployment and now that Cameron has put his head back over the parapet I would expect the Tory lead to head back up.

    I know the oracle will probably agree but anyone else?

  3. Just a small error to flag – on the poll tracker it shows today’s poll with Tories having a 8% lead not 12%

  4. Damn. Disappointing to see the Lib Dims up, but ICM seem to have them highest, and also can be somewhat eratic.

    The Conservative and Labour figures are intact.

    Labour has, nevertheless, made some recovery since their conference, and through the banking crisis, as we’ve discussed.

    The Conservatives are not out of the wood yet on the economic narrative, but unless Labour can chip away at it further and build on it, it may soon look like the banking crisis where Brown won some respect will be increasingly like Major’s Northern Ireland, which won him some respect despite the government’s unpopularity, but few votes.

    Even so, we’ll need to see whether the government’s spending programs shore up their core support somewhat.

  5. ‘The Tory vote is soft’ mantra has stopped. It doesn’t seem as if it is. If over 40% of the voting public have made up their mind its going to be very difficult for Labour.

    Lets wait and see for the LibDems. Its one poll.

    The news about the debt figures made for bad headlines today. Its not going to take too much for the public to cotton on to the fact that we should have some money in the bank at the start of the recession and we don’t.

    Labour have peaked. Their vote will stay for a while. And then seep away. They will get less than 30% at the next election.

  6. The last 8 polls of this month show Labour polling an average 31% and the Conservatives 42%. On this basis I believe I am right in saying that if there were an election tomorrow then the Conservatives would probably win by a fairly comfortable margin.

    As I said before I think that the best this Labour government can hope for come the election is 32%. They have not averaged more than 32% for eleven months, and the polls showing that Brown is the most favoured leader of the government confirms that it is ultimately not due to personality but policy that people are not as positive as they could be about this present Labour government.

  7. If we can take seriously the LibDem rating uncovered by ICM in this poll it would suggest that the recent trend for underreporting of Conservative support while they were down has been replaced with underreporting of current LibDem support (the ‘shy tory’ effect).

    With Conservatives now feeling cocksure about their electoral chances (see above) this may have contributed to greater reservations about stating a preference for the third party – I wonder if the other polling companies have factored in this possibility into their results and potentially given a false impression of a LibDem squeeze?

    My feeling is that the trend for volatility is giving a mixed picture across the country which could only be countered by larger sample sizes.

  8. I should contextualize my statement that Labour have not average above 32%, for any meaningful length of time. Indeed, for a period of nearly 4 months they were averaging freqently 25% and 26%. And this perhaps is an indication of the worst scenario for Labour come the election.

  9. Thomas, its not a case of Conservatives feeling “cocksure” of themselves, its a case of the polling evidence being very sold for the Tories. If the polls keep consistently showing the Conservatives above 40%, even at a time when Brown is dominating the agenda and coming back somewhat in terms of polling, then Tories have every right to feel confident about their prospects. If the Conservative vote starts to fall under 40%, then of course it’ll be time for a re-asesment, but right now things are still looking very good for the Tories, IMO.

  10. philip JW-

    the current level of surport for the parties this month means that if an election was to take place tomorrow the conservatives would walk into downing street with a good govening majority of 74 but the number of labour seats would still be high at around 230 to 232 seats so a chance of a labour govenment coming back into power four or five years later, but as we all know it may not end like that, i still think the conservatives could walk away with a majority of near 200 at an election tony blair did it in 97 and he had around a 10pt lead after the election and he was in office for 10 years.

  11. there is a rumour ken clarke may be back in some form.imagine clarke up who left the country with balanced books and no pension liabilities V brown who bust the country with an unaffordable and almost unfundable public pension liability ( £50,000 for every working person)private pension liability and the biggest debt mountain in the world.it makes you nostalgic for callahan and heally(and less dangerous)

  12. On all the evidence, the “7% Other” is an impossible number. The average of all the other pollsters in the last 8 polls is over 11% and,with the increase in nationalist support ,it defies common sense. Looking at all the numbers,and other polling figures, it is the LibDem figure which is most suspect.

  13. Paul P

    “Brown was seen as demolishing Cameron in the last PMQs and then ducked last weeks.. can he do it again or will normal service be resumed?”

    I feel that Cameron was keeping it low key during his last appearance at PMQs, as we were still in the middle of the banking crisis, and Brown undoubtedly at the better of it. However since then Cameron has now shown that the gloves are off again and I expect that normal service will be resumed and Brown will be given one of his regular pastings this week.

  14. Philip Johnson

    “there is a rumour ken clarke may be back in some form”

    I hope the rumour is true , Clarke is a good man and is (I think) generally well liked by the public. Probably the best leader the Tories never had.
    Bring him back, he’s a heavyweight politician and can only add to Cameron’s team.

  15. Ken Clarke seems very popular (though politicans out of government or party office do seem to be far more popular than those in it), but – rightly or wrongly – I don’t think people would look back to the Major government as a glorious age of competent economic management.

  16. Probably not – but lets not overdo it.
    People probably did – up to a point – accept that the economy was fairly well managed after the recession, but had decided too many things had gone wrong earlier, and across the board, that they wanted to put Labour in office.

  17. Imagine clarke up who left the country with balanced books

    Well, a £28bn PSBR; but then, what’s twenty-eight billion quid between friends?

    and no pension liabilities

    You surely don’t believe that? Do you actually think public sector pensions were paid for with magic pony money before teh eevil socialists?

  18. Poll seems to tie in with LibDem gains v Labour in local council by-elections. Ken Clarke wouldn’t do any harm as Shadow Chancellor.

  19. leave osbourne i for now but if they win the election then exspect changes

  20. Whatever deficits Clarke ran up as Chancellor they are small beer compared to today. Last months net debt was over £8Bn which, when you annualise it and make some room for further deterioration over the next months, could mean the Government in further debt to the tune of well over £100BN over the next 12 months. And we’ll all pay for it in the ned.

    I don’t think Clarke necessarily has to come in as Shadow Chancellor but he will need a fairly hefty portfolio for him to be interested in coming back.

  21. Anthony,
    can you explain for collin what is ICM’s method for reallocating DK’s and how it differs from other polling companies, please?

    IIRC this should explain the fall in others.

    I’m still interested in any explanations of the ‘shy voter’ phenomenon, if, whether and how this might be applied to current polls.

  22. Two companies – ICM and Populus – reallocate don’t knows (the others will ignore any respondents who they can’t squeeze a voting intention out of).

    ICM and Populus both reallocate a proportion of their don’t knows to the party the respondent claims they voted for in 2005. ICM is simple – 50% of all don’t knows are reallocated to the party they voted for in 2005. Populus is more complicated – they reallocate 50% of former Labour or Conservative voters, 30% of former Lib Dem voters and exclude former “other” voters.

    The effect of the reallocation changes over time, depending on whose former voters are now saying don’t know. In practice in recent months ICM’s adjustment has reduced the reported level of Conservative support and increased the reported level of Labour support.

    (This is, incidentally, the same thing as the “shy voter adjustment”. ICM’s view is that some of those don’t knows are actually people reluctant to express an unpopular voting intention.)

  23. I can’t help thinking that a lot of these adjustements of cases of trying to predict the last election rather than the current one. In my experience don’t knows usually don’t vote because they never quite get to knowing. There is an assumption that voters strange habits are constant but these adjustments don’t take any account of political fashion which changes monthly. I think pollsters would be better to do more work on the representativeness of their samples and publish their raw data results rather than trying to fiddle the figures (taking some account of likelihood to vote).

  24. Paul – “In my experience don’t knows usually don’t vote because they never quite get to knowing”

    In the 2005 British Election Study they crossed referenced people’s stated intentions before the election and their recalled voting after the election with the marked electoral register to see who actually voted.

    Of the people who told the BES they didn’t know which party they were leaning towards, at least 48% actually voted in the end, with 25% confirmed as not voting (the rest were people who were not on the register at that address, had postal votes which can’t be checked on the marked register and so on)

  25. I think it would be unwise to bring Ken Clarke back: there would be difficulties over Europe and there couldn’t be a united front in the Conservative Euro policy as he is a strong Europhile. A likeable, sharp and witty individual, but a poor Education and Health Secretary and, as Chancellor, he increased the proportion of national debt significantly. He overode Independent Review Bodies’ recommendations repeatedly with regard to public sector pay. He would remind the electorate of the dark days of the Major government, which resulted in the Conservatives’ winning only 165 seats in 1997 – very considerably fewer than Labour is forecast to retain at present.

  26. Those of us who want Cameron to score own goals had better keep quiet on KC!

    For the debate to be more than an academic exchange, and actually engage normal voters, the policy differences need to find easy to follow similes.


    This extra borrowing is like taking out an equity release loan – we know we’ll have to pay it back in the end, and our return to prosperity will be slowed by increased interest payments, but we’ll use the borrowed money sensibly , not fritter it away.

    The alternative would be much more painful.

    Wherever you are politically, talking in terms of the difference between current debt and the national debt confuses things for the average voter.

  27. I would imagine the National Debt being all the Gilts, is largely kept going by the Japanese, Chinese, and other countries in the East.

  28. The debate over national debt levels is interesting. There is some thoughtful coverage in some of the heavyweight papers today as well, with Andrew Dilnot in the Times taking the media to task for excessive gloom on the economy and some interesting commentary in the Independant regarding the debt issue. Although its clear we are in for some problems, the excess doom may well help Labour if things are not as bad as expected. The 80s and 90s recessions were truly savage, did leave us with huge debts as % GDP, as well as seriously defective public services. Those who criticise Brown’s “profligacy” after 2001 are effectively saying we want public services to be as bad as they were in the 1990’s. Debt could well be a problem for future governments, but it just as well might not be. Where debt is a problem, is if we have enormous debt and nothing to show for it. This is where we were for much of the 70s – 90s. I’m not sure that levels of public debt trouble voters – ‘do things work’ and ‘what taxes will I pay this year’ take precedence – although there may be some poll questions somewhere that prove me wrong. I get the feeling Brown wants to manouvere Cameron into a position where he can be painted as supporting spending cuts, and that could be a difficult position for the Tories to defend without raising memories of the 1980s.

    Not particularly polling connected, but how about these ideas for Darlings next budget; 1)Scrap the 40% tax relief on higher rate pension payments and use the £7b for an immediate across the board state pension increase 2)Introduce a flat rate NI payment through all income above the minimum threshold. Both tax neutral, both help lower earners at the expense of the better paid, and both generate greater economy boosting immediate spending during a recession. In this new climate of suspicion of wealth I do wonder how these might affect the poll numbers?

  29. f Cameron were to present cuts as well as Salmond does there’s no problem there. Of course Labour in Scotland did live remarkably well.

  30. If Brown hadn’t wrecked the pension fund money with his taxes, perhaps we wouldn’t be having to borrow so much more to give pensioners more help.
    (About £5billion of taxes from 1998 onwards each year, compounded).

  31. Joe – I don’t want to get into a partisan debate on pensions policy, but the tax issue was minor – much less than the issue of the % taken by fund adminstrators ( back to city fat cats). Most of the pensions issue has been caused by increased longevity, which is a key reason why annuity rates have fallen. Reducing long term un and under employent is the best answer to pension problems and given that the the £5b was spent on putting people back into work, (in theory at least) there was a logic behind it. In fact the stakeholder pensions helped to drive down the costs of pension schemes, especially for low earners. When I started my private scheme there was a flat rate monthly fee equating to 5% of what I could afford to save – now its capped at a flat rate 1% regardless of the size of contributions.

    I’m not banging the drum for Gordo – I do think however that we all need to peer behind the spin to establish the real outcomes of policies. Overall, pensions is one area where the current government outscore many previous ones by a considerable margin – it might not look like that necessarily but there are many other complex factors at play on this issue.

  32. I don’t wish to appear partisan here, unlike some contributors, however when some contributors talk about a 28billion PSBR under the last Tory Government, we should not lose sight of the facts:

    If the estimates of a £60billion deficit this year are correct, it will equate to 4.1% of GDP.

    In 1993/4 under the Tories, the deficit was a massive 7.7%. Anthony may like to confirm those facts!

    If the deficit rises to £101billion in 2010/11 that would equate to 6.5% of GDP and even that would still be less than during the Tories attempts to get us out of recession when in 1993/4 the deficit stood at 7.7% of GDP.

    On the pension funds, the payment holidays given to employers by a previous Government caused a far greater problem than the tax take, look at the facts! Greedy companies decided not to pay their contributions into the pension funds so that they could give their Chief Execs and shareholders more of the pensioners money!

    Partisan comments at least need to reflect fact please!

  33. At least we have found a poll that isn’t being ignored or classed as an outlier…I wonder why?

    A bit for everyone here. Conservatives lead back in double figures, Liberal Dems up and Labour not falling back.

    Interesting to see if the next poll will be one of those ones to be ignored, outlier, dead cat bouncy type ones.

    When is the next one?

  34. I wonder if there is any polling evidence about whether the background of senior politicians impacts significantly on the public’s perceptions of them. The media is about to pay considerable attention to the tendency of politicians to mix with the very rich on yachts and similar and with the Osborne angle most prominent old Etonian cronyism might get a mention or two.

  35. The point I was hinting at earlier is that the facts about how well or badly the last Conservative government ran the economy don’t really matter in this context – its rather a stale argument anyway: Conservative politicians have been wheeling out rhetoric about a golden economy legacy and Labour politicans have been branding it the era of boom and bust for well over a decade.

    What matters in our context – that is, how it affects public opinion, is how the last Tory government is perceived to have performed by the public. It was very badly and I doubt the passage of time has dimmed that.

    David – there is some evidence, and it says they don’t care. I would be slightly sceptical of that though, since the effect of background is probably not a conscious “He went to a good school, I’m not voting for him” and more a subconsious factor in a politicians wider public image.

  36. The Tories response to Mandy is bring back Ken, an equally decent chap I’m sure. The underlying fact is that it appears there is a difference of opinion between Cameron and Osborne, in a similar way that there was between Brown and Blair no doubt. I wonder if Cameron will have more bottle than Blair and remove Osborne at some stage – it could well be on the cards. Imagine if Ken got his job, then that would be a vote winner! – But then what about Europe? Perhaps Mandy and Ken would make a good team!

    On a serious note, in the present economic and political climate I would think that jolly’s with the super rich whether it be with Barclays or on some Russians yacht are not a vote winner for politicians of any colour right now ( Mandelson – Osborne – Hague etc) – bad judgement all round I’d say!

    It’s interesting to note in these latest polls the favourable results for parties generally supported by the newspapers that have paid for the polls!! The good news in this Guardian poll is for the Libs – Guardian is generally a Lib friendly paper, The You Gov poll for the Labour supporting Mirror shows a good result for Labour, BPIX for the Tory Telegraph shows a good result for the Tories.
    So it’s all about selling papers then and any leeway for error gets reported in the particular papers chosen political direction!!! Is it right to draw this conclusion do you think Anthony or is it just fluke that the results tend to favour the papers political sales market?

  37. I was using perception – and polls
    – not my views about how the economy was managed.
    Some polls actually showed the Tories catching up on the economy in the 1997 campaign – it didn’t stop the government being swept out on a landslide.
    Unfortunately for the Tories, the credit for economic recovery that was well underway then passed in total to Labour. It was after the government changed, that the really big Labour leads on the economy appeared.

  38. Oh, and btw, the tax on Pension companies was significant in reducing their returns – probably about a third of the sharp deterioration since 1998.
    Obviously, longer life expectancy and poor stock market performance is part of it aswell.
    Gordon Brown (and Geoffrey Robinson) clearly didn’t realise the nasty pension funds couldn’t absorb all the tax and would pass it on.

  39. But thats not the whole story about the pensions is it? What about the nasty employers who chose to take the holiday payments from the pension schemes and paid the money to shareholders and CEO’s instead of into the poor pensioners schemes!!! Had these ‘payment holidays’ not been allowed then the tax take would really have not been very significant overall, particularly when weighed against the increase in employment that the tax on pensions provided at the time.

    It’s interesting to see how misconceptions do alter voting intention though!

    If the Tories support on running the economy was catching up after a deficit of 7.7% of GDP then there might still be hope yet for those of Labour ilk!!!

    I can recall Labourites in ’92 being of a similar mindframe as the Tories seem to be now – they thought they were going to win the GE. As Kinnock found out, it’s easy to slip up and there are banana skins out there for all parties I think, as recent events show and these could knock a few percentage points off any parties polls! Interesting times ahead.

  40. I’m not sure the Sheffield rally in 1992 was all that significant – it is hard to quantify.
    It could have mobilised some of the high Tory turnout in the last few days, and there was a long list of very marginal seats – despite a fairly wide gap on the total vote.
    Whether it would actually cause people to switch sides in significant numbers, I rather doubt.

  41. The Tory Government of 1992 – 1997 was seen to be weak. IMHO Douglas Hurd’s equivocation in events in Bosnia disgusted people. People didn’t like Heseltine’s pit closure programme which seemed to lack morality. People remembered the dreadful mad cow disease. Apart from Ken Clarke they were weak.And of course the dreadful backbenchers – Teresa Gorperson in particular.

  42. Richard
    “On the pension funds, the payment holidays given to employers by a previous Government caused a far greater problem than the tax take, look at the facts! Greedy companies decided not to pay their contributions into the pension funds so that they could give their Chief Execs and shareholders more of the pensioners money!”

    Richard – a rather simplistic view in my opinion. Pension holidays were allowed in the pension rules at that time. It doesn’t mean it all went on big bonuses for the board.

    Basically the problems for pensions are complex – yes Brown’s “raid ” didn’t help and there has been relatively poor stock market performance over the last decade.But the biggest problem is that with people living longer pensions cost a lot more than they used to and neither the employer or the employee seems willing to pay a realistic amount to finance them.
    The actuarial profession should also take some of the blame since they should have been forecasting this a long time ago.

    With the recent freefall in stock markets you are going to see some awful headlines regarding pension deficits in the next few months. It wouldn’t surprise me if some very big schemes have to be rescued or bailed out. Even those that are aren’t in trouble will still have to have increased employer contributions for a while to get them back up to a healthy state, just as the employer can least afford them in a recession.

    Its no surprise that employers everywhere are offloading their pension schemes to other companies because they don’t want the risk. Its also no surprise that final salary schemes, in the private sector, are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. They just cost too much.

  43. Anthony – interested in your comments regarding the (lack of) impact MP’s background appears to have in the polls. I suspect that is generaly true most of the time, but with exceptions, and I can see some serious trouble ahead for the Tories. Where politicians position themselves as ‘common people’, but aren’t, they will come unstuck. At this time in particular, money and wealth is not popular – its not just bankers and foreign tycoons, but also highly paid footballers and nonentity ‘celebrities’ that are having their existence questioned. Osbourn is in trouble, and this highlights the whole Eton/Oxford/wealth & privilege aspect, and I believe will damage Cameron, more because its clear he is not what he claims to be – this plays right into the negative aspects of shallowness, chameleon etc.
    Additionally, the Tories funding is not particularly clean – technically they haven’t done anything illegal, but there are several large donors whose residential status is questionable, and if you make a great play about your opponents make sure the dogs won’t turn on you.
    Its all about context and comparison, and set against the uber boring Brown and Darling, the Tory top team are looking vulnerable. ‘Serious people for serious times’?

  44. For info, just picked up a report of an Ipsos Mori poll showing big Tory lead of 45/30/14, but with Tories down 7 and Labour up 6. Polling 18/19 Oct.

  45. I wonder if the shift from Others to the Lib Dems was a result of the Iceland situation making independence less attractive. Also the Scottish Lib Dems had their conference before this poll came out which might have helped direct disaffected SNP voters towards them.

  46. “Its no surprise that employers everywhere are offloading their pension schemes ”

    With one exception KTL-the Public Sector in which “affordability” is not a factor.

    The widening gap between the risk free, indexed, salary related pension rights of Public Sector employees, and the risk laden lucky dip of Private Sector Defined Contribution schemes,will one day become a major source of social strife.

    Politicians will resist making it a party political difference whilst they enjoy the former of the two.

  47. Alec-I think you are right about the possible dangerous equation for Osborne of Nasty Bankers=Nathaniel Rothschild=George Osborne.

    If it does indeed impact on his position it will expose the cant & hypocrisy on the political Left, and in the BBC about this issue.

    Nick Robinson has admitted that Mandleson’s presence at the Corfu gathering, and more significantly his association with a Russian Billionaire were downplayed.

    THere are signs that some parts of the Media are more willing to show even handedness & pursue the nature & possible mutual advantage of the private & business relationships of Deripaska & Mandelson.

    Mandelson is of course a former EU Commissioner, and a serving Labour Secretary of State. George Osborne is neither.

    Osborne’s errors seem to be two fold-

    First he attended a party at which Peter Mandelson was present & exchanged views on mutual colleagues with him.
    Second he broke the “oath of silence” imposed by his erstwhile “friend” about who said what at the latter’s private party. This apparently, is a transgression which outweighs friendship for Rosthchild, for whom the ire of his other “friend” Mandelson is the greater concern.

    In respect of the first, Osborne is guilty of a severe error of judgement which Cameron needs to speak to him about.
    In respect of the second, I hope he learns a lesson about the nature of “true” friendship.