The press reaction to the PBR hasn’t be particularly nice, but now we have to wait for the first polls to show us how the public have reacted. We are due the regular YouGov poll for the Telegraph this week – normally on Friday but it could be earlier. ICM’s poll for the Guardian is also awaited, and I’d expect that to turn up soon. I’d be surprised if there aren’t other ad hoc polls run by other companies.
When they do turn up, look for two things. Firstly remember the broad range of figures we’ve seen in recent polls. If an ICM poll pops up first showing the Conservatives with a 10 point lead it doesn’t mean that the PBR has been a hideous disaster for Labour sending the Conservatives back to a double point lead after the gap fell to only 3 points, as the last ICM poll from before the PBR showed the Tories with an 11 point lead anyway. Conversely YouGov have been showing some of the smallest leads for the Tories – their last poll had Labour on 36% to the Conservatives’ 41%, so a 5 point lead from them would be no change, rather than a Labour triumph. Given the contrasting figures, it’s important to compare like to like.
Secondly, pay attention to when the fieldwork was done. There is an urgency in the media to have the very first poll out and get the exclusive. It should go without saying that polls that were conducted prior to the PBR can’t give us a real answer as to how it has gone down, but also be careful about those done immediately afterwards. Amazingly enough not everyone is glued to BBC News 24 – if a poll’s fieldwork is done straight after a speech or announcement, respondents might not actually see the news until they watch the news or read the paper the next day. It can take a while for people to digest the news. A good example would be after the May 2008 elections – they were the trigger that pushed the Conservatives from around about 40% in the polls to around about 45% in the polls… but the very first poll afterwards, conducted partially while the London mayor votes were still being counted, showed the Conservatives unchanged on 40%.