A new poll by ComRes in Tuesday’s Indy tells a completely different story to ICM and MORI’s recent figures. The topline figures, with changes from ComRes’s last poll, are CON 37%(-6), LAB 36%(+4), LDEM 17%(+5). The poll was conduced between Friday and Sunday.

In recent weeks we’ve become used to polls showing differing results – methodological differences have resulted in some pollsters showing much larger Tory leads than other ones. However, until now polls have been consistent in showing the same trends – until last week the pollsters, despite differences in extent, were all showing the Conservative poll shrinking. The two polls published since the press reaction to the PBR, conducted by ICM and Ipsos MORI, both showed that trend reversing, with the Conservatives again gaining support. This poll is not just out of line with the figures other companies have been presenting, but also it’s the exact opposite of the trend ICM and MORI are showing.

Normally when polls disagree I look at the methodologies and try to explain the difference. There is no obvious explanation here. I’ve looked through the ComRes tables and there is nothing obviously freaky or wrong – the Lib Dems appear to have been weighted to a much higher figure than their previous poll – 12% of the sample said they voted Lib Dem in 2005, as opposed to 8% of the sample in ComRes’ previous poll – which goes a long way towards explaining the jump in the level of Lib Dem support, but not that of the two main parties: the overall shares of recalled past vote are pretty similar to those ICM use to weight their polls.

This is the first poll conducted since Damian Green was arrested, so theoretically it could be possible that the public reaction to it has been the polar opposite to the media’s, but that would be unusual. It could also be that the the increased Conservative lead we saw from ICM and MORI was just a reflection of the bad press coverage the PBR was receiving at the time those two polls were carried out, and the public reaction to the PBR now it has sunk in properly is actually more positive. The alternative possiblity is, of course, that either MORI & ICM, or ComRes are “rogue polls”.

I am cautious about the term “rogue poll”. It tends to get thrown around willy-nilly against any poll people don’t like and sometimes at companies with methodology people see as faulty. What is actually refers to is that the 3% margin of error commonly quoted for polls is at the 95% level of confidence. In layman’s terms it means that 19 out of 20 times the “real” figure will be within 3 points of the figure quoted in the poll. A rogue poll is that 1 in 20 where the figure is more than 3 points out. It is inevitable that these things happen, and happen to all companies – but realistically it is impossible to ever be certain whether a poll that looks out of line is a rogue poll, or the start of a new trend. We won’t know for sure until we see some other polls that confirm or contradict this one, but until then I will urge my normal caution against polls that show large changes in support, or sudden reverses in the trend.


195 Responses to “ComRes show Tory lead down to a single point”

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  1. Someone on ConHome is reporting a new poll:

    Ipsos Mori Poll said…
    New Ipsos Mori Poll shows Labour slump.

    An Ipsos Mori Poll due to be released at 14:00 will show Labour support badly hit by the PBR.

    Labour – 27%
    Conservative – 46%
    Liberal Democrats – 18%

    Conservative lead 19%

    Any truth Anthony?

  2. just in case this post is a “rogue post” I will put the link to it:

    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2008/12/stoke-to-debate.html

    Sorry if this turns out to be rubbish. Sounds more like what I would (like?) to believe. can’t be rogue then!!

  3. As far as I’m aware no. Julia Clark from MORI is also unaware of it, so either it’s nonsense, or it’s not from MORI.

  4. Anthony

    Any comment on my post a little further up? The so called poll result came from a troll on Guido’s site. It’s rubbish. Guido has had a bad couple of days what with the rubbish he posted about the Com Res poll.

  5. If we get enough of these posts that refer to massive Tory leads from un-corroborated sources, does it follow that they will cease to be regarded as “rogue posts”, and accepted as “trend posts”?

    A true rogue post would be if Anthony gave some analysis along the lines of “ave it!!!”, or Peter Cairns replaced his S with a B.

    Or if the Oracle wrote something thoughtful.

  6. Apparently it was on a Guido thread so it is probably rubbish, either wishful thinking form a Tory or strange misinformation from labour trying to excite Tories! Sorry if it is rubbish

  7. Blue moon – you are right about the regional breaks.

    On the past vote, the 12% is of the whole electorate, not those people who actually voted. In the sample as a whole there is something like 40% people who say don’t know, can’t remember or that they didn’t vote.

    The 12% figure is pretty much in line with what ICM and Populus weight their 2005 Lib Dem voters to, so is no cause for concern.

  8. It shows Labour ahead of the Tories in the South East.
    It shows the Lib Dems on 7% in the West Country. Hmm.

    I’ve never seen such a rogue poll as this. In a few week’s time this will stand out like a sore thumb.

  9. My response to this POLL – “Yeah OK !”

  10. Possible explanation – 2 previous polls had 2-3% negative pbr effect for Government which has now reversed (would be partial to suggest why?) Plus this poll being at extreme of error margin but not rogue.

  11. First things first James Ludlow, don’t want to sound personal but if you do look like that you must have a fat nose.

    Secondly, I spotted the trash Mori/Ipsos poll on ConHome at about mid-day.It said it was going to be released at 14:00 and now it looks like it is rubbish.I couldn’t understand Mori releasing another poll within two days of it’s last one.Either way, showing the volitallity of the current polls, even though it would have been a bit dissapointing, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a poll that showed the Conservatives 19% ahead after one also showing them 1% ahead.

    Anthony, has there ever been a time recentley where the polls have been this so far apart?When is the next Yougov?

    As Peter said maybe the Green issue has actually gone against the Conservatives, as someone posted on ConHome, maybe most of the public just read that a Conservative MP has been arrested, remembers what has happened before, and ignore the actual details.Maybe it is the Osbourne effect, maybe the press has completely underestimated what the public think of the PBR.

    People seem to incorrectly say this is the only poll that has moved away from the Conservatives since the PBR.Yougovs last was actually done just after the PBR and that showed a similar result if you consider the MOE.

    Mr Oracle, the irony is that my response to this poll was exacly the same as yours, though I think I meant it in a totally different way.

  12. I think that people in general, view any breach of the official secrets act with the seriousness which it deserves so I cannot see how the Green issue could possibly be considered as anything other than damaging for the Tories. It may be reflected in this poll but we will have to wait and see.

    Has anyone heard anything about a Tory Shadow Cabinet member resigning for having some past connection with the IRA? Might not be true so don’t quote me!

    The polls are going to be volatile whilst the Country at large is in such a volatile state. I wonder if it was Mandy who was behind the Euro stories!!!… that would cause a few splits in the Tories (as well as Labour) if there really was a plan re the Euro!!! Sounds a bit mischievous to me!

  13. Richard: Mandy – mischievous…never.Whether you love him or hate him,since The Prince of Darkness as the regulars on ConHome call him re-entered the cabinet the Conservative lead has reduced.He must know how to push some buttons right.

  14. Is it possible that the first two post-PBR polls displayed the kneejerk press reaction to the PBR?
    We know what the trends were before the PBR – several polls were into mid/low single figures. The 15 point lead is so remotely unlikely, given the current climate and performances, which should make us push it to one side.

    It’s perfectly possible that people are walking into every shop and seeing posters advertising a VAT cut, and thinking that is pretty darn cool. We also know the top rate tax band is very popular across the whole political spectrum, and we’ve had a nice slice of Tory sleaze in the past week.

    One point gap seems unlikely, however. I’d bet on perhaps 4, 5 points as a push.

  15. You’re absolutely right Tony J!!! Maybe its been done to stop Ken Clarke pushing Osbornes front door button!!!

  16. Having just read John Redwoods latest offering –

    ‘ The truth is that both the UK and the US have to CUT living standards ……. Living standards in both the public and private sector have to be brought down’

    I am not surprised the Tory lead seems to be falling if this is Tory policy, we need a strong opposition not this dilly dallying with cameras at the ready for some ‘unannounced police raid’ and people being told the government shouldn’t be helping them and they will have to lower their standard of living!

    Strewth come on, lets have some decent ideas from the opposition please – I bet this wouldn’t be happening with David Davis as leader.

  17. Could it just be that people really are uncertain who to vote for in these uncertain times and possibly will go for whoever last said something positive or didn’t do something stupid yesterday.

    It certainly is different from recent times when “the people” seemed pretty much certain who they wanted in power.

    watch the trend… assuming we find one.

  18. “I think that people in general, view any breach of the official secrets act ”

    No doubt-but Green hasn’t been arrested under the OSA.

    “they will have to lower their standard of living!”

    This isn’t a “policy” statement-its a statement of the bleeding obvious.

    Mervyn KIng told us all this very thing last February-in specific terms.He said “Britons have enjoyed a decade of high spending on luxury goods, holidays and second homes, fuelled by low interest rates, easy credit and near-record lows in living costs.”
    He issued a stark warning that this period had “come to an end.”
    He said the fallout from global economic turmoil would “take its toll on the spending power of British households.”

    Don’t you understand any of this?

  19. I have the impression there are two groups of polls here – it seems that the high and low Con polls alternate. Splitting the polls back to 25th Sep between the ones with double digit Conservative leads and the rest gives us two groups – the low leads are mostly ComRes and YouGov, and they have a marked downward trend. (from +9 on 25th Sep to +1 today, and it’s straight down with only one rise, of one point between IPSOS on the 16th and YG on the 25th)

    The high-Tory ones are fluctuating around an average of 11 points lead. They’re mostly ICM and whoever the folks with the B are.

  20. Colin, It has nothing to do with what I may understand, it is about what the electorate understands and that is a completely different ball game :)

    I’m pleased you have faith in the Governor of the BoE, however I must say I’m not one for taking too much notice of what Mervin King thinks, he was after all saying that interest rates need to be at 5% not too long ago was he not, with clearly no vision of what was about to happen, unlike one of his colleagues on the MPC who was shouted down each month for the past year or so!

    I’m sure Mr Redwood and his colleagues can offer some good advice about recessions, after all they have the most experience of them do they not? :) I hope everyone takes his sound advice!

  21. Its the overall picture which is the accurate one; not one poll or two polls.

    And, overall, the Tories lead by between 6pts to 9pts.

    Somewhere between narrow majority and hung parliament with either main party as biggest party.

    That’s (still) where things stand.

  22. Not sure about that ‘David in FRANCE’, I think the latest polls over the last couple of weeks give us an idea of the direction that the voting trends are going and the latest poll gives us an idea of how the voting would go ‘if there were an election tomorrow’. Always within that 3% margin of error.

  23. Colin – Would be bit of a strange voting tactic for the public. Vote for us, you need a lower standard of living.

    The public have always wanted it on a plate always up.Look at the recent polls, they want less tax, more spending. To then tell the public that we want you to have a lower standard of living is a political own goal, even if it is actually inevitable in the current economic climate.

  24. What seems most out of line here is the CON drop to 37%, isn’t that the lowest drop for them in a LONG time? Even YouGov who have been rating the Tories particularly harshly in recent polls have still kept them above the 40% barrier. In fact as people have pointed out before, even with single digit leads the Tories still retain a lead in the low to mid 40s. A drop to 37 seems very unlikely and I’m confident that other polls will soon make a mockery of this ComRes one.

  25. David In France – The problem is that the polls are not standing anywhere.On a daily basis they are running all over the place.

  26. Based on Anthony’s figures from this website then if we go back to the conference season then the leads from Polsters for the Tories are;

    YouGov; 19, 20, 10, 14, 10, 8, 9, 5, 4
    ICM ; 15, 9, 12, 12, 13, 11, 15
    Populus; 16. 15. 6
    Mori ; 28, 15, 3, 11
    Comres ; 12, 9, 8, 11, 1

    What is clear from this to me is that Labour has closed the gap, something that we can all accept I’d hope. Yougov shows a start to finish drop of 15, ICM 0, Populus 9, Mori 17, Comres 11. ICM are the odd one out.

    Next ICM have shown the least change, while Yougov, populus and Mori have shown the Tories more or less dimiishing over the period.

    The biggest chage from one poll to another and the average change are;

    Yougov; 10% (20 to 10) Av 3.
    ICM ; 6% (15 to 9) Av 2.
    Populus; 9% (15 to 6) Av 3.
    Mori ; 13% (28 to 15) Av 8.
    Comres; 10% (11 to 1) Av 3.

    Now what this shows is that the big drop is a lot more than the average except with mori which seem more inclined to change than others. In some respects a big drop could be due to a gap in polling so that a gradual change was missed or a key event that changed things, a tipping point like Camerons 2007 conference speak and the phoney election.

    However i’d be inclined to say that when a single poll jumps by substantially more than the average we should hold off on calling it valid.

    The Yougov drop of 10% is three times the average drop and without it the average change is only 2% in what is the longest series of polls since the conferences. That drop was in two polls only six days apart but it was the week that Lehmans went to the wall and Brown took action, so I think there is a plausable explaination.

    This poll with it’s drop of 10% again should be compared withan average without it of just 2% and although a smaller sample it still looks odd. This drop has taken place over a two week period covering the PBR but runs counter to other pollsters reaction.

    That makes me think this on should be treated with extreme caution.

    One final thing, the more I look at these figures the less I think the polls are currently erratic. It all looks pretty stable for me brown is up and Cameron down. The actual margin is hard to pin down but the tories are still ahead and it looks like Labour currently isn’t closing the gap.

    To go back to an old theme, I think we are close to tipping point.

    If people think it will be a close election they rally to a potential winner and the third party gets squeezed, while if they think it’s in the bag then the third party recovers at the expense of the potential loser.

    For much of the last year the tories were seen as almost dead certs to win. recently Labour have made a recovery of sorts and that has squeezed the LibDems ( and SNP).

    Where it will go from here I am not sure but I think it will stabilies on one side of the tipping point a narrow tory lead of 2-5% and a hung Parliament ( and possibly less than 10 seats for the SNP) or a good tory lead of 10-15% a Tory government ( and 15 or so seats for the SNP).

    Ironically the more seats the SNP gets through this scenario the less likely it is that Alex’s hope for maximum influence in a hung parliament becomes.

    Peter.

  27. Peter,
    With two equally undesirable potential winners I actually think the tendency for a third-party squeeze will be inverted (something which I’d’ve thought the SNP would welcome) – that is, unless a clear favorite emerges within the first few weeks of the new year.

  28. “Look at the recent polls, they want less tax, more spending. ”

    I,m looking Tony-are you saying the increased support for Labour is because the public believe the Government will provide”less tax, more spending”?

    That would be bizarre indeed given that Darling has just announced more taxes & less public spending.

    If you meant the last time people were asked about tax & spend policy-I’m looking at that too:-

    IPSOS Mori 27/28 November 2008:-

    “Taxes should be cut even if it meant increasing Government borrowing to maintain public services funding”
    Agree-Weighted total 41%
    Public Sector Workers 47%
    Labour voters 54%

    “Government borrowing should not be increased even if it means taxes remain as is & spending on public services is cut”
    Agree:- Weighted total 52%
    Public Sector Workers 45%
    Labour voters 39%

    It depends who you ask Tony.

  29. A strange poll, for oft-quoted reasons. If I was [still] a Tory I’d ignore it; too many anomalies.

    The one boon that Cammer’s can take from the poll is the Midlands. That is the heart of the battle – literally Middle-England! As Mike Smithson’s is wont to say, Labour are strong in their heartlands, but weak in the marginals.

    It is sad to see that Peter Cairns finds solace in Tory woes. You ain’t gonna’ get independence whilst England is denied Her Voice…! ;)

  30. Thankyou Peter-that’s a very good analysis and -for once but I promise I won’t let it happen again-I agree with every word you said.
    Nevertheless since as Anthony says regional variations should not be the suspect we seize upon when trying to explain away any apparantly roguish poll then we are still left trying to reconcile how the polls can produce such contradictory results given that the margin of error is supposedly what 3% either way? And especially if the two polls in question use the same fieldwork as is the case with ICM and Communicate.
    However if we ignore the flucuating Tory leads and concentrate on the shares of the vote then this does indeed suggest that something may have gone wrong with Communicate’s polling methodology since the share of votes they have attributed to the Tories on more than one occasion this autumn has been below 40% in contrast to the other better known polls.

    The local council by election results last week for what they are worth show no sign of any significant Labour recovery as depicted in some polls and I wonder if this is because a number of Lib Dem supporters have over the last few weeks switched their support at national level to the government in response to the banking crisis whilst continuing at local level to back the LIb Dems. If I am right then the question arises as to how long the government can retain the support of voters with little attachment to their party once the recession has been established for any length of time–and we may not know the answer to that question until sometime in the New Year.

  31. Surely what we can learn from these polls is that government borrowing is a fantastic smoke screen – politically anyway.

    I honestly believe that people would have resisted the growing public sector more if they’d had to pay for it with higher taxes (around £40bn per year).

    As it stands, it is almost unfair to the Conservatives because most people don’t vote for what’s best for the country – they vote for what’s best for themselves at the time.

    Any party offering higher spend without higher taxes will get support from lots of the ‘selfish’ voters (NB I’m not saying which is right or wrong, just stating what I think happens) where as those who look long term will see the damage that can be done if spend is not balanced with taxes.

    In 1997 the country probably needed Labour to come in and boost public spending. Unfortunately they’ve now built up a structural deficit that they seem unable to reduce – hence the need for the Conservatives.

    Round and round the political cycle goes.

  32. Mark M – ” most people don’t vote for what’s best for the country – they vote for what’s best for themselves at the time. ”

    Do they?

    The “self interested voter hypothesis” (that people vote for the party that would most benefit them personally if it got into power) is superficially sensible, but actually tends to be rejected by political scientists these days – it just isn’t reflected in how people actually vote.

    The theory goes (though this is a rough and ready version from the top of my head – you should really go and read a proper critique of it) that it doesn’t make much sense anyway because one persons vote is so hugely unlikely to make a difference. If party B gets in, they might cut my taxes… but realistically, my vote doesn’t make a jot of difference to whether party B do get in.

    If they don’t influence that choice, what DO people get back from voting? Why vote? Social duty, a feeling of being part of society and doing something positive for it.

    In other words, because the chance of your vote making a practical difference is so spectularly remote, it’s more rational for people to do what they think is *right* and get the reward of feeling like good and responsible people, rather than what benefits them personally, the effect of which is negligible.

  33. ” it’s more rational for people to do what they think is *right* ”

    Anthony

    But surely what people think is “right” can be as informed by their personal & family circumstances and desire to improve them,as by the circumstances of other people.

    I can see that there may be issues where a truly altruistic attitude to voting -socially responsible if you like-would overide all else-even the voter’s own best interest.

    But I cannot believe that voters do not factor in a significant element of self interest when voting.

    One surely votes to make things “better”.But if one is entirely excluded from the improvement there would not seem to be much point in it.

  34. This might seem superficial, but isn’t intended to be:

    The reality shows on TV draw an enormous number of votes. Clearly , family members apart, no-one chooses whom to vote for out of self-interest.

    A desire for justice to be done is far more compelling , although I can appreciate it would be difficult to imagine Anthony voting for a party that promised, for example, to ban blogging about opinion polls.

  35. Anyway, pursuing my idea above, I graphed’em on a common timebase, drew trendlines and computed the R squareds. If you take the Tory leads of 10% or above since September, there is no trend, but quite a lot of volatility. R2 = 0.00… If you take the Tory leads below that, there’s a sharply declining trend with R2 = 0.77. Interestingly there is no comparable effect in the high Tory leads – if you take the top ones they’re not trending at all. It seems there is a lot of thrashing, but the low points for the Tories are steadily getting lower.

  36. Anthony Wells

    I’m always led to believe in the “self interested voter” because every government announcemnet is followed by a section on the BBC detailing ‘what this means for you’.

    To some people, constant exposure to this kind of journalism will result in asking that question every time. As this country swings on what ‘some people’ vote, if you get them to only vote selfishly you can buy their votes through borrowing.

    Irresponsible maybe, but it’s very good playing politics.

  37. “The “self interested voter hypothesis” (that people vote for the party that would most benefit them personally if it got into power) is superficially sensible, but actually tends to be rejected by political scientists these days – it just isn’t reflected in how people actually vote. ”

    Totally agree. Another twist to the ‘self-interest’ argument, though, is that of party identification. That, by and large, people are aspirational and would like to see their choice of party (ie, their vote) transfer some of that aspiration to them.

    The trick for parties (one which Blair learned – and Cameron too, though his front bench seem busy trying to unlearn it pronto) is to project an image which people can identify with and which they feel will reflect positively on them. It’s all about basking in a rosy glow – that’s why Theresa May’s categorisation of the Tories as ‘the nasty party’, while needing to be said, was extremely damaging to the Tories.

    So, for me, ‘the self-interested voter’ is much less about economic self-interest and more about the benefits of association.

  38. i am a tory.if i was polled i would say i was voting labour to bring an election sooner

    the country can not,and never has been,able to function under labour.

    this time, there was so much money in the tank in 1997 ,it just took longer for them to be found out.

  39. this time, there was so much money in the tank in 1997 ,it just took longer for them to be found out.

    FACTUAL ASSERTION FAIL. The budget deficit in 1996-7 was 8% of GDP…like it is now.

  40. Alex – good point

  41. Alex
    Actual FACTUAL ASSERTION FAIL. The budget deficit in 1996-7 was 8% of GDP…like it is now.
    The deficit in 1996-97 was 3.2% of GDP notabale as it breached the Brussels cap of 3% However this figure included PFI the 2008 published figure does not include PFI if it did we would have the 3rd largest deficit in the World

  42. Am fascinated by the issue of selfish voters.

    For myself, while I certainly vote on the issues which matter to me (so in once sense that is selfish because they are the issues I feel are important) I do not vote according to which party will make my life better in a short term or material sense… the issues of the environment, civil liberties or the union – which for me are far more important that the tweaking of the NHS or tax system – will be very unlikely to make me richer.

  43. I guess it depends what you mean by “self-interested”. I vote for the party whose policies are closest to the sort of society I wish to live in – of the two major contenders, I’ll vote for the one which affords the most civil liberties and the least overbearing governance. It’s “self-interested” in the sense that the choice reflects my own preferred way of life, but not in the sense of “more money for me”.

  44. Alex – well done.

  45. James – “I vote for the party whose policies are closest to the sort of society I wish to live in”that’s exactly how I vote, but I use different criteria from your civil liberties/small govt ones. I suspect I’d be financially better off under a party I won’t be voting for.

    I wonder if a question could be framed to discern trends in “selfishness”? Maybe the “what’s most important “list goes some way.

  46. John T T, I tend to agree with you, I too could vote for a party that would (so they say) make me better off but prefer to vote for one that looks after those less fortunate (i.e. the latest announcement about mortgage protection). But I also know that I will be old and need looking after so maybe there is a little selfishness in my vote as well.
    Speaking of the latest announcement about mortgage protection, it will be interesting to see how this and other moves to protect those falling behind in their mortgage repayments will affect the poll figures?

  47. I plan to vote Labour despite the fact I will have to pay tax under the 45% income tax band introduced. However, Labour’s overall vision of society is closest to mine and also I don’t think the Tories are even committed to reverse the new band

  48. Hi I think that the budget deficit was around 8% in 1993…

  49. “I guess it depends what you mean by “self-interested”. I vote for the party whose policies are closest to the sort of society I wish to live in ”

    Yes indeed James-that’s how I vote-and I guess it’s how most people vote.

    The “sort of society” will include the whole gamut of things which affect us all ,to which we may attach different priorities relevant to our circumstances.

    And as our circumstances change our priorities may change & so we may look at our society through a different prism.

  50. Yes, actually I should say sorry, because I just checked. The PSBR as was *peaked* at £46bn, 8%, in 1993-1994 – it was down to £28bn by 1996-1997. But I think my point still holds; the current Treasury plans foresee it going to 8% and then coming down, too.

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