ComRes have released what is probably the final poll of the year (though I’m conscious I was rather premature saying that last year when a final YouGov poll emerged after Christmas!). The topline figures, with changes from ComRes’s last poll, are CON 39%(+2), LAB 34%(-2), LDEM 16%(+2).

I’m always a bit wary of weekend polls conducted this close to Christmas – there is the potential for the unusual shopping patterns to produce an unusual sample. Still, if we take it at face value then, like YouGov last week it shows a shift back towards the Conservatives, though given that ComRes were showing the smallest Conservative leads this only brings them back into line with the other companies. Until we see the polls in January I still think it’s a bit early to be declaring – as the Independent are doing – that the poll definitely shows the second Brown bounce is over.

Still, with all the polls now showing Conservative leads between 4 and 7 points, we can at least end the year with a good idea of where the parties stand, even if we can’t be quite so sure which way the trend is going.

UPDATE: The ComRes poll also including questions about how people would vote under various scenarios. Sadly, I don’t think they tell us very much.

Firstly, they are not comparable to the standard voting questions. A voting intention question in a poll is normally quite an involved business – when ComRes do it involves three questions – how likely people are to vote, how they would vote, and how they would vote if forced to by law (plus the past vote and party ID questions used for weighting and reallocation of don’t knows). When alternative voting intention questions are used there is a tendency to skip bits and just do it with one question, rather than go through that whole rigamarole again, therefore making them non-comparable. In this case, likelihood to vote is assumed to be constant throughout (and, in fact, the extra voting intentions aren’t weighted by turnout), so if the Conservatives or Labour promising something energised or alienated their base and made them more or less likely to vote it wouldn’t show up in these questions.

More importantly, they don’t really get at what they are trying to. The argument that people may vote differently in or after a recession is largely based on psychological factors and loss aversion. If that argument is true then these would be psychological biases that people are not necessarily consciously aware of – we wouldn’t expect them to show up in a survey like this. Secondly, people are rubbish predictors of how they will react to future events anyway. It was easily predictable that there would be a big boost in Labour support after Gordon Brown became leader, yet people consistently said they would be less likely to vote Labour with him there – they failed to forsee that they would want to give him a chance, or would be caught up and won over by his honeymoon in office. We can have no confidence that they will or will not be able to predict how they would react to a government calling an election mid-recession, or how they will look at politics after one.

The other questions, about how people would vote if the Conservatives did X, don’t show us much either. If you give a prompt that only mentions one party and says something positive they would do, then miraculously it greatly increases the proportion of people who say they would vote for them. My favourite example is this one from MORI back in 2004, commissioned by UKIP. It found UKIP support in the European elections at 2%. They then asked “At the European Parliament elections the UK Independence Party will be campaigning nationwide for Britain to leave the European Union and put an end to unlimited EU immigration. Assuming the UK Independence Party were the only moderate party campaigning for this, which party would you vote for?” and found support for UKIP at 35%. Magic!

Going back to ComRes, the fact that putting the question from a Conservative angle (the Conservatives will spend less and not increases taxes) and a Labour angle (Labour will spend more, but will increase taxes) results in almost identical answers would be fascinating… if the questions were put independently to different people using a split sample. As far as I can tell, they were asked one after the other to the same people. Asking different groups of people the same question using slightly different wording can give you fascinating results. Asking the same people the same question using slightly different wording normally gives you the same answer.


86 Responses to “ComRes show swing back to the Conservatives”

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  1. As I’ve mentioned before, now is the time for Cameron to reshuffle given that he now needs to really take the initiative at a time when the economic hell unfolds for Labour.

    Osborne is still considered as light- weight and a bit ‘wobbly’ given the russian billionaire on a boat debacle, so now – as mentioned before by other bloggers – Clarke, Hague, Davis and May should come to the fore.

    Once the visible sign of the recession becomes prominent with all the Zavvi and Woolworths stores closing, coupled with the fact that the economic predictions by Labour are now not only being openly attacked as being woefully inaccurate by such disparate quarters as the captains of industry and the church – OK, the church may not be that influential, but it shows the range over which Labour’s incompetence is being registered – then the dam of hope that has been holding back the full reality of our economic catastrophe and keeping the keepy-uppy of the ‘Brown Bounce’ going will finally break.

    If Brown has any hope of winning the next election, then he must hold one as soon as possible, for in the next 4 – 6 months he will be dead in the water.

    The election is now certainly in Cameron’s hands for the taking. Let’s hope he takes it!!

  2. I have a lot of sympathy with the opinions expressed recently by the bishops of the Church of England. Borrowing unless its for a prudent, productive purpose makes people poorer.

    Both high unemployment and high borrowing creates a fundamental weakness in the economy. In the present situation the government has to strike the right balance.

    It may be tempting to protect jobs at any cost but the terrible result of this has been seen in the demise of the old communist countries. And if we continue to borrow further large amounts our economy will end up as weak as Poland’s used to be!

    I will take a tentative guess and say that by the middle of February 2009 the Conservatives will have a nine point lead. I suspect its already too late for Brown.

  3. Regarding the Government’s prediction that we will be coming out of the recession by the middle of next year I suspect to be wishful thinking.

    Labour knows that in order to have a serious chance of winning a comfortable majority the economy in May 2010 needs to be growing close to 1%. But I know of no reason why we should think this to be the case. Its not impossible, but such a prediction would be pure wishful speculation as far as I can make out.

    Borrowing maintained an ‘artificial’ / ‘superficial’ growth in our economy. They are obviously hoping that a large dose of borrowing will get the economy to appear to be moving forward once more.

    Any talk of significant tax cuts by Labour or the Conservatives had better be no more than hot air that dissipates. For if we continue with our addiction to borrowing then the bubble will eventually break and our economy will collapse.

  4. Jack

    The excellent pension benefits in the public sector were once justified by the fact that pay was higher in the private sector than the public sector. But this is no longer the case. Statistics show that average pay in the public v private sector is pretty similar and if anything is higher in the pulic sector so the argument is gone.

    I agree that you can’t take away the benefits of final salay schemes once you have made the promise but you can ask employees to pay more to fund it and I think that this is the most likely scenario.

  5. I think the problem with the fall in the Conservative opinion poll rating,can be attributed to the ‘Going Easy’on Gordon Brown in the Conference season.

    I believe this was a mistake,Brown was able to look in control,why Conservative’s were seen unable,or unwilling to criticise.

    The problem for Brown is this,they do not want to go through another mauling at another Budget,they want another conference season even less.

    Another variable that has not been mentioned is the sterling fall,most people have not actually experienced it,they have heard it,and know about it,it hasn’t effected them yet.

    45+ people will be directly affected by it in the summer,i don’t think they will be praising Gordon Brown on the economy then.

    To sum up,the longer we go without a GE,the worse it will become for Labour.

  6. I should have said 45 million,would experience the sterling fall,on their summer holidays.

  7. Peterand other mechanics – If the tyres are over-inflated you risk a blow out. A firm managerial grip (tread) is required to deal with over-inflation, occasional application of brake, and if a blow-out occurs, a controlled steer to the hard shoulder (no crying), which is to be found on the left.

  8. Sorry to be smug, but Ted is highly regarded at Mike’s place…!

    Interesting example of the wisdom of crowds in the graph which shows that sentiment changed in late summer/early autumn 2007. While the BoE MPC continued to worry about inflation well into 2008 and the Treasury still forecast growth of 2% in 2008 & 2.5% in the 2008 Budget, the “crowd” knew what was coming.

    “We didn’t know” pleads Brown, but ‘We’ did.

    I hate to say this, but I told you’se so…!

    P.S. Mike gives a hat-tip to Ant’…! :)

  9. Nice try john-in typical amusing fashion.

    Whilst your political geography of motorways may be true in theory-if the driver insists on continuing to career down the outside lane with pedal on the floor, in the mistaken belief that this will overcome the blowout .,then it’s time for someone else to take that firm grip & head for the hardshoulder to undertake the necessary corrections.

    In these circumstances it matters not whether the hard shoulder is on the right or the left-merely that it is reached quickly before the idiot at the wheel kills all the passengers.

  10. “It is a matter of two different options”

    Actualy Jack i’ts a matter of affordability.
    In the private sector the customer decides what is affordable.
    In the public sector the taxpayer decides.

    As has been said the old argument that public sector pension rights compensated for low pay is long gone-look at the stats-or read the Guardian jobs pages.

    So the issue is-as before -one of fairness Jack.

  11. Nice one Colin! Stopping on the central resevation is perfectly safe when all the cars have slowed right down or conked out altogether. I suspect you’re as much a centr-ist as you are a left-ist though!

    “Fairness” is a word that was in far more use six months ago, yet it seems to have disappeared from recent exchanges. I think being able to demonstrate fairness is key to performing well at the polls. Accusations of “unfairness” worked well against Brown over the 10p rate.

  12. Richard -they had to go easy because they didn’t know whether to oppose fiscal stimulus or not. Now they’ve decided to oppose it, having consulted their wise old heads like Clarke, Lamont, Howe, Lawson and Major, it makes life a lot more interesting for all sides.

  13. john I agree with you about the potency of “fairness”.

    Labour have traditionally worn it’s cloak-even appropriated the word to their very raison d’etre.

    But as you reasonably point out their policies don’t always work out that way.The public clearly thought 10p was “unfair”.

    Actually fairness is often a comparative ( rather than absolute) term-particularly in the context of The State as redistributer .

    Cameron has sought ( with genuine intent in my view) to develope a Conservative view of fairness in society.IDS’s work is at the heart of it.

    His problem is that he has to overcome the well worn equation Conservatives=Unfairness. I think it can be done-but GB will repeat that mantra like he repeats “do-nothing” in the knowledge that some will
    take it in.

  14. Colin – reality = unfairness. People fail, others succeed, and not always by dint of their efforts (or lack of them)

    I think it’s reasonable to deduce that letting the market decide everything is as bad as interfering at every step

    The market has little effective regard for genuine talent (unless you count gambling as a talent).

    On the other hand, extreme interventionism has little effective regard for genuine talent either (unless you count jobsworth ploddery as talent)

    A conservative approach to developing an even playing field for children would go some way to winning me over.

    In the meantime, it’s reasonable to expect many people to regard unfettered free-markets as more “unfair” than controlled ones, and that any “greed is good” stigma stains the Conservatives more easily than Labour.

  15. Yes john-I pretty much accept that .

    I can only hope that Cammo reads your penultimate para.!

  16. at the minuet politics is like wtching a car crash in slow motion except the car being driven by the pm is made of carboard and the car being driven by dave camoron is made of fire ready to burn gordon brown out of office if only the camoron would press the on button and smoke this pm and if he dose voters must be thick to vote labour, well what more can i say other than they were thick in 2005,2003 and 2001, unlike me i look at the in’s and out of both the main parites and the lib dems.

  17. John TT,

    May I draw a “fair” distinction between economics and politics ?

    Economics being a science, well, sort of, is entirely divorced from any emotional consequences of its mechanical operations. If an individual, or a company, or the government, does something, then certain, usually predictable, things will follow.

    Politics on the other hand, despite often being described as a science, is very much an art – the art of reconciling the desirable with the possible. The real snag is that the “desirable” is not necessarily universally agreed upon.

    Thus, politics, being inherently emotional, can easily be crafted in terms of “fairness” or other loaded terms. The danger for the pragmatist (which has been the core philosophy of Conservatives since Burke) is that one can appear detached, thus making emotional based attacks that much harder to repel.

    This is what “Compassionate Conservatism” seeks to reconcile – but to date its success has been only partial. It is only when problems become manifestly obvious that the individual can put aside emotion and look at current affairs objectively. This is all teh harder when it equires an element of self-denial – as distinct from being in a state of denial which seems to have overtaken the government and much of the country.

    Peter, I see that John TT answered your question – I was trying to get away from my motoring analogy.

    Happy New year all.

  18. John TT,

    I understand they had to decide whether to oppose the fiscal stimulus,there lies the problem,it was the wrong thing to do,they should have gone with their Conservative instincts,if households are expected to live within their means,then so should Government.

    NHS Computer(£20bn) dosn’t even work.
    ID Cards (£18bn)
    VAT cut (£12bn)

    £50bn of useless projects and waste.

    George Osborne,the only man to call the fall in Sterling,A.Darling’ George dosn’t understand economics’ V.Cabourn’ George is good at sound-bites,he is confused when pushed’,George Osbourne took both these so called experts to school on economics,or is anybody suggesting there has not been run on the pound.

    The so called expert,V.Cabourn,so often on the BBC,you would be forgiven to thinking he was an employee,yet never asked a hard question,suddenly vanished for a couple of weeks,wonder why.

    Conservative ‘s should be using Labour success against them,2001 we did not go into recession,every other G7 nation did.

    After folowing Tory spending rules for 2 years,Labour had only been following their own spending plans for 18mths,they didn’t have time to mess up the PSBR,we sailed though the downturn.

    The Tory’s want to be the next Governemnt,they need to start leading instead of following.

    I talk as a ex-Labour voter,come from a Labour supporting background,after turning 30,i have seen the light,Socialism dosn’t work,big Government does not work,i am now a true blue Tory,some conversion from one of the so called ‘Thatcher’s Children’.

    Happy New year to all.

  19. Richard,

    Calling a falll in Sterling was hardly genius due to the extent of city earnings in our Economy and will actually help exports and make imports more expensive all helping UK business. The danger as we all know is down the line inflation (such as happened under Lawson when £ went to just over $1 and his ‘blip’ in inflation came 2 yrs later along with the big base rate rises. So far the MPC seem to think deflation a bigger threat but wil raise interest rates if they become concerned.
    I say to you in all non partisan honesty that Osborne is perceived as a light weight by many in the Electorate and financial press and is costing the Conservatives support. Labour supporters I know are desperate for him to remain shadow chancellor. I saw Phillip Hammond on the news this week (Osborne away perhaps or maybe deliberate?) and he was far more assured; unfortunately for the Tories he is not high profile enough to replace Osborne.
    The Tories will do less well at the B.E due to Osborne possibly enough to stop them winning and Cammo should be decisive sooner rather thann later.

  20. “Sterling will actually help exports.”

    What exports?

    “… and make imports more expensive all helping UK business.”

    You have a strange view of the manufacturing base in UK. How much of the mountain of imported consumer goods which has driven our economy do you imagine can be sourced from UK factories?

    Osborne once again has beaten Labour to the real issues:-

    UK borrowers are de-leveraging like crazy-whilst the Government is trying to get them to borrow more.
    They recognise the need for fiscal prudence.

    Savers & Pensioners need help from the ravages of plumetting interest rates & inflationary cost increases in their core spending. Looks like Osborne proposes to help.

  21. Colin,

    My strange view comes from the fact I work for a maunfacturing company who also export and import, we have facilities throughout Europe and optimise as best we can.
    We are making more in the UK than we were and our exports are holding up better than our mainland European colleagues.
    Things are bad but would be worse with a higher exchange rate.
    Re Osborne we just disagree but this is not importand it is his Electoral impact that matters, we will see.

  22. Paul H-J – Thanks for articulating the distinction between economics and politics. I don’t agree that it’s that simple – economists would (in my view) fail from an economic perspective just as much as from a political one, for the simple reason that they rarely come up with accurate predictions of outcomes.

    Your point is excellent though in that it shows (and Richard’s rather partisan comments kind of bear you out), that the simple, black or white reasoning is the preserve of the Conservatives, whereas a more complex, rounded view is taken by the Compassionate Conservatives.

    Ken Clarke was one of those, and was in the vanguard of opponents to Brown’s slavish adherence to Tory spending plans (ie Clarke’s!) in 97-99. Brown would be a lot more worried if a Compassionate Conservative was opposing Darling.

    Cold-headed economics might make sense if the cold-headed economists got it right all the time, but they don’t.

  23. ‘Actualy Jack i’ts a matter of affordability.
    In the private sector the customer decides what is affordable.
    In the public sector the taxpayer decides.’

    Thats semantics; both groups are the same.

  24. Peter:

    Scottish results,

    Labour 49%, Tory 18%, LibDem 6%, SNP 28%.

    I agree that the order is correct, but only the Tory 18% is credible. Before I can take seriously LibDems at 6% I want to know why. What have they done to deserve that? Been charged with perjury? In bed with minors or animals?

    The LibDems have some stable incumbencies. They should be close to the Conservatives.

    As Anthony has pointed out, it’s a zero sum thing and so Labour must be overstated because they have more. I’m not sure if SNP is overstated as well or whether the notion that the LibDem/SNP vote is interchangable is an oversimplification. Could the SNP be understated because of their rural bias and polling methods giving weight to large Glasgow constituencies?

  25. Paul H-J

    Something close to “Compassionate Conservatives” once polled over half of the popular vote in Scotland. The Conservative party presented itself as a party of competence, public service, integrity and fairness and though there were some who did not live up to that ideal, the party in general upheld those ideals.

    There was religion misogeny and race bias too.

    When in the Thatcher years free market fundamentalists and English nationalists became dominant, Conservative support melted away and may now be stable.

    Conservatives could try these old values again instead of the “something for nothing” and “greed is good” approach. It could easily be done if the Scottish Conservatives broke the connection with the UK party, perhaps on the Bavarian model and rebranded. They could then be in coalition with the SNP.

  26. John,

    I doubt the Libdems are as low as six, but in UK terms they are as low as 14% which in a four party system is probably something like 11%.

    add to that the fact that 40% of their 2005 vote came from the 12 seats they held and you have the fact that in most of the 59 seats in scotland they are currently probably polling below 10%.

    If you sample 240 people over 60 seats thats only 4 per seat so a party scoring below 15% probably will get no results from about 40. In a dozen they will probably get 1 rather than two and maybe mostly 1’s from another 10 seast or so.

    End result would be something less 20 yes’ out of 240 which is around 6%. So 6% isn’t right but if they are polling round about 10% in 3/4 of the seats it’s what the polls may show.

    Peter.

  27. “Thats semantics; both groups are the same.”

    They can be the same clearly-but they excercise control over employment costs in quite different ways-
    one direct , continuous &-in times of high competition as now-brutal .
    the other intermittent, and -crucially -acting through the filter of the vested interests of the elected representatives who act on their behalf.

    I was delighted to hear Cameron propose revisions to MP’s pension rights.This is an absolute pre-requisite to the authority they will need for bringing public sector pension rights into the real world where the rest of us live.
    I was even more delighted to read of Eric Pickles’ ideas for ridding Council Tax payers of the obscene burden of the pay packages now enjoyed by Local Authority senior managers.

  28. Peter: Thanks for that explanation.

    There is also the fact that the sometimes get a late boost as voters focus on local issues and local tactical voting. When I looked at actual seats I thought two in the north were at risk, but that they had a good chance of gaining two without gaining a single vote where they were challengers to Labour.

    I would be unsurprised if they ended up with 11 – 13 in Scotland.

    The Conservatives will surely gain one seat, two would be a portent that they were on the way back, and three a triumph.

    The SNP will hold all the seats they have now, including Glasgow East and gain Argyll and Bute despite my support (I’ve only voted for the winning candidate, three times 2 x Lab, 1 x LibDem) but maybe not very many more and fewer than AS predicted.

  29. John,

    Currently I am for us getting ten or so. I’d be disappointed with only about eight, still a gain but not much, and delighted by over twelve as it would be an all time record for us.

    Technically with eleven out of seventy two we could have the highest percentage of seats ever with only nine, but that’s just spin really.

    Peter.

  30. Ant’, hope you are well (and not afflicted with this “Australian” flu’).

    Any ideas as when your predictions for 2009 will appear? (2008 was pretty close.)

    Mike’s already started his thread. [Links disabled…!] When’s you’se starting yours…?

    Happy New Year! :)

  31. What, no post-Christmas YouGov poll, like last year? Not that I think it’s a good time of year to have a poll. I think the Tory lead was 5% at the time, so a little less than it is at the moment.

  32. Fluffy, I’m not, but all my family are so I suspect it’s a matter of time :( !

  33. “Technically with eleven out of seventy two we could have the highest percentage of seats ever with only nine, but that’s just spin really.”

    Maybe at around 9+ but not if you were approaching 37. That would be different in nature, not just in degree.

    I would regard only 9 as slower than expected progress towards your long term objective and an acheivable goal missed. At this stage 12 is still possible but depends on your opponents more than it does on the SNP.

    On that analysis 20, … 40, .. 60 can’t be ruled out! Elections are lost, not won.

  34. There are only 58 Scottish seats in Westminster now. The SNP is aiming for 20 of them (from its present 7 which makes it a much bigger player in Scottish terms than the Tories with 1 and a more significant presence in Scotland than the LibDems are in a UK context).

  35. David:

    Thank you for the correction. One more than half of 58 is 30. Is your 20 the target which I think I remember of 14 new ones which did not then include Glasgow East?

    Your comparisons are significant milestones.

    In FPTP Westminster there is a near certainty that a new party cannot get any candidate elected without first having built up a local government base and being seen to be a credible challenger. The SNP despite slow progress and setbacks in the last 50 years has passed many milestones, but they have now climbed to the top of the hill with the Scottish Parliament victory and can see the promised land ahead.

    20 is very ambitious. Anything beyond that and people will begin to assume – whether they like it or not – that independence is inescapable.

    What do you think is most likely? 12 perhaps, and does that include Glasgow East and Argyll and Bute? Only the Oracle will suggest that two seats are lost to the Conservatives.

    My guess is that voters in these two constituencies have, for very different reasons, made an enduring change, and that even though the victory in Glasgow East was by the smallest of margins, and there won’t be the campaign effort on either side in a general election, it has been shown that it is possible for a party other than Labour to win.

    I did not think that could happen in Shettleston, but I was wrong.

  36. from Wiki;

    “2005 to present

    The results of the Fifth Periodical Review became effective in Scotland for the 2005 general election. The review defined 19 burgh constituencies and 40 county constituencies, with each electing one MP. Therefore Scotland has 59 parliamentary seats.”

    So that is 59 seats not 58.

    Peter

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