ComRes’s monthly poll for the Independent has topline figures, with changes from their last poll, of CON 44%(+3), LAB 28%(+3), LDEM 17%(-5). The poll was conducted between February 27th and March 1st.

The previous ComRes poll had showed a sudden and inexplicable leap in Lib Dem support which rose 6 points. As with ICM, which showed a similar increase and decrease, this poll shows them slumping back down again. As I said when ICM put their last poll out, it’s theoretically possible that the Lib Dems enjoyed a genuine, but extremely short lived, blip in support – but my guess it that those ICM and ComRes polls showing 6 point leaps in their support were just freak results and really we have a pretty static position.

Meanwhile the Conservatives retain a 16 point lead in the polls. This is the first poll since the tragic death of Ivan Cameron and I thought we might see an articial leap in Conservative support or, more likely, in David Cameron’s personal ratings as respondents wanted to be charitable towards a man going through such personal trauma and sadness. In terms of headline voting intention at least, there is no obvious sign of it.


80 Responses to “ComRes monthly Indy poll”

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  1. ICM enjoyed a blip in support?

  2. “ICM enjoyed a genuine, but extremely short lived, blip in support -”
    I take it you meant the lib Dems made a short lived blip rather than ICM.

    Even the Master can make a mistake.

  3. “ICM enjoyed a genuine, but extremely short lived, blip in support”,

    As it’s part of a paragraph about the sudden rise in LibDem support there is nothing wrong with it as a sentence.

    Much more significantly the Tories are back up at 100 seat majority again on the poll average. Last month ComRes had the SNP ahead of Labour in Scotland, as Did the last Yougov poll so it will, be interesting to see the full results from this.

    If Labour have stalled and a majority now expect a Tory win at the next UK election then it will be interesting to see who benefits in Scotland from a slide in the Labour vote.

    Peter.

  4. Peter – the SNP are ahead again but the sample size is too small. I tried to post a link to the data – it can be found on the Political Betting site.

  5. Anthony,

    Just a thought but could you add the current parliamentary seat numbers to your projection as It would make it easier to tell the swing.

    That or +/- seats beside each party.

    Peter.

  6. Marcia

    The Comres sample size in Scotland is tiny and of itself an SNP lead in one poll is of little significance. However the run of samples of the three UK polls which breakdown a Scottish sub sample give a clear indication of what is going on – particularly YOUGOV whose sample is pretty large.

    Last Summer SNP ahead. Autumn Labour back in front. Now the SNP have their noses back in the lead.

    If this continues then Labour could face le deluge in Scotland – and good thing too.

  7. “This is the first poll since the tragic death of Ivan Cameron and I thought we might see an articial leap in Conservative support or, more likely, in David Cameron’s personal ratings as respondents wanted to be charitable towards a man going through such personal trauma and sadness. In terms of headline voting intention at least, there is no obvious sign of it.”

    Is it possible Tories were losing support slightly but some sympathy voting kept them level? The ICM that came out the same day as the sad news had them losing a couple of points from the previous ICM.

  8. “The ICM that came out the same day as the sad news had them losing a couple of points from the previous ICM.”

    Make that YouGov.

  9. I’m not surprised that there’s no immediate ‘Ivan Effect’. I suspect that the main political impact of this tragic event will be how it cuts through claims that Cameron’s privilege makes him out of touch with the problems of ordinary people, and undermines arguments that the NHS isn’t safe in Tory hands. It will likely make it easier for some people to vote Tory now, probably not in a radical shift of allegiance way but rather by making it a more comfortable decision for some who may have balked at the ballot box.

  10. Interesting comments on Politicalbetting.com about weighting methods re voting intention. This supports my belief that few people rarely change their vote from Labour to Tory, or visaversa, but that a proportion who voted last time do not vote at all, or “lend” their vote to the LibDems or a protest party. I know very few long term conservatives who voted Labour even in 1997, and similarly even the middle class Labour supporters whom I know I think are unlikely to support the conservatives this time even if they think Brown has messed up.Perhaps the theory of a large number of “floating voters” that change governments is a myth – more likely it is a large number of abstainers, or probably both. Thoughts Anthony?

    Agree with james Ludlow’s comments re the Ivan Cameron’s sad death

  11. Sorry a bit of a double negative on there “few people rarely” I mean to say that perhaps only a few people change their vote directly form Lab to Con or visa versa

  12. NigelJ

    If my vote is anything to go by then your assertion is correct. I abstained in 1997, as I felt I did not trust Blair et al. but the Conservatives needed removing from office. Only when Cameron became leader did I feel comfortable coming out as a Conservative supporter.

  13. @ NigelJ – I’m another who switched from Labour to the Tories. I was a very enthusiastic Labour voter in 1997 but gradually over the last 11 years I’ve come to deeply resent so much that New Labour has done – from the absurdly high immigration levels to the Iraq war to the gross economic mismanagement we’re witnessing. Next time, I’ll enthusiastically vote Conservative.

  14. What is surprising me is that the Labour votes is holding up as much as it is.

    Is there any info on what sections of the electorate are left supporting Labour?
    Is it just the Working Families Credit section as I heard somewhere that 65% of the working population is now in reciept of benefits of some kind.?

  15. The trouble with reading the poll tea leaves and making seat predictions in Scotland and to a much lesser extent in Wales lies of course in the fact that we are talking not only about the complications of having 4 main parties rather than the usual three but that the Lib Dems continually manage to retain a number of rural seats regardless of their national poll rating.
    For example there is simply no way of telling how voters in Scottish marginal seats would behave if an election were to be held today. Parties in third place could easily hop into first place eg Stirling or Edinburgh South but equally vulnerable incumbants could hang on thanks to voters failing to rally behind a particular candidate as might happen in Dumfries. Then again seats which swung one way at the Holyrood elections eg Argyll might go off in another direction in a Westminster election especially if coverage takes attention away from the nationalist parties as is possible.
    I suspect that both the SNP and the Tories will make gains with the former arguing that it alone can effectively represent Scottish interests and the Tories pointing out that only they can form an alternative government to Labour at Westminster. In the end it may come down to how much time David Cameron can afford to spend campaigning in Scotland and Wales. That will depend on how close the election appears to be in the key English marginals.
    Immediately I post these comments you can be sure somebody will leap up and state that their party will of course sweep aside the others. Please spare us such ” predictions” and go find a bookmaker who will happily take your money knowing he will never have to pay it back!

  16. NigelJ

    Most people will fall into one of the following categories:

    (1) Will always vote for the same party come what may
    (2) Will generally vote for the same party, but may not vote at all if unhappy.
    (3) Have a preference for one party, but may be persuaded otherwise
    (4) Have a dislike for one party and so would vote for whomever is best placed against it (tactical voters)
    (5) Not fussed one way or another (genuine floating voter)
    (6) Can’t be bothered – unless one party either inspires them or infuriates them
    (7) A plague on all poiticians. (will never vote)

    The reasons for (1) are varied – from tradition to genuine conviction, but the effect is the same.

    Over their lifetime, people may migrate from one category to another, and even move from being committed to one party to another – usually by way of one of the intermediate levels, but Damascene conversions do occur.

    When a government has been in power for a long time, then it tends to increase the numbers in groups 2, 4 and 6. This can produce differential turnout and tactical voting (both of which happened in 1997) and so create a landslide result.

    In my view, this is likely to happen at the next election, but the extent, and actual effect s in individual seats, are difficult to predict.

    Labour’s biggest problem is that abstention levels were already high in 2005, so any increase in abstention levels amongst their traditional supporters [i.e. moving from (1) to (2)] could have a highly detrimental impact in terms of seats lost. They were fortunate in 2005 in that abstention occured most in their strongest areas, but if it now spreads to more marginal seats, then the losses may be disproportionate to the drop in their share of the vote.

    Conversely, Cameron has been succesful in reducing the anti-Tory elements in (4) and (6) while reconverting people from groups (2) and (3) back to group (1), hence we will see a substantial rise in the number of Conservative votes, though again, since this may be concentrated in areas where the Tories are already strong, it does not necessarily translate into extra seats won.

    The main problem for the LDs has always been that their “core” in group (1) is probably no more than 10%, with a bulk of their votes coming from groups (3) (4) and (5). Thus they are likely to lose as many, if not more, seats as they gain, even on the same number of votes.

  17. So is this an 11% swing since 2005?
    Where do I find the exact swing prediction please?
    Thanks you experts!

  18. Larry,

    No the swing is not 11%. Although the Con vote is indeed up 11% on 2005, the Lab vote is only down 8%, so the Lab-Con swing is (11+8)/2 or 9.5%.

    The LD-Con swing is (11+5)/2 or 8%, while the Lab-LD swing is (8-5)/2 = 1.5%.

    However, those calculations are based on the (entirely spurious) notion that there will be a “uniform national swing” (UNS). UNS is only helpful when looking at Lab/Con marginals. As Nick Keene commented above, this really does not apply in Scotland and Wales (4 party systems), and many other areas where the LDs already have a strong presence (1st or close 2nd).

    The majority predictor on this site is not a pure UNS projection, but even Anthony could not tell you more than what may, rather than will, happen in a particular seat based on any given shares of total votes.

  19. To Paul H/J
    Thanks Paul
    Larry

  20. Paul – actually the swing calculator here is a pure UNS projection, so is the projected majority in the corner of the front page. If you click on the link under that though it will take you to a slightly more complex calculator that also factors in things like incumbency and possible regional differences.

  21. ChrisNorthwest – Don’t be surprisedat the numbers supporting Labour – there are many out there who are equally amazed that so many support (INSERT PREFERRED DESPISED PARTY HERE).

    It might well be the case that people who benefit most from Labour’s tax system will vote Tory next time, and I wouldn’t find that amazing.

    It may well be that those who would benefit least from the increase to IHT threshold to £2m will vote Tory precisely because of it.

    I’d love questions addressing “why” to be included, but unfortunatelky it’s almost impossible for such questions to produce reliable, consistent data.

  22. John TT

    You seem to be making a party political point but I was genuinely asking where remaining positive Labour support lies.

    As the reason, I vote for a party because my parents did is reducing.

    They could include questions like are you in receipt of any Benefits?

  23. I am a father of 3 and was deeply moved by David Cameron and the sense of joy and the depth of feeling he was able to present in response to his loss. I hope I never have to find out how I would react to such horrendous news.

    On to the politics…

    I believe one of the reasons we have not seen an upswing for the conservatives since the tragic death of Ivan is the amount of entirely justifiable time David has taken out to help his family come to terms with their loss.

    We have also seen Gordon Brown leading the charge to issue condolences to David and Family which will have a natural balancing effect. Although I will state that I thought number 10 were wrong to let it slip that Gordon was calling David for a private conversation (not very private). Add this to the lack of air time that David has had (for the same reasons) on political issues and the lack of PMQ’s – missed again this week as noone really cares what Harriet says (I assume she’s driving tomorrow – although maybe the current internal rifts may surface) and there is very little to change most voters veiws.

    I am still expecting to see a more substantial rift over the postal service and the Government inability (because it’s a legal contract) over Fred’s pension.

    Furthermore the recent announcements by HSBC and the drop in share prices will effect peoples veiw on the financial future of the economy with the treasury probably having to reforcast again before the next budget statement.

    On the reverse of that there has been little with which to critisise the Tories or the Lib Dems on for several weeks

    Not a fun time to be in government. I would expect to see the core vote leaving slowly but markedly over the next 2-3 months. I would expect to see the labour polling figures to be around 22% by June unless something significant happens in the meantime.

  24. sense of joy regarding the life of his son

  25. Anthony,

    Thanks. As you say in your comments on UNS, while it may not be reliable, any alternative would probably fail the “objectivity” test, unless we had sufficient data to be able to reliably plot regional polling data against regional results.

    Of course there is another difficulty in projecting the next election in that we have new boundaries, and so, except for those seats which are unchanged, or where boundary changes have been minimal, we cannot be sure as to whether the notional figures are accurate, or whether new boundaries create a new paradigm for an area (as was found in Scotland in 2005 when not only were boundaries changed, but seats became larger).

    Finally, I think differential turnout is the hardest factor to analyse and predict.

  26. Chris Northwest,

    I don’t think John TT was making a partisan point at all.

    If we are surprised that so many people hold a view which we consider to be untenable, then we need to examine why we draw that conclusion, and whether it is perfectly rational for someone in a different position from our own to hold diametrically opposed views.

    At the same time, we should recognise that politics is often driven by emotion than reason. Great leaders are not noted for their skill in analysing precise optimal solutions, but in enthusing others to believe in a general direction. (A key difference between Blair and Brown)

    It is a natural human instinct to cling to what we know. Voting x, y or z because you and your family have always done so is more honourable than doing so because you hate the other lot. Only when we can no longer reconcile a long-held position with the facts as we see them will we reluctantly let go.

    That is why, in my view, most people do not “switch” entusiastically from one party to another, but gradually fall away in disillusion, before slowly warming to a new approach. Hence elections can be won or lost on whether a party can motivate its potential supporters, not by converting teh supproters of teh other side.

  27. Paul HJ
    John TT

    So I take it that the answer to my original question is

    No we don’t know the major reason for the core Labour vote holding up and what will change it.

  28. Paul HJ and others:
    I think what is almost certainly true is that many of our decisions as human beings are based a good deal more on feeling than reason, even when we find explanations afterwards for our actions. I normally sit down to work out the pros and cons of a course of action, but even so I find it very difficult to vote for any party except the one I have always voted for, except occasionally in those local elections where I happen to know more about the personal qualities of the candidates.

  29. Chris – yes! Thanks paul – I was not making a political point, but I do find it frustrating that the reasons are not examinable.

    I haven’t checked the COMRES tables but normally they ask a qusetion like “Do you generally consider yourself….(LAB,CON,LIBDEM etc)”, and the results usually have Labour either level or ahead of the Tories (but at aound 26-28% with Don’t Know rather high), whic hsuggests to me that, geberally speaking the “core” Labour vote is stronger than you’d think looking at the headline votes.

    A partisan post usually contains lots of “this is happening in the polls because…” followed by a one-sided interpretation of events, a list of failings by one side, and a list of virtuous deeds by the other, and a final confident expression of faith that the non-convinced will finally come to their senses. Yawn.

    You won’t have to look far up this post to find some, unfortunately.

  30. John TT

    thanks for the reply

    Has there ever been any analysis on the effect of people being on benfits and their political choice?

    It may seem a naive question but if there is a strong correlation to Labour then there must be a floor under the Labour vote.

  31. Chris – it’s arguable that we are all on benefits; ie we all have some sort of tax allowance, access to “free” public services, etc.

    The benefit-dependent that you are probably thinking of (recipients of disability-related benefits, JSA, etc) are I think more likely to vote Labour but I can’t point to data.

    Ironically, one would have thought that Thatcher’s spin-doctors would have pointed itout to her if it were the case. Clearly the explosion of welfare didn’t lose elections on that basis in 83,87 and 92 (and wasn’t unemployment falling and dependency decreasing in May 97?).

    If you think Labour’s poll position is being supported by an increase in benefit-recipients, I think you are probably barking up the wrong tree. I don’t think the electorate believes that the Tories will significantly reduce payments to the relatively poor or unemployed.

  32. John TT

    I would agree with much of what you’ve said but must take exception to the idea that there was an “explosion of welfare” under Thatcher.

    I assume you refer to a substantive rise in unemployment and the dependancy that generated among the several percent of the population it affected.

    Compared to the burgeoning growth in recent years of ‘partial dependancy’ that was small fry surely?
    Tax credits, child allowances/trust funds and the mushrooming use of disability benefits reaches the lives of 25% or more.

    Big difference.

    Many things she was but certainly not a ‘waster’ of public money.

  33. I didn’t say she was, but if the cap fits.

    I’m sure every sensible person accepts that disability allowance, and supplementary benefits went through the roof as a result of the structural changes of the 80’s.

    Disability benefits were deliberately used in the late 80s and 90s to take people off the unemployment register. Big similarity!

    Tax credits and child allowances/ child trust funds have certainly mushroomed – you seem to think that a bad thing, and presumably would be happy if the Tories threw away votes by scrapping them in favour of a less progressive tax/benefit system.

  34. And my main point in any case was that there seemedn to be no correlation between appalingly high welfare dependancy and Conservative electoral success.

  35. John TT

    My point is there has never been this level of depended voters.
    I’m sure I heard some months ago say that 65% of the working population where in receipt of Benefit. That’s people claiming and civil servant paying out.

    The Labour party’s election tactic from the last 3 elections is Tory cuts.

    So if they have created a dependant society and their strongest weapon is the threat to that dependence culture then it must exist to some extent.

    But no one seems to have investigated its effect on the core Labour vote.

  36. John TT

    I was pointing out though that there was not, in the Thatcher years, the “appalingly high welfare dependancy” that we see today.

    I suspect Chris has a point. If I had been sat on the sofa watching Sky 24/7 with a bag of popcorn for the last ten years in my ‘free’ house I’d think twice before kiling the ‘Golden Goose’ that is Labour.

    I reckon 25% is about the core of it.

  37. quite suprised on ukpolling prediction under the uniform swing only has the lib dems a couple of seats higher much as i hate to say it i can see them with maybe nearer 50 seats after the next election

  38. Just to clarify lib dems on 33 rather than 31 on the uniform swing

  39. Chris NW,

    The best proxy you will find between “benefits” and voting intention is to look at the Socio-Economic breaks in the polls. Most people who are heavily dependant on benefits for their livelihood (as opposed to those temporarily unemployed or who receive some benefits as part of their aggregate income) would be classsified in D and E. This sub-group does have a much higher propensity to vote Labour.

    As John TT and Ivan note, not all benefits create a dependancy on the state, and hence potential loyalty to Labour. For example, my wife receives child benefit monthly for our three children. The amount is not negligible, but you would not find her voting Labour in a million years.

    While it is true that no-one has researched whether welfare dependancy really does create a client state beholden to Labour, it is probably true that many recipients do indeed vote Labour. On the other hand, others do not. Also, it may well be the case that a large part of this group would continue to vote Labour even if a Labour government were to cut or stop their benefits.

  40. Paukl H-J – that might well be a syllogism D and E’s don’t necessarily vote Labour more because they are more dependent.

    Recent increases in unemployment are creating benefit dependancy amongst those higher up too – are they more likely to vote Labour because they are having their mortgage interest paid by the state much earlier than the Tory Govt of the nineties would have? I don’t think so.

  41. Thatcher invented the move from UB to Incapacity benefit to massage the figures.

    the 65% figure chris is due to the fact that the tax credit system makes the poorer better off without making the richest even better off. Tax credits are effectively a targetted increase in tax thresholds, so if you count that as a benefit in the way that Ivan seems to, you will probably come top that figure

    Osborne would be unwise electorally to scrap it in order to make a less progressive system work instead..

    Clarke made the point well when he said he was always advised against making any adjustment to the tax system, “because you always create losers”. So would be the case if Osborne replaced a tax credit with a “flatter” increase in thresholds.

    Some-one living on the Aylesbury estate would enjoy some extra dosh, whereas some-one living on the family’s estate would enjoy a lot more. Perhaps one could understand them happily tucking into Ivan’s popcorn.

    I don’t quite see what’s so contentious about that. Unless the comments policy precludes mention of the lack of effect on polls of Thatcher switchiung the long-term unemployed onto Incapacity Benefit by way of early retirement.

  42. Another group that will probably vote Labour in larger numbers than the general population are public sector employees. After a lifetime in private industry, I am spending my last few working years in the NHS so that I can get a bit of a pension paid for by the taxpayer. (thank you everybody!)

    I am constantly surprised by otherwise intelligent people blaming Mrs Thatcher when the current government has problems. On recent occasions this has been said to me about both Post Office pensions and the current recession. I can’t explain this, except perhaps the myth about tories slashing public spending makes them frightened for their jobs.

  43. IMHO public sector employees are more likely to vote LibDem.

  44. “I am constantly surprised by otherwise intelligent people blaming Mrs Thatcher when the current government has problems”

    Indeed so Pete B.
    Your post follows a classic example :-

    “Thatcher invented the move from UB to Incapacity benefit …..Thatcher switchiung the long-term unemployed onto Incapacity Benefit by way of early retirement.”

    In fact IB replaced Sickness Benefit & Invalidity Benefit when it was introduced on 13th April 1995-three years after Margaret Thatcher had left the HoC.

    The total number of people on IB has hardly changed over it’s history-about 2.6 Billion but the mix has altered during Labour’s period in power :-

    IB because of “Depression”-500,000-up from 275,000
    “Anxiety & Stress”-165,000-up from 100,000
    Drug & Alchohol addiction-140,000- doubled.

    Approaching a half of all IB claimants gain their entitlement because of “mental disorders & behavioural problems”

    Despite all the improvements in the NHS over the last decade we have become a strangely disfunctional & troubled society- at least judged by IB.

    ……or increasingly workshy depending on ones view of the matter.

  45. 2.6 MILLION-not Billion of course.

    …..does anyone else find that “Billions” are beginning to take the place of “Millions” in the lexicon of Big Numbers?

  46. During the period when the Lib Dems received 22% they received an unusual amount of media coverage. And so there is no reason to think of it as a freak result. Although it was not unsurprisingly largely a blip.

    If one compares this Com res poll to the one before last on the 23rd of January then the Conservative and the Lib Dems have gained 1% while Labour have remained static.

    This seems to me to represent the gradual decline I suggested would happen during this year for Labour’s support. As the economy gradually declines so will Labour’s support decline gradually.

  47. sorry, ‘not unsurprisingly’, is a double negative. Forget the ‘not’.

  48. Philip,

    Your not really claiming 1% means anything in a poll with a 3% margin of error, all be it more than 50% likely to be within 1%.

    Peter.

  49. If it wasn’t for the recession I would guess Labour would get 31% of the votes in the General Election. But due to it I’m guessing Labour will get as little as 26% of the votes in the GE.

  50. Peter,

    It confirms the general pattern:

    Lab down 1% from Yougov’s last poll.
    Lab down 2% from ICM’s last poll.
    Lab down 2% from Ipsos Mori’s last poll.

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