The tables for Ipsos MORI’s poll are now up on their website, so we can dig about and see what’s actually happened.

Regular readers will know that the big difference between MORI and other pollsters is that MORI do not politically weight their sample. All the pollsters including MORI weight their samples by known demographic figures like age, gender, social class and region. All except MORI also use political weighting, normally weighting by how people claim they voted at the last election.

There’s a much longer explanation of why most pollsters do this and MORI do not here, but the very short version is that people aren’t very good at recalling their 2005 vote. ICM, Populus and ComRes take the view that past recall is pretty stable over time and can be estimated well enough to weight by, MORI take the view that it’s too unstable and should not be used for weighting. The result is that MORI’s samples run the risk of varying politically from month to month more than those of other companies (though MORI would claim the opposite – that other companies risk weighting out genuine public volatility). In a case like this, it raises the question of to what extent the shift is down to people changing their minds, and what extent it is just a more Labour sample.

In MORI’s poll last month which showed a 17 point Tory lead, amongst those who voted in 2005 32% said they voted Conservative, 43% Labour and 16% Liberal Democrat. In this month’s poll which shows a 6 point Tory lead the figures of recalled 2005 vote break down as Conservative 29%, Labour 46% and 16% Liberal Democrat – so a 6 point change in the recalled lead from 2005. (For reference, ICM weighted their sample so recalled 2005 vote was Conservative 33%, Labour 38% and Lib Dem 22% – even they don’t weight to the actual figures because of false recall).

So part of the reason for the shift in MORI’s voting intentions since last month is that their sample appears to have had significantly fewer people who voted Tory in 2005 and significantly more people who voted Labour in 2005 (again, from MORI’s point of view at least some of that would be changes in the level of false recall).

However, this does not explain the whole difference. If you look at the rest of the survey’s innards, there is real movement in Labour’s favour too. Likelihood of Labour supporters voting has increased, that of Conservatives deceased – but in both cases the change is too small to be significant. More interestingly there was an increase in the likelihood of people who voted Labour in 2005 to vote Labour now – in October 65% of former Labour voters said they would back the party this time, this month 72% of Labour’s 2005 voters said they would back the party.

In conclusion, while a lot of the massive shift in voting intentions in this poll appeares to be down to sample variation, there’s a modest firming of the Labour vote too. We should still wait for some more polls to see whether that itself is real, and whether other companies also pick up a firming of the Labour vote. I wouldn’t, however, expect any company using political weighting to show quite such a narrowing of the lead.

109 Responses to “More on Ipsos MORI’s 6 point lead”

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  1. could this poll prompt others to be commissioned from other companies to see if there is a genuine narrowing or will the usual cycle (if you can call it that, some seem quite infrequent) just continue?

  2. Like OLDNAT, I’m more interested in the situation on the Celtic and Gaelic fringes of the UK than the GB figures most polls provide. At least this one does break out the England figures, where the decline in the official unionist lead is less marked, viz:

    Party, England, GB
    Con, 40.48%, 37.50%
    Lab, 31.64%, 31.03%
    L-D, 16.89%, 17.41%
    Other, 10.99%, 14.06%

    Does anyone know of a Westmidden calculator where you can enter the four national predictions to come up with a revised House of Cards?

  3. Outlier or not, this is giving a real boost to the morale of the Labour foot soldiers, already in better spirits after the Glasgow result.

    Support on the ground is firming up, possibly due to the improving financial situation (or the absence of continual Recession stories topping the news).

    The Sun’s attack on Brown over the letter has backfired spectacularly – even people never previously sympathetic to Labour are saying they now support him. I think his performance in Cockermouth with flood victims will have done him some good also.

    The fact that the Tory lead seems to have – in my area at least – relied on Govt unpopularity rather than any large scale switching from Lab to Con has always meant that it would be vulnerable to a firming up of the Labour vote as an election and the prospect of a Conservative govt approaches.

    With a favourable media, better resources and targeting, the time-lag effect of unemployment vs recovery and a fresh leader still ought to put the Tories in a winning position, but polls like this must be making them very nervous.

  4. Strange that this poll has the LDs weaker in England than in GB as a whole since most polls how the LDs doing worse in Scotland and Wales than GB.

  5. The regional breakdowns look a little suspect, especially in London and the South.

  6. Brownedov

    Obviously we won’t know whether this is a rogue poll or a prescient indicator until the next round of polling, but a golden rule for historians when studying limited data is to ask “Is it likely?”

    Looking at the changes from October in Mori produces

    Party, GB, Eng
    Con, -4.9%, -7.0%
    Lab, +5.4%, +7.2%
    LD, -1.1%, -3.8%
    Oth, +2.7%, +2.9%

    It simply seems unlikely that the shift from Con to Lab should be greater in England than in GB as a whole.

  7. At the moment the govenment is pumping so much money into the economy, most people are not feeling the influence of the downturn. This is leading to a feeling of normality; however, once the pumping stops and the taxes / cuts start to bite, the government’s popularity could plummet . The question is, can the current government carry on pumping money in until the next election – will they be able to carry on borrowing until then?

  8. One of the points, psephologists do not point out, many of them Tory, is that 2005 recall is not really Total Recall because of the Iraq / Liar factor.

    I did not vote Labour then, but I will be there at 7am on polling day. Many Labour supporters did not vote at all knowing their party would win. The situation is different this time.

    It is backs to the wall situation, Labour supporters will not be staying at home !

  9. Could part of the collapse in the Tory vote be due to Cameron and his announcement that there will be no referendum on Lisbon if the Conservatives get into power?

  10. No doubt they have done the regional weighting properly but I was wondering just how many average Glaswegians would need to be substituted for average non-Glaswegians to ptoduce a change of this magnitude. It would be worryingly few.

    That relates to Brownedov’s point above.

    Every time there is a new poll partisan posters here post their updated prediction for seats. If I am right that, less popular though Labour undoubtedly is, and though they will lose many votes, the effect in seats in Scotland will be marginal, and that there could be as few as only one Con gain and maybe five Labour losses.

    The effect of that being separated out from national Lab/Con swings puts us in small (or no) majority territory.

    That’s not inconsistent with a situation where neither the Conservatives nor the SNP are winning hearts and minds and Labour are disappointing their floating voters and regular supporters as well as angering their core vote.

    So this poll might be a bad poll with a good seat prediction.

  11. Imtiaz Kabir – the pollsters do also include an appropriate proportion of people who did not vote last time – I’ve used repercentaged figures for only those who claimed they voted so the difference it makes is clearer, but to give the full breakdown MORI’s sample included

    2005 recalled vote

    19% Conservative
    30% Labour
    10% Lib Dem
    6% Other
    22% Didn’t vote
    4% Were too young to vote
    6% Couldn’t remember
    3% Refused to say

  12. Labour foot soldiers had better lay off the spirits, and not be heartened by the Glasgow bye-election result.

    They would be better advised to direct their thoughts towards what went wrong in Glasgow East.

    Glasgow North had been Labour for 74 years. The voting age then was 21. To have voted in this constituency in the last election when there was a successful non-Labour candidate you would need to be about 100 years old. To have voted in the one before that I think you might have had to be male too.

    There are unlikely to be many centenarians in a constituency with one of the worst health records in the country – the EU even, and I would be prepared to bet that there is nobody alive to-day living in Glasgow North who voted in an election which returned a non-Labour MP for that constituency.

    Had it not been for the fact that Labour lost Glasgow East there would be no euphoria. I am still trying to understand that result.

    Glasgow people quote a comment from a less well-informed but enthusiastic Orange Lodge, Protestant (or rather anti-Catholic) Unionist who if he existed at all would as like as not live in Glasgow North. He is said to have asked “Is the Pope a Catholic?”

    An eqivalent I saw the other day is “Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?”

    So Labour won an election in Glasgow. Is the Pope still a Catholic?

  13. Oldnat

    A shift from Con to Lab might be possible in Wales, but in Scotland it is about as believable as a shift direct from Lab to Con

  14. OLDNAT

    Fair comment, but there are other factors to consider.

    The fact that only 43.02% (Oct 43.71%) of those sampled are certain to vote indicates that either the GE is going to have the lowest turnout since WW2 by a country mile (2001 holds that record with nearly 60% in both Scotland + England – not sure of GB figure) OR that many who will actually vote have not made up their minds or perhaps are reluctant to admit who they’re voting for.

    There’s also the absence of weighting by political ID, which must give greater likelihood of an outlier.

    I’ll post fullier elsewhere, where political ID is not discouraged.

  15. I think this is a rogue poll
    Unless there are several more like it then I will continue to expect Labour to get slaughtered in May or June

  16. A Wells – The recollection figures in this poll is in itself proof that any weighting based on recollection is faulty.

    That MORI does not do it does not make their polls better, but, equally, does not make it worse.


    Thanks for link, but not quite what I meant.

    I’ve seen that one before, but it doesn’t allow putting in overall “England” values.

    The Scottish and Welsh polls may be fewer than the GB ones, but they do show a rather different political system to the one to which England is currently condemned.

    A simple calculator where you are offered vote share percentage entry in each of the four “home” nations would actually be easier to write than some of the complex “regional” splits currently on offer.

    If this poll was (on Nov 15) anything approaching correct and a “balanced” Westmidden beckons then such a calculator will be much more relevant than anything I’ve yet seen.

  18. Amthony – thanks for that very helpful addendum. Unlike your good self I am not a polling expert but I have this suggestion which I think accords with what you are saying.

    There has over the past few moinths been a firming up of the Labour vote – especially in response to the Osbourne “age of austerity “speech as it marked out a very traditonal left /right split.This would have motivated the Labour core vote. Politically I believe whoever gets in will be forced to cut spending and raise taxes but thats not quite how Labour are coming over at the moment.

    At the same time there has been a dimming of enthusiasm amongst the Tory core vote because of primarily the “no Lisbon referendum” policy from David Cameron. It matters not one whit that I a Tory voter happens to think that Cameron’s policyy is a real assesment of what is achievable at present in our relationship with Europe, I have to accept that many of my fellow Tories felt this was a body blow and has caused a fair degree of disillusion and almost knocked the stuffing and enthusiasm out of them even voting at the next election.

    However I very much doubt that this state of affairs will last – the very prospect of another 5 years of Gordon Brown is almost cetain to galvanise the Tory core vote again.Upto now the hardline Eurosceptics could indulge themselves and think it won’t really affect the result if I abstain or vote UKIP.If this poll, is anywhere near on the money then it shows that it most certainly will.

    The scare of the Mori Poll will not necessarily show up in the next set of polls unless the fieldwok is done later this week but I do expect to see the gap widen again ironically because of Mori. Hope that is intelligible!

  19. @Brownedov

    Well there’s nothing I’ve seen that can do that for free, but if you have the UK-Elect forecaster this can be done. Entering the percentages you mentioned for the UK, and then England gives:

    CON 309 – LAB 276 – LD 31

  20. I am not getting too carried away with this poll, but the fact that Labour need to be within 5% of the Tories to be the biggest party at the next election means that it will possibly be a close run thing provided they are not any major new problems for Labour. Generally speaking in an election capaign, support does flow back towards the governing party. Ths means that if Labour can peg back the gap to around 8% by next spring, there is a real chance of being returned. Of course we could have a 97 scenario where people end up voting tactically to get rid of the sitting MP which would throw all of these polls out of the window.

  21. Michael

    Are you saying that the Con majority over Labour in England will be 33 and that to form a government Mr Cameron needs the Labour majority over Conservative in Scotland needs to be 32 or fewer?

    If so, I think the Conservative party will soon see formerly unrecognised merit in Scottish independence.

  22. There’s an interesting article in the Guardian today suggesting that the people who would lose out from a hung parliament the most would be, of all people, the Lib Dems. They would be stuck with the horrors of (a) an alliance with the Tories that could tear the party apart over PR, (b) an alliance with Labour that could destroy the party’s national support, (c) a hung parliament that would let Cameron “do a Salmond” and minority-government Labour and the Liberals to death.

    (c) is perhaps the most interesting scenario historically. Minority governments in the past have always had a lot of trouble, but Salmond has now set a precedent for minority governments- through skillful manipulation- to play the opposition like a fiddle. Would it work in Westminister? Would it lead to a second election? It would be fascinating to see, though it would be exactly what the country doesn’t need in the middle of an economic crisis and two political crises (Scottish nationalism and the moral bankrupcy of Westminister).

    Cameron might also use coalition and minority politics as a “It wasnee me!” tactic. Basically, if the Conservatives get a relative majority in 2010, Cameron has an excuse for EVERYTHING. Anything that he does that the Tory base don’t like can be put down to the minority situation, while minority leaders like Callaghan have historically had a very sympathetic public (remember, it took the Winter of Discontent to bring down Labour in 1979 and get Maggie into No. 10). People put up with more under minority governments because a minority government can take credit for anything and deny accountability for anything.

    That’s why it puzzles me why so many seem to regard a Tory minority administration with glee. It’s appealing to ME, because a Conservative-Liberal coalition or a weak government are my favoured outcomes, but if I was a Labour supporter or a Liberal I’d be terrified at the prospect.

  23. Those figures were the totals for the entire UK, but I see how my post could have caused a bit of confusion.

  24. This is an incredibly worrying poll.

    Does anyone know when the next 2-3 polls are due so we can hopefully get a bit of comfort that this was a freak result?


    OK. Thanks. Perhaps Electoral Calculus can be persuaded to offer one.

  26. So its a by election firming which has been blown out of all proportion by a polling method which is subject to more variation, by a paper that wants to sell Labour and by a pollster that is trying to sell its polls.

  27. Brown’s battered reputation has been weighing heavily on Labour’s back. Afghanistan helicopters has hurt. I’m sure that’s why they’ve been below rock-bottom-30%.

    Plenty of politics talked in the shop this week. Everyone I’ve spoken to was warmed and heartened to hear that Brown takes time to handwrite letters to the bereaved. Spelling errors attibuted to disability and eccentricty.

    There’s also a feeling that the Sun attacking Brown so viciously so soon after dumping him and moving into Cameron’s flat has put the tories in a bad light, the tories equating the Sun I suppose.

    Brown looking in control of the floods again, too. Just when you think he is down he summons an act of god and his vitality is restored.

    So I expect a shift of a couple of points as the effect of the Sun and the Rains to kick in. Are we miles off?

  28. I can’t for the lifeof me understand why Anthony Myers thinks this is ‘an incredibly worrying poll’. To my mind it could indicate that, people, whilst realisng that cuts in pubic spending are inevitable, are being persuaded that Labour would take a more compassionate and sensitive approach toward this process.

  29. I must say I don’t get the same feeling as I did in 97 that the country really wants change. A lot of my friends are not clear on what Cameron stands for and are more likely to give Brown the benefit of the doubt.
    Most of my family have moved back to labour and one is opting for UKIP. Interesting times.

  30. Am I the only that finds it funny that as soon its a slightly pro-Labour poll they criticise Mori lots. If it showed a 20 point Tory I’m sure they’d all be queueing up to proclaim that it was a reflection of how the public feel.

    However, I do kind of want it to be off as I’m really not liking these low Lib Dem polling figures.

  31. “Everyone I’ve spoken to was warmed and heartened to hear that Brown takes time to handwrite letters to the bereaved…”

    Brown is simply continiuing with a tradition started by Maggie during the Falklands, and carried on discreetly by Major and Blair.

  32. The Daily Mail hates Cameron.

  33. @ EPOCHERY :-

    “Generally speaking in an election capaign, support does flow back towards the governing party”

    This has been demonstrated as untrue on Political Betting , on more than one occasion.

    Recommend a trawl through their archive for the data.

  34. This poll would have to be repeated a half dozen times in the next month before I would accept the conclusions which have been drawn by much of the Press. In any case I believe Labour have to push any final Tory voting lead down to about 2 – 4% to deny them a majority of seats in the Commons.

  35. What the Tories need to focus on are the total weighted and unweighted figures. I noted this last month with IMORI. Last month the total weighted/unweighted figures were C40% L31% / Con39% L31%. Yet this poll gave an headline figure of a 17% Tory lead. This month the figures are C34% L34% / Con35% L33%. Giving an headline figure of 6% Tory lead. This is what is the worrying trend for the Tories.

  36. You are all wasting your time until there are at least another couple of polls and that should give us more indication.
    This just has to be a rogue poll, but I await to be proved wrong!

    My prediction is now:

    Con ~ 40-42
    Lab ~ 28-30
    LD ~ 17-19

  37. Apologies for breaking rules.

    I am of course delighted by this poll – but it is only one and must be an outlier. Opinion does not move that quick. There is however (based on my canvassing) a large unknown or unsure still up for grabs, and it would be more helpful to see the raw data with unknowns included and not the headline grabbing data designed to sell the Observer

  38. The raw figures seem to be 7% undecided, which rises to 9% among women. The definites now seem pretty solid, but there is a lot to play for in the D/K category. Game on I would say

    Will not vote is 10%

  39. After Nick Clegg said they are prepared to work with the party with the greatest votes the Lib Dems may be the beneficiary of this poll.

  40. Andrew Myers
    ‘This is an incredibly worrying poll’

    There are 3 reasons why you don’t need to worry

    1 It is a rogue poll
    2 It is a rogue poll
    3 It is a rogue poll

    Just thought of another

    4 It is a rogue poll

  41. Michael

    Do you have an estimate for Lab/Con in UK-Scotland. Then we could see whether the Conservatives need 20 SNP MP’s more than Alex Salmond does.

    If they do, they will be disappointed.

    In Scotland Orange Unionists (traditionally voting Tory) have been advised that voting Labour to keep out the SNP is the best way to protect the Union. I don’t think they need to bother. Labour are not that much at risk in the West.

  42. @ David Bowtell

    It’s worrying (if indeed it is representative) because […snip – I think for the sake of the comments policy we can leave it at it is worrying because you don’t want Labour to win – AW]

  43. My sense is that the electorate’s support for Cameron is only skin deep. The high polling over the past two years was a result of voters being turned off by a chaotic and at times incoherent Brown administration rather than being in love with the Tories. Cameron hit the ground running with a politically sophisticated early leadership. His leftish leaning noises on –for example environment, public sector and tax played well with the majority and were seductive to non Tory voters. If I remember correctly, (maybe not!) there were even warmer words for trade unions.

    We can debate the reasons, but the softer side to the Tories now seems to be making way, for a harder edge. They’ve not been able to sustain their momentum on the environment and talk of immanently slashing the public sector to pay off the public sector deficit has support, but nevertheless risks losing the offer of a break with the Tory past. In previous times, they might have been able to get away with that, but after three terms of a Labour Government, the electorate is used to a more interventionist Government – and don’t seem to be sufficiently angry with it to change their view fundamentally.

    For me it’s the Tories changing attitude to the BBC which seems to be a strong indicator of where they are politically. In the early days, Cameron seemed to extend the hand of friendship to the Beeb, but there have been more hostile noises from his team of late.

  44. @PAUL(BROWNOUTIN2010 – It’s too simplistic to dismiss this as an out and out rogue. AW confirmed here what some of us said in the previous post – namely that the lead here looks suspect, but there is some evidence for a Labour boost. You also have to accept that 4 out of 7 polls since Nov 5th have the Tories below 40%. Apart from the conference season, its a long time since we had those kind of numbers. It’s too early to call this a positive step for Labour, likewise too soon to cry rogue.

    On another matter, I wonder if Cameron has slipped up slightly with the talk of an emergency budget. I understand what he’s saying, and a new government in these circumstances probably should have a quick review of the financial situation, but by announcing this now he is risking raising the image of the Tories going for rapid and savage cuts. Putting aside the economic arguements for a moment, by telling us he wants an emergency budget without saying what would be in it , he may have set some people’s imagination running in a way that won’t help him gain their votes. I wonder if this is the brightest political manouvere, especially if people’s economic confidence is on the rise? I’m only pondering out loud here, and wondering what others may think of this, so please don’t accuse me of being a leftie keysian marxist economist, Labour stooge, or any of the other nonsense that gets chucked my way with monotonous regularity.

  45. Do English Conservatives in this site know what FPTP does to their party in Scotland? With 16% of the vote last time they got less than 2% of the seats.

    The SNP and LibDems together got almost the same number of votes as Labour, but Labour got well over twice as many seats. The Lab majority over Con in Scotland could be 30+ I don’t see where the changes could come from that would make it 25.

    The less likely but possible Con Gains aren’t all from Labour and the less likely but possible Labour losses aren’t all to Con so they only make half as much difference as a direct Lab to Con change in England.

    I’ll add an surplus for Labour of 33 to any Con/Lab projection for r-UK if someone will offer one.

    If you don’t like it you can follow the PR model of the Scottish Parliament when reforming the r-UK one after independence. The 33 will all be unemployed including GB and AD.


    How am I doing in promoting independence amongst English Tories? Better than the SNP supporters here? It’s not even my first preference and I havn’t even mentioned the West Lothian Question yet.

  46. There must be some despair among those in the Labour party who want to change their leader – with this poll and the Glasgow NE by-election probably giving a false impression of how well the party is going to do in an election in 24 weeks time.

  47. @ Anthony – apologies for breaching the policy in my response to David.

    I have taken a look at the polls at this time in 1996. Labour were between 14 and 37 points ahead. In the immediate run up to the 1997 election they were between 5 and 24 points ahead.

    The final result was a 13 point lead.

    it does seem like there were wilder fluctuations in the polls back then but they did vary by a considerable margin.

    The jury is out here but if future polls slip down to 2 to 4 point lead we are definitely in hung parliament territory.

    This will be a remarkable turnaround for Brown – I’m still thinking Cameron will get in with a majority come the actual judgement day but I think it could be a much closer run thing than previously thought. We might be talking 10 to 15 seats.

  48. John B Dick


    To keep this within site policy, I’ll simply say that your stance (if I guess it correctly) is supported by the only fairly recent polling that I have seen which actually looked at which powers Scots wanted to be exercised in Holyrood, and which at Westminster, in which generally Defence and Foreign Affairs were seen as being UK issues, and most other things for Holyrood.

  49. John B Dick,

    I for one have no interest in getting English tories to support Independence. I want Scots voters to support Independence because any move to it without the backing of the majority of scots would mean starting on the wrong foot.

    In addition i think the prospect of that regressive strand of self serving conservatism that wants to dump scotland for party political gain or that sees Scots as steriotypical spongers would be bad for England.

    I’d hate our neighbour in the south to have a narrow minded reactionary right wing government.


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