YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph is now out. The topline figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, are CON 39%(-2), LAB 29%(+2), LDEM 19%(+1).

A two point change in Conservative and Labour support is, of course, within the margin of error, but it fits into a wider pattern. While I think the change in MORI’s poll at the weekend was mostly down to a more Labour sample, there were signs of genuine movement to Labour as well. We also saw a shift towards Labour in ICM’s poll taken at the same time.

On a uniform swing this would leave the Conservatives just short of an overall majority, and being a far more plausible figures than the extreme swing in MORI’s poll, I’d expect this to further fuel the media speculation about a hung Parliament. While this is a much less comfortable position for the Conservatives, in reality I expect that a 10 point lead would still deliver the Conservatives a reasonable majority.

Polling results are projected into election results using a uniform national swing, but it’s quite possible that the Conservatives could out perform UNS. It seems implausible for the Conservatives to be doing well in the inner-city North and we know for sure from polling there that they are doing much worse in Scotland. These places have few Conservative targets so it matters little, but if they do worse in one place, they must be doing better elsewhere to arrive at the topline figures and we have polling evidence to suggest they are doing better in Con vs Lab marginals.

On the subject of which, YouGov also carried out a parallel poll of Lab-Con marginals in the north (as far as I can tell, this was the 32 Labour seats in the North-West, North-East and Yorkshire and Humberside that the Conservatives would need to win to get a majority of 1 on a uniform swing). YouGov found voting intention in those seats to be CON 42%(+8), LAB 36%(-8), LDEM 12%(-5). Changes are from the 2005 notional election results, and suggest a swing of 8 percent. This compares to a national swing of 6.5% in today’s nationwide YouGov poll – if marginals elsewhere behave like those in the North, this would deliver a healthy Conservative majority.

YouGov also asked a question intended to see how tactical voting would impact this, and here I am less confident. YouGov told respondents their seat was the type of Conservative/Labour marginal that would decide the election and asked again how they would vote. Not surprisingly, the effect was to further increase the Conservative lead to 43% to 35%, the equivalent of a 9% swing, and if echoed in other marginals enough for a large Conservative victory.

My worry over that approach is that a fair chunk of people don’t know whether or not their seat is a marginal. In the 2008 PoliticsHome marginal poll 20% of people didn’t know which parties were in a position to win their seat. Only 34% of people in Con v Lab marginals correctly identified their seat as such, 45% of people in Con vs LD seats did, 29% of people in Lab vs LD seats. A fair chunk of Lib Dem campaigning especially consists of positioning themselves as the party best placed to defeat the incumbent, so saying in the question itself that the Conservatives are best placed to beat Labour risks overestimating the level of anti-Labour tactical voting. The 2009 PoliticsHome poll of marginals showed no obvious sign of tactical voting harming Labour in Lab v Con seats.

Anyway, that’s something of an aside. Even leaving out the tactical voting question, the main findings of the poll are that the overall share of the vote doesn’t appear to be enough to guarantee the Conservatives a majority, but in at least one group of marginals, they are outdoing the national swing by enough to get a majority.

125 Responses to “YouGov show Tory lead down, but doing well in Northern marginals”

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  1. @ Alec

    Of the RBS debt figure of £2.3bn it is thought that only £200m is at real risk according to an article I read, mere pin money compared to the rest of their toxic debt pile!

  2. Certainly there is partisan over-optimism from English Tories on these pages, and a realistic downgrading of expectations now will avoid disappointment later but It will take a lot less than an easy Tory win for Labour to implode after the election.

    That is so even if they win by a small margin. There are tensions within the party that now present themselves as a debate over the leader, but have deeper roots.

    Labour in Scotland have not yet come to terms with loss of office. Their MSP’s loyally defend UK NewLabour though the membership was much further to the left. Maybe it is those that are gone that are Left. Those that are left may be those who back winners and strong leaders and they are not really Left at all, but they may start supporting another team if Labour are relegated. Of course they will demand that the team manager is sacked and half the players.

    Reigional strengths are the counterpart of weakness and wipeout elsewhere as the electoral map shows all too clearly.

    The Trade Unions have their own difficulties. If it were nothing more than the financial effect of decline in membership consequent on rising unemployment they could weather the storm, but they are losing members for other reasons.

    Labour party members did not expect that a Labour government would never compromise with its principles, but there have been too many disappointments, over too long a period, for many former supporters to stomach.

    Lord Ashcroft should keep back a shilling or two for the following election.

    There will be a case to have it very early to get a working majority, and the option of a further full five years before the voters have an opportunity to turn out the Conservatives but crucially, to outspend Labour before they have recovered financially from the first election and when their fair weather friends in business no longer want to know them.

    If not in power, high profile Labour MP’s will look to fresh fields and pastures new and by constituency assocations’ views on their expenses either as a consequence of deselection or unwillingness to actively support re-election will cull many others.

    There are many and varied reasons why party morale and membership can be expected to slump on loss of office. In time, it would normally be expected to recover, but if an excuse can be found for an early election, that will not only lengthen the Conservatives period in office, but deal Labour a damaging blow to its self-confidence and, vitally, its finances.

    FPTP is likely to ensure that we still have a two-and-a-half party system. Labour will be the second party after the coming election, but it shouldn’t count on that still being the case if the following one is early, and that’s possible even if my speculation of what may happen to the Scottish lobby fodder turns out to be unfounded.

    Labour are in trouble and will lose the election. The Conservatives should be under no illusion that they will win it. The last election that was “won” was in 1945 and then only because it was a fresh start in a new era after party divisions had been set aside “for the duration of the war”.

  3. I wrote a long reply to Jack but got caught by the captcha, so in more succinct form: yes, there are plenty of Green supporters who would scoff at the idea of ever voting UKIP (and vice versa) – that’s beside the point. Lots of Greens are anti-EU because they see localism as a core part of green strategy and the handing up of power as working against it. Lots of Greens are anti-EU for the same reasons that much [not all] of business is pro-. I’m not saying I agree with them but don’t think they’re not there! It’s a big mistake to oversimplify the views of the supporters of any party that isn’t a single-issue party.

  4. All that said, it’s a pretty miniscule point to be arguing over… what fraction of 2% of the vote might switch to the other 2%… doesn’t really matter, does it.

  5. @John B Dick – would be an interesting paradox if Labour enter civil war because they have been defeated, while at the same time the Tories do likewise after having just won. There are many issues within both parties that open deep rifts, and a big majority is probably more likely to open these in both parties.

  6. Nutshell:- Tories still ahead, but slightly down. Labour still behind but slightly up. All polls bar one are broadly within MOE but definite trend towards narrowing of Tory-Lab gap.

    Cautionary Note:- We are not getting very many polls, compared to conference season and its aftermath. It is harder to get an overall picture when there is only one poll a week or less. It means that sample-bias, differences in method and other variables are more of a factor and the actual perceptible shifts are harder to see.

    Things to watch for:-

    Afghanistan (Labour making a clear effort to get onto the front foot, extremely convenient timing/location of the conference in January, Obama about to launch a surge which should improve security and help Brown),
    Iraq Enquiry (Old news, but will keep the scab picked and may keep sections of Labour’s hard-left and Muslim vote from turning out, chance of a bombshell, can’t hurt Tories, might hurt Labour),
    Budget (Expect Labour to launch about twenty quid’s worth of sweeteners for the very poor and thirty quid’s worth of wealth taxes to distract from the bad news – press reaction may determine whether Darling gets away with it).
    Expenses (Further revelations over mortgage claims, CPS decision on charges, probably hurt Labour and Tories equally but if very grim may boost Others again)
    Recession (Everyone expecting economy to grow in next set of figures so probably no boost for Labour, but VAT rise and job losses may lead to a double dip before the election. In the unlikely event that recession drags on another quarter, Labour will be hurt)
    Europe (likely to have faded from memory by election, especially with faceless politicians taking the new key roles – will only be an issue insofar as Cameron’s management of dissent is concerned)

    Conclusion:- As always the question is whether the relative improvement in Labour’s position reflects a fundamental change. In general I’d say that good news creates good news, so that if Labour can ride on the improvement for a while they may get back in the game. However, it only needs one setback to get the “Brown is finished” narrative rolling again. Labour needs a banana-skin free winter. Tories need to keep their faces on the news but without committing to too much, for fear of opening up rifts/debates within their own ranks.

  7. I think it’s rather unlikely that Labour are going to have a high level of internal strife. The time that would have burst was after the local elections if it were going to happen. There is a level of discontent in the Labour party, but there *isn’t* a division in the Labour party over it, everyone’s unhappy with the leadership.

    On the other hand, the Conservatives are pretty obviously still critically divided over Europe, and to a lesser extent divided over social issues. There are still a body of reactionaries on the right side of the Conservatives who are going to threaten defection to UKIP if they don’t get their way.

    There’s enough of an issue here that a slim majority for the Conservatives might not give them enough votes to be a functioning government. I’m not particularly looking forward to having a government paralysed in even deciding what their policies are, let alone get them through parliament.

  8. i am new into uk poll forum, but what i would say is that we are starting to see movement. movement is good for labour and it is bad (regardless of scotland) for the cons.

    movement shows people are undecided and irrespective of anything lab are within shooting range; that is for sure.

    movement also adds pressure and further movement as movement become momentum (as it were). the cons should be worried as picks ups and falls back have occured before but now you are getting into a different social economic and “events” space.

    if i was the cons i would indeed be worried

  9. @Neil A

    I’ve calculated a trend regression of polling starting well before conference… ( And it shows that the trend for Labour improvement is present in the long term, masked by the ‘event’ variations. And while the conservatives do have a long term trend of improvement as well, it’s not as steep as Labour’s trend. The trend for a Conservative lead has been going down over the long term, and this is even more pronounced when you take a short term post-conference trend.

  10. @ ALEC & JOHN B DICK
    Post the GE there will certainly be much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments within Labour. Fighting for the soul of the party ect. With most probably a leap leftwards.
    If the Tories with a 20 to 40 majority, then feel able to indulge themselves in civil war about Europe, they will deserve all they get from the British people. Perhaps I am to optimistic in feeling Cameron will not allow this to happen but who knows.
    Labours best bet IMPO, is John Crudas with a proper socialist commitment. This Nu Lab thing has not worked out despite 3 victories. Their credibility is destroyed and will take long to return.

  11. @NEIL A
    A very sensible commentry. My only caveat would be Iraq/ Chilcot.
    Its true we have heard it (or most of it) before, but the chancellor and 2/IC of Blairs govenment can only pull the McCavity stroke if allowed to get away with it. Whilst the media are tearing Blair to shreds, there is nothing to stop Cameron attacking Brown and drawing attention to his senior position within cabinet at the time.
    Further, Brown gave Blair full support at the most difficult period of despair and “not in my name” demonstrations. I just dont see
    Cameron letting it go if the Labour front bench of the time, do not just look questionable, but downright guilty.

  12. Has anyone been following the local by-elections ? Particularly, in Tory target seats. It’s not going well for the …. Tories. Big swings to LD and some LD swing to Labour.

  13. Firstly, it does appear that there has recently been a slight swing back to Labour. I’m not quite clear why as little seems to have happened: indeed I think Labour, and the LibDems slightly, may be benefiting from “no news is good news”.

    There is now an obvious cloud on the horizon in relation to Dubai’s financial problems. These will not do the Government any good, but may or may not indirectly do their electoral prospects harm.

    The YouGov investigation of marginals – thank you and well done YouGov – actually confirms the informal impression that i and others have that qualitative comments for individual seats on this site suggest that the Tories are outperforming the polls in crucial marginals. This is interesting not least because for some time in elections Labour has tended to hold down adverse swings in marginals (Redditch in 2005 is one example). This was probably in part because Labour, with smaller resources than the Tories, concentrated their campaigns, but also in [part because of tactical voting. For instance, in 1983 and 1987 Labour lost votes heavily to the SDP/LibDems in seats they held until the previous election. But in the past there was a sizeable “anybody but the Conservatives” (or perhaps anybody but Thatcher) vote. All the indications now are that there are a considerable number of “anybody but Labour” voters.

    With respect to people knowing whether their seat is marginal. I think this is usually true of Northern marginals such as YouGov will have polled. For instance, South Ribble, where I have lived and campaigned, is by Northern standards a notably amorphous seat in terms of identity, but all the same people knew that they were in the constituency and had some idea of its political status – not least the local paper not only referred to stories but referred to its marginality on newsagents’ posters. The same does not apply in large city marginals in places like Birmingham, Bristol and, particularly London. But on the other hand the frequently moving, largely rootless, voters in this area tend to be politically volatile if they vote at all.

    A final point, about the outcome if there is no overall majority. If the Tories are near enough an overall majority that they will win votes if the Nationalists – SNP and Plaid – abstain, they will in effect be safe as a minority Government given that the Nationalists will not take part in the large proportion of votes in the Commons which concern England alone. Even if the Tories were somewhat weaker than this, I think that the LibDems would attract unacceptable negative sentiment in terms of public opinion if they maintained a Labour Government to impose legislation and government on an England which had returned an overall majority of Conservative MPs.

    The situation in relation to devolution now is very different from that in 1974. However there is a partial precedent in relation to constraints on Government formation in that it rapidly became obvious in 1974 that Heath could not form a minority Government dependent upon support from Ulster MPs. I know all too well that the Tories imposed rule on Scotland and Wales between 1979 and 1997, but they had an overall UK majority, and actually subsequent devolution shows that the situation was intolerable to the extent that it was followed by arrangements preventing repetition.

    I believe, as I have implied above, that in the event of there being no overall majority UK-wide in the election next year a minority administration would need support:-
    1. To deliver a majority of all MPs on UK-wide matters
    2. To deliver a majority of English MPs on matters such as health and education where Westminster powers now relate to England alone.
    If these conditions are to be met, room for negotiation immediately after the election in relation to the formation of a Government will be very limited, even if there is no overall majority.

    Yes I am predicting a re run of 1945 all over again.
    The polls are telling us that Gordon Bown is considered a wonderful man and the public want him to stay on for another 20 years.

  15. Imtiaz,

    The Tories aren’t doing brilliantly in local council by-elections. That’s partly because most of the seats up for grabs were last contested at various high points of Tory support. England has vast numbers of Tory councillors. It will be disappointing for the Tories that they can’t hold on to all of them, but not entirely surprising.

  16. I think these poll results are fixed. A very small amount of the population has ever been asked their voting intention. I have never been asked in all the 12 years I have been voting. Whatever methodology these people use 1,000 people is too smaller amount to get a very accurate result. People do not normally change there voting attentions every week. I have joined the You Gov site and get hardly any surveys and have not been on a poll I think some pollsters are just biased to Labour .

  17. There are about 7 political phone polls a month, so for this year 70,000 or so people have been interviewed in them. Add in private polls and it’s probably still only 100,000 or so. In 12 years it’s no surprise that you’ve never been interviewed for a poll, on average you’ll be interviewed once every 400 or so years.

    Even for panel polls like YouGov, they’ve 250,000 people on their panel, and have done 50 or so polls with voting intention this year – so most people will not have been asked one.

  18. As Anthony says the polls are generally pretty accurate. Much experience has been developed by the main pollsters. a smaple of 1,000 is generally regarded as reliable to a MOE of 3%.

  19. It is difficult to see how there will be any other result in the GE but a Tory victory. The more interesting figure will be the percentage of the electorare participating -50%?

  20. JOHN C
    “It is difficult to see how there will be any other result in the GE but a Tory victory”

    While I would like to hope you are right you seem to be ignoring what may be the most important factor(s) that may influence the result i.e. the unexpected ones. Looking at the polls over the last few years the largest swings followed unforeseen events e.g. (1) Brown’s failure to have a GE in Autumn 2008 and his stated reasons for not having an election & (2) the favourable publicity he got at the time of the banking crises in Autumn 2009.

  21. Mike,

    In the absence of a crystal ball it is nonetheless difficult to foresee what those unknown / unforeseen events might be !

    As things stand, a Con victory remains the most probable (but not certain) result. Recent movements in polls may have eroded the probable margin, and even increased the possibility of a hung parliament. What we are still a very long way from is any reasonable likelihood of a Lab victory.

    There is still time for things to change, but any change in teh likely outcome will need to be driven by a major (unknown / unforeseen) event shifting the polls rather than continuation of existing trends.

  22. I rather liked Neil A’s well balanced review of what issues could affect the GE, but just to show how we shouldn’t take anything for granted there are already issues developing that he didn’t foresee. Revisiting dirty hospitals won’t help Labour, although unless the theme develops this is likely to be short lived and with minor long term consequences. However, the Zac Goldsmith story is potentially more damaging for the Tories, as it feeds into a strong and existing theme. I would imaging it means they have now lost another potential marginal, but one issue missing from Neil’s list was the Ashcroft factor. Cameron may have a serious vulnerability here, and the Goldsmith story edges attention closer to Ashcroft. Brown actually made a very good joke about Osborne’s IHT proposals in the Queen’s speech debate, and its clear Labour are targeting the ‘wealth and privilege’ angle. If any embarassments do emerge, even relatively minor ones, Cameron stands to lose rather a lot as he has staked so much on ‘cleaning up’ politics.

  23. Frederick Stansfield

    “In the past there was a sizeable “anybody but the Conservatives” (or perhaps anybody but Thatcher) vote. All the indications now are that there are a considerable number of “anybody but Labour” voters”

    These people are going to determine the outcome.

    You make a good point about the non-voting Nats. A majority over the other large party and the LibDems will do, most of the time. 30+ Labour’s Scottish MP’s will vote on English matters. The SNP will have only 10 MP’s but that’s 10 denied to Labour and the LibDems, and every little helps.

    They may or may not have enough to defeat a Conservative government on eg Trident, if Labour votes against.

    They would demand a lot for any formal arrangement short of coalition and would find it too difficult to be in Coalition at any acceptable price in the UK parliament, though not in the Scottish Parliament.

  24. This is probably a more appropriate thread.

    Politics Home are reporting Comres in the Independent as:

    C37(-3) L27(nc) LD 20 (+2)

    So re-enforcing the trend that (presumably) Lisbon has hurt the Conservatives (what else could it be?)

  25. It seems that raising awareness of the marginal nature of voters’ constituencies would assist the Conservative vote in those seats.

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