ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian is out. The topline figures, with changes from ICM’s previous poll at the beginning of the month, are CON 40%(nc), LAB 31%(+2), LDEM 18%(-1). Others are on 11%.

After conflicting polls from YouGov and ComRes over the weekend this one is very much in line with YouGov. Like their Sunday Times poll it shows the Conservative vote steady, but Labour gaining support at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and others. This is the lowest lead in an ICM poll since December last year, and on a uniform swing would leave the Conservatives narrowly short of an overall majority.

As with other polling, ICM didn’t find any particular enthusiasm for the PBR. While once again the tax on bankers budgets was found to very popular, overall the PBR was viewed less positively. Only 12% of people thought it would make things better, compared to 19% who thought it would make things worse. Cameron & Osborne retained a lead on who would do a better job managing the economy, 38% to 31%, but this down from 18 points two months ago.

109 Responses to “ICM too show the lead narrowing”

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  1. It would be good to see a poll of the marginals and see what they say.

  2. Anthony,

    As you say this is confirmation of YouGov but whether this is uniform across the country is the big question.

    Would you be kind enough to give us a link to the detailed figures for both YouGov and ICM when they are published?


  3. Another poll showing Labour reaching over 30% in the opinion polls.Although the PBR was unpopular it seems to have been more unpopular with the media rather than the voting public.I still can’t decide what accounts for this Labour improvement.

  4. With these figures the Tories are short of a majority but with only a 1% swing from Lab to Con the projection would be a Tory majority of 28.

    Given that there are only 3 Con/Lab marginals in Scotland within the Tories’ top 150 target seats, it could be argued that it would be more reliable to exclude Scottish opinion polls numbers when entering figures into the seat calculators. Labour have been doing better in Scotland recently which may be slightly increasing the Labour numbers in the opinion polls but wouldn’t have much affect on marginals.

  5. As i’ve said many times before – this election more than any other will be decided by the English Marginals.
    It would indeed give a much better picture if Scotland was removed from the UK picture and be much closer to the possible GE result.
    The strange thing with most of the last 6 polls is that the Conservative vote is still very much 40% ish but both Labour and the Lib Dems are all over the place.

  6. Well, Labour at least 4 points down on where they were this time last year ;)

    Merry Christmas to all Labour supporters. But I’m not sure so sure about a happy new year ;)

  7. David D -YouGov is already up, it’s linked from the previous post. ICM should appear in the next day or two. I’d be *extremely* cautious about trying to draw conclusions about where votes have shifted based on regional cross breaks though. They are small sample sizes, not internally weighted, and fluctate wildly from month to month. If you must do it, aggregate the data from lots of polls over several months (even then, I wouldn’t put too much weight on it).

  8. Likely to believe ICM and You Gov over BPIX and Angus Reid – and I sense the Cons believe that too. I sense increasing nervousness from Cameron and the Cons – Cameron’s recent ‘announcement’ regarding non-doms serving in his government only is a prime example in how they’re making policy on the hoof.

    Hopefully, their lead will further evaporate and further snap, ill thought out PR exercises will only highlight further how totally unsuitable they are for government.

  9. @ Philip JW

    “Well, Labour at least 4 points down on where they were this time last year”

    That could be 4 points they win back by the next round of polls. The employment trends will be key, I believe. Stable or improving employment figures would bring those 4 points back to Labour.

  10. I say Happy New Year to the entire country! This shows the Tories cannot win. Think about it before jumping to the conclusion that I am a Labour fan, I am not a supporter of any party. However, I would vote Labour now. Before the banking situation I would have voted for the Tories. They called it wrong on every issue. I’m boring I know but I have even gone through Hansard just to check what they were actually saying at the time. If the Tories have an average 10 point lead before the short campaign they would need to convert that into real votes. They will not. In fact the truth is the Tories will suffer shy voters like me. People that agree its time for a change but bottle it before the election.

    I’m lucky working in the public sector. I have kept my job and so as my other half. We’re on a tracker and have benefited to the tune of approx £450 p/m. The cost of living is falling.

    Thanks to boring Gordon I’m doing rather well thank you so Happy New Year to me, my family and the rest of the UK. The Tories cannot win.

    I spoke to the Labour MP where I live the other day. I told him that I thought GB was boring and dour. His reply was quite good, I thought. “If you get on a plane to go on holiday do you go to the flight deck to see if the pilot has a cheesey smile before you strap yourself into the seat, or are you just happy to think whether the captain is smiling or not I will trust him/her to get me there safely”. Good answer!!!

    I’m voting Labour and I’ve even thought about joining the Labour Party to help keep the Tories out!!!

  11. @Lin Rees – there have been discussions on a previous thread on the PBR and I think most of the polling evidence suggests it wasn’t popular, but that the Tory message of faster and deeper cuts is at present more frightening.

    For my part, I’ll be watching the Labour score – 31 is the new 40. There was lost of talk about the Tories slipping below the magic 40% mark but its months since Labour broke 31% in the polls. If they can move beyond this point it would demonstrate a more dynamic situation than just some core supporters returning.

  12. Mark Johnson – your comment reflects my own view on the subject. The last breakdown of a Scottish poll I saw had Labour on 42%, which is actually an increase on their share in 2005. So that may well be helping to give Labour a better showing in the national polls by 1-2% but as you say it won’t make much difference in terms of seats.

  13. Lin Rees,

    I still don’t understand why labour has done badly in the polls for so long. While I agree that Gordon Brown made some mistakes particularly with the 10 Percent tax, the 20 to 15 per cent lead by the concervatives was grossly an over reaction and not justifiable. Some of the negative response to GB’s efforts are despicable. A friend once told me that if GB had been an English man the reactions by both the press and the populace would have been more forgiving. As the election approaches the concervative lead will narrow even more, I believe people will be more dispersionate in making their choice. Peopel are selfish. They will focus on how the policies will affect them individually.

  14. If memory serves me right the unemployment figure is just below 2 and half million. The next time they are announced they will almost certainly be announced as rising above this line. Sadly, unemployment is set to rise for at least the first half of next year.

    Darlings forecast of only 1 to 1.5% growth for next year suggest to me that he is skeptical about any significant growth for the first half of year. For his past forecasts have always been overly optimistic.

    If other countries economies are growing well this will make him and Brown look bad. It will also mean that petrol prices will continue to leap up making the VAT increase even more unpopular.

  15. David C – do join the Labour Party – they need you.

    If the pilot has a serial track record of crashing the plane and is in the process of dismantling the engines for scrap and mortgaging the fuel, then no, I wouldn’t have confidence.

  16. Dave C says vote labour. You heard it here first.

    Shaping up to be an interesting GE.

  17. I think that the election result next year will be very different to the polls. I think there are no typical sample of voters anymore and each new poll seems to get very different results. Normally near election time the polls tend to move closer together but i’m not sure that that will be the case this time. The variation in polls is quite strange.

  18. What is the average swing back to the Governing party during elections (say 2 months) please Anthony?

  19. I can see the election posters now “LABOURS UNEMPLOYMENT BOMBSHELL”

  20. It seems to me that a concern I mentioned at the outset about the timing of PBR being so close to the run up to Christmas has been realized.

    People don’t like listening to bad news generally, but this is much more the case at this time of the year. Many tend during the Christmas season to spend as if laws of economics do not apply. Its only in the new year that the sober reality hits them.

    We shall have to wait and see. But the public mood may still turn grim and Labour’s popularity worsen as a result.

    Of course, the mess we are in is not just the governments fault, nor even the bankers but also a large section of the public who are deluded by the illusion of wealth that comes from borrowing.

    But it could be that the public will end up blaming the government as much as the bankers.

  21. @Paul B

    There is not that much variation in the polls. Angus Reid is different, yes, and consistently polls Labour way low of the other pollsters (outside their margin or error).

    The last Comres seems to be explained by sampling error (we now have 3 other polls with Labour on 30+). Comres is coincidentally similar to AR.

    We should get MORI tomorrow, and its likely to be within +-2% on 40/30/18, a Con lead between 6 and 14%.

    If it isn’t, then I’ll be surprised.

  22. “I am not a supporter of any party.” – David C, start of his post.
    “I’m voting Labour and I’ve even thought about joining the Labour Party” – David C, end of his post.


    Anyways, I’m not convinced that this apparent Labour boost is a result of returning economic optimism – the polls still seem to suggest that overall people think the economy is dire. I think Anthony’s theory that the government has been managing to avoid disasters since the Labour party conference is probably the most convincing explanation – Labour voters who would never consider voting for another party but who were alienated by the party’s infighting and incompetence at Westminster during the Spring and Summer are now returning to the fold it would seem.

  23. As there are a few non impartial contributions on this thread, may I add something I saw today that someone has devised in my constituency of Tatton, George Osborne’s territory.

    Someone had written ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ and next to the poster was another….
    ‘Osborne Has Never Worked!’

    An interesting GE ahead for us impartial’s!

  24. I still think that 1,000 people are always going to have different ideas from another 1,000 people. Someone who voted Lib dem last election from a poor background with a degree and good job could say he is going to vote labour because he likes Gordon Brown as a person. Someone who voted Lib dem last election from a poor background with a degree and good job could also say he is going to vote Tory because he fears for his job. They maybe in a simular sitation but have very different viewpoints. I still believe a larger sample using the same demographic and rules would work better. For example if you asked everyone in the country surely that would give you a better idea of the result. I have looked at random sampling before. It does state that 1,000 from a specific country demographic has some validity but still is not scientifically valid.

  25. @Simon M

    I would also agree that Labour’s recent climb has been due to lack of any disasters on their part recently, rather than positive actions. Considering the strings of catastrophes they’ve had previously, I was surprised that they didn’t go below the low 20s, but in calmer times (for Labour) it seems reasonable that some voters will return. The Tories and Lib Dems haven’t really shone lately either. It’s still hard to imagine Labour doing better than a hung parliament though – they’ve been in office a long time and alienated far too many voters.

  26. @Paul B

    “For example if you asked everyone in the country surely that would give you a better idea of the result.”

    OK, you start!

    Statistically the margin of error addresses the uncertainty of smaller sample sizes, and presumably the polling companies have concluded that the extra work of polling more people is not matched by the benefits of a smaller margin of error. They could do polls of 2000 people half as often I suppose, or we could just add the results of two consecutive polls.

  27. No votes for Labpur in the BA strike.BBC is stating some cabin crew are on £60 000 a year.

  28. £60,000 a year? That’s about 3 times the average. Most people whose flights are going to be disrupted are on a lot less than that.

  29. The Press Association article says of this poll that “the figures would almost certainly deliver Mr Cameron a majority in the Commons” while Anthony says a uniform swing would leave them short. If these statements were both true (and I don’t put too much faith in the PA analysis), it would mean that looking at uniform swings was next to useless…

    Is it a foregone conclusion that the party gaining votes will do better in terms of seats than they would under a uniform swing? And how big is this differential likely to be?

  30. The Press Association article I mentioned is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/8856880

  31. @ David C – rarely do we see comments as unpartisan as yours …

    As for this: “I told him that I thought GB was boring and dour. His reply was quite good, I thought. “If you get on a plane to go on holiday do you go to the flight deck to see if the pilot has a cheesey smile before you strap yourself into the seat, or are you just happy to think whether the captain is smiling or not I will trust him/her to get me there safely”. Good answer!!!”

    It’s only a good answer if you overlook the rather large differences between pilots and politicians, such as the fact that the ability to communicate and to persuade others to support your actions are essential to politicians but not to pilots.

  32. David C –

    That was about the most blatant piece of transparent partisan nonsense I have seen on this site, straight out of party central’s propaganda manual.

    Rehearse those lines eh?

  33. @YARIV
    ‘Is it a foregone conclusion that the party gaining votes will do better in terms of seats than they would under a uniform swing?’

    No,far from it.

    If a party picks up more votes in marginals and fewer in other parties’ safe seats, c.f. the previous GE, it can increase its seat numbers on a reduced overall share of votes.

    The Lib Dems have regularly – but not invariably – achieved this in GEs, so that the slightly more equal 3 weeks of media coverage they get during the GE campaign helps them to top the poll in a few more of the marginals they have ‘nursed’ in the years leading up to the GE, even if their overall national share declines.

    The Tories are hoping to cash in on this approach big time in the coming GE, through Baron Ashcroft of Belize in the County of Nondom having provided them with millions over the past four years, to spend on continuous local campaigning and media publicity in 150+ marginals.

    Hence, the Lib Dems and the smaller parties pressing for electoral spending rules that cover the inter-election period. Hence, the Tories’ refusal, and – as usual – Tweedledee Labour encamped with Tweedledum Tory on the moral low ground (the expediency of trade union funding beats the principle of fair representation any day!).

    The only hope for radical reform in the near future is that the UK’s bizarre electoral system produces one unquestionable reflection of electoral reality, namely a Parliament with no single party majority, since no UK party attracts anything approaching a majority of electoral support.

  34. Expected the labour vote to firm up in the run up to the GE.
    But with the tory vote looking steady too, it still doesn’t look good for the government.
    While the tories may or may not win the GE (ie a majority),
    The best labour can hope for is to be the biggest party in a hung parliament, as even a small swing from the gov to the tories loses the government its majority.

  35. David C’s comments may well explain why Labour’s support has hardened. People in the public sector are doing very well. They think the Conservatives are more likely to cut public spending and affect them negatively hence a vote for Labour.

    The reality though as some have already suggested is that Labour will cut just as harshly once an election is over. They cannot do anything else. Even Greece’s socialist government is having to do so. All economists agree that the public debt cannot be maintained and the bond markets are reflecting this.

    As someone running a business in the private sector, I know that almost all of the people I encounter loathe Labour with a passion. However, regional variations will apply and I accept that there are areas dependent on welfare handouts and public sector jobs where Labour suppport will be high.

    With the opinion polls now getting so close, I would predict that it is almost certain that we will have a March election. Brown would be nuts to bottle it again.

  36. @ David C

    “I’m lucky working in the public sector. I have kept my job ”

    I think your use of the Present Perfect Simple tense is wise.

  37. James – if I were in a plane and told that the pilot was imposible to work with and couldn’t communicate with his colleagues, or the passengers, I’d get off the plane immediately! There have been examples of plane crashes where co-pilots were over-ruled or failed to put a point across forcefully enough in the presence of a senior pilot.

    I’m not sure the analogy is helpful to anyone, but I just wanted to make the point that good communication is essential, can save lives, money and jobs.

  38. Andy,

    “£60,000 a year? That’s about 3 times the average. Most people whose flights are going to be disrupted are on a lot less than that.”

    That will be a long serving pilot responsible for hundreds of lives every day.

    Surgeons earn that kind of money and its a lot more than most of their patients earn, should we be cutting their pay?

    I don’t have a side in the BA dispute, but for me it’s a straight argument between BA and it’s staff and its up to both sides how they solve it and fight it.


  39. There ia an old story that outside the betting office there was 40 rusty bikes and a Jaguar. The punters owned the bikes and the bookmaker the Jaguar.

    I have read over the past few days comments on the recent polls. A survey of 1000 people is not representative of the nations views.

    Therefore I would refer people to the William Hill web site that states:-

    Odds on most seats at next general election:-

    Conservatives 1/14

    Labour 13/2

    Liberal Democrats 80/1

  40. @Paul B and Philip JW – regarding unemployment, it would be a serious mistake for the Torries to rely on this as the theme that delivers the election for them. Firstly, it will highlight the fact that unemployment has risen far less than expected. Second, bear in mind that the last figures actually showed a small increase in employment – weird, if you think about it. Finally, what the polls seem to be telling us now is that while Labour is not popular, the Tories are still feared by some – they need to define themselves more, rather than rely on events to help them.

  41. @ JohnTT – yes, that was my point, kinda.

  42. “we will have a March election. Brown would be nuts to bottle it again.”

    Cameron can now more or less choose March, simply by raising the spectre of The Bottler.

  43. @David C

    Like you both my wife and myself work in the public sector. UNLIKE you we realise that the public sector is bloated and due a hard smack (by either party). I personally would prefer a Party that will give me the freedom and resources to put myself back on my feet after this happens (ie set up our own business) than leave me stifled with little or no hope of job creation. For this reason I most certainly WILL NOT be voting Labour..
    what good is the bleeding pilot when the wings have come off the plane!!!

  44. WMA 40:29:18 – one month ago it was 42:29:18 so there seems to be a slow erosion of tory support. The trend over the last 143 days (there are 143 more days to the probable election) is for the CLead to drop by 4 points (R2=.56).

    This does not REMOTELY show that “the Tories cannot win” and to the extent that the votes are shifting in the Celitic Fringe and in safe Labour seats where >50% of the people are dependent on the state and vote Labour anyway it may not make a difference at the election at all.

    Since as far as I can see the entire establishment including the Civil Service have made up their minds that Cameron will be the next PM, I really doubt whether this trend wil continue. There will be more cock-ups and bad publicity. But it guards against Conservative complaceny at least.

  45. Well we all wanted confirmation as to where we really are and we have it. I was interested to see the Scottish figures removed
    last PM by Old Nat. It does make the Tory position look somewhat better, ie cosy little majority rather than possible hung
    parliament. I feel this is valid as others have commented, Scotland is going to be a battleground but not for the Labour
    Tory Westminister fight.
    @DAVID C
    Speaking of pilots, I feel in the interests of accuracy a 9 point lead in the polls does NOT suggest the Conservative Party
    “cannot win” as you put it. It is a partisan flight of fancy.
    Pilot, flight of fancy get it.

  46. I will declare my bias – I am a Labour PPC. However, it is not in my best interests to delude myself.

    The slight shrinking of the gap between us and the Tories is welcome, but we are still behind. Perhaps this is always the fate of Governments, especially in their third term. The state of the economy and the MPs expenses row has been very damaging.

    My view from my limited canvassing is that whilst the Government is unpopular, there is not a lot of enthusiasm for the alternative.

    It is going to be an interesting election, especially as incumbency is not the bonus it used to be.

    I leave you with one interesting thought. If the result is either a hung Parliament or a small majority for the Tories then I doubt we will see them survive a full-term. The Tories have a poor record in by-elections and will begin leaking seats straight away. If I were a gambler I would be tempted to have a flutter on a 2011 election.

  47. J A Brown – I wonder what inference to draw from your story about bookmakers being the winners. If the Tories are 1/14 and Labour 13/2, then that is very attractive odds if you are certain that the Tories will win. A very easy £1k if you put down half of this year’s bonus (!)

    then again, you might just be paying for a higher spec model for Mr W. Hill & co….

    You are much more circumspect than many who support Labour on this sight, and one is very glad to see it. Were things
    to improve further for Labour and the Conservatives really do get
    into trouble, (IMPO they are nowhere near trouble at present.)
    I very much hope we do not see Tory straw clutching comments
    to compare with Labour and fellow travellers which appear with regularity.

  49. Sam – the really huge Conservative leads tended to come at times when Labour was busy ripping itself apart with leadership speculation (not surprisingly, very unpopular).

    Paul B – there’s a natural tendency for polls to move together nearer elections because of the methodological differences. For example, while ICM/Populus’s topline adjustment was adopted to take account of “shy voters” – what it does in practice is predict, based on past experience, how don’t knows will end up voting. So if ICM and Populus are correct, we’d expect them to converge with other pollsters as people make their minds up. There are other examples in things like accounting for turnout.

    (More cynically, it’s better for a pollster to be wrong with everyone else, than be wrong by themselves. So a pollster who is predicting a different result from other companies may be tempted to look more carefully at their methodology as the election approaches and review it. A pollster whose results are in line with everyone else is less likely to have any such doubts in their own method)

    You should look at random sampling again, since what it actually says is that a random sample of 1000 people will give you a result that 95% of the time will be within 3 points of the “real” figure. A larger sample will give a smaller margin of error, but it is a case of diminishing returns (i.e. double the sample size to 2000 and it doesn’t become twice as precise, the margin of error would then be just over 2 points).

    Howard – there is no average swing back. The only sort of general trend you can draw is that the Lib Dems tend to gain support during the campaign itself. But even then, it depends where you draw the starting point, and it doesn’t always happen.

    Yariv – both statements are true, or truish. I’m not sure I’d go as far as “almost certainly”, but I would say that a nine point lead is very likely to deliver an overall Conservative majority, considering areas like Scotland where the Conservatives will not advance and the implausibility of a 6 point swing not having any effect on the pattern of tactical voting. However, most of these are not things that we can accurately predict in advance, so I’ll continue to count UNS as our base point. While I think it likely, it is not a given that the Conservatives will outperform it. In 1979 they underperformed on UNS.

    JABrown – a survey of 1000 people is indeed representative… 95% of the time it is within 3 points of the actual score. There’s an explanation of how it works here, and in fact it is built upon very simple first principles. (And I should point out, the bookie’s odds you produced don’t contradict the polls at all – those are for most seats. Every single poll this year shows levels of support that would give the Tories the most seats. They agree!

    JohnTT – and indeed Cameron is doing that. Which taken to its logical conclusion, suggests he doesn’t want a March election. Perhaps he is assuming that Labour cannot get through the budget without announcing some nasties.

  50. Having read the comments on this site for the last few weeks I’m amused to see fellow members of the public do what television journalists insist on doing – informing the public what the public think or will think or are going to think. Surely everyone of us being addressed know our own voting intentions and the reasons for them. The annoyance felt by members of one “team” or the other towards the mysterious “others” who seem to keep changing their minds is presumably the justification for it. Well why not just ask us? As someone who, had I been asked, might have appeared to shift voting intentions, maybe I can help explain some fair percentage of the shift back to labour….

    Firstly its always been my impression in the last several years that between elections people asked in polls “who would you vote for tomorrow” are answering a completely different question to the one being asked. What they’re really answering is “who is winning…who is getting the best coverage right now?” The idea that a huge number of people were content to vote labour but became fans of the conservative party when the fuel demonstrations occurred, or that people who had been committed to voting conservative suddenly decided they were social democrats at heart when Gordon Brown took over seems absurd. But that’s what the “who will you vote for?” opinion polls suggested. As I say, they were I believe actually answering a different question to the one being asked. That discrepancy inevitably diminishes in the approach to an actual election.

    A second casual observation is that during this long period of healthy conservative lead in the polls it has not generally materialised in by-elections. Conservatives have either done badly or have won with seemingly no increase in votes. The standard explanation for the latter beign “disenchated ” labour voters simply not bothering to vote at all. The ever shrinking turn outs in elections suggest its true..no matter what people say about how they’ll vote, so far few actually bother.

    My own political and moral leanings are to the left of the spectrum. I’d be classed as “natural” labour. But I haven’t voted labour since 1997. For the same reason as many others like me.. the very conservatism of many of its policies, particularly under Blair..from tuition fees to privatisations, to foreign policy. I’ve voted for other parties. But now for the first time since 97 there is the strong probabiliy an actual conservative party government, who do you imagine I’ll be voting for? I will inevitably go “back” to the labour party when faced with that – te me – horrifying alternative. I don’t for one second believe I’m unusual in that, or that the numbers doing so wouldn’t increase and intensify as polling day approaches. If I’d appeared in opinion polls I’d have represented a “mysterious” shft from “others” to “labour”.

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