The full tables for MORI’s poll are now available here.

A notable finding there is that economic optimism has significantly dipped since the PBR, down from plus 10 last month to minus 4 now. I think this is the first poll on economic optimism since the PBR, but is entirely in line with the YouGov/Sunday Times poll that showed people becoming much more negative about the country’s current economic situation after the PBR.

Turning to voting intention, there is a shift in propensity to vote, 68% of Tory voters now say they will definitely vote, compared to 61% last time. The proportion of Labour voters who say they will actually vote is down 2 points to 49%.

However, the biggest difference between this month and last is the make up of the sample itself. The past vote breakdown in this poll was CON 22%, LAB 28%, LDEM 9% (the equivalent, if you exclude did not votes and so on, of CON 33%, LAB 43%, LDEM 14%). Compare this to last month’s past vote breakdown of CON 19%, LAB 30%, LDEM 10% (the equivalent of CON 29%, LAB 46%, LDEM 16%). It is the lack of political weighting that has produced such extreme switches in support in MORI’s recent polls – ICM last weekend had a similarly pro-Labour sample, but their weighting brought it back to showing a much smaller swing.

MORI do not weight by past vote because of false recall. The question is not whether false recall exists or not (all the established pollsters accept that), but how variable it is. ICM and Populus believe it is generally steady and doesn’t change wildly from month to month (the implication is that it is largely the result of a social desirability bias making people claim to have voted when they didn’t, and the way people report tactical voting). MORI believe that it does genuinely vary slightly from month to month, and that there is the potential for it to change significantly (the implication there being that it changes with people’s current political preferences).

Politically weighting polls makes them less volatile. However, MORI’s contention would be that the public are genuinely very volatile, and that companies like ICM and Populus risk weighting out genuine volatility. There’s no way of proving with certainty who is correct, though one thing to look at is the results of YouGov, who take a notably different approach. YouGov weight by party ID rather than past vote, but more importantly, they weight using information given by their panellists in the past (either on election day 2005 or when they joined the panel), rather than using data collected as part of that day’s survey. So, while YouGov’s weighting targets could be wrong, they can at least be confident that they are not changing from day to day. Their method would not dampen down genuine volatility, and their figures are one of the less volatile.

For those of you not bored to tears by discussion of methodology there is, incidentally, a one-day conference at the Royal British Academy next month (jointly hosted by the British Polling Council and the National Centre for Research Methods) discussing approaches to polling methodology, featuring Peter Kellner, Andrew Cooper, Martin Boon, Nick Moon and – most relevantly to this, John Curtice discussing whether it is safe to weight by past vote (Simon Atkinson of MORI is also there to put what I expect will be the counter argument!). More info here.


83 Responses to “More on Ipsos MORI’s poll”

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  1. What stands out to me is how often the C lead has been at 17% and how consistent the C share is at 40-42%. The lead then seems to fluctuate wildly by 10%.

    It suggests to me that there is 10% of the electorate, left leaning, who do not know who to vote for. e.g. L no longer deserves their vote, LD maybe, and voting for a small party seems attractive but will help the Cs.

    Just for whom and if this group of people vote will make the difference between a tiny C majority and a huge one.

  2. James

    Philllipe is clearly one of those ‘in denial’ Labour supporters who appear on this blog from time to time and sprout daft assertions . Next he will tell us that Polly Toynbee is a Tory plant in the Guardian. …

  3. @ SURBITON

    What you fail to grasp is that many ukip supporters will vote conservative in a GE. They are not going to risk a pro europe labour party back in by voting UKIP and risking the tories losing power. Many will vote UKIP in elections that they don’t ‘see as matter’ such as the locals and Europeans (mainly as a protest).
    As i have said before the BNP vote is more likely to influence Labours figures than the Tories. The BNP support mainly comes from ‘working class’ electorate which is traditionally Labours forestay.

  4. Oldnat – MORI continue to do it because that’s what they’ve done since 1983 or so, it’s to keep a consist data series that can be compared over a long period of time, an admirable principle.

    Surbiton – At one election (1987 I think, though it could have been earlier) NOP did that, and only polled in marginal seats. The fact that the experiment wasn’t repeated suggests it wasn’t seen as a great success!

    Tapestry – they might think that, but in practice they still weight by past vote and standard demographics. Their voting intention figures do not include any emotional response questions.

  5. @ Surbiton

    Re: Reigate

    It depends what the turnout was like. Because it is Tory territory you may find voter apathy, perhaps many Tories werent that bothered because its a safe seat.

    More interesting will be Carshalton & Wallington in the GE as i think the Lib Dem (Tom Brake) will be ousted and I wouldnt be surpsrised if Sutton & Cheam falls to the Tories either. These will be interesting battle grounds.

  6. I’m puzzled by Anthony’s assumption that the fall in economic confidence shown in this poll is related to the PBR.

    The PBR showed that this year’s deficit was slightly larger than had previously be reported – £178m versus £175m. The former figure was scary enough and I doubt that anyone’s views on the economic outlook were changed by that, especially given that the only people who would have understood the PBR were those who were already quite aware of the situation. The other elements of the PBT – next year’s deficit and the forecast for slow growth in fiscal 2010 – were not that different from what had previously been reported, and if anything less prominently reported/commented on. Tax increases on the middle classes in 2011 are too far away to have an impact. For the majority of people, the only thing they will remember about the PBR is the tax on bank(er)s.

    I suspect that it’s more mundane things like the collapse of Borders, the (at the time anticipated) BA strike and the unexpected reports of slower-than-expected retail sales in November that last weekend impacted economic confidence.

    As I said a few days ago, pre-Xmas polls are inherently volatile and parties would be unwise to rely on them. That said, the Tories must be happier this year than last at this point.

  7. Sorry, the first main sentence should have read:

    “The PBR showed that this year’s forecast deficit was slightly larger than had previously been reported – £178m versus £175m.”

  8. @ Leslie

    Still a big defecit which ever way you look at it.

    I also agree tha th Tories wil be the happier of the parties at this stage. Not sure what you think about the polls n general but the volatility seems to be more with Labour, Lib Dems and undecided voters. the Tories vote appears to be quite stable?

  9. @ Leslie

    Apologies for the spelling but I have a sticky key pad!!

  10. Regarding the relevance of local bye-elections/council/euro elections to a GE result. Am I right that if anything there appears to be a negative correlation between results in those races and an immediately following (or simultaneous) GE? I recall that in 2007, the Tories were doing well in these other elections.

    If I’m right, then it could be explained by a “consolation prize” mentality – supporters of the probable winners in the GE don’t feel the need to come out to vote in a “minor” election while supporters of the probable losers want to show that they can win something at least.

    This would imply that recent council bye-election results are a bad not good sign for Labour!

  11. Leslie,

    I think you’re right that there is a negative correlation between local authority by-election results and the subsequent general election, but I don’t think its anything to do with an emotional response by the electorate. Its much more to do with Mid Term Blues for the ruling party.

    It is almost always the case that the popularity of the ruling party dips midterm, and then rebounds as the election approaches. Sometimes that can mean falling massively behind and then winning the next GE handsomely (like the Tories in the 1980s) and sometimes it merely means that a very popular government manages to fall a little behind in midterm (early Blair).

    Of course, local elections are often held during these midterm downturns, and so the ruling party often does very badly in them as a result. As the GE approaches the ruling party will therefore start to do much better in local elections as the country moves out of “midterm blues mode” and back to its more established political loyalties.

    So when looking at the Tory performance in these by elections, consider that when those seats were last fought the Tories may well have been 15-20% in the polls and utterly slaughtering Labour at the local ballot box. That won’t of course explain every swing in every seat, but its the context we have to bear in mind.

  12. Leslie “I’m puzzled by Anthony’s assumption that the fall in economic confidence shown in this poll is related to the PBR.”

    I don’t think the actual PBR figure this year would have influenced many people. What is far more relevant is that the Chancellor failed to present departmental borrowing estimates for the next few years & failed to demonstate how the deficit would be halved. This was picked up by the media & by the financial markets & there is an increased awareness of a cover up.

  13. Anthony

    Point taken re MORI. However, the facts that they now extract the England only data in their tables – thus covering the largest of the UK’s political systems – and that their political polls are not commissioned, may not be unrelated.

  14. The Euro elections are very different to UK elections. This is due to the fact the UK public is in the main anti-european union. So they either vote UKIP or a party that is less pro europe or they don’t vote at all. However, few would vote UKIP nationally as a lot of people only see them as a anti-europe party but don’t know what else they stand for.

  15. AW

    Tried for a number of days to comment on the Sunderland Central constituency but it seems to be blocked ?

  16. ‘SURBITON
    There is no need for an “English” poll. Just the top 200 marginals [ anywhere ] will suffice. After all, these are the seats that will decide the outcome as per FPTP. In fact, polling the rest is a waste of time.’

    Surely an English poll or the top 200 marginals are as near enough the same thing?

  17. Andy Stidwell

    I am not sure that Labour support in Scotland is solidifying or even that the decline has stopped, but It won’t make much difference to the result either way.

    In Glasgow and the West Labour can lose bucketfuls of votes without another party coming near to winning, and North of the central belt they can lose half of their poor third or fourth place votes without anybody even noticing.

    I expect little change overall and a Lab/Con majority of 31-33.

    The SNP will “lose” by only increasing their seats by two thirds. FPTP will ensure that even if the SNP approximately match Labour’s share of the vote they will only be rewarded with a third as many seats and this will obscure the fact that a very modest rise in SNP support next time could flip FPTP and disproportionately return a majority of SNP MP’s.

    Next time round, Labour could lose 20 seats to the SNP.

    A Conservative Government with a small majority is likely to have other pressing considerations and little time for, or interest in, Scotland to see the opportunity an early election would create.

    They could, by calling an early election (which Labour could not afford to fight), so damage Labour that it would not be able for many years to present itself as a viable alternative government and it would not be necessary to win a single additional seat in Scotland or even in England to achieve that outcome.

  18. “I don’t think the actual PBR figure this year would have influenced many people”

    I’m sure i’m not alone in, having watched and digested the PBR on the day, thinking “no worse than expected” and being surprised by the media coverage.

    I’m sure the media coverage affected opinion (especially the print media) , it was universally very anti-government.

    When Darling gets up and delivers bad news Labour’s vote seems to crumble in favour of Libs/others/don’t knows. The same happened after the Budget.

    For the periods in between Darling’s big occasions, we are offered investment (as opposed to tory cuts) which seems to be an altogether more palatable option.

  19. Correction:

    Next time round, Labour and the LibDems could lose 20 seats to the SNP.

  20. To quote today’s FT: “Britain is emerging from the crisis weaker than other developed economies, and notably more vulnerable than Germany and France. It seems hard to overstate the pain in store when the next government embarks on the steps necessary to restore the public finances. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have wrecked the economy. Soon, even ostriches will be obliged to notice.”

    The PBR seemed to be when it finally began to sink in. Look also at the comments on Jackie Ashely’s ” If Labour found a new energy, we could see a hung parliament” in <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/20/cameron-enigma-politics-labour-voters&quot; the Guardian

  21. To Phillipe, income tax has gone down 4% since labour came to power .National insurance has gone up 4% for employees and employers a double tax, the first time it was sold as money for the the nhs the latest 1% is to plug the debt we are not all completly stupid.Ni is labours new income tax.

  22. @ Shopkeeper Man

    I wonder if the reactions to the PBR are better explained if you think that most people are not that politically-minded.

    Someone once did a poll on sleaze after the revelations about Robin Cook et al, and I think most people thought that Robin Cook was a Tory, because Tories were the ones who slept around.

    Maybe it was important because the Treasury had partially downgraded its predictions towards those predicted by everyone else, so now everyone was predicting DOOM, if not all at the same volume.

  23. Craig,
    I agree. High Finance is of no interest to most people, but the things which I remember are that NI is going up, and public sector pay rises are being limited to 1%.

    People notice what hits their pockets directly.

  24. It’s interesting that people like Jackie Ashley are still hoping for Labour to hold onto power in a hung parliament because the only way Labour can stay in office is probably going to be through an utter reliance on Nick Clegg and I can’t see that being something that most Labour MPs are going to be very enthusiastic about.

    Best case scenario for Lab is probably something like:
    C – 290
    Lab – 270
    LD – 60

    Even with all LD MPs supporting Labour they’d only have a majority of about 10 seats. Quite a few Labour MPs might decide they’d rather go into opposition than put up with that sort of situation. Anyway, I don’t think the LDs are going to be very enthusiastic about propping up a 13-year old Labour government.

  25. Tapestry, What are emotional response questions? I could imagine some but is this a technical term for a defined sort of question? Are they intended to evince an emotional response or to measure intuitive voting behaviours rather than calculated advantage behaviours?

  26. Craig,
    I agree. High Finance is of no interest to most people, but the things which I remember are that NI is going up, and public sector pay rises are being limited to 1%.

    People notice what hits their pockets directly.

    Pete B

    Indeed. However, during the campaign it would be made abundantly clear that the Tory position is a freeze on public sector pay for two years and whilst they are pledged to reverse the NI increase, I believe that promise is limited only for the Employers contribution. I am prepared to be corrected.

  27. Surbiton – At one election (1987 I think, though it could have been earlier) NOP did that, and only polled in marginal seats. The fact that the experiment wasn’t repeated suggests it wasn’t seen as a great success!

    Anthony, the problem could be to get the “correct” demographic data. After all, data for England or UK is more readily available. I don’t think data is compiled by constituencies which by definition is only a transient area.

    However, since last vote appears to be the most popular method of sample profiling, then lack of data for these “200” seats becomes irrelevant. I cannot see any methodological problem in doing this. It was as if UK consisted of only these 200 seats. I believe the result should be more focused.

  28. Apparently a new poll out tonight from Comres, Conservative lead down to 9 points (-8 points on last Comres, -1 on last month in the Indy. No figures yet, but sunds in line with YouGov and the last ICM and Populus.

    http://todayinpolitics.independentminds.livejournal.com/

  29. There is a poll out later, but as my post telling you about it has gone into moderation (is it embargoed?), you’ll have to trawl the web for it yourself! Have fun! :-)

  30. Now there is to be a television debate between the three leaders, there could be a late change as one candidate shines or messes up.

    I would anticipate DC doing best. However, I am a little surprised that he has given the others the opportunity when in a strong postion.

    It would have been interesting to have had a Chancellor debate, which I think Vince C would have won easily.

  31. @ Davey

    I reckon that Cameron has the most to lose too, but perhaps he would look weak to back out if the other 2 gave it the nod, whilst he’s still odds-on favourite to look the best.

  32. Apparently a new poll out tonight from Comres, Conservative lead down to 9 points (-8 points on last Comres, -1 on last month in the Indy. No figures yet, but sunds in line with YouGov and the last ICM and Populus.

    http://todayinpolitics.independentminds.livejournal.com/

    I read the url. It talked about a poll “tomorrow” on the 21st !

  33. ‘DAVEY
    Now there is to be a television debate between the three leaders, there could be a late change as one candidate shines or messes up.
    I would anticipate DC doing best. However, I am a little surprised that he has given the others the opportunity when in a strong postion.’

    Cameron would have to accept or he’d be viewed as chicken; he’s not yet the PM so couldn’t avoid it.

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