There is a startling YouGov poll in tomorrow’s Sunday Times. The topline figures, with changes from Thursday, are CON 37%(-2), LAB 35%(+2) (this is from the News of the World which doesn’t have the Lib Dem figure). The 2 point lead is the smallest YouGov have recorded since the election-that-never-was back in 2007 and if repeated at a general election would leave Labour comfortably the largest party in a hung Parliament.

The poll will no doubt send a shiver through the Conservatives (and perhaps tempt Gordon Brown towards calling a general election, though the speculation over a March 25th election would require the dissolution of Parliament on Monday, and a “wash up” period for outstanding legislation of only a single day seems exceptionally unlikely. The early election rumour de jour now seems to have shifted to April.).

The question people are likely to ask is whether it is real. Well, the changes from the previous poll are well within the margin of error. YouGov’s polls this week have been very consistent in showing a 6 point lead, and these figures are actually within the margins of error of a true position of CON 38%-39%, LAB 32%-33%, which has been the position all this week. It could just be sample variation – or it could be a further narrowing of the lead. With just a single poll, it’s impossible to tell. All I can say is what I always say when a poll shows sharp movement – until we see some more polls that support or contradict the further narrowing of the polls – be wary.

With a poll like this I expect there to be a lot of rather, erm, excitable discussion, there is a second open thread here for all your gloating, yelling, arguing, ranting and hair-pulling needs, while the normal comments policy will apply here for non-partisan discussion of the poll itself.

UPDATE: The Lib Dems are on 17% and the full tables are here


350 Responses to “YouGov show Tory lead dropping to TWO points”

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  1. No matter what your political colour is, if this trend holds up, then the upcoming general election could be extremely interesting and exciting.

  2. I’m wondering whether the recent contraction in the polls has also been the reason for the slight fall in LD support – people may now be buying into this as a 2 horse race – we didn’t really have that in 97/01/05

  3. And this from the Guardian:

    There was also alarming news for Cameron as a new Ipsos MORI poll for the Observer showed more people (29%) believed that Labour “stands for the things you believe in” than the Tories (27%). More people also thought of themselves as Labour (32%) than Conservative (30%), with 15% backing the Liberal Democrats.

  4. The Tory campaign has been a shambles and as the lead fell it has been getting worse. We now have a situation where the pre election campaign was based on austerity for the last twelve months and all of a sudden it is now tax cut and spend yourself out of a recession. Is it any wonder their percentages are falling, does anybody know where they stand now is it austerity or is it tax cut and spend.

    The electorate mustn’t have a clue what is going on so why would they vote for them.

    If the future trend continues, which it might not, I am shocked myself on how the lead has disintegrated, however a continued trend would only lead to one thing….a Labour lead.

  5. I have just chatted to a colleague who is abroad and an avid Tory – she said ‘what have they been doing wrong to slump in the polls’.

    The answer is probably nothing, just that the electorate are having a closer look at all parties as the GE approaches and are having to make a decision on who think they will best look after their interests.

    The Tories problem is they can’t say what they really want to do because it has clearly frightened people and by not doing so they are risking infighting which will make matters worse.

    Labours problem was Brown but is he somehow becoming their main asset?

    The Libs just need to carry on sitting on the fence – their best prospect of retaining the most seats in a GE which will see the most tactical votes beingcast since ’97.

  6. I think the movement is real but I still think the polls are over-estimating Labour support. We know that in every recent election Labour support has been over-estimated; it’ll be quite an achievement if the pollsters manage to completely avoid that this time round.

  7. Amber

    Where’s my bottle I’ve been saving lol ;-)

  8. I’ve applied all my political analysis skill and experience to these trends and have concluded that, for Gordon Brown, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. A bullying story a day for the next three weeks and Labour will hit 40. Extraordinary.

  9. I wouldn’t think that Labour HQ would be getting too excited by this. They are too long in the tooth to believe one swallow maketh the summer. I would expect shear panic at CCHQ. I personally think it is just sample variation.

    Excellent idea Anthony to open up two threads.

  10. The Tories problem is that they believed they could walk to victory and didn’t take Brown serious enough. Now they got a fight on their hands, they don’t know what to do.

    Brown is also advantaged now, because he is seen as the underdog, surviving coups, a hostile media, and opposition attacks. I think the British public like an underdog, reguardless of who it is.

  11. Without getting carried away, this is a disastrous poll for Con and a great one for Lab. I think as the election looms people are flooding back to Labour, no doubt in part to revised growth figures, wobbly tory economic policy and a general hollow message of change, Obviously, there needs to be a few more polls to see if this is legit, but I am pretty confident its an accurate account of the public mood.

  12. @ AL J

    I left a comment for you on the 2nd open thread.

  13. I am seriously worried by this poll. The problem is it isnt just one poll there clearly is a trend and its not a good one for us Conservatives no matter what we bluster.

    We cant have five more years of GB surely!

  14. Its a sharp movement, but within sample error, one more poll and then maybe the GE to hit the fan… This IS getting interesting…

  15. OK, poll fans:

    Either CON voters are trying to prompt an early election by lying about who they will vote for;
    or
    Polls are over-weighting towards LAB;
    or
    CONS are in serious trouble.

    This should not happen right after their Scottish conference & during their English one.

    What is the verdict re my 3 scenarios (above)?

  16. Geraint,
    I think you’re right and the Tories are making a mistake to attack Brown personally – it’s been shown to backfire.

    Brown may become Labours best asset and Cameron the Tories worst. Presentation and spin were Blair’s best attributes, people may feel different this time – most people are fighting to keep their life together during this recession, they may feel more associated with Brown than Cameron. It’s just an observation but it’s what I’m picking up from people in general of all political persuasions.

  17. Amber

    You made some good points.

    We need to wait for the Trend ;-) Again lol

    Hopefully it will be born out, but I will take it in my stride now after going berzerk for 10 minutes.

    Do you think they could even be in freefall ?

    ”Austerity UK” isn’t working……………..

  18. Amber star,

    I think its disastrous for the Tories. Not because i think that Lab are now going to go on and win a majority, my firm belief is that Lab will be 10-15 seats short. Its a disaster because of how far the tories have fallen in their lead in the last month from a position where most were resigned to a Con win outright. I think its still likely that the pollsters are overestimating the Labour vote as they have done before, but either way, it still shows a sharp reduction in the tory lead.

  19. Richard , you definitely have something there. You don’t need some smooth operator salesman type telling the country what is going to happen with big smiles and money getting thrown at him from business and millionaires, not only getting all this money, but their supporters are bragging about it.

    The we have Labour, Brown dour, craggy faced politician, seems to be getting attacked by the hour, dragged form pillar to post. His Party has the election campaign spending of two shillings to scratch together compared to the Tories.With the vast majority of the newspapers getting more and more personal against him by the day.

    In a time of a recession, there is only one of those two people that many voters will have affinity with and even if they don’t like him personally, he seems to have made a connection.

  20. I have been expecting a CON climb-back against LAB from nervous UKippers returning to the CONs.

    It hasn’t happened yet; but I’m thinking it will.

  21. Well, we’ll see what happens when Brown finally gets round to calling the election and the parties start getting equal coverage.

    But certainly Labour and their friends’ media blackout of the Tories has had an effect.

  22. Amber

    Do you think Nigel Farage outburst has affected the polls?
    Tory voters like his attack on Van Rompuy and are moving that way? You may be right that they come back!

  23. Redrag,

    As a non partisan contributor, my opinon is that you are exactly right and I have no doubt that the hitherto silent majority of Tories will now force Cameron to move to the right. With such a short space of time left until the GE, there is no doubt they are in trouble and do not have sufficient time to change tack without looking to be wobbling.

    Watch out for a bombardment of anti Labour stories in the papers though!

    If Charles K was still the leader of the Lib’s, he would undoubtedly be talking to Labour about some sort of power sharing which would squeeze the Tories another % or two and give the Libs their best chance of some power for generations.

    The next 4 weeks will make or break Cameron’s political career, my view is, his team are too weak and lack the appeal that he needs to get that 40% they require. David Davis would have had far more appeal in these dificult times than Cameron- someone that the majority could have more affinity with – a bit like Brown.

  24. Putting any personal enjoyment aside: I have to say my gut feeling is this is a rogue.

    With this a rogue and by Tuesday/ Wednesday we would have had three/ four days of the new Tory strategy of explaining policy aims (and 24/48 hours since Cameron’s big Spring conference speech) I anticipate a Poll with a 7 or 8 point lead by wednesday.

    Of course then the Tories will say “see- we started to explain our policies and there has been a 3% swing in three days”.

    But that would be just as bogus as this poll.

    I’d like to see a non YG poll again !!

  25. @ AL J

    UKippers returning may just pile up votes in safe CON seats; but I think the points would hearten the CONS.

    The CONS’ve got be feeling stunned by this. Can this really closing of the gap really happen without being reflected in the marginals too? I’d say not; & the CONS are going to put their own, private poll into the field.

    That’s when we’ll know if the UKippers can save the save the CON bacon or not.

  26. Anthony, what would be useful and which only you can provide is how many times over the last 5 years have YouGov polls shown major shifts that in retrospect were anomalies?

  27. Just read the Observer passage:

    ” More people also thought of themselves as Labour (32%) than Conservative (30%), with 15% backing the Liberal Democrats.”

    These identification of political stripe numbers ARE interesting (and REALLY bad news for David Cameron’s Conservatives)…..but I still think this is a rogue poll.

  28. Richard, agree with everything you said with the exception of “Watch out for a bombardment of anti Labour stories in the papers though!”.

    I have never seen an election where the media have gone for one party and especially one man in such a way. Even the Tories in 1997 didn’t get this.

    I think Brown has had that much thrown at him now, it doesn’t really matter. The Voters are getting Brown attack fatigue and it is in some voters eyes working the opposite direction, some who were once hostile are feeling sorry for him. In fact the more they attack, it may actually be better for Brown.

  29. Redrag, nonsense. The media was far more anti-Tory in 1997 than anti-Labour now.

    Pro-Tory: Sun, Express
    Pro-Labour: Guardian, Independent, Mirror
    Usually pro-Tory but viscerally anti-Cameron: Telegraph, Mail.

  30. Amber

    My guess is the Tories had wind of this trend already. They have been panicking. I remember Alec mentioning the special meeting that Osborne held with Coulson and co.

    Their private polling must be telling them the same thing.

    See you tom am. Great news ;-)

  31. As ever regional breakdowns will be VERY interesting. We know Labour are resurging in scotland what about e+w?

    This is terrible for the Tories, but what is the game changer? I can’t find a narrative, also the height of others might give some clue as to the Ukipers.

    A swing to the right, would I believe gain more votes but lose more seats…

    Brown won’t call an election until Labour overtake the tories in the lead…

    One must also take note of the increase of the Labour weightings, why? and is it true?

    I believe the Cons will win, fairer media coverage and a few PPBs will see to that, also marginals (are the votes going UP UP UP in Labours heartlands?) the question is by majority standards or not…

  32. Interesting.Polls themselves can affect the political mood of voters and in turn party activists.The media line for over two weeks now has been ‘Tory lead slipping’ , this could encourage previously demoralised Labour supporters and activists to rally.It could also encourage a ‘stop Cameron’ effect developing among Lib Dem voters or those who have yet to make up their mind. People who hate Brown and Labour are surelyalready in the numbers.

  33. While this poll is quite likely to be a rogue, it is within the margin of error for polls conducted over the last fortnight or so. In any case a hung parliament looks more and more likely each day. So what way will this go. Will it be a minority government or will the LDs step in to form a coalition.

    A minority government will appear weak and possibly have difficulty passing harsh budgetary and economic legislation; as such the markets will crucify us with hiher interest rates on massive public debt.

    Provided that a LD supported coalition was a stable one and that the larger party gave them influence commensurate with their support in terms of ministries etc. then perhaps this sort of consensus government would work.

    My own personal hunch is that Lab will fall short on the numbers by about twenty. Certainly a coalition would be a different government, even if led by one of the major parties. Nonetheless, the LDs could provide a breath of fresh air into the beleagured political system.

  34. @Darren Blunt

    Fairer media coverage will help the Tories?Have you been watching the same anti Brown barrage as the rest of the country for the past two years? The Tories have been riding a wave of pure media ‘honey’ for two years with the only narrative being how useless Gordon Brown is.I’d suggest if they are not miles ahead by now they never will be.

  35. I confess not to understanding comments claiming anti-Tory bias in media.
    It seems to me quite the opposite:
    Mail Express Telegraph, Sun – all wildly Tory and anti-Labour – even if some of their excess and pushing the Tory cuts line is inadvertently boosting Labour…
    Times – More Tory than Labour tho does vary in terms of main political reporting and leaders – but olumnists such as Danny Finkelstein wildly anti-Lab
    Independent – more Lab than Tory tho certainly not uncritical of Labour and Brown – far from it…
    Guardian – Anti-Brown and very critical of Labour much of the time but certainly not sold on the Tories either despite some flirting from time to time
    Mirror – only solidly pro Labour pro Brown paper

    Then in addition compare the circulation figures of each of the pro Tory papers to the more neutral papers – and they massively outsell…

    Television coverage, which is probably more influential I guess, is more neutral…

    I think people are starting to move back to Labour despite the press to be honest…

    But 24 hours is a very long time in politics and polling these days it seems…!!:)

  36. Two years? What about the last month?

  37. Tom:

    “Mail […] Telegraph, […] – all wildly Tory and anti-Labour ”

    Nonsense. Have you read them in the last year? Neither can stand Cameron, plus the Mail’s editor is a close personal friend of Brown — and it shows.

  38. When or indeen will we know the Lib Dem % of the vote in this poll, that will be very interesting to see. Almost all polls are now pointing to a hung parliament. It certainly not going to be a Tory landslide, as people were predicting as little as a year ago.

  39. @LONDONSTATTO

    “Redrag, nonsense. The media was far more anti-Tory in 1997 than anti-Labour now.”

    Sorry but that is just completely wrong.

    The media largely ignored the cringingly embarrassing Major and his band of irrelevant ministers- so caught up in were they in Blair-Mania-fever and the new labour-media love fest.

    Today we have *every* paper save (grudgingly) Observer-Guardian and Mirror (!) plus the entirety of Sky News and ITNs Tom Bradby out to bat for the Conservative every single day of the week.

    The two elections – and the treatment of the two PM’s- ace polar opposites.

    If you mean by- ‘treating Major far worse’- the Oscar Wilde notion (‘better to be talked about badly than not talked about at all’) then you might have a (partial) point !!!!

  40. Darren Blunt

    I agree that the most likely situation is still a question of largest party as opposed to having a majority. But i feel its highly doubtful the tories will be the largest party – the trajectory of the polls is clearly in Labours favour and i think we are now beginning to see voting intentions crystalize due to the closeness of the election. However, i do feel any polls which might point to a slight Labour majority would have to be taken with caution – given that the tories are likely to gain a bigger swing in the marginals.

  41. @yozza

    I disagree only with regards to the previous 2 months (or there abouts) when they haven’t and Labour have frozen them out and *surprise surprise* their lead has fallen dramatically.

    The narrative has switched from Useless Ditherer Brown to Bully Brown which in my opinion has just made people feel sorry for him in what they percieve as negative propaganda- hence he tries hard- hence vote for him…

  42. To: Londonstatto

    Yes, I read most of the press’ political coverage most days…

    I would be interested to hear you substantiating your points in more detail!:)

    Still if most people see it the way you do, I am not complaining!:)

    Cheers
    Tom

  43. @LONDONSTATTO

    “Nonsense. Have you read them in the last year? Neither can stand Cameron, plus the Mail’s editor is a close personal friend of Brown — and it shows.”

    You are way off beam- people just have to read these papers or watch the TV to know that as well.

    The commentators and editorials of the papers you cite are not pro labour: they are ANTI WET TORY and think that Cameron has been ‘sold a bill of goods’ by advisors who told him to ditch his (actual) Thatcherite FCS I-grew-up-in-the-1980’s innate philosophy and tack to the centre right.

    They want him to be a hard right Thatcherite as they believe that- with such Thatcherite red meat alongside Churchilliian rhetoric- the Tories would win a massive majority.

    Chief cheerleader for this bonkers nonsense seems to have become SN and Torygraph Essex Omnibus everyman Jeff Randall who seems to have taken rather to the platform of the Tea Party movement in USA

    Just like the Bennite Trots and Scargellites Trots in the 1980’s- who designed the ‘longest suicide note in history’ (the 1983 labour manifesto)- such a ‘turning right back to Bruges’ (or- correctly- Brugge) would be a dead end for the Conservatives.

  44. NOTW ‘believe’ the lead is down to 2% based on a rumour. read the story, not just the headline

    the real figures are CON 39%(+1), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 16%(-3)

    muchos discussion on politicalbetting.com

  45. Times now got their report up…LD’s 17

  46. Jonathan Oliver’s piece now posted in the S Times is interesting – and even before this latest poll chronicling the increasing internal tensions within the Tory party – which had been more dormant while Camreon seemed like a winner…

    Now with this latest poll it is tempting to speculat that the volume will be pumped up on the mutterings within the Tory party – which one might think would further damage thier credibility with the electorate…blah blah blah…

    For the first time, I can genuinely see the possibility, if not probability of an outright Labour win…

    If so, Brown may well have the last laugh over his many many critics…not least in the media…at least until all the **** facing any new government hits the fan …

    But maybe this is wishful thinking on my part…

  47. Looking at the YouGov tables now available via link on S Times one of the questions I don’t think so farhighlighted which I found interesting, in terms of the results is:

    Who would you trust more to raise you and your family’s standard of living?
    Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling 28 (28)
    David Cameron and George Osborne 27 (33)
    Neither 36 (31)
    Don’t know 9 (8)

    (Figures in brackets are previous figures from YouGov poll 17/18th Feb)

  48. I’ll be blunt, I think this is a rogue poll also. Th narrowing in the polls is not unexpected and most commentator are agreed on the proximate causes of it. However, I see no good reason for the elad to have droed THIS precipitously so fast.

    I will base my predictions on a 4-6% lead at present.

  49. I haven’t commented on this site for several months, largely because I wasn’t sure if either the polls would show any material change or I could add anything useful until the initial political skirmishing had shown whether there were any skeletons or new factors that had emerged.

    Obviously I have read the large number of posts over that long period and those under the Open Thread, or at least a majority, are now forecasting a hung parliament with some suggesting Labour will be the largest party and after the latest YouGov poll a Labour majority. Of course they may be right but as it is now almost 2 months until the most likely date of the GE I am very tentatively inclined to make some comments/predictions of my own. In doing so I would hope Anthony will agree that they are in accordance with his policy that the site is for non partisan discussion of polls.

    1. The number of polls in each of the months November to February has increased steadily – 10 in November, 13 in December, 15 in January and 18 in February, although the recent number of daily YouGov polls may be a distorting influence. If averages are still valid in that context the average Conservative lead has moved from 12.2 to 12.23 to 10.5 to 8.1, thus all showing an increasing downwards trend even more so this month. What has given rise to this has been aired by many posters on this site and to a degree there is much to commend them. My personal view is that it is more to a sense of comfort rather than reality that has swayed opinion and it remains to be seen how that can continue or be changed. As this weekend is the Tories Spring Conference and the way that is projected or perceived could be significant.

    2. In the context of the overall polls, whilst I wouldn’t wish to comment directly on individual Scottish seats (I know too little about them) I do suggest any UNS result probably impacts disproportionately on the overall result due to both the very substantial disparity between the two major UK parties in Scotland and the much greater impact, within Others, of the SNP. In short, as many sub sets have shown, the C lead ex Scotland is significantly greater than the published UNS

    3. In all previous elections it was so called marginal seats that determined the overall result and I have seen no evidence to suggest this election will be significantly different. However of all the recent polls, I think it is only the latest PB/AR poll that has sought to establish what differences may exist between this UNS position and the marginals (whether C/L or C/LD or L/LD). (I well understand the scepticism that has greeted previous AR polls but I am not convinced we should ignore them completely) According to that poll, as has already been noted, there is and it appears to be a significantly higher swing to the Conservatives.

    4. However there may be one and possibly two other factors this time and which have not to my knowledge been the subject of any polling. The expenses scandal is obviously new and the number of MPs standing down is substantially greater than on previous occasions. Either separately or together they appear to have significant traction in many seats, some of which are, or may well become, marginal. To the best of my knowledge no poll has taken these issues into account, and to be fair, there may well be more MPs who have yet to say they will stand down.

    In attempting to quantify these factors I suggest we should also consider two other issues:

    1. The Conservative policy of targeting marginal seats, especially in England and Wales, albeit offset to some extent, by the practice of sitting MPs using their Communication allowances to bolster their own position, appears to be having some effect and not only in the PB/AR poll but also according to a comment by Ipsos/Mori in Daily Politics last week. To be fair this is not too surprising as, after all, both past experience of effort and for this election substantial additional resources as well as hard logic indicated they would! Incidentally Saturday’s Independent (not exactly a Tory leaning paper) makes this point on its front page.

    2. The policy of the Lib Dems to nurture their seats has historically made even small LD majorities relatively difficult to overturn by either of the larger parties.

    If these considerations are at all valid then the predictive capabilities of the great majority of current polling methods may not be showing an accurate picture of current attitudes let alone, as we all know, an indication of a result some 2 months away. Indeed I would suggest that this election is the least likely to be a reflection of a standard UNS for very many years

    Anthony has explained how he arrives at his average poll result but it’s not clear how he derives his own forecast (Incidentally this seems to have been discontinued in recent weeks) but I suggest, in the absence of specific regular polling of seats in the categories I have described, a variation in the C UNS lead in the various marginals of perhaps -1 against sitting (C) MPs with +4 in C/L (sitting L MPs), +3 in other C/L seats and +1 in C/LD might be a starting point.

    May be I’m being a little provocative but IF these assumptions are even in the right area, then on the basis of the current average UNS polling, we could be looking at anything from a small but workable C majority to one which could be comparable with that of Labour in 2005.

    Clearly whilst these conclusions are suggested to apply to an overall GB, and by implication, result for the UK they are not intended to apply to Scotland as a separate entity or, to a lesser extent, in Wales but I’m sure others will be able to add their own modification / interpretation of Scottish/Welsh UNS figures.

  50. Anthony, I was hoping you might respond to Flockers’ article on PB about YouGov’s changes of method re: the daily polls and the possible effects this could be having on the rather dramatic shifts it’s finding.

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