Populus’s poll for the Times is out here. The topline figures are CON 39%(-1), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 21%(+1). Changes are from way back in February, since Populus did a marginal poll instead in March.

Populus found economic optimism continuing to rise, the net economic optimism figure was minus 10, compared to minus 21 in February. Straight after the budget YouGov picked up a sharp drop in economic optimism, perhaps due to the budget reminding how bad the economic situation was. These latest Populus figures showing economic optimism continuing to rise suggest that was a short term effect.

I’ve repeatedly come back to questions on “time for a change” over the last few years, and they have tended to be pretty consistent in showing about 70% or so of people saying it it time for a change. In today’s Populus poll they ask a question breaking it down a bit further – 75% of people said it was time for a change, but that was made up of only 34% who said it was time for a change to the Conservatives, and 41% who thought it was time for a change from Labour… but weren’t sure whether it was time for a change to the Tories. Only 18% did not think it was time for a change.

This question probably sums up the situation as good as any single question can. The overwhelming majority of people want a change from the current Labour government, but a large proportion of them are not sold on the Conservatives (to use the rather annoying cliche – Cameron has not “sealed the deal”). Populus appear to have given those people who would like a change, but aren’t sold on the Tories, a list of potential reasons why – the most agreed with statement was that the Conservatives were too negative on 80% (though people invariably agree with this sort of statement about all politicians), followed by doubting whether the Conservatives would put ordinary people first (72%) which I expect is more of the problem. Next came 68% of the doubters who agreed that the Conservatives had not put forward a strong enough case for change and 67% who feared they would cut spending too quickly and deeply. Less widespread amongst the doubters were fears that the Tories would cut the NHS (53%), or that Cameron was inexperienced (49%).

Funnily enough the Times article quotes the party shares to one decimal place, something that pollsters generally avoid. When party levels of support have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, quoting them to one decimal place does risk making them look more precise than it is possible for polls to be (UPDATE – the Times article has now got the numbers rounded to whole numbers. Good!)

84 Responses to “Populus/Times – 39/32/21”

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  1. WMA 39:30:20 and the 14-day trend is very convincing with an R2 of 0.81.

    @Joseph: the last decimal point is meaningless – the Margin of Error is +/-3%.

    @SteveA: You can never* detect a reliable trend with only 3 data points. Any 2 points lie on a straight line and the point in the middle will usually be somewhere in between.

    * Well hardly ever, perhaps if you know that the standard error of these points is very very small.

  2. Is there any reason why the com res and mori polls have not been put on the site? were they done in a different way?

  3. Joseph1832

    “Why is it good not to publish the decimal points?”

    Because they’re not that accurate. 32% of opinion polls are more than 1.5 percentage point wrong. 5% are more than 3 points wrong. If your figures are as likely as not to be a whole point wrong in one direction or the other, there’s no point in quoting decimal places.

    By way of analogy, I estimate that it will cost £38.12 to paint my bathroom, give or take £3.00 either way. What’s the point of going to decimal places?

  4. Fears about the NHS being cut under the conservatives? Its already happening under labour. As a medical student, cut backs are a continuous theme up and down the wards and in GP practices. wards ar closing, NHS jobs may be cut soon and they are urging people to take unpaid leave. clinics are being cut, and the time between each patient attending a clinic is being increased. Why are the public not made more aware of this?

  5. AW – Just seen your reply to my earlier post.

    Fair enough – I will take note.

  6. @RolandHaines

    “The percentages that want change is more to the point.”

    Peter Riddell’s analysis continues

    The most worrying finding for Mr Cameron is that two-fifths (41 per cent) believe that, while it seems like “time for a change” from Labour, they are not sure “it is time for a change” to the Conservatives. Just 34 per cent believe it is time for a change for the Tories and 18 per cent believe it does not seem like time for a change from Labour.

    Among that two-fifths unsure about a change to the Tories, nearly a half (45 per cent) do not agree with Mr Cameron’s plan to cut back Labour’s proposed increase in national insurance contributions. Some 43 per cent agree with the Tories.

    These doubters are not convinced the Tories put ordinary people first (72 per cent); believe the party has not made a strong enough case that it is time for a change from Labour (68 per cent); think Mr Cameron is too inexperienced to be Prime Minister (49 per cent); are concerned that the Tories might cut or privatise the NHS (53 per cent); and are worried that the Tories would cut public spending too quickly and too deeply (67 per cent). Moreover, 80 per cent think that all the Tories seem to do is attack Labour and “that kind of negative politics is one of things people want to change about Britain”.

    That suggests that the Tories are vulnerable on public spending and that their posters attacking Mr Brown could backfire.

    A big majority (86 per cent) regard significant cuts in spending was inevitable after the election. But, for the first time, more voters (34 per cent) would trust Labour most to cut spending in ways that do not harm important public services. This is a three point rise since December, compared with a 4 point drop for the Tories to 28 per cent.

    Swing voters (either those completely undecided or who may change their mind who comprise a third of the total) believe the Tories are as likely as Labour to put up taxes for ordinary people. Labour is still ahead on the NHS, but the Tories have a big lead on cutting immigration and betting tough on “those who live on benefits when they are able to work.”

  7. AW…do we have to have these long C+P’s from Greengrass that do appear to have been a little cherry picked to appear to score some points. ? I’d be as irratated if they were from the Tories by the way…


  8. dazzle – which ComRes and MORI polls? I’m not aware of any recent voting intention polls I’ve missed – but stranger things have happened.

  9. Colin Green

    “Why is it good not to publish the decimal points?”

    Because they’re not that accurate. 32% of opinion polls are more than 1.5 percentage point wrong. 5% are more than 3 points wrong. If your figures are as likely as not to be a whole point wrong in one direction or the other, there’s no point in quoting decimal places.”

    No. It is not a matter of accuracy but of precision. Accuracy is a measure of how close to the true value a measurement is. Precision is a measure of how fine a graduation you can make. If a piece of string is 1m long and you measure 99cm, it is fairly accurate. A measurement of 99.1cm is only slightly more accurate, but it is more precise. Since the quoted margin of error is usually plus or minus 3%, a figure quoted with a precision of 0.1% wouldn’t mean anything.

    We hope the polls are accurate.

  10. I find it baffling that Populus say only 34% think it’s time for a change to the Tories, but 39% say in the voting intentions poll that they’ll vote Con. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

  11. Interesting seeing the majority of voters polled say Cameron has got it wrong over NI – maybe the Con strategy of pushing business leaders objections has led to this conclusion.

    Wonder if the media obsession with this will change.

    Sky news

    Con – 37
    Lab – 32
    Lib – 19

  12. YouGov

    Con 37
    Lab 32
    LibDem 19

    Its amazing the Tory lead is growing again then is’nt it.

  14. @PollyTicks

    They are not cherry picked and relate directly to the poll. It’s just that some people don\’t seem to bother looking behind the headlines.

    And what makes you think I support any party?

  15. You Gov figures published on the Sun Website

    Con 37 (-3)
    Lab 32 (nc)
    LibDem 19 (+2)
    Oth 12 (+1)

  16. Fragmeister

    My comments about accuracy stand. Polls are not that accurate, in the way I have stated. My point is that as the accuracy is fairly low, there is no use for more precision.

  17. YouGov Poll Sky News

    Con 37%

    Lab 32%

    LD 19%

  18. It looks like the Tories are going to struggle to win anything more than a bare 40% in this election. That means that it’s all down to the Labour share, and that depends to a large extent on how much of their support drains off to minor parties and perhaps the LDs (although many well-informed commentators believe that the net movement between those two parties may be slightly in the other direction). So given all that, Labour know that if they can win about 33% they’ll probably deny Cameron a majority. That is possible but rather unlikely. Robert Waller for example thinks Labour will struggle to win 30% and the Tories 40%.

  19. Good Evening everyone

    GB appeared to take a hammering today, as he again failed to provide a robust defence to his NI plans. But Peter Riddell’s analysis of the Populus data in the Times suggests once more that this issue may play better for Cameron at Westminster than it does in the country at large.

    It was nice to see GB at Fruit Towers. As an Innocent Smoothie devotee, I’ve always wondered what the place looked like. It’s a shame he didn’t get to use the Banana Phone. That would have been priceless!

  20. Labour will be very pleased with a Tory lead of only 5% -after all the flack over NI

    Looks like another trend!!!

  21. These 2 polls & last night’s YouGov suggest the Budget bounce for the Tories may be reversing. I accept it’s too soon to call it a trend yet.

  22. Nothing changes —its always going to be all about the economy and whatever your political preference it’s clear that the UK is coming out of the world recession pretty well
    Unemployment down for the last two months
    Manufacturing figures the best for many years
    Todays ECDU forecast of yearly growth of 3.1%
    (better than Germany and France)
    What a difference to the recessions of the ’80’s and 90’s

  23. Colin

    I happen to agree with you. In science you see error bars all the time which tell you what the spread of the data looks like. We never see them with polls. I’m sure there are lots of eager mathematicians in the polling organisations but I know from bitter experience that most people don’t understand numbers at all.

  24. @RAF lol ;-) It’s good so have a joke -some people are getting a bit grumpy ;-)

  25. Polly – cherry-picking is most annoying as you say. A simple link to the article would help – whether by the person making a point, or by Anthony.

    I think you can be satisfied though that very few if any floating voters will be visiting this site in order to make up their minds.

    The cut and thrust of debate here does hone one’s own arguments by making one think about the other viewpoints.

    What irks me insofar as I can be irked is the selective choosing of quotes where the source isoften far more balanced.

  26. The election is definitely very much alive. Brown will need to be a bit more robust but he hasn’t performed disastrously either. The average Tory lead in tonight’s polls seems to be only slightly less than 8% though, since I don’t automatically discount Angus Reid – though I think they do slightly overstate the Tory lead at present. But the YouGov poll is clearly an encouragement to Labour.

  27. I am looking at the markets [ I don’t play myself – so no conflict of interest ] – byut nothing has moved a decimal for two days. Can that be right ?

  28. The markets make money out of volatility and the presence of risk. Torpor reigns at the moment. A hung parliament, therefore, could subdue markets rather than frighten them.

    Similarly,an era of intervention and risk-aversion would not kill the markets, just make them a little less dynamic.

    An era of smaller-state, enterprise-friendly, lower tax fee-marketism on the other hand would lead to greater risk and therefore more opportunities within the markets for business leaders and traders to make money for themselves, and for the tax-payer insofar as they would pay tax on their profits, rather than avoiding it.

  29. Anthony – is there a Harris poll out? -rumour of a 4% Tory lead on twitter Thanks

  30. “My point is that as the accuracy is fairly low, there is no use for more precision.”

    There is a use for the ‘precision’: it tells you where your area of uncertainty lies more accurately.

    The reason it’s not reported is as said earlier, it gives a false impression of more accuracy, primarily to those who have limited knowledge about polling/stats etc.

    However providing you know what precautions to take it can be useful. eg 39.4 and 30.5 and 38.5 and 31.4 both round to 39 and 31. However the lead of the first is 8.9 and the second is 7.1 – if that features as part of a trend then it’s potentially useful extra information that would not show up when rounding. Though a 2 pt lead shift would have some posters here excited even if it was just 1 poll… :)

    In essence, for presentation, rounding is fine, for further analysis (of anything) you should really always use the unrounded figures or risk compounding rounding errors.

  31. As a Conservative supporter (and voter) tonights YG poll is a little dissapointing, but taking that the previous 2 days YG polls were 41 and 40 then that simply means that the 3 polls together give an average of over 39.3 which incidently is identical to that reported tonight by Populus before rounding down.

    So tonights YG plus the two previous YG plus populus put Conservatives on 39%. In the meantime Labour have three YG results (32 + 32 + 31) which average out at 31.66% – and guess what tonights Populous result was 31.6% before rounding up to 32%. This gives results of:

    Conservatives 39%
    Labour 32%

    Conservatives remain in the lead by 7% nationally.

    Although dissapointing, would have liked it to have increased this is not a problem, no real shift in the past few days for either of the main parties.

    Earlier I had commented on a previous thread that the LibDems would be pleased with the Populous result, unfortunately this has not been substantiated by the YG poll this evening.

    All in all the results seem to be ‘steady as she goes’ in the recent words of one politician.

  32. Populus figures on this site’s swingometer project Lab 19 seats shy of Con.

  33. The Populus numbers on this site’s swingometer project Lab 19 seats shy of Con.

  34. ps Why is spelling and grammar on this site so ghastly?

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