There are three voting intention polls tonight. Their topline figures are as follows

YouGov/Sun – CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%
ICM/Guardian – CON 37%, LAB 36%, LDEM 16%
Populus/Times – CON 34%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%

ICM shows Labour down since before the phone hacking scandal broke, putting the Conservatives ahead for the first time in months. Populus show the Conservatives sharply down. What’s the real situation?

First off, it’s worth remembering that all polls are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points – so if Populus happen to have got a sample that’s a bit light on loyal Tories, if ICM have a sample that’s a bit light on loyal Labour voters, there’s your difference. The methodologies used by ICM and Populus are very similar, so sample error is the most obviously explanation for the difference.

ICM continue to show much higher support for the Liberal Democrats than any other company – ComRes, Populus & MORI all tend to have them at about 11%, with YouGov a point or two lower – the reasons for the size of the difference are unclear, but this difference probably also explains why ICM has twice shown a Tory lead this year: their 2010 Lib Dem voters seem to be less likely to have switched to Labour than those in other polls.

So, has “hackgate” impacted on voting intention or not? Well, the biggest advantage of YouGov’s daily polling is that we don’t need to worry about random sample error to the same extent – if there is a rogue poll, it should become clear the following day. The news that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, which effectively brought the phone hacking scandal to a peak, broke on the 4th July. In the month leading up to that YouGov had pretty consistently shown a Labour lead of 5-7 points, with the Conservatives on 36-37% and Labour on 41-43%. In the fortnight since then YouGov has shown Labour leads of 8+ points on five occassions, and the Conservatives down on 35% on five occassions. While one cannot rule out co-incidence, this obviously suggests a small but genuine knock to the Conservative party’s support from hackgate. However, the last three YouGov polls have been back within the normal “pre-hackgate” range, suggesting it may have been a short-term effect that is already fading. We shall see.

The big increase in Lib Dem support in the ICM poll is probably illusionary – they fell by 3 points in the last ICM poll so I suspect the increase this month is mostly just a reversion to the mean. Populus’s Lib Dem score a month ago was also conspicuously low. However it’s possible that there has been some benefit for the Lib Dems, while their score in YouGov’s daily poll today is typical, they hit 11% in a YouGov poll on Sunday for the first time in weeks. I’ll reserve judgement on that one.

The other impact of “hackgate” is on perceptions of the leaders. Now, there are two ways of measuring whether an event has changed how people perceive a party or leader. You can ask people if their opinion has gone up or down, which is what Populus did in their survey. This found 39% of people thought worse of Cameron as a result of hackgate, but also found people were more likely to think worse than better of Ed Miliband. However, questions like this tend to give misleading results – people who never liked a politician to start with say it’s made their view worse and vice-versa.

The better way, if you are lucky enough to be in the position to do it, is to have asked people what they think before the event happened, ask them again afterwards, and see what the difference is. ICM, YouGov and ComRes have all been in a position to do this, and have found the same pattern – David Cameron’s ratings are down, but only marginally, Ed Miliband’s ratings are significantly up.

While YouGov found people thought Cameron had handled the phone hacking affair badly, it hasn’t had much affect upon his approval ratings. YouGov have Cameron’s approval rating at minus 12, compared to minus 10 before hackgate. ICM have his approval rating at minus 5, unchanged from last month. ComRes have 33% thinking he is a good PM, down from 37% a month ago. In contrast, there clearly has been a positive effect on how people view Ed Miliband. His approval rating from YouGov has risen from minus 34 to minus 21, his rating from ICM has risen from minus 21 to minus 16, with ComRes 27% think Miliband is turning out to be a good leader, up from 18%. Whether these positive ratings remain once the political agenda moves on is, of course, something else that remains to be seen.

So in conclusion – from the polling so far hackgate appears to have had only a small negative effect on the Conservatives in the polls, and one which may already be fading. While people think Cameron has handled it badly, it has had only a minor effect on his broader approval ratings. Ed Miliband meanwhile has seen a significant boost in how the public see him, though it remains to be seen if it lasts.

The other poll tonight is from ComRes for ITV news. The most interesting question in there was whether people agreed or disagreed that James Murdoch should resign – 65% think he should, 9% disagree.


317 Responses to “The polling effect of “Hackgate””

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  1. @JayBlanc

    Many thanks for the link to the Ipsos Mori poll.

    Quite a turn around.

    On the comments about Grammar Schools: I think Jim Callaghan did not go to Grammar school.

    On Grammar Schools it is not often appreciated that most grammar school closures happened 1970-1974, when a certain Margaret Thatcher was Education Secretary.

    And most of the application for grammar school closuress came from Conservative Local Authorities, implementing Crosland’s infamous Circular 10/65.

    We know this, since, after 1967 when Labour was hammered and even lost the ILEA, local govt was in the hands of the Conservatives.

    Edward Boyle was anti the 11 Plus, which was a big vote loser in 1964 and 1966 among the middle classes, most of whose children did not get into grammar schools.

    I teach in a grammar school (hols now!) and support them, and was a product of one in London, i recognise there was no halcyon age- most working class children left grammar school at O Level, and many failed to get good results. While most ‘sec mods’ were truly brutal

  2. @Nick P. Thanks for the suggestion but no is my answer. I think the low turnout, the admittedly very minor influence of local issues, the abundance of non mainstream and incumbent candidates, means that supposed trends can be very misleading taken as significant.

    I suppose an urban area with a lack of burning local issues could give a better guide, but we still miss the essential floaters who are responsible for changes of government under FPTP.

    The advantages of national polls (excuses to the Celtic fringe, especially NI voters who aren’t even asked) is that they should give an very reliable indication of trend, if nothing else. If one looks at the polls above this thread, you would be bound to say that one pollster has got it hopelessly wrong.

  3. “I thought the attempted custard pie in the face on Murdoch really ruined what was actually a pretty important point in the current scandal. The Murdochs had not appeared before in such a hearing and their evidence was revealing that they were not in control of the company in terms of corporate goverance. Before the hearing there was a perception that Murdoch ran the company with a iron fist. This is obviously not the case and I am sure the major investors in News Corp will have noted this.”

    Or alternatively RM’s performance confirms that he is a constitutional lia* with a typically shrewd ‘poor old man’ impression that successfully neutralised a lot of the public hostility.

    He might be old but he knows what’s going on alright, nor slould we be fooled into thinking his power at the helm of NI is in anyway less than it’s ever been.

  4. Robin – thanks for the advice, I’ll keep you posted.

    OldNat – it was late and I did not have time to research it, however Eric Anderson is a respected commentator (also it appears a Scot who was Tony Blair’s housemaster!).

    Amber – You’re no doubt aware that there are also Conservative politicians – eg Liam Fox, William Hague, David Davis – who are not from wealthy backgrounds. I used the word “dominated” and I think that’s fair. By the way I do not agree with you that the Miliband family is not wealthy.

    Alec/Nick – free market does not mean zero regulation. However, it needs to be easier to start a business in this country. Obviously, the banks and the environment are two areas in need of heavy regulation.

    Nick – IMO the tax burden in the UK is too high relative to the cost of living here and the services we get in return. Talk to people based here who’ve worked in the US, the Far East and indeed most countries in the EU, and you will hear the same thing. Here, we pay more for less.

  5. The problem is, if you regulate the Bbanks, don’t you also regulate small business indirectly?

    These issues aren’t easy and often ideology like “low taxes are better” or “low regulation” are misleading.

    Better regulation. Clearer regulation.

    A fairer tax system…surely it would be better if the rich paid a lower perventage of tax on their income BUT paid tax on ALL their income?

    People who govern me but avoid tax offshore (even if legal) annoy me. And I’m sure politicians of all persuasions do it. rather like the cross party agreement that it was all right to claim expenses on all sorts of frankly laughable stuff.

    Another bit of “self regulation”.

    The Press. Banks. The City. Politicians. they all wannt to regulate themselves.

    They had their chance didn’t they, and they blew it.

  6. ******** Breaking news************

    Senior Royal household staff warned Cameron over his appointment of Coulson. Downing Street deny that any ‘real’ concerns were raised.

    Carefully worded statement from Downing street, using the word ‘real’. Which I interprete to mean that concerns were raised by officials of Royal household, but these were not seen to be real. i.e Cameron and his people ignored them.

  7. AmberStar

    “The only hope for Scottish Labour is to Bavarianise – or wait for independence, when they will be free from outside control.
    ———————————————————
    On the contrary, one nation social democracy which includes all citizens of the Uk is what Labour should aspire to, IMO. I am hopeful that this will be the outcome of the ongoing review.”

    Of course.

    Hope is one thing, probability is another.

    If the review doesn’t produce what you hope for, will you still continue to hope? Will you consider whether the Greens, Nationalists or Socialists are a btter fit with the the values you uphold? Are you an authoritarian follower who, when the time comes to admit failure, blames the leader, and believes if the right choice is made the next time, all will be well.

    Or are you sufficiently high in the hierarchy to blame failure on the lack of committment of the footsoldiers, or the voters for being too stupid to elect your party?

    The Labour party needed to move away from the class war rhetoric, but your objective above was not best served by adopting the metropolitan consensus of the overarching need to appeal to middle England values using any fashionable marketing technique available.

    NewLabour gave up “one nation social democracy which includes all citizens of the Uk” for spin over substance, and jettisoned its principles and was infatuated with the mega-rich, taking the likes of James Murdoch, Ecclestone and others at their own estimate of self-worth.

    Where were you when that happened?

  8. i think we knew that…the equerry (sp?).

    But it will add to the mud to be slung today!

  9. I have just watched Cleary’s (Head of Research Ipsos/Mori)) video on Reuters discussing the latest Ipsos/Mori Opinion poll. Hard to disagree with the points she made
    1) Camerons performance ratings significantly down so he is only 1% better than Ed M now.
    2) Ed M’s ratings much improved but still negative.
    3) Conservative share well down to lowest point for some time at 32%.
    4) Labour share unchanged.
    5) Minor parties UKIP, Greens, BNP up.

    Clearly Cameron is seen to have performed badly compared with Ed M over the hacking affair. Millibrand is seen to have performed well but this has not translated in any increased willingness to vote Labour. The minor parties have picked up votes from disgruntled Tories who want to show protest. Her view was that the drop in Conservative support is likely to be temporary as is Camerons ratings unless he is linked to wrongdoing. She also felt the public would get bored with the issue and are more interested in the economy.

    Obviously we I do not know if Miss Cleary has any strong political bias but I find it hard to disagree with her findings. Bearing in mind that we have around four years to the election I continue to feel that it will be the state of the economy in 2015 which will decide the election. If Osborne pulls it off the Tories will win, if he does not, they will not.

  10. Nick Poole

    “But it will add to the mud to be slung today!”

    A very succinct description of what is going on.

    The search for sources of mud was , in my view , the main purpose of Labour’s participation in the Select Committee questioning yesterday. It has always been their main focus-the phone mail intercepts, press relations & the Met being a sideshow for them.

    Cameron has to haul this out of the mud this morning , spell out the things which are important & say what he is doing about them.

  11. Colin

    That’s what cameron will do. But it all depends whether you believe hiring Cameron was an error of judgement or a symptom of cameron being entwined in the NI mesh.

    As I said before, I expect he’s glad to be free but he can hardly say so.

    Your view and mine are obviously coloured…it’s that band of voters who just catch the highlights that ultimately decide.

    And afterwards they all go on Holiday unless economic news brings them rushing back.

    Apparently 11 of 30-odd Milliband meetings with the media were with NI.

  12. Neil A

    “Mrs Murdoch could legitimately argue that she believed that the assailant was going to continue to assault her husband ….In reality she was probably acting out of anger and/or pure reflex ..”

    Reflex is what you use when you havn’t time to make a decision. I don’t see any difference between that and a carefully considered judgement other than the timescale.

    Anger would be different, but even anger takes a few nanoseconds more to get going than an instinctive defensive reaction in which there is no place for thought, and which may, in hindsight, prove to be a mistake.

  13. Colin @ Amber

    “Amused how the Head of The Evil Empire has suddenly morphed into a helpless & bemused Old Man.”

    Might he have been under medication to calm him down?

  14. @The Other Howard

    It srikes me that the denting in support for Cameron has made Tory support less solid, but it hasn’t particularly alighted on a new home: much is still with the Tory party, and some is going to a wide variety of other parties, with different polls picking up different possible homes (possibly due to routine sample variablity).

    This must, I guess, be very frustrating for LibDems, who have been much less implicated in having cosy relationships with NI than Cons, or Lab for that matter. But for the LDs to gain, they would have to put the knife in to the Tories, which isn’t exactly good for the coalition – they are paying one of the prices for entering the regressive coalition.

  15. @ John B Dick

    I don’t know if you’ll return to this thread but I’ll assume your questions were not rhetorical & give an answer.

    If the review doesn’t produce what you hope for, will you still continue to hope?
    ——————————————————
    I worked during this review to convince people not to choose the route you mention; if the ‘Bavarian’ model is chosen, I’ll work for another review & try to persuade people to agree with my point of view.
    ——————————————————
    Will you consider whether the Greens, Nationalists or Socialists are a btter fit with the the values you uphold?
    ——————————————————
    I have a lot of time for many Green policies & the Nats have a lot of policies I agree with but I don’t agree with breaking up the Uk. I consider devolved parliaments to be an unrequired tier of government that wouldn’t have been needed if local government had been strengthened & encouraged to work together more.
    Also, I have as much in common with people in e.g. Manchester, Liverpool & London as with people who live in Scotland.
    ———————————————————–
    Are you an authoritarian follower who, when the time comes to admit failure, blames the leader, and believes if the right choice is made the next time, all will be well.
    ————————————————————
    Anybody who follows my comments at all will know that I did not see failure in 2010 being down to Gordon Brown; nor in 2011 as down to Iain Grey. I also constantly remark, on these boards, that I find the obsession with leaders & leader ratings discombobulating.
    ————————————————————
    Or are you sufficiently high in the hierarchy to blame failure on the lack of committment of the footsoldiers, or the voters for being too stupid to elect your party?
    ————————————————————
    I do blame lack of committment – often in the form of complacency &/or laziness by an incumbent MP/ MSP – for poor election results. I do not think people are stupid. I think they do not involve themselves so, if you want the honour of representing them, you must reach out to them & let them know you actually care about their issues.
    ————————————————————-
    The Labour party needed to move away from the class war rhetoric, but your objective above was not best served by adopting the metropolitan consensus of the overarching need to appeal to middle England values using any fashionable marketing technique available.
    ————————————————————–
    I strongly advocate for persuading “middle England” to think harder about what sort of country they want the Uk to be. Regarding marketing techniques, if it helps convey the message then use it, if the message is driven by the marketing technique then don’t use it.
    ————————————————————-
    NewLabour gave up “one nation social democracy which includes all citizens of the Uk” for spin over substance, and jettisoned its principles and was infatuated with the mega-rich, taking the likes of James Murdoch, Ecclestone and others at their own estimate of self-worth.

    Where were you when that happened?
    ————————————————————–
    I surprised Old Nat, by ‘confessing’ that I (with a heavy heart) gave up being a Labour activist & member during the New Labour era. I still voted Labour because I approved of some things they were doing but not enough to give them my full support.
    8-)

  16. Rupert Murdoch Quote:

    “I feel people I trusted, I don’t know at what level, let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it’s for them to pay.”

    He doesn’t know at what level, – [yet] – but he thinks he is the best person to sort it out.

    So James Murdoch isn’t the best person to sort it out, and could be someone who let him down?

    At the time when it became clear that he was being groomed for succession, there were reports that his sister Elizabeth did not share the high opinion of his capabilities. Now, her chance of advancement within the company is diminished rather than enhanced by being part of the Murdoch clan and she is unlikely now to get the opportunity that her brother has had to show her potential.

    Of course there isn’t any business or public sector organissation [Neil A?] employing many people which does not have someone who thinks that they could run the show better than the people above them.

    Whether Elizabeth Murdoch would do better than her brother is neither here nor there – she won’t get the chance to prove it one way or the other, but she is bound to be one of the most unforgiving critics of whatever part of the management has trashed not only her chance of advancement but a large part of her inheritance and net worth.

    A business only 1% of the total can still lose a much bigger part of market value of the whole and futture earnings.

    I suggested yesterday that Wendi Murdoch might have good reason to blame James for the debacle. She too has suffered the same sort of financial damage and by his very existence James is a factor diminishing her children’s inheritance.

    RB said James had an office next door to hers but she didn’t see much of him. Perhaps he has been paying less attention to corporate governance than was wise and should have spent more time in the office than in airports.

    I’d advise James Murdoch to look out for left hooks coming his way.

  17. @JBD,

    public sector organissation [Neil A?]

    I make a full and frank confession..

    Unfortunately (for the country?) I prefer investigating crime to running organisations, and I am not one to seek more material wealth than I need. The idea of clambering up a greasy pole of groupthink and conformity, in order to secure a big office and executive lunch privileges, doesn’t hold any attraction for me..

    (Some cynicism, a little sarcasm and a soupcon of envy may have been used in the creation of that comment).

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