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. Mike N and Nick Poole

    Interesting conjecture. Certainly you seem to trust these police chiefs much more than I do.

    Surprise me and tell me ‘there is an email’ confirming the extraordinary request, thus confirming their professionalism and the truth of their claim.

    So a bit of a buffetting but a neat solution and he survives?

    There is no doubt he will survive.

  3. @HENRY

    Interesting conjecture. Certainly you seem to trust these police chiefs much more than I do.

    The trust you refer to would be zero minus 10 if the man in the frame were say Ed Balls. It is pointless.

  4. Chouenlai

    We had quite a good run of sensible political debate, attempting to behave.

    A couple of posters seem determined to to revert back to ‘Look what DC’s done now’

    They have understandably got you annoyed…

    Pity it was all going so well.

    I’m going for a walk the weather has improved. .

  5. Henry
    I trust some policemen as much as I trust some politicians, bankers and salesmen.

    I would think this accords with your view of the world, too.

  6. At the very least Ed Llewellyn will have to deny it. That would raise a can of worms.

    I think he’ll resign. High profile scalp for Miiliband but otherwise life goes on.

  7. Actually I thought I was being reasonable and discussing what was coming out.

    I haven’t abused anybody or cast any aspersions at Cameron.

  8. To repeat other peoples’ statements.

    Since the Prime Minister is such a competent operator,
    it is impossible to believe that he did not understand the warnings from his deputy, Mr Clegg and his chief of staff Mr Llewellyn.

    It is impossible to believe he did not know the nature of Mr
    Coulson, and the advice of Mrs Brooks

  9. Providing that there was the offer and was turned down (there seems to be a strange denial from No. 10 circulated by the Telegraph), the chief of staff is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, because it is a kind of reflection of his opinion about DC. Secondly, because if he has to go, the scandal and DC are directly connected – meaning that he has to reply to every single question. It is a PR nightmare and unlikely that it could be managed without mistakes.

  10. Jayblanc

    Surely that is what journalism is all about?

  11. Oh well it looks as if the Murdoch’s have wriggled out of this one fairly easily

  12. I wonder if Brooks will play a forward defensive to all deliveries?

  13. @LASZLO
    Tell me, did you put your vast analytical brain to such use
    to deduce the guilt of various members of government and their hangers on over the last 15 years Laszlo. There were many opportunities.
    With your background and your tragic nations history, I would have supposed that throwing people into jail before any conclusive proof emerges, is deeply distasteful to you?

  14. @ Chouenlai

    Read again what I wrote.

    By the way, I don’t approve throwing people thrown in jail without proof…

  15. Chouenlai

    I think by going equally far the other way to expose others’ biases, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek might not be the best method. While this badinage can be amusing at times I think many feel that it’s getting a little tiresome as it’s taking up all of the airspace.

    Equally tiresome is the relentless pressing of their personal wishes of what the want to see happen (mostly revolving about a GE at the earliest opportunity to correct the “wrong” result at the last election). I don’t know if they feel by continually posting about how Cameron resigning is inevitable somehow they can create a self-fufilling prophesy, however I think it needs to be pointed out posts here are unlikely to make Cameron’s job so difficult that he feels he needs to resign.

  16. I think Nick Poole should resign from this website.

  17. Alan
    “…posts here are unlikely to make Cameron’s job so difficult that he feels he needs to resign.”

    Aye, but the series of events/revelations that are continuing are of significant importance. Of course, all these may have absolutely no effect on DC or the Cons. But one way or another they are affecting (or may affect) VI.

    Whether DC comes out of it strengthened or weakened this is an important moment.

    I suggest that were this a Lab gov and Lab PM, Tory supporters on here might well be highly critical and vociferous too with Lab supporters being defensive etc. It will probably only be for another day or so and then it will be back to the polldrums.

  18. Interesting.

    My neck is offered to AW.

    When’s Brooks on? Now?

  19. @alan
    I agree with you. Further, whilst I can understand that people constantly telling a young inner city black lad, that he is a failure, will probably make him a failure. On the other hand, the recent promotion of Edward Miliband as the leader of the new world order, is unlikely to have the same self-fulfilling effect.

  20. No 10 has now released the relevant emails. In his email to Mr Yates, Mr Llewellyn doesn’t use the term “phone hacking” – rather he talks of “other matters which have caught your attention this week” but says “we will want to be entirely clear – for your sake and ours – that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.” In his evidence Mr Yates suggests this is a “proper” response to his offer.


  21. Nick Poole


    Who is meant by “we”?

    “for your sake and ours” ??

    I’m sure there’s a sensible reasonable explanation for this.

  22. This was always my concern – that the Committee would not be up to asking the probing questions.

    At least the delay to the Brooks interrogation will be making her nervous. It could be the hardest part of the day for her going on what the Murdoch’s have faced!

  23. My opinion is that Camerons position very much depends on what happens to Coulson.

    Perhaps people on the left side of politics are getting carried away, thinking that Cameron will have to resign within weeks and there could be an election within months. Yes that probably won’t happen, but it cannot be ruled out entirely. I would say it was probably 80/20 that it won’t happen. But that will change depending on what information comes out. It appears that Camerons advisor Ed Llewllyn has questions to answer regarding information that had or had not been passed to Cameron. If Mr Llewllyn has to provide evidence under oath, this may or may not be of concern to Cameron.

    The worst thing that could happen for government and Cameron is for the hacking/Police corruption scandal to drag on for years. It could become quite a destabilisingly corrosive matter, which prevents government/politics dealing with bigger issues more effectively.

  24. @ Henry

    “If you remove ‘deeply’ I would agree and expect they would too. I find most of the MPs I know, in my own party are likeable (but not all).

    I expect they would all admit to being a little flawed. Aren’t we all.”

    That was a reference to a joke I made a few months ago to Mike N (or maybe last year) where I said that David Cameron and Nick Clegg had entered into the happiest marriage in the UK since that of Basil and Cybil Fawlty. I don’t know about your MPs, I’ve always thought Basil and Cybil were deeply flawed yet extremely likeable characters.

  25. Basil was probably less likeable if you were staying at his hotel.

  26. oh well the attack has livened things up a bit!

  27. Of all the things I was expecting from these hearings, an attempt to pie Murdoch wasn’t one of them.

  28. Yeah… So… Anyone want to think this isn’t going to extend the news cycle on this out another week?

  29. Didn’t Amberstar say she had a ticket for the hearing?

  30. The right wing press will laud Wendy’s ‘ballsy attitude’? She will be on Loose Women next Thursday.

  31. Today’s news. 80 year old man hit in the face with a pie while explaining that he has memory problems.

  32. @ John B Dick

    “Which accounts for the fact that Canadian and Irish backpackers enthusiastically display national flags and emblems on their gear more than any other nationals. I think it’s actually official advice from the Canadian government.

    I often wear my kilt in Europe. You soon get the impression that everyone in Germany speaks fluent English because strangers immediately address you in English. One said “I know you are not English”.”

    Do you get the feeling that had you not worn a kilt that those same Germans would not have spoken to you? Or was it more of an identification “you must be Scottish!” because you were wearing a kilt?

    A lot of U.S. students travelling abroad during Dubya’s administration during the height of the Iraq War who attached Canadian flags to their backpacks.

  33. I just heard about the attack on Murdoch. So inappropriate and so unneccessary. Don’t people have any respect for the rule of law anymore? Or any common sense?

  34. R Huckle

    “The worst thing that could happen for government and Cameron is for the hacking/Police corruption scandal to drag on for years. It could become quite a destabilisingly corrosive matter, which prevents government/politics dealing with bigger issues more effectively.”

    Whatever else may happen, the complexity and diversity of the issues will make it certain that it will “drag on for years”

    If nothing else is certain, that is.

  35. BBC has just announced that the Conservative Party has now stated that Mr Wallis was an advisor to Mr Coulson in the run up to the General Election.

    Laura K announced this from Portcullis House.

    She said it must make it harder for Mr Cameron to escape from this affair.

    What did Mr Wallis know which would be helpful to the Tory campaign?

    When did the now Prime Minister know about this?

  36. Ian Katz (deputy editor Guardian) is tweeting : iankatz1000: Very serious for Cameron: Tories to announce that Neil Wallis (suspect in hacking investigation) advised Coulson while working for Cameron
    about 5 minutes ago

  37. Cameron is now in to 4-1 to be next cabinet minister to go, following that revelation.

  38. Gotcha


  39. Steady on everyone – so far we know Wallis worked informally and unpaid for Coulson, not Cameron. We know Ed Llewellyn told Stephenson not to mention Wallis to Cameron (although we haven’t heard his side of the story yet) but we have nothing at all concrete to link Cameron to anything, other than a general slackness about who he appoints and how closely he manages his team.

    Yes, it laps closer to the door of No 10, but this isn’t the smoking gun (yet).

  40. I don’t know, it seems a bit like the missing link in the chain to me. Quite a serious development and I have the feeling people like Davis will be seriously thinking of giving Cameron that last push over the edge.

  41. Mr Cameron is highly competent, educated at Eton and at
    Oxford; the finest institutions which in the words of someone on here said: ‘providence’ had given him

    After that start he was further educated at the highest possible level by working within the inner circles of the Party,

    He is a consumate political operator, with details at his finger tips, as shown by the detailed offer he made to Mr Clegg.

    Is it possible that he did not know Mr wallis was working for his campaign?

  42. Ladbrokes appear to have suspended the market on Davis for next blue leader, in fact. Though of course this may be unrelated.

    I would say a few quid on each of Hague and Davis would be a good bet, maybe a little side bet on May.

  43. How long is it before the reduction in MPs comes into force? Within the six months David Cameron suggested a none elected Prime Minister should take?

  44. No way could it happen in that short a timeframe. In my opinion.

  45. I doubt that Cameron will go – but, by virtue of guilt by association, I think this will hurt his approval figures this week.

    Whether the damage is permanent won’t be apparent until after the phone-hacking becomes a ‘non-story’ for the press and the approval figures become based on the next challenge or triumph.

  46. P Brown – the Boundary Commissions are not due to report until October 2013. The timetable they have set themselves could probably come in somewhat before that – by the end of 2012 perhaps – but no earlier.

  47. I’ve pruned the thread again, please don’t insult or complain about other posters.

    I’m stepping into discussion too often in the last few days – I appreciate some people find it difficult to contain themselves at times of high political drama, but do try to control yourselves. In a perfect world, other people shouldn’t be able to tell your own political views apart from any background to your posts… at least try to aspire to that!

  48. @ Chris Lane

    You sound like a headline from the Sun.
    Try looking at the report in the Independant web site about this story which reports what the Conservatives have to say on it. I’m sorry but it reads like a minor issue at the most to me. Certainly not a major issue for Cameron.

  49. I think the only certain lasting impact is that of Miliband. He is still not liked – probably won’t be, but he is no longer ridiculed. his status and seriousness and credibility have risen as a result of this.

    As for Dc – no smoking gun as yet – may well not be one – but a shadow is cast and every time this runs as it will for years it will be corrosive.

    Generally the electorate like Cameron more than Miliband – but in future they may trust him less and have less confidence in his judgement. Of course the trials and inquiries may well implicate many politicians on both sides – ex Labour ministers and Blairites may be dragged in and these may well undermine Cameron. He is damaged by this personally – and politically, but not fatally so, and he may emerge stronger at some point years hence. But for the present he is less strong now than at any point in his premiership and it may yet drag him down.

  50. Let me get this right. Wallis left the NoTW and worked for Stephenson. Coulson was fired by the NoTW and went to work for Cameron. So far so good. These two ex “work mates” converse on the dog and bone whilst in their new jobs. Coulson says to Wallis “what’s the score about xyz”?
    Wallis replies, “its probably a bit of abc and a bit of dfg as well”. Great, thanks for that, says Coulson. Old friends talking on the phone, no money changes hands, totally unofficial. And this is today’s reason why Cameron is finished is it ? What is the legal position regarding employing [let’s stop that topic of conversation right there… – AW]

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