Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 41%, LAB 39%, LDEM 10%, Others 10%. This is the first time that YouGov have shown a Conservative lead since December 2010. While I’ll add my normal caveat about a poll showing something unusual, it certainly looks as though the Conservatives have recieved a boost from David Cameron’s veto at the European summit. For the last month or so YouGov’s daily polls have been pretty steady in showing a Labour lead of five points of so. In the three YouGov polls conducted since the veto we’ve had two 1 point Labour leads, and now a 2 point Conservative lead.
There is also a new ComRes poll out tonight for the Independent which has topline figures of CON 38%(+1), LAB 38%(-1), LDEM 12%(+2) – also showing the two main parties effectively neck-and-neck.
There certainly appears to have been a boost for the Conservatives from the veto. How long it lasts it is a different question. Is is a brief spike in support from a populist action, or will it stick? We don’t know yet.
Europe is not generally a particular salient issue, most people vote on issues somewhat closer to home like the economy, health, pensions, tax and so on. In tonight’s YouGov poll 38% of people name Europe as an important issue facing the country… but only 11% pick it as an important issue for them and their family. In that sense, I wouldn’t expect it to make much long term difference. However, there are two possibilities that could lead to a lasting impact.
Firstly, for some people traditional right-wing issues are important, and some of narrowing in the polls appears to be UKIP voters returning to the Tory party. In previous months we’d seen a slow growth of UKIP support, getting up to 7% or so just after the Tory backbench rebellion over Europe. There are signs that much of this support has returned to the Tories, with UKIP back down to 3% in the latest YouGov poll. Will the summit convince right-wing voters that Cameron does share their instincts, or will they drift back again?
A second thing to look would be if the veto changes perceptions of David Cameron himself and his leadership. Europe may be on an issue many people don’t particularly care about, but if it makes people think David Cameron is a stronger leader who stands up for the country it may improve perceptions of him across the board. We don’t have any good before and after polling yet on perceptions of Cameron but watch them carefully when they do appear.