On poll movements

This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun again showed a Labour lead of seven points – CON 32%, LAB 39, LDEM 11%, UKIP 13% (that’s Tuesday MORNING’S poll, btw, Tuesday evening’s isn’t out yet!). Five of YouGov’s last six polls have shown single figure Labour leads, whereas previously the average Labour had been consistently around 10 or 11 points. Put in the context of the falling Labour leads from ICM, MORI and Opinium it is pretty undeniable that something is afoot.

YouGov’s average figures in the first half of April were CON 31%, LAB 41%, LD 11%, UKIP 11%
The average over those last six polls is CON 32%, LAB 40%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 12%

So roughly speaking we appear to have had a small increase for the Tories, a slight knock for Labour. At this point we can normally expect lots of speculation about what has caused it… or more typically, lots of people claiming that the thing they personally care deeply about has caused it, the thing they think their party shouldn’t be doing has damaged them, or the thing they think their party should be doing has helped them. Normally such claims don’t bother with evidence.

The harsh truth is that we usually can’t really tell what has caused a movement in the polls. Sometimes there is an obvious event that coincides with a big shift in the polls which, while it doesn’t prove anything, does strongly imply a connection (after all, we can’t be sure that the big drop in Tory support in March last year was definitely due to the budget, but it would be a remarkable co-incidence if it wasn’t!). Other times there are all sorts of plausible explanations.

The most obvious explanations for the current narrowing relate to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. That could impact the polls in terms of lots of positive retrospectives about Thatcher in the media… or could have an indirect effect in the sense that it interupted the normal flow of politics. David Cameron got to spend a week or two looking statesmanlike without the normal dirty business of politics and governing. However one could equally look at other underlying factors, the welfare debate for example, perhaps a generally more focused presentation by the government since Lynton Crosby returned, some figures from the Blair era apparently criticising Ed Miliband. All these things add up.

My own working assumption is still that is it is a Thatcher effect of one sort or another that will fade away, but it really is impossible to know. We shall have to wait and see if it lasts.

UPDATE: The Sun Politics team have tweeted tonight’s results – CON 33%, LAB 40%, LD 10%, UKIP 12%

482 Responses to “On poll movements”

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  1. LEFTY

    I don’t see much equivalence between MT/MF & DC/EB.

    ( though smile inwardly at the thought that you do !)

    Nor has DC entered a war in the last few weeks.

    Either Thatcher is pretty much hated on the left-or she isn’t.

    If she is then why would her death have any effect on their VI……..other than to remind them of their hatred & firm up their Labour voting intention?

    As for Cons VI-possibly I suppose.Encouraging a minor retreat from UKIP?……..but why not a headlong rush in the opposite direction if you believe, as Farage does , that Maggie would have voted for them?

    Nope-don’t buy it.

    I think those changes in approval/performance ratings tell the story-and that must surely be to do with perception of Government performance.

    Anyway-enough already!

    Let’s see how long it lasts.


    So we can look forward to a vicious, nihilistic, personalised GE campaign based on fear and misrepresentation.

    That should be fun!

  3. In YG’s Poll of 14/15 April ( 31/39/12/12) the following movements from the previous poll were shown :-

    Government approval -35 to -30

    Best at handling :-

    NHS 20/34 to 24/35
    EDucation & Schools 23/30 to 26/39
    Unemployment 21/30 to 24/29
    Economy 25/24 to 29/25
    Europe 19/20 to 23/20

    DC sticks to what he believes in +21 to +24

    A Thatcher connection for any of this ?


  4. @”EDucation & Schools 23/30 to 26/39″

    23/30 to 26/29


  5. …and yet and yet

    40% is enough for Lab, now and forever


  6. Colin

    Thatcher had had minimal if any effect on Labour’s VI. Go look at the numbers.
    Many effect has been on stiffening Tory resolve.

    It’s really not rocket science v

  7. NICKP

    @”40% is enough for Lab,”

    For which they need to hang on to 37% of 2010 LD voters ( this morning’s poll).

    ….now & forever.

  8. LEFTY

    @”It’s really not rocket science ”

    I agree-or Necromancy.

  9. @ Colin

    A Thatcher connection for any of this ?

    Wall to wall coverage of Mrs T = Absence of news coverage about the government.

  10. Well we wake up to yet another 7% Labour lead.

    33% is quite the norm now for Cons although Labour still bobbing along at a respectable 40%
    I think if the Tories can score even just one 35% over the next week or so the alarm bells will be ringing in some quarters.
    The Conservatives have won the argument in Principal about Welfare reform although there are bound to be some cringe moments along the way.
    Much more interesting times though for the Poll watchers.

  11. I’ll throw in another factor. A generally neutral budget, with less clangers than the last one.

  12. Mark Johnson –

    Indeed. Success breeds success, failure breeds failure. Even a temporary boost can be more damaging if it sets off other events, were Labour to go all wobbly at the sight of a reduced lead and start attacking Miliband it would damage them more.

    Take for example January 2012 – the Conservatives got a boost from the European veto, but this lead to a month of Labour figures attacking Miliband and press speculation about his leadership further damaging the party.

    In this instance though I think things are a lot better for Labour because of the coming local elections. Even if they do react badly to narrowing polls, they are almost guaranteed to do well in the locals next week which will put things back on a positive narrative for them.

  13. “The Conservatives have won the argument in Principal about Welfare reform although there are bound to be some cringe moments along the way.”

    Is this a ‘cringe’ moment ?

    Front page of todays (usually very Tory supporting) Metro :

    “The number of people needing emergency food handouts has trebled in a year – and is expected to rise higher still.

    Almost 350,000 people, including 126,000 children, have received at least three days’ meals from food banks in the past 12 months.

    Welfare reforms which came into force this month will force even more families into hunger, it is feared.”


    It is shameful that in this wealthy country, people are so hungry that they have to rely on the generosity of charities to feed them.

  14. @ AW
    Thats a very fair assessment Anthony as ever!

    Labour are bound to do at the very least reasonably well in the County Elections and the Conservatives are starting for a very high point indeed – but the losses/gains will read very well for Labour.
    I’m expecting about 300 seats lost which is obviously going to happen and perhaps with most of the Councils being the Tory Shires the losses won’t be anywhere near as bad as if they had been the Borough/District Elections due next May 2014!

  15. @ Colin

    I think the pro-MT coverage for 10 days could have affected the competence questions (because of the polarisation a pro MT historical coverage is anti-Labour: reminding people when the Conservatives appeared to be competent and Labour appeared to be incompetent). I also think that EM made an error with his speech at the recall, but hardly could do anything else – the risk of negative perceptions of a more distancing speech was too big.

    The government has to make an error for a reverse of the narrowing gap, Labour cannot do that, because they are not in the position to DO something positive. Of course, they can damage themselves. So opposition actions have only downside risks in normal circumstances, while government has both ways.

    The problem is people do not seem to care. Voters do not turn against the government unless they personally are starving. I think Blair and new labour came to terms with the selfishness of voters a long time ago and EM has to be careful given a choice between more personal cash and getting people out of poverty voters will choose the cash as the eighties proved.

    It is a tricky problem for Labour an argument they can’t win electorally. I liked their loans idea, that would also boost confidence as fear of losing your job holds back spending .

  17. I think the problem with welfare for Labour is that they’re effectively forced to play defence for one of their own minorities.Ignore the issue and the relevant supporters become disillusioned and don’t vote or drift to UKIP etc but there’s no gain available from Tory voters.

    Obama did well in the US by attacking one of the right’s minorites – the very rich – and ultimately Labour may need to put the Tories back on defensive with something similar.

  18. A big part of the reason is the fact that Blair’s intervention among others and David Miliband’s departure has led the media to finally start asking Labour some real questions, for which they seem to be producing unsatisfactory answers.

    I would say the main reason is scrutiny has for the time being moderately switched from the Tories, and gone toward Labour.

  19. @Colin.
    “I think those changes in approval/performance ratings tell the story-and that must surely be to do with perception of Government performance.”

    Well it can’t be down to economic performance, because that performance over the last month was about as bad as anything we’ve seen, with absolutely no pointers to recovery. Meanwhile the Government looks increasingly isolated as others change tack on austerity – such as the IMF no less and most recently Baroso. Not that many noticed given the blanket Thatcher coverage. And I think that’s the point in terms of her impact, as AW puts it the “indirect effect in the sense that it interrupted the normal flow of politics”.

  20. I’ve looked at the figures for the morning poll, and noticed one thing that I don’t fully understand. In the Weighting adjustments at the end of the report, the ‘Others’ vote is weighted down from 102 to 22. I’m sure there are sound methodological reasons for this, but it is such a large adjustment that it wouldn’t need to be far out to make quite a big difference to VI.

  21. I am with AW

    I don’t think the Thatcher funeral media fest .
    Of it’s own impacted the VI that much.

    But it allowed DC to be Ministerial in public and the dearth of parliamentary opportunities for EM to give him a drubbing at PMQ’s (incidentally only 2 between now and the end of May) may have raised His credibility rating.

    What I find more incredible is why in the light of Osborne’s failure to achieve 2 out of the 3 Economic Goals He set himself in 2010 and the fact that whether you like Him or Not Ed Balls has called the effects of austerity on growth pretty accurately the Tories still maintain a small lead on economic competence.

    I suspect it is because EB and to a lesser extent EM still have the whiff of the Brown Government about them.

    One of the greatest “successes” of Conservative revisionist History is to shift the blame for the recession almost exclusively from the Financial Global Crisis to overspend by the last Government .

    I suspect this will continue to feature in LC’s spinning over the next 2 Years

  22. AW

    I entirely agree with your “own working assumption [that it]is a Thatcher effect of one sort or another that will fade away”

    generally speaking you would be right to say that it really is impossible to know but not in this case.

    If there appears to be the opposite effect in Scotland, then that’s corroboration. If not, then one or more the multiple other factors are responsible.

    I don’t have the data, but we could all learn something about the effect of media spectaculars.


    “Either Thatcher is pretty much hated on the left-or she isn’t.”

    I don’t know about “the left” or what their memories are like, but I do know she was and is hated in Scotland.

    The rot started before her time, but Scotland is the only part of the UK ever to give any party more than 50% of the popular vote, and now we have twice as many pandas (set to increase by 50%) as Conservative MPs (likely to reduce by 100%).

    Have English Conservatives any explanation how this happened? If they had, it might lead them to develop policies for halting the decline? The ones they had before might be worth looking at.

    It’s a bit like granddad farting at the dinner table. The easy response is that you don’t speak about it and pretend it didn’t happen.

  23. @Sen5c
    “Obama did well in the US by attacking one of the right’s minorites – the very rich – and ultimately Labour may need to put the Tories back on defensive with something similar.”


    UKIP would also suffer from a focus on their taxation policies, which so far have escaped scrutiny. They make the Conservatives look positively egalitarian. If Labour need to confront UKIP head on, taxation is the best ground on which to do so, painting them into a corner which would repel working class voters whilst still appealing to core Conservatives. Flat rate tax anyone?

  24. Slight movement trend towards the Conservatives.

    Could this be the beginning of a shift from the typical government ‘mid-term blues’ in the polls to a much narrower gap in time for the 2015 election?

  25. Pete – (a) that isn’t vote, that’s ID (furthermore, that’s party ID in 2010). They are not the same thing.

    The reason is fairly straightforward actually (having spent ages tracking it down!). As you can see, YouGov weight people who don’t have any firm party identification separately from those who identify with minor parties. However, when we draw the samples they are grouped together, and it tends to produce too many minor party identifiers and too few people without any party identification so it needs correcting for weighting.

    The reason for the different approaches is that weighting is done by rim weighting – an iterative process using separate weighting targets for each demographic – while sampling is done using interlocked demographics. So there is a quota for “under 55s, in the north, who read a broadsheet, who are male and who identify with Labour” – as you can imagine, once you’ve interlocked age, region, newspaper, gender and party you have a LOT of separate boxes, hence lots of things are lumped together, otherwise we’d have a sampling requirement of 0.16 of a Sun reading, under 25, Liberal Democrat woman from Wales, etc, etc.

  26. Just watching a discusion on DP about imigration.

    It just occured to me that because of the free movement across the EU all countries could pay benefits at the same rate that claimants get in their own country. All countries could then reclaim those benefits from the country of origin through the EU. So a Brit. claiming benefits in spain ( for example ) would actually be paid benefits indirectly by the UK.
    Problem solved ?

  27. @STEVE
    “One of the greatest “successes” of Conservative revisionist History is to shift the blame for the recession almost exclusively from the Financial Global Crisis to overspend by the last Government.”

    Reminds me of a little ‘parable’ I heard a while ago.

    Three men are sitting in a room. One is a rich banker, one is a working man on an average wage and one is an unemployed man who lost his job in the recession. On a table in front of the three men is a plate of 10 biscuits. The banker grabs 9 biscuits and starts stuffing them into his mouth. He then looks at the working man and the final biscuit and points to the unemployed guy accusingly and says ‘You wanna watch him!’

    The shift of blame from the global finance markets to the poor has also been a great ‘success’ of the current government.

  28. Just going to point out it does not matter who is being partisan if you bite it will be you on the naughty step…

    Have you not learned from the last episode we had, pretty much the same people goading for a response…

    they will not be on the naughty step, and if there are no responses and they keep on and on… who knows it may be fun to watch…

  29. Anthony,
    Thanks for the reply, which I think I more or less understand. It just seems to me that because the adjustment is so large, it is a possible source of error when it comes to the actual election.

    For instance, if the Others are increasing their share of the vote (which including SNP has in fact gone from 3.2% in 1987 to 7.7% in 2010), then Party ID in 2010 will underestimate VI for 2015. There is also the fact that anyone registering a protest vote for a minor party might forget exactly which one they voted for – I know I have!

    I’m not saying that ‘Others’ are going to gain any seats, but if their vote share is significantly underestimated quite a few results could be affected.

  30. Pete B – no, it won’t cause any problems. YG just invite too many of them to begin with. In a perfect world there would only have been 22 to begin with and those other 80 would never have filled in the survey.

    The reason YG use data from 2010 to weight is to avoid issues of memory. They weight using data collected in 2010, before people had chance to change their minds or forget

  31. @ Steve, @Northernstar
    Guys, with respect it is far too simplistic to blame the current malaise on either the financial crisis or government over-spending (here or in the US or the EU). the fact is that both contributed to s significant degree.

    I would go so far as to list six main contributory factors to the current down-turn:
    – the decade-long economic imbalance between the developed west and developing producer economies (China, SE Asia, India and ME)
    – a resulting massive property bubble in the US, UK and Europe funded by cheap investment funds from producer economies looking for a home
    – totally inadequate regulation of financial services, allowing repackaging of risk in ways that eliminated transparency and ignored systemic market risk (which the property bubble made highly likely would become real)
    – exceptionally poor management of SOME financial institutions (e,g, RBS, HBOS, Lehmans), whereas better run institutions (e.g. Lloyds) were caught in the fall-out
    – governments using the revenues from the bubble to increase current expenditure way above what was sustainable ( all of Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, UK, US) so that when the bubble burst deficits soared
    – electorates happy to take out loans (directly through mortgages and credit cards, indirectly through unfunded government expenditure on current items – health, pensions, etc) that were never repayable to fund a lifestyle that was unsustainable.

    Picking any one cause – ‘bankers’, regulators, Brown, the Chinese – to the exclusion of the others is an exercise in point scoring rather than analysis, and is a big part of why this problem is proving so hard to fix. You have to address ALL the causes, not just one, to successfully resolve the whole problem.

    For example, politicians used ‘bankers’ as a human shield to deflect from their own incompetence around regulation and the expenses scandal, with the result that now highly competent individuals are moving out the sector rather than put up with the rubbish that goes with being a senior manager in a bank.

    Similarly, much of the new regulation is self-defeating as it puts up barriers to new entrants in banking services and reduces the scope for existing banks to lend to SMEs.

    I’m hugely depressed at the quality of debate around this topic, in the press, the internet and on air. Politicians – with the occasional exception of Vince Cable – are totally unable or unwilling to have a meaningful debate (either because they don’t understand themselves or think the electorate are too stupid to follow a real debate?)

    Contributions on this website are more nuanced, but still don’t reflect the full range of problems to be sorted, potential solutions and implications of those solutions.

    No wonder the great british public has almost no idea what to say on economic issues beyond expressing little confidence in any party…

  32. Well, BIGFATRON you are right in every degree, although I think the imbalance between East and West did not play much part (the packeaged and repackaged debt all secured on a shack in Arkansas had nothing to do with China and everything to do with greed/dishonesty.

    But welcome, if you’ve not been here before.

  33. Food Bank numbers APPEAR to be much worse because the system of measuring has changed which puts the numbers up substantially, so it is not comparing apples with apples to look at today compared to 2010 or whenever. (in fact I think it was this govt that changed the methodology wanting to get a more accurate picture, so it hardly makes sense for them to be accused of not caring – either about the people or the rising numbers.

    That said, it could in time be a measure to watch. NB They’re a good institution I think.

  34. Isn’t Northernstar being Partisan?
    Why am I in moderation?

  35. @NickP
    In fact the long-term trade imbalances were the primary driver of the asset bubble; here’s why:
    Enormous amounts of money, mostly USD, were being deposited with banks by developing countries. This is the case because trade i conducted principally in USD, so exporting countries naturally have surpluses of USD which can only – ultimately – be lent back to the US (a side-effect of being the world’s reserve currency IIRC).
    If a bank takes deposits it must pay interest on them at bank base rate (which is set by the domestic banking regulator based – typically – on domestic monetary flows and inflation targets); this left US bank holding large amounts of USD that they HAD to lend out, or lose money on.
    This ‘wall of money’ resulted in banks around the world chasing more and more risky investments in which to place these surplus dollars – hence 120% mortgages to indigent pensioners in Oregon. It also reduced the cost of government borrowing below the ‘natural’ level implied by each country’s fiscal situation.

    In doing so it drove the second, fifth and sixth of my bullets above: asset bubbles, government current account over-spending and personal indebtedness.


    Welcome, one of the most sensible posts I have ever seen on this website.

  37. That’s interesting, BFR.

    If true (I’m not doubting it) it means that money being withdrawn is going to mean massive insolvency and a world of pain…and the UK and US money printing presses going like the clappers.

  38. John Murphy,

    Ed Miliband can’t move Cooper to welfare- it would effectively be a demotion, and he needs the support of the Cooper/Balls block. Plus I doubt any Labour frontbencher with prospects would accept that brief. They’re very likely to form the next government either as a coalition or on their own, and none of them want to be holding that hot potato when the music stops. Remember what happened to Harriet Harman, anyone?

    But I agree Liam Byrne seems to have mastered the art of pleasing absolutely nobody, although the salary insurance idea might have legs.

  39. Looks like the Italians have sorted themselves out a government at last, something like a grand coalition led by the moderate centre-left Enrico Letta, who will attempt to implement some economic and political changes, not least an attempt to make election results more emphatic.

    It does seem that the 5 Star Movement has been sidelined. I wonder if UKIP might suffer such a fate if they did somehow capture significant quantities of seats next time? FPTP would seem to oppose them, and I wonder if the Italian political establishment might want to do the same there?

  40. Thanks for the kind comments.
    I tend to lurk on here – the quality of debate is generally pretty high, and far more informed than most ‘discussion’ sites. I also have an abiding, if amateur, interest in psephology!
    However I’m trying to pitch in where I feel that I have something useful to add to the debate.

  41. “However I’m trying to pitch in where I feel that I have something useful to add to the debate.”

    I like to put my oar in, useful or not.

    (Poor old AW and his moderating button. The shame!)

  42. Mark could it be you have said something non partisan.

  43. Well, Labour couldn’t go in with them- nor would Farage touch Labour with a ten foot pole, I should think.

    So Ukip’s only option for political power in 2015 would be a coalition with a Cameron-led Tory party, or possibly a purple-yellow-blue coalition with Cameron and Clegg. Even if the numbers added up to make that possible, I suspect Farage would force another general election rather than entertain that notion, even if it cost Ukip all their newly won seats.

    In the long term a Ukip-Tory coalition is a possibility, although it’s not clear to me how long Ukip will survive as a credible fourth party. Their current popularity seems to me to have a lot to do with the nature of the Tory leadership- remove the Cameroons and replace them with someone more middle class and more rightwing, and a lot of those Tory defectors will come home. Ukip would still have the Lib Dem “any protest party will do” defectors and the Labour defectors, but at that point their party identity would be so incoherent that they might well collapse.

  44. I can’t envisage a situation where the LDs would join a coalition with UKIP.

    I guess you could construct a theoretical parliamentary make up where neither LD + Lab + nationalists nor LD + Con could form a majority government, but it is a pretty far-fetched scenario.

    However I would predict that the LDs would leave UKIP + Cons to form a minority administration, presumably under a new Tory leader from the right of the centre of the Tory party.

  45. @John B Dick
    The You Gov poll on Thatcherite policies shows that Scotland broadly goes along with the rest of the UK in whether it is “left wing” or “right wing” (ie for or against Thatcher’s policies).

    The one exception is Trade Unions, where Scots think that strong trade unions are good for Britain, while the rest of the UK doesnt. Although there is regional variation in that.

    The election results also show things a little differently – in 1979 she got just over 25% of the vote in Scotland and 8 years later she got just under. The number of MPs changed a bit – but thats first past the post.

    I believe that more people voted for Thatcher in 1983 in Scotland than voted for Alex Salmond in 2011.

  46. Do you mean ‘Partisan’ rather than ‘non partisan’ -lol

    I think I will just observe in future – I feel a bit miffed when you consider some of the other comments oh here that are far more partisan than mine – ah well at least I tried to put across a different point of view!

  47. It is very good to hear that the government is stockpiling vaccine in case the
    Measles epidemic spreads from South Wales.I understand that there are cases in Manchester at the moment.

  48. @Couper – I agree that the insurance based JSA would be something to consider & I look forward to hearing more about it even though it will never affect me but my children may find themselves unemployed at some point. I agree also that people don’t care in the main – sad but true.

    @Tojim – If you meant me, lol sorry. It’s an unfortunate personality trait that I can ignore stuff only for so long – but I will try to refrain in future.

    @WHO KNOWS ANYWAY? – not sure what you mean re change of measurement changing numbers being fed by food banks.

    The Trussell Trust said: In 2011-12 foodbanks fed 128,687 people nationwide, in 2012-13 we anticipate this number will rise to over 290,000.


    Those numbers relying on charity food banks is something this wealthy country should be ashamed of surely ?

  49. Anthony, I seem to have triggered auto-mod by liking to the Trussel Trust website – either that or I’m on the naughty step…..

  50. LASZLO


    That all sounds a bit far fetched to me.

    I just think the Government have been getting stuff right for a change & reaping a modest reward.

    But no doubt the Local Elections will wipe any nascent smiles off Conservative faces.

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