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. BFR
    I suppose the question is whether having had the boom, whether we are quite finished with the bust. I rather thought we had not.

    Stagflation seems the order of the day as UK minimal growth is surely outweighed by our inflation? It’s no good having more cash in the pocket if what you spend on costs even more or what you save attracts less interest at the same time.

    Welcome and I hope you will keep us on the economic straight and narrow where some try to say VI change is as a result of the economic situation (especially when it is!).


    Good summary I reckon.



    Entirely agree but do you ever see the day when any politician or any of our gutter press would say that when “blame the last lot” is so much simpler

  4. 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.

    -If that happened the LD’s would be holding their next party conference in a Telephone Box!


    @”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.”

    I don’t agree that there are no pointers to recovery. But the pointers do seem to indicate a slow recovery-hence higher Debt, hence Downgrades etc etc.

    Putting that aside though, your first statement is intuitively true.

    ….unless “economy” means all sorts of things to the people surveyed in the Poll. Things which impact them directly rather than dry numbers. A feeling that it could be worse when you see the news from other places.

    I don’t know-we will just have to wait for the next time that question is asked.

  6. Colin/Phil – this really isn’t something that needs debating. If people’s perceptions of the economy had changed to the extent that it was affecting voting intentions would we expect to see it reflected in questions on economic optimism.

    It’s on p.36 here. There really isn’t any sign of change.

    Remember, voting isn’t driven by the economy. It is driven by *perceptions* of the economy, which in turn are driven by the economy. That may seem like a silly distinction to make, but the point is that we can measure economic perceptions in their own right, and see if they actually are changing. We are not limited to speculating about what they *might* be based on the economic data.


    I expect you are completely correct….but if DWP brief was suitably grouped it might make a worthwhile senior brief – after all these days so much of what was the Home Office brief is gone. It is only a ghost of the department once run by Jenkins, Callaghan or Whitelaw…. and I also think the Foreign Office doesn’t exactly allow a star to shine since most PM’s are there own foreign secretaries these days.

    But my opinion s aside you are certainly completely correct for all the reasons you gave.

    I missed PMQ’s today got lost on PBS.

  8. Some Tories ( Norfolk County Council ) are giving the impression the cuts are over and the spending taps will soon be turned on again.


    @”this really isn’t something that needs debating. If people’s perceptions of the economy had changed to the extent that it was affecting voting intentions would we expect to see it reflected in questions on economic optimism.”

    I was referencing the change in answers to the question ” Who is best at handling the economy” in YouGov’s Poll of 14/15 April-along with other changes to similar questions in that Poll.
    My post at 9.39am refers.

    If that Poll was misleading, then I was wasting my time.

    If YouGov’s daily polls “don’t need debating”-what is the point of them?

    @”Remember, voting isn’t driven by the economy. It is driven by *perceptions* of the economy, ”

    I said as much in my post at 2.51pm.-“unless “economy” means all sorts of things to the people surveyed in the Poll.”

  10. @COLIN
    I don’t see much equivalence between MT/MF & DC/EB.
    ( though smile inwardly at the thought that you do !)”


    Lol, that’s a pretty standard logic fail.

    Lefty wasn’t saying that MT is equivalent to DC

    He was just noting that the halo effect is something that can affect many politicians and he cited evidence to that effect.

    If someone noted that you need to eat, and so did Stalin, that does not mean that they think you and Stalin are much the same thing.

    If you think DC is somehow immune from halo effects when Thatch wasn’t you kinda need to explain why. ..

  11. John,

    Don’t worry, it was a snoozefest this week anyway. You will be shocked to discover Ed Miliband is unimpressed by the Government’s record on the NHS. In other news Cameron is cutting taxes for millionaires and the Tories think the last government made a mess of the economy.

    The only thing we learned is that MPs all hate Julian Huppert for some reason.

  12. MJ

    goodbye: you’ll be missed.

  13. Colin – then you are a fine and upstanding chap, I only saw Phil’s response about actual economic performance, as opposed to perceptions.

  14. Luis Suarez has been banned for 10 games

    That will give Him something to Chew Over,

  15. No wait, I tell a lie. Something did happen.

    Cameron pulled out Mid-Staffordshire to wave at Miliband, which I think is the first time a senior figure has used it against Labour. The initial response to the Francis Report was surreally non-partisan.

    I’m not sure why he did it. I didn’t think he was doing that badly, and the Government have that “The NHS in Wales sucks!” line to use (which he was also using) so it’s not like they don’t have an alternative attack on Labour’s record to reach for if they need one.

  16. AW

    Fair enough.

  17. Steve

    Does this mean there is a greater liklihood that he will join Chewventus in the summer ?

  18. @Colin

    You’re on a roll today Col.

    You were talking about approval, but Anthony is talking about economic optimism.

    You might see it in terms of salience. If people see the Tories as slightly less awful on the economy, but still have have little economic optimism, how much positive effect on VI are we likely to see?

  19. Or if there’s little CHANGE in economic optimism. ..

  20. JIM JAM
    “Yes Carfew,
    This is where the misrepresentation of the so-called 35% strategy comes from.
    Hodges et al have suggested it is Ed target but it is the base line and it is right that unlike Blair/Brown the core is not alienated; I know 2 former voters who stay away is only worth one swicther but losing touch with our base cost us in 2005 and 2010.
    So whilst we reach out to try to get a few extra we don’t over triangulate as we the new core has to become entrenched.”

    Pretty much.

    I would add that for EM it isn’t necessarily all about getting elected, just as it isn’t for Tories or LibDems. They all tend to enact policies that somehow conveniently seem to suit them politically. So Ed may be tempted towards policies that might make Blairites squirm but which might suit Labour in the longer run.

  21. I have looking at the Yougov data for 2013 using the techniques I use for measuring process for continuous improvement – control charts and CUSUM analysis.

    Essentially the Labour and Conservative vote is entirely within normal process limits. No data is outside these, or ‘special cause’.

    CUSUM has more sensitivity, so I tried that.

    ht tps://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzTTW1ecy-NDR2JSYUkxcjAtVFk/edit?usp=sharing

    Is clear that since the Eastleigh By Election both Labour and Conservative VI has suffered and UKIP have benefited. The part of the graph that is Mrs T’s death shows only a very slight blip at best.

    The correlation between Lab and Con is -0.02.

    The correlation between Lab and UKIP is -0.54

    The correlation between Con and UKIP is -0.64

  22. John Ruddy,

    On Thatcher and Salmond, you’re wrong- by about 100,000 votes. Conservative vote in 1983: 801,487. SNP vote in 2011: 902,915. The 1979 Tory vote would be closer.

    John Curtice and Rachel Ormston found that there wasn’t much difference at all between Scots and English on some “right wing vs. left wing” issues e.g. in both countries there is overwhelming opposition to universal free higher education.

  23. @BFG

    Could have sworn I’d seen your name before. Hello anyways.

    On the idea that banks had all this money they had to lend. Problem is that because of fractional reserve banking, much of what they lend is money they don’t actually have. That was a big part of the problem. The banks were over leveraged. They didn’t have to do all that lending.

    Also, lending isn’t as big a risk if you manage the risk. That is what banks are supposed to do, via interest rates, hedging etc.

    Instead they saw a chance to make money given lax regulation and passed the problem on.

    So bad was it that we had banks selling on dodgy debt then placing financial bets against the firms they sold the debt onto! !

    It was basically rank misselling to get big bonuses, not something they were “forced” to do.

  24. I should also add this standard bank apologia also ignores many of the other feral acts of banking of the era. They could have lent more to business if they absolutely had to lend but preferred assets. Hiking credit card rates. PPI, etc.

    None of which was forced by circumstance on the poor bankers.

  25. (In terms of the total electorate, there was only a small difference between the Tories in 1983 and the SNP in 2011, but that’s because turnout in 2011 was so low at just 50%.)

  26. Steve
    “If that happened the LD’s would be holding their next party conference in a Telephone Box!”

    Oh, at least a minibus surely!

  27. @Carfrew

    Yes, I posted once before a few weeks ago…

    OK, two issues here:

    First, on the point re fractional reserve banking, you are wrong to think that banks entirely control their leverage ratios. Inter bank interest rates are effectively set by central banks based on a country’s internal monetary and inflationary objectives. If these rates are set failing to take account of cash movements driven by trade imbalances then they will attract inflows of funds that bank are obliged to accept as deposits and then MUST lend on. No bank can carry excessive un-invested funds on balance sheet without becoming unprofitable.

    Both Chinese and US policy makers knew this, but did not want to upset the ‘virtuous’ circle of US govt and citizens borrowing to buy cheap Chinese goods, employing Chinese workers, growing the Chinese economy, which then lent the proceeds back to the US to fund further cheap US borrowing & consumer spending.

    This was an unstable system that had to eventually collapse – and that collapse was made more painful because the bubble was allowed to expand for so long unabated, because the Euro experiment failed concurrently, and because banks had created – and regulators allowed – instruments which made it impossible to know which institutions carried what risk.

    In regard to banking misdemeanours, I absolutely agree there was rank bad management and wilful misconduct in quite a few institutions: PPI, Libor-rigging, poor risk management practices,etc. The list is depressingly long. I agree that a significant number of senior bankers carry a very heavy responsibility for these failures.

    And rank bad management of commercial banks was responsible for all the UK’s bank collapses – Northern Rock, HBOS and RBS. Interestingly, investment banking – casino banking if you will – had little or nothing to do with it.

    But these failures did not create the deficit, or even have a substantial impact on it; that is a myth. The deficit’s growth was down to systemic current overspending made worse by the global recession, which in turn was down to the asset bubble bursting in the US, Spain, Ireland, etc, followed by loss of confidence in the Euro zone.

    None of that excuses or negates the failure of other responsible groups to do their jobs properly:
    – politicians were happy to borrow to fund current spending even though they knew current income was inflated by an asset bubble, creating an unsupportable systemic deficit;
    – regulators abysmally failed to control banks and are now imposing badly thought out regulations which stifle the recovery;
    – all of us were happy to borrow money with no idea how we would repay it.

    I’m not a banking apologist, or seeking to minimise their failings; but banking has been used as a convenient scapegoat by all political parties for ills that actually arose from a variety of causes, just as Gordon Brown is used as a catch-all scapegoat by Osbourne. Both are ill-informed IMHO.

    PS – sorry for such a long post!

  28. @Colin
    “I don’t agree that there are no pointers to recovery.”

    That is indeed consistent with your contributions, quite regularly over the past two years, highlighting the odd piece of economic good news that stands out amidst a sea of bad, implicitly or explicitly suggesting that a nascent economic recovery is underway. It hasn’t happened yet. We might though see one some time in the next two years, given the unprecedented length of the current depression.

    On the issue of polling, the economic optimism index is useful in that it reflects perceptions of the economy devoid of any political colouring. If people don’t perceive an economic recovery (which is hardly earth shattering news at present) then it follows that that cannot be helping the government’s fortunes.

    Be wary of cause and effect when interpreting the political trackers. If the governing party is perceived more favourably in general, for reasons unconnected to any specific policy stances, it is to be expected that approval and the various individual “best policies” trackers will all follow more or less in unison. If Labour’s lead has narrowed slightly, I would be surprised if the Government’s approval rating had not improved a bit. So if perceptions in the wake of Thatcher’s death is the “unconnected” reason helping the Conservatives one way or another, the uniform movement you point to is consistent with that.

  29. @BFR

    Saying that the banks don’t “entirely” control their leverage does not deny the fact that they massively and needlessly over-leveraged. And repeating the point that they had to lend money on also does not address the over-leveraging.

    You aren’t really addressing my point, but repeating the earlier argument. This is before we get to issues like banks seeking funds to lend against to make even more money. As opposed to having too much to lend already.

    That was one reason they liked the big bang. Access to all those retail deposits to lend against.

    And on the deficit, nah, that isn’t borne out by the data.

    Prior to the crash the deficit was under forty billion, pretty standard for a western economy.

    After the crash, it quadrupled in short order. Why? Because banks stopped lending to business, taking out seven percent of the economy rather rapidly.

    As a consequence tax revenues plummeted and welfare costs shot up, hence the deficit.

    The sudden contraction owing to the banks liquidity crisis and its effect on taxand welfare is not exactly a secret.

  30. @bigfatron,

    Excellent stuff, at last a really good impartial summary of the differing factors in the dramatic downturn.

    I once heard an economist sum it up very well on newsnight, he said something along the lines of there were three main contributing factors specifically to the UK.

    – banking collapse, poor regs, poor practices, high leveraging. leading to a dramatic reduction in lending and big impact on the housing market, small businesses etc, hammering confidence.
    – overspending and over borrowing of the previous Govt, including previously against revenue streams that were historically high and unsustainable, i.e stamp duty.
    – huge levels of unsecured personal debt (credit cards, loans) compared to similar developed countries, in particular mainland Europe. To a lesser extent high levels of secured debt made under lax lending, I.e. self cert mortgages, 5xmultiples on earning etc. (something that is the responsibility of both institutions and individuals)

    People with vested political instances tend to choose just one of the above, or weight these to suit agenda, but it is disingenuous to choose just one (its all the banks fault etc…), which I think we have seen on here, as remember, some countries weathered the storm far better (Canada, Germany), and they tended to have better fundamentals in terms of public spending and consumer debt. Those countries with unbalanced economies and less controlled spending tended to be hit harder when tax receipts suddenly dived.

  31. Colin

    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 ?


    Apologies if anyone else has answered this – I’ve been paying attention to the day job today.

    I’ve been saying that
    a) When a party gets a bounce, it often results in perceptions of them improving across the board
    b) Any Thatcher bounce was likely to stiffen Tory sinews rather than be due to pulling in Lab support.

    Evidence? It’s these in the polls that you quote. Look at the responses for 2010 Cob & Lab supporters on those questions and how these changed either side of Thatcher’s demise (polls of 24/25 March and 14/15 April:

    2010 CON VOTERS

    Best at handling :-
    NHS————————-Con49, Lab10———Con57, Lab8
    EDucation & Schools–Con 54, Lab8———–Con60, Lab7
    Unemployment ———Con48, Lab9————Con55, Lab8
    Taxation——————-Con56, Lab5————-Con60, Lab7
    Economy——————Con58, Lab3 ————Con65, Lab5
    Europe ——————–Con45, Lab3————-Con47, Lab5

    2010 Lab VOTERS

    Best at handling :-
    NHS————————-Con4, Lab70———Con2, Lab79
    EDucation & Schools–Con 5, Lab68———-Con5, Lab69
    Unemployment ———Con5, Lab64————Con5, Lab62
    Taxation——————-Con7, Lab61————Con7, Lab64
    Economy——————Con5, Lab62 ————Con4, Lab60
    Europe ——————–Con6, Lab48————-Con9, Lab47

    Significant improvements in the attitude of the 2010 Con voters to the Cons across a range of issues (excluding Europe…) either side of Thatcher’s death

    Barely a blip in the response of 2010 Labour voters.

    I’ve not got time to do my detailed analysis of the lost LD voters, but a cursory look suggests that their opinions haven’t changed much.

    So. Nothing definitive, but some general support for the thesis that Thatcher’s death has strengthened the Tories image among their own supporters, but not changed that of Labour supporters.

  32. RICH
    Excellent stuff, at last a really good impartial summary of the differing factors in the dramatic downturn.


    Lol. Btw, who is saying it is all the banks’ fault. Thatch deregulated the banks and Labour were fine with that. They also stoked the boom rather.

    But the idea the banks were forced into it and had little to do with the deficit?? Nah, that doesn’t really wash. ..

  33. I wonder, (BFR will of course put me right) if the weathering of the storm by northern EU countries was better because of the low levels of personal debt (indeed a great absence of it). I take on the point about southern EU countries playing fast and loose with the low interest rates on offer but that is no different to what happened in the USA and could be regarded as a ‘single currency experiment’ in both continents (I detected where BFR was coming from with his use of that expression).

    In other words, Washington has to subsidise Kentucky in the same way that Frankfurt has to subsidise Andalucia.

    Kentuckians and Andalusians buy stuff made in Detroit and Wolfsburg so give them the means. I thought that was the set-up for single currencies.

  34. Lefty,

    Haha, wow. That’s overwhelming evidence for the happy Tories theory, whether one attributes it to Thatcher or something else (approval of the welfare changes?)

  35. ^ I didn’t say that @carfrew, I said that people with vested interests tend to say (left of politics) all the banks fault, Labour ran the economy like a dream, personal debt was fine etc.
    (On the right), partly banks, but in a large part the last administration completely losing control of spending.

    I was saying that I agreed with an economist who said it was a mixture of all three areas I noted, but to say just the banks is wrong, because other countries weathered this much better than us, such as Canada and Germany. In my view our economy was too weighted towards finance and public sector.

  36. Bigfatron

    A truly excellent, non partisan post, probably the best I have seen on this site over the last few years, explaining how we got here.
    Yes, some bankers were complicit & incompetent but they were not the whole problem. If there is one thing I have got very tired of, it is people on the left, just blanket blaming all bankers. If we were in the 13th century, I am sure that they would have them all burned at the stake!

    As you state, there were many, including ourselves, (no bank ever forced anyone to over borrow) gorging ourselves at this party and equally worst were incompetent politicians who should have been calming the situation, rather than conveniently re-stating the business cycle to suit their own spending plans.

  37. @Rich

    I agree our economy was unbalanced. We need a few less lawyers and historians in charge of our parties in government and a few more engineers like Lefty involved. Business people like Cable and Heseltine get that we are competing with countries who do more to assist other sectors. But it’s widdling in the wind when up against the likes of Blair/Cameron/Clegg it seems

    I would also be critical of Labour that while they acted fast in response to the crash and got the economy going again when it could have tanked they didn’t solve the problem of getting the banks lending more to business. We needed a state bank ready to take up the slack if the private banks don’t do their job.

    To be fair the current government are finally having a go at it but too little too late.

    Portillo is right. We have to treated banking as what it is: a utility on which we all depend, too important to leave it to ’em.

    I wouldn’t agree the public sector was the problem though. It helped keep things afloat because didn’t depend so much on bank lending.. Lack of other sectors like sufficient manufacturing was more the problem.

  38. @BFR
    “The deficit’s growth was down to systemic current overspending made worse by the global recession, which in turn was down to the asset bubble bursting in the US, Spain, Ireland, etc, followed by loss of confidence in the Euro zone.”

    I was with you until that point. But the emphasis of that comment reads very much as though the primary cause of the current deficit was “systematic current overspending” prior to 2008, not the economic tsunami of the global recession. The sums simply don’t support that contention. Take the UK. A fiscal tightening of the scale of perhaps £10bn pa in the mid 2000s might have offered a small bit of leeway with which to cope subsequently, but it would still amount to a drop in the ocean compared with where we are now. The recession caused the deficit, not the other way around.


    Great post


    “As you state, there were many, including ourselves, (no bank ever forced anyone to over borrow) gorging ourselves at this party ”


    Lol, we didn’t cause the crash. It wasn’t our lending that was the problem. We didn’t suddenly all default on our credit cards causing the crash.

    It was mortgage defaults in America that set off the crash. But even that would not have caused such a crash if banks hadn’t been so greedy.

    Normally they should have priced riskier loans accordingly to offset losses. Instead they sneakily sold it on to other banks poisoning the system. That’s what made it so bad.

    It wasn’t our fault. It’s fair to say that our indebtedness doesn’t help withrm recovery but Labour proved it’s not a deal breaker to growth.

  41. Well, if BFR has dispelled the need for ‘all the fault of’ postings on here, I assume we will never see the like again.

    (Lots of huge grinning smileys).


    @” It hasn’t happened yet. ”

    Depends what you mean by “it”.

    Just short of 80% of the UK economy has grown each year 2010 to 2012-by 1.1%, 1.2% & 1.0% respectively.

    Clearly :-

    This is not ALL the economy-Construction & Manufacturing ( 17% of the Economy) have declined in 2012 after growing in the previous two years. The sector including NS Oil ( 2.4% of the Economy has declined by 27% over the three years. We know that the latter is a question of phasing & new investment is coming through from this year.The problem areas are the other two.

    These growth figures are low.

  43. One can only hope Howard (smiley thing)

  44. Why are all the right wingers celebrating the idea of a non-partisan right wing post? Can’t be that rare, surely?

  45. @Carfrew,

    Surely your perception of BFR’s post as right-wing is in itself partisan?

  46. @Neil

    Nope. Blaming the deficit on the last administration without noting the overwhelming influence of the crash on the economy is standard political stuff.

  47. LEFTY

    Thanks .Interesting & point well made.

  48. Last administration’s spending, to be accurate

  49. @Colin
    I referred to two years not three. Since we’re all agreed that the economy was growing for the first three quarters of 2010, you should really start those comparisons from Q4 2010, when things first went back into reverse.

  50. PHIL

    I clearly stated that Manufacturing & Construction, which had grown in 2010 & 2011, both contracted in 2012.

    NS Oil has contracted throughout the post GE period.

    Service Industries have grown throughout the post GE period-but at only 1% pa or so for each of the three years.

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