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. Today’s YG: C31 L39 D10 U11. The tables look much the same as yesterday: gender gaps and age distribution “normal” (i.e. similar to past year, not past three weeks). The Labour 2010 leakage to Con and Others is a little reduced from yesterday.

    PostageIncluded: That’s an interesting observation. What it needs is someone to put the last few weeks into a spreadsheet and calculate with DK included. (While they are about it, that “someone” could also put in the gender crossbreaks?) Graphs would be interesting.

  2. @bigfatron

    Thanks for your response. I wasn’t trying to blame only the financial sector (in fact I think it is regulation, the capturing of regulation by the industry, and the acquiescence by politicians that has probably been the greatest disaster).

    However, there are problems with blaming consumers for, let’s say, consuming. In the same way, in fact, as it would be odd to blame individual traders or bankers (for want of a better word) for trying to make as much money as possible within the law (or lobbying to change the law).

    There are actions we take that are perfectly rational as individuals that en masse will lead to our downfall. This is part of the reason for the ‘animal spirits’ of the economy and is also partly why regulation must step in.

    Of course the economy is a system and so when one or more things go wrong, the effects are felt almost everywhere but I think it’s important if one believes that capital can be used for common good (and it’s done pretty well so far) to not simply say, oh well everyone’s to blame.

    As an aside, and I’m not saying that you are going this far, there is a tendency to attach a moral-of-the-tale to economic outcomes (lazy Greeks, etc. but also we got drunk so, now we’ve got to vomit) that is an illogical psychological flaw and this unfortunately skews the popular debate on consumption.

    Finally, on public spending, you’re right that we will have to disagree but I would just say that it’s hard to see how the data and outcomes in the last five years back up the idea that public spending was a cause of the crisis or needs to be cut when we are in the trough of a cycle.

    Whether it needs to be cut when the economy is doing fine is an entirely different debate irrelevant to the current problem of managing countries out of the great slump.

    In the euro region (a disastrous idea in and of itself) and elsewhere, the outcomes of pro-cyclical fiscal contraction are plain to see, it seems.

    Appreciate your reasoned debate.

  3. Blip over.

    Labour surge ahead again.

    Ed on course for a landslide.

    I know how to read polls

    Also started posting in brief lines a la Colin.

    Very satisfying.

    Back to sleep.

  4. A 4% movement to ‘others’ in one day is huge. The total of the Big 4 is pretty consistently about 95% of the total, today it’s only 91%.

    Now everyone can hope the 4 % will return to ‘their’ party in tomorrow’s poll.

  5. Give it until next week after the Locals or possibly tomorrow if a Triple Dip and it will IMHO be back to 30-42.

    The main thing to say with these polls is Labour’s support has now been around 40% +/- MOE for around 2 Years .
    I hazard to say this now looks like possibly like core support which must be very worrying for LC and the spare Johnson

  6. No doubt Anthony will correct me if I am wrong. But if the polling data contains more of a sample of Tory parts of the south east of England, because the south east of England may be doing better economically, then it may distort the overall polling situation for the country.

    I am just thinking that the south east of England economically is the largest and if the economy is improving, it will be here that people notice this first. If they associate this improvement with government policies, then the Tories may benefit. But if this is not a more widespread feeling in the country, then the polling may not be accurate.

    As for economy, my prediction is that there will be 0.1% growth shown for Q1 2013, when first indications are produced by the ONS this morning.

  7. R Huckle – all polls from all companies are weighted by region, so will always contain exactly the correct proportion of people from the South East.

  8. 40% of UKIP VI would “choose” a majority con government =3.6% pts in this morning’s OP.

  9. The point about Len McC. isn’t whether anyone knows who he is.

    It is that he has the cheque book, and if he is serious about his Shadow Cabinet requirements ,and intends to do something about it if they are not forthcoming, then a very public Labour difficulty emerges.

    An even bigger difficulty arises if EM acts on LM’s “advice”-which seems unthinkable if EM is to retain credibility as an independent leader.

    So the question is -Does Len mean it?

  10. There you are, you see, my soothsaying proves correct again! No sooner had I said in a post last night that I thought the current national polling position of the two main parties was about Lab 38 Con 30, a YouGov poll conveniently comes along to confirm it (more or less)!

    There has been the merest hint of an upward twitch in Tory support and some rather harder evidence that Labour have lost a point or two but, if I was a Labour strategist, I’d be consoled that the party wasn’t losing any significant support to the old enemy and that the Tories remain firmly stuck in the 28-32% doldrums. The political weather of the last two or three weeks has been a little unseasonal with the Thatcher funeral crowding out normal, day-to-day political and economic news stories. There was no doubt too, in my view, that Tory High Command milked the event for political purposes, with a generally fawning media more than happy to cheer-lead from the sidelines. In that rather unfavourable political context, Miliband and Labour, on the evidence of these polls, could be argued to have ridden it out fairly well.

    I sense with the GDP figures out today and local elections due next Thursday that normal service is slowly being resumed.

  11. Colin
    Well that’s a possibility I suppose .

    However, it will be difficult to portray EM as both a Union stooge and in dispute with the Unions.

    Incidentally it isn’t Len’s money, it is the voluntary political levy of about 30p a week paid by the individual members of Unite.

    Nice to see another Old Etonian in No 10

  12. @Colin – I would agree that Labour don’t want to look disunited, but set against this, I rather suspect that Ed would rather like to be seen attacking union bosses.

    On this morning’s GDP figures- I’m away at a very important meeting this morning, so will miss the announcement. @Shevii is the stand in GDP monitor, but in case he is also busy, I’ll provide some commentary now for everyone.

    Option 1) GDP declines, triple dip announced;

    Osborne is the worst chancellor since the last worst chancellor, and these figures clearly show that Tories are actually aliens and are really trying to destroy humanity, and if they aren’t, it’s all Thatcher’s fault anyway.

    The fall will be revised away anyway, it was caused by North Sea oil, so that’s alright then, I’ve just got a pay rise so the figures must be be wrong, and the recent fall in Labour poll ratings in because a shadow minister I’ve never heard of before coughed in mid sentence on Newsnight last night.

    Option 2) GDP rising;

    Osborne walks on water, Cameron is a God, if it wasn’t for those pesky Lib Dems we would have cut far more than we actually spend, and therefore been left with more money than we started with and we could all go home and watch Game of Thrones in some endless but strangely dull gin soaked nirvana.

    The figures were deliberately distorted by Osborne telling his aunt to spend several billion pounds in a shopping spree in Oxford Street on the last weekend in March in a attempt to save his own neck – just wait for next month’s figures I’m telling you – Alistair Darling would never have done this and Ed’s actually got several billion pounds of spending promises hidden up his nose which will win him a landslide at the next election.

  13. According to the BEEB

    Ed Miliband has called the leader of Labour’s biggest donor union “reprehensible”, accusing him of seeking to “divide” the party.

    So that rather addresses EM position on this one.

    Personally I think it is to Labour’s political advantage if they can say we don’t do what our major doners tell us to do and will be able to compare the relationship which the Tories have with their major often non dom bankrollers

  14. Steve

    Yes, it’s to labours political advantage right up to the point where the unions leave the party and set up a new one!

  15. Richard
    The majority of Labours finances come from individual members fees , individual donations and not Unions.

    I suspect that a disassociation with Union block payments would trigger more individual donations.

    Incidentally Len’s viewpoint is His personal opinion and should not be taken as reflecting the opinion of the entire Trade Union movement (much of which isn’t affiliated to the Labour Party anyway) or even that of the members of Unite .

  16. UK GDP +0.3%

  17. A GDP figure that won’t really please anyone then. 0.3% growth this far into a Government is worse than anaemic – but it’s still growth.

    Likely effect on VI – minimal.

  18. Chris

    I’m pleased.

    (even if pleasantly surprised)

  19. Well- the government has avoided the potentially dreadful headlines with GDP growth of 0.3% in the first quarter.

    Probably a sigh of relief for them rather than any really positive news about the economy but definitely good news in terms of no negative coverage for the government If this was UKPR we would be talking about margin of error being too close to make any real economic difference and no sign this is anything other than bumbing along at the bottom, but the 0.3% should be enough to avoid those bad headlines from a revision in later months. This means they can relax at least for another 6 months now before any possibility of those dreaded triple dip headlines re-emerging!

  20. Many economists would argue that it is irrelevant whether the Triple Dip has been hit or missed as growth over the last 3 Years has been so far below trend that in reality we haven’t emerged from the 2010-11 recession.

    From a Political point of view I suppose it’s better for the Tories than a negative figure but it’s pretty marginal.

  21. As Ms T would say let us rejoice we are back to where we were 2 years ago

  22. Should be

    As Ms T would say let us rejoice we are back to where we were 6 month ago

  23. RiN

    @”Yes, it’s to labours political advantage right up to the point where the unions leave the party and set up a new one!”

    A very astute observation-if I may say so.

  24. @Steve

    A public spat with Len McCluskey isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Miliband, especially if he appears to be the one wearing the trousers in the relationship. It allows him to flex his leadership muscles and assert his authority over the party whilst at the same time sending messages to Joe Public, those few who are paying any attention that is, that he’s no union lackey. It’s all silliness really, but I’m afraid a lot of party politics is a triumph of the facile over the serious.

    What would be damaging for Miliband, and I don’t see any evidence that the story is developing this way, is for him to be seen doing McCluskey’s bidding. That would be the dream scenario for Tory strategists and a story that 80% of the press would just love to run. They’ll probably spin it that way anyway no matter the reality, but the early signs are that Miliband might actually gain some kudos rather than suffer political damage. As Kinnock and Blair discovered, and it’s an irony peculiar to Labour leaders, being seen to be at loggerheads with the wilder elements of your own party does you no harm at all! Foot never learned that lesson and suffered accordingly.

  25. I do wish ONS would headline the YoY change rather than Qtr vs previous Qtr change.

    So here are the GDP %change figures Q1 2013 vs Q1 2012, compared with the annual 2012 vs 2011 change ( as revised this morning)

    Agriculture -1.5 ( -2.2) 0.6% of the Economy.

    Production -2.1 ( -2.4) 15.6% of the economy

    Construction -5.9 ( -8.1) 6.8% of the economy

    Service Industries +1.5 ( +1.2) 77.0 % of the economy

    Total +0.6 ( +0.3) 100% of the economy.

    In terms of the ONS announcement-ie Q 1 2013 vs Q 12 2012:-

    NS Oil bounced back to growth
    Manufacturing ( within Production) declined again-but at a much slower rate .
    Construction declined again, after growing in Q4 LY.
    Service Industries bounced back to 2011 Qtr /Qtr growth ,.

    Politically this is a relief for GO.

    In terms of “rebalancing”-Manufacturing & Construction are just not responding.

  26. Colin

    I am not a member of an Affiliated
    Trade Union but most unions work in a similar way to the one I am in.

    Because Union’s leadership are democratically elected in order to change their Unions constitutions which includes political affiliation the Leadership has to hold a vote of the members.

    In the Case of Unite this is via a Rules conference which is held every 4 Years the next one isn’t due until 2015.

    At which the majority of voting members have to vote in favour of the move.

    In order to circumvent this the executive of the Union can hold an emergency rules conference meeting, provided 75% of the elected leadership are in favour.

    I think it’s unlikely that either will happen and Mcklusky would almost certainly be subject to a leadership challenge if He tried to call one.

    But even if this was successful, and it hasn’t even been suggested and if the vote went in favour of disaffiliation it would not IMO impact upon Labour support other than in a positive way.

  27. STEVE

    Thanks-all hot air then from Big Len ?

  28. STEVE

    You probably read the NS article too.

    This was the bit I focused on :-

    “The phrase that McCluskey returns to repeatedly is that the Labour Party is “at a crossroads”. In a signal that Unite’s continued support should not be assumed, he warns that the unions “would have to sit down and consider their situation” if Labour fails to emerge as “the authentic voice of ordinary working people”.”

    But if he lacks the constitutional means , then as you imply, it’s all hot air.

  29. That’s how I understand it.

    Of course McCluskey has no personal control over what other Unions do either as all would have similar clauses in their constitutions.

    Some would require a simple majority vote to change their rules some require an absolute majority.

    Unite requires a simple majority ,so I suppose if a Rule Conference could be held and it was stuffed full of Trots or indeed Tories then a change could occur .

    I think primarily He is trying to exert influence over the LP as EM has not proved as malleable as He might have hoped.

  30. Steve/Colin – it’s not entirely hot air. Unite have a general political fund, which members pay about £6 million a year into. From that they pay their affiliation fees to Labour (£3 per affiliated member, so about £3m) each year, and unless they change their constitution that will continue to happen.

    This, of course leaves a balance of about £3m a year. Lots of that goes on administration, but some of it builds up as a surplus in the account, which is donated to Labour to help fund elections and campaigns (e.g, they gave about half a million in 2009 and about 3 million in 2010). That bit is discretionary, so obviously Unite can choose to spend that money on other things, direct campaigning, or just let it stack up.

    Basically, some of Unite’s donations to Labour are pretty much fixed. Some are discretionary and could be cut if they wished.

    For those interested, the figures for the political fund in past years are publicly available on the Certification Officer’s website here:


  31. Pleased to see Jesse Norman back in the fold.

    Steve Hilton too it seems.



    It was the cheque book element I was thinking about rather than the more dramatic scenario RiN touched on.

    Need to go check how significant £3bn pa would be to Labour if it came to that.

  33. Answer-about 3 mths total Income

  34. AW

    Thanks for that.
    Do you know if the discretionary fund disposal is covered by the Union rules?

    if it is I would have thought it would be subject to the same requirements.

    Unite is constitutionally affiliated to Labour and I would have thought that this made it impossible for them to donate funds to a political party other than Labour.

    But I could be wrong on that.

  35. Wasn’t McCluskey elected on a total turnout of just over 15% of all those that could vote, about the same as a Crime commissioners, and we know what EM thought of them, although I didn’t hear him attack the union for such a low turnout, unlike the Commissioners.
    I don’t think he’s to worried by McCluskey apart of course from the money, most voters view McCluskey as some sort of Union Dinosaur from the seventies.

  36. Steve –

    I assume there are some rules and processes, they couldn’t just spend it on drink and dancing girls, but not in the main constitution. It’s rule 23 here, but that really just the admin, not dispersal:


    They definitely could NOT make any donations to other parties (it would be against rule 22), but they could spend it on their own political campaigning (e.g. supporting particular causes, opposing austerity or anti-BNP campaigning, perhaps), supporting local Labour candidates they like rather than the central campaign… or they could just sit on it and let it build up (what they normally do between elections!)

    Basically, they have some discretion, so if they wanted to exert some pressure with that bit of the money they could. On affiliation fees, like you say, unless they actually disaffiliated their hands are tied – so any claim they’d stop funding Labour completely is a bluff.

  37. @Colin

    “Need to go check how significant £3bn pa would be to Labour.”

    If only…..

  38. AW
    Shame I was going to ask them to fund a Ferrari, every balding middle aged man should have one!

    Seems like a good cause to me.

  39. Someone commented elsewhere that the UK only escaped a triple dip, because there was a large trade in LPG amounting to billions of pounds, due to the cold weather in March and shortage of other gas supplies.

    Is there any truth to this ?

  40. RH

    No: that’s all hot air too.

  41. @ Postage Included

    I think it’s actually quite difficult to compare one poll to another vis-à-vis movement in 2010 vote including don’t knows etc. Unless I’m over complicating it, you need either the original data (which we don’t have) or you need to calculate the number of people by working backwards.

    You then need to adjust for the polls having different total sample sizes so either pick a 1st poll as the base (or use an average) & reweight the 2nd poll (or both, if an average is used) so that the total sample sizes are the same.

    Then recalculate everything (with DK + WNV included or excluded depending on what you want to look at). Then you can calculate reasonably comparable changes from one poll to another.

    @ Anthony,
    You might be kind enough to give me a heads up, if I am totally wrong or if I’m over-complicating this & there’s an easier &/or more accurate way to do it.

  42. @R Huckle – I would be a bit surprised if that was the case. The cold March would have led to greater imports of gas, which I assume would be on less help to our GDP figures. It would also need to be very substantial deviation from normal indeed to overturn a +0.3% figure for an entire quarters GDP.

    The figures are a major relief. In many ways, the government is on a bit of a hiding to nothing – a small positive is good but won’t really give them any great immediate gain, while a small negative is fraught with damaging headlines, but they will be pleased to escape.

    Longer term, I’m increasingly worried about the shape of the economy. I mentioned previously the decline in household incomes reported in the April Markit survey, and as services are the only real growth sector, you would assume that worsening household incomes bode poorly for the wider economy.

    Exports appear to be falling, with the trade figures getting steadily worse, and the data on savings ratios suggests that households are only spending by reducing savings ratios, with actual real incomes still falling. As savings ratios rose significantly during the crisis, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unless and until real incomes start to rise, this means that any uplift is temporary.

    Unlike the first year or two of this government, any growth we are managing now is based on the old habits of import fed consumer savings, paid for from savings or credit, rather than from current account incomes. The economy simply isn’t rebalancing, and we are back trying to resurrect the housing market as a tool of economic policy, rather than invest in productive industries for future prosperity.

  43. Nice to see you have come of the fence AW can you give us an insight into Lord Ashcroft and his funding of the Tory party

  44. In the past, Len McCluskey has said (well, I’m paraphrasing my understanding of what he’s said) that any cheque-book waving would involve the discretionary fund; this would be used to support Labour candidates & current Labour MPs, MSPs etc. who reflect the views of the members who make political contributions. Which, when you think about it, seems a reasonable approach.

    And this could be as a response to other significant donors (e.g. Blair? Progress supporters?) making donations related to specific people or campaigns. I’m speculating about this; I don’t have any insider information to support this assertion!

  45. @ Roger Rebel

    Nice to see you have come of the fence AW can you give us an insight into Lord Ashcroft and his funding of the Tory party
    I think that quite a lot of Lord Ashcroft’s comments about this are in the public domain. My understanding is that Lord Ashcroft has cut his donations considerably since the Party has ‘tacked right’; he will now contribute to the Party by funding polling & analysis. Some polling might be available only to the Conservative Party but lots of it is published with a view to informing – or perhaps even influencing – politicians & politics in general.

  46. Re the GDP figures, resurrect the floating corpse that is the construction sector and we have very respectable growth.

    As someone calculated on the Beeb, even a flatlining construction sector would see the national figure increase to 0.5% for the quarter.

    Also astonished at an ‘economic commentator’ on Sky News who said “Germany is growing faster than the UK”….their economy contracted by 0.6% last quarter.

  47. For people who want to dig into the detail of yesterday’s chip paper (which it is, because even the Graun don’t have the McCluskey spat on the Politics main page today) here’s a point which may have gone unnoticed.

    Following Blair’s NS advice to the Labour Party, Ed M was reported as having personally given it a rather chilly response. Following McCluskey’s, it was a ‘spokesperson’ who responded.

    You can read that in one of two ways:
    1. Etiquette – Blair, as a former leader of the Party, ‘rated’ a personal response & McCluskey didn’t; or
    2. EM chose not to make a professional disagreement into a personal one between him & Len.

  48. According to a statement released by the Newspaper Society on behalf of the national and local newspaper industry, the industry said the royal charter published by the government on 18 March had been condemned by a “range of international media freedom organisations” and enjoys “no support within the press” in the UK.

    -Do these “media freedom organisations” perchance include News Corp?

    I wouldn’t raise this on PR but it could have significant impact on media Political affiliation and potentially VI if Cameron actually stood up to the press.

  49. 09:46: Mike in Gateshead emails: Double dip. Treble dip. Have any of you people ever ventured north of the Watford Gap? Here in the north east we’re still in the first one

    …..Very good from BBC

  50. THREE HUNDRED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My best post ever !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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