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. I’ve just come back having listened to the ghastly Eddie Mair (spelling?) discussing wiggle or wriggle room.

    One longs for the Weather Forecast when this bloke starts.

  2. On GDP [email protected] etc

    The service sector is 77% of the economy, it was up 0.6%, that is excellent given the broader picture. Manufacturing and construction were poor, but these are much smaller areas of the economy, hence the net 0.3%. It’s best to read the figures for what they are rather than only look at them hoping to find negatives/positives based on party political lines.

    Despite the relative good news, I would like to see some targeted stimulus for construction in particular, as clearly this would help the housing shortage we have too, not to mention employment, apprenticships etc.

    The fact still remains that the figures, whilst moderate in themselves, were still better than all leading economists predicted.


  3. @Amber re DK and WNV, BDT/ADT (Don’t Know, Wouldn Not Vote – Before the Death of Thatcher and After the Death of Thatcher that is)

    I definitely was simplifying, but I suspect you are overcomplicating a bit.

    I had done a few sums (with the help of Open Office Calc) before I offered my thoughts, but didn’t post them becasue I always feel I have to give my working, and my posts are overblown enough without that. I offer my results here on the proviso that nobody (even you Amber!) asks any follow up questions on my methods (which are childishly simple and easily replicable).

    For a two week period of YG data
    Average DK : BDT – 15.6%, ADT – 13.7%, Change – down 1.9%
    Average WNV: BDT – 7.3%, ADT – 6.7%, Change – down 0.6%

    For me this result is just suggestive (I’m not up to demonstrating significance with my 50 year old A level statistics I’m afraid).

    As for 2010 Conservative voters, well I freely admit I’m using the YG cross-breaks:
    Average DK: BDT 15%, ADT – 12%, Change — down 3%
    For comparison: Lab DK down 0.3%, LD DK down 0.8%.

    I know cross-breaks will get some people hot under the collar, but the margin of difference between the parties is suggestive, especially when considering the change in total DK and party VI as well. An explanation of this change along the lines of “disillusioned ex-Tories more likely to give the Tories a second chance after Thatch-fest” doesn’t seem too far fetched to me.

    My second point I think you did overcomplicate. It is possible to revert the % VI back into % of total poll just using proportion – you don’t need the actual numbers from the poll – though a double dose of rounding off will produce a small error.

    What interests me is that a preferential movement of DKs to a particular party (which I think we are seeing ADT) will automatically and mathematically produce a reduction in VI for other parties. Think of it like this: if all 15.6% of DKs BDT decide to vote for a new “Cannonise-Maggie” party, then all other party VI’s would fall, as VI is shown as a percentage so must always total 100.

    I think this is at least partly why Labour VI has fallen ADT, just to make room for those DKs entering the “knows” disproportionately to the Tories, benefit. Let’s say I’m not looking for other explanations yet (like the Blair attack for example). Anyway we’ll see how it unwinds. The two important question is, are these ADT Tory returnees going to stay Tory, and were they going to return to the Tories anyway at the election (as many DKs do)? my suspicion is that the answers may be “some of them” in both cases, rendering the effect of the Iron Lady’s demise less significant than it looks just now.

    Sorry for a very lengthy post, hope it makes my earlier remarks a little clearer.

  4. Isn’t the point about the construction sector that it is something of a canary in the coal mine?

    When the economy overall is doing badly you might expect construction orders to fall. After all, if noone can afford mortgages, and companies are not demanding new factories and offices, there is nothing to build except what the government orders.

    If the economy began to recover significantly, one might expect the construction industry to follow in its footsteps. I imagine there is quite a lot of capital, land and enthusiasm sitting around just waiting for a market for their product.

    There is of course an argument for throwing the sector a bone in the form of increased government spending on capital projects, and it probably is a good time to splash a bit of cash on social housing starts, but of course the lead time is fairly long. The poor construction results may reflect the economic circumstances as they were some time ago.

  5. turk

    Well done – down to your usual standard.

  6. Fantastic result for Osborne today, the man is a genius(well someone had to say it) although I don’t know what’s up with these right-wing commenters who are pointing out that 0.6 of the 0.3% rise came from increased govt spending, I mean a win is a win

  7. AW,

    I stand corrected. I wonder where I got that from- I distinctly remember reading it, but clearly it’s not what Ashcroft himself was saying, and it’s not the received wisdom in the rightwing press (which appears to be wrong in the opposite direction).

    Reading through his blog he seems to be arguing that the Tories need to change the perception that they’re only in it for the rich while capitalising on the public view that they’re more qualified to tackle the deficit- pretty sensible and realistic, as we’d expect from the man commissioning all the high resolution marginal polling. He’s also warning them not to pursue a 2005-style core vote strategy to chase Ukip.

    On the other hand, his remedies for closing the fairness gap are distinctly rightwing. Here he is telling them to un-ringfence international aid: http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2013/03/time-to-end-the-ringfence-for-the-international-aid-budget/ And there was another bit where he was urging them to scrap the green energy policies to lower people’s energy bills. Those are both detoxification policies, and he wants them dropped. So I’m still not convinced he’s stopped funding the Tories because he disapproves of the detoxification reversal.

  8. Spanish unemployment highest for 37 years at 27.2% !

    French unemployment highest for 16 years at 11%

  9. @ Postage Included

    Sorry for a very lengthy post, hope it makes my earlier remarks a little clearer.
    I’d say: Never apologise for any comment which is actually about polling!

    It is now much clearer to me what you were alluding to.

    Thank you :-)

  10. @colin,

    And why is Spanish unemployment so high? Incredibly strict labour laws is a big contributory factor.

  11. @Paul Croft

    Maybe we could form a rock group – “feeble minds”

  12. @Colin,

    just on Spain; Is there an argument that if we had had a no change straight line from the end of the 70s with closed shop, inflexible labour laws, unwieldy union power etc, we might be where Spain and France are now? You never here left wing commentators float that possibility! lol

  13. Howard,
    I am a few days late with this – but I am aware we have both expressed views re -The Debates in recent weeks.
    Adam Boulton – Sky’s political editor – had an interesting article on this in the Sunday Times last weekend. He argued strongly in favour of them – but it’s very clear that he now has serious doubts as whether there will be a repeat performance next time.. He ended his piece with the hope that we do not follow the US example – where 16 years elapsed between the Kennedy – Nixon debates in 1960 and the Carter – Ford debates in 1976.
    It struck me that his comments might well be a straw in the wind!

  14. RICH

    Some regions have a rate of 40% plus.

    Under 25s not studying is at 57%

    It is truly awful.

    GDP down 1.9% last year-no growth till 2014.

    I suppose if you build an economy on a mad construction boom , producing houses no one needs & prestige “infrastructure” white elephants -when it all collapses it takes an age to correct.

    It makes you think when you realise our deficit is about the same as theirs-7% X GDP !

  15. ^ I heard a commentator say that inflexible and very strict labour laws mean the demographics of those in work is incredibly skewed to older people who have jobs for life, and companies are too afraid to take on new young people, hence 50% youth unemployment. In addition, a housing market with 1 million surplus homes mean it could be decades until their housing market recovers. Very scary stuff.

  16. RICH

    France is the test bed for their stance.

    State takes 56% X GDP-Inflexible labour laws-big state involvement in Industry.

    Hollande has come nowhere near recognising what has to be done to reverse their loss of competitiveness & mounting unemployment.

  17. Just seen a voodoo poll on the gethampshire site claiming UKIP at 32%.

  18. @ Rich

    You are ignorant about the Spanish labour market. It’s a dual labour market. Most people who joined the labour market since 1984 have been on temporary contract. They have no protection what so ever. People on permanent contract are secure and hence employers don’t offer such. But employers love temps – it actually reduced unemployment earlier (and damaged competitiveness).

    Germany’s labour market is much stricter yet their unemployment is not unusual for a recession/depression era.

    In most sectors you have a trade off: you give job security and you can compete in quality and customisation. Or you can have numeric flexibility and you will compete in price. There are exceptions (creative industries, biotech, financial services, etc).

  19. Valerie

    @Paul Croft

    “Maybe we could form a rock group – “feeble minds” ”

    Sorry Valerie, I don’t get that.


    Would you like to be speling moniter? Usual pay and conditions.

  20. @ Colin

    As far as I know the competitiveness indicators of France are superior of the British…

    Today’s FT main headline: Fast track to Beijing for Hollander, while UK will have to take the slow boat to China.

    Did I miss something?

  21. @Paul,

    “Usual” = “None” + “Bad” ?

  22. A week worthy of celebration for we Brit’s, better than expected growth figures, deficit down, YouGov on-side, G.O. must be a happy Old Etonian. The contrast with Europe is stark, record unemployment in France and Spain, German confidence draining out, ( Ifo survey ) and Maggie’s funeral only cost £ 1.6 million after all, ( £ 2m consideration for cops taken from other duties ). Blimey folks, we’ve almost got a feel-good factor…..I predict a surge in Tory support.

  23. @ Colin and Rich

    Before any misunderstanding, I agree with you on the terrible Spanish situation and how it’s been wallpapered for over almost two decades. Colin’s point about some really awful regions is very important.

    I just cannot ascribe it to the labour market. In many ways, if you look it up the stats have resemblance to the Francoist period of the 1950s…

  24. Ken

    Are you thinking 33% !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? Blimey !

    Neil A

    You need to apply and sign the contract first.

  25. And Chelsea are leading against Basle, c’mon you Blues.

  26. @ Ken

    I’m glad.

    Where do you put the increase in UK unemployment?

  27. Ken,
    G.O is not an Old Etonian.

  28. @ PAULCROFT……….Dont you just love it when a plan comes together !

  29. @GRAHAM………..Thanks, you’re quite right of course.

  30. @ LASZLOW……Nothing like as bad as our European neighbours, but I sympathise with those unable to find work.

  31. Ken

    What plan’s that? Giving Lampard a game?

  32. @ Colin. Rich

    Hollande has come nowhere near recognising what has to be done to reverse their loss of competitiveness & mounting unemployment.
    Of course Hollande has come near to recognising what has to be done, namely: Wait a short while until the problems affect Germany – & therefore Mrs Merkel’s chance of being re-elected – at which time there will be a new policy. Merkel will call for an end to austerity & demand measures be taken to stimulate growth in the Eurozone.

  33. Ken

    You can spell Laszlo’s name correctly by copying it from his posts.

  34. There are some people here who, if they speak French reasonably well [viz – SHOWTING IN ENGLISH] would do a jolly good job as President of France.

    Their loss is our gain I s’pose.

  35. Ashcroft’s Smell the Coffee was a key document – and marked his first venture into the commissioning of polls, but he was a late convert to the modernising tendency. He came to prominence in the Conservative Party when he was appointed treasurer 1999-2001.

    There was a spat between Ashcroft and Portillo (the moderniser’s champion of the time). Ashcroft remained loyal to Hague, who had been onside with the modernisation project to start with, but abandoned it to “follow his own instincts”.

    Michael Howard was another leader who started off sympathetic to the need for modernisation, but ended up going for “dog whistle” themes with Lyton Crosby in charge of the 2005 GE campaign. Ashcroft had clashed with Howard over how the funds he had donated were being spent – Smell the Coffee was his riposte to the Howard/Crosby campaign.

    After resigning as deputy chairman (2005-2010) he published Minority Report, his analysis of why the 2010 campaign had failed to win a majority.

  36. @ PAULCROFT………..Have you noticed that Basle have the same strip as Barca ? Joan Gamper, one of Basle’s first captains went on to found Barca.
    We haf ‘ several cunning plans.

  37. @ LASZLO…………I apologise for misspelling your name.

  38. @ PAULCROFT………….You can spell, ‘ shouting ‘ correctly, by thinking before you type.

  39. @ Ken

    No problem.

    The only time I pull up my eyebrows (but not too high) for this when some members of the British side of my family misspell my name after 22 years.

    Otherwise it’s part of life and I blame my father for it.

  40. This is interesting. Put in a partisan manner, but I am not for criticising these figures. One will not have to set one’s burglar alarm for going to bed. (Sigh of relief.)


    Will this affect the polls?

  41. @ken,

    Maybe it’s like the Notts County Juventus story!!


  42. The ecomomy is “healing” apparently.

    Having established, by inference, that the Conservatives are “neat” and “clean” in contrast to “Labour’s mess”, might we see a growing emphasis on “the Labour disease” in the lead up to the general election?

  43. If the economy is growing well by the next economy, I think Labour are in trouble.

  44. @ RICH…….Just Googled it, what an amazing occasion.
    What is it about Nottingham, and Italian footie clubs ? AC Milan was founded by a couple of expat Nottingham lacemakers, as a football and cricket club, and retains the English spelling of Milano.

  45. ken

    @ PAULCROFT………….You can spell, ‘ shouting ‘ correctly, by thinking before you type.”

    Not it you’re thinking:

    “bugger it, I’ll spell it with a W. Ole Ken likes W’s”

  46. @ken,
    Yep, not many people know that Juventus’s famous kit comes from Notts County. lol

  47. rich

    “If the economy is growing well by the next economy, I think Labour are in trouble”


    What about the economy after that? In fact, what are you on about?

  48. @ PAULCROFT…………That’s extwemely perceptive of yow.

  49. Oh dear – late goal.

    Wotta shame.

  50. @paul croft,

    Why would people take a chance on labour with the economy if its in a good shape at election day was my point. It’s not a partisan point, it’s a point for debate.


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