Usual caveats apply

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.

In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.

More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

Two further comments, I’ve written before about people making the error of looking at the changes in a poll over a month and assuming that events in the last few days are the cause. Survation’s last poll was at the end of April before the local elections, so changes are just as likely to be down to the local elections and the Conservative infighting over Europe as anything more recent.

Secondly there is a tendency for the media and the denizens of Twitter to get all excited about unusual polls that give newsworthy stories when this is, of course, the exact opposite of what you should do if you actually want to understand public opinion. The correct approach is to look at the broad underlying trend and ignore the odd looking polls, the media normally do the opposite. The trend is that UKIP support has jumped substantially following their local election success, and that the Labour lead has been narrowing. The Conservative figure here may yet suggest a new direction, but let’s wait and see.

277 Responses to “Usual caveats apply”

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  1. Cameron has apparently issued this to all members:

    “I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party for 25 years. Some time after I joined I became Chairman of my local branch and was one of the volunteers dedicated to getting Conservatives elected to the local council. Since then I have met thousands and thousands of party members. We’ve pounded pavements together, canvassed together and sat in make-shift campaign headquarters together, from village halls to front rooms. We have been together through good times and bad. This is more than a working relationship; it is a deep and lasting friendship.

    Ours is a companionship underpinned by what we believe: that everyone should be able to get on in life if they’re willing to work hard; that we look after those who cannot help themselves; that it’s family and community and country that matter; that a dose of common sense is worth more than a ton of dry political theory; that Britain is a great and proud nation that can be greater still.

    Above all, we Conservatives believe you change things not by criticising from your armchair but by getting out and doing. Across the country, at charity events and voluntary organisations, you will find people from our Party quietly doing their bit. Time and again, Conservative activists like you stand for duty, decency and civic pride.

    That’s why I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it.”

    TL;DR: PLEASE don’t challenge me for the leadership.

  2. Gary Gibbon had this to say on March 6th (in the aftermath of Eastleigh):

    “Some Tory MPs openly admit that they’re making what they know to be unachievable demands on the Chancellor in order to prepare the ground for a no confidence vote in David Cameron in May.

    They are being told by others, some who share the eventual objective, that they should stay their hand until they have more like 146 supporters, not the 46 required to write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee demanding a contest. A revolt of 46 or so would be snuffed out after a lost vote and David Cameron would carry on wounded but immovable.

    It is hard to see the rebels getting to a big number but there’s a decent chance that at some point between May this year and the summer of next year, enough may try to force the issue.”

    When John Major stood down as leader in 1995, he set himself a target of 215 votes in the contest with Redwood – otherwise he would step down for good – in the event he recieved 218 votes vs 89 for Redwood + 22 spoiled ballots/abtained.

  3. Anthony,

    “The Conservative figure here may yet suggest a new direction, but let’s wait and see.”

    Spoil Sport… I was already getting phone lines put in!


  4. “That’s why I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it.””

    Is it just me our does that have the ring of an epitaph?


  5. I know that I’m supposed to take what I learned from Intro to Stats at the University of Michigan into account. But this poll just looks sensational, especially considering that this is only half after swivel-gate. We must remember though that the last time these polls had a party other than the big two polling so highly, and the governing party polling so poorly, they were spectacularly wrong. Could we believe that the Lib Dems were really that popular after the first debate?

  6. CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6).

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear and what’s really shocking is that Labour (as Tony Blair did) could win an outright majority in Westminster on these poll showings, unless UKIP start to munch into some seats!!

  7. “Usual Caveats apply”

    Yeah the Lib/Dems do seem to be polling astonishingly high.

  8. The Nigel Evans/Swivel Gate/Europe debate, if poorly handled, might see the Tories pushed down to the high teens. There will be blood, and it isn’t going to be Miliband’s.

  9. IIRC the UKIP did not put up candidates in seats where the sitting Tory MP (maybe a a few others as well can’t remember) was considered by them to be sound on Europe.
    I wonder if some Cons back-benchers who are saying they would vote to come out of the EU and are opposing equal marriage are hoping that the UKIP will not stanjd against them?

  10. What are the odds on the next tory leader is gove the goldfish the front runner?

  11. Come the GE, I still expect UKIP to be back in single figures. But 55% of voters are at this point prepared to vote for parties which either support the present Government’s economic and fiscal policies or (in so far as we can tell anything about UKIP’s approach) would apply them in a much more extreme shade of dark blue. So a thoroughly depressing poll for those on the left, regardless of the split in the right wing vote.

    I’m surprised that the media haven’t picked up on the fact that, based purely on what people state their voting intention to be (without assumed reallocation of don’t knows) Con and UKIP are level pegging on 23% each. It would be an irony if the superficial understanding of polls led the media to ignore such a ready invitation to sensationalism. Perhaps ignorance is truth after all.

  12. I am as guilty as any of the sin of taking the polling figures that fit one’s preconceptions and ignoring those that do not…thus let me say it would surprise me if the recent troubles in the CPP did not result is some drop in Conservative supporting the polls; in current circumstances that may itself feed the rise in UKIP support. if in turn that attracts more Media attention thenUKIP rise yet further. All this may make for exciting times yet in my estimation like all bubbles this UKIP bubble will burst but that now seems less likely to mean there will not be a fourth viable “large” party come 2015.

    I can’t yet see how this will play out. The liberal rise in the early 70’s played slightly in favour of Labour. The SDPrise in the80’s advantaged the Conservatives…since 1997 the lectoral system has worked against theConservatives and on the basis that the electoral map and electoral system will remain as they were in 1997 and 2010 I guess that UKIP s emergence will slightly disadvantage the Conservatives.

    But as I am so often wrong there is no need for this to be an honourable exception to that poor rule.

  13. It’s obvious that the rise in UKIP support is after Saturday’s Eurovision results ;)

  14. Good Evening All.

    ALLAN CHRISTIE, good evening to you too!

    A strange poll.

  15. MitM

    Yes its the bonnie tyler effect


    Good Evening to you..

    Aye it is a strange yin right enough!!


    Not seen you for a while…

    How did the Lib/Dems get on in the South Shields by-election?

  18. “Yes its the bonnie tyler effect”

    For Cameron, it’s a heart ache, nothing but a heart ache!


  19. Better await YouGov, may i suggest?

  20. @ Phil Haines

    Could you direct me to any source where UKIP has a stated fiscal pixy?

  21. I wonder if we get a YouGov poll tonight.

    As regard this and most polls, it’s shame we can’t have one every week because it makes it hard to tell if it’s a one off.

  22. Allen christe

    Haven’t you got better than things to do than taunt me, I would have thought it would be more fun to taunt the swivel-eyed

  23. Today’s YG is not being tweeted by the Sun or its political editor so – when it eventually appears – I think it might help to calm Tory nerves.

  24. While this poll feels like an outlier (looked at the projections from the county returns), it will be used as a club. Having said that I think DC perceives every object nearby as something that would turn into a club – but not in his hand.

  25. fiscal pixy!!!!!!!!!

    I love it.

    Little pixies and fairies running the country.

  26. Simon,

    Pixies maybe but UKIP won’t be having any fairies!!!


  27. @ Simon

    It was another corrections by my mobile but I liked it so didn’t post a correction.

    In Central European “folklore” Pixy” is an incompetent aristocrat.

  28. Am sure it will turn round, but as a Conservative voter, this feels like a bit of mess at the moment, what with Europe and the back bench rebellions, plus all the rebels tonight. I wouldn’t mind as much, but Labour are nowhere near as strong as with Blair in pre 97, the public are hardly warming to Ed Miliband, but Cons are sleepwalking to giving them the election. Disappointing and can only hope it turns around.

  29. Rich

    Who will you be voting for in the leadership contest

  30. Ed has saved the same sex marriage bill and also I suspect played a bit of a blinder.

    I think he is one astute operator. Although his hand is a lot better than Cam’s!

  31. RICH

    Yes indeed.

    Ah well-see what the morning’s YouGov says.

  32. lol. Politics feels a bit messy now. We have a technical cosy consensus with FPTP that locks out other contenders. Am no fan of UKIP, as for all it’s faults leaving the EU is a no go for me, but if they are polling 22%, it’s preposterous to think they might not even win a seat a the GE.
    I don’t want to get on EMs back, but in terms of political savyness, I just can’t see him being a TB, but who knows. I don’t think he is a challenging opposition leader, but Cons are in a mess now, and he doesn’t need to do much right now.
    Then you have Scotland and the SNP. That Farage protest was bonkers. As I said, am no fan of UKIP, but if the best intelligent Scottish students can do is shout obscenities and throw cola on people, then you have to wonder. Couldn’t they attempt to win a debate? lol
    Is politics getting intolerant?

  33. NickP

    “Ed has saved the same sex marriage bill and also I suspect played a bit of a blinder”

    Sadly I don’t expect he will get any recognition for it either by the govt or the main stream media.

  34. also, no surprise Lab rolling out Yvette Cooper tonight. Easily the best of the shadow cabinet in my view, and I of course include EM in that…

  35. Frankly, I don’t think Ed Miliband SHOULD be a Tony Blair. Large majorities lead to infighting; having said that, so can coalitions, as we’re learning.

    He might not be a Tony Blair but he could yet be an Attlee or a Wilson.

  36. @Peter Cairns
    ” “That’s why I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it.””
    Is it just me our does that have the ring of an epitaph?”

    If memory serves me well John Major put out a similar statement/letter when he resigned to force a leadership contest.

    What is John Redwood up to these days?

  37. This is the strangest self-played snooker. There is nothing the Tories can do but wait it out grimly. They have no authority to change their leader and expect the LDs to say “Right, that’s all ticketyboo with us – we always did like Michael/Theresa/George/Paul/Ringo/whoever”, they can hardly change leader and call an election, they can hardly —- well, they can hardly do anything but wait it out grimly in the knowedge that it could actually get worse.

    Life is great!

  38. I’ve been mulling over these extraordinary polling figures for UKIP, today’s Survaton providing the most sensational findings to date, and it is difficult to know quite what to make of it all. There are a number of possible explanations, each with their different potential political scenarios.

    Explanation/scenario 1: They’ve become temporary beneficiaries of a general disillusionment with mainstream party politics and, now that the Lib Dems are part of the establishment, have provided the disillusioned with an alternative and harmless means of expressing protest. Come the General Election we should expect voting behaviour to return to normal with UKIP subsiding to previous levels of support, circa 3-4%. So says this this explanation and scenario.

    Explanation/Scenario 2: The UKIP vote has become much more of a vote “for” something rather than a vote “against”. They’re providing policy prescriptions on issues like Europe, immigration, welfare and gay marriage that are resonating with the public. This explanation provides a potential scenario where the UKIP vote becomes quite hard and enduring, maybe even able to survive the fire-storm of a General Election campaign. In other words, they become a viable right wing party in their own right.

    Explanation/Scenario 3: They are superficially a right wing party but are really a Grillo-esque Trojan Horse sucking up support from all parts and colours of the political spectrum, offering populist but largely vacuous, policy-free mood music to the disillusioned. Similar to Explanation 1 but the scenario here is that they deliver this rainbow collection of voters all the way to a General Election, blowing the eventual result apart. Difficult under our electoral system, but it all depends on how far and fast Farage can get his bandwagon to roll. After the 2014 Euro elections all bets may be off on this scenario.

    Of course, Explanation 1 will please and relieve the major parties, whereas Explanation 3 is their worst nightmare. Explanation 2 carries mortal danger for the Tories, suggesting that the Labour and Lib Dem voters currently flirting with UKIP are far more likely to wake up to their tomfoolery than their Tory counterparts whose flirtation is more likely to mutate into an enduring love affair. There’s nothing remotely liberal and progressive about Farage’s UKIP party and I can’t think of many former Labour and Lib Dem voters who will stay for the full ride. A lot of ex Tory voters might but, surely, if you’ve got essentially liberal values you’re going to jump off the the UKIP bus at some stage, aren’t you?

  39. @crossbath,

    I reckon a bit of all 3.

  40. @Peter Cairns

    Actually – No. Major’s statement in 1995 was much more succinct:

  41. Tory Central Office have just released a short statement:


  42. The CBI are now sensing a weakened PM insisting that Dave ‘n’ George must cease moralising about tax avoidance & speak against worldwide anti-avoidance measures at the next G8 summit.

  43. @PaulCroft,

    Tory Central Office have just released a short statement:


    Or is that White Hart Lane?

  44. Crossbat

    From Senario 1. The Lib Dems never fell back that much at a general election, so I dont think UKIP will for back that much.

  45. The SDP-Liberal Alliance fell from a high of 50.5% to 25.4% at the GE in 1983. Once we figure out the UKIP peak, could we see something similar?

  46. Another weird poll, let’s see what the next YouGov says before anyone gets too despondent / ecstatic.
    Mind you, if Survation is correct a Labour government will be able to nationalise Roly in a couple of years time. :)

  47. Unusually a fairly intyeresting article from Nick Robinson on Cameron/Tories

    Ambi: it was tough but, as I said before, the GD is often the bit that demonstrates who just about deserves it anyway.

    Great first season for ole wotisname anyway: prob is that Bale will bale out to Moan U and it gets harder and harder to attract top players.

  48. To paraphrase T.S.Eliot:

    ‘We are in rat’s alley,where the dead men lost their votes!’

  49. Why would you want to nationalise ole Roley? Best to leave that to the private sector I feel.

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