The weekly Monday Populus poll is out, and has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 38%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 8%. It was conducted over the weekend, and unlike the YouGov/Sunday Times poll obviously shows no impact on voting intention from the Syria defeat.

There is also a new ICM poll for the BBC. This doesn’t have any voting intention figures (the BBC doesn’t like commissioning them!), but has some more general questions on Syria. 71% think MPs were right to vote against military action (20% think they were wrong). Asked if they approve of how David Cameron has handled the situation in Syria 40% approve, 42% disapprove. The figures for Ed Miliband are 33% approve, 39% disapprove. Full tabs are here.

Finally today we have a Panelbase poll commissioned by the SNP that claims to show a Yes lead in the Scottish independence referendum, 44% to 43%. Now, I always advise extreme caution in dealing with polls commissioned by political parties – reputable pollsters should ensure the questions themselves are fair, but they don’t decide what parties ask about, or how they spin the results.

On the Scottish referendum there are some big differences between the polling by Panelbase and the polling by other companies, but the trend data from each company is itself pretty steady. The regular polls from Ipsos MORI have bounced about a bit with NO leads between 20 and 28 points, but there is no obvious up or down trend. YouGov have only done a couple of polls, but have show consistent NO leads in the mid-twenties. There have only been two recent TNS BMRB polls (they are starting up a more regular series later this week) but they showed NO leads of 19 and 21 points. In contrast Panelbase has been tending to show leads of between 8 and 10 points. A much smaller lead, but again a very consistent one with no obviously trend towards yes or no – even by Panelbase’s standards a Yes lead looks odd.

The results for the Panelbase/SNP survey are here. The referendum question itself is completely fair. However, it was not the first question asked. Typically polls always put voting intention questions (Parliamentary and referendum) questions right at the start in order to remove the risk that other questions in the survey could influence or skew voting intention results. Panelbase, for example, normally ask Holyrood VI, immediately followed by referendum VI. In the case of this poll the referendum voting intention question was asked at the end of the survey, after asking people if they thought Scotland could be “a successful, independent country” and whether people trusted the Scottish government or Westminster government more to take the right decisions for Scotland. Both questions had the potential to skew responses to the referendum question. We can’t know for certain, but given the contrast with Panelbase’s previous polls, my guess is that this is what has happened and Panelbase’s next normal survey will be back to a NO lead.

112 Responses to “New Populus, ICM and Panelbase surveys”

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  1. Expect a closer yougov poll out tomorrow. Probably 6-8% rather than the 10% over the weekend. I expect the Labour polling boost won’t last beyond a few weeks, but the vote may change have a longer lasting affect on how the leaders are perceived by the public. Who knows?

  2. “On the Scottish referendum there are some big differences between the polling by Panelbase and the polling by other companies”

    That overlooks the most recent Angus Reid poll, which showed a relatively modest No lead much closer to the typical Panelbase findings.

  3. Anthony,

    I am pretty much with your interpretation. choosing the pollster that has a methodology that shows you in a good light is something all parties do if the results are for public consumption.

    As to asking the questions first I think that isn’t about trying to rig the poll as trying to fid out which messages get the best response and how much they influence the possible result.

    Not only is the a legitimate thing to do, it is I suspect it is pretty much the reason Political Parties commission polls.

    Oh and still in Scotland Malcolm Bruce is stepping down.

    On previous results with his personnel vote gone I’d go with this falling to Labour or the SNP.

    It depends on whether Scots have voted “Yes”, the impact of the referendum on Scottish sentiment one way or the other and whether Labour can make it a defeat the Tories election.


  4. Anthony, thanks for the explanation of the differing Scotland polls. I guess it is a lesson that polling companies can change poll results to quite a large extent to support what the customer wants those results to say.

  5. Anthony,

    Do it look to you like the political weightings are based on the current Scottish polling figures as there are about 40% SNP and less than 10% LIbDem.


  6. Richard,

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

    It is never in the interests of a pollsters to be seen to provide anything but accuracy. A political party is only one customer and even they don’t want to be told what they want to hear.

    Equally the industry hates the public thinking “Polls only tell you what they want” because it undermines the profession and is bad for business.

    That is why despite the perception they try to stop clients skewing their polls.


  7. PeterCairns – Panelbase weight by Holyrood recalled vote from 2011 (and indeed, the figures do match up as they should – just under 8% LD and about 45% SNP)

  8. Well definitely not seeing the same gender divide in Populus that we saw in Sunday’s yougov.

    Female vi:
    Yougov Sun 29% Cons; 42% Lab
    Populus today 35% Cons; 38% Lab

    Is there anyway to unravel yougov to see the raw numbers before allocating don’t knows, as the females always have a significant don’t know percent?

    Would be interesting to compare the raw numbers.

  9. “However, it was not the first question asked.”

    I’ve noticed a bit of this sort of thing in referenda recently: the side that is well-behind in the polls uses some pseudo-polling to make it seem like a more even contest, perhaps to give some morale to the troops. There was that Wings Over Scotland poll a while back, which had a dodgy methodology. There’s also the SNP’s ultra-dodgy private polling. (Ok, “ultra-dodgy private polling” has some redunancy in it.) Similarly, Sinn Fein have been using some faux-referenda in response to polling that shows that Unicorns are increasingly becoming the dominant species in Northern Ireland.

    The great thing about polling the UK is that such pseudo-polling is the exception and easy to spot, whereas in the US it seems to be ubiquitous.

  10. (The same goes for anyone who takes the university mock-referenda seriously.)

  11. Richard – neither Populus nor YouGov do any re-allocating don’t knows, they are just excluded (so it’s easy to see what the figures before re-percentaging were – if 25% of people said don’t know or wouldn’t vote, the topline percentages are of the remaining 75%.

    For example,

    Say the figures were

    CON 30%
    LAB 40%
    LD 10%
    UKIP 10%
    Others 10%

    Don’t know/Won’t vote 25%.

    That means the figures before repercentaging were

    (100-25)*30/100 = 22.5%
    (100-25)*40/100 = 30%
    (100-25)*10/100 = 7.5%
    (100-25)*10/100 = 7.5%
    (100-25)*10/100 = 7.5%
    Don’t know/Won’t vote 25%.

  12. Talking of pollster-influencing questions, if you look at the ICM first question (but was it, or did they slyly do VI ones first?) then the result is remarkable. After all ‘an international response’ and the use of the words ‘stop the British Government’ are phrases that cowell uld be disputed by the no-voting MPS, or even some of the yes-voting ones.

    Looking at the reported reaction of Hague and Clegg, it seems to me that we have reached that stage where those ensconced in Downing Street develop a paranoid attitude to the world outside. We see it over and over again after three years of Government, regardless of party.

    If I were Clegg, Hague and co, I would take out an hour, a couple of days per week, take the Clapham bus or the train to (say) Reading and just wander around. I suppose they would have to adopt a disguise and (ahem) adopt a different accent. Clegg knows how to speak pidgin English from his Dutch connections.

    The Dutch for that phenomenon by the way is ‘Mined coal English’. I have no idea from where that expression derives.

  13. Howard – BBC producer guidelines ban them from commissioning voting intention polls without special permission, which they don’t get, so you can be pretty assured that VI wasn’t secretly asked!

  14. Thanks Anthony.

  15. Thanks AW. I suppose client is king (what a waste though).


    “I’ve noticed a bit of this sort of thing in referenda recently”

    Dangerous stuff “this sort of thing”!!! So, since parties test out scenarios quite regularly to craft their campaigning, do you want to ban them from doing that ?- or just from publishing them? – in which case would that make them “ultra-dodgy private polling”?

    As for the SNP’s research, that proved remarkably accurate in the 2011 election, so describing it as “dodgy” may be somewhat off the mark.

  17. Oldnat,

    “do you want to ban them from doing that?”


    And we have no idea how accurate the SNP’s polling was in 2011, because it was private.


    So you have no evidence that their research (including polling) was “dodgy”

    Why make such an allegation then?

    As to the YouGov poll, it seems a shame that Scottish VI data for Holyrood and Westminster was redacted in the tables.

    We have a reasonable amount of polling on Holyrood VI, so the YG figures would have given us a reasonable estimate of the accuracy of the poll.

    There hasn’t been Scottish Westminster VI published for a long time, and the only clue we have from wholly inadequate cross-breaks is that YG consistently picks up a lower SNP VI than other pollsters.

  19. I appreciate that there is also a Scottish poll under this thread to discuss, but it seems to me that UKPR is demonstrating a new ‘Godwin’ type law, which is that, regardless of content, discussion on UKPR will always end up as a discussion between SNP and SLAB adherents.

  20. Oldnat,

    “So you have no evidence that their research (including polling) was “dodgy”?”

    It’s dodgy because I have no evidence about it and can’t obtain such evidence. Analogously, if someone offers me an unlabelled bottle, it’s not dodgy because I know a lot about it, but because I DON’T know anything about it.

  21. Modified version from something I posted at Wings Over Scotland when the Panelbase tables went up (they didn’t like it):

    “There was complaining about the question wording on the YouGov poll, but what we have here I’m afraid is very poor question order.

    Q1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Scotland could be a successful, independent country
    Q2. Who do you trust to take the best decisions for Scotland: the Scottish Government or the Westminster Government?
    Q3. There will be a referendum on an independent Scotland on the 18th of September 2014. How do you intend to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?
    Q4. And how likely are you to vote in the referendum?

    Assuming this is the order they were asked in (and the numbering and tables certainly make it look like that) this is completely the wrong way round[1]. Q1 and Q2 are effectively ‘priming’ the voter to reply ‘Yes’ to Q3 by invoking patriotism and support for a popular, competent Holyrood government (the YouGov poll shows them well ahead of Labour there).

    If the ‘No’ campaign had done the same and put up a couple of scare question as Q1 and Q2, you’d all be the first to complain and rightly so.

    The SNP have actually made a stupid mistake here by trying to be ‘clever’ and asking for such a leading order of questions because it has completely invalidated a poll that might have been useful for them even with a corrected question order. Now they will just look shifty and their opponents will use it to discredit previous Panelbase polls.

    Panelbase should really have known better and gently pointed this out to their clients, though they are pretty inexperienced in political polling and it’s a different dynamic with commercial customers.

    [1]A correct order would have been Q4 first (you usually ask likelihood of voting before you ask how), then Q3, Q2, Q1.”

    On reflection I wonder if this was originally commissioned as private polling to see how the various ‘lines’ would affect referendum preference and they were so pleased with the results they decided to publish.


    If you are now saying that all research by political parties, commercial firms etc is “dodgy” because they haven’t explained the detail to you, then that would at least be cynical about everyone.

    I’m glad to know that your original statement was simply badly and selectively worded and not a partisan comment! :-)

  23. So all the over exaggeration in the press “Cameron Humiliated” and so on doesn’t seemed to have made much if any impact on VI, two out of three polls showing little or no change since the vote over Syria.

    I still can’t make up my mind how this reflects on Labour and it’s leadership ,on the day of the vote Cameron had completely under estimated the mood in the country and Parliment for military intervention in Syria, and Labour were able to take political advantage of the situation to embarrass Cameron.

    However since them it would seem Cameron has been able to take advantage of a very poor situation for him and take the moral high ground in allowing a democratic vote even though it went against him on the day, and has had some success in portraying EM as some how acting in a underhand way in the lead up to the actual vote.

    It will be interesting to see how the rest of the polls reflect the situation in the next few weeks I’m certainly of the opinion the Press no longer has the ability to shape VI in the way it once did, which I find a rather good thing .

  24. Anthony

    Why are the VI figures redacted in the YG poll tables? I presume ther is a good reason, and not just cussedness. :-)

  25. TURK

    Signs of a change of mind from the Labour camp today:-

    Murphy asked Hammond at Defence Question , what circumstances would persuade the Government to come
    back to the HoC ( !) Hammond’s reply was pithy & to the point.
    Ummunna making similar noises.
    Clegg making unflattering remarks about EM -and sticking by the “Parliament has spoken” line.

    This looks like a stance of -if you want to change your mind-you will have to say so on DC’s part.

    Did you see Manufacturing PMIs today?

  26. Oldnat,

    We have national polling guidelines precisely to make such explanations unneccessary, and if there’s something that needs highlighting (e.g. with the recent Panelbase result) then the fact that the polling is not private and there are people checking on the methodology makes a big difference.

    As you know, party private polling lacks these safeguards and therefore it is prudent to assume that it is dodgy. None of these obvious facts that I have stated require any special incredulity on my part.


    I’m puzzled as to why you think that any client would want misleading answers provided by pollsters in polls that are NOT to be published.

    That would seem to be not only a waste of money, but actually counter to their own interests.

    Being dubious about what someone SAYS that their private polling reveals is a very different matter. It has been known for politicians and companies to be less than candid. :-)

  28. @ Turk

    “It will be interesting to see how the rest of the polls reflect the situation in the next few weeks I’m certainly of the opinion the Press no longer has the ability to shape VI in the way it once did, which I find a rather good thing .”

    Tend to agree with you on polling- I think there was only two polls post Syria but normally they produce similar results so it could well be partly MOE on the YouGov one.

    Can’t agree with you about the press though. I’m trying to not make this partisan but despite the bad Cameron headlines surely the hammering EM has taken in the right wing press had had an impact on people’s attitudes to Ed over the weekend. I certainly agree that there was a certain amount of political manoeuvring going on with Ed but not to the scale that has been reported and at no time was his position ‘wait for more information’ unreasonable.

    I think the press also influence the stories that the BBC/TV pick up on so in that sense they are still alive as an influence even if not directly via their readership.

    I would say the Tories have done a good job on getting some flack to hit Miliband and probably needs an outraged response back from Labour which they have yet to do.

  29. Anthony

    You haven’t mentioned the other Scottish poll this weekend, also commissioned politically (by the lobby group Devo Plus) and carried out by …er… YouGov.

    This showed a 29%-59% lead for ‘No’. The tables are here:

    One query I do have: there are cross-tabs for Westminster and Holyrood Constituency vote, but no separate VI tables showing how these were made up so we can see the figures for small Parties, non-voters etc. It would be nice to look at these as there isn’t much properly weighted polling from Scotland on YouGov (I can’t find any Westminster figures from anyone this year).


    I have also asked why the VI figures were redacted.

    If the weighting for Westminster 2010 is applied to them (and I’m not suggesting that they should be) then you get –

    Holyrood – SNP 50% : Lab 28% : Con 14% : LD 8% (which doesn’t seem too far away from other polling)

    Westminster – SNP 44% : Lab 31% : Con 16% : LD 8% (which would be interesting :-) )

  31. Publishing the Panelbase results is as useful for Better Together & United With Labour as it is for the Yes Scotland Team, so I would not agree with people’s perception that it is ‘propaganda’.

    On the one hand, it might indeed rally the Yes troops but on the other hand, the No teams & No voters could’ve become complacent & assumed they could stroll it – leading to some potential No voters not bothering to register &/or vote.

    The lead-in questions may show the YST how to influence voters – but it also gives the BTT & UWLT an insight into the points which they need to tackle & ‘defuse’.

    And this dichotomy almost always exists when a Party or Campaign Team is considering whether or not to publish polling which was initially intended to be private.

  32. It’s also worth pointing out the difference between the phrasing of the Panelbase and YG referendum question.

    Panelbase – “There will be a referendum on an independent Scotland on the 18th of September 2014. How do you intend to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?”

    YouGov – “If there was a referendum tomorrow on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming an Independent Country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Scotland be an independent country?”

  33. @ Old Nat

    I have also asked why the VI figures were redacted.
    I suspect it’s because they are ‘carp’ for the Parties who commissioned the poll.

  34. Shevii

    The only thing I would say about the right wing press in particular the Mail, it has been as anti Cameron as Miliband. Most of the criticism of EM which would have an effect has been in the left wing press, that may have an effect as there readers are more likely to vote Labour.

  35. Old Nat

    Would you like to comment on this poll Thanks for the link Roger interesting


    “And this dichotomy almost always exists when a Party or Campaign Team is considering whether or not to publish polling which was initially intended to be private.”

    I agree. However, I can’t see the No side gaining much traction from a recognition that if people believe that “Scotland could be a successful, independent country”, they are more likely to vote Yes.

    Their strategy seems unlikely to vary from the Treasury briefing paper also released today. Whether suggesting to Canadians that they would be richer by ditching independence and joining the USA is useful, remains to be seen. :-)


    Are you referring to the YG poll?

    I have been referring to it.

  38. The poll also suggested 72% did not think the move would damage Britain’s relationship with America – and two-thirds said they would not care if it did.

    (ICM Research spoke to 1,000 adults in England, Scotland and Wales by telephone between Friday and Monday.)
    Does this mean we are all for Russian now?

  39. Amber


    But if the LDs were actually at 8% for both Holyrood and Westminster, they might be cheered by that,

  40. Oldnat,

    If someone doesn’t say that their private polling shows anything, then I am unlikely to become aware of it.


    True. So we agree that one can reasonably be dubious about what anyone says that their private polling reveals, while recognising that the actual private polling that they have commissioned is likely to be quite robust.

    Now isn’t that a more appropriate comment for a non-partisan site on polling issues than your original comment?

  42. @ Old Nat

    UWLT &/or BTT – Of course Scotland can be a successful independent country but it will require a lot of (unnecessary) sacrifices by Scottish citizens. The No Teams will then go on to list what those sacrifices are likely to be.

  43. @ Old Nat

    But if the LDs were actually at 8% for both Holyrood and Westminster, they might be cheered by that
    Yes, a good result for them! LOL

  44. Colin

    I only caught the tail end of the news today but industry reporting a pick up in orders, the best figures for some years is re-enforcing the opinion the economy is on the up.

    As for Syria EM how ironic if EM had to make a spectacular about face with more conclusive evidence of chemical weapon use in Syria and have to request another meeting of parliment to put action in Syria back on the table.

    DC is not about to go to parliment anytime soon over the question of Syria and why should he when he can make Labour take the flack for any U-turn and have his original position vindicated.


    Shame on you! You’re omitting some of the groups campaigning for a No vote, by restricting yourself to those two – one of which is just a single party group like the other single party campaigns run by UKIP, BNP, DUP etc,

    Shame that the umbrella campaign has dropped the term UKOK. Mind you, I like their new beer mat logo. “Scotland & …..” will give a lot of scope for the humourists. :-)

  46. @Turk

    It wouldn’t be any sort of about face – waiting to vote until after evidence was available is exactly what he was asking for.

  47. TURK

    That certainly looks like DC’s tactic on Syria.

    The Chief Economist at Markit talked of +1% or more for 2013 Q3 GDP.

    THat would be quite something-though I am conscious that Laszlo forecast the the UK economy would slow down in Q3 & 4 this year..

  48. ROBIN

    What evidence is available to Labour now , which wasn’t available on 29th August?

  49. The US intelligence document is available now, and wasn’t then. But Labour aren’t arguing for a vote right *now*.

  50. Ian: “Colin – we’re still awaiting the UN inspectors report, which is what Labour were asking for on Thursday. That would be new evidence.”

    Exactly. It was DC who decided after the vote that we would not take military action under any circumstances. That was never Labour’s position. So it wouldn’t be a turn round if Labour voted for military intervention after the evidence, after the UN etc. etc.

    I saw most of the debate on television and in the main it was Conservative MPs (plus George Galloway of course) who were opposed to taking action full stop, not Labour.

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