Sunday Polls

Lord Ashcroft has another of his big polls out today (thought the fieldwork is about two months old), this time an update of his previous look at the Conservative vote. As ever, it’s an interesting read and I’ll leave it to you to read yourselves here. Ashcroft’s conclusions don’t show any radical changes from the previous wave, often a problem with good research. Public opinion doesn’t actually often shift around and show exciting new patterns, so good solid research will often confirm things we already guessed at anyway, or that things haven’t really changed much.

Ashcroft’s key points are on page 9 of his report. They say about 23% of people who would vote are Tories who have remained loyal from the last election, a further 6% are people who didn’t vote Tory last time, but would now. On top of that there are 3% of people who DIDN’T vote Tory last time but might consider it, and a further chunk of people DID vote Tory last time, wouldn’t now, but may or may not consider doing so at the next election. That’s basically the battleground the next 16 months will be fought over. I should add a warning not to take the boundaries of that battleground as being set in concrete – people are not that good at predicting their future behaviour, some people who say they’ll definitely vote X won’t, some people who say they’d never vote Y will, and so on. Treat things as a good guide, but remember the boundaries are fuzzy and changeable.

Those former Tories are still fairly Toryish (after all, they voted for them last time) and most want to see the Conservatives win the next election, prefer the Tories to Labour on policy issues and (despite being dissatisfied with him in general) think Cameron would be the best PM. How things pan out at the next election will largely depend on how many of those people will go back to the Tories (many are currently UKIP, but many others are don’t knows) and at the other end of the scale, how well Labour hold on to the support they’ve gained since the election. In 2013 neither party did fantastically well at their respective challenge! The Conservatives gained a meagre one point, Labour managed to lose three points.

More generally 28% of respondents as a whole are satisfied with Cameron as PM, 32% are dissatisfied but prefer him to Miliband, 40% are dissatisfied and would prefer Miliband. In a forced choice 57% of people trust Cameron & Osborne more on the economy, 43% Miliband & Balls. Labour lead on the cost of living, and perhaps most interestingly, on balance people think that they themselves would be better off if Labour won, but think that the country as a whole would be better off if the Conservatives won (the obvious implication is that some people think that the country would be better off if the Tories won, but that the benefits would go to people richer than them.)

All in all, the picture is as we’d expect it. Labour are still ahead (the fieldwork itself was done back in November, so it’s not new anyway), Cameron is preferred to Miliband as Prime Minister, the Conservatives lead on economic competence and national growth, but Labour are more trusted on cost of living issues.

I should make a comment about some of the media reporting of the finding that the Conservatives have lost 37% of their voters since the last election. This is accurate, but far less exciting than it sounds. A lot of it is just down to people saying don’t know, it happens in all polls, other bits are just the natural churn you get in all directions between parties. To put it in context, Labour have lost 22% of their vote since the last election, which would make a nice headline of “Labour lost one in five of their voters!” if one wanted to spin a poll badly for Labour. The more salient facts are that the Tories have gone from 37% at the last election to 30% in this poll, Labour have gone from 30% to 39%. The underlying churn and back and forth between parties is good for understanding what has driven this but is bad for creating non-misleading headlines! There is churn in all elections, even a party on a roll will lose some of its previous supporters, the key is gaining more than you lose.

Meanwhile there were two polls with new fieldwork out in the Sunday papers. The fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer had topline figures of CON 30%(nc), LAB 37%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 17%(+1) (tabs here). A Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday had topline figures of CON 31%(+2), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 11%(-2), UKIP 16%(-1) and European election voting intentions of CON 23%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 26%.

269 Responses to “Sunday Polls”

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    “We all now know that what replaced the Tsar was even worse for the people of Russia”


    Not that relevant since Britain sided with the replacement too…

  2. [Snip]

    I have my own opinions of Gove, which I will keep to myself [Snip]

  3. Oh come on howard – he was not ‘telling the truth’. His whole target of cutting the deifcit in x amount of time is completly arbitrary – and his method of doing it (i.e, targeting the welfare budget) is an entirely political decision.

    He could choose to cut the deficit in 20 years or 1 year. He could do it purely by going for economic growth – or by cutting in other areas – trident, or HS2. Or he could do it by raising income tax – or introducing tolls on motorways – or by selling state assets or introducing a tax on kittens. Which is the best way – or indeed if it needs doing at all – is all up for for debate (but not on this forum).

    What Im talking about is not weather Osborne’s path is correct – but its political implications for 2015.

  4. Reggieside and Alec

    We just disagree,and we could debate for days and still disagree. I think Osborne has at last seen the light. It may not do him and the Tories and good but after the economic performance of the last Government and the lack of a coherent economic strategy from the two eds I actually think it will.

  5. Hi Statgeek,

    Well, at least we know where we would disagree. Or not so much disagree, as interpret differently.

    (1) The accuracy of polls as predictors largely depends on their being able to adjust for ‘Don’t know’, ‘Won’t Vote’ or ‘Won’t even take part in your survey’, doesn’t it? I agree the point, also made by AW, that people are often very bad predictors of whether they will vote or not, so there is indeed an uncertainty factor 16 months out – although Couper2802 referred to an Ashcroft finding that that stat could well not be in the Tories’ favour.

    (2) In my eyes your statistical observation (you being a ‘statgeek’) is fair enough, but you also ignore the fact that moving figures need to be explained by plausible hypotheses. They aren’t just moving up or down of their own accord, or mechanically, like a pendulum.

    Your key figure, the fact that Labour had more than 40 per cent a year ago, is one to which you have drawn attention before. But those votes, on the face of it, went to UKIP, not to the Tories, just as in the early years of this parliament a lot more Tory votes went to UKIP. The whole picture needs to be explained.

    I have made clear my hypothesis, and of course it’s just that, a hypothesis. Yours appears to be that the figures have, maybe, a momentum of their own; that there is a ‘tide’ in them, which is moving, and which can be ‘taken at the flood’ by the Tories, and will lead them ‘on to greatness’. It seems a bit like astrological reasoning to me – but that’s only an impression, of course.

    My hunch that UKIP’s figures may be as hard to dislodge as Labour’s 38 rests on the fact that they are clearly looking for and attracting voters who are saying, “The whole mess needs a radically new approach taken to it!” Tell them as often as you like that we cannot tackle immigration in the way they want it tackled without leaving Europe; and follow that by telling them we dare not get out of Europe – and those soon-to-be-voters simply reiterate that that is what they want. People who are thinking that way are not people who will willingly buy the ‘austerity is the only show in town’ slogan. They have UKIP, not Labour, priorities – but the ones who left Labour didn’t do so because they saw the wisdom of the neo-liberal status quo.

  6. colin

    “Unless you can say what you mean in plain english there is no response worth givinh.”

    Oh. Jolly good.

  7. @ Alec

    “I have my own opinions of Gove, which I will keep to myself […] [Snip]

    You didn’t quite managed what you said what you planned…[Fear not, I helped him out – AW]

    Anyway, Gove’s aim was simply to say (without actually using the words) that people on the Left are unpatriotic. I doubt that it really works today.

  8. @ToH

    Osborne can’t find £25bn of savings on welfare between now and 2019 with the triple lock in place. There is not £25bn to find unless the State abandons (not ‘cuts’) support to some groups of extremely vulnerable people, most notably the sick and disabled. I would submit that even the most avid anti-State Tory would find that distasteful.

    So in that sense, he is not being honest.

    His choices include

    – to lengthen the timetable (as this is the option he has chosen thus far, this is likely to be the option he continues to choose in future)
    – tax rises (as he has raised VAT in the past, I would expect to see tax rises)
    – removing the triple lock (I think this will come into play – indeed, I think it has to)

    Plus some more exotic measures. It is being suggested that negative interest rates might be necessary if Osborne does demand that we stick to his timetable, as might significantly higher inflation.

    None of his choices are going to be popular.

    However, as think Osborne is not actually discussing policy that he intends to enact, instead laying down a challenge whereby he either gets Ed Balls to pledge to take on electorally unpopular and economically unwise policies, or be painted as a spendthrift, the discussion is moot.

  9. Maybe the difference between the Conservatives and UKIP is something to do with emotion. The Conservative leaders DC and GO, see their role as making Britain competitive through economic strength.

    This will appeal to some, but it hardly stirs the emotions of Conservative supporters, who may think that a country is more than a collection of hard-working people, it is concerned with community, traditional culture, standing up for the country against its enemies, and in the countryside building houses somewhere else, ditto railway lines and so on.

    UKIP is not afraid to tickle these emotions.

    Cameron is probably doing what is necessary to modernise his party, and has even pushed through marriage equality, but it looks as though he will pay the price in 2015 for taking on the traditionallsts.

    In the long run will the Conservatives be back, modernised and refreshed, or will they be eclipsed by UKIP , as the Ulster Unionists were displaced by the DUP? If Labour do win, as the polls predict now, they will face exactly the same problems as the present government. If Labour disappoint , the political outlook could be very different, dare I say dangerous.


    @”Osborne can’t find £25bn of savings on welfare between now and 2019″

    He isn’t looking to do so.

    His suggested saving on “welfare” is £12bn

  11. Colin

    You beat me to it.

  12. He can’t find £12bn either. Welfare, excluding the ring-fenced pensions which make up the bulk of it, isn’t big enough to take that level of cuts.

  13. Roger.
    Tax credits will get the hit, aka the social wage.
    It won’t hurt his constituency.

  14. The YG poll seems to underline the other results so we remain in polldrums. I don’t see the current politicking about the budget as having any effect on polling. I base this conclusion on the fact that such has never done so in the past. A bolder initiative such as EM’s energy price commitment is another matter. It’s specific and not woolly. So was GO’s announcement on the inheritance tax which was actually never carried out. I suspect the same fate awaits the energy price one too.

  15. @CD

    “I have made clear my hypothesis, and of course it’s just that, a hypothesis. Yours appears to be that the figures have, maybe, a momentum of their own; that there is a ‘tide’ in them, which is moving, and which can be ‘taken at the flood’ by the Tories, and will lead them ‘on to greatness’.”

    I have no idea how you got such partisan twaddle for my post.

    What I said was that there are votes available from the WNV side of things.

    There is an untapped majority (35%) of the electorate who did not vote for any one party in 2010 (36.1% of voters voted Con, with a turnout of 65.1%, giving them 23.5% of the electorate).

    I did not say that the Labour votes went anywhere, but that they just went, or that an increased turnout of polled people are adjusting the VI to the same effect.

    Your response says more about your political allegiances that mine (i.e. I have none). If I can qualify that, the paragraph above suggests they (the Tories) should do no such thing, and that anyone even suggesting something other than a Labour victory should be a Tory.

  16. @ Nick P,

    All that expensive education and that’s what he learned?

    Gove was a scholarship boy and he went to Oxford in the days before tuition fees, so it wasn’t. “Expensive”, I mean- the “education” bit is clearly a matter for debate.

  17. “Gove was a scholarship boy and he went to Oxford in the days before tuition fees, so it wasn’t. “Expensive” ”

    Yes it was: just not for the Govester.

  18. By that token pretty much everyone had an expensive education. State schooling isn’t cheap!

  19. I wasn’t saying you were partisan in any way Statgeek. I was pointing out that, whilst you might have identified some “votes available” that might affect VI for the next election, you were looking at movements of numbers only. You weren’t attempting to explain those movements of numbers.

    My “allegiances” were, and are, immaterial and I hope I made sure of that. I gave reasons, however, for suggesting that Labour’s VI isn’t under credible threat right now, and that.the movements of numbers you had identified wouldn’t have much of a bearing on it.

    If you have a hypothesis that might suggest otherwise, I’d be delighted to hear it. There really is no need to be prickly about it. Meantime, I’m sorry for having slipped in a bit of WS for colour’s sake. It’s not twaddle, come off it. I guess it makes things a little less dry; dare I say, a little less statistical?

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