This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%. The three point lead for Labour is lower than usual, though nothing to get too excited about as it is well within the normal margin of error for a lead of five points or so. The 14% for UKIP is right at the top end of their their normal range. YouGov have had them at 14% a couple of times this year, but you need to go all the back to November to find them any higher.

I saw a couple of people commenting on this poll and on yesterday’s Populus poll in relation to the ongoing troubles around Maria Miller, asking about whether there would be a Miller effect, or pondering why it hadn’t damaged the Conservatives.

Obviously this is just one poll so one probably should read too much into it. More importantly though, I would not expect to see any impact at all from the Miller scandal anyway. As ever, the vast majority of the Westminster soap opera has no discernable impact upon voting intentions. The majority of people do not follow or watch Westminister events, will not be aware of who the people are or what they are supposed to have done. Those people who are interested in politics will tend to view events and scandals through the prism of their pre-existing political loyalties. For example, if a Labour politician is involved in a scandal, Labour supporters will be more likely to see it as a smear, or at worst one bad apple amongst an otherwise decent party; Conservative supporters will be more likely to see it as some major failing and characteristic of a rotten party… and vice-versa for scandals affecting Conservative politicians). I expect all these things have a drip-drip effect upon party image, but not one that is measurable or quantifiable.

A good reminder is to go back and look at the ups and downs of the polls in the last Parliament, or the Parliament before and see what has changed polls. Most of the time they trundle along larged unaffected by short-term events – leadership changes affect them, budgets sometimes do, recessions and recoveries, wars, mid-term elections, party conferences (for a week). The weekly Westminster stories of speeches, policy announcements and scandals rarely do – the main exceptions of I can think of in recent years are the expenses scandal in 2009 (but that was the whole political class, a huge event); Charles Kennedy’s resignation (but he was a party leader) and I suppose Labour’s black Wednesday in 2006 (when Charles Clarke, John Prescott and Patricia Hewitt all managed to get themselves in a mess in the same week). Perhaps Maria Miller will join that list, but I really wouldn’t count on it.

191 Responses to “A reminder of what moves polls”

1 2 3 4
  1. Up to date chart for2014 You Gov VI (including tonight’s tweet):

    Lib Dem and Conservative stable, Labour down, UKIP up.

  2. Maria Miller helping UKIP. No other parties benefiting.

  3. One thing I read earlier in the FT helps explain why the GDP growth isn’t as good as it first appears, and may not have a big impact on voter intentions. That is because GDP per capita isn’t recovering and is still below 2007 levels. UK population growth is so high at present that GDP growth is being spread thinly.

    I’ve noticed GDP per capita is hardly ever reported but that is what is impacting people quality of life and spending power. The ONS is now talking about featuring it more prominantly.

  4. @CMJ

    Thanks, I had been puzzling over CUSUM.
    Now, supplementary for an idiot: if zero is the mean, why is the area enclosed above the line not equal to that below the line?

    How does one read CUSUM chart. What do the lines demonstrate? What is its meaning?

  6. The Miller story is headlining on Newsnight. Might be worth a look.

  7. The axis doesn’t have to be crossed, but the ups must equal the downs – if they didn’t, the final value would not be zero.

    For example, if a party get good VI for 2 months, then they go off the boil for 2 months, you end up with a line going up until halfway, and then back down again. This need not cross the axis, but end at zero.

    The zero line is the mean for period. In the above example, the lines going up a series of polls better than the mean for the period. When it goes down, it’s below the mean.

    If the data is just subject to sample variation, you would get may 1 up, 2 down, 2 up, 3 down, 1 up etc. Persistent runs of data above or below (ie a line up or down) demonstrates additional factors other than normal variation (in this case sample variation)

    In Labour’s case, the mean VI for 2014 is 38.5. Since the budget they had 16 polls, and 13 have been below this mean. The Labour line will not go persistently up until they poll solidly above 38%.

    Therefore, while the Labour VI has increased in the poll tweeted tonight, looking over 2014 they have declined.

  8. Gavin Estler laughing in disbelief in Lansley’s attempt at defence of Miller and the standards committee members of which evidently don’t meet with any regularity.

  9. Another attempt at getting the grammar correct now that Paul is back with us.

    Gavin Estler is laughing in disbelief at Lansley’s attempted defence of Miller and the standards committee, members of which evidently don’t meet with any regularity.

  10. Lansley did his best on Newsnight, with Paxman in particularly caustic and sardonic form, but he had a hopeless hand to play and floundered accordingly.

    I’m starting to think that this is going to end quite soon with the men in suits slipping Miller a loaded revolver and quietly leaving her alone in a room.

    Shortly followed by a lone gunshot.

  11. As has been explained CUSUm charts are valuable in showing small
    Changes from a mean, widely used in the chemical industry for observing performance of a particular process. They show WHAT is happening not WHY. In a multivariate process such as politics it is difficult to lay the blame for a change on any specific event. Hence we are all free to have our own views until. as AW has stated, something cataclysmic occurs.

  12. CB11

    “I’m starting to think that this is going to end quite soon…”

    It seems to me that there’s something of a government rally-around effort for Miller this evening with her new apology and a more coordinated approach to her defense. Presumably it’s an attempt to shore things up in time for PMQs tomorrow and the 1922 Committee.

    It will be interesting to see if they can save her. Maybe a Pyrrhic victory would mean something in terms of face-saving.

  13. @Peter Bell and Crossbat
    I’d be very surprised if Miller lasts the week. What has outraged people I have spoken to is that she already had a London home and then remortgaged for a much larger amount than before without even asking permission (which would have been within the famous ‘rules’).
    The tax payer then had to pay this increased mortgage for her. Now whatever various committees have said, what she did was MORALLY wrong, whether it was within the rules or not. The political class don’t seem to understand this concept (morality). All parties seem to think that walking a fine line within the rules is ok for them, but not for others. In this case of course she broke the rules anyway. She should be in prison, not the cabinet.

  14. @CMJ

    I think some (myself included) struggle to make sense of a chart that starts and ends with all trendlines at zero. I appreciate that it highlights fluctuations from the mean of the sum, but isn’t it inherently vulnerable to outliers?

    I think we all expect the beginning and end points of a graph to be different, for at least one party. Obviously some of us are not on your level of stats. :))

  15. What seems very odd to re the expenses via mortgages is the huge amount MPs seem able to claim: surely there should be an upper limit?

    Added to that there are wealthy MPs who could own a house outright who seem to deliberately take out mortgages in order to play the system.

    When one thinks of people like social workers being denied essential car-users allowance but still being expected to use their car it does seem very, very odd.

  16. Mr Beeswax @Crossbat11

    Or maybe forgetting that ” It is the English left’s responsibility – and nobody else’s – to stop England degenerating into a spiteful Ukipland frothing with bile against immigrants and the poor.”

  17. ” moving in for the kill….”

    Seems a bit harsh. Resigning should be enough in my view.

  18. @Oldnat

    Got to love the writer’s commentary:

    “It would be “cataclysmic in geopolitical terms”, he ranted to his American audience; “the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers around the planet” would be handed the greatest gift imaginable. So, a mixed bag then, George.”

    And getting to the polling aspects of the article:

    “This is based on a myth – there would have been little impact on the outcome of almost any postwar British elections if Scotland’s votes were not included”

    Now here’s a theory. Without Scotland to ‘top up’ the English Lab / left levels in the UK, will there be a greater turnout with there being a ‘perceived’ level playing field?

  19. Statgeek

    Interesting theory. I’ve no idea, but I suspect that (like everywhere else) interest in politics will depend on whether voters see a genuine difference between the opposing “sides”.

    For example, I’ve attended every political open meeting in this wee town since 1970. Tonight, I was one of those who left to leave some standing room for the undecideds when the DFM had a meeting.

    Even in 1974, the hall was never more than half full – and I doubt that many will attend political meetings in 2015 or 2016 either.

  20. Here’s a chart ‘just for fun’ – Last week’s YG data by party ID vs. the two polls this week.

    Of course, just two polls. I’ll repost at the weekend with full data.

  21. Sh’es become a distraction from the vital work the Govt is doing.
    I am deeply amazed and shocked

  22. She has resigned.About time too.

  23. She got her timing wrong. She might have been a welcome distraction from the vital work around the time of the Omnishambles budget…

  24. @GuyMonde

    “Sh’es become a distraction from the vital work the Govt is doing.
    I am deeply amazed and shocked”

    Seems like I penned her resignation speech a few days ago too, almost word for word.:-)


  25. Good riddance and let’s all move on.

    -To the next expenses scandal

    The Media loves these because it allows them to be holier than thou in relation to the only profession less trusted than themselves and allows the right leaning papers to distract debate from the Governments policy failings.

  26. The credit goes to the Daily T , and John Mann.

    Well done both.

  27. UKIP still taking a huge chunk of Co 2010s. 19% this morning.

    I can’t see this fading soon, as it will be boosted by UKIP performance in May.

    After that Cons have a year to knock a very big hole in it.

  28. Statgeek

    You of all people should know How little impact votes North of the Border have had on UK GE results.

    As to a level playing field if you cut off the rest of the South from the UK and counted the votes of the rest you would probably find that we wouldn’t have had a Tory Government in the last 40 Years.

  29. But I thought that Maria Miller had done nothing wrong and was just in the same position has many other MP’s in regard to expenses claimed before May 2010. According to Andrew Lansley last night, Miller had been cleared by a previous review of expenses. It was only the latest review which found that Miller had not advised of a change of mortgage interest rate, so had over claimed expenses. She had therefore paid back the relevant amount and had apologised.

    Sounds to me like senior people in the Tory party have put pressure on Cameron ahead of PMQ’s to accept a forced resignation. There are many people in the Tory party who are still unhappy with same sex marriage which Miller had taken through parliament. Some of the same people are also unhappy with nanny state measures, such as plain packaging of tobacco products.

    If this starts to turn into a war within the Tory party, this is not going to help them in regard to polling ahead of the general election. Polling has always shown that the public do not like split parties. Labour would not necessarily gain from this, as I expect that many Tories would find UKIP more attractive.

  30. Phil Haines

    Had a look at the three constituencies you recommended (Halesowen and Rowley Regis, North Warwickshire and Nuneaton) and concluded immediately that Black country voters will have nothing to do with that airy-fairy woolly-minded Lib Dem lot, will they? :-)

    Together with Wolves SW, I’d say they were shoe-ins for Labour (re) gains. Indeed, not win those and it’s all up for Miliband.

  31. I mean of course Black Country voters.

  32. It is no coincidence that Miller goes today.

    But it will do Cameron no good at all.
    If he had sacked her , all he would have had to face was unclubbable John Mann, whose principled stand on oversight of MPs, is unwelcome, even to his own backbenchers. EM would have been silent.

    Now he gives EM an open goal , on a Wednesday, on “personal judgement” , with no exposure for Miliband on his own MPs’ record.

  33. AW

    Sorry about that, I just get irritated sometimes, I will try and ignore such responses in future.

  34. Rich (7.34)

    Thanks for your support, that’s all i was doing. My error was to respond to a silly comment.

  35. @ Catmanjeff,

    Here you go. Churn dataset current up to Sunday, free to a good home (it’s on the second sheet). If you want them going back to 2010, that’s Sheet 3:

  36. Colin
    According to the author of this thread it will have no effect on voters worth shouting about (although there will be shouting in that place, unfortunately).

  37. Well, now the Right wing Press know that they can force Cabinet Ministers out if they want, they’ll be after anyone not Eurosceptic enough or too keen to see the Press maintain any standards or any of a range of other positions taken up by the self-interested gang who run our papers.

    The DT and Mail will now be writing the Tory election manifesto and personally, I don’t think this country should be governed by the Rothermeres and the Barclay Brothers.

    I trust the Press will now be after David Laws and Michael Gove over their own expenses.

    It’s a bad day for democracy. If the PM wants a Minister to stay, then they should stay. He is, after all, the one who has to go to the country to ask the electorate for a mandate.

  38. I see they have at last figured out how to solve a problem like Maria. Pointless self-inflicted injury there; I suspect that by cooperating with the investigation and giving a remotely sincere sounding apology to Parliament she would have been able to hold on.

    Ghastly complacent answer from Lansley to John Mann’s urgent question yesterday, too. Not that the Opposition have a policy on this- Angela Eagle was just trolling. But it should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that “The new expenses system is fantastic and the Standards and Privileges Committee is fantastic and the press should stop being so mean about expenses” was not going to cut it.

  39. @ Chris Riley,

    It’s a bad day for democracy. If the PM wants a Minister to stay, then they should stay.

    It’s not like the Rothermeres hired an assassin. Cameron didn’t want her to stay because he didn’t want to put up with the ongoing political damage. The papers are perfectly entitled to take a non-libelous view about a minister and bang on about it for as long as they like, and if it sways public opinion then it sways public opinion. It’s for the Prime Minister to do the cost benefit analysis about keeping a dodgy minister in post, and Cameron made his decision (or possibly Miller made it for him).

    I can’t believe I’m defending the press, but they did absolutely nothing wrong here. They have a right to pursue their agenda within the bounds of the truth, and in Miller’s case she really should have gone anyway.


    Spectator tipping Nicky Morgan to take over CMS. Could make my night more interesting after the discussion we had on Loughborough and the fact that I’ll be finishing my drink for every cabinet minister who loses their seat…

  41. @ Chris Riley

    In my humble opinion an unfair comment on the Daily Telegraph- there’s no evidence they have chosen sides on the expenses “scandal”. They have gone after Labour and Tory alike.

  42. Good Morning All.
    The story over Mrs Miller distracts from the genuinely good economic news at the wrong time for the Government.

  43. On Scotland and general elections: I think it’s misleading to evaluate this by going back to, say, 1945. The political divergence of Scotland and England is primarily a post-1964 phenomenon, with the Hamilton by-election in 1967 being an important moment. It has become more pronounced over time, as the Tories have become more and more effective in Wales and England relative to Scotland, with only occasional and minor blips (like 1992).

    What’s more of a guide to future elections, the 1945/1950 elections (Labour do better in England than in Scotland) or the 2010 election?

    This is why there’s an upside for people like me no matter what happens in September: either we get to stay in the Union or Labour are much less likely to ever form a majority government in rUK again. If I knew for a fact that Labour (or something like them) wouldn’t do well in an independent Scotland, I could even be persuaded to vote Aye.

  44. chrislane1945

    Yes, they really have shot themselves in the foot. Still the likelyhood of more good economic news over the next 12 months is quite high and the Miller affair will soon be forgotten.

    As somebody posted earlier the only politicians not affected by the expences scandal are UKIP so i guess that will increase UKIP chances at the Euro elections.

  45. TOH;
    Good Morning to you; yes I think that UKIP look to be a strong candidate for top of the polling in May’s EU Parliamentary Elections.

  46. @Statgeek – “This is based on a myth – there would have been little impact on the outcome of almost any postwar British elections if Scotland’s votes were not included”

    I’ve seen many nats comment on this. It’s quite true, in terms of the numbers, but it does somewhat hide one factor – namely the changing political demographics since the 1980’s.

    Up to this point, Scotland had many Tories (was actually 50%+ Tory at one point) and was therefore reasonably in balance with the UK as a whole. Thatcher blew that, but again, it hasn’t mattered too much since then as there have been an unusual string of huge majorities.

    I don’t think harking back 70 years to extrapolate into the future is really very valid, when circumstances have changed so much. In the future, Scotland’s contribution to Labour governments will be much more significant than in the past, I suspect.

  47. I have some sympathy for Millar. If one acts in accordance with the rules at the time, the rules then change and those that are deemed to have acted against the spirit of the old rules are required to pay back some of all of the relevant expenses, then that’s harsh and arguably unfair. There’s a legal presumption against retrospective rules and laws, and for good reason.

    However, many, many MPs were affected by this change in approach to older expenses – not just MM. And they all paid up. MM’s problem therefore is the degree to which she fought the matter. She should really have accepted the Commissioner’s decision and moved on. After all, the Commissioner found she did nothing illegal and did comply with the letter of the old rules.

    Instead, we were treated to what amounted to a circus by the Select Committee, who it appears sought to focus on any actual wrongdoing – completely ignoring the Commissioner’s report. Has the SC simply upheld the Commissioner’s findings, MM would have paid up and still be in her job.

    As for whether this has any effect on polling, I would be amazesd if there isn’t a short term spurt for UKIP – mainly from disgruntled Tories who wanted MM to go earlier – but also from other parliamentary parties as parliament has failed.


    This is, I think, the worst of all worlds for Cameron. He wasn’t remotely surprised when Miller fell – as it was he who pushed her.

    If you’re going to publicly back a minister, you back them. He, Cameron has taken the wrong course, stuck with it, claimed he is sticking with it, and then dropped it. Miller herself will be none too pleased, but of all them, Cameron comes out the worst, I feel.

  49. @NorthumbrianScot

    Thanks for yours of yesterday evening. How important in your view is Scotland’s changing industrial sector? Old heavy industries – previously Labour heartland territory – are gone; Local Authority employment (Labour’s present best bet) is under great stress, with no prospect of Westminster lightening up the stringent fiscal situation; the Defence and Energy sectors are not so politically aligned. Might it be crucial for the Yes campaign to convince local authority workers that their best option is for rule from Edinburgh?

    Following the 1979 debacle, the SNP went into a period of civil war. Should the 2014 referendum attempt fail, however, I do not think the SNP will do a repeat performance. If anything it is Scottish Labour which looks like imploding, with Johann Lamont failing to have any consistent success and getting kicked out – to be replaced by………? And will Labour even allow the Scottish ‘leader’ to be in control of Labour MPs in Westminster – virtually a separate party, such as the SDLP in Northern Ireland.

    On the other hand, it is up to Scottish Labour (Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander in particular) to come up with a real constitutional change – joint sovereignty, perhaps, along the lines of the old Austria-Hungary situation post 1848 (please check – I may have got that wrong) – which will ensure a stronger Scottish Parliament within a UK which is much less centralised.

    But on the other hand, we are still left with the problem that many economic and social factors (such as the immigration which Scotland needs in order to have a vibrant economy) will be dealt with principally (or entirely) by London.

    And then what about UKIP and the threat that the whole of the UK may yet find itself out of Europe?

    In conclusion, I would say that the outcome of the 2016 GE as far as Scotland is concerned is now quite impossible to predict. It may go quite smoothly for Labour, without serious losses. But it may all go belly-up – with Tories and SNP gaining seats. And what then for your unionised work-force?

1 2 3 4