Lord Ashcroft has released two polls this afternoon, his regular weekly GB poll and a poll for the Newark by-election later this week. In Newark he has topline figures of CON 42%(-12), LAB 20%(-2), LDEM 6%(-14), UKIP 27%(+23) – changes are since the general election. Compared to the Survation Newark poll last week UKIP support is almost identical, but the Tories are six points higher, giving them are far more comfortable 15 point lead.

Figures are less positive for the Tories in Ashcroft’s normal weekly GB poll which has topline figures of CON 25%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 19%: a nine point Labour lead and a chunky 19 points for UKIP, once again the highest they’ve recorded in a telephone poll. I’m still getting used to the weekly Ashcroft polls, but on the surface they do seem to be quite volatile – a Tory lead here, a nine-pointer here. There is no obvious reason for that looking at the methods (sample size after taking away don’t knows is about 500, so it will be naturally more volatile than bigger online samples, but should be similar in volatility to ICM). Perhaps it’s just a perception created by having started polling around the European elections when public opinion genuinely is quite volatile.

Meanwhile this morning’s Populus poll had figures of CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%. While that doesn’t look notable at first sight, Populus tend to show some of the lowest Labour leads, so five points is actually the largest they’ve shown since February.

200 Responses to “Ashcroft poll of Newark has 15 point Tory lead”

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  1. The Ashcroft Newark poll seems far more in line with what most pundits were predicting before the Survation poll was revealed. We will simply have to wait and see which is closer on Thursday. As for Ashcroft’s GB polling, as Anthony says, it seems very volatile. Again we will have to wait to see if this volatility is inherant in Ashcroft’s polls or a symptom of a period when there actually were radical shifts in public opinion. For what it is worth early indications from polls do seem to suggest an unwinding of UKIP support since the Euro-elections in Labour’s favour – but again, we need more polls to verify this for certain.

  2. Not sure how to explain the seemingly increasing LAB lead in a few polls this week. Perhaps for some that dislike the Tories the realisation that they could well win next year has seen them go back to LAB from UKIP/LDs. However, the size of the shift whilst UKIP ratings remain high and the LDs drop only a small amount from an already low level suggests a good amount of CON/LAB switching, which would be slightly illogical given that nothing major has happened in the last week.

  3. @JACK SHELDON: “Not sure how to explain the seemingly increasing LAB lead in a few polls this week.”

    Aren’t they just returning to normal in the mid-30s? It’s more that the Tories are falling further behind, presumably due to UKIP taking their vote.

  4. @AW
    Did you notice @Spearmint’s point on the previous thread to the effect that the Populus 2010 Con/Lab/LD weighting is unexpectedly plausible? Have you had any sniffs of a methodology sniff from them?

  5. @RogerH

    Yes, you may be right. I suppose we might be seeing natural CONs that voted UKIP in the Euros emboldened by the results to say they’ll also do so in the GE when they weren’t before.

  6. @RogerH

    Yes, you may be right. I suppose we might be seeing natural CONs that voted UKIP in the Euros emboldened by the results to say they’ll also do so in the GE when they weren’t before.

  7. @Jack Sheldon

    When Labours lead suddenly dropped a few weeks ago there didn’t seem much reason for it either. It was put down to the Euros. I still wonder about the lead vanishing in an election period ie when minds are concentrated and wonder if the GE campaign will have the same effect.

  8. Interesting how the Ashcroft and Survaton polls differ.

    The big unknown in this by-election is whether Labour voters will stick with Labour, vote Conservative to stop UKIP, or vote UKIP to try to destabilise the Conservatives. Based on these polls, it looks like stop UKIP is winning.

  9. If the Ashcroft Poll was anywhere near reflective of a GE we would see a Labour Government with barely a third of the popular Vote with around a 90 seat Majority.

    The Conservatives with just 6% more than UKIP With 230 seats and the LD’s with a Third of the Vote of UKIP with around 30 MP’s while UKIP had none.

    What Price FPTP?

  10. Phil – nope, has the same weightings as they normally use, so difference in recalled vote will proably just be normal sample variation.

    Populus tend to be extremely committed to flagging up any methodological changes anyway, so I’d be very surprised if they ever made any shift in methods without openly pointing it out.

  11. Well if he has only 500 in the sample after DKs the the theoretical 1-std Margin of Error will be over 4% and so it’s not too odd that he seems to give a Labour Lead which is 6% above the “true” underlying figure which seems to be about 3%.

    I’ll be very interested to see what YouGov has tomorrow – there is no reason I can see why the Labour Lead should be increasing and the economic news remains very strong. But we’ll have to see what the polling data show.

  12. Ashcroft’s reallocation of “don’t knows” back to the party they voted for in 2010 is a very dodgy leap of faith in the context of a by-election and one where the main challenger was not in the frame previously. UKIP have tended to outperform their polling in previous by-elections this parliament.

    Standard turnout adjusted polling from Ashcroft would be:
    Con 40%
    UKIP 29%
    Lab 19%
    LD 5%

    So an 11% not a 15% gap.

  13. @Chris

    I’m not convinced there will be an enormous amount of tactical in this one. There may be a small portion of LAB voters who were considering voting UKIP anyway who do so in the hope of hurting the Tories. Otherwise the large majority of LAB voters, particularly in a largely middle class constituency such as this one, will keep voting LAB because they don’t like the Tories and like UKIP even less.

  14. @Couper2802 “I still wonder about the lead vanishing in an election period ie when minds are concentrated and wonder if the GE campaign will have the same effect.”

    Yes, that had occurred to me too – and must privately be worrying the Hell out of the Labour strategy team. I think there is now a natural pro-Labour relative lead over the Conservatives amongst the electorate which might be easily put off when Miliband makes a hash of his public relations – he did look a tad silly a couple of times just prior to the Euro-elections – I personally like him very much, but he does need to work on being less focussed on “the grand plan” and a bit more ready to handle “every day life” questions like how much he spends on groceries – that was very badly handled, and a bungle Blair would never had made. I think that sort of thing puts wobbly Labour supporters off more than bold left-wing policies that are attacked by the right-wing press. He needs to get a much better sureness of touch to translate Labour’s natural but fragile lead into hard crosses on paper in the box!

  15. @AW

    Thanks. Maybe then it’s something to do with a change in the interaction of the party identifier and past voting recall responses then. I’m wondering whether the relationship between the two isn’t stable and has been affected by last month’s elections.

    Or maybe it’s just a wholly exceptional sample compared to what we’ve seen before from Populus.

  16. It’s clear FPTP has to go. How long can the Establishment cling on? It’s a farce.

  17. Chart update folks:

    “Clegg’s ratings drop, and the smaller parties take from Labour:”


  18. Well that safe lead must settle some nerves in Conservative HQ in Newark.

    it confirms the anecdotal bakery test amongst the cup-cake eaters of the town which has the blues well ahead. The poll surely makes an upset unlikely and that of itself must prick UKIP’s current bubble….

    Of course any upset would up-end those calculations adding more hot air to the Farage inflatable….

  19. I suppose it would be been fun to see Labour’s reaction if UKIP won on a three-way split. Given the number of Labour supporters who opposed AV because the EVIL LIBERAL DEMOCRATS supported it so it must be an EVIL VOTING SYSTEM, it would be fun to see if they can stick to their guns and say UKIP won fair and square, or whether they change their position when it doesn’t suit them.

    Unlikely to happen though. Looks like the Tories are going to hold this without too much of a scare. Guess we’ll have to wait for the General Election.

  20. Tony Dean
    “unwinding of ukip support”
    How did you work that one out? Ukip have just recorded a telephone poll high.

    Labour are looking good for a GE win, Tories to win Newark easily, and LD’s still in decline.
    FPTP really sucks and todays politics.

  21. Even taking into account Ashcroft tending to underestimate UKIP in by-elections (apparently; I haven’t checked), that looks like a solid 1, 2, 3 for Newark. Though I have a sneaking suspicion UKIP will be a little higher on the day regardless of this anomaly.

    And I agree with STEVE and ZACK. That Lib Dem/UKIP 6 and 19 might be the death knell of FPTP if it were to happen next year.

  22. @Tony Dean

    Maybe, but we were seeing a marked uptick in Green VI (and V) for the Euros which I would expect largely to revert to Lab when PR is off the menu.

    And I agree about ‘gaffes’ probably being more damaging than policies – and in fact there are a number of ‘left wing’ policies which would be very popular it seems (EG railway nationalisation or something akin) – but I suspect most of EM’s gaffability is already hard wired into his negative ratings and current VI.

    Not that I would suggest for a moment Lab or EM should be complacent.

  23. From these polls I do get the feeling that the LibDems may be even more sunk than they seemed to be before. Correct me if I am wrong, but would 6% be the lowest the LDs/Alliance have recorded outside of the late 80s (when the Continuing SDP were confusing the picture)?

  24. It seems a bit ironic that perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of FPTP at the GE will be the LibDems.

  25. @Steve, Zack P

    “What price FPTP”
    “FPTP has to go”

    Quite apart from the fact that I don’t agree with you, how is that to be achieved? How will you make those turkeys vote for Christmas? Just moaning about how unfair it is? When did that work?

    Proponents of PR need to get real. The only plan they had was “support the LDs and hope for a hung parliament”. It didn’t work, so you need a new plan.

  26. As I have several times pointed out the accuracy of Farage’s predictions since 2013, it is only fair to remind folk that he has not predicted a UKIP win in Newark, only (in effect) second place with a greatly reduced Conservative majority. Might be worth comparing the eventual gap between Tory and UKIP with the Tory/Labour gaps in Newark in 2010 and 2005.
    I also often point to the importance of turnout. The Conservatives clearly believe that by the canvassing effort thrown at Newark.
    Lastly, even the Conservatives cannot throw all their ministers and MPs several times at all the seats in a general election, so the result at Newark can hardly be taken as a good pointer to 2015.
    One last point not too be taken too seriously. This poll is known to be Ashcroft’s poll and Ashcroft is a Tory. Respondents might not want to disappoint him too much. Does his Newark poll weight according to voting at the last election? The Conservative majority then was unusually high compared to earlier Newark GE results.

  27. If UKIP do poll around 27% in the by-election then that would be in tune with what the won during the Euro elections.

    Busted flush? Don’t think so!

  28. @ PostageIncluded

    “Proponents of PR need to get real.”

    Couldn’t agree more, although I am a Labour supporter of limited electoral reform for all elections, I think it is probably dead in the water for some years to come, except perhaps for local elections if a party is desperate to get into office with LibDem support. However, that seems a pretty remote possibility at the moment! As for PR for Westminster I think we will have to wait a generation before that is even a viable topic. What supporters of “fairer” electoral systems do not seem to grasp is that any group of people who win under any electoral system, however awful and inaccurate, will always turn round and metaphorically say “Well it worked for me fair and square, and if you were any good you would have beaten me under the system under which I was elected!!”
    And, why do I, a Labour supporter, want electoral reform – I do not want pure PR that gives too much power to smaller parties, but because I object to a system where most votes are cast for losing candidates – I want every vote cast to count towards electing “somebody” – even if it does not give a strictly proportional result.

  29. @Tony Dean: “I want every vote cast to count towards electing “somebody” – even if it does not give a strictly proportional result.”

    That sounds like AV. And I agree: making each vote count is more important than strict proportionality. It was a great shame that the AV referendum became a chance to give Clegg a kicking (however well deserved).

  30. I’m a supporter of electoral reform but I think it’s less likely now than since the 1980s. Those who also support reform but chose to vote for FPTP in the referendum are responsible for that.

  31. @Chris N-S

    The LibDems didn’t support AV in the referendum. They thought it was ar best “a stepping stone to PR”, at worst “a miserable little compromise”. They pretty much ran the Yes campaign, but found it almost impossible to say anything positive about AV without qualification. At times it seemed to me that they wanted to lose, the campaign was so pitiful – they had good reason to want that, because AV isn’t PR and it would probably have lost them more seats than it gained them.

    Genuine supporters of AV were rather rare (I counted me and Peter Kellner) in all parties so I’m not sure why you single out Labour. In any case the rise of UKIP will give the Tories cause for regretting their opposition to AV more than any other party, as, despite all the post-election spin, it’s still clear that UKIP damages them most.

  32. Good evening all!

    FPTP will be safe in Labour’s hands, I have no doubt, if they get a 90 seat majority. Just a pity that Lord Strathclyde has gone to all that trouble to work out how to stop us Scots living off the deep pockets of those south of the Border when there’s no chance that the Tories are going to win the GE. Ah well…..

  33. Ipsos-MORI indyref poll : shift to Yes since Feb. No still in the lead.


  34. @POSTAGEINCLUDED: “At times it seemed to me that they wanted to lose, the campaign was so pitiful – they had good reason to want that, because AV isn’t PR and it would probably have lost them more seats than it gained them.”

    I doubt that. It wouldn’t have been as beneficial to them as PR but all the estimates gave them more seats with AV. It should have been apparent that the referendum would be treated as one for or against the status quo and even those unimpressed with AV should have realised it offered the only route to PR.

  35. One thing to bear in mind that polls do not reveal, especially in the volatile and dynamic situations like by-elections, trajectory. When I was trained as a Canvassing Analysis Officer for Andy Ellis’s National By-Election Team, I had it drummed into me by Michael Key, the party’s senior agent expert on analysis, that factoring in the trajectory of support was every bit as important as simply recording the snap shot of where we were that day.

    Thinking back, Michael Key was a wonderful teacher with a fascinating career behind him – he had learned his skills from the late Liberal peer and chief agent, Pratap Chitnis, at Orpington and elsewhere. Michael, after a period of Liberal dolldrums in the late 60s had taken a professional agents diploma with the Conservatives, being appointed to their Isle of Wight Assocaition, from where he re-defected to the local Liberals, and became thereafter the party’s chief canvass analysis officer at by-elections and regional Area agent for the East Midlands. His predictions, based on repeated nightly additions of that day’s canvass returns, filtered for over-optimism by party workers (!), and trajectory analysis formuae, gave unbelievably accurate predictions of outcomes. He went onto train two of we professional regional area agents of the time, Paul Jacobs and myself, with additional on-the-job training at the Ryedale By-election in 1986. I subsequently became Canvass Analysis Officer at the Truro By-Election after David Penhaligon’s death – a fascinating job!

  36. “Analysis – and five reasons why Ukip seem on course to come second in Newark”


  37. Apologies for a bit of an uninitiated question, but if the usual convention is to refer to “ComRes polls” or “YouGov polls”, why are these ones called Ashcroft polls if he’s the client rather than the pollster?

    Do we know who’s carrying them out – and if not, do we know if they’re BPC registered, or are we taking them on (no doubt well-founded) trust? If it’s one of the major companies it would be helpful to bracket them with VI polls carried out for other clients.

  38. John B

    “Just a pity that Lord Strathclyde has gone to all that trouble”

    Well, not that much trouble! Much of the report deals with things that things they think Holyrood should do (somewhat similar to what Lab thinks).

    The income tax proposals “are offered as a basis for discussion with all those, including other political parties, who believe in a prosperous Scotland with a strong Parliament in a stronger United Kingdom”.

    So whatever agreement (if any) that can be cobbled together in Westminster by MPs there, then.

  39. Excluding undecided:

    Yes 40%
    No 60%

  40. It will be interesting to see how the Tory devolution proposals go down in the Scottish polls; they are – reasonable. But I do think people will distrust them – Ruth seems nice but shes still not managed to look outside the clutches of the main party except on more personal issues. Its all well and good saying Scotland gets control of 40% of its taxes but if you use the other 60% to pressure the Scottish tax receipts on the 40% you have some big big problems.

    What shes basically saying is “You can have some control; but not all of it”; which raises the question – “Why not?”

    Good shes getting more ahead of Labour though on this; but I feel most Scots would argue the 40/60 split should be the other way around.

  41. My best guess at the moment is that UKIP are on course to win between four and six seats at a GE. Where? Well, Basildon, Boston, Great Yarmouth and Rotherham would come near the top of the list.

  42. @Tony Dean
    Yes, we’re of similar mind. I’d be happy to see the HoL elected by PR and in the (vanishingly) unlikely event of a LibLab Coalition I’d hope Labour would jump at the chance. Elected, though, not the weird jumble of the Clegg “reform” package.

    For local government I would be very cautious. I am earnestly partisan in all things, but I can see the value of alternation in power. AV promotes that, PR tends to entrench power with one party or one coalition. (It’s personal history. My home town escaped the worst of 60s/70s concrete redevelopment because the council changed hands regularly. Both parties made a point of courting opposition to each others version of the same ugly shoping centre plan, and voters were prepared to switch sides to preserve the victorian and georgian frontage, the old Town Hall, the market and so on. Other towns, with monopoly councils, weren’t so lucky.)

  43. @AW

    The comments today re AV/PR are typical of an apparently increased desire on this site for the removal of FPTP. Have there been any polls since the AV vote which would indicate whether there is any change in attitude within the general population.

  44. If devolution or independence leads to more examples of that visual monstrosity I have been wincing at, depicted on the News (the reports from Holyrood), then things could get visually worse there, than they are now.

    ‘Come friendly Scotch mist and fall on Holyrood’.

  45. @JohnKay

    “That sounds like AV.”

    Although, in the end I gritted my teeth and voted for it, rather than for the status quo, I am NOT in favour of AV. What I don’t like about it is the equal weighting it gives to 3rd or 4th preferences as against other people’s 1st preferences. Also, many, many votes are still cast for candidates who lose, or get outnumbered by low down preferences given to a 2nd or 3rd candidate who others want to “gang up” with to defeat the one who is the single most popular in terms of 1st preferences.

    What I favour is a majoritarian system, like a Double Supplementary Vote system where 400 MPs are elected by SV in constituencies. 250MPs are then elected from party lists, also where voters have a SV. The party which wins after the Supplementary votes are reallocated will by definition get more than 50%. This is then their target share of the HoC in terms of additional seats from the list added to what they have won direct in the 400 constituencies. The opposition benches are then allocated by d’Hondt, taking likewise results from the 400 constituencies into account, but to the opposition parties in proportion to their 1st vote proportions.

    In essence you guarantee an overall majority parliament for one party to form the Government, but have a PR opposition side of the House.

  46. FRASER

    “Good she’s getting more ahead of Labour though on this; but I feel most Scots would argue the 40/60 split should be the other way around”

    Lets hope most Scots agree the STV 40/60 split should be the other way round as well. ;-)

  47. The Scottish Parliament PR system has a constituency MP and then a top up where MPs are selected from party lists, in order to make the parliament proportional.

    Of course it means on Party yes men and women get on this list. But having said I think most parties ballot their members regarding who gets on the list. Labour has a very strange rule which states that you cannot both stand for a constituency and be on the list. This led to many experienced Lab MSPs losing their Holyrood seat when the SNP won in 2011. I never really understood Labour’s rational on that.

    The other thing that bothered me is if the list MSPs do much work? Or do they spend their time building support for their party? Which might explain Labour’s decline in Scotland, because they originally had very few list MSPs.

  48. @ Tony Dean

    We could discuss voting systems at tedious length (and I have the time as I’m in bed recovering from wedding-induced food poisoning – my niece’s wedding not my own rather distant one). So suffice it to say that I remain attached to AV because of its simplicity (how difficult is 1-2-3? Thought that didn’t stop FPTP proponents saying it was too complicated); its retention of single member constituencies; avoidance of the cronyism dangers of party lists and its tendency – though not guarantee – to produce ‘stronger’ governments than full PR. It’s a pity the debate at the time of the referendum was so pitiful and the vote so easily swayed by media pressure, but that’s an inherent flaw of referendums, as we may see again in 2017.

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