A Communicate Research poll in today’s Independent gives the Conservatives an 6 point lead over Labour. The full topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 32%, LDEM 14%, Others 16%.

It is Communicate’s first voting intention poll since back in 2005, so there no changes from the last poll and it is impossible to say if there are any trends in voting intentions, although it goes without saying that the poll doesn’t appear to support MORI’s figures yesterday.

Communicate’s methodology has in the past produced figures slightly more favourable to Labour, in theory at least – in practice there wasn’t much difference between them and the other pollsters. ICM and Populus both weight by past vote, which tends to make samples “more Conservative”; Communicate don’t. In the distant past Communicate also didn’t prompt by party name, which used to favour Labour at the expence of the Lib Dems. That changed prior to the last election, so there is now no obvious methodological explanation for the low level of Liberal Democrat support.

The most obvious difference in Communicate methodology is that they use a very harsh squeeze question. Those who say they don’t know how they will vote are asked how they would vote if it was a legal requirement to do so. There has also been a slight change in the way they deal with turnout – Communicate now just filter by likelihood of voting, including those who rate themselves as 5/10 likely to vote or higher. In the past they also used to weight by likelihood, so people who said they were 5/10 likely to vote counted only half as much as someone 10/10. The likelihood weighting has been abandoned, the result of which is to slightly reduce Conservative leads.

Communicate also asked about attitudes to Iraq. 72% of people now think that the war in Iraq is unwinnable. 62% of people think the UK should withdraw as soon as possible from Iraq, regardless of whether it is completely stable. Only 28% favour staying until Iaq is stable. An ICM poll in the Guardian produced alsmost identical findings – 61% wanted troops withdrawn this year, with only 30% wanting them to stay for as long as necessary.

Still to come this week, there should be ICM voting intention figures tomorrow, and YouGov voting intention figures on Friday.

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