We’ve almost arrived at the Christmas break. Today we have new polls from Opinium (their last of the year) and YouGov (their penultimate of the year – there is one more to come on Monday night). I’m not sure when Populus put out their final poll of the year, and Survation have a Scottish poll being published next week, but that should be it for the year.

Topline figures for today’s two polls are:

Opinium/Observer – CON 29%(nc), LAB 36%(+2), LDEM 6%(nc), UKIP 16%(-3), GRN 5% (tabs)
YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8% (tabs)

The Observer write up of the poll, incidentally, is particularly poor, or at least, contains one particularly poor sentence. Toby Helm writes “It is the second poll in a week showing that the Tories have lost ground since chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement earlier this month”. Now, I have long whined about newspapers treating only their own poll as being meaningful and pretending others don’t exist, so well done for putting a poll in context… but it’s a rather extreme case of cherry-picking context to create a narrative that doesn’t exist.

The Opinium poll is the second one this week to show Labour’s lead growing, in fact it’s the third as there was also TNS. But there were also rather a lot of other polls that didn’t… there were another ten polls who the Observer has chosen not to mention. There was an Ipsos MORI poll this week (no change in lead), a ComRes phone poll this week (no change in lead), a ComRes online poll last weekend (shrinking Labour lead), two Populus polls (who have shown smaller Labour leads in their four post-Autumn Statement polls than their four before the statement) and five YouGov polls (whose post-Autumn statement polls have shown essentially the same Labour lead as those before). Lord Ashcroft hasn’t polled this week, he’s already finished for the year, but his post Autumn Statement poll had Labour’s lead down one point. As you can see, there as as many polls showing Labour’s lead falling post Autumn Statement as rising, and overall I expect what we’re seeing is a simple case of normal random sample variation. Taking a crude average of the Labour leads in November would give you an average lead of 1.6 points, take a crude average of the polls in December so far gives you an average Labour lead of 1.6 points.

There’s always a temptation to see narratives in polls, to ignore those showing no movement, latch onto those showing exciting looking changes and build an explanation and a story around them. It’s normally wrong to do so.

159 Responses to “Latest YouGov and Opinium polls”

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  1. It’s never really possible to be sure what causes a movement in polls. If there’s a really sharp movement immediately following an big event – Omnishambles budget perhaps, or UKIP success at local elections – it’s a reasonable assumption, but small movements over periods of time when it difficult to distinguish from margin of error? No, you can never be sure and it’s largely pointless.

    If, however, I had to flag up one potential cause of movement (if I do get round to doing an end of year round up this will definitely be one of the things in it), it wouldn’t be any Westminster story or politicians statement, most of which make little difference to anything. I would be the way that growing economic optimism stalled over the Summer and now looks like its started to reverse a bit. As economic optimism grew between 2013 and early 2014 it co-coincided (but of course, did not necessarily cause) with the Conservative lead on the economy growing and Labour’s lead in VI fading away. If it reverses….

  2. Comparing weekly averages is not always that enlightening because it will depend on which pollster has published a poll(s?) during that week. For instance, TNS, Opinium, TNS etc. tend to produce larger Lab leads than, say, IPSOS Mori, Ashcroft etc.

  3. Excuse my repetition. The second TNS was meant to read Populus. Too much mulled win!

  4. “Too much mulled win!”


    Or maybe not enough…

  5. “…but small movements over periods of time when it difficult to distinguish from margin of error? No, you can never be sure and it’s largely pointless.”


    Well, it’s hard to be really sure of anything. They reckon they’ve pinned the Higgs Boson down to a five-sigma level of certainty, but that still leaves a little chance of error…

    One might at least consider some things to be reasonably likely. So, for example, one might note a gradual rise in the salience of immigration, and any accompanying rise in UKip’s fortunes.

    One can also note things that fail to happen: e.g. the failure of Tory fortunes to improve in line with a return to growth. Or falling unemployment. Or house price rises. Or VAT on storage etc…

  6. I should add, the fact it can be difficult to discern trends and relationships is what makes it interesting. Trying to tease what’s going on out from a morass of circumstantial evidence.

    [Snip – lets not get into point scoring – AW]

  7. Lol, many of your posts involve point scoring AW!! You’re usually ticking off someone or other’s analysis, including in this thread!!!!

    I wasn’t point scoring anyway…

  8. For example, I thought house prices might have a bigger impact than they seem to have…

  9. And cuts to services…

    That was my point. Everyone throws ideas into the mix and we see what’s left standing…

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