YouGov’s first poll of the year is out tonight, with topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%.

YouGov have made a couple of methodological changes to start the election year. The first and most interesting is to include UKIP in the main prompt for voting intention. Prompting is something I’ve written about here many times before, most recently here. It’s tricky because it really can make a difference, yet there is no real way of knowing when it is appropriate and when it isn’t. There are instances when pollsters have overestimated the level of support for minor parties because they prompted when they probably shouldn’t have (YouGov & UKIP in the 2004 European election, and the Greens in the 2007 Scottish election), but go back to the 1980s and polls that failed to prompt for the Liberals & SDP tended to underestimate their support. It’s clear from history that you can both get it wrong by prompting when you shouldn’t, and get it wrong by failing to prompt when you should.

I’ve written before about the difficulties of making the judgement call on this. There is no obvious way of drawing the line – whenever I write about it in the comments section people make helpful comments saying “why not if the party is in third place” or “if the party is over x%” or whatever… but all these are utterly arbitrary – perfectly reasonable in themselves, but no help in getting it right. It’s not even clear what we should be looking for – it it a certain level of support, or a level of public awareness and familiarity, or a level of media coverage?

In the event however the difficult decision pretty much made itself. It’s something YouGov have been quietly testing on and off over the years, and it seems to be making less of a difference. Testing at the end of last year showed about the same level of support for UKIP in prompted polls as in unprompted polls. Presumably UKIP are established enough in the public mind for prompting not to make a difference, at which point the decision became a simple one. Note that the fairly low UKIP score in today’s YouGov poll – 14% – is not a result of the change, in our testing last year we were showing UKIP at around 17% when prompted, at at time when they were around 16%-17% in unprompted polls.

With YouGov shifting over it means three companies (YouGov, ComRes and Survation) now include UKIP in the main prompt, Populus, Opinium, Ipsos MORI, ICM and Lord Ashcroft polls do not. When ComRes made the switch they too seemed to show very little difference in levels of UKIP support (though their online polls seem to have made some changes to turnout weighting at the same time) but just because prompting doesn’t make much difference to YouGov polls, it does not follow that it won’t make a difference anywhere else – in particular, the impact of prompting may be very different in an internet survey with two pages to click through than in a telephone survey with a human interviewer. What is the correct approach for one sort of polling will not necessarily be the correct approach for another company’s polls.

The other change in YouGov’s methods is much smaller, a tidying up of the sample spec to try and reduce some of the oversampling and reducing the amount of weighting needed. The overall quota targets are the same and the weighting remains exactly the same so there should be no difference at all in the published voting intention figures. The only difference anyone might notice is in crossbreaks: YouGov have started to include ethnicity in the sample quotas for London, which may have an impact in the London crossbreak.

UPDATE: I somehow managed to miss the first Populus poll of this year this morning – figures there were CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%. Tabs are here.

214 Responses to “YouGov/Sun – CON 31, LAB 34, LD 7, UKIP 14, GRN 8”

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  1. That’s possibly an interesting poll from YG. Rather spikes the notion of a minor Labour resurgence, but as has been mention, could still be MoE.

    The Goldman Sachs prediction today was interesting, as I understand it was based on economic data and the anticipated effect this has on VI.

    While there seems to be significant deepening of global economic concerns, which are already spilling over into UK companies sentiments, how economic matters play on VI is much more complex than this.

    The oil price crash really is quite staggering.We’ve seen oil collapse by 50% now in less than 6 months, with those falls working slowly through to the pumps, but with wider impacts on inflation elsewhere. Household bills are likely to be positively affected as well as prices fall. Indeed – in off gas rural areas, the collapse in crude prices has already brought heating oil costs down from 60p/litre to around 35p. We haven’t seen prices like this for years.

    So while the global economy, and possibly also the UK economy in due course, become gloomier, in the short time span between now and May, voters may well feel a much more positive lift.

    This has to be good news for the Tories, and is one of those random events that can make or break governments.

  2. Who’d have thought J Murphy would be to the left of D Abbot? I don’t think he puts his children to private schools either.
    Ironically (to me), A Cochrane mentioned above laid in to J Murphy today for NOT courting Conservative voters and instead focusing on those from Greater Glasgow etc who may have voted yes.
    Said J M was in Aberdeen today and speaking about the oil industry which I welcome. BBC has an interesting article on the Scotland/London issue.

  3. @John Pilgrim

    “Looking at trends, events and the price of oil dear boy, and watching out for new men who Looking at trends, events and the price of oil dear boy, and watching out for new men who set their sales to the prevailing wind.

    Quite so, and I presume that your reference to to those who “set their sales to the prevailing wind” is bringing to mind John Lewis’s tremendous success on Black Friday!


  4. Does JM suffer from Anorexia? I watched him on the tv and the guy looks really gaunt and pale.

  5. Don’t really understand the criticism of Jim M re the mansion tax for Scottish nurses story. It seems a perfectly sensible observation to me.

    His equating this to the ‘pooling and sharing’ of Scottish oil revenues (what’s left of them) with the UK seems a pretty emphatic slap down to the £2m house whingers, but it also makes perfect economic sense.

    In relation to single currencies, some of us have regularly mentioned capital transfers as critical elements of a functioning system, and this is a classic example. London is a ‘hot’ part of the UK economy, so resources need to be drawn from there to support other areas. The mansion tax is one such method, as is income tax, Corporation tax, and a whole host of other taxes that will disproportionately raise money from London and the south east.

    After fighting so hard for the union, it’s illogical and completely contrary to see Labour MPs fail to grasp the fundamentals of a union, and it shows just how low parts of the party have fallen to see them justify defending very expensive house owners.

  6. ALEC

    You’re living in cloud cuckoo land. JM is trying to pick a fight with the SE and bang the oil drums to try and win back lost labour voters in Scotland.

    He thinks acting like a nationalist (not that good at it) will see him through on polling day.

  7. For a neutral perspective on LiS – see John Curtice.

  8. @ Unicorn,

    Using Anthony’s November churn analysis I used the figures 50%, 19% and 15% respectively for Con -> Ukip, Lab -> Ukip and LD -> Ukip. Your graphs seem to suggest that I would have done better had I used slightly different figure and specifically that the Lab and LD positions should be reversed.

    What would you suggest as the most accurate current estimate?

    I dunno where Anthony got his figures, actually- I wasn’t paying attention at the time of his post but YouGov has consistently shown a higher 2010 Lib Dem Ukip contribution than Labour contribution, so if he was using his own firm’s numbers something is very odd. Populus and the the other pollsters may (probably do) have different contribution percentages, so maybe it was a poll of polls figure? Or maybe Anthony got his figures from the British Attitude Survey? In which case they may be more accurate than YouGov’s numbers.

    At any rate, I only have the YouGov numbers, and mine don’t include 2010 Ukip, BNP, Nationalist, Greens, etc or 2010 non-voters. Multiplying the average numbers for the last three weeks in December (8th-22nd) by that 84% LibLabCon figure from Anthony’s data, you get:

    Con: 49.0%
    Lab: 16.0%
    LD: 19.0%

    Dubious assumptions regarding these figures:
    – the unusual polling in the second half of December is representative of the current situation and not a blip
    – YouGov’s polling is more accurate than whatever source Anthony was using
    – Anthony’s LibLabCon percentage is correct even though we’re assuming the component Con, Lab, and LD percentages are wrong

    Still, you could plug in the numbers and see what you get.


    Your comment beginning: ‘Listening to some of today’s politicking and premature electioneering, I was reminded of that old dictum about campaigning in . . .’ was spot on and like you I sincerely believe in the power of positive emotion to sway voters and hope Miliband is brave enough to go for it. He should try it out with more vim and vigour right now and see the effect on the polls. Anyway, well said Crossbat!

  10. @ John Pilgrim,

    “of course we don’t much care which 2010 Tory voters vote Ukip” Don’t we though?

    Heh. In rereading my comment before posting I actually went back and added in that “much”, because it’s true, we do care a bit. It matters whether they fell off the right or left side of the Tory bandwagon, since 2005 Labour voters who went Tory in 2010 are obviously more likely to return to Labour than lifelong Conservatives.


    1) Unicorn’s clever “second preference” allocation system should already be taking that into account, and

    2) The difference between the two categories is opaque to pollsters, at least with the standard “How would you vote in 2015? How did you vote in 2010?” question. So even though it’s important we basically can’t measure it.

    I think Anthony did a post and UKPR had an interesting discussion about this a while back. Unfortunately I’ve totally forgotten our conclusions. (Paging Roger Mexico…)

  11. @ Alec,

    Rather spikes the notion of a minor Labour resurgence

    Given the terribleness of some of Labour’s November and December polling, 33% from YouGov is not bad!

    The Red team will be hoping that’s on the low end of MoE with the high end of the bracket moving up to 35%- that would be a significant improvement on the position Labour were in a month ago.

  12. @ Barrel

    Thanks for posting that interesting summary of the contents of the GS briefing note.

    “Goldman Sachs is predicting that the Conservative Party will win the UK general election in May..”

    As worded here, this makes it sound as if they are predicting Conservative *majority* (rather than some kind of Tory-led coalition government). Did they *really* say that? If so, they are effectively predicting an even more dramatic Swingback than even the most ardent supporters expect.

    Do you know whether they have issued other reports of this kind over the last couple of years? If the performance of the economy is taken to be such a powerful driver of Tory VI then it seems safe to infer that an earlier report would have predicted a healthy Tory VI boost in response to the GDP increase since the spring.

    I think it is safe to assume that GS would have put significant resources into the preparation of this report. For some of their clients the outcome of the election is a matter of significant commercial importance and they wouldn’t want to risk releasing a poorly researched piece of work. But I can’t help wondering what sources of evidence they might be using as a basis for making this prediction.

  13. @Alec @Amber Star

    Tactics v Strategy – the Labour political commenters think Jim has made a good ‘tactical’ move having a row with London to prove he is his own man.

    However the effect had been
    1. Problems for Miliband on the day he launches his GE campaign
    2. Problems for Labour in London over the fact Londoners who are penalised by the over heated property market are going to see taxes paid (because the market is overheated ) going to Scottish NHS while they have over priced homes and a struggling NHS – I know this isn’t true but it is how it has been presented.
    3. Arguments within Labour – no one likes a divided party.

    Making it marginally harder for Labour to win in England where they need to win.

    Is it worth it…

    Strategically it plays to the SNP meme that Westminster cannot be trusted to do right by Scots: That’s why the row is on the front page of The National.

    We will await polling evidence

  14. @ Spearmint

    Thanks for taking the time to provide an independent estimate of the churn figures. I’ll plug them into the spreadsheet and see whether it makes any difference.

    My hunch is that it won’t. Apart from the odd Plaid-held seat, the main territory subject to collateral Ukip damage is a smallish set of seats in the Labour/Tory battleground. Here the balance of influenced by the size of the margin between ex-Tory and ex-Labour VIs. Your figures for Tory provenance are 1% lower than Anthony’s and the corresponding numbers for Labour are 3% lower.

    This means that for every 1% increase in Ukip VI your new figures only make a difference of 0.02% to the Labour/Tory margins. This may be sufficient to make one of the seats flip, but frankly the calculations are so over-precise relative to normal MoE that it is probwbly not worth treating it as a different analysis.

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