The tabs for the weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are now up here. Topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday, and the four point Labour lead equals the highest this year, so it looks like it could be an impact from the Paxman interviews. Then again, YouGov spat out a single four point Labour lead in one of their daily polls earlier this month that turned out to be just random noise, so this is nothing that couldn’t just be random error. To have any confidence about whether anything actually has changed in terms of voting intention, we need more polling.

In the meantime, what does the rest of the poll show? Well, leadership ratings do also suggest an improvement for Miliband. Asked if they are doing well or badly David Cameron’s net rating is up from minus 5 last week to minus 2 this week. Ed Miliband though is up from minus 39 to minus 29, so a solid jump (that said, Nick Clegg is up from minus 47 to minus 40 without being in the interviews at all…). Miliband also rose in the Best PM question – up four points since YouGov last asked this version of the question in November last year, but still 12 points behind Cameron (when YouGov ask the question for the Sun it’s Cameron v Miliband v Clegg, for the Sunday Times Farage is also an option – don’t compare the two, they give different results).

On the debate question itself, amongst people who watched the debates 49% of people thought Miliband came across better, 34% thought David Cameron did. This is of course very much in line with a movement to Labour in the headline voting intention figures… but why so different from the ICM poll after the debate? Part of the answer may well be that people have had longer to digest it, think about it and be influenced by discussing it with other people. First reactions are extremely important, but they aren’t everything.

Another factor though is who watched the debate – the ICM poll was weighted to be politically representative (though even weighted, the poll still ended with a sample showing an 11 point Labour lead rather than Con and Lab neck and neck), but a debate doesn’t necessarily get watched by a representative sample of the public. People from one party maybe more likely than another to watch it. Looking at the YouGov data, 31% of people who voted Labour in 2010 watched the debate, only 15% of people who voted Tory…so the sub-sample of people who watched the debate was actually a very Laboury group of people to begin with. This highlights a methodological challenge for pollsters in doing things like debate polls, how do you weight the sample? Do you try to make it politically and/or demographically representative of the country as a whole, regardless of who is actually watching? Or do you try to make it representative of the people who are actually watching, regardless of the political skews that brings? The second is probably more methodologically purer – all you can *really* measure is what people who watch think, but given what the media want is just a crude “who won” verdict, would it be fair to start out with a sample that was stronger biased one way or another?

Anyway, time will tell if the Paxman interviews actually did or did not make any difference. On other matters, YouGov found 11% of people said they were voting tactically at the election. Amongst that (obviously very small) sample people were pretty evenly split between voting tactically against the Tories (40%) and voting tactically against Labour (37%).

In my weekly round up I mentioned some YouGov polling about which taxes would rise under a Labour or Conservative government, conducted before Prime Minister’s Question time, Cameron ruling out a VAT rise and Ed Balls ruling out an NI rise. YouGov repeated those questions in this poll to see if they had changed. At the start of the week, 31% of people thought VAT would rise if the Conservatives won. Following David Cameron ruling out a rise in VAT, this is now…32%. At the start of the week 39% of people expected national insurance to rise if Labour won, but since Ed Balls ruled it out, that has changed to… 40%. A lovely illustration of how much of the politicians’ arguments, exchanges and pledges make not the slightest difference to public opinion.

303 Responses to “More from today’s Sunday Times poll”

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  1. Delightful and witty summary as well as informative AW.
    I loved the last paragraph.

  2. AW, a very fair and comprehensive assessment. The general reportage this morning is Labour home and dry. As so often happens with the media, your rather greater knowledge of polling gives some balance.

  3. But the last paragraph refers to just one poll too.

    tories up against it. I notice Kellner is now talking about the swing in England and Wales which is 6% con to lab acc. to the wiki poll. I don’t expect it will be nearly as big in the real thing, but it does illustrate the tories problem.

    We’ll hear about swingback “after easter”…it’s a bit like waiting for godot.

  4. They’re may well be swingback after easter.

    Probably around december.

  5. Pollster in “more polling needed” shocker

  6. “The next general election is due to be held in May 2015. Have
    you decided definitely how you will vote then, or will you wait
    until nearer the time before deciding how to vote?”

    I have definitely decided how to vote: 75%
    I shall wait until nearer the time: 20%
    Not sure: 5%

    … that’s from a seemingly politically-engaged sample of whom 19% watched the “debates” (watched the actual thing, not just clips) compared to a much smaller segment of the electorate.

    Swingback is a-coming (;

  7. I actually think there could be a swing in labour’s favour during the campaign, if this narrative of mili the underdog with passion builds up.

    It was surprising and interesting to see the sunday times lead on the labour 4 points ahead story.

    Dave doesn’t look to bothered, frankly. He doesn’t seem like a man worried about losing his job in 6 weeks.

  8. @Peter C

    Whenever DC leaves No 10, I confidently predict he will very rapidly get a far better paid job than PM.

    He doesn’t need the cash, does he?

  9. @reggieside

    I agree, there May well be swingback after Easter

  10. @Andy S

    [See last thread for a response to your question about Swingback]

    I agree with @NeilJ’s response to your observations about Labour/Ukip interactions.

    You comment on how ‘multivariate’ all the interactions are. But then you seem to fall into being persuaded by oversimplifying lines of analysis. The Fabian Society paper analyses Ukip’s possible threat to Labour, and based on this you infer that Labour might lose seats. Like @NeilJ I am a little sceptical about the Fabian analysis and a little before midnight (UK time!) I posted some counterarguments on the previous thread. But leaving aside the strength of the argument, the comment I want to make here is that by focusing exclusively on Ukip threats to Labour you risk losing sight of the bigger picture. If by May 7 Ukip is doing so well that it starts to pick up Labour seats, then on the basis of any churn analysis we can say that it will at the same time be winning a considerably larger number of seats from the Tories. So, the net effect of such developments would be beneficial to Labour.

    It is not a problem for the Fabian Society if they take a unidimensional approach to the analysis. Their goal is not to offer a balanced analysis, but to rally the Labour troops and avoid unnecessary losses. But for most UKPR contributors the task is different: namely trying to work out what is happening and what the outcome of the election will be. This entails trying to take account of all the different factors at the same time.

  11. Labour are far from home and dry. Its still neck and neck.
    Lovely stuff at the end of AW’s summary about Ed Balls!

  12. @ Omnishambles,

    Might be selection bias towards undecided voters in who chooses to watch the debates, though. If you already know how you’re planning to vote, why bother?

    @ Peter Crawford,

    People who have looked at it here at UKPR say the swing is usually towards the Opposition during the final month, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Labour gained a bit.

    Of course, there’s that “Best PM” effect pushing in the other direction- but maybe the gap won’t be so big if Miliband appears on television more?

  13. “Whenever DC leaves No 10, I confidently predict he will very rapidly get a far better paid job than PM.
    He doesn’t need the cash, does he?”

    If it was money DC was into, why didn’t he just become a stockbroker like his dad and grandfather without messing about with the self-indulgent politics malarkey in between?

  14. Saw Nicola Sturgeon in her very red suit o Sky today – very full of herself A left-wing Mrs Thatcher

  15. Its all the voters fault ,they just dont listen.

    Sky went to Peterborough last week and asked

    Who has a long term economic plan
    Who says they will freeze energy prices.

    Cue half a dozen wrong answers before they found someone who got both right.

    Healthy politics requires better education and active citizenship ,a longterm project but also politicians who are able to persuade ,engage and make politics interesting.

    Not sure that voters are completely unaffected by what politicians say -I suspect its a slowburner and the response can take years.

  16. “People who have looked at it here at UKPR say the swing is usually towards the Opposition during the final month, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Labour gained a bit.”

    The press narrative has overwhelmingly been, “when the voters think seriously, they will turn to the conservatives, out of gratitude for a decent economy”, looking at the horror of a Miliband led labour dominated government”

    I have never bought the “gratitude” line.

    Electorates don’t do gratitude. I remember my mum’s uncle saying when i was ten, “look at churchill, the ‘grateful’ British people turned him out on his a*se in ’45”.

  17. David Cameron was quite clear about why he wanted to be prime minister:
    1. He thought he’d be rather good at it;
    2. He wants a title – preferably Earl or similar. The title Earl used to be conferred on ex-PMs. He’d like that custom to be reinstated.

  18. I’m not saying he became PM for the money directly.

    Now he’s been PM , anytime he leaves he will have lucrative offers of work, but without living in the Westminster bubble.

    I do think PMs are underpaid.

  19. Whilst cameron seems a phlegmatic character-he will never be forgiven if he fails to win again.And his legacy will be a brexit obsessed english nationalist tory party.

    Crosby and Messina will be distraught as their careers nosedive.

    It will be a carcrash and none of them will emerge with much credit.

    But the economic fundamentals could still work on the current undecided and get them out of jail.

  20. @spearmint
    “If you already know how you’re planning to vote, why bother?”

    In page 11 of the YouGov tables it says that *more* people who have decided how to vote watched the programme than those who haven’t.

    Of the people who said they neither watched the programme nor clips, MORE of them were undecided than decided.

    So basically, the decided are slightly more likely to watch these programmes, and the undecided are slightly less likely.

  21. 07052015.

    Nice anecdote and coupled with YGs findings about no change in the respective prospects for likely tax rises (DC not just EB Mikey!) confirms what we know that it is the implied manifesto that matters.

    Whose side are you on?
    Will you spend too much?
    Will you scare off wealth creators?
    Will you be soft on the EU
    Are you competent
    Will you keep your promises etc

    and yes

    Does your Leader look PM material?

    There is always the chance that a specific policy will trip one party of other up, either in peoples views on it or by feeding in to one of the broad. impression questions, like competence or keeping promises.

    The main purpose, though, of policy pronouncements is to give an impression of the type of party and leader we are.
    GEs are won imo on these broad themes.

  22. Omni,

    There are more decides than undecided. though.

    I am sure Roger M (sorry if I am wrong) said that a higher proportion of undecided than decided watched?

  23. @jim jam

    I don’t understand – the numbers I’m reading off are %s so surely that’s taken into account.

    Maybe I’m reading the tables completely wrong. Going to have a coffee and come back to it later. Apologies if I’m making a stupid mistake somewhere.

  24. @AW

    Interesting analysis of the methodological challenges of instant polls.

    I wonder if you have any views on the ‘Twittersphere’ verdict which according to Michael Portillo speaking on This Week immediately called it for Milliband. I don’t imagine that any of the Twittersphere pundits are bothering with affiliation correction and other such subtleties.

    On another point, are you able to tell us whether there normally such a strong party affiliation bias in such audiences? If Tory supporters don’t bother to tune in, it seems that they are only likely to move VI in one direction. As a thought experiment, imagine a debate that was broadcast only to Labour supporters. A good Labour outcome would change nothing – merely confirming the audience’s prior views. In contrast a good Tory outcome might change a few minds and shift support in their favour. An extreme example. But it does seem that debates could have more of an upside for the Tories, if it is true that their target voters are overrepresented in the audiences.

  25. Pollsters are always telling us, quite properly, not to get too excited about a single poll. And Yet Peter Kellner, possibly the best known pollster in the land has changed his prediction from Con on 297 seats to Lab on 297 seats more or less overnight.

    Does he really think that this week has changed the picture so much or is he using the 36-32 poll as an excuse to row back from his earlier prediction, which he now regrets?

  26. @Andyo (FPT)

    Part of the problem of this week’s CBs seems to be that something changed in the sampling / methodology. I’ll maybe do a comparison later.

    Charts updated folks. Today’s poll is the first poll in 6, 15 and 30 poll blocks, and by luck, the latest 30-poll block ends on the 7th May, so one to keep an eye on.

    It occurred to me that Miliband’s and Clegg’s ratings are recovering slightly. Are people, resigned to voting for one of the three parties now giving them better ratings (i.e. is the public moving into election mode?)?

  27. Meanwhile on the May 15 website:

    May 15 Con 271, Lab 273
    EF Con 283 Lab 280
    EEtc Con 296 Lab 261
    Graun Con 274 Lab 271

    It looks as if the forecasters are moving farther apart as the election draws, nearer, which is curious, wouldn’t you say?

  28. Also, Kellner is saying that without incumbency bonus or swingback Labour might get 314 seats. That seems pretty unlikely to me but if it happened Labour would not necessarily need the SNP which would make the post May 8 fun and games even more interesting.

  29. LRR

    Perhaps Peter Kellner is suffering from Edmania?

  30. ‘Saw Nicola Sturgeon in her very red suit o Sky today – very full of herself A left-wing Mrs Thatcher’

    Independet nScotland then inside 12 months?

  31. The combined score of the leading parties is 95, while Lab and Con only add up to 68. Notably UKIP does not advance beyond 13 and the other two are static. So if this poll were not an outlier, it would mean a straight switch from Con to Lab.

    Both could be on 34 though, and that is not so very different at all from what we have had recently.

  32. After the less than subtle “centenary” events and media coverage over WWI last year, I can’t help but wonder how the parties will be playing the 70th anniversary celebrations of VE day on May 8, the day the GE results should become clear.

    Even in the twilight of the coalition, HMG managed to produce a web page on the commemorations including very 1940s style advice on organising street parties and bonfires.

    Can we expect a re-run of Churchill v Attlee, I wonder.

  33. @ Barbazenzero

    Cameron ain’t no Churchill
    Miliband ain’t no Attlee

  34. Barbenzero

    Thanks for reminding me why I have booked a foreign holiday for that period (Germany!).

  35. Some have been pointing to the improvement in Ed’s personal ratings. I think the improvement has largely come from people who were meaning to vote Labour anyway. The LD figure is very volatile; that’s possibly a function of there being relatively few of them.

    28 March 30-59 (Con -79, Lab +48, LD -39, UKIP -72)
    20 March 26-65 (Con -81, Lab +33, LD -70, UKIP -74)
    13 March 24-66 (Con -88, Lab +27, LD -28, UKIP -74)
    6 March 21-69 (Con -87, Lab +22, LD -72, UKIP -76)
    27 Feb 22-68 (Con -82, Lab +13, LD -50, UKIP -79)

  36. @little red rock
    “And Yet Peter Kellner, possibly the best known pollster in the land has changed his prediction from Con on 297 seats to Lab on 297 seats more or less overnight.”

    What?! Do you have a source for that?

    If Peter Kellner has abandoned me, this is a dark day indeed.

  37. Re Peter Kellner’s projections, you have to keep in mind that Peter Kellner may well have access to data that we don’t have access to.

    Even if he’s not leveraging that advantage, take a look at the issues which people care about in today’s YG tables.

    Then match the issues with the earlier question about which government would be best on each of these issues.

    Assuming the campaigns proceed along the expected lines, on the basis of this polling Labour’s campaign positions are better aligned with people’s priorities & Labour are already seen as being better placed to deal with the priority issues.

    A straw in the wind or something which might make a real difference during the short campaign?

  38. “Can we expect a re-run of Churchill v Attlee, I wonder.”

    We can hope. Ooops….

  39. @ James

    Looks like you’re right. Perhaps all Ed needs to do is shore up “his 35%” in which case he has made a good start.

    DC is likely to be the one feeling the pressure going into the 7 way debate. It will be interesting to see how Farage treats him. If its 6 against 1 DC may benefit from the plucky underdog factor that may have helped Ed this week.

  40. Where do you find the Kellner writeup?

  41. @Little Red Rock

    Kellner is saying that without incumbency bonus or swingback Labour might get 314 seats.

    Your summary here seems a little mischievous. The Kellner Sunday Times article quickly disappears behind its paywall for me. But I can still read the paragraph you refer to.

    His statement is even more heavily hedged that you suggest. He says that IF you take this poll on its own and IF you believe in UNS then you might get a seat tally something like that. But as a psephological he is not making s serious projection based on a single poll and he has specifically written in the past that “UNS is dead”.

    So it is entirely misleading to quote him as saying that the Labour seat tally might ride that high.

  42. @Rojo
    ‘I fail to understand where this historical ‘swingback’ to the tories comes from. I’ve just had a quick glance at the last 5 elections in the Historical Polling section and the only one where the polls show there was any movement back to the tories was the 1992 election. ‘

    Absolutely. Some of us have been pointing this out for quite some time.In fact I have gone back 14 elections to 1959 , and the same pattern is apparent.

  43. “If its 6 against 1 DC may benefit from the plucky underdog factor that may have helped Ed this week.”

    If Ed has any brains, which he has, he will side with Cameron against Farage on some issues. This essentially emphasizes the split on the right which is one of labour’s best cards.

    Mili, when asked what he most admired about Cameron, referred to the 0.7% GDP international aid commitment and same sex marriage.

    This was very crafty because con/ukip switchers froth at the mouth when these are mentioned. I expect Mili will once again praise Cameron for his “courage” on these issues…

  44. Debuting here after some time following the debate.

    Apart from the top line VI I think we give too much credence to the other questions, which are frequently answered with the first thing that comes into your head. The only time I was polled over the phone I was cooking dinner at the time, and gave increasingly default answers as more questions were asked ‘what’s the most important issue to you’ ‘can’t think of any, let’s say NHS as that will get me on to the next question’. There’s also the evidence that for many we start with the VI and then will shift our opinion on other related subjects to match. On which basis improvements in Ed M’s ratings may not at all reflect his performance but that people who are about to vote for him will start to rationalise this.

    Still no way Labour is 4 points ahead, but will give them cheer that they therefore may be slightly ahead.

  45. @ Unicorn

    I plead guilty to “mischievious” and not guilty to “entirely misleading”

  46. and I rely upon my use of the words “if” and “might”

  47. ‘Who has a long term economic plan?’

    Traditionally economic planning is much mor associated with Labour! Remember George Brown’s National Plan?

    Cameron ain’t no Churchill
    Miliband ain’t no Attlee

    Quite so.

    Thanks for reminding me why I have booked a foreign holiday for that period (Germany!).

    A sound choice, although probably best to avoid Dresden. I expect to be in Switzerland on the day. Remagen on the Rhine is usually pleasant at that time of year.

    According to the grauniad, even Brenda plans to remain in Windsor Castle until the electoral dust has settled.

  49. I think Kellner is right about the importance of this week’s polls.

    If today is some sort of mini Cleggmania , plucky underdog fights back bounce, that is one thing.

    But if a Lab lead sustains , and DC has a bad Thursday on tv, that will start to look bad for Cons’ moral , and their “usual suspects” will be off to the races.

  50. @ Graham

    And, as I understand it, following 1992 the pollsters all revisited their methodologies suggesting that they thought that it was perhaps a case of pollsters wrong rather than swingback.

    Of course, they might be wrong this time too. UKIP, the SNP and the collapse of the Lib Dems all make this a difficult election to predict using the old methodologies.

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