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. Oldnat

    You are right, they don’t want to say that they would always go with the larger party, because that would give them no flexibility. However I think they might feel that was the natural place to expect a deal, and the back up option would be the second largest.

  2. In my post to Oldnat, the “they” are the DUP.

  3. @Funty

    I was thinking more along the lines of false claims in leaflets. Isn’t there a limit to what one lot can claim the other lot will do?

    Thank you.
    I just do not see, as a hunch, Labour winning in Cannock Chase or in Loughborough; outside the Labour heartland land.

  5. Meanwhile in France

    “The issue is his editorials, which always seem to predict extreme swings to the Conservatives on the basis of it’s-not-quite-clear-what.”

    He probably reads my posts on UKPR

  6. @FuntyPippen

    Absolutely right. The Woolas leaflet is actually available on a simple google search of his name. It was very extreme.

    However the way the legislation is worded any deliberate mistruths in a GE leaflet could constitute a breach of electoral law. To highlight this one of the mistruths Woolas was pulled up on was that his LD opponent did not live in the constituency.

  7. @Omnishambles

    ” the Labour advantage in population/seat ratio has all but eroded, because most of the population growth in the past several years has been in Labour strongholds such as London.”

    Hardly any migrants from Eastern Europe are qualified to vote in the general election, so that analysis you linked to is pretty flawed and doesn’t support your conclusion.

  8. Prof Howard

    You’ll know more about NI internal politics than me, but I’d guess that the DUP’s interest is mainly in strengthening their position within the Unionist community.

    In which case, I’d expect the quantity of “pork” for NI, that they can demonstrate that they have extracted, to be more important than which Unionist Brit party provides the PM.

  9. In his Sunday Politics interview Peter Kellner said that the game-changer was a statistically reliable upturn in EM’s ratings. Has anyone been tracking these figures so we can take an independent look at what he is talking about?

    It must be pretty dramatic if it has led him to predict a solid Labour lead (in his Sunday Times article this morning) when just a fornight ago his prediction was that there would be a 35 seat Tory margin (with the Tories on 297 and Labour on 262).

    I hope someone has collated the figures so we can all take a peek at what he has seen.

  10. Unicorn

    “I hope someone has collated the figures ”

    It might be worth asking Number Cruncher if he has that dataset.

  11. @Clouspotter
    @ChrisLane 1945

    Labour favourites to take Cannock Chase but Tories expected to hold Loughborough

    Which doesn’t solve anything…

  12. Any polls tonight?

  13. @Simon

    Yes, ComRes for the Daily Mail at 10pm.

  14. @Unicorn

    I think the problem with the theory may be that Clegg also improved by a statistically significant amount looking at that graph, but he wasn’t in the debate, as AW mentions above.

    He wasn’t in the debate, so is this just a reflection of Cameron’s poor performance being mirrored in the approval ratings of other leaders? Or noise?

    So I guess we need to follow AW’s advice. Wait for more polling….

  15. @phil haines

    1) the relative population increase in Labour constituencies is happening all across England and Wales. Migrants from Eastern Europe are not the whole story. For example, how many Eastern Europeans settle in the South West? Yet that area is showing the same pattern:

    2) The Economist article I linked to actually talks about immigrants making up some of the numbers, so I don’t see how their analysis “is pretty flawed

    3) My conclusion is further supported by the changes in Scotland = lots more “wasted” Labour votes

    4) My conclusion is backed by various polling analysts who also expect the skew to be vastly reduced for this election, e.g.

  16. @Cloudspotter

    Further to your earlier comments, the bookmakers strongly confirm that the LibDems are doing much better against the Tories than Labour. This does not appear to be just a reflection of a standard Con to Lab swing, which would produce that effect. It seems to be a bigger phenomenon.

    Presumably many more LD defectors are going to Labour than to Tory, which has been posited at some length previously. This has implications for seat distribution, but also for the preferred coalition partner of those LibDems that survive.

  17. @Omnishambles
    “1) the relative population increase in Labour constituencies is happening all across England and Wales. ”

    Do you mean cities and large towns?

  18. OLDNAT

    “You’ll know more about NI internal politics than me, but I’d guess that the DUP’s interest is mainly in strengthening their position within the Unionist community.In which case, I’d expect the quantity of “pork” for NI, that they can demonstrate that they have extracted, to be more important than which Unionist Brit party provides the PM.”

    That is a point that David Trimble (a UUP man now turned Tory) made. In fact he said that the DUP will prefer (other things equal) go for Labour because Labour are a party of spending, which means more pork. Trimble was being a little mischievous with these comments, I think, but his point has some resonance.

    Most DUP voters have little love for the Tories, and Tory austerity is unpopular, so aligning with Tories has that risk. Another thing the DUP is opposed to is the Tory EVEL agenda, so they agree with Labour on that. In practice these things are more important than EU referendum.

    The DUP have plenty of experience working with Labour and with Tories and in practice it does not make too much difference which. I think the DUP will be quite good at negotiating something, as NI political life is all about doing deals. DUP will not be tempted by offers of Ministerial office – like the SNP they have ruled out coalition. I think that is sensible, in terms of maintaining their electoral position.

  19. “Yes, ComRes for the Daily Mail at 10pm”

    Not that they will publish it themselves if it is less favourable than the YG one for 26/3. They can without blinking say that latter one is ‘the latest YG poll for the Sun” (rather than the YG poll for the Sunday Times)..

  20. Journalists are fond of saying that the DUP are natural allies of the Conservatives but I don’t think that is correct.

    Some years ago, a Labour MP told me that the DUP agreed with Labour on just about everything that wasn’t related to NI. So I don’t think there is an ideological barrier to cooperation with Labour.

    I get the sense that the DUP are concerned to be good unionists and support whichever main party has the best chance of being in government. This means there won’t be any high-stakes negotiations, but obviously they could expect some form of reward at some point.

  21. At the snpp conference Swinney says snp will support 50percent top rate for those earning over 150k .

  22. @raf

    I guess that’s a less glamorous way to put it

  23. HAL

    Yes I think you are right. I don’t think the DUP are interested in “influencing” which government emerges in London. What they would seek though is some reward for supporting which ever party has the numbers in GB.

  24. @ Prof Howard,

    I don’t think the EU issue is very important to the DUP, I recon that isn’t really a red line.

    Not according to Nigel Dodds:

    “Ed Miliband would have to offer a referendum on Europe to win DUP support for any government he may try to form after the election.”

    Also they don’t want to be seen to be on the same side as the SNP.

    They also really do not like Cameron’s Conservatives, so I think the most likely outcome for any result in which the Tories can’t comfortably put together a majority is abstention on C&S and swapping pork for support on individual bills. If the Tory/LD/DUP bloc never forms a Labour minority government would be stable even with a relatively small number of seats (275-285, say), so the DUP can sit on their hands without risking a change of government and only intervene if the SNP seem like they’re putting too much pressure on Labour.

  25. Prof Howard



    I get the impression that London based journalists often have little understanding of how politics works outwith Westminster.

    The idea that DUP must be the same as UUP because they are both “Unionists” is fairly typical of that.

  26. Thanks, RAF.
    It was ComRes/Mail who put UKIP on only 10% a week ago!


    I saw that quote from Nigel Dodds, but I don’t think its actually a serious red line. I might be wrong but I would be surprised if an EU referendum was a red line for them.

  28. @PeteB

    I’m sure some of our statistical experts can point out errors in my methods, but the results were interesting.

    I’ll respond since you invite comment. You can make what you want of my observations.

    To the extent that I can understand what you have done, I don’t think it is a sensible way of analysing the data.

    You seem to be using the mean and SD of a party’s seat shares in 2010 to generate a kind of estimate of the populations parameters for voting behaviour for that party. You then argue that if the current VI has gone up or down by (say) a couple of SDs then this says something about whether there has been real change.

    I see no problem with using the mean. This is arithmetically identical to the figure that everyone uses for the results of the last election. The problem – as I see it – comes from using variation across seats as a way of estimating the variability of this measure of central tendency. As you worked through your calculations I presume you found that the Greens and Ukip both had low SDs. In both cases most 2010 vote shares were between 2% and 8%. In contrast with this, the LibDems would have displayed a very high variability across constituencies, ranging from 50% plus for some of their MPs down to a few percent in some of their worst seats. Based on the higher LD variability you would (I assume) specify a much broader margin of changed before you were willing to classify a new VI as reliably different from that in the previous election.

    I might have completely misunderstood what you are doing. But if it is anything along these lines, then I don’t think it makes sense. A party that is strong in particular regions or in subsets of seats with particular socioeconomic profiles is just as likely to show voting stability from election to election as is one whose vote is rather evenly spread over the country. In short, I don’t think that variability across seats at a particular election is the right measure to use if you want to estimate what is effectively the MoE of a party’s level of support.

  29. The dup are unlikely to support the same government as the snp. Their strategic objectives could not be more different if you think about it

  30. Big gains for ump and national front in french round2 of local elections.

  31. Further to that point, because they’re not that interested in who governs in Westminster, what they really want is not to be blamed for anything. That’s why they’ve made (or claimed they made) the EU referendum a red line. They don’t want to annoy their rightwing voters by supporting a government that’s blocking a referendum and possibly give Ukip a toehold in Northern Ireland.

  32. Peter Crawford – The DUP work quite happily with Sinn Fein – a party with a far more extreme anti-Westminster agenda than the SNP.

    If you think about it.


    Yes. Spot on. If DUP make great claims to have “crowned” the Conservatives (for example), then that gives their opponents something to attack them with when the cuts come round. .Far easier to say that they supported whoever the GB people voted for, and to say that they used their influence to protect NI’s interests.

  34. That’s because they have to

  35. When I read speculation from people like Simon that pollsters are deliberately reducing UKIP’s vote share, I tend to be fairly cautious as it smacks of a ‘wishful thinking’ conspiracy theory – although there are a number of things that have made me wonder whether there might be something to such claims.

    However, I was interested this morning to read the comments after Rod Liddle’s article on the Spectator website about how the media are deliberately ignoring/smearing UKIP. Several of the comments are from members of the Yougov panel who are known UKIP voters. They were saying that they are suspicious that they have suddenly stopped being asked to contribute to Yougov’s polls. One was saying that a number of other UKIP-voting Yougov panellists are have said the same on twitter.

    Given that Nigel Farage has attacked Peter Kellner’s wife both in his new book (published about the time UKIP dropped from 15% to 13% in the daily Yougov polls) and in the European Parliament, one can see why some people might think this particular conspiracy theory has legs.

    Could someone who knows more about the Yougov panel and how it works let us know their thoughts?

  36. I might be naive, but I don’t think YouGov or Kellner would risk their reputation just to reduce UKIP’s share. Their whole worth is based on their reputation, a precious commodity.

  37. @ Spearmint

    possibly give Ukip a toehold in Northern Ireland.

    Excellent point. The Conservatives allowed room for a party on their right, who appear to be mainstream, to emerge.

  38. @Politiciando

    I see they have stopped asking Tories too.

    Espeegee [email protected] · 7 hrs7 hours ago
    @NewsLine247 Really. We do a lot of Yougov surveys but none for a couple of weeks, they didn’t ask us, wonder why, are they avoiding Tories?

    There are also similar tweets from SNP folk from before the referendum. And Labour voters too!

    Hmmm…or maybe with a panel of hundreds of thousands they try and get the opinion of everyone and not just the same people every day?

  39. @ Politicianado

    ProfHoward answered the question.

    Post-hoc, confirmation bias, begging the question, false dichotomy fallacies are extremely common.

    Many UKIP voters seem to be very attached, which makes them susceptible (I don’t say that other parties’ supporters aren’t, but I have seen many Conservatives and Labour dedicated supporters who can easily shrug off negative news, and even losing.

  40. @politicianado

    “one can see why some people might think this particular conspiracy theory has legs.”


  41. Still waiting for ComRes…


    36% Conservatives (+1)
    32% Labour (-3)
    12% Ukip (+2)
    9% Liberal Democrats (+1)
    5% Green (-2)
    7% Others (+1)

  43. Comres poll not happy reading for the left – and casts some doubt on the idea of a Miliband debate bounce:

    “James Chapman (Mail) [email protected] 53s54 seconds ago
    Tories take biggest lead since 2010 with @ComResPolls for @DailyMailUK/@itvnews: CON 36 (+1) LAB 32 (-3) UKIP 12 (+2) LIB 9 (+1) GRN 5 (-2)”

  44. After last week’s level pegging tonight’s ComRes phone poll for Mail has
    CON 36
    LAB 32
    LD 9
    UKIP 12
    GRN 5

    Well, well, well. Just when we thought it was safe to……..


  45. ProfHoward, I have tended to think the same but it’s widely believed that polls are often designed to shape rather than reflect public opinion (probably quite often the non-political commercial polls that these organisations are commissioned to do all the time) and if all pollsters are doing the same, then it’s safety in numbers. Or you just give UKIP a big share in your final pre-election poll and no-one will remember that you’d weighed them down previously.

    Unlikely I agree!

  46. @ Politicianado,

    read the comments after Rod Liddle’s article on the Spectator website

    Ah. I think I’ve found the problem.

  47. It begins with “S” and ends in “wingback”

  48. Tom Mludzinski [email protected]_ComRes · 22 hrs22 hours ago
    Really? It’s one poll

    Note author. Couldn’t resist, sorry :)

  49. Not really surprised by this poll. The parties remain neck and neck and the polls today are both within margin of error. Nowt in it. The truth is they are both probably around 34/34.

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