The worst thing you can do in analysing polls of voting intention is to get excited at polls that show something exciting and different and ignore those that show the same old pattern. Occassionally the unusual poll will herald a genuine movement in public opinion – after all, whenever there is a change, one poll has to pick it up first. More often than not, the unusual poll will turn out to be a freak result, the product of unusual sampling or methods. If there is genuinely a change in public opinion, other polls will pick it up sooner or later, so it’s always wise to withhold your judgement.

Today we have one of those unusual polls, and we have the overexcitement you’d expect. ICM’s monthly poll in the Guardian has topline figures of CON 39%(+3), LAB 33%(-2), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 7%(-2), GRN 7%(+3) (tabs). This is pretty odd all round – a storming six point lead for the Tories, up on thirty-nine percent; the Greens and UKIP equal on seven percent.

In the Guardian’s write up they are rightly dubious, and include a welcome caveat from ICM’s Martin Boon about the inevitability of random variation and the sample perhaps being a touch too Tory. I’ll just leave it with the usual caveats – it’s one poll, and an odd looking one at that. Sure, it could be the start of some Tory surge, but if it is we will see it echoed in other polls today…and luckily enough we have at least three of them.

Populus this morning had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5% (tabs). The Conservatives are up two points (possibly helped by an update in weighting targets), but no big tory lead.

Still to come are the weekly Ashcroft poll and the daily YouGov poll. Come the end of the day, the way to judge where we are is too look at all them as a whole – not fixate on the unusual one.

UPDATE: Lord Ashcroft’s weekly poll has topline figures of CON 33%(-3), LAB 33%(-1), LDEM 9%(+3), UKIP 13%(+3), GRN 6%(-1). Changes are from a fortnight ago – Ashcroft took a week off to avoid bank holiday fieldwork. As with today’s Populus poll, there is nothing here to support the big Tory lead in the ICM poll. Full details are on Lord Ashcroft’s website here.

UPDATE2: Finally the daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 34%, LD 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6% – a one point Labour lead. Putting all four polls together that ICM poll looks very much like an outlier. Such things are an unavoidable part of polling – and well done to Guardian for reporting it in a heavily caveated way within the context of other polls showing no movement, rather than getting all excited about it.

459 Responses to “Latest ICM, Ashcroft and Populus polls”

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  1. @07052015

    “Arent most housing associations in the red ?
    Surely a big bill for the Treasury to make this work.”

    Figures ranging from £6 billion to £20 billion were being cited on the radio this morning, being the compensation that would have to be paid to housing associations if they were forced into large scale disposal of assets at below market value.

  2. @Etienne – apologies. I hadn’t realised the rules are different regarding the death of an independent candidate. In Thirsk & Malton the UKIP candidate died so the election was postponed.

  3. @Neilj

    I am sure that you are right in terms of lessons learned, but regardless of what Clegg’s true intentions might be, I consider that water divining is just as useful as his public statements as a guide to what those true intentions are. The volte-face on austerity in May 2010 (or for tuition fees for that matter) was down to calculated expediency in the prior campaign and nothing else.

  4. Ashman

    Remember the comments policy, please.

  5. Neil j

    Yes average is 3.7 but spread is enormous ,only 0.5 to labour in Harlow and 1per cent in Dover.

    But 7.5 in crewe,6 in milton keynes south,5 in rossendale and south ribble.

    My elders and betters have always said marginals move pretty much like ordinary seats and constituency polls have much larger MoE.

    Difficult to reconcile in the weird election of 2015.

    Labour manifesto seems a bit cautious to me,tories way over the top in jelly and balloons.

    Anyway big week for the wolves,boro away tonight and tractors and big mick on sky on saturday.See what the players have between their ears after poor performance against blouse.

  6. @ Chrislane 1945,

    Lib Dems look low.

    @ Phil,

    It’s true that Nick Clegg’s public statements before an election are not much of a guide to what he advises his party to do afterwards, but then again I doubt Nick Clegg’s advice will be much of a guide to what the Lib Dems decide to do.

  7. @ 07052015,

    UNS just means on average every seat has a swing of X. There’s always local variation, it’s just that Harlow and Crewe balance out to give you 4.0. I think we can still say the marginals are behaving more or less like the national polls.

  8. 07052015

    Re Wolves, bit of a stumble at the weekend, we need to hold it together for the next 3 weeks. I am nervous we will fall at the last hurdle

  9. I hope DC does not generate the IFS response to Labour’s Fiscal plans :-

    ” You literally will not know what you are voting for”.

    If he does, I suppose coin tossing will become a national sport.

  10. Morning everyone – a very interesting set of psuedo-marginals from Lord A this morning. I did a quick compare against my weighted uniform swing model (the one that doesn’t really work :) ). It’s a mixed bag all round – Labour are doing way better in the NW than the raw YouGov crossbreaks indicate. Crewe, Rossendale and South Ribble would all be comfortable Con holds on the regional swing.

    The Conservatives on the other hand will be happy with comfortable leads in Dover, Harlow and NE Somerset (I guess a personal vote for J R-M?). Labour aren’t making up too much ground at all in the SE – unless they can really squeeze Lib Dems and Green vote, they won’t gain too many seats.

    For me, the most interesting seat of all here is Finchley and Golders Green – I don’t know how similar it is to when Margaret Thatcher held it – but this would be a very striking results considering the swing needed.

    All in all, it does still look like Labour are piling up votes in the North (apart from in the ICM poll!), but not making sufficient inroads to affect Con-held seats in the South and Midlands. Another note here is that, on these numbers, the Lib Dems would lose 5/10 deposits, UKIP would hold all 10, and the Greens would only hold 1 in NE Somerset – something to bear in mind in the event of an autumn rerun!!!!

    P.S. I also have a technical post on the margin of errors due to reweighting, but I’ll get to it later on.

  11. Not sure if anyone can help me here, but Labour’s deficit cut promise – have they specified whether they will measure this in hard cash terms or as a % of GDP?

    This could matter quite a lot, but if not specified, does actually leave them with a good deal of wriggle room.

  12. I see the right to buy as a game changer. It could move the marginals more blue, people prefer to own rather than rent.

  13. ALEC

    Deficit reduction-cash
    Debt falling-% GDP

    But there is no phasing given for the Deficit cut-hence the IFS analysis about spending cuts uncertainty

    There still seems to be uncertainty about whether Current Deficit will be eliminated, leaving Capital spend to be borrowed-or Current Budget will go to surplus enough to pay for Capital spend.

    The whole thing is wriggle room-that’s what it is about.

  14. The Evan Davis tv interviews kicked off with Clegg last night.

    I like Davis. He is a lefty, and inclined to get excitable, but he is incisive & pursues an issue in depth, so gets points for forensic questioning from me.

    He was tough on Clegg, who fought back with great aplomb & had Davis acknowledging it at the the end. I liked NC’s defence of his record.

    I hope for some Clegg like animation from DC – EM got a major ratings boost after doing it to Paxo. I’m not sure how well he will perform though against the Davis approach.

    Shaping up to be a good series though.

  15. THE OTHER HOWARD – I think you you are being rather optimistic. These are seats cons must hold easily if they are to have ANY chance of being largest party. I think they will hold 6 and Labour will gain 4.

  16. TOH

    All those polls do indeed look great for the Tories, if you ignore their contents.

  17. Colin
    “The whole thing is wriggle room-that’s what it is about.”

    Yep. And any sensible economic policy should have a lot of wiggle room built into it.

    In fairness to Osborne, he’s wiggled a lot over the past 5 years. He’s missed the deficit target that he’d set for this Parliament by billions of country miles, and we should all be eternally grateful that he has. In that context, it is truly bizarre that we’re obsessing over the precise figures of the deficit and debt will be in 2020.

    But that’s politics…

  18. If ever there was a good time to borrow money it has to be now – even if only to repay early debt with higher interest rates….it seems to me that on both sides their is a vast exaggeration about the significance of government debt. These sums would have been happily tolerated in war time and we have after all come some way since war was seen as the best way to resolve strategic interests. Similarly, the financial crash was a war-like event and our response to it was similar. Moreover with the trillions of debt currently being bought up by ECB and all the QE yet to unwind we are still some long way from a return to normal financial times.

    Meanwhile lord Ashcroft must bring a half cup of cheer to the Labour strategists and a half empty glass too the Conservatives. both parties seem to me to be stuck at around their traditional bottom core vote as seen for Labour in 87/92 elections and for Cnos in 97/2001/2005 elections. That seems to me to say never glad confident morning again for either party unless there is an exceptional figure like a blair or a Thatcher….that long term will mean choosing rather different party leaders than those parties have previously turned to in opposition…

  19. Colin – Lefty is probably a bit of a stretch to describe Evan Davis. He used to be a member of the SDP at Uni and wrote a book advocating more privatisation. I think he’s probably more liberal politically.

    He has potential as an interviewer but a tendency to not follow up with concise questions and let the interviewee get away with not changing the subject / not answering the question.

  20. Paul Johnson of IFS said ” the plans leave Labour making between £18bn worth of cuts or none at all. ”

    The second of those two interests me a lot. PJ is saying, that , given the current OBR growth forecasts, if you don’t want to eliminate the Deficit before the end of the Parliament, ( as GO does) hardly any spending cuts would be required.

    At the Manifesto launch EM was asked if he intended that sort of phasing. He said no-there will be cuts. EM is clearly still concerned that any sign of “imprudence” from him will lead to bad headlines.

    The other thing though, inherant in PJ’s comment, is how absolutely key the GDP growth forecasts are for both parties.

    Any stalling , be it from internal or external factors will be a major problem.

  21. Colin

    Evan Davie is a leftie?

    You have any polling evidence for that? ;)

    Here’s his own take (#4)

  22. LEFTY

    I agree about GO’s use of timescales to compensate for downside.

    And, given the scale of deficit reduction left to do, and in the context of Paul Johnson’s remarks, I do have some sympathy with your remarks about plans for 15 to 20.

  23. Marginal polls no surprise in aggregate.

    Imo whilst the cons will hold the odd seats of the 20 most vulnerable to Labour they will also lose the odd one over target seat 60.

    The real test is how many Lab off Tory targets in the 20-60 range will Lab take.

    They need half (40 in total) for Lab to be comfortably the party leading the next Government and 10 (30 in total) to make it tough for the Tories.

    If the swing in E&W is as per the polls in the currently they manage the 40 but swing-back and incumbency may prove decisive.

  24. @Colin – thanks. I thought they must have been a bit more specific about the measurements themselves, if not the timing.

    @Pete – I too think the right to buy sounds very eyecatching. My guess is than Cons will get a boost overall from the manifesto launches themselves, but it may well depend on the level of detail that gets dredged over.

    I’m personally not altogether clear on how a government can compel non government bodies to sell off their assets. At least this proposal ties sales of houses to building of new ones, which was the greatest failure of right to buy in the 1980’s.

    As a child growing up in London, homelessness was never an issue that anyone came across. It was really only after right to buy and the 1980’s recessions that cardboard cities grew up in and around London, and it was a dreadful, dreadful thing to witness.

    The policy is already being criticised
    as expensive and unfunded, but it does open up quite a hefty battleground that Labour may struggle to engage successfully with, as they found in the 1980’s.

  25. LEFTY

    Just my impression from his interviews on R4-but if you know better I bow to your knowledge. I certainly don’t see him as a patsy for any Tory politician.

    I wish images of his (alleged) “body decoration” didn’t intrude all the time though :-)

  26. @Colin

    Re the IFS, given that Labour is stating that it will eliminate borrowing for day to day (“credit card”) spending, but not the borrowing for on capital spending (“mortgages”) used to fund the creation of tangible assets, then what borrowing would remain depends on the level of the latter, and Labour has not been clear on what that level is. That said, the parallel commitment to reduce the deficit as a share of GDP year on year could not stack up alongside a major expansion of capital investment funded by borrowing, so I think the IFS conclusion can only apply in terms of a search for absolute precision rather than the general stance. Maybe that precision will be necessary in future elections if the OBR is allowed to expand its role.

    The IFS have also been clear, in the past and now, that Labour’s commitment to eliminate only the current deficit and over a longer timescale to give more time for growth to contribute to that elimination commits Labour to relatively little in terms of further cuts or raising of taxes. The renewed emphasis on tax avoidance could now do much of that heavy lifting. And against that there is also scope for Labour to commit to new current spending such as the £2.5bn on the NHS, providing that it is clearly funded by a balancing fiscal measure such as the mansion tax etc, which Labour has done in every case now.


    It is not clear what they intend on the Deficit. The Manifesto actually implies a Current Surplus to fund any Capital spend :-

    “The next Labour Government will balance the books. We will only lay a Budget before the House of Commons that cuts the deficit every year, which the Office for Budget Responsibility will independently verify. We will get national debt falling and a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible in the next
    Parliament ”

    “s. We have no proposals for any new spending paid
    for by additional borrowing.”

    p17 & 18

    There is no ” parallel commitment to reduce the deficit as a share of GDP year on year”.

    The % of GDP reduction relates to the Debt.

  28. Colin

    I don’t know better on many things. I just have a look round for evidence.

  29. @Colin

    It’s all about rebalancing, including for the Tories. Even Tories seem now to accept the idea that one doesn’t just cut – one pays attention to multipliers: the degree to which the cut has a negative impact on demand and the economy.

    Hence IDS’ comment on the radio about cutting welfare, because spending the money elsewhere has a higher multiplier/more economic benefit. Obviously cutting welfare also has other ideological/political benefits for Tories, so cutting welfare is win-win from that perspective.

    Thus one might expect Labour to make cuts in areas of low multipliers in areas that suit them politically, redeploying cash elsewhere etc.

  30. LEFTY

    Me too :-)

    Perhaps we can agree that he isn’t a Tory.

    Actually, I tend not to worry overmuch about the allegiance of interviewers. I judge their even handedness & the nature of their questions & determination.
    I don’t like sarcasm , or personal attacks.

    And I do like forensic questioning on numbers. That always tells you whether the interviewee is winging it or has thought it through.

    Most of them are just trying to con us aren’t they ?

  31. YouGov Nowcast oddities

    I have just been copying down details from YGN for this morning’s batch of Ashcroft marginals and I find, somewhat awkwardly, that the central points of their confidence ranges often add up to well over 100%.

    For example, for Cleethorpes, their average VIs are:

    Tories – 35.1%
    Labour – 34.6%
    LibDems – 4.7%
    Ukip – 31.7%
    Other – 4.05%

    Total – a little over 110%

    There are other examples of this in the current batch. To test the accuracy of their projections I can always normalise these figures. But it is slightly strange that they don’t do this themselves.

  32. Colin

    Couldn’t agree more on the forensic questioning. And what I like about Davis is that he (generally) tries to push to the heart of issues, rather than score cheap debating points a la Paxman.

  33. @COLIN

    “I wish images of his (alleged) “body decoration” didn’t intrude all the time though :-)”


    Happily I know not of thisthis intruding body decorating thing, so it’d be great if we could keep it that way, if it’s all the same to you…

    Thanks muchly etc.

  34. “well done to Guardian for reporting it in a heavily caveated way within the context of other polls showing no movement, rather than getting all excited about it.”

    So dd you also praise the Guardian on the 9th April when they selected three polls out of five (highlighting those showing a Labour lead and ignoring two showing a tie and a Conservative lead respectively) under the headline “THE DAY THE POLLS TURNED”?

    The Guardian is campaigning for the election of a Labour government and seems happy to misrepresent polling data to support this. On this occasion, it was a shame that its own commissioned poll didn’t quite fit the narrative, hence the sudden recall that polling data is subject to margins of error?

  35. Mrs H and I discussed yesterday what rabbits out of the hat would emerge from the Conservative manifesto and we both agreed that the HA RTB one was favourite – a no brainer really, so we are not claiming perspicacity.

    It may have the same effect as the Inheritance tax proposal. It’s aspirational and all to do with acquiring or passing on wealth. I am certainly not going to discuss its merits, although I see others here cannot resist doing so. I agree that both measures apply to comparatively few but that is not relevant in terms of getting votes from waverers in certain social categories.

    By next week little, of what is in these announcements, will have lasting effect, IMO, even assuming they have short term effect, after they have been picked apart in the news media.

    Just a comment on NE Somerset, Ashcroft’s ‘outlier’. This is ‘white flight’ area if ever there was one (from Bristol and Bath) and if one looks at the history, it was only really a Blairite flirtation, looked at long term. With FPTP, one has to take some account of local circumstances and polling history. NE Somerset is a nailed on Conservative seat if ever there was one.

  36. @Colin

    “The % of GDP reduction relates to the Debt.”

    Yes, the Debt not the deficit. I stand corrected, but it doesn’t affect the point I was making.

    “As soon as possible” in a manifesto commits to absolutely nothing. So that bit does not contradict the commitments that are there and which are clear enough to me.

    I think you would be hard pressed to find any opposition that has ever been clearer over its fiscal stance and specific plans in past elections than Labour is being currently.

    Governing parties of course have an advantage, in that they are required to publish medium term plans audited by the OBR, currently pointing to £30 billion of cuts in departmental budgets over a relatively short period with specific year on year figures on the PSBR. That clarity though can be muddied if the source of large chunks of those cuts is unspecified, and totally disappears if post dissolution the former governing party starts to pull massive new spending commitments out of a hat on an almost daily basis, breaking never mind straining any credulity.

  37. Looking through the candidate lists I’ve been pondering what ex-BNP voters will do. A significant proportion will support UKIP perhaps?

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue?

  38. IanAtHome
    So dd you also praise the Guardian on the 9th April when they selected three polls out of five (highlighting those showing a Labour lead and ignoring two showing a tie and a Conservative lead respectively) under the headline “THE DAY THE POLLS TURNED”?
    The guardian were obviously overegging it by printing that, but the two polls they didn’t include wouldn’t have come out by the time the guardian’s print deadline had passed, and the one that showed a Conservative lead still showed a movement towards Labour. This ICM poll on the other hand shows no resemblance to any other poll we’ve seen.

    The Guardian is campaigning for the election of a Labour government
    Good one.

  39. Carfrew.

    Let’s just say Lord Reith would spin in his grave if he knew…

  40. CHRISLANE1945
    Gladstone was such a great man, I think. He would walk all over the present lot.

    In his time, perhaps. At least he seemed to “get” what home rule is. And re OLDNAT’s earlier comment, it demonstrates that he probably wasn’t into “chapping”. Funny language, English. :<)}

  41. @Iainathome

    I was thinking the same thing. What else could the Guardian say after their totally over-blown headline of the few days ago, embarassing.

  42. @Unicorn

    Yes, the Ashcroft polls often don’t add up, and the way in which they handles others etc. can be inconsistent and subject to various manual adjustments.

  43. Since peeps are doing anecdotal reports, I am happy to report that in my outing yesterday, absolutely no one referred to the election at all. Indeed, no one referred to the election last week either. Probably the number one topic of conversation was what gigs people were going to see, and coffee naturally came up quite a bit, because someone I know recently opened a coffee-purveying establishment and there were issues sourcing coffee, and someone else is planning to open a coffee shop and so issues of a coffee-related nature naturally cropped up.

    Since the parties have not made their position on coffee at all clear, this naturally would make things rather difficult with respect to where one places ones vote, but since I don’t vote I don’t have to be troubled by this glaring omission…

    I don’t think the coffee vote should be ignored. Several peeps asked me yesterday the best places to get good coffee – and no, I didn’t bring the matter up. And it seems to be an increasingly favoured career choice for those unsure how to proceed on graduation, now that traditionally more secure career paths are being eroded…

  44. Unicorn (and anyone else interested)

    Ran a simulation of 10k leads based on figures of Con mean = 35 sd = 1.5, Lab 35 sd = 1.5, rho_con,lab = -0.538461538 (what you would expect from the distribution due to %ages adding to 100 if you get a sample rich in con votes, the sample is more likely to be thin in labour votes, think about 100 coin flips, if you get a lot of heads, you’ll also get few tails)

    Turns out the standard error on the mean of the lead was 2.6% for a ~95% CI of 5.2%. The mean of course was 0.

    I suspect it isn’t coincidence, the ratio of sds/CIs appears to be sqrt(3) not sqrt(2) as a lot of people took as a rule of thumb.

    “Just for a bit of fun” I created an artificial con 38 lab 32 distribution of leads
    and found it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference to the standard error of the lead. (Obviously the mean of the lead was now 6, but the variation for all intents and purposes was the same.)

    I thought a bit about that formula and figured out what was wrong.

    Firstly which isn’t a problem, just looks weird, they effectively reduced things of the form p*(1-p) to p – p^2 which looks weird, I’d have left it as a multiplication of two probabilities as to me it seems a lot clearer where it’s coming from.

    Secondly, people were entering percentages, not probabilities, which when combining linear and quadratic terms makes the quadratic term over read by a factor of 100 relative to the first. (Had they kept it in the form above this wouldn’t have happened, as they would have entered 100 – p wherever 1-p showed up (or at least it’d be clearer where they were going wrong)

    Because it was in a weird form, people were looking at sqrt(72 – 36) and thinking oh those look like pretty round numbers it must be true, when in fact it should be sqrt(7200-36) to keep everything in percentage units and that 36 term means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

  45. @BristolianHoward

    I read an article about three constituencies in the UK taht the Parties have to appeal differently to :the South, North\Midlands and Scotland

    Scotland – Scandinavian social and economic model appeals
    North – de-industrialised and left-behind, working class UKIP vote
    South East – the ‘greed is good’ folk that want as large a piece of the pie as possible

    These Tory policies seem to appeal to category 3. Not designed to appeal in Scotland who have abolished RTB for council tenants and have few £1million+ homes. I don’t know how they would play in the North.

    Do you think there are enough seats in the South to enable the Tories to win?

  46. Here’s your daily dose of the 20-poll geometric median w/changes since the last one
    con: 33.1% (+0.1)
    lab: 34.2% (-)
    lib: 8.2% (-)
    ukip: 13.6% (-0.4)
    grn: 5.1% (+0.2)
    oth: 5.6% (+0.1)

    It’s not correct. If an independent candidate dies then the election continues as normal.

    Yes, but your link goes on to say:

    3.137 If an independent candidate dies, the election continues as normal. If the deceased candidate receives the most votes, they are not elected and the election is re-run. No new nominations are required: all of the existing candidates remain nominated for the new election and retention or return of the deposit is determined by the re-run election result. No new nominations are allowed for the re-run election, although candidates may withdraw.

    3.138 If the independent candidate who died did not receive the most votes at the original poll, the candidate who did is declared elected and the election is not affected. If the candidate who died came joint first with the same number of votes as any other candidate, the other candidate is declared elected.

    What fun it would be should us oldies in that constituency elect him posthumously as a tribute to his services to Eurovision.

  48. Carfew,

    I vote for Pellini Top and buy in bulk on line.

    Perhaps the meet the voters facades that the Parties run could be held in coffee shops (as long as they pay their fair share of tax)

  49. Funtipippin

    “The Guardian is campaigning for the election of a Labour government
    Good one.”

    Why, lots of people don’t want a Labour Government.

  50. @TOH

    I suspect Funtipippin of sarcasm. There is very little to suggest that The Grauniad is campaigning for a labour government.

    The G has been appallingly bad in its interpretation of its polls, in both directions. We should be grateful that, for once, the sinner has repented. Long may it continue.

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