Polling news round up

Labour leadership

Regular polling remains sparse given the ongoing inquiry and that we’re in that odd sort of political interregnum with Labour yet to elect their new leaders, but there have been a couple of polls on the Labour contest and the EU. A new ORB poll on the Labour leadership earlier in the week showed Andy Burnham was seen as the candidate most likely to help Labour’s chances at the next election (36%), followed by Liz Kendall on 25%. Full tabs are here.

I would be extremely cautious of polling about the Labour leadership election. Essentially there are two real questions about the Labour leadership – who is going to win, and who would be best at winning votes for Labour. For the first one, we need a poll of Labour party members, and we don’t have a recent one (there is some data from a YouGov poll of party members for Tim Bale & Paul Webb, but that was done straight after the election before the candidates were clear). For the second, I suspect any data is fatally flawed by the public’s low awareness of the candidates – right now, polls about the Labour leadership are little more than name recognition contests. Looking at the tables for the ORB poll it looks to me as if the main reason the prospective leaders scored so highly is that the question didn’t offer a don’t know option, if it had, I bet the don’t knows would have had a runaway victory.

Worth looking at as a corrective is this ICM poll on the Labour leadership that asked people to identify photos of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn. 23% were able to identify Burnham, 17% Cooper, 10% Kendall and 9% Corbyn. Essentially, if 90% of the respondents to a poll can’t even recognise a photo of Liz Kendall or Jeremy Corbyn, how good a judge are they going to be on what sort of Labour leader they’d be? “I’m a particular fan of the one I’ve never heard of and know nothing at all about” said no one, ever.

Sky poll on the EU

SkyNews have released a poll they have carried out themselves amongst a panel of BSkyB subscribers. The poll itself shows nothing particularly new (people think the EU is good for the British economy by 39% to 31%, etc, etc), but the concept itself is interesting – it’s a proper effort to get a representative sample from their subscriber database, weighted by age, gender, past vote, Experian segment (as an alternative to class), ethnicity, tenure and so on. It is, however, unavoidably only made up of Sky subscribers, which will bring with it its own biases. The question is to what extent those biases can be cancelled by their weighting and sampling. We shall see. The tables for this first poll are here.

Parliamentary debates

Last week there were two Parliamentary debates on regulating opinion polls. The first, last Thursday, was prompted by Lord Lipsey and concerned whether polling companies needed regulating to prevent them asking leading and biased questions – though it was largely made up of the specifics of one single poll on mitochondrial donation. The other was the second reading of George Foulkes private members bill regulating opinion polls, which includes a good response from Andrew Cooper of Populus. Lord Bridges for the government stated they had no plans to regulate polls. Lord Foulkes’s bill was nodded through to the committee stage, so will trundle on for a little longer.

Herding pollsters

Finally there’s a great piece by Matt Singh on pollster herding here. Matt mentions some of the possible reasons for herding, but more importantly actually does the sums on whether there was any herding… and finds there wasn’t. The spread between different pollsters in the final polls was very much in line with what you’d expect to find.

230 Responses to “Polling news round up”

1 2 3 5
  1. A poll carried out today in the Stamford Bridge members bar confirmed my view that the Blues will once again prevail in the coming Premiership contest. :-)

  2. ““I’m a particular fan of the one I’ve never heard of and know nothing at all about” said no one, ever.”

    Well, not the 3% who back Stewart Lewis.


    “…Well, not the 3% who back Stewart Lewis…”

    But what about his brother Tim?

  4. @ Anthony Wells

    It is a bit of ligh hearted take on NC’s post. The last line is very telling, and it is difficult to forget the suppression of Survations’ poll. Also the sudden change in a well-known pollster’s final poll.

    The trouble is with NC’s excellent analysis is that it is surprisingly susceptible to regression fallacies (the dominant move of some dominant players (very small sample are the pollsters) at a particular time). Thus it is possible that the measurements are majority against a few renegades, and it gives the nice bell shape, but in fact then not pollsters are measured against pollsters but two (maybe three) groups against each other with very different oomphs. I don’t have the time to do the test, but it should be relatively easy with the data.

  5. @ Martyn and @ Colin

    As AW made a very line point about Greece, I won’t reply to your points, just II wanted to make clear that it is not because I’m rude.

    So, as they say, we will see.

  6. Gosh, let’s try it again with autocorrect switched off.

    AW made a clear line not to be crossed about Greece, so I won’t reply to your comments about my comment. I do so not because I’m rude, but because of the respect for the rules the site owner set.

  7. Next week’s YG Welsh poll has a slight methodology change.

    “Currently, while we work out our new sampling frames and weighting, we are using the same sampling methods as pre-election and the same weight variables with the exception of Party Identification. Instead of Party Identification we are weighting by 2015 general election result.” (YouGov)


  8. @Laszlo

    It’s OK, I’m making fun of the Labour MP Tim. He’s the brother of Stewart Lewis…

  9. @Martyn

    Tim? TIM?

    Not even the gullible British public would fall for that one. It’s a Labour leadership contest for goodness sake.

    Tim Nice But Dim is/was a Conservative. I’m struggling to think of any Labour MP, ever, called Tim. I can think of only one, but that was in a country as far from the UK as you can get.

  10. Phil Haines,

    No Labour MP ever called Tim in the UK. A few Toms and a Tam, but Tim seems to be a Tory and Liberal name.

  11. Amzing what you learn here. I have hitherto been kept in the dark about this prejudice against Tims. Beggars belief that such blatant Timmism has not entered the public consciousness.

  12. @Phil Haines

    There has never been a Labour MP called “Tim”. “Stewart Lewis” is a nonexistent person occasionally placed in polling questions to test the veracity of responses. The nonexistent “1975 Public Affairs Act” has also featured in polls for the same reason

  13. It’s going to be nice and confusing tracking who’s winning the Labour leadership contest, isn’t it?

    I mean, I’m a union member but I don’t pay fees to Labour, but I *have* paid £3 to vote in the leadership election…

    Then there’s the Tories for Corbyn, etc.

  14. PAYING to vote??



  15. @Martyn

    Re Stewart Lewis and the 1975 PAA, thank you but I was well aware of that.

  16. @Mr Nameless, @Martin

    Strictly speaking, you’re both wrong. There has been a Labour MP called Tim.

    Tim Barnett. Labour MP 1996-2008.

    In New Zealand.

  17. Tories for corbyn and all registered supporters will have to verify that they support labour to have their vote counted so toby etc will maybe think better of it.

    Will they lie just to have a bit of fun(240000 individual members -versus a few thousand registered and affiliated supporters-still £3 is better than nothing)?

    The more interesting question is whether they will use their second ,third and fourth preferences.

  18. @Old Nat – from previous thread

    Thanks for the Hassan link. I’m not sure he told us anything we didn’t already know, but he puts it well.

    As for the Labour GB leadership contest, ……. yawn………. sorry, I fell asleep again……. did I miss anything?

  19. 7 5 15

    I have a good friend in the States who is a Democrat but is a registered Republican so she can go along to the hustings etc. and push for the most right wing Republican candidate to be chosen. Seems to work…… They’ve not had a Republican congressman in her area for ages……

  20. I’m a long time reader of this site and this is my first post.

    Re. the Labour candidate recognition survey, can Anthony or anyone give some comparative results from similar recognition studies for ministers, cabinet members, prime ministers etc?

    It might help to set 23% or 17% or whatever in context. To pick a senior minister not universally recognised, I wonder what % would recognise Philip Hammond for example from a photo?

  21. 07052015

    “Tories for Corbyn …Will they lie ?”

    Haven’t you been following the stories about why the pollsters got it wrong? :-)

  22. Headingtontrev –

    Here are some YouGov figures from 2013, though they aren’t directly comparable (YouGov got people to pick a name from a list of 20 or so, ICM got people to write in the name, so people with the name on the “tip of their tongue” would have been able to look through the list on the YouGov survey)


  23. Headingtontrev

    Welcome – though I can’t help with your request, I’m afraid.

  24. I doubt Tories for Corbyn will amount to any great number… bigger question is how successful left-wing activists are at getting people to sign up and pay £3, a big unknown. As people have said on here before I doubt many active Labour members who will have to knock on doors to try and win the next election will vote for Corbyn, but what proportion of the electorate in this contest are activists is a big unknown.

  25. @07052015
    “Tories for corbyn and all registered supporters will have to verify that they support labour to have their vote counted so toby etc will maybe think better of it.”

    Do the rules allow the Labour Party to independently decide that someone is not a supporter and debar them even if they make a statement that they are? Those who are already down on Labour’s database of electors as supporting another party or just generally as “against” could be weeded out pretty easily. I’m pretty sure that Toby Young will be down as a Conservative.

    Apparently the £3 isn’t refunded in any circumstances.

    That said, there might be a bit of double bluff going on. “Tories for Kendall” would serve the Conservatives just as well and probably better. Still electorally unappealing, but with insurance that in their worst case it would be very hard to notice the difference.

  26. Jack

    ” I doubt many active Labour members who will have to knock on doors to try and win the next election will vote for Corbyn.”

    I think you are very wrong there. I think the activists are the most likely group to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

  27. @ NORBOLD

    ” I doubt many active Labour members who will have to knock on doors to try and win the next election will vote for Corbyn.”
    I think you are very wrong there. I think the activists are the most likely group to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.


    You read my mind again :)

  28. Actually, the NCP analysis doesn’t show that there wasn’t any herding, as is clear from the final paragraph. It concludes in fact that there may have been cases of herding by individual pollsters but that herding cannot be blamed for the industry-wide polling failure.

  29. From previous thread:


    “That DT columnist has committed the ultimate sin and traduced pollsters and the polling industry in general. So I look forward to AW being so appalled that he reinstates our ability to discuss him and his opinions, subject to this being always done in highly pejorative terms. Although the latter would happen anyway.”

    I had wondered why I was still struggling to get my post through moderation despite breaking the link. Apparently that particular pundit’s name results in automatic pre-mod.

  30. Anyway my original comment was that it was about the level of the usual output of the pundit who shall not be named.

  31. How about Labour for Lamb so lefty (ish) Tim does not get the LD leadership?

  32. Norbold

    “I think you are very wrong there. I think the activists are the most likely group to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.”

    I have to say i think the Tories would be delighted if he won the nomination, which i think very unlikely.

  33. The ICM poll was interesting and quite recent, unlike the YouGov poll before things had really started. However I wonder if it’s putting too much importance on visual recognition. Just because you can’t recognise a photo or get the name pretty much right[1], doesn’t mean that you don’t have an opinion. Newspaper’s comment threads will disclose many voters with vehement opinions about certain politicians whose names they can’t get correct. You can still think someone is an evil lefty, Blairite shill, useless minister or whatever without being able to pick them out in a police line-up.

    Pollsters probably spend too much time with marketing people (any time is too much) and pop-psychology tends to over-rate the visual. While first impressions are important, they can be altered with time and effort. We forget how odd Cameron actually looks because we’ve got used to him and the same applies to Boris[2]. The problem with Miliband was that Labour did very little to counter either the first impressions or the negative coverage that they allowed to become the norm.

    In any case the real question isn’t what the public think but what the electorate for this contest do. I assume YouGov will be doing further polling of members later in the contest – after all Anthony got the 2010 one right which no one else did.

    It’s a fairly uninspiring choice though and illustrates just how low on talent all the political Parties (not just Labour) feel. A process that seems to prefer conformity over any other virtues is never going to produce people who want to change things – maybe that’s the idea.

    I do wonder if Corbyn will do a lot better than expected, simply because he could become the “re-open nominations” candidate. While not really a plausible leader (though it would be fun to watch) and I suspect standing to raise issues that with any hope of success, many may simply vote for him in the hope that someone better will be available in a few years’ time.

    [1] According to ICM Every respondent was shown a picture of each potential leader, and asked to name them in a free text box. All verbatim contributions were individually assessed, and only marked correct if the surname was correct or spelt only slightly incorrectly such that it was clear that the surname were known. Under these rules, a consistent 9-10% misidentified each contender, as many as got it right in the case of Kendall and Corbyn.

    [2] Whether we’ll ever habituate to Osborne’s haircut is another matter.

  34. Norbold,

    “I think you are very wrong there. I think the activists are the most likely group to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.”

    I hate to pick nits, but I’m going to sort of disagree with you there. There are activists and then there are active-ists.

    In my experience the ones likely to vote for Corbyn are the student union politics types, very interested in theory and active internally within the party.

    The hardened ground troops, the ones not concerned with the running of the party but with getting out and extracting every last vote, seem to be mostly voting for Burnham or Cooper.

    The Kendall voters are the ones who sit sneering at the first group while doing little to help the second.

  35. @Phil Haines

    I didn’t write it to enable you to remember it:
    I wrote it to prevent me forgetting it…


  36. Sky’s question “I would vote to leave the European Union even if it damaged the UK economy” is ambiguous, surely? The ‘it’ could mean two things.

  37. Apparently hannahs friend predicted ukip wouldnt get 6per cent and would streak down whitehall if they did -nigels still waiting but automod is about .

  38. Why regulate them? So long as those using them, and reading them, accept that they are snapshots. Time will tell and the accurate ones will stay in business and the rest will perish!

  39. Old nat -yes I would hope tory activists would pause and leave labour to sort itself out.But as a nat do you have a view about who would be best for your “aspirations”.

    Reports that trade unions are holding back info on affiliated members to help their preferred candidates -almost certainly tosh.

    On voters -well yes some will fib but to be fair to them they are not members of parties like toby ,you and me.

  40. So AW, no herding (I have at last understood what you meant by it in that original post).

    So one down, how many to go? The results of the search for the missing factor carries on. Why did you all get LD, SNP, UKIP and Green more or less correct, but Con and Lab wrong?

  41. @BristolianHoward

    He who must not be named, who writes for what shouldn’t be read, in one article has demonstrated the truth, the whole truth and but the truth.

    All other sources of information must be considered useless….

    Cough, cough….

  42. CMJ

    What the F are you referring to?

    I’ll re-phrase that, – excuse my English – to what the F are you referring?

  43. 07052015 has a link…

  44. CMJ

    Ah, so not the Norman Lamb link, hee hee.

    Oh yes i would always bow to sheer brilliance, if there was any such, to which to bow.

    Got my Etonian sentence construction the right way around this time.

  45. James MatesVerified account
    [email protected]

    Rumours raging through #Greece that PM Tsipras about to announce in or out of Euro referendum for next Sunday 5th July. Blimey.

  46. CMJ

    That news is to me like captive turkeys voting whether they really want to accept what will happen in advance of Thanksgiving.

    (I just thought I would change the cultural reference slightly).

  47. Greek Ministers confirming they will campaign for a No vote and Euro exit.

  48. Grecce will a coup or a civil war if they not careful. The Military are pro-eu I have read. Both sides have been taking turns with protests at the moment but I dread to think of the violence which may happen if they meet.
    I am going to Greece in August. If it all goes Belly up my dad wont accept an alternative holiday and thinks he can sue the holiday company for a refund even through I think he wont have a case.

1 2 3 5