Populus April Poll

Populus’s April poll has headline figures of CON 37%(-1), LAB 29%(-1), LDEM 20%(+2), a Conservative lead of 8 points. There is no significant movement from last month, though for those who record such things, this is Labour’s lowest score in a Populus poll to date. The figures do suggest that the Conservatives are now consolidating a lead of around 8 points, with them recording
similar leads in all the most recent YouGov and Populus polls, and larger leads in ICM polls.

Looking toward the elections next month Populus’s poll in April 2003, when most of the council, Parliament and Assembly seats that are up next month were last elected, stood at CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 22% – putting into context the sort of slump there has been in Labour support since these seats were last up for grabs. Asked this month about the local elections, only 14% of people said they would be voting on local factors – 16% said they would use their vote in May to pass their verdict on Gordon Brown, 24% to pass a verdict on Tony Blair and 39% to pass a verdict on the government.

Populus’s fieldwork was conducted between the 13th and 15th April.


36 Responses to “Populus April Poll”

  1. So the Lib Dems were on 0% last month were they? blimey…

  2. I have been commenting on the ricocheting of the Lib Dem vote in recent polls, but this is taking the point a wee bit too far…

  3. LOL :D

    At LDem’s +20 and @ Labour being on 29 :D

  4. So the poll changes over the last four years have been Tories up 3%, Labour down 7% and Lib Dems down 2%? Thus a 6% rise in Others?

  5. I see that most polls had Labour on a higher score in the run up to the 2003 elections.

  6. Peter-yet again the poll ratings for ‘others’ look way too high but I cannot say why. It is not possible to dismiss them because of their consistency but the results on May 3rd will tell us much . I think UKIP will be seen to be a fading force-Europe is a tired issue and people have moved on. The BNP might have pockets of support but nationally they are nowhere. The main parties have electorally if not shot the Greens fox then at least partly stolen its fur. By the time of the next general election I predict that they will all be hoovered up by the main parties. Of the small mainland parties only the SNP and maybe the PC will survive ….

  7. Others polled a total of 12.3% in the 2003 local elections in England , the increase in numbers of Green/BNP/UKIP candidates will contribute to this rising to 15-16% this May .

  8. Nick – I have got used to the idea tha yougov exaggerates the “others” figure, but hadn’t picked up on the populus figures. But perhaps the main parities are sending a message to voters that “you ought to vote Green…”?

    Mark – thanks – I suppose the higher numbers of Conservative and Lib Dem candidates might counter this somewhat in the aggregate figures: some independents poll quite well because the main parties are absent..

  9. The overall figure for Others, 14%, is substantially correct, as local elections demonstrate. I would guess that the reason why Yougov gives the BNP 3 or 4%, and Populus only 1% is that Populus is a telephone pollster, and people are shy about admitting voting BNP over the ‘phone.

    I would expect the Greens and the BNP to win about 3% each of the total vote on May 3rd, and a large number of votes will go to a variety of local parties and independents.

  10. I forgot to add that this is the first time that Populus has depicted the Tory lead at this kind of level for two months in a row since that party hit the front a year ago.
    Mark-do telephone polls tend to be more favourable towards one of the main parties than is the case with face to face interviews or is it much of a muchness?

  11. “16% said they would use their vote in May to pass their verdict on Gordon Brown, 24% to pass a verdict on Tony Blair and 39% to pass a verdict on the government.”

    Ouch. Almost makes you feel sorry for Labour councillors.

  12. “putting into context the sort of slump there has been in Labour support since these seats were last up for grabs”

    I always think this is the wrong comparison to make.These seats were also up for grabs last year and the real change in the vote comparison is between now and last year.In 2003 Labour performed quite badly in this council seat and there was an 8% swing to the LDs,yet in 2006 there was a 9% swing to Labour from the LDs .The comparison I’ll be making is from 2006 .

  13. The Conservatives will perform well in the South, West and Eastern shire areas and take a lot of seats from the Lib-Dems.

    In Wales they will perform very well, in Scotland they will stand still and in the Northern cities they will only gain one or two; they will likely do better in smaller urban settlements in the North such as Carlisle and Bolton but not in Manchester.

  14. Have there been any polls about how people intend to vote in the local elections. This can be different that what they say nationally, also since only about half of those that vote in general elections tunrout the result will be skewed from the national picture.

  15. The projected national share in last year’s local elections was 40% for the Tories. They need to do better than that this time, in order to show they’re making progress.

  16. I do like the presumptions stated by the overall Conservative readership here. I think there are two groups who read – the majority being Westminster tories, the other group being even weirder poll nerds who have real jobs like me.

    Point? For this one I am most interested in the PC / SNP results as I enjoy elections and I even more enjoy thinking of the future.

    I am one of those who like the idea of tories rounding up all the nationalist votes with a simple idea- a federal UK (it works for all the rest of the world- USA, Australia, Sth SAfrica, Germany, France…). Devolve lots to NI / Wales / Scotland / England on a simple basis of constitutional logic. But it wont ever happen because the English disease of never changing anything for a positive reason wil continiue to happen and England will continue to slide into being the historic theme park for the rest of the world… The bizarre constitutional anomaly of the current UK is laughable…

    Change wont happen so I se the SNP gaining strength and – in consequence – PC – will. As will Sinn Fein, given they have voting strength ( and breeding strength) over all Ireland. Personally I see the breakup of the UK in under 50 years, and that’s fine.

    The trouble for the Uk has been that it is really England and England has been defined -and is defined as – ‘we had an Empire and we won the war’. There is no postive England / Uk identity; Wales /Scotland / NI all have postive identies by freeing themselves from England. If you disagree go back to Dublin and have a look at the impact of a revolution.

    But nationalism is not relevant you say? Oh yes it is – consider soccer/ rugby; 6 nations does not end at the final whistle. It encourages nationalism. Irish nationalism was encouaraed by GAA , culture; consider gaelic, ‘flower of scotland’, etc. .

    I am arguing that it is the cultural blindness of the English who do not see the trend which is the issue. The rumour that the Conservatives were thinking about setting up an independent tory party in Scotland and how it was denied was poor. A real Scottish Tory party would begin to understand the future; to deny it encourages failure in Scotland.

    Hey, I live in England and I would very happily join the SNP tomorrow. Why? It is the only party with a vision of the future for its people.

  17. As I have mentioned before , there are 2 separate figures for party support given each year at local elections . There is the actual party share which for the Conservatives last year was 34.5% and the Rawlins/Thrasher projected national share if it had been a GE which last year was 39/40% . The latter figure takes account of differential turnout , higher Others Votes in local elections etc . The snag is they do not disclose the way in which they take the actual figures and turn them into the projected share . As long as this is the same every year though then the figures will be comparable each year .

  18. Philip Thompson: those figures should make us say ouch for all councillors, because what they show yet again is that it doesn’t matter how much effort individual councillors devote to their workload, or how well-run their local authorities are, it counts for virtually nothing in the minds of the electorate.

    It could be argued that the relative irrelevance of councils nowadays is the reason why voters treat local elections as referenda on the government of the day – but if that’s true, then we’d never have had phenomena like Labour’s 1968 wipeout when councils had considerably more power.

    I’d actually argue the opposite: that until voters start demonstrating a genuine interest in local government irrespective of the standing of governments, national politicians are hardly likely to give back more power.

    And council election campaigns will continue focussing on national issues – which is why the Tories are trying to make these a referendum on Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy, while the SNP is talking about Trident and Iraq – utterly irrelevant to the remit of the Scottish Parliament (and apologies to John Cairns for suggesting that the Scottish Parliamentary elections are a local election!)

  19. Brian,

    While in terms of “progress” you may well want to compare share of vote with 2006 rather than 2003, in terms of seats at stake, the comparison with 2003 is important. Councillors up for election this year will be defending their 2003 results – and if they are in a half-way marginal ward which has not seen strong advances by their own party since, they may well fear for their seats on these poll indications.

    My own experience is that Labour have disappeared off the scene in my ward (and even my council) – which they held less than ten years ago.

  20. Well, if the Conservatives do better in Carlisle, I will be the most likely taking the oath of office or whatever it is called now…..

  21. Hold on.

    Last year, everyone was saying the national share for Con would be ~34%, based on local election results, but Conservatives actually achieved ~40%, right?

    Given that almost 85% of voters say they won’t be voting on local issues, that the Conservative standing in the polls is (pretty much) a consistent 38/39% in the polls with local elections results slightly better than 2006 and that the Liberals are mainly

  22. The Populus Poll in April 2003 was 34/36/22…..but, the Populus Poll in April 2006 was 34/36/21…

    Some clues re likely outcomes for local elections in England

    Councils can be split between Metropolitan (mostly Northern or West Midlands) / Unitary (scattered cities) / Shires (mainly
    rural/southern).

    Between 2003 and 2006, movements in share of vote have differed between the three types of council. (Figures from Rallings & Thrasher)

    Metropolitans saw Labour share fall by 6% from 39.9% to 34%, but with these votes going mainly to “others” since LD share (23.6%) actually declined 1.1%, and Cons inched up from 26% to 27%.

    Unitaries in 2006 saw both Con (33.5%) and Lab (28.5%) increase by 1% with LD (25.1%) falling back 3%

    Shires in 2006 were: Con – 44.6% (up 5% on 2003); Lab – 20.1% (down 0.7%), and LD 25.3% (also down 0.7%)

    That is broadly consistent with a strong Tory recovery in the South, but offset by stagnant position in the (mainly Metropolitan) North as seen in regional breakdown of polls.

    It would appear that the Populus April 2006 poll did not pick up the big changes in either Lab at Metropolitan or Con at Shire levels – though this could well be explained by differential turn-out.

    Given the big movement in Populus figures wihin the last year, unless there has been a major regional re-balancing, then (with apologies to Kaiser Chiefs) – I predict a rout !

  23. God knows why 50% of my post yesterday was cut off, but I was going to go on to say that I predict the following national shares in the local elections:

    Con 42%, Lab 22%, Lib 27% – seat losses and council gains broadly the same as what Sean Fear suggests.

  24. Paul H-J Unfortunately , the comparisons you are making are false . 2003 were partly all up elections in the Unitaries and the Shire Districts . The Unitaries polling in 2006 were halves or thirds many not actually polling in 2003 eg Oxford or polling in different wards eg Bristol . Therefore the changes you give are for non comparable figures . Similarly only a small number of the Shire Districts polling in 2006 which elected by 1/3rds were in the much larger ( more Conservative ) number polling in 2003 .
    The comparison of the Populus polls is also rather misleading as there was clearly a major change in sentiment between the April 2006 Populus poll on the 2nd April and polling day ( Prescott etc etc ) . A truer comparison would be with the May Populus poll survey just after the local elections 38/30/20 remarkably similar to this month’s April Populus Poll .

  25. Rob B As Others are going to poll around 15+ % rather than the 9% you indicate one or more of your other predictions will be wrong . You are I presume only forecasting England rather than including the Scottish Locals .
    I will put on record my forecast for vote share in English locals and comparison with actual share in 2003 .
    Con 37% ( 2003 34.6% )
    Lab 23% ( 2003 27.0% )
    LibDem 25% ( 2003 26.1% )
    Others 15% ( 2003 12.3% )

  26. Mark-I am not sure by which I mean I honestly don’t know if all Paul’s comparisions are as misleading as you seem to think they are. The May 2006 Populus poll could equally have been no more than a snap reaction to the results of the local elections rather than the Prescott affair. More likely I suggest it was a combination of both. The Tory lead did of course slip back again in the June 2006 poll .

  27. Mark, I would not compare a pre-election poll to a post-election poll. Post-election polls are always massively biased towards the perceived result of the election that has just happened. Confirmation bias and people wanting to be on the “winning side”. This is a bubble that happens every time and the affect dissipates before long.

    A post-election poll next month could be compared to the post-election poll last year.

    I predict that next months polls will shift in the direction of whichever party is portrayed by the media to have “won” the elections. There has been an underlying assumption for months that Labour will be hammered in the election, if they are not this will then be portrayed as a victory of sorts for Labour and a failure by the Tories, and the polls will shift towards Labour. If Labour do indeed get hammered, then they could slump potentially as low as the mid-20’s.

  28. Nick – Fair comment I did say the May poll was a truer comparison and not an exact comparison but the 2003 v 2006 comparisons for Unitarys and Shire districts are not comparing like with like . The Mets are a much better comparison although all the ward boundaries were reviewed and there were all up elections in 2004 .

  29. Mark, there has easily been better than a 2.5% swing to the Conservatives since 2003 as you indicate (34.6-37). Polls show a Lab-Con swing in the order of 4-6%, so I think your estimates are a little low.

    I grant you my estimates for others may also have been a little off, but I don’t think they will do as well as 15%. I think 12% is a more accurate reflection.

    Let me revise to Con – 41%, Lab – 22%, Lib – 25%, Others 12%

    I’m convinced the Conservatives will better 2006 vote share.

    And I’ll stick with it this time ;-)

  30. Mark,

    I took the voting figures off the Plymoiuth web-site. I know that the wards up vary from year to year, but in principle one should be able to compare 2007 results directly with 2003 results.

    For 2006, one has to assume that the portions up are “representative”. Whilst this may not be the case Council by Council (eg in Harrogate, the mainly Tory rural wards don’t vote this year), overall the sample size should even it out.

    The Key points I was trying to make are:

    (a) Pre-election Populus poll in 2006 was almost identical to 2003, yet the overall picture – inasmuch as one could compare like with like – was of modest Con gains outside shires, and pretty static Lab position- except for big fall in Metropolitans.

    (b) this year’s pre-election Populus poll shows a marked Lab-Con swing of 5%, not just since 2003, but also since 2006, when actual Con result as we know was better than the Polls forecast – but mainly due to a strong Con showing in the Shires. This would indicate a likely significant shift in seats from Lab to Con … though, as per my third point../

    (c) the different types of council / regions (and there is some correlation with Metropolitans being more Northern) behaved very differently.

    Whilst I will be thrilled if the Con share exceeds 50% in the Shires (up 5-6% on 2006), that won’t be much help in winning the next election if there has not been an improvement to above 30% in the Metropolitans.

    I am sure that there will be hundreds of seats changing hands on 3rd May, and Labour may even be able to point to the odd localised gain where votes have shifted between our respective parties letting them in through the middle. However, overall I would expect there to be a large net gain by Con, a large net loss by Lab, and an LD net position somewhere between +50/-50.

    The above only applies to England. I have absolutely no idea how the new voting system will turn out in Scotland, other than that Labour are likely to lose substantially as a result.

  31. Rob B we can agree to differ but as Others polled 12.3% in 2003 and Greens BNP and UKIP are all fielding many more candidates I can’t see them polling fewer votes this year .

  32. I can see UKIP polling less. Europe has been much less of an issue in recent years than it was in ’03. UKIP may field more candidates, but I imagine their candidates could well get less votes each.

    Though I may well be wrong. But the very raison d’etre of UKIP has been falling away. Europe has been a non-issue lately.

    As for the BNP, I’d just hope they poll less.

  33. Philip , I agree that UKIP will poll less votes per candidate but they are fielding something like 3 times as many candidates so there total vote should rise .

  34. Mark, they’re not even fielding 1,000 candidates, correct?

    I make that less than 10% of English seats up for grabs.

    They have to poll very strongly where they are standing to even poll 3-4% of the vote.

    I also think it’s very misleading to draw conclusions from local by-elections and “aggregrate” up votes, because the turnouts are often horrendously low and the elections are vote with a very local, rather than national, focus.

    I just cannot see the Conservatives polling less than their equivalent national vote share last year. They always poll better than expected and, particularly as they are now a much stronger contender for government now, I expect this year to be no different.

  35. Rob , True but in 2003 they only fielded circa 300 candidates so this time 3 times as many with perhaps 1.5% of the vote instead of 0.5% in 2003 . The much higher figure for Others will reduce all the 3 major parties’ this year , it is a good question as to which will be hit most . The evidence last year was that the increase in Green vote hit the LibDems and increase in BNP hit Labour in some parts but the Conservatives in other areas especially the North West and West Yorks .

  36. I don’t know how the R+T equivalent national vote share is worked out and how fielding more candidates will play into that.

    However if there is an increase in Others vote (because of more candidates polling less, not an increase in support for Others) then that need not necessarily mean a decrease in all 3 major parties support this year. It will mean a decrease in support for the 3 majors *in total*, but individually some may lose more, and some may gain still.

    I would predict the fall in others to be absorbed by the fall in Labour and Lib Dems that has been shown in the polls (Especially Labour more than LD). The Tories have risen by enough since 2003 that they should still expect to gain more.