Populus June Poll

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has headline voting intention figures (with changes from last month) of CON 36%(-1), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 17%(nc). The boost in the Labour vote last month has been retained, but there doesn’t appear to be any significant month-on-month change.

The poll was conducted between the 1st and 3rd June, so we should probably be starting to see any effect of the grammar school row upon the Conservative party. As yet, there doesn’t seem to be any. This poll and the last YouGov poll show the Conservative vote pretty static (up 1 with YouGov, down 1 with Populus) and ICM showed them up.

Asking about grammar schools Populus found that 36% of people would have supported the opening of grammar schools in places without them and the re-introduction of the 11-plus exam. However, 60% would prefer not to, instead concentrating upon introducing setting and streaming in all schools. However, amongst Tory voters there is a slight majority in favour of new grammar schools – 52% to 46% against.

Populus also found that Cameron’s image was less positive than last year. The percentage thinking he is strong is down to 37% compared to 44% last October, the percentage thinking he’s got what it takes to be a good PM is down to 33% from 42%. On charisma and sticking to his principles Cameron is almost unchanged. The Times’s coverage assumes this is a reflection of the grammar row, but of course the changes are over eight months so don’t necessary have any connection to the grammar school row at all.

Gordon Brown’s figures are up since last October. 63% think he is strong compared to 51% last year, 57% think he’s got what it takes to be PM compared to 37% last year. Only 20% of people think he is charismatic, down from 23% in October. No sign of whether people think he is more likeable yet. Again, as with the YouGov poll this month, it’s impossible to ascribe the increases to Brown’s recent PR drive – the last poll was taken shortly after Tom Watson’s resignation when Brown’s figures were very low, so it could just be a recovery from that.

More straightforwardly, Blair’s figures are up now he is leaving (the Times describes them as “rocketing”, though the ones they quote – charisma and “has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister” are up only slightly. Sir Menzies Campbell is up too – up 5 to 34% in being strong and up 8 to 38% in sticking to what he believes.

Incidentally, as Mike Smithson notes on politicalbetting.com, in recent months Populus has started to show lower levels of support for the Lib Dems than ICM. The difference in Lib Dem support between ICM and YouGov has been discussed several times here, but ICM and Populus use almost identical methodology, making the difference rather more difficult to explain. So far this year Populus have produced an average level of Lib Dem support of 18.2%, ICM of 20.6%.

I can only see two differences in their methodology that might be producing the difference – firstly ICM re-allocate 50% of don’t knows to the party they voted for at the last election – what we normally refer to as the “spiral of silence adjustment”. Populus do the same for Labour and Conservative voters, but only re-allocate 30% of their former Lib Dem voters who say “don’t know”. In theory this maight make a bit of a difference, but in practice only once this year has it had any noticable effect upon the level of Lib Dem support in Populus polls, so it can’t explain all the difference.

Secondly Populus assume there is slightly more false recall when working out their targets for weighting by past vote – in practice though this doesn’t seem to be making any difference to the weighting of past Liberal Democrat voters. The difference in Lib Dem support between ICM and Populus looks like a mystery.

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