Last week I wrote about the unusual YouGov poll showing a four point Conservative lead and said I personally thought it was more likely to be statistical noise than the first sign of the Conservatives opening up a lead in voting intention.

However, at the weekend we also had a new poll from Opinium that had topline figures of CON 42%(+2), LAB 39%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1). Fieldwork was Tues-Thursday and changes were from mid-January (tabs). This morning’s Independent reported partial figures from a new BMG poll that apparently had Labour and Conservative equal on 40% each – this would be an increase of three points in the level of Tory support since the last BMG poll in December.

The government have done little to endear themselves to the public in the last few weeks, nor have Labour done much to lose support. There is no obvious reason for movement in the polls, so I’m still a little sceptical (in themselves the changes are within the margin of error, and it’s perfectly possible for random chance to spit out a couple of polls that just happen to show movement in the same direction). Nevertheless, it’s possible we’re seeing some movement in the government’s direction. If we are, what should we make of it?

This far from the next timetabled general election voting intention polls have very little predictive value, all the more so when we have a known unknown as large as Brexit looming ahead of us and at least a fair chance of a change of Conservative leader before the next election. However for better or worse, mid-term voting intention is the barometer that we tend to use to measure how well the government and opposition are doing against each other, and that is reflected in the morale of the political parties and media perceptions of how well or badly they are doing. If it turns out to be genuine it may bolster Theresa May’s position a little, and may put Labour on the back foot, but we shall see.


536 Responses to “Latest Opinium & BMG polls”

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  1. An unhelpful event for Labour was the Haringey Council resignation.

    This coupled with an unclear position on CU, SM and 2nd referendum has probably cost 1-2% of Labour VI.

  2. Enjoying the skiing in austria at present. Being fluent in German means that i can understand everybody. Unlike the last time when i went to Aviemore where i could understand no -one.

    Did i read that the tories are ahead in the polls? well who would have thought it..Clearly not because the UK wants tM to get on with brexit and the UK to leave the EU so must be because of the Gov handling of the nHS.Quite obvious really.

  3. I understand that support for Labour amongst women has dropped, perhaps at least in part because biological males are allowed on women-only shortlists and so on. This has apparently upset some biological ladies.

    (Sorry for the term biological, I don’t know what else to use without being pounced on for being un-PC. If it causes offence to anyone in the world, all I can say is ‘get over it’). :-)

  4. Perhaps McDonnell’s plans for a “cost free” nationalisation of utilities by issuing debt for equity may have frightened the horses.
    Still not entirely clear whether this amounts to expropriation. I guess it depends on whether he ever intends to repay the debt. (History tells us that task is normally left for the next Conservative government to resolve)

  5. @Pete B

    I understand that support for Labour amongst women has dropped, perhaps at least in part because biological males are allowed on women-only shortlists and so on. This has apparently upset some biological ladies.

    Quite frankly I don’t that 99.99% of women know about Labour’s all-women shortlists and related issues, nor do I think it has any salience whatsoever in the real world of non-political geeks.

    Isn’t the perceived drop in support by women based mostly on a single, rather odd looking YG poll?

    On whether anything is really moving, I’m as doubtful as AW.

  6. Correction

    @Pete B
    I understand that support for Labour amongst women has dropped, perhaps at least in part because biological males are allowed on women-only shortlists and so on. This has apparently upset some biological ladies.

    Quite frankly I think that 99.99% of women know nothing about Labour’s all-women shortlists and related issues, nor do I think it has any salience whatsoever in the real world outside the world of political geeks.

    Isn’t the perceived drop in support by women based mostly on a single, rather odd looking YG poll?

    On whether anything is really moving, I’m as doubtful as AW.

  7. CMJ
    That’s why I said ‘perhaps’. However, there have now been a few polls in a row where the Tories seem to have improved their standing. Of course it could all reverse next week and it means very little, as Anthony points out.

  8. Garj (and anyone interested in polling technique),

    Reposting this from last thread, considering the LSE poll mentioned there, to see whether anyone can comment on what I see as a design flaw. (Its also 6 months out of date.) http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/13/the-british-are-indifferent-about-many-aspects-of-brexit-but-leave-and-remain-voters-are-divided-on-several-key-issues/

    The LSE polling explains it uses ‘conjoint design’. People are asked which of two brexit deals they prefer, forcing them to pick one. This is then repeated using random changes to eight elements which are part of the deal. Each respondent is asked to make six comparisons. LSE argue this allows them to find which element are dealmakers or dealbreakers.

    I read their explanation of how this works, and the bit I agree with is that it isnt easy to understand the implications of asking questions this way.

    My problem with the design is that it does not allow respondents to reject both options. What it does is ask someone to choose between two deals, which might both be repugnent to the respondend, or perfectly acceptible. In reality, they might have rejected all 12 deals, or accepted all 12.

    Their conclusions might identify the combinations which are most acceptible to both sides (a compromise solution), but it could still be a solution which would be rejected by both sides. It cannot say how strongly respondents feel on that isue, because it has this inbuilt bias forcing them to accept deals which in reality might be unacceptible.

  9. CMJ
    There’s quite a lot of discussion on the ‘trans’ issue below the line in this link

    https://labourlist.org/2018/02/trans-women-the-nhs-crisis-and-haringey-alice-perrys-latest-nec-report/

    However several of the commentators dismiss it as ‘naval gazing’ for some reason. Perhaps it’s a folk memory of the old phrase “Hello Sailor”

  10. Labour female support… an alternative explanation.

    labour had higher support amongst women than do tories, and so does remain than leave. The biggest single factor dictating vote is Brexit. Labour is not doing anything currently to encourage remainers to support it. The group most annoyed by this inaction would be women, who would therefore turn away from labour.

    Havnt looked at this threads poll data yet, but the last one didnt show rising support for tories, but labour voters switching to dont know. The women are sitting on their hands until labour does something remainish.

  11. Danny
    Yes, probably not much is going to move the polls until Brexit is done and dusted, or there is some really dramatic development. Meanwhile we’ll all pounce on slight wobbles and try to come up with explanations for what could be just MOE fluctuations.

  12. I wonder if Labour are struggling to get heard at the moment?

    Labour’s policy about Brexit is a bit vague (like the Gvt’s) and the NHS seems to have gone quiet in the media. Labour’s big nationalisation announcement seems to have fizzled out of the news.

    Brexit really is sucking the life out of politics (in a bad way).

  13. CMJ
    Including on here! We’ve had a few ex-regulars posting occasionally about how bored they are with the whole Brexit debate.

  14. Comments like these on Labour List leave me very puzzled:

    “Self-identity is how gender is determined. Not just by trans people, by everyone, including you.”

    “Just out of interest, who should decide someones gender if not the individual?”

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

    If that decision is the first step in what I assume is a long process that’s one thing but I don’t understand how it can be applied unilaterally.

    What am I missing?

  15. danny: My problem with the design is that it does not allow respondents to reject both options. What it does is ask someone to choose between two deals, which might both be repugnent to the respondend, or perfectly acceptible. In reality, they might have rejected all 12 deals, or accepted all 12.

    Their conclusions might identify the combinations which are most acceptible to both sides (a compromise solution), but it could still be a solution which would be rejected by both sides. It cannot say how strongly respondents feel on that isue, because it has this inbuilt bias forcing them to accept deals which in reality might be unacceptible.

    If any combinations where this happens just the once across repeated presentations of the problem, then result from the person forced to choose by sticking a pin is effectively ‘noise’.

    If the combination is prone to this reaction from many people, then you would expect the pins to be stuck randomly, so the effect should null out of the bulk results.

  16. To be fair to Corbyn and Labour, my view is that a wait and see approach is sensible.

    New Labour Blairities are agitating, but they must be resisted.

  17. from BBC Sport:

    “Chelsea forward Eden Hazard speaks to Sky Sports: “We showed a response and did well in front of four fans.”

    Gosh, I knew things were bad at Chelsea but that’s a very low crowd.

  18. Anthony Wells,
    “The government have done little to endear themselves to the public in the last few weeks, nor have Labour done much to lose support. There is no obvious reason for movement in the polls, so I’m still a little sceptical ”

    I dont really agree. I dont see anything the parties did necesarily since the very last poll, but the government agreement with the EU last year marked a change in direction towards soft Brexit. Whether this is real or not remains to be seen, but on paper this is what they did. Since then they have thrown up chaff, with different people arguing utterly different meanings to the agreement, and this continues now. It might well take time for this to have an effect on polls, but it could be argued that polls since then have gradually changed.

    The tories have in effect adopted the labour strategy of imprecision. It worked well for labour, so they have copied it and are saying they support just about every possible outcome, which is very different to their manifesto commitment to hard Brexit. Its a big U turn, even if only towards not having a policy.

    Meanwhile most people supported labour because it was more remain than the tories. If the tories are now also for a soft brexit, there is no longer this differentiation.

    My view has always been that labour has to keep on the remain side of the tories. This might not be a winning strategy, but it is impossible to tell until Brexit is over. Copying the tories will not be a winning strategy. The tories will get the lions share of credit if their strategy goes well, but share the blame with labour if it goes badly. Thats government edge in the game.

    Thats also leave edge in the game, because soft or hard brexit is fundamentally a leave strategy, and the leave voters are piled up behind tories. The remainers are piled up behind labour. Labour will not win the balance of support currently by being leavish.

    I would take it however, that labour’s goal is not simply to get elected, but also for the Uk to remain in the EU. It is difficult to judge the rate at which labour should announce shifts towards remain, bearing in mind their aim is to halt Brexit (and win any election which might come along), but not to be the most popular party at any given moment.

    The overall strategy to halt Brexit by both main parties has been to show it is unworkable, thus no blame should fall on them for being unable to implement it. Labour has left the tories to suffer the collapse of their hard brexit policy, but the silver lining for tories is that soft brexit is at least superficially more attractive to most voters (particularly the remain/labour ones). Politicians have yet to set out in earnest to undermine soft Brexit also.

  19. catmanjeff,
    ” Labour’s big nationalisation announcement seems to have fizzled out of the news.”

    But the recent election’s strategy was twin track. Obfuscation on the remain side of tories re brexit, and broadly popular social strategies. This is more of the same, and important to keep the social side simmering gently in the background just in case there is an election any time. Then it would get publicity. Has to be there ready, like boiling oil atop a besieged castle.

  20. @GARJ from last thread
    “I think you’re misunderstanding what might be on offer from the EU regarding the customs union. Turkey is in the CU, meaning that they have to apply EU tariffs to all imports in return for the right to trade freely with the EEA.
    They do not get the benefits of the EU’s trade agreements with other nations.
    Turkey has no ability to sell their goods to Canada, say, and take advantage of the benefits of CETA. ”

    I think your case study is a good illustration of why those of us who bang on about whether you use the definite article are not (just) being pointless pedants.

    Turkey is not in THE EU Customs Union. It is in A customs union with the EU (which gives it the right to trade freely with the EUCU area subject to some exceptions, not the EEA by the way)

    The only unarguably sovereign non-EU state in THE EUCU area is Monaco, by reason of the historical accident of its pre-existing customs union with France. Some not fully sovereign territories for which the UK has external responsibility are also in THE EUCU, such as the Isle of Man. These do benefit from the trade deals as if they were EU states and territories.

    Turkey has a bilateral Customs Union with the EU. As a result it does not benefit from the trade deals. It does, in that sense, arguably have the worst of both worlds.

    This is why Starmer (and for that matter Davis) are speaking the absolute truth when they say that remaining in THE EUCU is not possible after Brexit as the Treaty stands.

    This is also why it is critical that the likes of Umunna and Soubry should be pinned down on what they mean by “Customs Union”. As Andrew Marr totally failed to do on Sunday. Do they mean an Isle of Man Model, which is not available to the UK as the Treaty stands, or a Turkey model, which might not be desirable? Or are they just being mischievous or mendacious in advocating the impossible?

  21. technicolouroctober,
    “If any combinations where this happens just the once across repeated presentations of the problem, then result from the person forced to choose by sticking a pin is effectively ‘noise’.”

    Hmm. No, its not noise, it is bias in the question which prevents respondents showing the depth of their feelings and predisposes towards a dinding that consensus is possible.

    Though one might regard this as noise, a random signal spread over the actual one and drowning it out.

    You use the phrase ‘just the once’, but the setup of the questions gives no way of knowing whether respondents look at the options and normally think one good one bad, or whether most of the time they think the deals are either all bad or all good.

  22. Danny
    You’ve come up with some plausible elaborate strategies there. Do you think either party is that clever or that united behind a strategy, even if it is just obfuscation?

  23. CMJ

    Agreed. Labour and Corbyn particularly are not receiving much airtime right now. A tiny Tory lead is no big deal for now. We will see how Brexit pans out over the next few months. It still had the capacity of tearing the Tories apart.

  24. PeterW.

    It does not matter how many times you me and a few others point out the difference between A and The in the context of a Customs Union on here. If politicians who know better but chose to pretend otherwise and journalists let them get away with it failure of others, even engaged people, to grasp is inevitable.

  25. @ CMJ

    I can’t remember the details but I believe that the supposed ignoring of sexual harassment/misogyny allegations by the LP were found to have played very negatively with young women. I expect you know the Jess Phillips/Stella Creasy et al promotion of @LabourToo which is an anonymous group collecting data online about sexual harassment specifically within the LP.

    This proposed failure of Corbyn to address appropriately, together with the muddying of LP policy by calls from the usual suspects for Corbyn to commit to the Single market and Customs Union plus the charges of prejudice against the Jewish community … plus now charges of Richard Leonard not taking seriously, the racist remarks against Anas Sawar….. all create a drip drip effect, which is readily adopted and amplified by the anti Corbyn media.

    Like you, I don’t think that 99% of women know anything about the Terf/Trans debate but I suspect that some of the mud thrown over the LP might stick for some.

  26. technicolouroctober,
    I re-read your reply. In general I am not meaning the situation where a respondent thinks the two options are exactly equal, but where they can decide one is better then the other. However, both are bad or both are good.

    The nature of the poll automatically assigns one deal as better and one as worse, but with no way of knowing whether overall any particular deal is acceptible or not, or the depth of feeling which put it there. Yes, the poll might get a result which ranks negotiating positions in order of preference, but it doesnt tell us whether none of them are acceptable, or all of them are acceptible.

  27. Syzygy
    Thanks for teaching me a new word. On looking up ‘Terf’ I came across the following:

    “In the Mail, it was: “Members of the Action for Trans Health (ATH) clashed with their bitter enemies the Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (or so-called TERFs)”.”

    I couldn’t help thinking of the famous Monty Python sketch.

  28. All

    Apart from a tiny vocal minority women don’t care about excluding trans women. By contrast men get really upset about trans women. The idea that trans issues would significantly affect Labour’s female VI is ridiculous. Although I could see it affecting male VI, but obviously not that much or the Tory party would be shouting about the dangerous transgenders. Oddly no one gives a stuff about trans men who are just as prevalent as trans women.

  29. @ JIM JAM

    You’re probably right. It’s the journalists I deprecate. Politicians dissemble in the way that dogs bark or bears go to the woods to defecate. Journalists should call them out. Marr was hopeless.

    No wonder the polls show confusion.

  30. Pete B,
    “You’ve come up with some plausible elaborate strategies there. Do you think either party is that clever or that united behind a strategy, even if it is just obfuscation?”

    I’ve seen ‘the west wing’. If holywood writers can come up with imaginitive strategies, at minimum political parties could ask them for some help. At maximum, parties employ professional political strategists.

    Are they united? No. Do they undertand this thing about the need for unity if they are to get elected at all? Yes. The logical conclusion of such a situation would be to make decisions in private and only tell the public what you want it to hear. Its called collective responsibility, and means lying to the public to create a false but electable image. Spin is a more polite term.

  31. Pete B

    “I couldn’t help thinking of the famous Monty Python sketch”

    Really!? Which one would that be? I’m sure I can’t think of one that applies.

  32. jim Jam,
    “It does not matter how many times you me and a few others point out the difference between A and The”

    I am also thinking the people who understand the difference also tend to place too much importance on it. Fudge and compromise will provide a solution if anything does. The difference is only legally maintained while it proves useful.

  33. Danny
    “The logical conclusion of such a situation would be to make decisions in private and only tell the public what you want it to hear.”

    I get that, but both parties seem to be sending contradictory messages – e.g. Hammond/Boris, Corbyn/various. Are you saying that it’s a deliberate strategy to confuse the public? I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just not sure they’re that clever. I think personal ambition is behind most of the confusing statements.

    PR
    This is a genuine enquiry. Is a trans man a man who wants to be a woman or vice versa? I may be alone on here in not knowing this, but I bet not many of the general population do.

  34. @Syzygy

    Watched the Renegade Inc show, which I’d not seen before so thanks for the heads up. Interesting that Wade says money is starting to go into Thorium.

    I’d not paid as much attention to Thorium lately, been looking into renewables more, but then I recently came across a different approach towards it, Ed Pheil’s plan for doing Thorium in a fast spectrum reactor (rather than the thermal spectrum others had been promoting) which seems to make life quite a bit easier. Not least because it uses Sodium Chloride rather than Lithium Fluoride.

  35. Trans Man is someone who was AFAB (assigned female at birth)
    Trans woman is someone who was AMAB (assigned male at birth)

  36. Trans Man is someone who was AFAB (assigned female at birth)
    Trans woman is someone who was AMAB (assigned male at birth)

  37. NeilJ (from previous thread)
    There are those who say that the best thing about Leominster is its bypass!

  38. rachel

    “Apart from a tiny vocal minority women don’t care about excluding trans women. By contrast men get really upset about trans women”

    Is that polling or opinion? And excluding them from what?

    [Genuine question as I am not up with the topic.]

  39. PR
    Ok thanks for the explanation. I’ll try to remember it. Also, just seen your query about the Monty Python sketch. It was the one about The People’s Front of Judaea versus the Judaean People’s Front from The Life of Brian.

  40. @ Princess

    ‘The idea that trans issues would significantly affect Labour’s female VI is ridiculous.’

    I totally agree. And even more ridiculous to suggest that all-women short lists are going to be suddenly overwhelmed by hordes of trans women. It is a non-issue and if there happens to be an excellent woman candidate (who is trans) gets into parliament… brilliant.

  41. @ Paul

    There is an argument about whether Trans women should be allowed to be included on all women short-lists to stand for parliament. In fact, it is a small minority (the most famous is probably Germaine Greer) who think that they should be excluded but LP policy is quite clear that they are eligible to stand. The issue surfaced when a 19y old trans woman was elected woman’s officer in (I think) Bexhill and Battle.

  42. @ Carfew

    Glad you liked the link. Sodium chloride sounds much preferable to Lithium fluoride. I thought Renegade Inc might be up your street … they interview a lot of heterodox economists and I find many interviews thought provoking.

  43. I’d forgotten this bit of Life of Brian. It seems remarkably prescient.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUBAx8jbYNs

    G’night all

  44. It’s worth pointing out that if you look at the Opinium tables, there’s actually very little Conservative ‘recovery’. Most of the movement in the headline VI is caused by shifts in likelihood to vote, which down generally, but particularly with voters under 55.

    This is really the same pattern as we’ve seen in the other polls recently. A slight falling away in enthusiasm for Labour with maybe the Lib Dems picking up a little, but the Tories only benefiting by default[1]. This might be the start of a loss of votes, but at least as likely is that such voters would just become more definite again, come an election.

    There are some other interesting features of the Opinium poll, though. In particular they ask a version of the YouGov’s Issues question: Which of the following are the most important issues facing the country?[2]. However, unlike YouGov, “European Union and Brexit” only comes second with 42% and Health/NHS leads with 68%[3].

    This suggests that, while people see Brexit as important, it is not their most immediate concern. They may feel they don’t understand it and are powerless to control what is happening. Other issues such as Health may actually determine how they vote.

    [1] Another possibility is that there is a more general decline of enthusiasm for politics (Opinium does show this) and Labour gets hit harder because its demographic (younger, more female , more working class) is also more likely to say they don’t know if (or how) they will vote. But those who are more reluctant to say they will definitely vote may still vote (the BES found no difference between the rate of voting for men and women for example).

    [2] See Tab VIS1. The tables don’t say how many options could be picked but the average of 2.6 suggests it may have been similar to YouGov’s ‘two or three’.

    [3] Third is ‘Immigration’ with 33% which could be linked to the EU, but not exclusively and only 34% of those worried about Immigration gave Brexit and another concern. Both Brexit and NHS got roughly the same support among Remainers and Leavers.

  45. Pete B

    I had forgotten about that clip, hopefully I can forget again

  46. @Garj

    Harking back to the previous thread and Dutch agricultural production, there is surely opportunity for us in trees and plants. Overall, we import about £1 billion, and export a miserable £50 million.

    It is depressing that British trees are sent to the Netherlands to be ‘grown on’ and then brought back. Especially as this is thought to increase disease, such as ash die back.

  47. RJW
    NeilJ (from previous thread)
    There are those who say that the best thing about Leominster is its bypass!

    :-)

  48. @Princess Rachel
    Trans comes about due to the mother having levels of male or female hormones inappropriate to the particular stage of development of a child. Sex related developments in the brain occur later in pregnancy than physical sex-related developments, so hormone levels can be different at these different stages

    Because the default sexual biology is female, and because (simplistically) it is more common for mothers to have insufficient testosterone than insufficient oestrogen, there will be many more physical males who feel female than physical females who feel male.

    Or so my medical student daughter explained at some length at the weekend…

  49. danny: technicolouroctober,
    I re-read your reply. In general I am not meaning the situation where a respondent thinks the two options are exactly equal, but where they can decide one is better then the other. However, both are bad or both are good.

    The nature of the poll automatically assigns one deal as better and one as worse, but with no way of knowing whether overall any particular deal is acceptible or not, or the depth of feeling which put it there. Yes, the poll might get a result which ranks negotiating positions in order of preference, but it doesnt tell us whether none of them are acceptable, or all of them are acceptible.

    I have lost the link to the study, so I am working from memory. As I remember it, the purpose of the study was solely to tease out which sub issues are significant in Brexit, with no interest whatsoever in evaluating overall deals. Obviously, you could ask directly if controlling immigration is more important than being in the customs union, but the researchers wanted to evaluate the importance of the issues in the context of an overall deal.

    So in that sense forcing a choice between good and good or bad and bad does not matter, because it is not scenarios which are being evaluated.

  50. SYZYGY

    Thanks and I agree, it seems a fuss about nothing.

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