Monday tends to be the busiest day of the week for polling (not least because phone polls are mostly conducted across the weekend). We have four polls due today: Populus, Ashcroft, YouGov and ComRes. ComRes’s poll tonight will be in the Daily Mail, who seem to have taken over ComRes’s phone polls from the Independent, their host since 2006.

The twice-weekly poll from Populus has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6% (tabs here). This is their first poll of 2015 not to show a Labour lead.

The weekly poll from Lord Ashcroft meanwhile has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 8% (tabs here). This is his largest Labour lead of 2015 so far, and UKIP are sharply down – 11 points is the lowest UKIP have recorded in an Ashcroft poll. The online/phone poll contrast in terms of UKIP support seems to be alive and well, with the last three phone polls from MORI, ICM and Ashcroft giving UKIP scores of 9, 9 and 11 respectively, but online polls continuing to show them in the teens.

UPDATE: Here are tonight’s other two polls. ComRes in the Daily Mail have figures of CON 34%(+3), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 13%(-4), GRN 8%(+1). The two point Conservative lead is the largest ComRes have shown since 2010, and their UKIP score is the lowest since last Spring. Meanwhile YouGov in the Sun have topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%.

Putting today’s four polls together we have one Labour lead, one Tory lead, and two polls showing the parties neck-and-neck – all perfectly in line with normal sample variation around the parties being pretty much neck-and-neck, probably with Labour just ahead. Note the UKIP picture though – all the regular phone polls have them at their lowest score for some time, and 13 points is equal to YouGov’s lowest score for them this year. The trend is difficult to discern given the wide variations between different pollsters, but looking at the average of the February polls so far UKIP do seem to be down slightly.

We have three GB polls due in the Sunday papers, Opinium in the Observer, ComRes in the Sunday Indy/Sunday Mirror and YouGov in the Sunday Times. We have the first two already, YouGov will follow later on tonight or tomorow morning.

Opinium have topline figures of CON 33%(+1), LAB 35%(+1), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 6%(-2). Both the main parties up one point and last week’s two point Labour lead remaining unchanged. Tabs are here.

ComRes have topline figures of CON 32%(-1), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 16%(-2), GRN 4%(+1). The Conservatives down one point, so both polls show a two point Labour lead, but neither show any significant change compared to their previous poll. This month’s ComRes poll also had a bank of questions asking people whether Ed Miliband or David Cameron would be better on various issues. On their usual strengths and weaknesses Cameron leads by 25 points on having the qualities needed in a leader, 23 on managing the economy and 16 points on immigration; Miliband leads by 10 points on the NHS (and I expect would lead on being in touch with ordinary people if it had been asked – the overall picture on questions like this is influenced by what measures are asked about!). Given the current political agenda though the topical measure is “more effective at cracking down on tax avoidance” – there 31% think Miliband would be more effective, 31% Cameron.


I’ve my usual weekly update to do later tonight or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime a quick note on the new ComRes poll of marginal seats, which has tables here. My heart always sort of falls when I see a marginal seats poll, as I know how people will misinterpret it. Twitter inevitably sees lots of comments about how Labour has a great big lead in the marginals that count, or Labour might be neck-and-neck nationally but they have a big lead in the important marginals – seemingly oblivious to the fact that the topline results and what they mean depends entirely on which marginals you are polling. What could be a bad headline result for Labour in a batch of seats they only just missed out on in 2010 could be an excellent one in a batch of target seats they need for an overall majority. The crucial thing when looking at marginal polls is the swing from the last election, and how that compares to the swing implied by the national polls.

So, using today’s ComRes poll as an example, here’s how you should interpret a poll of marginal constituencies. I expect this will covering old ground for many people, so I hope regular readers will forgive me stating the bleeding obvious in some cases!

The first thing is to look at what the shares of the vote were in those seats at the previous election – without knowing that, any swing or change is meaningless. In the case of ComRes, their marginal seats polls cover the 40 most marginal seats with Labour and Conservative in first and second place. That consists of 25 Conservative seats and 15 Labour ones, with shares of the vote at the last election of CON 37%, LAB 37%, LDEM 18%, UKIP 3%.

The next step is to compare the results of the previous election to what the poll shows. Topline figures in today’s ComRes poll, with changes from the election, are CON 31%(-6), LAB 40%(+3), LDEM 8%(-10), UKIP 15%(+12). From being equal at the last election, Labour now have a nine point lead – the equivalent of a 4.5 percent swing from Conservative to Labour (the swing is the relative change, divided by two).

Now compare it to the national polls. Looking over the current UKPollingReport average it shows a two point Labour lead. Labour were seven points behind the Conservatives in 2010, so conveniently enough this is also a nine point relative change in the lead, and the equivalent of a 4.5 percent swing from Conservative to Labour. In other words, this poll doesn’t show Labour doing better or worse in the marginals, it shows the Con-Lab marginals behaving exactly like the national GB polls suggest they will.

Of course, this is just a single poll of 1000 people anyway, so even if it did show a swing that was a point or two higher or lower in the marginals it wouldn’t be worth reading much into. It could just be sample variation. Looking back over other Ashcroft and ComRes polls in Con-Lab marginal seats we’ve had some showing the Conservatives doing slightly better in the marginals, some showing them exactly the same, some showing Labour doing slightly better. All in all it suggests the swing in Con-v-Lab marginals is very much in line with the swing in the national polls. And that’s to be expected. If history is any guide we might expect the Conservatives to do a little better as most of the battleground seats have new Conservative incumbents, but only by a very small amount – the reality is that Con-Lab marginals do tend to behave in pretty much the same way as the nation as a whole does.

We have a bumper crop of opinion polls today – as well as the regular twice-weekly Populus poll, weekly Ashcroft poll there is the first of a series of monthly Survation polls for the Mirror. Still to come tonight is the daily YouGov poll and a ComRes telephone phone for the Indy, both due at 10pm-ish.

The three have been published so far are:

Populus – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6% (tabs)
Ashcroft – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 9% (tabs)
Survation/Mirror – CON 31%, LAB 30%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 23%, GRN 3% (tabs)

All three polls have Labour and the Conservatives within one point of each other – Populus with Labour one ahead, Survation with the Tories one ahead, Ashcroft with them equal. There is more difference between the reported levels of support for the Greens and UKIP – Survation traditionally give UKIP their highest levels of support and have them up on 23% (this is clearly not just because of prompting, given ComRes, YouGov and Ashcroft also now include UKIP in their main prompt), in contrast Populus have UKIP on 13%. Green support is up at 9% in Ashcroft’s poll, but only at 3% in Survation’s. Unlike ComRes’s online polls (harsh turnout filtering) and Populus’s polls (disadvantageous weighting) there is nothing particularly unusual about Survation’s methods that would explain the low Green vote.

I will update later with the ComRes and YouGov polls.

UPDATE: The monthly ComRes telephone poll for the Independent is out and has topline figures of CON 31%(+2), LAB 30%(-2), LDEM 8%(-4), UKIP 17%(+1), GRN 7%(+2) (tabs). It’s the first time that ComRes have shown a Tory lead in their telephone polls since 2011, and a fourth poll today to show the two main parties within a single point of each other. YouGov is still to come…

UPDATE2: The last of today’s five GB polls, YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 33%, LD 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%. That’s five polls today, all showing Labour and the Conservatives within 1 point of each other. As we hit the hundred days to go mark we have the closest possible race in terms of vote share, if not necessarily in seats.

Back now, and ready to go through the rest of the Sunday polls apart from the voting intentions and pick out some of the more interesting findings:

  • YouGov’s poll for the Sun on Sunday asked about tactical voting (it didn’t actually use the term, as I think many people use it to refer to different things. It asked if people were voting for their first choice, or a different party that would beat a party they disliked from winning). 77% of people said they were voting for their first choice, 11% tactically. A word of warning about interpreting this – 8% of Tory voters said they were voting tactically, 11% of Labour voters, 12% of Lib Dem voters, 11% of UKIP voters… but we don’t know if that means 8% of Tory voters are voting Tory for tactical reasons, or that 8% of would-be Tory voters are actually going to vote for someone else for tactical reasons (or a mixture).
  • The YouGov Sunday Times poll had a number of questions on British Muslims and on terrorism. People were split over how well integrated British Muslims are into British society and the extent to which they share British values. 46% of people think the majority or almost all British Muslims share British values, 46% of people think that only a minority or hardly any British Muslims share British values. 42% of people think that most or the majority of British Muslims are well integrated, 50% think a minority or hardly any are. UKIP voter’s attitudes towards British Muslims are far more negative than supporters of other parties – 73% of UKIP supporters say most Muslims don’t share British values, 79% say most British Muslims aren’t well integrated. Nigel Farage’s comments about areas of Britain being like ghettos with sharia law were rejected by most respondents – 33% though they were broadly true, 41% thought they were false. 75% of UKIP’s own supporters believed them.
  • There was a particularly interesting immigration question in the Sun on Sunday poll, essentially asking people to choose between a multicultural approach and an integrationist approach. Slightly to my surprise a multicultural approach was the more popular – 36% thought it better that immigrants leave their own cultures and traditions behind and integrate fully into British culture, 48% thought it better than immigrants retain and celebrate some of their own cultures and traditions.
  • Going back to the terrorism and surveillance questions in the Sunday Times poll, just over half of respondents (52%) thought that the security services do need more access to the public’s communications in order to fight terrorism, 31% thought they already have all the access they need. A similar proportion (53%) would support requiring internet and phone companies to retain users data for 12 months and provide it to the security services on request, though by 51% to 35% people think accessing someone’s personal communications should require the consent of the Home Secretary. While people think accessing personal communications data should require the consent of the Home Secretary, when asked whether they trust the authorities to use the information they obtain responsibly they actually trust Ministers & the Home Office less than the police and the intelligence services. 50% trust the police to use the information responsibly, 63% the intelligence services, 45% the Home Office, Ministers and civil servants.
  • In the ComRes poll they asked (via my old favourite the agree/disagree statement, grr!) whether people agreed with the statement that “Ed Miliband is using the issue of the NHS for his political advantage, not because he cares about it”. 49% of people agree, 26% disagree. That looks bad, but I have my doubts about questions about politicians’ motives. I suspect they largely just reflect a general cynicism towards the motives of all politicians, rather than opinions about particular politicians or decisions. YouGov asked a very similar question in their Sun on Sunday poll, but asked it about Ed Miliband AND David Cameron, and got answers that were almost the same. 46% thought Ed Miliband was using the NHS for political gain, 19% doing what he thought was best for it, 20% both equally. 48% thought David Cameron was using the NHS for political gain, 15% doing what he thought best for it, 19% both equally. As you’d expect, in both cases supports of the Conservative and Labour party both thought their own leader was doing what was best, but the opposing leader was just using it for political reasons.
  • The debate over the debates rolls on, and so do poll questions about it. Opinium asked about whether particular leaders should be invited – 61% think the leader of UKIP should, 46% the leader of the Greens, 30% the leader of the SNP, 23% the leader of Plaid Cymru. The current proposals for debates between Con, Lab, Lib Dem and UKIP leaders was supported by 37% of people, opposed by 31%. YouGov in the Sun on Sunday asked people to pick from some possible combinations. The most popular individual option was the widest, the Lib, Lab, Con, UKIP, Green and the SNP and Plaid. This was picked by 35% though, so while it was the most popular single option, 49% favoured a narrower option – 20% favoured the proposed Con, Lab, LD & UKIP, 17% Con, Lab, LD, UKIP and the Greens (but not the two nationalists). 12% supported an even narrower option, excluding UKIP. In their Sunday Times poll YouGov found people still think David Cameron should take part even without Natalie Bennett – if she is excluded 31% think Cameron should refuse to take part, 52% think he should take part anyway. However, asking about the other side of the deadlock, if Cameron refuses to take part without Bennett 52% think the broadcasters should call his bluff and invite her, 28% think the debates should go ahead without him, 8% think the debates should be cancelled.