ComRes have a new battleground poll out, results here, this time looking at 10 Conservative held UKIP target seats. The poll covered some seats that UKIP announced as targets last year but taking out some that no longer seem realistic, like Aylesbury, and adding some obvious ommissions like Castle Point. The overall shares of the vote with changes since 2010 were CON 39%(-7), LAB 28%(+2), UKIP 21%(+15), LDEM 5%(-10), GRN 4%(+4). UKIP have obviously advanced strongly since 2010, but remain in quite a distant third place.

It’s quite hard to know what to make of this poll. For a start, with UKIP coming from a very low base it’s quite hard to accurately predict what their best chances of a gain are – so some seats here like East Worthing and Shoreham probably aren’t in the top rank of UKIP targets. More importantly, with a poll of a group of marginal seats like this we can’t tell what the distribution of the vote is between these different seats. Most estimates are for UKIP to pick up only a couple of seats beyond their two by-election gains (which are not included in this sample), so from this poll we can’t tell whether UKIP have about 21% in all these seats (and hence wouldn’t win any of them), or are doing much better in the more promising seats like South Thanet and Thurrock and less well in the others, meaning they could win some.

I suppose all we can reasonably conclude is that UKIP don’t look like they are about to sweep the board across these seats, it’s impossible to tell from this poll whether or not they are in a stronger position in a minority of them.


ComRes have published a new poll of voting intentions in LD-Con seats in the South West for ITV. Full details are here. The topline figures are CON 44%, LAB 13%, LDEM 26%, UKIP 10%. Given these are all seats that the Liberal Democrats won in 2010 this is a huge turnaround – in 2010 the Lib Dems had an overall lead of 8.5% over the Tories in these seats, now they are 18 points behind, a whopping great swing of 13 points. If there was a uniform swing of this scale across these seats the Lib Dems would lose the lot.

Depressing for the Lib Dems, but wholly at odds with previous polling evidence in these seats. Lord Ashcroft has polled Lib Dem held seats pretty comprehensively, so we actually have constituency polls in 12 of the 14 seats included in this sample, and they paint a very different picture. Compared to the 13 point LD>Con swing in the ComRes poll Lord Ashcroft found an average LD>Con swing of about 4 points.

The difference between these two sets of polling is much larger than can explained by margin of error – they paint a genuinely contradictory picture. If ComRes are right the Lib Dems have collapsed in their heartland and face wipeout, if Ashcroft are right they are holding up against the tide and should retain around half those seats.

Explaining the difference is a little harder. It could, of course, simply be that public opinion has changed – some of Ashcroft’s polling was done late last year… but most of the Lib Dem collapse in support came early this Parliament, so this doesn’t ring true to me. Looking at the rest of the methodology both polls were conducted by telephone, the political weighting was much the same, the turnout weighting not vastly different.

My guess is the difference is actually a quite a subtle one – but obviously with a large impact! Both Ashcroft and ComRes asked a voting intention question that prompted people to think about their own constituency, candidates and MP to try and get at the personal and tactical voting that Lib Dem MPs are so reliant upon. However, looking at the tables it looks as though ComRes asked that as the only voting intention question, while Ashcroft asked it as a two stage question, asking people their national preference then their local voting intention. The results that ComRes got in their constituency question are actually extremely similar to the ones that Ashcroft got in his initial, national question.

This sounds weird, but it’s actually what I’d expect. When I first wrote the two stage voting intention question back in 2008 my thinking was that when people answer opinion polls they want to register their support for the party they really support, not a tactical vote or a vote for their local MP… and even if you ask the question slightly differently, that’s the answer you are going to get. If you really wanted to get people’s local voting intentions, you needed to first give them the opportunity to express their national support and then ask them their local support.

That though, is just the theory. As I’ve written before when writing about constituency polls of Lib Dem seats and marginal polls of Lib Dem battlegrounds, we don’t really have the evidence from past elections to judge what the most accurate methods are. Hopefully we’ll get enough different constituency and marginal polls over the next three weeks to give us the evidence to judge in the future.

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%


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After a quiet start to the week today is turning out to be a busy day for polling, with new polls so far from Panelbase, TNS and Survation and ComRes and YouGov still to come. Here’s the rundown on what today’s polls so far show:

  • TNS have topline figures of CON 30%(-3), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 19%(+3), GRN 4%(-1) (tabs)
  • Panelbase have figures of CON 31%(-2), LAB 37%(+4), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 16%(-1), GRN 4%(-1) (tabs)
  • Survation have figures of CON 31%(-1), LAB 35%(+2), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 15%(-3), GRN 4%(+2) (tabs)

An interesting set of polls so far, with all three showing Labour gaining support and some of the largest Labour leads we’ve seen in polls for over a month (the last 6 pointer was Survation in late Feb, the last 7 point Labour lead TNS in mid-February). We still have two more polls to come tonight though (and, indeed, a Scottish poll to boot), so let’s wait and see what they bring…

UPDATE: The rest of tonight’s polls are now out. The weekly ComRes poll for the Daily Mail has topline figures of CON 34%(-2), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 12%(+3), UKIP 12%(nc), GRN 4%(-1). ComRes too have movement in Labour’s direction, though they continue to show a Conservative lead – note the 12% for the Liberal Democrats, that’s the highest they’ve shown this year. Meanwhile the daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 34%, LD 8%, UKIP 12%, GRN 4%.

Quite a strange clutch of polls there – two Conservative leads, three Labour leads. Lots of the other interesting looking findings are almost certainly noise – Lib Dems are doing well in ComRes, but it’s not reflected anywhere else. UKIP are up in TNS, but down in Survation and no movement elsewhere. The only consistent trend amongst these is that all but tonight’s YouGov poll have Labour improving their position against the Tories. It’ll be interesting to see if that trend holds.

Meanwhile YouGov also have a new Scottish poll, conducted after the first Scottish leaders debate and straddling the second one. Westminster voting intentions there are CON 18%(+2), LAB 25%(-4), LDEM 4%(+1), SNP 49%(+3). As ever, only one poll, but it looks as if any debate impact in Scotland has helped the SNP. Certainly, with only a month to go it shows no sign whatsoever of the SNP lead fading.


This morning’s Mail on Sunday had a new poll of South Thanet which they built up into a UKIP “covering up” an unfavourable poll showing them headed for defeat. ComRes have subsequently released the tables for the poll here, revealing it was actually commissioned by ChartwellPolitical, an agency founded by two former UKIP staffers.

First let’s cut away the Mail’s hyperbole – it’s really not a “LOSER POLL!” and doesn’t show Farage heading for a humiliating defeat. UKIP are one point behind the Conservatives, with Labour one point behind them – CON 31%, UKIP 30%, LAB 29%, LDEM 5%. Given the margin of error, one couldn’t confidently say which of the three parties are ahead. What it actually shows is an extremely tight race. However it’s significantly less positive for UKIP than the previous polling in Thanet South – a Survation poll back in February that showed UKIP ten points ahead, and it resulted in UKIP attempts to rubbish the poll and its methodology last night.

In terms of methodology, the poll is mostly done using the same methods ComRes use in their national telephone polls – same turnout weighting and filtering, same squeeze question, same treatment of don’t knows. There are two important differences between the way ComRes do their national and constituency polls though. First respondents were prompted with the individual candidate names, secondly the poll was NOT politically weighted (if it had been, it would probably have been better for the Tories to some degree, depending on how much false recall ComRes allowed for in setting targets).

Most of the criticism of the poll last night (including some from UKIP themselves) was frankly complete nonsense. I can only assume a lot of it was sourced from “what some bloke on Twitter reckoned”. To sum up, the difference isn’t because candidates weren’t named – they were. It isn’t because 2010 political or turnout weights were used – they weren’t. It wasn’t because people who are unlikely to vote were included – they weren’t. It wasn’t because ComRes reallocated people by 2010 vote – they don’t. The idea that the question wording mentioning “your local MP” favoured Laura Sandys seems somewhat stretched, given the question included candidate names and Laura Sandys wasn’t one of those candidates.

To look at the more substantive things people have asked though, the initial voting intention question in the poll found Nigel Farage ahead. What put him behind in the final figures was weighting by turnout and squeezing the don’t knows. Neither of these are strange and unusual, they are ComRes’s normal method and are perfectly justifiable.

Looking at turnout first, ComRes found that Labour and Conservative voters said they were more likely to vote than UKIP voters. In Survation’s poll in February they actually found just the same thing, and their approach to weighting by likelihood to vote is very similar to ComRes’s (there is a difference in how they treat people who are very unlikely to vote – Survation weight them down very heavily, ComRes exclude them. In practice this difference has minimal effect). The difference between the Survation poll showing a ten point UKIP lead and the ComRes one showing a one point Tory lead is NOT turnout weighting.

The other difference is don’t knows. In the Survation poll people who said they didn’t know how they would vote were ignored. In ComRes, they were asked a follow up “squeeze” question – how would they vote if they legally HAD to. For people who still didn’t give an answer, ComRes asked if they identified with any party, and took that as their most likely vote. In practice these squeeze questions helped Labour and the Conservatives, but didn’t squeeze out much in the way of extra UKIP support.

There is nothing at all methodologically “wrong” with this poll… but then, there wasn’t anything “wrong” with the Survation poll in February either. There are different methodological approaches, and there are good arguments to be made for and against them, but we don’t have the evidence to say which is right. More importantly, a lot of the difference here isn’t because of methodology… it’s just because ComRes found fewer Ukippers and more Labour and Conservative voters than Survation did. Perhaps that’s because UKIP have lost support since February. Perhaps that’s just normal sample variation. We can’t tell, we can only say that South Thanet may still be a tight race after all.


Post-debate polls

We now have all four of the post-debate polls. Asked who performed the best, the verdicts are

YouGov: Sturgeon 28, Farage 20, Cameron 18, Miliband 15, Clegg 10, Bennett 5, Wood 4 (tabs)
ICM: Miliband 25, Cameron 24, Farage 19, Sturgeon 17, Clegg 9, Bennett 3, Wood 2 (tabs)
ComRes: Farage 21, Cameron 21, Miliband 21, Sturgeon 20, Clegg 9, Bennett 5, Wood 2
Survation: Cameron 25, Miliband 25, Farage 24, Sturgeon 15, Clegg 6, Bennett 3, Wood 2 (tabs)

The pollsters certainly don’t show a single clear winner (until we digest the tables we can’t really speculate about what caused the differences), but there’s a consistent theme across those results. Everyone has Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood and Nick Clegg trailing, everyone has Ed Miliband and David Cameron doing pretty much evenly and pretty close to Farage. The only big difference is Sturgeon, YouGov have her out in front, others have her a bit further back. But given the SNP are only standing in Scotland, how well Nicola Sturgeon did in rest of Britain doesn’t necessarily make a huge difference (though it may make the SNP a bit less scary as a bogeyman on Conservative posters).

As I wrote before the debate, one shouldn’t assume too much what the impact of the debate is on voting intentions until we see some standard voting intention polls of the general public. With the initial polls showing no big runaway winner from the debate I wouldn’t expect a big impact… but time will tell. The party I’d probably watch is UKIP – Farage wasn’t a big winner, but he outperformed his party’s national support in all of the instant verdict polls, and unlike the SNP, UKIP have candidates across GB that people can vote for.