Earlier this week there was a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members in the Times or, more specifically, two new polls of Conservative party members: YouGov polled the same party members before and after Boris Johnson came out in favour of leaving the EU to see what impact it had on the leadership race. Results are here.

At the simplest level Boris was ahead before, and was ahead afterwards, but there were some interesting shifts. Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out (from 83% approval to 76% approval), but his position in the leadership race improved. Presumably he annoyed some members who saw his actions as disloyal or disagreed with his stance, but he consolidated the support from those who did not.

Almost unavoidably Boris coming out was going to upset some members – he has carefully avoided having many fixed political opinions over the years, so I expect many pro-European members would have assumed Boris agreed with them, many anti-EU members would have assumed Boris agreed with them. For once, he is forced off the fence and forced to upset some people – so his overall approval rating among Tory party members fell. However, in the race to be the next Tory leader his position has improved. 43% now say they’d back Boris, up from 38%, with support falling for Theresa May and Sajid Javid, both of whom were seen as potential “outers” and both of whom ended up supporting Remain. Asked how they’d vote in a match up between Osborne & Boris the figures don’t change as much (Boris 55%, George 36% before, Boris 56%, George 38% after) – the broader balance between those party members who want Osborne as the next leader and those who don’t hasn’t changed much, it’s just Boris is now more clearly the “not-George” candidate.

Only a quarter of Tory party members said that the leadership candidates’s stances on the EU were an important factor in picking the next leader – 4% said they wanted the next leader to be someone who had campaigned for the UK to stay, 20% wanted the next leader to be someone who campaigned to leave, three-quarters picked other criteria as their main considerations. Far and away the most widely picked criteria was someone who will make a competent PM, picked by 67%, followed by someone who has a good chance of winning the next election on 52%.

At the moment, Boris is very clearly the front runner if he reaches the stage of the membership vote. At the moment that looks relatively likely – there will be a fair chunk of Conservative MPs who will want to vote for a leadership candidate who supported leaving the EU, and Boris is now obviously the biggest “pro-Leave” beast in the Tory party (though it will be interesting to see how the Parliamentary party divides – Boris maybe anti-EU, but he is not otherwise associated with the Tory right. Will the right of the parliamentary party fall in behind him, or will they want their own “proper” standard bearer?).

That said, it is very early days. If the referendum is lost it’s possible Cameron could go soon, but if not he may be here for a few years yet. Among Conservative party members there is very little call for Cameron to make an early departure – only 20% think he should step down in 2016 or 2017 (roughly the same proportion as think he should change his mind and teste the next election – the majority think he should stay till at least 2019). In reality though, any pressure for Cameron to go early will come from the Parliamentary party, not from the rank-and-file membership, and I expect that will depend upon the extent to which the Tory party rips itself apart over the next three months and the final result of the referendum.


The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up here. Topline figures are CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%.

Most of the rest of the poll dealt with Boris Johnson’s planned return to Parliament. Dealing with the practical implications first, 35% think Boris should stand down as mayor if he wants to stand for Parliament, 54% think it is fine for him to do this at the same time as being Mayor. If he actually gets elected 60% think he should stand down as Mayor, in the event he becomes Tory leader 79% think he should resign as Mayor.

Looking forward to whether there is a vacancy, 44% of people think that David Cameron should resign as Tory leader if he loses the next election, only 29% would like him to stay (a majority of Tory voters would actually back Cameron staying on as leader after a defeat, though personally I can’t imagine it being an issue – I think he’d step down anyway). If David Cameron wins the next election then by 46% to 28% people would like him to remain for a full term, 80% of Tory voters would want him to serve a full term.

Were Cameron to go, Boris is the frontrunner to succeed him. 30% would back Boris as the best Tory leader, ahead of Theresa May on 16% and George Osborne on just 7%. Amongst Tory voters Boris leads Theresa May by 41% to 15%.

Asked which words best describe Boris Johnson likeable (34%), buffoon (32%), entertaining (31%) and intelligent (26%) come top. It’s unusual for any politician to have three positive words in the top four of a question like this, but it flags up Boris’s shortcomings too: statesmanlike (1%) and competent (7%) are down at the bottom of the list. In a separate question 36% think Boris Johnson would be up to the job of Prime Minister, 43% think he would not.

And what difference would Boris as leader actually make? Well, with all the usual caveats for questions like this (people are crap at answering hypothetical questions and have no idea what Boris would actually do and say as leader) it wouldn’t actually make much difference to voting intention at all. A control question asking how people would vote with the current leaders produces voting intentions of CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%… with Boris as Conservative leader it would change to CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%.


-->

This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%. Full tabs are here.

YouGov also asked specifically about the reshuffle for the Times. Usually reshuffles are essentially a lot of people the public have never heard of being replaced by a group of other people the public have never heard of. This reshuffle was at least unusual in that it involves some ministers – like Michael Gove and William Hague – who the majority of respondents will actually recognise and have an opinion about. YouGov found that the majority of people thought that Hague had done a good job as Foreign Secretary… and that Gove had done a bad one as Education Secretary. 63% of people, including a majority of Conservative voters, thought it was right to remove him from the Education role.

Asked about how well represented women are at the top of the Conservative party, 36% now say they are very or fairly well represented. That’s up from 29% at the start of the week, but is still well below the 48% who think women are well represented in the Labour party. Will it make any immediate difference? Probably not – in the months and years to come being less male-dominated will probably improve the Conservative party’s image a bit, but it’s certainly no magic bullet. You can see at the top of this post that today’s voting intention figures are wholly in line with those from before the reshuffle.


This morning’s daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 13% – full tabs are here. The six point Labour lead is down from the big post-conference leads last week, but a bit too “in the middle” to really be confident what is going on. As ever, it’s common to have a lot of up and down in the polls in conference season, so don’t get too excited – wait and see what they look like once they are all over and things have died down.

There were also the first reactions to the announcements the Tories made at the start of the conference, which broadly got thumbs up – 62% supported allowing married couples to transfer £1000 of their tax allowance when one of them stays at home or earns less than their allowance, 68% supported making the long term unemployed undertake full time community work or risk loosing their benefits, 50% support giving guarantees to banks to encourage them to offer 95% mortgages.

In all three cases, I doubt there will be any impact (help to buy is just changing the timing of something already announced, forcing the long term unemployed to take work of some sort was probably perceived as the sort of thing the Conservatives supported anyway, the transferrable tax allowance is worth a relatively small amount) – just getting high approval ratings in polls doesn’t mean it will have any sort of effect. If the Conservatives do get any conference boost, the most likely time will be after David Cameron’s own speech, the part of party conferences that tends to get the most coverage and publicity.


[This is crossposted from the Spectator Coffee House – the original is over here]

In YouGov’s poll this morning for the Sun the Conservatives had 33% support, Labour 40%, the Liberal Democrats 9% and UKIP 11%. While it would be a gross exaggeration to say all of UKIP’s support comes from the Conservative party, they do gain a disproportionate amount of support from ex-Tories and it’s natural for people to add together that Conservative 33% and that UKIP 11% and think what might be.

The reality though may not be as simple as adding the two together. In yesterday’s poll YouGov also asked people to imagine that UKIP and the Conservatives agreed a pact at the next general election where they would not stand against each other, with UKIP backing the Conservative candidate in most constituencies and the Conservatives backing the UKIP candidate in a small number of constituencies. We then asked how they’d vote under those circumstances. Once you’ve taken out the don’t knows and wouldn’t votes, the new Conservative/UKIP alliance would be on 35% of the vote (up just two points on their current support), Labour would be on 45% (up five points on their current support), the Liberal Democrats on 11% (up two points), 9% of people would vote for other parties (down eight points).

So what goes wrong, how does 33 plus 11 equal only 35?

The bottom line is that parties don’t own their voters – even if the Conservative party and UKIP were to want a pact, it wouldn’t follow that their voters would be happy to play along. Amongst people who currently vote UKIP 56% would vote for the new Conservative/UKIP Alliance, but that leaves 44% of them who wouldn’t – who would go to Labour, or stay at home, or find an alternative non-mainstream party to back. Many of the people voting UKIP are doing so because they are unhappy or disillusioned with the government or the Conservative party (or in many cases with *all* the mainstream parties). A deal between the Conservatives and UKIP is not necessarily going to make them any less unhappy or disillusioned, many would just find a different way of expressing it at the ballot box.

Meanwhile a quarter of current Tory supporters wouldn’t vote Tory if they entered a pact with UKIP – 5% would switch to Labour, 4% to the Lib Dems, 16% would stay at home or are not sure what they’d do. A deal with UKIP might get many UKIP voters back on board, but it would lose voters in the centre to Labour and the Liberals. Equally the Conservative core selling point at the moment is the claim they are the safe pair of hands, the party willing to make the tough and hard-headed decisions needed to get the economy back on solid ground. UKIP’s well documented teething-troubles with amateurism, gaffes and somewhat eccentric people who have attached themselves to the party during its rapid growth may not be exactly complementary to that message.

But if parties don’t own their voters, can’t buy and sell them in electoral pacts, that also means the Conservative party can target UKIP’s voters without necessarily needing to deal with UKIP – although once again, the difficulty is doing so without alienating more centrist voters. The overwhelming majority of current UKIP voters say they would be more likely to vote Conservative if they promised harsher policies on immigration… but that would risk the Conservative party losing more moderate votes and playing to negative perceptions that it was bigoted or racist. However, 57% of UKIP voters say they will be more likely to vote Conservative if the economy improves, 40% if they thought it was the only way of stopping Ed Miliband being Prime Minister. There are ways the Conservatives can appeal to UKIP voters without necessarily apeing their policies.