We’ve had two “new” polls on EU membership this week (the inverted commas are there becuase while the ICM poll out today has fresh fieldwork, the ComRes poll earlier in the week was actually done at the end of September). ICM’s latest figures have REMAIN on 44%, LEAVE on 39% (tabs). ComRes meanwhile had REMAIN on 55%, LEAVE on 36% – a far more solid lead for those wishing to stay in the EU (tabs)

There is obviously sizeable gulf in the figures different polling companies are reporting on the EU referendum. ComRes have done several polls on the EU referendum since the election and have consistently shown REMAIN with a strong lead, in contrast two YouGov polls last month both showed LEAVE with a small lead (though they had been showing a modest lead for stay earlier in the year). ICM have been conducting a weekly tracker on EU voting intention, and their figures tend to show a modest lead for those who want to stay.

Polling methodology is in a period of flux as pollsters reassess their approaches in the light of what went wrong at the general election, but I don’t think that explains the difference here. ComRes have indeed adopted a new turnout model based on socio-economic factors… but the nineteen point lead is without that extra turnout weighting, it would be even bigger with it. It could be a online vs telephone difference – YouGov and the regular ICM tracker are both conducted online, the ComRes polls by telephone – but that’s hardly enough evidence to be confident, there will be many other differences in methodology.

While we can’t really tell why there is a difference, we can say where the difference is: Conservative voters. All three pollsters have Labour voters splitting strongly in favour of staying, albeit with some difference in quite how strongly (ICM had 55% of Labour voters backing REMAIN, YouGov had 58%, ComRes 73%). The contrast among Tory voters was larger, ComRes has Tory voters wanting to stay, ICM has them broadly split, YouGov has them favouring exit: in the most recent polls YouGov had only 33% of current Tory voters wanting to stay, ICM had 42% of 2015 Tory voters, ComRes had 56% backing remaining. In practice, of course, how they Tory vote ends up splitting will depend to a significant extent on the leadership David Cameron gives in the referendum and which senior Tory figures come out in favour of leaving – there’s a long way to go yet.

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian is out today and has topline figures of CON 38%(-2), LAB 32%(+1), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 13%(+3), GRN 3%(-1). The full tables are on their website here.

The fieldwork for the poll was Friday to Sunday, meaning just over half of the interviews were conducted before Jeremy Corbyn was announced as Labour’s new leader. If you are waiting to see the impact of Corbyn on Labour’s voting intention figures, you’ll need to wait for another poll (and even then, if the next poll has Labour down a bit or up a bit, unless it’s a huge great shift it will be indistinguishable from normal sample error. As ever, we’d need to wait for a couple of polls showing movement in the same direction before concluding there had been any real effect).


ICM have released their August poll for the Guardian. Topline voting intention figures are CON 40%, LAB 31%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 10%, GRN 4%. Full tables are here.

This is the first ICM poll since the election to feature an updated methodology in light of the polling error. Since 1993 or so ICM have reallocated people who don’t give a voting intention based on how they say they voted at the previous election. Colloquially this is often known as a “shy Tory” adjustment, as when it was initially introduced in the 1992 to 1997 Parliament it tended to help the Tories, though after the Iraq war it actually tended to be a “shy Labour” adjustment, and in the last Parliament it was a “shy Lib Dem” adjustment.

In practice ICM didn’t reallocate all their don’t knows and refusals as many people who refuse to give a current voting intention also refuse to say how they voted at the last election (ICM call these people “total refusals”, as opposed to “partial refusals” who say how they voted last time but not this time). Under the new method ICM are also attempting to estimate the views of these “total refusals” – they are reallocated at the same rate as “partial refusals” but are assumed to split slightly more in favour of the Conservatives, based upon what ICM found in their post-election re-contact survey. The effect on this change on ICM’s headline figures this month is to increase the level of Conservative support by one point and decrease Labour support by one point.

The implication of this adjustment is that at least some of the error at the general election was down to traditional “shy Tories”, that those who refused to answer pollsters’ questions were disproportionately Conservative supporters. However, from being on panels with Martin Boon since the election and hearing him speak at the British Polling Council inquiry meeting I don’t think he’ll have concluded that “shy Tories” was the whole of the problem, and in ICM’s tables they are clear that they “expect to produce further methodological innovations in the future.”

While the polling inquiry continues and we all work out what went wrong the Guardian aren’t publishing their ICM/Guardian polls, but they are still being done. Martin Boon has tweeted July’s results, which have topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%.

As I wrote in my previous poll, YouGov released a second bite of budget polling on Friday, this part conducted after the initial press reaction to the budget. This wave highlights some of the public’s rather complex views on benefits and the living wage.

Public attitudes to welfare are complicated, sometimes contradictory and it is easy to cherry pick polling results to show the public support or oppose big cuts to benefits, depending on one’s views. At the simplest level people like the idea of benefit cuts because they think they go to people who don’t deserve them and who haven’t contributed to them. Exactly who they imagine these people are is more difficult to say, since if you ask about most groups who recieve benefits people oppose cuts.

So, overall 38% of people say cuts to benefits have gone too far, 23% they they are about right, 24% would go even further. Asked about the level of benefits and the number of people who can claim them 45% say benefits are too generous, 40% they they are too low (23%) or about right (17%); 57% say too many people are eligible, 30% that too few (19%) or about the right number of people are eligible (11%). Looking at those figures people seem to be pretty pro-cut.

Asked about individual groups of people who receive benefits though and the public suddenly become much more charitable. Only 4% think retired people on the state pension get too much in benefits, only 9% think disabled people do, only 12% think people in low paid work do. 19% think working people with children get too much in benefits, but 33% think they should get more. Opinion on unemployed people is the most evenly balanced, with 28% saying they get too much in benefits, 24% too little, 31% about right. The only group where people come down heavily on the side of too much money being spent on benefits is better off retired people… the group that politicians never cut benefits from because they vote.

This raises the question of why people think benefits are too high and too widely spread if they don’t think the unemployed, pensioners, parents, disabled people or the working poor get too much. I hardly think when people talk about benefit cuts they are thinking of winter fuel payments, rather I expect the support comes from the continuing belief that lots of benefits go to categories not asked about like “people who aren’t really disabled”, “people who could work but can’t”, “asylum seekers” and so on.

Attitudes were similarly complex on the government’s national living wage. We saw in Thursday’s poll that this received overwhelming support. This poll however found rather more nuanced attitude. 31% of people think that the living wage will end up increasing unemployment… yet only 7% think it is being set too high (the implication being that some proportion of people think it more important that jobs pay a decent wage than unemployment is minimised). The principle of the government’s approach is backed – 39% think it’s better for government to reduce in-work poverty by forcing business to pay higher wages (even if it increases unemployment) compared to 19% of people who think it is better for government to reduce in-work poverty by using the tax and benefit system (even if it costs a lot). However, asked about their overall perceptions of the budget people think, by 39% to 28%, that it will leave people in low paid jobs worse off. The question the poll hasn’t asked is how much that matters to people. Too what extent, if any, would people rather low paid workers got more money in wages and less in benefits even if they are less well off.

The Guardian themselves seem to have put a pause on reporting their polls, but they are wisely continuing to commission their series of ICM/Guardian polls so as not to leave a gap in the data. Topline figures in the first post-election ICM poll are CON 37%, LAB 31%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%. Tabs are here.

In terms of methodology ICM are using the same method as before the election – except, of course, that the data is weighted using people’s recall of their 2015 vote, not their 2010 vote. ICM’s tables make is abundently clear that is just a holding position, and that they are keeping their old method for the time being while they continue to investigate what went wrong and until they are sure of the right solution.