The ICM/Guardian poll today has topline figures of CON 41%(+1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 7%(-1). Fieldwork was Friday-Sunday, and changes are from ICM’s poll before the Labour conference. As with the polls at the weekend, there’s no significant change here. Theresa May’s conference speech obviously didn’t go as she would have hoped, but it doesn’t really appear to have changed levels of support: 17% of people told ICM her speech had improved their perception of her (mostly Tories who probably liked her anyway), 17% told ICM her speech had damaged their perceptions of her (mostly Labour supporters who probably didn’t like her anyway). Most said it made no difference.

ICM also asked about possible alternative leaders to Theresa May, underlining one of the problems the Conservatives have – in every named case (Johnson, Rudd, Hammond, Rees-Mogg, Patel and Green) people thought they would do worse than Theresa May would at the general election. The only person who the public thought would do better than May was a generic “someone quite young and able who is not currently in government”… which, of course, is a recipe for respondents to imagine an ideal candidate who may very well not exist, especially not among the select group of people with a reasonable chance of winning the leadership of the Conservative party.

Full tabs are here


So far we’ve had three polls conducted since the end of conference speech – YouGov in Friday’s Times, Opinium in today’s Observer and ICM in the Sun on Sunday. The first two included voting intention figures.

The YouGov/Times poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday after Theresa May’s conference speech. Topline figures there were CON 40%(+1), LAB 42%(-1), LDEM 7%(nc) and changes are from immediately before the Labour conference. Tabs are here.

The Opinium poll for the Observer was conducted between Wednesday and Friday (so once again, after Theresa May’s speech) and had topline figures of CON 40%(-2), LAB 42%(+2), LDEM 5%(-1). Changes are from just before the Labour party conference began. Tabs are here.

The two polls show identical two point leads for the Labour party, suggesting that Theresa May’s disastrous leader’s speech hasn’t radically changed levels of party support (the changes since the previous polls are in opposite directions, but neither are statistically significant, so I expect we’re just seeing noise there). Perceptions of the Prime Minister herself may be a different matter, though the public do still seem to be divided on her future.

Opinium did pick up a fall in Theresa May’s own ratings, with her net approval down to minus 16 compared to minus 11 before the conference season. Jeremy Corbyn’s figures were up, from minus 10 before conference to minus 5 now. Theresa May had a three point lead over Jeremy Corbyn on preferred Prime Minister.

YouGov asked about the future of Theresa May as Tory leader and found the public split down the middle – 39% think she should stay, 38% think she should go. As ever, answers like this fall out along very partisan lines – 68% of Tory voters think she should stay, 55% of Labour voters think she should go. Her ratings are mediocre across the board though, her lead over Jeremy Corbyn as best PM has shrunk to only three poonts (36% to 33% – 32% of people said don’t know, suggesting a fairly large chunk of people aren’t enthused by either of them.) 59% of people now think she is doing badly as PM, 31% still think she is doing well.

A third poll by ICM for the Sun on Sunday doesn’t appear to have voting intention figures (or at least, I haven’t seen them yet), but did ask what people thought Theresa May should do now. 29% wanted her to just continue as she is, 32% wanted her to confront her party opponents (18% by having a big reshuffle, 14% by making a “back me or sack me” demand), 13% want her to go immediately, 13% want her to name a future date when she will go.

There was also a BMG poll in the Independent today, but the fieldwork was conducted prior to the Conservative conference. Figures in the newspaper were CON 37%(-2), LAB 42%(+4).


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There were two new voting intention polls yesterday, plus ICM’s fortnightly poll this morning. Topline figures are

ICM/Guardian (22nd-24th): CON 40%(-2), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 8%(+1)
Survation/Mail on Sunday (22nd): CON 38%(nc), LAB 42%(-1), LDEM 8%(+1) (tabs)
Opinium (19th-22nd): CON 42%(+1), LAB 40%(-1), LDEM 6%(+1) (tabs)

Changes are from a fortnight ago for ICM, last week for Opinium and the start of September for Survation.

One Conservative lead, two Labour leads and no consistent trend in either direction. Survation and ICM were both conducted after Theresa May’s Florence speech, so give us the first chance to gauge reactions to it. Survation asked about whether people supported or opposed paying £20bn to the EU during a transition period when Britain had access to the single market – 34% of people said they would support it, 47% said they would be opposed. ICM asked a similar question, but found 41% of people supported the idea and 31% were opposed – the ICM tables aren’t available yet, so I don’t know what the particularl wording was and whether it might explain the difference.


I’ve got an article over on the YouGov website about the difficulty on polling on the Brexit financial settlement (or “Brexit divorce bill” as the more Eurosceptic elements of the press tend to call it). Brexit is obviously a very complicated issue – the Brexit deal will almost inevitably dominate the next year of British politics, yet the complexities of it mean it’s very hard to ask about until there’s actually a deal on the table.

The financial settlement between Britain and the EU should, on the face of it, be one of the more simple issues. On the face of it you might expect it to be fairly simple to ask people what sort of financial settlement the public would think was reasonable and what sort of settlement would have the public thinking Theresa May has struck a poor deal. In fact such questions give us a very poor guide, simply because most people are not particularly good at comprehending very large numbers.

If you ask a question about what a reasonable price is for, for example, a pair of shoes, it should work very well. Everyone knows roughly what shoes cost, and know the value of £10 or £30 or £100. The same does not apply for government spending – £50 billion is an unfathomably large amount of money… but then, so is £20 billion, or £10 billion or £5 billion. Most of us don’t really have any good yardstick for judging just how big or small these huge numbers are, nor whether they are a good or bad deal for Britain.

Nevertheless, if you ask people about a financial settlement people will still express opinions. Back in August there was an ICM/Guardian poll that found 41% of people though a £10bn settlement would be acceptable, up from just 15% in April. This seemed like a startling rise, but as both ICM and the Guardian cautioned, it could just be the way the question was worded. In April ICM first asked about the lower figure of £3bn, but in August £10bn was the lowest they offered.

This seemed like a more plausible explanation to me, but just to be sure we tested it at YouGov. We used a split sample – one half of the respondents got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £5bn, £10bn and £20bn. The other half of the sample got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £25bn, £50bn and £75bn.

On the first bank of questions 38% thought £5bn would be acceptable, 18% thought £10bn would be acceptable, 11% thought that £20bn would be acceptable. Looking at the other half of the sample, 29% thought that £25bn was acceptable, 9% thought that £50bn was acceptable, 6% thought that £75bn would be acceptable (full tabs are here.)

Taken as a whole we get the the rather perverse finding that while support generally falls as the size of the settlement increases, £25 billion is far more acceptable to the public than £20 billion. This is nonsense of course, and the reason is simple enough – people take their cues from the question itself. In the first half of the sample, £5bn was the lowest amount asked about, £20bn the largest amount, and many respondents presumably took this as an implication that £5bn was a low settlement, £20bn a high one. For the second half of the sample £25bn was the lowest figure asked about, so many respondents presumably took the implication that this was a low settlement. Whether people said a sum was acceptable or not was less about the actual number, more about whether the question implied that it was a low or high figure.

The point is that questions about what level of “divorce bill” will be acceptable to the public don’t really tell us much. People don’t have any good way of telling what is a good or bad deal and are really just expressing their unsurprising preference for a smaller settlement. When (or if) Britain and the EU do finally agree on a sum, it won’t be so much the particular figure that determines whether the public see it as a victory or a sell-out, but whether the media and political class present it to them as a good or bad deal.

Meanwhile, lastest GB voting intention figures this week are below – both show the parties pretty much neck-and-neck, neither show any obvious movement:
YouGov/Times (12th-13th Sept) – CON 41%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 3%(-1) (tabs)
ICM/Guardian (8th-10th Sept) – CON 42%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 4%(+1) (tabs)


Two new voting intention polls this week showing very similar figures. YouGov‘s latest poll was actually conducted last week, but was only released today and has topline figures of CON 41%, LAB 42%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 4% (full tabs are here.

The regular ICM poll for the Guardian, conducted over the weekend, has extremely similar topline figures – CON 42%, LAB 42%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 3% (full tabs are here).

ICM also asked about people’s attitudes towards Britain paying a financial settlement as part of our Brexit negotiations (a so-called “exit fee”). ICM asked similar questions back in April and found very little support – only 10% thought paying a £20bn settlement would be acceptable, 15% a £10bn fee and 33% a £3bn exit fee. This time the figures suggested in the question were changed to what are probably more realistic figures and with interesting results – now 9% think a settlement of £40bn would be acceptable, 11% a £30bn settlement, 18% a £20bn settlement, 41% a £10bn settlement.

On the face of it this one might think this is a startling change, a few months ago only 15% thought it would be acceptable to pay a £10bn settlement as part of Brexit, now 41% think it’s acceptable. I think it’s probably actually a good example of the importance of context in a question. Most people are really not that good at putting figures of billions of pounds in context – any sum that involves the words billion is a huge amount of money to begin with, so what would be a relatively small settlement? A moderate settlement? A huge settlement? The only thing respondents have to scale it by is the question itself. In April £3bn was implicitly presented as the small option and £10bn was presented as the medium option. In this poll £10bn is implicitly presented as the small option and £20bn or £30bn are presented as the medium options – hence why a £10bn settlement suddenly seems to be so much more paletable.

That’s not to say the question doesn’t tell us anything at all – there’s still an interesting increase. In April only 33% thought a “small” financial settlement would be acceptable as part of the Brexit deal; now that figure has risen to 41% (despite the actual figure quoted tripling!). It looks as if the public may be moving towards accepting that a financial settlement may be an inevitable part of Brexit.