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.


ICM post-debate poll

ICM did a rapid “who won” poll after the Paxman interviews with Cameron and Miliband tonight. Cameron won over Miliband by 54% to 46% – we won’t know until the tables appear, but I expect that going to show Labour voters thinking Miliband won, Conservative voters thinking Cameron won, the rest splitting evenly and not many minds changed. Still, we’ll see if there is any longer term effect in the next week’s polls. I wouldn’t have imagined there will be – while the debate was new in 2010, events like tonight’s Paxman interviews or the leaders’ Question Time style event next month aren’t new – there were things just like that in2005 and 2001 and they made bog all difference to anything.

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%. A Tory lead today after some ties and Labour leads so far this week, suggesting the underlying average in YouGov’s daily polls is still neck-and-neck.

UPDATE: ICM tables are now up here (thanks to that fine man Tom Clark!). As expected, perceptions of who won fell pretty much along the lines of pre-existing party support – 84% of Conservatives thought Cameron won, 74% of Labour supporters thought Miliband won, Lib Dems were split, Ukippers thought Cameron won, Greens thought Miliband won. Note that while the sample was demographically and politically weighted to be nationally representative, it was a very heavily Labour sample in terms of current voting intention: the pre-debate voting intentions of the sample had an 10% Labour lead (thus are the difficulties of doing things like this – people who watch programmes like this are different from your average voter!)


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Monday polls

The usual glut of polls for a Monday. Today we have the weekly Ashcroft poll, the twice weekly Populus poll, the monthly ICM poll and – later on – the daily YouGov.

  • Ashcroft’s weekly poll has topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 29%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%. The Conservatives remain ahead, but not by as much as in the last two Ashcroft polls (full details here)
  • ICM show a similar picture (though, as usual with these two pollsters, there are higher shares for Con and Lab from ICM than from Ashcroft): a Tory lead, but a smaller lead than the unusually large one they recorded last month. Topline voting intention figures with changes from a month ago are CON 36%(nc), LAB 35%(+3), LDEM 8%(-2), UKIP 9%(nc), GRN 4%(-3).
  • The movement in Populus is in the other direction – their recent polls have been showing a Labour lead, today’s topline figures are neck and neck: CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5% (full details here)

So, two Tory leads and a dead heat today (so far), two Labour leads and a dead heat yesterday. Realistically I can see nothing that gives me any confidence that either party is sneaking ahead, all suggests they are still neck and neck.

Also today we had a new projection out – the Polling Observatory team’s model here, which unlike the other models I report in my Friday round up is currently projecting Labour to have more seats than the Tories (there’s a full explanation of the method through the link – but put crudely the difference between their model and Steve Fisher’s is that Steve assumes the polls will move slightly back towards the 2010 result (meaning the Tories go up, Labour go down), while the Polling Observatory assume the polls will move slightly back towards their long term average (meaning both the Tories AND Labour go up). They’ll be updating fortnightly, so I’ll add them to the Friday round ups.


Monday polls

It’s Monday, so we have the usual rush of polls – the daily YouGov, twice-weekly Populus, weekly Ashcroft and monthly ICM. I’ll update this post as they come in, and do a round up at the end of the day.

Populus have topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 33%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5%. Tables are here.

ICM for the Guardian have figures of CON 36%(+6), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 10%(-1), UKIP 9%(-2), GRN 7%(-2). The six point jump for the Conservatives looks particularly sharp but usual caveats apply. While it tends to be the polls that show unusual results or big changes that get all the attention, they are actually the ones we should be most dubious about. If there has been a genuine surge in Conservative support, then we’ll see it across all the pollsters, and other polls so far this month have shown things pretty stable.

The weekly Ashcroft poll has topline figures of CON 30%(-4), LAB 31%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 16%(+2), GRN 8%(+2) (full details here). A one point Labour lead, and changes in the opposite direction to those in the ICM poll – I think we can be fairly confident that what we are seeing with these two is just random noise, the back and forth of normal sample error.

UPDATE: The last of today’s four polls, YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 32%, LD 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%. After a couple of three point leads at the tail end of last week, it’s back to neck-and-neck from YouGov. Putting all four polls together I think it’s pretty much business as usual. One neck-and-neck, one Tory lead, two Labour leads. There is nothing here that’s incompatible with the steady picture we’ve had for the last six weeks: an extremely close race between Labour and Conservative, with Labour holding onto a tiny lead.


Rob Hayward, the former Tory MP turned psephologist, gave a presentation at ComRes on Monday which has stirred up some comment about whether the polls are underestimating Conservative support.

Historically the polls have tended to underestimate Conservative support and/or overestimate Labour support. It was most notable in 1992, but was a fairly consistent historical pattern anyway. Since the disaster of 1992 this bias has steadily reduced as pollsters have gradually switched methods and adopted some form of political control or weighting on their samples. In 2010 – at last! – the problem seemed to have been eliminated. I hope that the polling industry has now tackled and defeated the problem of Labour bias in voting intention polls, but it would be hubris to assume that because we’ve got it right once the problem has necessarily gone away and we don’t need to worry about it anymore.

In his presentation Rob compared polls last year with actual elections – the polls for the European elections, for the by-elections and for the local elections.

I looked at how the polls for the European election did here and have the same figures as Rob. Of the six pollsters who produced figures within a week or so of the election five underestimated Conservative support. The average level of Tory support across those polls was 22.2%, the Tories actually got 23.9%. The average for Labour was 27%, when they actually got 25.4%.

Looking at by-elections, Rob has taken ten by-election polls from 2014 and compared them to results. Personally I’d be more wary. By-election campaigns can move fast, and some of those polls were taken a long time before the actual campaign – the Clacton polls, for example, were conducted a month before the actual by-election took place, so any difference between the results and the polling could just as likely be a genuine change in public opinion. Taking those polls done within a week or so of the actual by-elections shows the same pattern though – Conservatives tend to be underestimated (except in Heywood and Middleton), Labour tends to be overestimated.

Finally in Rob’s presentation he has a figure for polls at the local elections in 2014. I think he’s comparing the average of national Westminster polls at the time with Rallings and Thrasher’s NEQ, which I certainly wouldn’t recommend – the Lib Dems for example always do better in local election NEQ than in national polls, but it’s because they are different types of election, not because the national polls are wrong). As it happens there was at least one actual local election poll from Survation.

Survation local election: CON 24%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13%, UKIP 18%, Others 10%
R&T local election vote: CON 26%, LAB 36%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 16%, Others 12%

Comparing it to the actual result (that is, the actual total votes cast at the local election, which is what Survation were measuring, NOT the National Equivalent Vote) these figures were actually pretty good, especially given the sample size was only 312 and that it will be skewed in unknown ways by multi-member wards. That said, the pattern is the same- it’s the Conservatives who are a couple of points too low, Labour spot on.

So, Rob is right to say that polls in 2014 that could be compared to actual results tended to show a skew away from the Conservatives and towards Labour. Would it be right to take a step on from that and conclude that the national Westminster polls are showing a similar pattern? Well, let me throw out a couple of caveats. To take the by-election polls first, these are conducted solely by two companies – Lord Ashcroft and Survation… and in the case of Survation they are done using a completely different method to Survation’s national polling, so cannot reasonably be taken as an indication of how accurate their national polling is. ICM is a similar case, their European polling was done online while all their GB Westminster polling is done by telephone. None of these examples includes any polling from MORI, Populus or ComRes’s telephone polling – in fact, given that there were no telephone based European polls, the comparison doesn’t include any GB phone polls at all, and looking at the house effects of different pollsters, online polls tend to produce more Labour-friendly figures than telephone polls do.

So what can we conclude? Well, looking at the figures by-election polls do seem to produce figures that are a bit too Laboury, but I’d be wary of assuming that the same pattern necessarily holds in national polls (especially given Survation use completely different methods for their constituency polling). At the European elections the polls also seemed to be a bit Laboury… but the pollsters who produced figures for that election included those pollsters that tend to produce the more Laboury figures anyway, and didn’t include any telephone pollsters. It would be arrogant of me to rule out the possibility that the old problems of pro-Labour bias may return, but for the time being consider me unconvinced by the argument.

UPDATE: Meanwhile the Guardian have published their monthly ICM poll, with topline figures of CON 30%(+2), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 11%(-3), UKIP 11%(-3), GRN 9%(+4) – another pollster showing a significant advance for the Green party.