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.

ICM have released a new constituency poll of Sheffield Hallam, conducted for the Guardian. It shows Nick Clegg holding on to his seat by a margin of seven points over Labour when respondents are asked a voting intention question that includes the names of the candidates standing. Full details are here. As regular readers will recall, previous polling of the seat has shown a much tighter race with Lord Ashcroft’s last poll in Hallam showing Labour ahead by one.

So which poll is correct? Is Nick Clegg likely to hold his seat? The bottom line is while that this piece of evidence does make it look a little more likely that Clegg might hold on, we can’t really be confident what the true position is. The ICM poll had a sample size of 500, the Ashcroft poll had a sample size of 1000. Hence it could well be that there isn’t any difference at all between the polls, that it’s just normal sample variation around a small Lib Dem lead. Its also possible that there has been movement towards Clegg in the days between the two polls as the election looms and people consider a tactical vote.

However a lot has been made of the fact that while both polls had an effort to take account of people’s personal and tactical voting behaviour in their own constituency, they did so in different ways – Ashcroft asks a two stage question, asking people their national preference and then how they will vote thinking about the candidates and parties in their own constituency; ICM asked people the voting intention question including the names of the candidates standing in Sheffield Hallam. Both methods seem to have given a boost to the Lib Dems compared to a generic question, given sample variation and timing we can’t even be certain one did had more impact than the other, let alone which one is more accurate.

One can very easily make a case for one or the other method (Chris Hanretty has a good go here) but really that’s only theorising, we can’t know which way is better unless you test it against some actual elections, and at previous elections constituency polling has been a rare commodity.

In the meantime, Sheffield Hallam remains an interesting race. Normally the idea of party leaders losing seats is regularly drummed up but incredibly unlikely to happen. This time, while my personal expectation is that Clegg will hold on and this poll will probably end up about right, there is a least a non-zero possibility of him being ousted. We shall see.