February’s monthly Populus poll has been published – the topline figures with changes from last month are CON 37%(+1) LAB 36%(-3) LD 18% (+2).

Populus’s last poll was taken in the middle of Charlie Kennedy’s ousting had shown the Lib Dems down at 16%, the latest poll suggests that most of the damage from Kennedy’s resignation and the Oaten scandal was short-term.

The poll also puts the Conservatives ahead – until now Populus’s polls had been somewhat anomolous in continuing to show a Labour lead. The other questions in Populus’s poll suggest that David Cameron’s attempts to improve the parties image are slowly succeeding – the percentage of people thinking the Conservative party cares about the problems of ordinary people is up 4 points, the percentage of people thinking they have a strong team of leaders is up 2 points. The Tories are also seen as the most united party – mainly due to a 7 point fall in Labour’s junity rating and an understandable 22 point drop for Lib Dems.

Populus also found that opposition to the war in Iraq had reached a new high – on the weekend of the 100th British death 59% of people said the war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do, with only 31% continuing to back the war. 62% favoured the withdrawal of British troops.


There have been several polls covering Iraq since the clash between British forces and Iraqi police in Basra last month. There was a BPIX poll in last week’s Mail on Sunday, an ICM poll in last week’s Sunday Express, another ICM poll in the Guardian and a YouGov poll for Channel 5. All of them told pretty much the same story.

Firstly, the British public are pessimistic about the ability of British troops to do any good in Iraq. In the Guardian poll only 12% told ICM that British troops were managing to improve the security situation, while 64% thought it was getting worse. In ICM’s other poll, 46% of the public said that British troops were doing more harm than good, with only 32% disagreeing. BPIX found that 58% thought the situation in Iraq would get worse in the future, with only 14% thinking things would get better.

All of the polls touched on when Britain should pull troops out of Iraq. The YouGov poll for Channel 5 asked the straightforward question of whether British troops should be pulled out – 57% said yes. BPIX’s poll for the Mail on Sunday asked when troops should be withdrawn – getting on for half the public wanted troops out this year, either now (25%) or before Christmas (19%), with a further 23% wanting them out within 12 months. Only 27% opted for an open ended commitment until Iraq was stable. ICM’s poll for the Sunday Express gave respondents the choice of either “now” (38%) or “when the situation has settled” (58%) – the poll was conducted in the days immediately after the clash between British troops and Iraqi police in Basra, so it’s open to question whether people interpreted “the situation” to mean the long term situation or the short term situation. While different questions and different answer options give slightly different results, the bottom line is that a substantial minority now want troops out immediately.

The two ICM polls also asked if Britain should be making plans to withdraw troops at some point regardless of the security situation, or whether they should stay until the situation improved. Again, different wordings produced different answers – the Sunday Express poll found that 43% thought Britain should withdraw regardless of the situation, the Guardian poll found that 51% though Britain should “set out a timetable for withdrawal” regardless of the situation.

People remain very unhappy with Tony Blair’s handling of Iraq – the ICM/Sunday Express poll found that 22% thought Blair’s policies on Iraq had been a success, while 60% thought they had been a failure. 25% of people told BPIX they thought that Tony Blair’s handling of Iraq had been good, but 75% thought it poor.

Finally the ICM/Sunday Express poll asked if the whole Iraq war and the removal of Saddam Hussein had made the world, and the Middle East specifically safer places. In both cases people thought it hadn’t – 56% said the Middle East had become more dangerous, while 60% thought the world in general was now a more dangerous place.


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