Ipsos MORI released their monthly political monitor yesterday, topline voting intention numbers are CON 37%, LAB 31%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 9%. These are on the basis of some minor interim changes to methodology (in this case adding how habitually people vote to the turnout model) while the inquiry continues longer term solutions are worked upon. Tabs are here. MORI also asked a question about whether people thought the four Labour leadership candidates had what it took to be a good Prime Minister. Andy Burnham had the best score (or the least worst) – 27% of people thought he did, 27% disagreed. In comparison 22% thought Yvette Cooper did, 16% Liz Kendall and 17% Jeremy Corbyn.

YouGov also published the rest of their poll of Labour party members, conducted for the Times. Tables for part one of the research are here, part two here. The second wave included a question on why party members are voting as they are, showing the contrast between what is driving Burnham, Cooper, Kendall and Corbyn voters. Burnham supporters say they are backing him because he has the best chance of winning, will unite the party and will be the best opposition to the Conservatives. The answers from Cooper supporters are similar, though there is less emphasis on party unity. For Kendall supporters the key reason to back her is seen as having the best change of winning, followed by the being the strongest opposition – 31% of her supporters say they are backing her as a break from Ed Miliband’s party, and only 10% see her as a unifier. The drivers for supporters of Jeremy Corbyn contrast sharply with the other three – only 5% of his supporters say they are backing him as the candidate who has the best chance of winning in 2020, only 5% are backing him as a unifier, the reasons are overwhelmingly because they think he has the best policies and because they think he is a break from New Labour.


A week or so ago Stephen Bush at the New Statesman wrote a piece about how “private polling” from a couple of the Labour leadership campaigns was showing Jeremy Corbyn ahead. At the time I was all set to write a “private polling is nothing special, and there’s no reason to believe it above the published stuff” post, except there wasn’t actually any published stuff. Now there is, and it’s in line with the private polling Stephen was apparently shown.

AYouGov poll of Labour party members (including £3 supporters and trade unionists who have registered to vote) in tomorrow’s Times has first round preferences are CORBYN 43%, BURNHAM 26%, COOPER 20%, KENDALL 11%. As might be expected, Corbyn’s large lead on the first round is chipped away by reallocations of the second preferences of Kendall and Cooper voters in the second and third rounds, but it’s not enough – Corbyn still narrowly beats Burnham by 53% to 47% in the final round.

In the deputy race Tom Watson has a clear lead with 42% to Stella Creasy on 21%, Caroline Flint on 17%, Ben Bradshaw on 11% and Angela Eagle on 10%. Watson comfortably wins once second preferences are reallocated.

So Jeremy Corbyn, who only got onto the ballot by Labour MPs “lending” him votes to broaden the debate, looks like he has serious chance of winning. The Labour leadership race still has weeks to go so there is time for things to change. What I am pondering is how many Labour members were voting Corbyn in order to send a message about Labour staying true to its roots and principles rather than actually wanting him as leader, might they recoil at the thought of him actually winning? Or alternatively, might him being ahead add strength to his campaign now it looks like he could actually do it? We shall see…


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Polling news round up

Labour leadership

Regular polling remains sparse given the ongoing inquiry and that we’re in that odd sort of political interregnum with Labour yet to elect their new leaders, but there have been a couple of polls on the Labour contest and the EU. A new ORB poll on the Labour leadership earlier in the week showed Andy Burnham was seen as the candidate most likely to help Labour’s chances at the next election (36%), followed by Liz Kendall on 25%. Full tabs are here.

I would be extremely cautious of polling about the Labour leadership election. Essentially there are two real questions about the Labour leadership – who is going to win, and who would be best at winning votes for Labour. For the first one, we need a poll of Labour party members, and we don’t have a recent one (there is some data from a YouGov poll of party members for Tim Bale & Paul Webb, but that was done straight after the election before the candidates were clear). For the second, I suspect any data is fatally flawed by the public’s low awareness of the candidates – right now, polls about the Labour leadership are little more than name recognition contests. Looking at the tables for the ORB poll it looks to me as if the main reason the prospective leaders scored so highly is that the question didn’t offer a don’t know option, if it had, I bet the don’t knows would have had a runaway victory.

Worth looking at as a corrective is this ICM poll on the Labour leadership that asked people to identify photos of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn. 23% were able to identify Burnham, 17% Cooper, 10% Kendall and 9% Corbyn. Essentially, if 90% of the respondents to a poll can’t even recognise a photo of Liz Kendall or Jeremy Corbyn, how good a judge are they going to be on what sort of Labour leader they’d be? “I’m a particular fan of the one I’ve never heard of and know nothing at all about” said no one, ever.

Sky poll on the EU

SkyNews have released a poll they have carried out themselves amongst a panel of BSkyB subscribers. The poll itself shows nothing particularly new (people think the EU is good for the British economy by 39% to 31%, etc, etc), but the concept itself is interesting – it’s a proper effort to get a representative sample from their subscriber database, weighted by age, gender, past vote, Experian segment (as an alternative to class), ethnicity, tenure and so on. It is, however, unavoidably only made up of Sky subscribers, which will bring with it its own biases. The question is to what extent those biases can be cancelled by their weighting and sampling. We shall see. The tables for this first poll are here.

Parliamentary debates

Last week there were two Parliamentary debates on regulating opinion polls. The first, last Thursday, was prompted by Lord Lipsey and concerned whether polling companies needed regulating to prevent them asking leading and biased questions – though it was largely made up of the specifics of one single poll on mitochondrial donation. The other was the second reading of George Foulkes private members bill regulating opinion polls, which includes a good response from Andrew Cooper of Populus. Lord Bridges for the government stated they had no plans to regulate polls. Lord Foulkes’s bill was nodded through to the committee stage, so will trundle on for a little longer.

Herding pollsters

Finally there’s a great piece by Matt Singh on pollster herding here. Matt mentions some of the possible reasons for herding, but more importantly actually does the sums on whether there was any herding… and finds there wasn’t. The spread between different pollsters in the final polls was very much in line with what you’d expect to find.


Opinion polls are a little light at the moment, and probably will be for the next few weeks. Even at the best of times there is little polling in the weeks immediately following a general election – we’ve just had an actual general election to judge people’s voting behaviour, attention is elsewhere and newspapers will generally have blown their polling budgets in the campaign. I’d expect even less polling over the next few weeks because of the errors in the polls at the general election. Some of the long running trackers like the ICM/Guardian series and MORI political monitor will likely continue just to avoid a gap in the data series, but generally speaking most of the regular polls will probably pause for a bit while they work out what went wrong and sort out solutions to it.

As it is, the next political events we have too look forward to aren’t about Great Britain anyway, but the Scottish, Welsh and London elections next year – I’m sure polling on them will start firing up in the next few months. The other, more immediate, race is the Labour leadership election.

We have had a little polling on that already – the YouGov/Sunday Times poll at the weekend (results here) asked the general public their preferences for Labour leader. Chuka Umunna came first on 17% (fieldwork was conducted before he withdrew), followed by Andy Burnham on 14%, Yvette Cooper on 8%, Tristram Hunt on 3%, Liz Kendall on 2% and Mary Creagh on 1%. Amongst Labour’s own voters Andy Burnham was ahead on 22%, with Chuka Umunna on 19%.

Obviously the key conclusion here isn’t really who is ahead… it’s how low anyone’s figures are. 55% of the general public said don’t know, 40% of Labour voters said don’t know. YouGov also asked separately about if people thought each of the contenders would make a good or bad leader, and in each case a clear majority of respondents said they didn’t know or didn’t know enough about the person to say. This is a race where the public simply aren’t familiar with the personalities of the candidates to have any clear opinion yet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the next Labour leader – the public having no clear image of you is better than having negative baggage – it just means they need to be pretty careful to make sure people’s first impressions are good ones, as they are difficult to shift once the public have formed an impression.

On the other outstanding issue – what caused the polling error – I’m beavering away at looking at what caused the errors and how to put them right, as I am sure are the other companies. I’m not planning on giving a running commentary, though I gave some thoughts at the end of last week on Keiran Pedley’s Polling Matter’s podcast here.


After the first leaders debate there was a single poll showing Ed Miliband with a better approval rating that David Cameron. It produced a typical example of rubbish media handling of polls – everyone got all excited about one unusual poll and talked about it on news bulletins and so on, giving it far more prominence than the far greater number of polls showing the opposite. Nevertheless, it flagged up a genuine increase in Ed Miliband’s ratings.

I talk about leader ratings, but the questions different companies ask actually vary greatly. Opinium, for example, ask if people approve or disapprove of what each leader is doing, YouGov ask if they are doing a well or badly, ICM if they are doing a good or bad job. To give an obvious example of how these could produce different figures, UKIP have quadrupled their support since the election, so objectively it’s quite hard to argue that Nigel Farage hasn’t done well as UKIP leader…but someone who supported EU membership and freedom of movement probably probably wouldn’t approve of his leadership.

The graph below shows the net ratings for David Cameron and Ed Miliband from the four pollsters who ask leader ratings at least monthly (ComRes, ICM and Ashcroft all ask their versions of the question too, but not as frequently).

leaderatings

You can see there is quite a lot of variation between pollsters, but the trends are clear. Ed Miliband’s ratings have improved over the course of the campaign, though on most pollsters’ measures he remains significantly behind David Cameron. The main exception is Survation’s rating – I suspect this is because of the time frame of their question (Survation ask people to think specifically about the last month, other companies just ask in general – my guess is that the difference is people thinking Ed Miliband has done well in the campaign). Cameron’s ratings too have improved from three of the four pollsters, but not to the extent of Miliband’s.

What’s the impact of this? Theoretically I suppose it makes the potential for voters to be deterred from voting Labour by their lack of confidence in Ed Miliband that bit smaller. Whether that’s any real difference or not is a different matter – on one hand, while it is one of the Conservative party’s hopes that Miliband’s poor ratings will drive people towards voting Tory at the last minute, that’s very different to it actually happening. This could be the case of a window closing upon something that didn’t see to be happening anyway. The alternative point of view is that no one realistically expects some vast last swing producing a Tory landside – we are talking about grinding out a few percentage points at the margins. Hence Miliband’s ratings overall don’t necessarily make much difference – much of the increase is amongst Labour’s own voters anyway – it’s how he is seen amongst those small groups who are undecided whether or not to vote for Labour, and those who undecided whether or not to vote Tory to stop Miliband.

As we come to the final weeks of the election campaign, that’s a key to understanding a lot of polling. Most voters have already made their minds up (and even many of those who say they haven’t, are probably less likely to switch than they think they are). As postal votes have started to go out, an increasing number of people will have actually voted anyway. Most things that happen over the next two and a half weeks will have no impact on public opinion anyway – for those that do, it’s not national opinion that will make a difference, it’ll be the impact on that dwindling group of people who may yet be persuaded.