The Sun had fresh YouGov voting intention figures today, fieldwork conducted straight after Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. Topline figures are CON 37%(-2), LAB 31%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 17%(+1) – changes are since YouGov’s last poll in mid-September, just after Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Tabs are here.

The rest of the poll repeated some of the questions YouGov asked just after Ed Miliband became Labour leader, five years ago. Corbyn’s figures are worse than the ratings Miliband had at the time and as I wrote in relation to the Ipsos MORI poll earlier in the week, while Corbyn’s ratings aren’t that bad at first glance, brand new leaders normally get some leeway from the public, so they are bad when compared to the ratings new leaders have usually got.

YouGov also repeated the bank of party image statements they normally ask at conference time, testing positive and negative lines about the Labour party. The figures are (remarkably) close to what they were five years ago when Labour first entered opposition – 71% think Labour need to make major changes to their policies and beliefs to be fit for goverment (up 2 from 2010), 58% think they have lost touch with ordinary working people (down 1), 56% think they haven’t faced up to the damaged they caused to the economy (down 4), 44% think they care about helping all groups, not just the few (up 2), 39% think their core values and principles are still relevant (down 2), 42% think they would cut spending in a fairer and more compassionate way than the government (up 1).

The only areas* where there is a significant shift since 2010 are the claim that Labour are a party only for immigrants, welfare recipients and trade unionists (49% agreed in 2010, now only 42%) and the claim that if Labour returned to government they’d get the country into even more debt (47% agreed in 2010, 53% agree now).

Afrer five years in opposition, Labour don’t really seem to have made much progress at all in nullifying their perceived weaknesses. There is still an underlying strength in their brand – a large chunk of the public do think their heart in the right place, that they care about the many not the few, that they are more caring than the Tories. The big weaknesses though remain those negative perceptions about the economy and the belief they’ve lost touch with their ordinary supporters – the challenge for the next five years is to address those.

(*There was also a big shift in a question about whether Labour will be ready for a quick return to office after a short period in opposition. We debated whether to keep that statement from 2010, given Labour have now been in opposition for five years. We decided to keep it because it can still make sense if you interpret it as being a short period from now, but given we’re assuming people will interpret it differently I wouldn’t really compare 2010 and 2015 on that one)

ComRes and YouGov both had post-Corbyn polls in the Indy on Sunday/Sunday Mirror and Sunday Times respectively. Tabs are here – Comres, YouGov.

ComRes had topline voting intention figures of CON 42% (+2), LAB 30%(+1), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 13%(nc), GRN 3%(-1). Changes are since their August poll and show no obvious impact from Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader.

YouGov had topline figures of CON 39%, LAB 31%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 3%. YouGov haven’t released voting intention figures since May, but as you can see, the gap between Labour and the Conservatives is barely changed from the election (the difference between the 12 point Tory lead in ComRes and the 8 point Tory lead in YouGov will be at least partially because ComRes have adopted their new socio-economic turnout model, which weights down younger and poorer voters who are historically less likely to vote. YouGov are still reviewing their methods post-election).

YouGov included some more questions about early attitudes towards Jeremy Corbyn. Most people don’t think he has much chance of being Prime Minister (only 14% think it’s likely), but beyond that attitudes are currently quite evenly divided. 30% think he’s strong enough to be a good leader, 41% think he is not.

36% of people agree with the description that Corbyn has dangerous and unworkable views and would be a threat to the economy and national security, but 32% agree with the description that he’s a man of integrity & principle who has caught the mood of people disillusioned by politics. 7% don’t agree with either, 6% agree with both (which is fair enough – one could be a decent and principled man with unworkable and dangerous views!).

YouGov also asked about a list of policies that have been supported by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the past, announced by Corbyn or floated as possible Labour policies. Again, they found a mixed bag. Some, like withdrawal from NATO, negotiating over the Falklands and abolishing the benefit cap are extremely unpopular, but other things like a higher top rate of tax, rent controls and nationalising the utility companies meet with wide public approval.

The rest of ComRes’s poll had bank of favourable/unfavourable opinion questions on leading politicians. Boris Johnson had the most favourable net score of those asked about with plus 8, followed by David Cameron on minus 7, Theresa May (minus 11), Vince Cable (minus 14), George Osborne (minus 17), Jeremy Corbyn (minus 18), Nicola Sturgeon (minus 19), Nick Clegg (minus 27).

Tom Watson actually had a comparatively good score – minus 8 – but on a low number of responses (71% said don’t know or no opinion), Tim Farron and John McDonnell got similarly high don’t knows, though more negative scores. At this stage, the public simply aren’t familiar enough with them to hold any strong positive or negative opinions.

UPDATE: I missed a third national GB poll, Opinium for the Observer. They had topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%. Opinium also included a best PM question (Cameron 41%, Corbyn 22%) and had some figures on whether Labour under Corbyn could win that were a little more optimistic for them – 32% think Labour could definitely or probably win under Corbyn, 55% though they probably or definitely could not. Tabs are here.


I really don’t like “does X make you more or less likely to vote” questions. On policy questions they are particularly abhorrent as they are used to try and measure salience – or more often, to try and deliberately overstate the salience of an issue. It’s inevitably some pressure group, the campaign for ponies or whatever, asking a question saying “If party X offered you a pony would you be more likely to vote for them?”. Everyone says yes, as they like free ponies, and you end up with a press release saying that 70% of people will change their vote based on the issue of pony-ownership, and ponies are going to be the key election deciding issue. Sigh.

When it comes to questions about party leadership the question isn’t that bad (it’s one of the few contexts where I use that question structure myself) because it isn’t normally being used to gauge the salience of party leadership, it’s normally being used to see if a leader or potential leader has a positive or negative impact.

There is nothing wrong with a question asking if Jeremy Corbyn has made people more or less likely to vote Labour… but you need to be careful with interpretation. The overall figures will include a big chunk of people saying Corbyn makes them less likely to vote Labour who would never have voted Labour anyway, and a big chunk of existing Labour voters saying Corbyn makes them more likely to vote Labour (it’s why when YouGov ask the question we try to encourage those people to say no difference by offering opinions of “No difference, I was/wasn’t going to vote X anyway”).

The interesting bits are people who DID vote Labour last time, and say they are less likely, and people who voted for parties other than Labour last time and say they are more likely. But even then “more or less likely” is not a particularly high criteria to meet – “less likely” is a long way short of “not going to”. So a headline like the Independent’s today saying “Corbyn loses fifth of Labour voters”, based on 20% of Labour voters agreeing with a statement that with Corbyn as leader they are more likely to vote Tory is over-egging it. Those voters aren’t necessarily lost, they may still vote Labour tomorrow, their likelihood of Labour has just dropped to some degree. We’ll have to wait for some voting intention polls to see if there has been any substantial net damage to Labour’s support.

YouGov had a poll in this morning’s Times asking some first impressions of Jeremy Corbyn from what people had seen so far (tables here). 31% of people said they were delighted or pleased by Corbyn’s victory, 34% of people were disappointed or dismayed – 35% had no strong feelings or don’t know.

Looking at people who voted Labour in 2015, 45% responded positively to Corbyn’s election, 13% said they were disappointed, 14% dismayed. By 50% to 29% 2015 Labour voters expect Corbyn to do well as leader. The idea that most Labour voters are in despair isn’t true – most seem happy enough at the moment with their new leader. There is, however, a significant minority of 2015 Labour voters who really aren’t happy at all.

Later on in the survey YouGov asked people if they would trust Jeremy Corbyn to make the right decisions on various issues – the only one were he came up positively was the NHS, normally a safe issue for Labour, where 40% would trust his judgement, 34% would not. Everywhere else he struggled – only 28% would trust him on government spending and cuts, 27% on tax, 24% on immigration, 23% on the economy, just 20% on defence. It almost goes without saying that hardly any Tory voters would trust him, ditto for UKIP voters (some have suggested Corbyn could win back votes from UKIP, perhaps he could, but the poll here shows what a challenge it will be). More worrying here is the sizeable chunk of people who voted Labour in 2015, but don’t trust Corbyn on key issues. 21% of Labour voters wouldn’t trust him on spending, 35% wouldn’t trust him on defence, 26% wouldn’t trust him to run the economy.

Labour’s performance at the last election was poor to begin with and Corbyn needs to hold onto those Labour voters who are currently saying they don’t trust him (he can try to replace them instead with non-voters, Green converts and so on… but then he’s trying to attract new voters just to make up for those he may be losing. Labour need to keep their existing voters AND attract new ones.)

Of course it’s early days and Corbyn has a long time to build trust. To use a well worn metaphor, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That said, Corbyn’s start hasn’t been good: rather than a honeymoon, he’s had an initial week of bad press and perceived gaffes. It’s not a surprise that his initial ratings are negative given the media prism that most of the public have seen him through… but like it or not, that is the politics we have. We can only measure the opinion of the actual public – the actual voters, not some imaginary public where Corbyn got a better press. First impressions count, and the public’s first impressions of Jeremy Corbyn don’t seem good.

Jeremy Corbyn wins

Jeremy Corbyn has, as expected, won the Labour leadership election. I say as expected but the reality is we didn’t actually have that much evidence to go on during the campaign – noise on Twitter and size of crowds at campaign meetings are bunk, the reports of what the campaigns canvassing operations found were very erratic and while we had concrete figures for local party nominations we didn’t know how good a guide that would be to how local members actually voted. The expectation that Jeremy Corbyn was going to win was based upon the polls, or more specifically, two YouGov polls, both conducted for the Times.

We only have to go back a few months to another election when there was a wide expectation of a particular result, based on what the polling evidence was telling us and it didn’t work out so well. Polling an internal party election is a very different challenge to polling a general election, in many ways a more difficult one – you have to track down respondents from a very small pool. The huge influx of new members and registered supporters made this election particularly tricky – YouGov had more demographic data about Labour party members than they did when they polled the 2010 leadership election, but that was only about half the electorate. The rest were an unknown quantity. Rationally I was confident in the polling showing Corbyn was ahead, not least because it showed Corbyn winning amongst every demographic group, but that didn’t stop the nagging fear that come Saturday Jeremy Corbyn would have trailled in last place and the whole of the media would have been following the wrong story based on wrong polls.

In the event, the YouGov poll actually seems to have matched up well against the final result, though there was a month between fieldwork and the end of the contest. The last poll was conducted back in August, and had figures of Corbyn 53%, Burnham 21%, Cooper 18%, Kendall 8%. This was before registration to take place in the election closed and a couple of days later when Labour released the final figures for the number of members, supporters and affiliates YouGov reweighted the figures to reflect the proper balance of the electorate. That took Corbyn’s share up to 57%. In the event Corbyn won with 59.5%

With the contest over, now we wait to see what the impact will be. I wrote at greater length here about what the polls could tell us about how well or badly Jeremy Corbyn will do (long and the short of it, as far as direct evidence is concerned they can’t tell us much). Personally I wouldn’t expect some immediate crisis in Labour support unless the party completely rips itself apart (most people simply don’t pay enough attention to what the opposition party is up to!), there could even be a short term boost from a new leader. We shall see.