A brief update on the state of the polls as we head towards Christmas. First let look at voting intention. The six voting intention polls we’ve seen published so far in December have all shown the two main parties essentially neck and neck – two have shown tiny Labour leads, two have shown tiny Conservative leads, two have had them equal (the YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign in the Sunday papers today may have had a slighter larger lead, but it shouldn’t upset the average).

Opinium (14th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 39%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 6%
YouGov (7th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 3%
Kantar (6th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 5%
Ipsos MORI (5th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
YouGov (4th Dec) – CON 40%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
ComRes (2nd Dec) – CON 37%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 6%

Despite the incredibly turbulent situation in British politics, there has been relatively little change in voting intention since the general election. Through late 2017 there was a very small Labour lead, for most of 2018 there was a very small Conservative lead (with a few periods of Labour ahead – most significantly the weeks following the Johnson/Davis resignations). At no point has either party really pulled away. Politics may have been chaos, but voting intention have been steady.

This itself is remarkable given the state of the government at present. If you look at any other measure, they are in a dire situation. The government’s net satisfaction rating in the MORI poll last week was minus 45 (24% satisfied, 69% dissatisfaction). That is comparable to the sort of figures that the Brown government was getting in 2008 or the Thatcher government in 1990… both periods when the opposition had a clear lead in voting intention. Any question asking about the government’s main policy – the delivery of Brexit – shows that a solid majority of people think they are doing badly at implementing it. Today’s poll from Opinium found people thought the party was divided by 69% to 18% (and quite what those 18% of people were thinking I do not know!). And yet, the Conservatives remain pretty much neck-and-neck in the polls.

I can think of three potential explanations (and they are by no means exclusive to one another). The first is that people have simply switched off. The ongoing chaos isn’t impacting people’s voting intention because they are not paying attention. The second is that voting intentions may still be being largely driven by Brexit and, regardless of how well the Conservatives are delivering Brexit, they are the main party that claims it is committed to doing so, and while support for Brexit has fallen, the split in the country is still normally around 47%-53%.

The third potential reason is that Labour are not a particularly attractive option to many voters either – one of the few clear changes in the polls this year is a sharp drop in Jeremy Corbyn’s approval ratings. At the end of last year his approval rating from MORI was minus 7, in the MORI poll last week it was minus 32. On YouGov’s Best Prime Minister question he continues to trail well behind Theresa May (and often both of them trail behind “Not sure”).

While it is interesting to ponder why the voting intention figures remain stable, it’s not necessary particularly meaningful. In the next four months Brexit will either go ahead with a deal that many will dislike, go ahead without any deal with whatever short or long term consequences that may bring, or be delayed or cancelled. Any of these has the potential to have massive impact on support for the parties.

On Brexit itself, public opinion on what should come next is not necessarily much clearer than opinion in Westminster. Throughout 2018 opinion has continued to drift slowly against Brexit – asked if we should remain or leave polls tend to find a modest lead for Remain – typically showing a swing of around 5 points since the referendum (They are helpfully collated by John Curtice here – his average of the last six polls to ask how people would vote now currently shows a Remain lead of 53% to 47%).

While the majority of people don’t support Brexit any longer, that does not necessarily translate into clear
support for stopping it, or indeed for most other courses of action. Poll after poll asks what the government should do next, and there is little clear support for anything. Theresa May’s proposed deal certainly does not have majority support (YouGov’s Sunday Times poll last week found 22% supported it, 51% opposed. MORI’s poll found 62% thought it was a bad thing, 25% good). When Opinium asked what should happen if the deal was defeated, 19% wanted to re-open negotiations, 20% said leave with no deal, 10% said have an election, 30% have a referendum, 11% cancel Brexit altogether. When MORI asked a similar question with slightly different options 16% said renegotiate, 25% said no deal, 10% an election and 30% a referendum.

When polls ask directly about a referendum they tend to find support (although, to be fair, most polls asking about referendums normally find support for then – it is essentially a question asking whether the respondent would like a say, or whether politicians should decide for them). However, a new referendum is obviously a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

And therein lies the problem – there is scant support for most plausible leave outcomes, but reversing Brexit in some way risks a significant minority of voters (and a majority of the government’s supporters) reacting extremely negatively indeed. In the YouGov Sunday Times poll last week they asked what people’s emotional response would be to the most plausible outcomes (current deal, no deal, soft Brexit, referendum and no Brexit). Would people feel delighted, pleased, relived, disappointed, angry, betrayed, or wouldn’t mind either way?

If Britain ended up leaving without a deal 23% would react positively, 53% negatively.
If Britain ended up leaving with the proposed deal, 20% would react positively, 51% negatively.
If Britain ended up with a softer Brexit, staying in the customs union and single market, 27% would react positively, 35% negatively.

Finally, if there was a referendum and Britain voted to stay, 42% would react positively, 39% would react negatively. This is the outcome that would have a positive reaction from the largest proportion of people, but it would also be by far the most divisive. When asked about their reaction to the deal or a soft Brexit, most people gave people towards the middle of the scale – they’d be disappointed, or relieved, or wouldn’t mind. Asked about reversing the decision to Leave, answers tended to the extremes – 26% would be delighted, but 23% would feel betrayed, including 51% of people who voted Brexit back in 2016.


The regular Ipsos MORI political monitor came out in today’s Evening Standard. Topline voting intention figures were CON 39%(+1), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 13%(+3), UKIP 2%(-4). Fieldwork was Friday to Tuesday and changes are from MORI’s last poll in July (they take a month off for August).

As with other recent polls the Conservatives seem to have recovered a tiny lead since falling behind after the Davis & Johnson resignations. Worth noting is that 13% for the Liberal Democrats. This is the highest they have recorded in any poll since the general election. While one shouldn’t read too much into a single poll – especially one whose fieldwork overlapped with the Lib Dem party conference – the wider polling trend does suggest some uplift in Liberal Democrat support: six of the nine polls so far this month have the Liberal Democrats back up in double figures.

The poll also asked about confidence in the Brexit negotiations, finding predictably low figures. 28% of people said they were confident Theresa May would get a good deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations, 70% were not.

There was, however, not much more confidence that alternative Prime Ministers would do any better. 28% were confident Jeremy Corbyn would get a good deal were he Prime Minister, 67% were not. If Boris Johnson was PM 33% would be confident he’d get a good deal, 64% would not.

Full details are here.


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Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor came out today. Topline voting intention figures were CON 41%(-2), LAB 40%(-2), LDEM 10%(+4). Fieldwork was the 20th to 24th April (that is, last weekend, just as the Windrush scandal was getting going) and changes are since last month. The ten point score for the Liberal Democrats is unusually high, the largest share they’ve recorded since the election, though the four point increase in a month is probably exaggerated by an unusually low score a month ago.

Jeremy Corbyn’s personal ratings have fallen noticably. 59% of people now say they are disatisfied with his leadership (up 7), 32% are satisifed (down 5), giving him a net rating of minus 27. This is his lowest rating since his ratings rose so dramatically during the election campaign. In comparison Theresa May’s approval rating was minus 17, the government’s minus 33. The rest of the poll had some more in depth questions on leadership qualities. May scored better than Corbyn on being patriotic (by 29 points), on being good in a crisis (by 18), being a capable leader (by 14) and having sound judgement (by 10). Jeremy Corbyn lead May on personallity (by 23 points), on honesty (by 7 points), and was far less likely to be seen as out of touch (by 25 points).

By 47% to 44% people narrowly disagreed that Theresa May had what it takes to be a good Prime Minister. In comparison, 30% think that Jeremy Corbyn has what it takes, 58% do not. Looking at some potential alternative Tory leaders, by 60% to 12% people think that Michael Gove does not and by 34% to 6% they think Gaving Williamson does not (though note the very high don’t knows). Boris Johnson – once the Tory who could reach parts others could not – has lost his magic: 72% of people think he doesn’t have what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, only 17% do. The best net score was for Ruth Davidson – 29% think she has what it takes to be a good PM, 29% do not.

The full data for the MORI poll is here.

Also out today were the tables for YouGov’s poll last week, which came out in the Times over the weekend but got rather overlooked. Topline figures there were unchanged from the previous week, CON 43%(nc), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc). The fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday, so like MORI, before the Windrush scandal had really played out. We will have to wait for the next round of polling to see if that has had any impact. The full YouGov tables are here


We’ve had three voting intention polls in the last couple of days:

  • Ipsos MORI‘s monthly political monitor had topline figures of CON 43%(+4), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(-3). Fieldwork was over last weekend (Fri-Wed), and changes are from January. Tabs are here.
  • YouGov/Times on Friday has toplines of CON 41%(nc), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 7%(nc). Fieldwork was Mon-Tues and changes are from last week. Tabs are here.
  • Survation/GMB, reported in the Sunday Mirror, has CON 37%(-3), LAB 44%(+1), LDEM 9%(+1). Fieldwork was Wednesday and Thursday, and changes are from the tail end of January. No tabs yet.

There is no clear trend – Labour is steady across the board, Survation have the Tories falling, MORI have them rising. MORI and YouGov show the two main parties neck-and-neck, Survation have a clear Labour lead.

The better Labour position in Survation is typical, but it’s not really clear why. As regular readers will know, Survation do both online and telephone voting intention polls. Their phone polls really do have a significantly different methodology – rather than random digit dialling, they randomly select phone numbers from consumer databases and ring those specific people. That would be an obvious possible explanation for a difference between Survation phone polls and polls from other companies. However, this poll wasn’t conducted by telephone, it was conducted online, and Survation’s online method is pretty similar to everyone else’s.

Survation’s online samples at the general election were much the same as everyone elses. The differences were down to other companies experimenting with things like demographic turnout modelling in order to solve the problems of 2015, approaches that ultimately ended up backfiring. However, polling companies that got it wrong have now dropped the innovations that didn’t work and largely gone back to simpler methods on turnout, meaning there is now no obvious reason for the difference.

Meanwhile, looking at the other questions in the surveys the YouGov poll also included their all their regular EU trackers, following Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches. Neither, unsusprisingly, seem to have made much difference. 29% of people think that the Conservative party’s policy on Brexit is clear, up on a week ago (25%) but still significantly down from January (37%). 36% of people say they support May’s approach to Brexit, barely changed from a week ago (35%). For Labour, just 18% of people now think their Brexit policy is clear (down from 22% straight after Corbyn’s speech), 21% of people say they support the approach that Jeremy Corbyn is taking towards Brexit.


ICM and Ipsos MORI both published their latest voting intention figures last week. Topline voting intentions were

Ipsos MORI/Standard – CON 39%(+2), LAB 42%(+3), LDEM 9%(nc)
ICM/Guardian – CON 41%, LAB 41%, LDEM 7%

Fieldwork for MORI was over last weekend, changes are from November. The ICM poll was part of a larger than usual sample of 5000, conducted between the 10th and 19th of January. I have not included changes since the previous ICM poll, as this one was actually partially conducted before ICM’s last poll. Full tabs are here for MORI, and here for ICM.

ICM also asked some questions about a second EU referendum. Asked how people would vote in a second referendum 45% said they would vote to Remain, 43% to Leave. These figures are broadly typical of most recent polls asking about a second referendum, which tend to show a very small lead for Remain. As in most other cases this is not really due to people changing their minds (the number of Leave voters switching to Remain is pretty much cancelled out by Remain voters switching to Leave), but down to people who did not vote in 2016 disproportionately claiming they would now vote Remain. The referendum question in this poll was not weighted or filtered by likelihood to vote.

ICM found 47% of people agreeing with a a statement that “I think the public should have the chance to take a final decision on whether or not to leave the EU in another referendum when the outcome of the negotiation is known?”. The Guardian have strangely written this up as a rise in Labour support for a second referendum, when ICM don’t appear to have ever asked this question before to compare it to. As all regular readers will know, how you ask a question can produce very different results and questions on a second referendum seem to show particular variation depending on how the question was asked (see an example here from Lord Ashcroft, asking the question in four different ways). In this case the question was asked as an agree/disagree structure (a question format that tends to produce a skew in favour of the statement), and characterised it in terms of “giving the public the chance to take a final decision”. My guess is that the higher support for a second referendum here may well be down to wording rather than a change in support, though as ever, we’ll only really know when we see repeats of questions that have been asked in the past.

Turning to other questions in the MORI poll, they asked a question on whether Donald Trump should be invited to Prince Harry’s wedding. Asked straight, 23% of people thought that he should, 69% that he should not. Half the sample saw an alternate question asking about inviting both Donald Trump *and* Barack Obama – this produced a slightly less negative response with 39% in favour, but still 54% against.