Economic Optimism

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in my write ups of the weekly YouGov/Sunday Times polls, but I thought it worth looking at more closely. Without much comment it appears that people are gradually becoming more optimistic about the economy (or given the net figures are still negative, less pessimistic). There are there regular polls on economic optimism – the YouGov ones for the Sunday Times (actually YouGov do several different trackers on economic optimism, but they are all showing the same pattern), Ipsos MORI in their monthly political monitor and a monthly poll by Gfk NOP for the European Commission. All three are shown in the graph below:

As you can see, the three lines show slightly different results (they ask different questions, and NOP calculate their net figure a different way), but the trends are broadly the same, and all three show a uptick in May this year (though the NOP uptick is less dramatic than the YouGov and MORI ones).

What remains to be seen is whether it is sustained – the graph show previous spikes in economic optimism that eventually came to nowt, more economic bad news could do the same here. If it is sustained, the question becomes what effect it has on politics. My own view is that some degree of economic optimism and recovery (even if very slight) is a prerequisite for the Conservatives to stand a chance at the next election, though by no means enough on its own.

Worth keeping an eye on.


ID cards update

There are two regular tracking surveys of attitudes toward ID cards – the Home Office commission one, formerly carried out by TNS, now NOP, and the anti-ID card pressure group No2ID commission one, carried out by ICM. Both have released new figures over the last few months, and both show opinion moving against ID cards, albeit, with very different topline figures.

The latest wave of the Home Office data shows 56% approving of the “National Identity Service, including identity cards”, 27% opposed – a net approval of +29, down from +35 in their previous survey.

Meanwhile ICM’s poll for No2ID found 38% thought that ID cards were a good idea, 60% a bad idea – a net approval of -22, down from +2.

So both show opinion moving against ID cards, but overall opinion is vastly different. This is almost certainly down to the different way the questions are asked. In the Home Office polling respondents are first asked why they think the government is introducing ID cards, which will put them in mind of potential benefits of the card, and likely produces a higher approval rating. In No2ID’s polling, the likely cost of an ID card is mentioned in the question, which likely reduces the proportion of people who think it is a good idea.


The Electoral Commission have released a study by NOP into how many people in London aren’t actually registered to vote. NOP found 20% of people in London between 18 and 25 weren’t registered and 27% of people between 25 and 34 weren’t. In comparison, only 5% of over 65s and 8% of 55-64s are unregistered.

It looks as though these are mostly likely to be disproportionately votes that would otherwise go to Ken Livingstone. Older people are the most pro-Boris group and registration also tends to be lower amongst people in rented accomodation and people from ethnic minorities – a mainstay of Ken’s support.

Some polls – most notably Ipsos MORI’s last poll for Unison – did ask whether people were registered to vote and excluded those who weren’t, but this doesn’t actually go that far to addressing the question because it assumes people who aren’t on the register know they aren’t. The NOP study cross-references the answers they got with the electoral register, and found that 16% of respondents who thought they were registered weren’t actually on it.

Two days to go. Candidates, as ever, are here and polls are here


With the results from the Scottish election in, how did the pollsters do? All the pollsters underestimated the level of Conservative support in the constituency section (and all by the same amount), Populus’s Labour support was too low and YouGov’s SNP support too high, leaving ICM as the most accurate in the constituency section.

Constituency Vote

RESULT YouGov ICM Populus
Conservative 16.6 -3.6 -3.6 -3.6
Labour 32.2 -1.2 -0.2 -3.2
Lib Dem 16.2 -2.2 -0.2 -1.2
SNP 32.9 4.1 1.1 -0.1
Average Error 2.8 1.7 2.0

Polling predictions were closer in the regional vote, with all three pollsters have an average error below 2% on the 4 main parties. Populus and ICM’s figures for the Liberal Democrats were both noticably high, but very accurate figures for the other parties meant Populus ended up with the figures closest to the actual result. YouGov were close behind, but got the balance of support amongst the smaller parties wrong, overestimating the level of support for the Greens – this is perhaps the result of switching to including all the minor parties in their question prompt for their last few polls. The final YouGov poll not to prompt using minor parties would have had an average error of 2.0% for the main 4 parties, and 1.6% if you included the Greens – suggesting it would have been less accurate on the main parties, but more accurate for the Green share of the vote. That said, it was done in the middle of April, so voting intention could have changed over the last couple of weeks of the campaign.

Regional Vote

RESULT YouGov ICM Populus
Conservative 13.9 -0.9 -0.9 0.1
Labour 29.2 -2.2 -0.2 -1.2
Lib Dem 11.3 -1.3 4.7 3.7
SNP 31.0 1.0 -1.0 0.0
Green 4.0 5.0 0.0 0.0
Average Error 1.4 1.7 1.3
Average Error (excld. Greens) 2.1 1.4 1.0

There weren’t any polls for the local elections, but Rallings and Thrasher predicted notional national shares of the vote of CON 39%, LAB 24%, LDEM 29%. In the event, the notional shares have been calculated as being around CON 40%, LAB 26%, LDEM 26%. Rallings and Thrasher projected that the Conservatives would gain around 330 seats, Labour lose around 500 and the Lib Dems gain around 110, the Labour prediction was almost bang on, but the Conservatives ended up gaining almost 900 and the Lib Dems losing almost 250. Rallings and Thrasher’s projections based on local by-elections have been wrong for two years in a row now, and this time there was no foreign prisoner release scandal to explain it. I suspect that the Liberal Demomcrat’s honed expertise (and the Conservative’s relative incompetence) at by-elections these days simply means that by-elections are not as good a guide to future performance in local elections as they once were.

Finally, the Welsh polls were pretty poor, generally under-reporting Conservative support and overestimating Plaid Cymru’s support. Beaufort’s average error was 3.2% in the constituency section and 3.0% on the regional vote. NOP did well in the constituency section, with an average error of 1.9%, but less so in the regional vote with an average error of 3.5%. Again, it’s worth noting that none of these were eve-of-poll predictions, so it could just be that voting intention changed in the final days of the campaign.


New Welsh polls

This week there have been two new polls for the Welsh Assembly elections. The first was by Beaufort Research for the Western Mail and conducted between April 16th-23rd. We don’t know much about how Beaufort’s polls are weighted or adjusted other than that the poll is based only on those certain to vote. The full figures are:

Constituency vote: CON 19%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13%, PC 26%
Regional vote: CON 20%, LAB 35%, LDEM 12%, PC 26%

This is Beaufort’s first media poll of the campaign, though Plaid Cymru did release figures from a private poll conducted by Beaufort earlier in the campaign which showed figures of CON 14%, LAB 37%, LDEM 14%, PC 30%. It wasn’t clear whether they were regional or constituency figures, but either way Plaid are now lower than in Beaufort’s previous poll and the Conservatives higher… or, of course, there is a difference in how the polls were weighted or filtered and they aren’t comparable.

The second poll is by NOP for ITV Wales, conducted between April 19th and 23rd. It is not a brand new poll, but a call back to around half the sample who participated in their poll earlier in the campaign. Their voting intention figures are below, with changes from the last poll, and show a big advance for Plaid at the expense of the Conservatives.

Constituency vote: CON 19%(-4), LAB 32%(-4), LDEM 15%(nc), PC 26%(+6)
Regional vote: CON 18%(-6), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 15%(nc), PC 24%(+4)

The levels of support for the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru are pretty similar in both polls, with Labour doing slightly worse in NOP’s figures and the Lib Dems slightly better. I am somewhat dubious about the NOP poll though. As a callback poll it should be very stable indeed – the basic truth is that people really don’t change their voting intentions that much, most of the change in voting intention polls is just sample error – yet in a matter of three weeks we have party support altering by 6 points. It seems strange.