14 weeks to go

Week four of the year we had the regular YouGov, Ashcroft and Populus polls, the first ComRes telephone poll of the year and the first 2015 GB poll from Survation – the first in a regular series for the Daily Mirror.

YouGov/S Times (23/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
Survation/Mirror (25/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 30%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 23%, GRN 3%
Populus (25/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
Ashcroft (25/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 9%
ComRes/Indy (25/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 30%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (26/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (27/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (28/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (29/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
Populus (29/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%, GRN 4%

The polls this week continued to show an extremely tight race – every single poll had the two main parties within one point of each other, and unlike last week there were slightly more polls with the Tories ahead than with Labour ahead. The UKPR average though still has figures of CON 32%(nc), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 15%(nc), GRN 6%(-1), as Opinium and ICM polls from last week are still contributing towards the average. For anyone interested in the differences between some of the polls from different companies, I explored them in this post earlier this week.

Welsh polls

There were also two Welsh voting intention polls out this week, the regular YouGov/ITV/University of Cardiff poll and an ICM poll for the BBC. Westminster voting intention figures for the two polls were:

ICM/BBC – CON 21%, LAB 38%, LDEM 7%, Plaid 12%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%
YouGov/ITV – CON 23%, LAB 37%, LDEM 6%, Plaid 10%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%

Week four

  • At the beginning of the week there was a lot of froth about UKIP’s NHS policy and the Green party’s policies on membership of extremist groups and a citizen’s income. It’s unlikely that either will make much difference for the simple fact that most people have no idea at all about what their policies are on such issues. For UKIP, the majority of people think they have at least a fairly good idea of what sort of approach they would take on immigration and Europe, but on other subjects people draw a blank. For the Green party 54% think they’ve got some idea what the Green party would do on the environment, but on everything else at least three quarters know nothing. It doesn’t necessarily stop people backing them, as broad perceptions of a party’s values, principle and competence are far more important than specific policies anyway. I suspect that maybe even more the case for parties who have no realistic chance of getting a majority and putting said policies into action.
  • As we passed the 100 days to go mark both Labour and the Conservatives put out new policies, Labour on the NHS, the Conservatives on welfare benefits. The Conservatives headline pledge to reduce the benefit cap to £23,000 was supported by 61% to 25% (including amongst Labour voters), even though people didn’t think it made people look for work. The idea of stopping housing benefit for young people was more divisive – 42% supported the idea, 40% opposed it.
  • The NHS is generally a rock solid issue for Labour anyway – last week they had a thirteen point lead over the Tories on which party people thought would handle the issue the best. Welfare benefits is actually much more contested ground, in the same poll 28% of people thought Labour would handle the issue the best, 28% of people thought the Conservatives would handle the issue the best.

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015 and Elections Etc are below. All are still predicting a hung Parliament, though Election Forecast and May2015 have the Conservatives catching up with Labour after a week of close polls.

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 282(-1), LAB 280(+2), LD 24(+1), SNP 40(-1), UKIP 3(nc)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 283(+5), LAB 285(-1), LD 27(-1), SNP 32(-2), UKIP 2(-1)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 280(+11), LAB 280(-9), LD 24(-3), SNP 38(nc), UKIP 5(+1)


Fifteen Weeks to go

Week three of the year and the regular cycle of opinion polling is back to full speed, with the first ComRes and ICM polls of the year. Almost all the regular polling companies have now reported figures from 2015 (we’re only waiting for Survation and ComRes’s telephone series).

ComRes/Independent on Sun. (15/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 3%
YouGov/Sun on Sun. (15/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 16%, GRN 7%
Populus (15/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%
YouGov/S Times (16/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 7%
Opinium/Observer (16/1/15) – CON 28%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 20%, GRN 6%
Ashcroft (18/1/15) – CON 29%, LAB 28%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 11%
Populus (18/1/15) – CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%
TNS (19/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 31%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 16%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (19/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
ICM/Guardian (19/1/15) – CON 30%, LAB 33%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%, GRN 9%
YouGov/Sun (20/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 30%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 10%
YouGov/Sun (21/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (22/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 17%, GRN 8%
Populus (22/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%

The horse race remains extremely tight between Labour and the Conservatives, with most polls showing them within a point or two of each other, generally with Labour marginally ahead of the Tories. The UKPR average now stands at CON 32%(-1), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 15%(nc), GRN 7%(nc). The Green party’s rising support got a lot of attention this week because of their double digit figures from Ashcroft and YouGov, but there has not been a sudden step change in their level of support, it’s been on a steady increase since last year.

Scottish polling

This week we also had two Scottish polls from Ipsos MORI and Survation. Both continued to show a solid lead for the SNP in Westminster voting intentions. MORI had SNP on 52%(unchanged) to Labour’s 24%(up one). Survation had the SNP on 46% (down two) and Labour on 26% (up two). Both would still translate into an SNP landslide in Scotland come May.

Week Three

Every general election seems to start with the political parties putting out a flurry of announcements at the start of January, and then running out of steam a bit. This week’s political news has been rather bitty.

  • The reporting of the Chilcot Inquiry has been put back until after the general election, we can expect to see some polling on that at the weekend.
  • Peter Mandleson criticised his own party’s mansion tax proposals. Nationwide the idea of a mansion tax has extremely wide support – in September YouGov found 72% support for a tax on properties over £2million pounds. Criticism of it from within Labour tends to come from London, where it is less overwhelmingly popular, but still gets the thumbs up – YouGov London polling last August found 49% of people in London supported a “mansion tax”, 18% were opposed. Amongst London’s Labour voters 61% supported the idea.
  • The government announced that they would after all introduce legislation on plain packaging for cigarettes before the election, something that has previously been in and out of the long grass, and was seen as one of those policies that the Conservatives had put away as part of “cleaning the barnacles from the boat”. Generally speaking there is public support for the proposal – YouGov polling for the Sunday Times in July in 2013 found 58% of people supported compulsory plain packs, 26% were opposed. YouGov polling for Ash in 2014 that included a picture of an example of a plain pack found 66% of people in support, 10% opposed.
  • Finally the debates debate rumbles on, with the broadcasters making a new proposal to include the Greens in the debates… but also to include the SNP and Plaid, so that the format becomes two debates between seven leaders, and one debate between just Cameron and Miliband. Including all seven leaders was actually the most popular single option in the YouGov/Sun on Sunday polling last weekend, chosen by 35% of people. Between them though 49% of people preferred one or another of the options including fewer leaders.

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015 and Elections Etc are below. All are still predicting a hung Parliament. Note that Steve Fisher has made some substantial changes to his Elections Etc model in order to treat England and Scotland separately, and hence reflect the increase in SNP support in Scotland

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 283(nc), LAB 278(-3), LD 23(-3), SNP 41(+5), UKIP 3(nc)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 278(+1), LAB 286(-3), LD 28(+1), SNP 34(+2), UKIP 3(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 269(-4), LAB 289(+9), LD 27(+3), SNP 38(-8), UKIP 4(nc)


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Back now, and ready to go through the rest of the Sunday polls apart from the voting intentions and pick out some of the more interesting findings:

  • YouGov’s poll for the Sun on Sunday asked about tactical voting (it didn’t actually use the term, as I think many people use it to refer to different things. It asked if people were voting for their first choice, or a different party that would beat a party they disliked from winning). 77% of people said they were voting for their first choice, 11% tactically. A word of warning about interpreting this – 8% of Tory voters said they were voting tactically, 11% of Labour voters, 12% of Lib Dem voters, 11% of UKIP voters… but we don’t know if that means 8% of Tory voters are voting Tory for tactical reasons, or that 8% of would-be Tory voters are actually going to vote for someone else for tactical reasons (or a mixture).
  • The YouGov Sunday Times poll had a number of questions on British Muslims and on terrorism. People were split over how well integrated British Muslims are into British society and the extent to which they share British values. 46% of people think the majority or almost all British Muslims share British values, 46% of people think that only a minority or hardly any British Muslims share British values. 42% of people think that most or the majority of British Muslims are well integrated, 50% think a minority or hardly any are. UKIP voter’s attitudes towards British Muslims are far more negative than supporters of other parties – 73% of UKIP supporters say most Muslims don’t share British values, 79% say most British Muslims aren’t well integrated. Nigel Farage’s comments about areas of Britain being like ghettos with sharia law were rejected by most respondents – 33% though they were broadly true, 41% thought they were false. 75% of UKIP’s own supporters believed them.
  • There was a particularly interesting immigration question in the Sun on Sunday poll, essentially asking people to choose between a multicultural approach and an integrationist approach. Slightly to my surprise a multicultural approach was the more popular – 36% thought it better that immigrants leave their own cultures and traditions behind and integrate fully into British culture, 48% thought it better than immigrants retain and celebrate some of their own cultures and traditions.
  • Going back to the terrorism and surveillance questions in the Sunday Times poll, just over half of respondents (52%) thought that the security services do need more access to the public’s communications in order to fight terrorism, 31% thought they already have all the access they need. A similar proportion (53%) would support requiring internet and phone companies to retain users data for 12 months and provide it to the security services on request, though by 51% to 35% people think accessing someone’s personal communications should require the consent of the Home Secretary. While people think accessing personal communications data should require the consent of the Home Secretary, when asked whether they trust the authorities to use the information they obtain responsibly they actually trust Ministers & the Home Office less than the police and the intelligence services. 50% trust the police to use the information responsibly, 63% the intelligence services, 45% the Home Office, Ministers and civil servants.
  • In the ComRes poll they asked (via my old favourite the agree/disagree statement, grr!) whether people agreed with the statement that “Ed Miliband is using the issue of the NHS for his political advantage, not because he cares about it”. 49% of people agree, 26% disagree. That looks bad, but I have my doubts about questions about politicians’ motives. I suspect they largely just reflect a general cynicism towards the motives of all politicians, rather than opinions about particular politicians or decisions. YouGov asked a very similar question in their Sun on Sunday poll, but asked it about Ed Miliband AND David Cameron, and got answers that were almost the same. 46% thought Ed Miliband was using the NHS for political gain, 19% doing what he thought was best for it, 20% both equally. 48% thought David Cameron was using the NHS for political gain, 15% doing what he thought best for it, 19% both equally. As you’d expect, in both cases supports of the Conservative and Labour party both thought their own leader was doing what was best, but the opposing leader was just using it for political reasons.
  • The debate over the debates rolls on, and so do poll questions about it. Opinium asked about whether particular leaders should be invited – 61% think the leader of UKIP should, 46% the leader of the Greens, 30% the leader of the SNP, 23% the leader of Plaid Cymru. The current proposals for debates between Con, Lab, Lib Dem and UKIP leaders was supported by 37% of people, opposed by 31%. YouGov in the Sun on Sunday asked people to pick from some possible combinations. The most popular individual option was the widest, the Lib, Lab, Con, UKIP, Green and the SNP and Plaid. This was picked by 35% though, so while it was the most popular single option, 49% favoured a narrower option – 20% favoured the proposed Con, Lab, LD & UKIP, 17% Con, Lab, LD, UKIP and the Greens (but not the two nationalists). 12% supported an even narrower option, excluding UKIP. In their Sunday Times poll YouGov found people still think David Cameron should take part even without Natalie Bennett – if she is excluded 31% think Cameron should refuse to take part, 52% think he should take part anyway. However, asking about the other side of the deadlock, if Cameron refuses to take part without Bennett 52% think the broadcasters should call his bluff and invite her, 28% think the debates should go ahead without him, 8% think the debates should be cancelled.

Sixteen weeks to go

I’m in meetings and out and about tomorrow, so I’m doing week two’s round up tonight. The second week of 2015 and the long campaign we saw the first two phone polls of the year – Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor and the first weekly Ashcroft poll of the year.

YouGov/S Times (9/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 6%
Ashcroft (11/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 28%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%
Populus (11/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%
YouGov/Sun (12/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 17%, GRN 6%
Ipsos MORI (13/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 11%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (13/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (14/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (15/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%

Ashcroft’s poll looks like an obvious outlier with a six point Conservative lead, most polls however clustered around a wafer thin Labour lead. The UKPR average of the latest polls now has figures of CON 33%(nc), LAB 33%(-1), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 15%(+1), GRN 7%(+1). Lord Ashcroft also started the year with a change to his methods, like YouGov moving to include UKIP in the main voting intention prompt.

Week 2 of the long campaign

The week started in the shadow of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and there was some polling in the YouGov/Sunday Times poll on people’s attitudes towards free speech and religion. Around a quarter of people thought the media should not be allowed to mock or ridicule religious beliefs or figures and 18% think the media should not even be allowed to criticise or question religion. Asked about Charlie Hebdo itself 69% of people thought it was acceptable for them to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, 14% unacceptable. 63% think that other newspapers should have reprinted the cartoons, 71% that the media have an obligation to show newsworthy items even if they might upset people.

Most of the political week though has been dominated by debates over debates. David Cameron refuses to take part in debates without the Green party being invited, and the broadcasters have yet to agree to invite the Green party. Public opinion is fairly clear – two thirds of people think that Natalie Bennett should be included in the debate… but in the event that she isn’t, a majority of people think David Cameron should take part anyway.

I wrote more about the potential impact of the debates not happening yesterday, but this week the effect seems to have been an opportunity cost for the parties (time spent debating debates is time spent not talking about issues like the economy or NHS), and a spike in the Green party’s membership, which they claim has now overtaken UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

BBC Larger and smaller parties

Following OfCom’s consultation paper last week, the BBC have released their guidance on party coverage at the election for consultation. They put UKIP in with the larger parties (Con, Lab and Lib Dem) saying “programmes must ensure that UKIP is given appropriate levels of coverage in output to which the largest parties contribute and, on some occasions, similar levels of coverage.” The Greens are under smaller parties with guidance that “programmes must ensure that the Greens are given proportionate levels of coverage in output to which the larger parties contribute, and, on occasion, similar levels of coverage, if appropriate.”

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast and May 2015 are below – both are showing a hung Parliament with Labour the largest party. Steve Fisher’s Elections Etc should be updated tomorrow.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 277(-7), LAB 289(+8), LD 27(+1), SNP 32(-1), UKIP 3(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273(nc), LAB 280(-1), LD 24(nc), SNP 46(nc), UKIP 4(+1)


In the first week back there have been seven polls. The regular weekly Ashcroft poll hasn’t fired up yet, and none of the phone pollsters did fieldwork over the first weekend of the year, but the daily YouGov and twice-weekly Populus polls are off:

Opinium/Observer (2/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%, GRN 4%
Populus (4/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (5/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (6/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (7/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%
Populus (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

All the polls so far are showing a tight race, with the Labour party averaging a very small lead – the current UKPollingReport average has CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. YouGov started the year by changing their methodology to include UKIP in the main prompt, but it doesn’t appear to have had any impact on their level of support (if anything they are marginally down – last month YouGov had them averaging at 15%).

Start of the Campaign

The political parties started the campaign, the Conservatives largely on the economy and spending, Labour on the NHS. In terms of believability at least Labour’s claims went down better – by 48% to 32% people thought the claim that the NHS could not survive five more years of David Cameron was true, and by 42% to 27% that the claim the Tories wanted to cut spending back to 1930s levels was true. For the Conservatives, by 33% to 22% people believed that Labour had made £20 bn of unfunded spending commitments, but their claim that they had reduced the deficit by half was disbelieved by 49% to 24%.

Those, of course, are responses when respondents are prodded and forced to consider some party political claims and have an opinion. Whether anyone actually noticed or cared and whether anything made any difference is a different matter. I doubt we will see much change in the positions at the start of the week when the Conservatives led Labour on the economy by 15 percentage points, and Labour led the Conservatives by 12 points on the NHS, little different from other issue polls over recent months. Where there has been a significant change in the salience of issues. Presumably on the back of headlines about A&E waiting times and crisis in the NHS the proportion of people saying that health is one of the main issues facing the country has risen to 46%, in third place behind the economy and immigration and up 13 points since December. If health remains high on the agenda it will be good for Labour.

OfCom major parties

As I wrote about yesterday, Ofcom released their draft guidance on which parties should be treated as major parties in terms of election coverage. It’s open for consultation so may yet change, but as things stand UKIP will be treated as a major party (meaning broadcasters will have to give due weight to reporting them in editorial coverage), the Green party will not.

Projections

Latest projections from Election Forecast (Chris Henretty et al’s project), Election Etc (Steve Fisher’s project) and the New Statesman’s May2015 site are below. All are predicting a hung Parliament, all with Labour and Conservative within 10 seats of each other. Note that Steve Fisher’s method doesn’t have anyway of factoring in the SNP yet, so will change very soon. I think we should also be getting a regular seat projection from the Polling Observatory team in the next week or two.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 284, LAB 281, LD 26, SNP 34, UKIP 3
Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 294, LAB 297, LD 29, OTH 30
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273, LAB 281, LD 24, SNP 46, UKIP 3