Just to catch up, YouGov put out new voting intention figures yesterday (though the fieldwork was from last week). topline figures were CON 39%(nc), LAB 28%(+2), LDEM 11%(+1), UKIP 13%(-1). While the changes since the week before are not significant in themselves, eleven points is actually the lowest Conservative lead YouGov have shown for several months. It’s also worth a glance at the “most important issues” question in the tables: the NHS has risen ten points since YouGov last asked the question back in November, making it the second most important concern after Brexit. It’s possible to interpret that as health rising up the agenda and helping Labour’s support… but it’s equally possible that the changes in voting intention are just normal, random sample variation. Still, worth keeping an eye on it. Full tabs here.

There was also a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday at the weekend. Their topline figures were CON 38%, LAB 29%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%, GRN 2%. Tabs are here


ComRes have a poll in the Independent/Sunday Mirror tonight. The finding that has got the most attention is a question asking who people think would do “a better job at managing the NHS this winter”. 31% of people picked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, 43% of people picked Theresa May and the Conservatives.

This is a very unusual result. The NHS is, essentially, Labour’s issue of last resort. Whatever happens, however bad things look, the public will almost always say they trust Labour more on the NHS. Over on Ipsos MORI’s website they have data on the question going back to 1978… and you have to go back to 1978 to find the Tories ahead. If you go back to the time of the Brown government when the Conservatives were on a high there were a couple of polls from other companies when the Tories scraped a lead on the NHS, but it is extremely rare. A twelve point Tory lead on the NHS would be unheard of.

The reason for this strange result is probably the wording. YouGov ask “best party on issues” regularly, and still consistently find Labour ahead. Just this month they found 28% trusted Labour most on the NHS compared to 20% for the Tories. The difference with the ComRes question is that they did not ask just which party people trusted on the NHS, the choice was between “Theresa May & the Conservatives” or “Jeremy Corbyn & Labour” to manage the NHS. The introduction of the two leaders into the question probably explains why May & the Conservatives were ahead.

While this probably explains the difference, it should be scant comfort for Labour. If the mention of Jeremy Corbyn in a question is enough to make respondents doubt whether they’d trust Labour with the NHS – normally a banker for them – then imagine what he would do to people pondering whether they would trust Labour on the economy, security or whatever.

The other questions on the NHS were far more typical. While 71% agreed that the NHS provides a high standard of care, by 47% to 36% people did think the Red Cross were right to say the NHS was in crisis. That May/Conservative lead on the NHS should not be taken as an endorsement of their management either: only 12% of people agreed that Jeremy Hunt was doing well as Health secretary and 56% of people agreed with a statement that NHS care is worse than ten years ago.

Another question asked about high pay and is more encouraging for Jeremy Corbyn. A YouGov poll in the week asked about a pretty tough policy on high pay (a maximum earnings limit of £1m a year) and got a negative response: only 31% thought it a good idea, 44% a bad idea. ComRes asked about a much subtler policy (giving tax benefits or government contracts to companies with a maximum ratio of 20 to 1 between top and average salaries) and this got a much better reception, 57% thought they should, 30% thought the government should not interfere.

Opinium also have a new poll out tonight for the Observer – details here. They have topline voting intention figures of CON 38%(nc), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 14%(+1). The eight point lead is lower than most other polls show, but this seems to be a consistent pattern from Opinium – presumably for methodological reasons – rather than a drop since their previous poll.


-->

Earlier on today ICM put out their first poll of the year, conducted for the Guardian. Topline figures with changes from before Christmas are CON 42%(+1), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 12%(-2), GRN 4%(+1). No significant change there, just the sort of double digit Tory lead that appears to have become the norm. I’ll put up a link to the tables when they appear tomorrow.

Also out today is the January YouGov Welsh poll for ITV Wales and Cardiff University. Topline figures there are:

Westminster: CON 28%(-1), LAB 33%(-2), LDEM 9%(+2), UKIP 13%(-1), Plaid 13%(nc)
Assembly Const: CON 25%(+1), LAB 31%(-3), LDEM 8%(+2), UKIP 12%(-1), Plaid 21%(+1)
Assembly List: CON 22%(nc), LAB 28%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 14%(+1), Plaid 20%(-1)

There is a more detailed write up, with what these figures would mean if they actually happened at a general election or Welsh Assembly election, over on Roger Scully’s blog.


The Times released their regular YouGov voting intention poll this morning, the first of the new year. Topline figures with changes from before Christmas are CON 39%(nc), LAB 26%(+2), LDEM 10%(-2), UKIP 14%(nc), GRN 4%(nc). There is no significant change, though the boost in Lib Dem support that followed their by-election success appears to have abated. The Conservatives continue to enjoy a double-digit lead, Labour remain in the mid-twenties.

On the regular Brexit trackers things also look steady. 47% think Britain was right to vote to leave, 43% think it was wrong. 57% of people think that the government are doing badly at actually negotiating Brexit, just 20% well. That latter question may very well just be a reflection of the fact that negotiations haven’t started yet, but it will be a tracker to watch once May lays out a more detailled negotiating stance, Article 50 is invoked and things actually start moving.

Full tabs are here


Opinium’s latest voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. The seven point Conservative lead is much tighter than we’ve seen in other recent polls, which have almost all had double-figure Tory leads. While the lead has dropped in this poll, I suspect the difference is methodological somehow – most of Opinium’s recent polls have had Tory leads that are smaller than those from other companies. One of the results of the 2015 polling error and polling companies’ efforts to correct them is that we can’t really tell for sure which are right. Is it that some companies haven’t done enough to correct the errors of the past, or others who have done too much?

Given I’ve flagged up the increase in Lib Dem support in the last three polls I should also point out the absence of one here, they are down one point. We’ve had four polls since the Richmond by-election, two showing a small increase, one a small drop, one a substantial increase. Taking an average across the four polls, a very modest impact on national levels of Lib Dem support. Full tabs are here.

The same poll had a couple of questions for Keiran Pedley – the first asked people if they preferred a Brexit where Britain left completely, but got a harsh deal meaning the economy suffers, unemployment increases and there’s less money for public services… or a Brexit where Britain remains in some EU institutions, has freedom of movement, is subject to the EU courts and so on. Faced with that stark choice, people went with the “soft Brexit” option by 41% to 35%. However, it does, of course, assume that people can be convinced that a “hard Brexit” option would result in the economy suffering, unemployment increasing and so on. We’ve just had a salutary lesson that lots of experts telling people that leaving the EU would have negative economic effects is not necessarily effective. I think the most we can say is that it suggests if people can be convinced that a hard Brexit would damage the economy, jobs and public services and that a soft Brexit would not, then they would prefer a soft Brexit… but that “if” is doing a lot of work.

Keiran also asked two questions about a second referendums, both finding a majority of people do not want one. The first asked if people would like a second referendum after terms are agreed, the second asked if there should be a second referendum if it becomes clear that Brexit is damaging the economy. In both cases 33% said yes, 52% said no – suggesting that a declining economy wouldn’t necessarily make people want to reconsider the issue.

That second question is key in a lot of current discussion about public attitudes to Brexit. It is clear from current polling that that has not been any significant shift in public opinion since the referendum, most people think the govt is obliged to deliver on the referendum result and that most people do not currently want a second referendum. The hopes of some of those who would like to stay in the European Union are pinned upon the idea that as the negotiation period progresses the impact on the British economy will begin to be felt and at that point the public will change their mind, want to stay after all, and therefore be open to the idea of a second referendum.

Whether there is a chance of this happening is very tricky to measure in a poll. It’s asking people to predict how their opinions might change as a result of future economic developments, when respondents themselves don’t know the answer. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy in coming years, and we certainly don’t know what the public will attribute it too. It would be naive to think that an economic downturn will necessarily be blamed on Brexit by those people who supported Brexit. People view new events and information through the prism of their existing views, and many Brexit supporters will blame it on other economic factors, or on the rest of the EU trying to punish us, or pro-Europeans wanting Brexit to fail…. or take it as short-term pain that will be outweighed by later gain (in the same way, many pro-EU people will be liable to blame things on Brexit that have nothing to do with it. This is not a comment about supporters of one side or the other, but on human nature in general).