I’ve been tied up with boundary changes and having a birthday at the weekend, so this is just a quick post to catch up with some of the voting intention and Scottish Independence polling I’ve missed. Looking at Westminster voting first, I’ve updated the voting intention on the sidebar to include all the latest figures. Overall the Conservative party’s lead remains strong – most polls still have the Tories at around 40% and Labour around 30%.
The two most recent polls, from YouGov and Ipsos MORI, both showed the Tory lead falling a bit – YouGov had a lead of 7 points (down from 11), MORI a lead of 6 points (down from 11). In the case of YouGov, this is actually within the normal range of their recent polling (they had the Tory lead at 7 and 8 points in August too) and the MORI poll is probably at least partially a reversion to the mean after an anomalously high 45% score for the Tories their previous poll. Nevertheless, it may be a sign of Theresa May’s honeymoon continuing to fade.
Two years on from the Indyref we’ve also seen a handful of new polls on Scottish independence. The last time I wrote about polling on Scottish independence was at the end of July. Back then we had seen a couple of polls from Survation and Panelbase taken immediately after the EU Referendum that appeared to show a shift in favour of Scottish independence, but a YouGov poll taken a few weeks later showing no apparent change. We’ve had several more Scottish polls since then, including more recent polls from Survation and Panelbase, as well as polls from TNS and Ipsos MORI. The picture now looks very clear, showing NO ahead with no obvious net movement towards Yes as a result of the EU referendum (though as John Curtice points out there has been churn under the surface). MORI show NO five points ahead, Survation, Panelbase and TNS all have NO six points ahead.
Ipsos MORI have released their monthly political monitor. It’s their first poll since Theresa May became Prime Minister, so the changes since last month show the same honeymoon boost we’ve seen in other companies’ figures. Topline figures are CON 45%(+9), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 7%(-4), UKIP 6%(-2), GRN 4%(nc). The Conservative figure of 45% is the highest MORI have shown since back in 2009 (and note how low UKIP is – MORI tend to show some of the lower figures for UKIP and other recent polls haven’t shown them nearly as low, but it’s hardly positive). Full tabs are here.
Yesterday ICM also put out their latest voting intention polling. Topline figures were CON 40%(-3), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 14%(+1), GRN 4%(nc). Still a very robust twelve point Conservative lead, but down from the sixteen point peak in ICM’s last poll. Tabs are here.
A wrote a few weeks ago that in the past the boost enjoyed by a Prime Minister taking over mid-term has often only lasted a month or so. The latest YouGov poll suggests that Theresa May’s honeymoon is following the same pattern and has now started to fade. Topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%. It’s still showing a healthy Tory lead, but not the towering double-digit leads we’ve seen in the last few polls. This is, of course, just a single poll and we should wait to see if other polls shown the same trend, but it’s the first sign of the May honeymoon beginning to wane (tabs here)
UPDATE: TNS also have new voting intention figures out and they have the Tories still enjoying a double-digit lead. Topline figures are CON 39%, LAB 26%, LD 10%, UKIP 11%, GRN 7% (tabs are here). Fieldwork was over the weekend, so a little older than the Mon-Tues YouGov data, but not by much. A couple of interesting methodological notes here – looking at TNS’s tables, it looks like they are including the names of the party leaders in their voting intention question (just the GB leaders in the English question, but also the Scottish and Welsh leaders in their respective areas). Based on the tables, they are also asking preferred party on the economy and preferred leader before asking voting intention.
YouGov’s latest voting intention figures in the Times this morning are CON 42%(+2), LAB 28%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 12%(-1), GRN 3%(-1). The changes since last week are not significant in themselves, but push the Conservatives to a fourteen point lead, the largest from YouGov since November 2009.
It looks very much as if Theresa May is still enjoying a honeymoon as Tory leader (though the Tories may also be being aided by the disarray in the Labour party – it is impossible to disentangle one potential cause from the other).
Full tabs are here.
New party leaders normally enjoy a honeymoon in the polls. It’s noticeable for leaders taking over in opposition, on the relatively rare occassion that the party leadership changes hands in government the honeymoon is often remarkable. In the last fifty years there have been three previous occasions when the premiership changed hands between-elections:
- Wilson-Callaghan, 1976. When Harold Wilson announced his resignation in the middle of March the polls were showing a Conservative lead of between two and five points. The polls immediately following Wilson’s resignation and during Callaghan’s first month in office showed Labour leads of between one and seven points, before returning to a steady Tory lead in May.
- Thatcher-Major, 1990. Margaret Thatcher was famously removed by the Tory party in November 1990. In the month before the leadership election Labour had an average poll lead of thirteen points. In the month immediately following her resignation and replacement by John Major the Conservatives had an average lead of five points, peaking at 11 points. Over the next few months the polls settled down to an average Tory lead of four points or so.
- Blair-Brown, 2007. The Blair-Brown handover was a more drawn out affair: Blair announced his resignation at the start of May 2007, when the Conservatives had a poll lead of around six points, and actually handed over to Gordon Brown at the end of June. Through July and August Brown enjoyed an average Labour lead of around five points, peaking in double-digit leads during the Labour conference at the end of September… and their rapid collapse afterwards. The Conservatives were ahead again by October, and remained so for the rest of the Parliament.
Every mid-term change of Prime Minister has been accompanied by a significant boost in polling figures – in the three historical cases, they’ve gone from trailing the opposition to a clear polling lead. The boosts have tended to be comparatively short though – Callaghan and Major only enjoyed a month or so before settling down into a new equilibrium, Brown enjoyed a honeymoon that lasted several months, but that was probably because he was seem to have responded well to the Glasgow Airport attack and Summer floods. There’s no clear pattern as to where the polls settle after the honeymoon: I suppose it depends very much on the leader. Once the honeymoons had passed the change in leader didn’t make that much difference in 1976 and 2007 (in both cases Labour’s position absolutely tanked a few months down the line… but for different reasons), in 1990 though there was a long lasting improvement in Tory support.
So to the current polling position. Today’s ICM poll has topline figures of CON 43%(+4), LAB 27%(-2), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 13(-1) (tabs are here). It follows on from an ICM poll last week showing the Conservatives ten points ahead, a YouGov poll giving the Conservtives an eleven point lead and an Opinium poll giving them a more modest six point lead. All four polls had Labour around or just below 30% and the Conservatives nearer 40%, UKIP down a little from the levels of support they’d been showing before the referendum.
Viewed together it certainly looks like the sort of boost a new Prime Minister normally receives, which is a good reason not to read too much into it. New Prime Ministers receive good poll ratings because they haven’t had to annoy too many people yet – the public can project their hopes onto them and convince themselves they really will be different, really will deliver this, that or the other. Before long, however, the shine will come off and they’ll have to start making compromises and disappointing people. This is one good reason for Theresa May not to plan for an early election (and the mistake Gordon Brown made in not shutting down such considerations) – the current polls look wonderful for her, but on past timescales they won’t necessarily be so rosy in a couple of months time. It’s also a crumb of comfort for Labour… though quite a small crumb.
UPDATE: YouGov have fresh voting intention figures that also show a strong lead for the Conservatives, albeit, not quite as big as ICM’s. Their topline figures are CON 40%, LAB 28%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. Tabs are here