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 Sunday papers have the first two voting intention polls conducted since the draft Brexit deal was unveiled:

  • Opinium in the Observer have topline figures of CON 36%(-5), LAB 39%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 8%(+2). Fieldwork was Wednesday to Thursday and changes are from a month ago (tabs)
  • ComRes for the Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror have topline figures of CON 36%(-3), LAB 40%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 7%(+2). Fieldwork was also Wednesday to Thursday, and changes are from late September (tabs)

Both polls show Conservative support dropping and both now show a Labour lead (though ComRes were doing so anyway), both also show an increase in support for UKIP. It is, as ever, just a couple of polls and it’s worth waiting to see if it is reflected in other polling. However, in both cases the fieldwork was also on Wednesday and Thursday, so would have straddled the release of the draft deal and partially taken place before the resignations of Dominic Raab and Esther McVey. In other words, we may not be seeing the full impact of the latest troubles yet… and that’s not to mention what leadership ructions we may see in the week ahead.

(Note there was a Panelbase poll published yesterday, but the fieldwork for this took place at the start of the month, so sheds no light upon any possible impact of the Brexit deal.)


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Opinium have a new poll in the Observer today (I think it’s the only poll in the Sunday papers, at least, it seems to be the only voting intention poll). Headline voting intentions are CON 41%, LAB 37%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 6%. Fieldwork was Thursday and Friday and the full tables are here. The four point lead echoes the YouGov poll that came out on Thursday, which had toplines of CON 41%, LAB 37%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4% (tabs.

As well as their usual trackers, the Opinium poll also had some questions on the Brexit deal and what comes next. Asked how likely they think it is that there will be a “satisfactory” deal by March 2019, 26% think it is likely, 50% think it is unlikely. Satisfactory is, of course, in the eye of the beholder – some people presumably think there will be deal, but that it will be an “unsatisfactory” one, as the next question asked what people think is the most likely outcome – 30% expect us to leave with a deal next March, 33% to leave without a deal, 16% that we will not leave in March 2019.

The poll also asked what should happen next if there is no deal, or Parliament does not approve a deal. In the event of no deal at all, 14% think there should be a general election, 23% a new referendum, 13% an extension in order to continue negotiations, and 32% that Britain should just leave without a deal. In the event that a deal is struck, but Parliament rejects it, 12% think there should be a general election, 10% a deal vs no deal referendum, 20% a deal vs remain referendum, 14% that the government should return to negotiations, 25% that Britain should just leave without a deal.


Party conference season is sometimes a period of volatile polling – each party typically gets its own week of media coverage which, if all goes well, they’ll use for some positive announcements. This year it also immediately followed the Salzburg summit and Theresa May’s Brexit statement that followed. Below are the voting intention polls since my last update.

YouGov (18-19th) – CON 40%, LAB 36%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 5% (tabs)
Opinium (18-20th Sep) – CON 37%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 8% (tabs)
BMG (21st-22nd Sep) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 4% (tabs)
ICM (21st-24th Sep) – CON 41%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4% (tabs)
YouGov (24-25th Sep) – CON 42%, LAB 36%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 4% (tabs)
ComRes (26-27th Sep) – CON 39%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 5% (tabs)
Opinium (26-28th Sep) – CON 39%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 6% (tabs)
BMG (28-29th Sep) – CON 35%, LAB 40%, LDEM 12%, UKIP 5%

They are a mixed bunch – the YouGov poll showing a six point Tory lead got some attention, and I’m sure the BMG poll out this morning showing a five point Labour lead will do much the same. As ever, it’s wrong to pay too much attention to outliers. Normal sample variation means that if the underlying average is a Tory lead of a point or two, random noise will occassionally spit out a 6 point Tory lead or a small Labour lead, without it actually signifying anything. Collectively recent polls don’t suggest a clear impact on voting intention from either the Salzburg statement (while YouGov showed a larger Tory lead, ICM did not), or from the Labour party conference (while BMG show an increased Labour lead, Opinium showed the opposite).


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.