There are two new voting intention polls out today – YouGov for the Times, and Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor in the Evening Standard.

Ipsos MORI‘s topline figures are CON 38%(nc), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 10%(+1), UKIP 4%(nc). Fieldwork was between Friday and Tuesday (1st-5th), and changes are from MORI’s last poll back in December.

YouGov‘s topline figures are CON 41%(+2), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 10(-1), UKIP 4%(-2). Fieldwork was on Sunday and Monday, and changes are from YouGov’s last poll in mid-January.

This does not, of course, offer us much insight on what is really happening. At the weekend a lot of attention was paid to a poll by Opinium showing a big shift towards the Conservatives and a 7 point Tory lead. Earlier in the week Opinium also published a previously unreleased poll conducted for the People’s Vote campaign the previous week, which showed a four point Tory lead, suggesting their Observer poll was more than just an isolated blip. Today’s polls do little to clatify matters – MORI show no change, with the parties still neck-and-neck. YouGov show the Tories moving to a seven point lead, the same as Opinium, but YouGov has typically shown larger Tory leads anyway of late so it doesn’t reflect quite as large a movement.

I know people look at polls hoping to find some firm evidence – the reality is they cannot always provide it. They are volatile, they have margins of error. Only time will tell for sure whether Labour’s support is dropping as events force them to take a clearer stance on Brexit, or whether we’re just reading too much into noise. As ever, the wisest advice I can give is to resist the natural temptation to assume that the polls you’d like to be accurate are the ones that are correct, and that the others must be wrong.

Ipsos MORI tables are up here, YouGov tables are here.


Opinium’s fortnightly poll in the Observer today has topline voting intention figures of CON 41%(+4), LAB 34%(-6), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 7%(nc). Fieldwork was between Wednesday and Friday, and changes are from Opinium’s previous poll in mid-January, conducted straight after May lost her vote on the deal, but won her no confidence vote.

A seven point Conservative lead is the largest since the election. While it is not significantly larger than the 5 or 6 point leads YouGov have been showing this month, it’s a noticable change to Opinium’s previous recent polls, which have tended to show Labour and Conservative roughly neck-and-neck.

As ever, one should be a little cautious about reading too much into a single poll. Survation’s poll for Thursday’s Daily Mail had fieldwork conducted on Wednesday, so actually overlaps the fieldwork period for this poll and showed a one point Labour lead with no meaningful swing from Labour to Conservative. It would be wise to wait and see if subsequent polls confirm whether public opinion has shifted against Labour, or whether this is just an outlier.

Also, be cautious about reading too much into what has caused the change. We really don’t know if there has been a change yet, let alone exactly where it has come from and why (not that it will stop people assuming things). It has been two weeks since Opinium’s last poll, and an awful lot has happened – so one cannot pin the change on any one specific event. Neither can cross-breaks really give much guidance (as Michael Savage notes in the Observer, Labour are down among both remainers and leavers… though discerning any signal from the noise of crossbreaks would be difficult even if the change was all on one side).

The full tables from Opinium are here.


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There have been several new polls with voting intention figures since the weekend, though all so far have been conducted before the government’s defeat on their Brexit plan.

ComRes/Express (14th-15th) – CON 37%(nc), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 7%(+1)
YouGov/Times (13th-14th)- CON 39%(-2), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 11%(nc), UKIP 6%(+2)
Kantar (10th-14th) – CON 35%(-3), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 6%(+2)

Looking across the polls as a whole Conservative support appears to be dropping a little, though polls are still ultimately showing Labour and Conservative very close together in terms of voting intention. As ever there are some differences between companies – YouGov are still showing a small but consistent Tory lead, the most recent polls from BMG, Opinium and MORI had a tie (though Opinium and MORI haven’t released any 2019 polls yet), Kantar, ComRes and Suration all showed a small Labour lead in their most last polls.

Several people have asked me about the reasons for the difference between polling companies figures. There isn’t an easy answer – there rarely is. The reality is that all polling companies want to be right and want to be accurate, so if there were easy explanations for the differences and it was easy to know what the right choices were, they would all rapidly come into line!

There are two real elements that are responsible for house effects between pollsters. The first is the things they do to the voting intention data after it is collected and weighted – primarily that is how do they account for turnout (to what extent do they weight down or filter out people who are unlikely to vote), and what to do they with people who say they don’t know how they’ll vote (do they ignore them, or use squeeze questions or inference to try and estimate how they might end up voting). The good thing about these sort of differences is that they are easily quantifiable – you can look up the polling tables, compare the figures with turnout weighting and without, and see exactly the impact they have.

At the time of the 2017 election these adjustments were responsible for a lot of the difference between polling companies. Some polls were using turnout models that really transformed their topline figures. However, those sort of models also largely turned out to be wrong in 2017, so polling companies are now using much lighter touch turnout models, and little in the way of reallocating don’t knows. There are a few unusual cases (for example, I think ComRes still reallocate don’t knows, which helps Labour at present, but most companies do not. BMG no longer do any weighting or filtering by likelihood to vote, an adjustment which for other companies tends to reduce Labour support by a point or two). These small differences are not, by themselves, enough to explain the differences between polls.

The other big differences between polls are their samples and the weights and quotas they use to make them representative. It is far, far more difficult to quantify the impact of these differences (indeed, without access to raw samples it’s pretty much impossible). Under BPC rules polling companies are supposed to be transparent about what they weight their samples by and to what targets, so we can tell what the differences are, but we can’t with any confidence tell what the impact is.

I believe all the polling companies weight by age, gender and region. Every company except for Ipsos MORI also votes by how people voted at the last election. After that polling companies differ – most vote by EU Ref vote, some companies weight by education (YouGov, Kantar, Survation), some by social class (YouGov, ComRes), income (BMG, Survation), working status (Kantar), level of interest in politics (YouGov), newspaper readership (Ipsos MORI) and so on.

Even if polling companies weight by the same variables, there can be differences. For example, while almost everyone weights by how people voted at the last election, there are differences in the proportion of non-voters they weight to. It makes a difference whether targets are interlocked or not. Companies may use different bands for things like age, education or income weighting. On top of all this, there are questions about when the weighting data is collected, for things like past general election vote and past referendum vote there is a well-known phenomenon of “false recall”, where people do not accurately report how they voted in an election a few years back. Hence weighting by past vote data collected at the time of the election when it was fresh in people’s minds can be very different to weighting by past vote data collected now, at the time of the survey when people may be less accurate.

Given there isn’t presently a huge impact from different approaches to turnout or don’t knows, the difference between polling companies is likely to be down some of these factors which are – fairly evidently – extremely difficult to quantify. All you can really conclude is that the difference is probably down to the different sampling and weighting of the different companies, and that, short of a general election, there is no easy way for either observers (nor pollsters themselves!) to be sure what the right answer is. All I would advise is to avoid the temptation of (a) assuming that the polls you want to be true are correct… that’s just wishful thinking, or (b) assuming that the majority are right. There are plenty of instances (ICM in 1997, or Survation and the YouGov MRP model in 2017), when the odd one out turned out to be the one that was right.


The weekend papers have the first two polls with fieldwork conducted after the New Year – BMG in the Independent and Survation for yesterday’s Mail. Voting intention in the two polls is:

Survation: CON 38%(-1), LAB 41%(+1), LDEM 10%(+2), UKIP 4%(nc)
BMG: CON 36%(-1), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 12%(nc), UKIP 6%(+2)

Survation’s poll was conducted on Thursday and Friday, changes are from their big Channel4 poll at the end of October. BMG was conducted between Tuesday and Friday and changes are from last month. Neither poll shows any real significant movement. As you would probably expect, the bulk of both polls focused on the looming issue of Brexit.

On the Brexit deal itself BMG found that 29% of people think MPs should approve the deal (up 3 points from December), 37% think it should be rejected (down 6 points). Survation found 36% of people wanted MPs to approve the deal (up 5), 40% wanted it rejected (down 6). Both polls show some movement in favour of passing the deal, but still more opposition than support.

BMG asked whether people would support or oppose various alternative Brexit options. By 46% to 28% people would support a second referendum. By 45% to 39% people would support reversing Brexit and just remaining. Further negotiations were supported by 45% to 34%. A “Norway-style deal” was supported by 40% to 36%. Leaving without a deal was opposed by 45% to 35%.

Survation’s poll included questions on how people would vote in various referendum scenarios – in a deal vs no deal referendum, 41% would prefer the deal, 32% no deal. In a referendum between no deal Brexit and remain, people prefer remain by 46% to 41%. A deal vs referendum vote would be neck-and-neck: 40% deal, 40% remain.

Tabs for Survation are here, BMG aren’t up yet.


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.