Opinium’s regular poll for the Observer suggests party support is still static, despite a difficult few weeks for the government. Topline voting intention figures are CON 40%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(+1). Fieldwork was between Tuesday and Thursday and changes are from a month ago. Ahead of the budget Opinium also asked about the most trusted team on the economy. May & Hammond led by 36% to Corbyn & McDonnell on 28% (as with the best PM question, the majority of respondents said either None (24%) or Don’t know (12%). Full tabs are here.

Midweek we also had ICM’s poll for the Guardian – that too showed a pretty much static position, with topline figures of CON 41%(-1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 7%(nc). Tabs for that are here.

A budget is, of course, the sort of major event that can sometimes cut through with the public if it contains something particularly compelling or – more likely – something particularly unattractive. As I’ve often written here, it’s very rare for budgets to result in a boost for the government, but there are plenty of examples of budgets going horribly wrong and damaging party support – they are very much a bullet to be dodged, rather than an opportunity to win support. We shall see what happens this week.


The government have, needless to say, not had a particularly good few weeks. They have lost two cabinet minsters and have several more under clouds who the media have portrayed the Prime Minister as too weak to sack. You’d probably expect the government to be tanking in the opinion polls.

Yet YouGov’s latest poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 40%(nc), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 6%(-2). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday, so right in the middle of the Priti Patel row but before her resignation, and changes are from mid-October. Labour are ahead, but it’s the same sort of narrow lead that they’ve held since just after the election. As in other recent polls, Conservative support appears to be holding steady at around 40%.

It is a similar case with Theresa May’s own ratings. Her approval ratings are negative, but show no sign of collapse: 31% think she is doing well (unchanged from last month), 55% think she is doing badly (four points down from last month). 29% of people think she is a strong leader (up one point), 49% think she is weak (down three). 42% think she is competent (no change), 38% think she is incompetent (down three).

This raises the question of why support for the government and Theresa May is holding up when, on the face of it, they seem to be in such a mess. One eternal reason is that most people pay far less attention to political news than anyone reading this blog does. Cabinet rows and government weakness will make no difference to the voting intention of people who are wholly unaware of them. As an illustration, the poll also asked people if they thought Theresa May should get rid of Priti Patel (at a time, remember, when the story was all over the news and had been for four days). 17% said she should stay, 30% that she should go, 53% gave a “don’t know”. Government incompetence won’t hurt Tory support among people who are unaware of it.

An alternative possibility is that Tory voters are sticking with the Conservatives, however poor they are, because the alternative is Jeremy Corbyn. To test this YouGov asked people who said they’d vote Tory tomorrow why they were supporting them. Only 7% of Tory voters said it was because they both agreed with the government’s aims and thought they were delivering them, 48% said they agreed with the government’s aims even if they were struggling to deliver them, 22% said they thought the government were competent, even if they didn’t agree with all their aims. 19% of Tory voters, however, said they didn’t think the government were governing well and didn’t agree with their aims… but they still preferred them to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Why is the government’s support holding up? As ever, there is never a single simple reason, but part of it is that most people don’t pay much attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics, so individual scandals will not necessarily make a huge difference. Secondly, while even most Tory voters think the government are struggling to deliver their aims, they do mostly agree with what they are trying to do. Thirdly, there are a significant chunk of Tory voters who don’t think they are governing well and don’t agree with what they are doing… but would still vote for them because they aren’t Labour.

Full tabs are here.


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ICM’s fortnightly poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 42%(+1), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 7%(nc). As with other recent polls there is no sign of any obvious movement. The national polling position appears to be largely stable, the government may be struggling with Brexit, Theresa May’s approval figures may be falling, but voting intention is pretty static. The two main parties are both around 40%, with most polls showing a small Labour lead (ICM tend to produce the best figures for the Tories – hence the neck-and-neck figures in their most recent polls).

Today’s ICM poll also asked a couple questions about a “no deal” Brexit. 45% of people said they expected the Brexit negotiations will not conclude successfully (though I haven’t yet seen the wording of the question, so I don’t know if the question defined unsuccessful as meaning no deal at all, or included poor deals), only 30% expect them to be a success. ICM also asked how people would feel if Britain and the EU failed to reach agreement by the time Britain leaves the EU – the most common answers were those connected with doubt and trepidation – “worried” (50%) and “confused” (29%), followed by the more negative “furious” (24%) and the more positive “pleased” (14%).

Tabs to follow when available…


Just catching up on YouGov’s latest poll for the Times yesterday. Topline voting intention figures were CON 39%(-1), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 8%(+1), so didn’t show any meaningful change. The two findings that got rather more attention were on best PM and Brexit.

On who would make best Prime Minister Theresa May has now lost her lead over Jeremy Corbyn, with both of them now equal on 33%. 35% of people said they weren’t sure, meaning that actually came top – the first time I recall seeing don’t know/not sure ahead on the question. The clear implication is that a very significant chunk of the public aren’t enamoured of either of the main party leaders.

Also notable was YouGov’s regular tracker on whether people think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union. 42% of people now think that Brexit was the right decision, 47% think it was the wrong decision. The five point lead for “wrong” is the highest that YouGov have shown in this question since they started tracking it after the referendum. All the usual caveats apply – all polls have a margin of error, and it’s wrong to get too excited over small movements in a poll that may be no more than normal random variation. The important thing to do is the watch the trend, and while the country is still quite evenly divided over the merits of Brexit as I wrote last month, the regular trackers do appear to have started to show some small movement towards regret.

Full tabs for the YouGov poll are here.


The ICM/Guardian poll today has topline figures of CON 41%(+1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 7%(-1). Fieldwork was Friday-Sunday, and changes are from ICM’s poll before the Labour conference. As with the polls at the weekend, there’s no significant change here. Theresa May’s conference speech obviously didn’t go as she would have hoped, but it doesn’t really appear to have changed levels of support: 17% of people told ICM her speech had improved their perception of her (mostly Tories who probably liked her anyway), 17% told ICM her speech had damaged their perceptions of her (mostly Labour supporters who probably didn’t like her anyway). Most said it made no difference.

ICM also asked about possible alternative leaders to Theresa May, underlining one of the problems the Conservatives have – in every named case (Johnson, Rudd, Hammond, Rees-Mogg, Patel and Green) people thought they would do worse than Theresa May would at the general election. The only person who the public thought would do better than May was a generic “someone quite young and able who is not currently in government”… which, of course, is a recipe for respondents to imagine an ideal candidate who may very well not exist, especially not among the select group of people with a reasonable chance of winning the leadership of the Conservative party.

Full tabs are here