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.


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.


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So far we’ve had three polls conducted since the end of conference speech – YouGov in Friday’s Times, Opinium in today’s Observer and ICM in the Sun on Sunday. The first two included voting intention figures.

The YouGov/Times poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday after Theresa May’s conference speech. Topline figures there were CON 40%(+1), LAB 42%(-1), LDEM 7%(nc) and changes are from immediately before the Labour conference. Tabs are here.

The Opinium poll for the Observer was conducted between Wednesday and Friday (so once again, after Theresa May’s speech) and had topline figures of CON 40%(-2), LAB 42%(+2), LDEM 5%(-1). Changes are from just before the Labour party conference began. Tabs are here.

The two polls show identical two point leads for the Labour party, suggesting that Theresa May’s disastrous leader’s speech hasn’t radically changed levels of party support (the changes since the previous polls are in opposite directions, but neither are statistically significant, so I expect we’re just seeing noise there). Perceptions of the Prime Minister herself may be a different matter, though the public do still seem to be divided on her future.

Opinium did pick up a fall in Theresa May’s own ratings, with her net approval down to minus 16 compared to minus 11 before the conference season. Jeremy Corbyn’s figures were up, from minus 10 before conference to minus 5 now. Theresa May had a three point lead over Jeremy Corbyn on preferred Prime Minister.

YouGov asked about the future of Theresa May as Tory leader and found the public split down the middle – 39% think she should stay, 38% think she should go. As ever, answers like this fall out along very partisan lines – 68% of Tory voters think she should stay, 55% of Labour voters think she should go. Her ratings are mediocre across the board though, her lead over Jeremy Corbyn as best PM has shrunk to only three poonts (36% to 33% – 32% of people said don’t know, suggesting a fairly large chunk of people aren’t enthused by either of them.) 59% of people now think she is doing badly as PM, 31% still think she is doing well.

A third poll by ICM for the Sun on Sunday doesn’t appear to have voting intention figures (or at least, I haven’t seen them yet), but did ask what people thought Theresa May should do now. 29% wanted her to just continue as she is, 32% wanted her to confront her party opponents (18% by having a big reshuffle, 14% by making a “back me or sack me” demand), 13% want her to go immediately, 13% want her to name a future date when she will go.

There was also a BMG poll in the Independent today, but the fieldwork was conducted prior to the Conservative conference. Figures in the newspaper were CON 37%(-2), LAB 42%(+4).


Yesterday’s Observer had a new YouGov poll of London, commissioned by Queen Mary University London. Full tables for the poll are here.

Labour performed very strongly in London at the general election this year. There was six point swing to Labour compared to a two pooint swing in Britain as a whole, presumably related to London being younger and more pro-European than the rest of England. The first post-election poll of London shows Labour holding on to that dominant position – topline figures with changes since the general election are CON 30%(-3), LAB 55%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1).

Sadiq Khan also continues to enjoy strong support. 58% of Londoners think he is doing well as mayor, and asked a comparative question he rates more positively than either of his predecessors. 58% think Khan is doing a good good, compared to 47% who thought Ken Livingstone did and 46% who think Boris Johnson did.

The poll also asked about TfL declining Uber’s application for a licence renewal. When this was first announced there was a very negative reaction on social media… but of course, that over-represents exactly the sort of people who regularly use Uber. The poll finds that people who regularly use Uber do indeed think it was the wrong decision (by 63% to 27%)… but the majority of Londoners use Uber rarely or never and they approve of the decision. Overall 43% of people think it was right to take away Uber’s licence, 31% think it was wrong. Even among those regular Uber users there’s no obvious sign of a backlash against Khan or Labour. 66% of them still say Khan is doing a good job, 63% say they would vote Labour in an election tomorrow. Personally I’d be extremely surprised if the whole thing didn’t end up with a compromise between TfL and Uber allowing them to renew their licence, but for the moment the polling suggests that the public back Sadiq Khan on the issue.


This morning’s Times has a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members, asking mainly about Brexit and the party leadership.

Party members are a generally loyal bunch, so as you’d expect all the main players are seen as doing well, though Michael Fallon and David Davis stand out as having the best job approval. While everyone has very positive ratings overall, there are some contrasts between members who voted remain and leave, most obviously in the case of Boris Johnson. 83% of Tory members who voted Leave think Boris is doing well as Foreign Secretary, only 42% of Tory remainers think he is.

Despite the strongly positive ratings for Davis, there are doubts over the Brexit negotiations. 61% of Tory members think the government are doing well, 33% badly. Asked about what the government’s approach should be, 59% agree with Theresa May’s aim of leaving the single market and customs union and negotiating a new deal, 19% would rather just leave immediately with no deal, 12% would rather Britain did remain a member of the single market and customs union, 9% would rather Britain remain a full EU member.

In terms of the details of Brexit Theresa May appears to have some degree of flexibility with her members so long as Britain makes a clean break. 58% of Tory members would think a transition deal was fine (even if it includes payment and following EU rules), 61% think a one-off payment to settle Britain’s financial liabilities is fine too. Trickier would be any ongoing financial payment in return for market access (70% of Tory members would see this as unacceptable) or Britain remaining in the single market (69% would see it as unacceptable).

Looking to May’s future, there is very little appetite for her immediate removal (only 13% of her party members would like her to go now or in the next year), but equally there is relatively little support for her still being around come the next election (only 29%). Most Tory party members would like her to leave after Brexit (38%) or just before the next election (13%).

Who would be a likely successor is unclear. Boris Johnson leads the field as first choice, but only of 23% of members. Second is Ruth Davidson on 19%, third is Jacob Rees-Mogg, suggesting there are actually real party members who think he’d make a good leader, rather than just journos struggling to fill column inches in silly season. David Davis has now dropped to fourth place on 11%, Amber Rudd is on just 6%.

Asked what is most important to them in a leader the vast majority of party members say ability to win an election or competence as Prime Minister, rather than whether they agree with them politically. Their actual preferences paint a different picture though, with consistent differences between Remain and Leave Tories. Tory members who voted Leave say their first choices are Johnson (29%), Rees-Mogg (23%), Davidson (14%), Davis (13%). Tory members who voted Remain say their first choices are Davidson (29%), Rudd (14%), Hammond (11%), Johnson (10%).

YouGov also asked about various potential candidates individually. 58% think Davidson would make a good leader, 56% Johnson, 55% Davis, 42% Rudd, 32% Hammond, 31% Fox, Javid 29%. While the poll included some less high profile figures who have been talked of as potential leaders of the future, most party members didn’t really have an impression of them – 49% said they didn’t know enough about Dominic Raab to have an opinion, 65% said the same about Tom Tugendhat. Notably, of all those asked about Ruth Davidson was the only candidate that both Remain voting Tories and Leave voting Tories thought would make a good leader. It would be an extremely positive sign for a Davidson leadership campaign… if, of course, she had any interest in moving down to Westminster or seeking the job.

Full tabs are here.