ComRes’s monthly telephone poll for the Daily Mail is out today and has topline figures of CON 42%, LAB 28%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 9%, GRN 6%. The last time the Conservatives reached the heights of 42% in any poll was way back in 2010. Full tables for the poll are here.

The poll also had a bank of questions on perceptions of the four Labour leadership contenders and whether people would vote for them. In my last post I wrote about how such questions really don’t tell us very much: none of the candidates are well known to the public, and how people would vote with x or y as leader is an extremely hypothetical question – what policies will they follow? How will the media and public react? Will the party be united, split or riven with dissent? I don’t know and neither do the poll respondents.

For what it’s worth though, the main finding here was how little there was to choose between the candidates. ComRes asked if people would vote for Labour with the four candidates, the spread was between Burnham and Corbyn on 22% down to Kendall on 18%. They asked who had what it took to be PM, Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn were essentially in a three way tie on 23%-24%. Given the standard margin of error on a poll this size, it suggests the wider public really aren’t that enthused by any of them.


I haven’t posted the daily YouGov figures for much of this week – simply because there hasn’t been much change – but after a while that itself is noteworthy. For the last three days YouGov has showed the Conservatives with a 2 point lead over Labour, with the Conservatives on 40-41%, Labour on 38-39% and the Liberal Democrats on 11-12%. If there ever really was a slight narrowing of the Conservative lead after the spending cuts it rapidly disappeared again – YouGov’s polls now are basically identical to those before the spending review.

The political debate for most of the week has been about housing benefit, which clearly hasn’t had any effect on support – not that we would expect it to. Straight after the budget in June when the housing benefit cap was first announced YouGov found 78% of people supporting it, ICM found 68% of people supported the cap. YouGov asked again in August as part of a poll to mark David Cameron’s 100 days in power and found 72% in support.

Of course, that was two months ago and it’s possible the focus on people in London losing their homes may have changed opinions… but I wouldn’t count on it. I expect we’ll see some more up to date polling on housing benefit sooner rather than later.

Public Sector voters

There was also a rather unremarked methodology shift from one of the pollsters this week. Back in 2008 when MORI reviewed their methodology after wrongly showing Ken Livingstone ahead in the London mayoral race, they discovered they had too many public sector workers in their telephone samples and started weighting according to it (quite drastically, it’s sometimes a case of almost halving the number of public sector workers). At the time I pondered whether, if MORI have too many public sector workers in their phone polls, would other phone pollsters have similar problems? At the time Andrew Cooper of Populus pointed out – correctly – that it was worth looking at but if there was a problem it shouldn’t affect voting intention as past vote weighting should sort that out.

Well, this month Populus have gone down MORI’s route and weighted their poll by public and private sector employment. As with MORI’s experience, it’s quite a big shift, weighting public service employees down from 19% of the sample to 12%. This may well still not make any difference to voting intention, but it might well make an impact on questions about the cuts, were there are big differences between public and private sector opinions – for example, Populus found 46% of private sector employees thought the cuts were fair, but only 27% of public sector employees.

Voting intention amongst public sector employees is hard to judge, since the sample size of public sector voters in standard polls is often under 200, so is very volatile (for example, this month Populus found the Lib Dems on 17% amongst public sector voters, ICM found them on 8%). Looking at the handful of polls in recent months that have included a public sector cross break though the rough position seems to be that the Conservatives are at around 25%-30% and Labour around 45%-50%. The polls from the last Parliament showing the Conservatives ahead amongst public sector workers seem to be a distant memory.

Europe

Today there have been a couple of interesting posts by Mike Smithson and James Frayne on how salient an issue Europe is, or more to the point, how salient an issue it isn’t. Essentially there is no conflict between their views. Europe is, as Mike says, an issue of very low salience that currently excites no one but Conservative diehards and some UKIP supporters (yes, only some, YouGov polling at the time of the last European election suggested that many UKIP voters were more motivated by immigration than Europe as an issue). However, James is also correct that it has potential to be more salient – you only need to look at the graph Mike uses to illustrate his piece to see that back in the 1990s more than 30% of people used to cite Europe as one of the most important issues facing the country.


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YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun tonight has topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 39%, LDEM 12%. It’s the lowest lead YouGov have shown since the election (and, indeed, since the election-that-never-was), although ICM have already shown the two parties neck and neck.

We have been seeing the gap between Labour and the Conservatives gradually narrowing over the summer. We are rapidly heading towards the conference system, which looking at past elections has normally produced a lot of up and down in the polls as each party gets some sort of boost from the media coverage of their own conference – I’d be surprised if we didn’t get a poll showing Labour ahead during their conference if we don’t get one this week.


YouGov have carried out a fresh poll of Labour party members and Trade Unionists for tomorrow’s Sunday Times. Six weeks ago a similar YouGov poll found David Miliband eight points ahead; today’s poll finds the two Milibands neck and neck, with Ed Miliband very narrowly ahead. For those of you with subscriptions, the Sunday Times’s full report can be found here.

As before, YouGov asked people their first preference, their second preference, and then who they would prefer between the two Milibands (based on the, thankfully correct, assumption that the poll would show the two Milibands coming up top on the early preferences). Samples of party members and members of Labour affiliated trade unions were polled, and MPs preferences were based upon updated work by Left Foot Forward.

The main shift is amongst Trade Unionists. In the Labour member section there is only a small movement towards Ed – in July the two brothers were equal on 50% each, now Ed is ahead by 4 points. Amongst the MPs and MEPs section there has been a very slight movement towards David, and Left Foot Forward’s projected split for MPs & MEPs is now David 56%, Ed 44%. Amongst Trade Unionists there has been a large movement, in July we found a lead of 12 points for David amongst eligible trade unionists. Since then there has been a huge shift, and Ed now leads David in that section by 57% to 43%. Prima facie, it would appear that trade union encouragement of their members to back the candidate they endorsed had a decisive effect.

Putting all three parts of the college together this leaves Ed two points ahead, 51% to 49%. David Miliband is still ahead amongst MPs, but it’s not enough to overcome Ed Miliband’s lead among members and trade unionists.

One big caveat is MPs second preferences – Left Foot Forward have a good canvas of how MPs will cast their first preferences, but there is little good information on how MPs will cast their second preferences. In both YouGov projections we have made the crude assumption that the second preferences of MPs who back Abbott, Balls and Burnham will divide evenly between David and Ed Miliband, but obviously this could go either way. About two thirds of MPs are backing a Miliband anyway, so this unknown section makes up a third of a third of the total vote – about 10%. Another unknown is turnout, but notably over 40% of those polled said they had already voted, and these respondents were more likely to backing Ed Miliband, so if YouGov have included too many unlikely voters, the result should be more favourable to Ed than this suggests.

With the MPs second preferences unknown and the two candidates within the margin of error it really could go either way, but Ed Miliband is now in poll position.

Meanwhile, on YouGov’s standard daily polling (an entirely seperate poll, obviously) voting intention stands at CON 42%, LAB 38%, LDEM 14%. YouGov also asked about the future of Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s Director of Communications who was editor of the News of the World at the time of the phone tapping scandal. 48% think Coulson should go, 24% that he should keep his job.


Two polls tonight. First YouGov’s regular daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 42%, LAB 37%, LDEM 13%. The Government’s net approval rating is nil – 40% approve and 40% disapprove.

Secondly there is a ComRes poll, with significantly different figures. They have topline figures of CON 38%(-1), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 18%(+3). This is a much higher level of Lib Dem support than YouGov are showing, up from 15% in ComRes’s last poll, apparenly at the expense of “others”. Interestingly enough, ComRes’s press release says that the proportion of Lib Dem 2010 voters who have defected to Labour has risen from 15% a month ago to 22% now, which is rather odd given the rise in overall support – presumably they have picked up enough support elsewhere to cancel it out.