More 4 News has a Populus poll on perceptions of the political parties. People were asked to rate the parties on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being very left wing and 10 being very right wing. On average voters put the Liberal Democrats at 4.55, Labour at 4.79 and the Conservatives at 6.00.

Tony Blair was rated as 4.91 on the same left-right scale – so slightly right of the Labour party – while David Cameron was rated 5.73, so slightly left of the Tories. Gordon Brown was at 4.71, suggesting he is perceived as being slightly more left-wing than Labour is at present.

I was rather confused when I first read these figures since, comparing them to what seemed to be an identical Populus poll from last September which had the Conservative party at 5.89, it appeared that people think the Conservatives under David Cameron are more right wing than under Michael Howard. This would have been an unusual result to say the least – but in actual fact that poll had a scale of 1-10, while this one has a scale of 0-10 meaning the figures are – rather disappointingly – not directly comparable.

Despite the difference in scale, one intriguing difference between the two polls is that the perceived ‘centre ground’ in politics (and despite the different scales, respondents to both surveys were told that 5 was dead centre) seems to have shifted. Last year people told Populus they saw the centre ground as a point somewhere between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, with the Tories off to the right. Now they’re telling Populus that the centre ground is a point somewhere between the Tories and Labour.


The latest MORI poll, published in Saturday’s Sun, had the Lib Dems down to 15%. This is their lowest rating in a MORI poll since 2002, and that was prior to MORI’s change in methodology to filter my likelihood of voting. Remember, this poll was conducted before relevations about Mark Oaten’s private life and his subsequent resignation so there may yet be worse news to come.

Before any Lib Dem supporters reading this panic though, it’s worth remembering that MORI’s topline figures do tend to exhibit more volatility than the other pollsters (probably because they do not weight by past vote, which serves to dampen down sample error in other pollsters’ figures). Last month MORI showed an incredible 9 point lead for the Conservatives – this month they have more believable figures with the Conservatives and Labour both on 39%. The low Lib Dem score could simply be the Lib Dem equivalent of last month’s anomolously low score for Labour – there should be both ICM and YouGov polls in the coming week which will give us a better idea of if the Lib Dem party has suffered any damage from Mark Oaten’s resignation.


-->

With hunting now banned, the League Against Cruel Sports seems to be targeting shooting – or at least, they commissioned a new poll from Communicate Research asking about people’s attitudes to shooting. Communicate asked if people thought shooting wild birds or mammals for sport was acceptable or unacceptable – 71% thought it was unacceptable, 85% thought it was unacceptable to make money from the killing of wild birds or mammals for sport and 80% thought the rearing of pheasants in intensive conditions to supply shooting estates was unacceptable.

Personally I’m rather wary about the wording of the questions in the poll – gamebirds obviously aren’t “wild birds” in any real sense of the word, though one of the League Against Cruel Sports’s objections to shooting game birds is that many wild birds and animals are killed by gamekeepers to protect the pheasants. It’s unlikely that people answering the question were looking at it in those terms though. Equally, you can’t tell from the last question whether people find the breeding of birds to be shot unacceptable, or breeding birds in intensive conditions unacceptable. Despire these shortcomings, the poll does suggest that a majority of the public would be receptive to a campaign against shooting.

On a different “animal welfare” issue, the government this week said they were reversing their earlier decision not to pursue a ban on docking the tails of dogs. While it isn’t up on MORI’s website yet, the RSPCA commissed a poll last month which found that only 8% of people supported docking tails for cosmetic reasons, while 75% were opposed. Of course, those opposed to a ban frequently argue about the desirability of docking the tails of working dogs to avoid infection and injury – either MORI didn’t ask about docking for these reasons, or the RSPCA didn’t report the figures.


ICM’s weekend poll for the News of the World also contained questions on the Prime Minister’s ‘respect agenda’ and, though it doesn’t seem to have been published in the paper, a hypothetical voting intention question asking how people would vote if Gordon Brown were Labour leader and Ming Campbell were Lib Dem leader. For most of the last Parliament hypothetical questions like this used to indicate that Brown would be a boon to Labour, more recently they have indicted that Labour would in fact perform worse with Brown as leader. ICM’s poll suggests that Brown and Campbell becoming Labour and Lib Dem leaders would make virtually no difference at all.

On the ‘respect agenda’ ICM found that 64% of people thought that Britain’s streets had become less safe since Labour were elected in 1997. When it came to the long list of initiatives laid out by the government last week, respondents thought that nearly all of them would be successful (the exception was the plan to evict nuisance families from their homes for 3 months, which 49% of people thought would be unsuccessful), but overall 67% thought that Tony Blair’s ‘respect agenda’ would make little difference.


There is an ICM poll in the News of the World tomorrow showing the topline voting intentions (with changes since ICM’s last poll in December) at CON 39%(+2), LAB 35%(-1), LDEM 20%(-1).

The poll suggests that David Cameron is continuing to build upon his political honeymoon. Leaving aside the apparently rogue MORI poll last month, this is the highest level of support recorded by the Tories for several years. The poll is also the first measure of voting intention since the news of the Liberal Democrat leadership election has really sunk in and, unlike Populus’s poll in the week, ICM ‘s poll does not suggest that the Lib Dems have sustained any real damage, down just a single point.

There is a surprising contrast between ICM and Populus’s polls this week – ICM had a Tory lead of 4 points, Populus a Labour lead of 3 points; Populus had the Lib Dems falling 3 points to a worrying 16% of the vote, ICM has them on a study 20%, only 1 point down from prior to their troubles.

While ICM have consistently suggested a higher level of Lib Dem support during this Parliament (probably due to ICM’s weighting, which is more favourable to the Lib Dems and Tories than Populus’s), the difference in the drop in the Lib Dem vote is somewhat different. It could simply be the result of the Populus poll having been conducted in the midst of complete turmoil within the Lib Dem party – now that Kennedy has resigned and the immediate crisis passed, the Lib dem vote has recovered slightly in ICM’s poll. Alternatively, it could just be down to simple sample error – let’s wait and see what ICM and YouGov’s polls later this month say.

If there are any other interesting results from the poll I’ll update tomorrow.