The monthly YouGov poll for the Telegraph suggests that Labour have so far survived the recent furore over party loans unscathed, while some of the shine has begun to wear off of David Cameron. The topline figures, with changes from the YouGov/Sunday Times polls earlier in the month are CON 36%(-2), LAB 36%(+1), LDEM 18%(-1).

The period since the last YouGov poll has seen the budget, but far more media attention has been paid to the issue of party funding, and specifically the question of secret party loans which has now rumbled on for over two weeks. Perhaps surprisingly the issue does not seem to have done any damage to Labour’s support – perhaps simply because people already assumed that peerages could be bought by donations, or perhaps because people see politicans as all as bad as one another, rather than attaching blame to the Labour party alone.

In contrast the level of Conservative support has fallen – this is probably part of the wider trend picked up by other polling companies who have shown the level of Conservative support dropping in the past month, though the Conservative party’s refusal until now to reveal the names of their own donors may be a contributing factor.

David Cameron’s net approval rating has also fallen – down from +27 in the last YouGov/Telegraph poll to +14 this month. I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the past that new Conservative leaders have normally followed a pattern of having positive approval ratings to begin with, which have then fallen as the early “don’t knows” become disapproves. This is not that pattern – the proportion of people who say they don’t know (38%) has not fallen, rather the proportion of people who approve of Cameron has fallen. Again, this could be a result of his decision not to reveal the loans, or could be related to his budget response – one of the few House of Commons speeches people do watch, which consisted almost entirely of the “Punch and Judy” politics he had signified that he rejected (or, of course, it could be a rogue poll – you should always be careful not to read too much into a single poll).

Tony Blair’s approval rating is also down – his net approval is now -30 points and 49% of people think he is a liability to the Labour party. While Gordon Brown’s approval ratings are still relatively high with a net score of +19, his star also seems to be on the wane. A year ago 52% of people though that Brown was doing a better job as Chancellor than Blair was as PM, now only 37% do. While 50% of people continue to think Brown is an asset to the Labour party, this is down from 63% a year ago and over a quarter (27%) now think Brown is a liability. Most strikingly, asked which of the two men they would rather see as Prime Minister, Brown now leads Blair by only 1 point, 31% to 30%, compared to a 10 point lead a year ago.

Finally YouGov asked about the budget and NHS finance. Overall there was a slight thumbs down to the budget – 44% thought it was unfair, while 37% thought it was fair. 50% agreed there was a black hole in the public finances. On the NHS, 64% of people thought there was a financial crisis within the NHS with all hospitals being forced to cut back on patient care, 25% thought there were only isolated incidents affecting relatively few patiences.

It will probably still be a day or two before there are any polls to gauge reaction to the budget, but there was a rather surprising Populus poll commissioned for the BBC’s run-up to the budget.

The poll covered the subject of inheritance tax. While this is a highly emotive subject for a small section of society, my own assumption had always been that the tax was only really a concern for that minority of people wealthy enough to fall into the clutches of inheritance tax, but not wealthy enough to afford to dodge it. Populus’s poll reveal far wider opposition to the tax than I for one had suspected.

Only 25% of people thought that “having an inheritance tax on the value of the assets people leave when they die” was a fair way of raising government revenue. 73% thought that the very principle of inheritance tax was unfair.

Of course, if you ask people if they like paying a tax you should expect to get no as an answer, since few people enjoy paying taxes. Questions on whether a particular tax should be cut or removed are of dubious worth unless there is some sort of indication of how or if the revenue lost would be made up. Populus’s second question therefore asked if people would support abolishing inheritance tax and making up the lost revenue by putting a penny on income tax – 59% of people said they would support such a move, with only 37% opposed.

Sadly Populus didn’t publish the breakdowns by income or tenure (whether people owned a house or not), but certainly there did not seem to be any sigificant difference between the opinions of different social classes. Older people, whose assets are most likely to be subject to inheritance tax in the near future (though, of course, are presumably less likely to inherit money from more elderly relatives), were slightly more likely to support the scrapping of inheritance tax.

76% of people also agreed that, if there is to be an inheritance tax, it should affect “only affect very rich people so the starting level should be much higher than £275,000”. 22% disagreed.

While this does suggest that there is very wide opposition to inheritance tax, it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t indicate how deep that opposition is. People’s assets are only subject to inheritance tax only once, and they are not around to notice it, and recieving large, taxables inheritances should also be a rare occassion in most peoples’ lives. People have to pay most other forms of taxation far more often. While people say they don’t like inheritance tax, there’s nothing in this poll to suggest it is a particularly salient issue for most people.


A new YouGov poll suggests that the majority of the public think that Tony Blair is sleazy, the way honours are distributed are corrupt and that rich donors have too much influence over the Labour party.

The topline voting intention figures for the poll in the Sunday Times are CON 38% (nc) LAB 35%(-1) LDEM 19%(+1). The lead is slightly up from the last YouGov poll, conducted prior to the recent questions over party funding. While the change is far too small to be significant, it does contradict the ICM poll last week which suggested Labour had overtaken the Conservatives.

The hypothetical figures with Brown as Labour leader are CON 39% LAB 37% LDEM 17%. Unusually in recent months, this shows that Labour do better against the Conservatives under Brown than under Blair, although the difference is marginal.

Net approval ratings for the three party leaders are Blair -25, Cameron +33 and Campbell +5. Ming Campbell’s approval rating is very low by the standards of his predecessor, but this is almost certainly simply a result of a large number of people answering “don’t know” – we won’t know how he is really going down with the public until they have had time to form an opinion.

On the questions of party funding, almost two-thirds of people think Labour kept the loans secret because they were embarrassed by them and a similar amount of people though that rich donors had too much influence. 56% of people thought that the Prime Minister had indeed given peerages in exchange for loans and donations and 54% thought Downing Street acted improperly in relation to the way Jack Dromey was not informed of them. 53% of people think Tony Blair is sleazy, only 24% disagree.

UPDATE: There is also an ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph which has voting intention at CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 21%, so in line with their poll earlier in the week.

(On a personal note, I’m on holiday for the next few days, so comments in the moderation queue will not be published until my return)

The ICM poll for the Guardian also included a voting intention question with Brown as Labour leader, which showed the now normal pattern of the Conservatives doing better against Labour with Brown instead of Blair. The full figures were CON 37%, LAB 37%, LDEM 19% (as ever bear in mind that polls don’t predict, they only measure opinion at the moment, so this is a purely hypothetical question).

Net approval ratings for the party leaders are Blair -9, Cameron +20 and Campbell +19, though the interesting thing to watch on these questions is how Cameron’s rating holds up once the proportions of “don’t knows” declines – we shall see once the full figures are available.

Finally ICM also commissioned a focus group on the image of the party leaders, asking respondents what cars they associated with the party leaders (which sounds silly, but is actually a good way of looking at a brand image). Blair was seen as a defunct Rover or a Lada, David Cameron was seen as BMW 5 Series, Gordon Brown as a tank, suggesting that Cameron is seen as swish and modern, but perhaps something associated with the rich rather than normal people, while Brown as seen as strong, straight forward, but perhaps charmless and brutal. Ming Campbell was seen as an old Jag, which ironically, is what he actually drives. Or did drive, before it was banished to his garage during the leadership election.

Focus groups told ICM that they thought Cameron was dynamic and would be most at home at a Live 8 concert, talking or listening to people. While this sounds like political gold dust for a party leader, on the downside Cameron was seen as being too much like Blair, and – another recuring theme – ICM’s focus group commented on the fact that while he had offered signposts, he hadn’t put forward any policies.

A surprising ICM poll in tomorrow’s Guardian puts Labour back ahead with a good 3 point lead – a reversal of last months figures: CON 34% (-3), LAB 37%(+3), LDEM 21% (nc).

Voting intention polls tend to shift for identifiable reasons – Charlie Kennedy is ousted as party leader and the Lib Dems go down; Tories get a new leader they go up; fuel strikes bring country to a standstill Labour go down, and so on. Big shifts like this with no obvious reason are unusual, the Conservatives haven’t done anything particularly damaging in the last few weeks and most of the media coverage of Labour has been about financial “sleaze” and internal divisions over the education bill – hardly the sort of thing that is liable to improve Labour’s popularity.

It could be that the poll is simply a rogue or even just a change within the margin of error, but along with YouGov ICM do tend to produce the most steady and robust figures. Two potential explanations come to mind – firstly the Ming effect. While the headline level of Liberal Democrat support is unchanged, there could be underlying churn – perhaps Sir Menzies Campbell’s election has taken support from the Tories but lost support to Labour. An alternate explanation is that Cameron’s honeymoon has simply come to an aprupt end, that the Tory increase was a purely temporary phenomenon and they are now falling back to their previous level of support.

Some recent polls have shown a slight move back to Labour – Populus’s last poll showed the Tories slipping back, as did MORI’s. The exception at the moment is YouGov, who last month reported the Tories moving back ahead of Labour. The next couple of polls will confirm whether this is a genuine swing back to Labour or just normal variation.