Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has the Conservative and Labour parties neck and neck on 35%. The topline figures, with changes from Populus’s poll last month, are CON 35%(-2), LAB 35%(-1), LDEM 20%(+2). As with other recent polls the Liberal Democrats have recovered from the decline they suffered after Charlie Kennedy’s resignation, in fact they are one point higher than in December’s Populus poll, though it is far too early to tell if this signifies any sort of bounce from Ming Campbell’s leadership.

The poll was conducted over the weekend when the David Mills saga was receiving heavy press coverage. Asked if the Labour government was sleazier than the last Conservative government a large majority (67%) thought the two were as bad as one another, with 16% thinking Labour were worse than the last Tory government and 11% thinking the Tories were more sleazy. While obviously this finding could be far worse for Labour (people could think the Tories weren’t sleazy!), it should probably be a cause for concern that 83% of the population view them as being as bad or worse than a government that became a by-word for sleaze.

Asked if “allegations are fairly investigated and, if ministers have done wrong, they are forced to resign or the Prime Minister sacks them”, or the government “brushes the allegations under the carpet and ministers often keep their jobs regardless of whether they have done wrong”, 58% of people think that allegations are swept under the carpet while 38% of people think they are properly investigated.

Populus also asked a hypothetical voting intention question with Gordon Brown as Labour leader. Unlike the weekend’s BPIX poll which showed Labour narrowing the gap under Brown, Populus’s findings continue to suggest that Labour would do far worse relative to the Conservatives under Gordon Brown’s leadership with support at CON 40%, LAB 34%, LDEM 20%. The figures for this question do not have topline adjustment in the same way that the main poll does, but I’m assured that the number of people it would have involved reallocating are so small that it wouldn’t have made any real difference anyway.

Interestingly while the Conservatives gain support with Brown as Labour leader, the main losers are the “Others”. This probably partially due to the way the question is asked – giving the party leaders’ names for the three main parties probably artificially depresses the support for the “other” parties whose leaders aren’t given a namecheck. Either way, it probably isn’t a case of “other” voters magically voting Tory if Gordon Brown becomes PM – the changes in voting behaviour almost certainly contain a fair amount of ‘churn’. The detailled figures for the last ICM and Populus polls to ask this question show the the overwhelming majority of current Conservative supporters would also vote Conservative in a Cameron vs Brown race, but that there is a small movement of support to the Conservatives from both the Lib Dems and Labour, as well as shifts of support in both directions between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

There are contrasting poll findings on Tessa Jowell’s future in the cabinet. A snap ICM poll of 410 people for Saturday’s Guardian found support for Jowell – 44% think she should stay in the cabinet while 29% think she should go. In contrast a BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday today found 55% of people thought she should resign, while 19% thought she should stay. BPIX are not members of the BPC and don’t release the full tables and questions of their polls, so there is no way of knowing what might account for the difference.

The BPIX poll also included several questions about the specifics of the allegations against David Mills – people overwhelmingly thought that David Mills was dishonest (by 60% to 1%) and that he had accepted a bribe (by 60% to 4%) – public opinion on Tessa Jowell was slightly more favourable, but not by much. 12% of people believe that she didn’t know about the payment of £350,000 to her husband and only 12% of think she is honest.

Voting intentions in the BPIX poll, with changes from their last poll in January, are CON 39%(+1), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 16%(nc). While the Lib Dem figure is low compared to other pollsters the bigger picture does match the trend shown by ICM and YouGov in recent days – that the Lib Dems are now back to the level they were at immediately prior to Kennedy’s resignation. The subsequent damage done by the revelations about Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes’s private lives did not do them any long term damage. There is not yet any sign of a Lib Dem boost from their new leader – perhaps because Tessa Jowell’s troubles have dominated the political news coverage in Ming Campbell’s first few days as leader.

BPIX also asked a hypothetical voting intention with Gordon Brown as Labour leader – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 13%. As ever, questions like this are just hypothetical and you shouldn’t read too much into it, but they are good figures for Gordon Brown. Most recent polls of this type have shown Labour performing less well with Brown in charge, and it is the first such question since Cameron became Tory leader not to show a Conservative lead.


Populus are first out of the gates on Ming Campbell – today’s Politics Show had a Populus poll conducted immediately after the announcement of the leadership election yesterday afternoon in the Liberal Democrat’s top 20 target seats (or at least, the ten most marginal Labour held seats and ten most marginal Conservative held seats with Lib Dems in second place). Snap polls like this aren’t as reliable as full polls – there isn’t the opportunity to ring back people who are out, leading to non-contact bias – but they can give us a good rough guide to what people think in the Liberal Democrats’ target seats.

Over 75% of people said they were either not interested or only slightly interested in the Lib dem leadership election, which perhaps suggests that the Lib Dems will not benefit from any huge post-leadership election bounce (though we’ll know for sure in a couple of days).

Asked if they saw Menzies Campbell as a potential Prime Minister 19% of people said yes, compared to 60% who could see Gordon Brown as a potential PM and 49% who could see David Cameron as a potential leader, although this question may well simply reflect the chances of the respective politicians’ political parties winning a Commons majority, rather than reflecting on Ming Campbell’s personal stature as a politician.

19% of people said that Ming Campbell’s leadership made them more likely to vote Liberal Democrat (although there is no indiction of how many of these people would vote Lib Dem anyway), this compared to 28% of people who said Gordon Brown becoming Labour leader would make them more likely to vote Labour (though no indication how many vote Labour anyway), and 30% who said David Cameron’s leadership had made them more likely to vote Conservative (ditto).

…and that’s just the staff. Predictable punchline aside, YouGov have carried out a new poll for the Spectator looking at changes in sexual morality.

As might be expected, the overwhelming majority (92%) of people think that British society has become more tolerant of all types of sexual conduct since the 1960s. There is rather less consensus over whether this is a good thing or not – 44% of people think it has made people healthier and happier, 31% think it has made people less happy and healthy. There are obvious differences between the generations – 54% of under 25s think the changes have made people happier, with only 16% thinking the opposite. Amongst those born before 1940 65% think the changes have made people less happy, with only 18% thinking the opposite.

Asked about various specific issues, 54% of people think there is too much sex on the television, 71% of people think there should be tighter restrictions on what sexual material is available on the internet, 46% think adultery is morally wrong, 20% think homosexuality is morally wrong, 18% think using pornography is morally wrong, 31% thinking making pornography is morally wrong, 32% think prostution is morally wrong.

There are some interesting contrasts between the genders and different age groups. Pornography and sex on the television and internet are viewed far more negatively by women than men. Only 38% of men think there is too much sex on television while 15% think there isn’t enough; 69% of women think there is too much sex on television, only 1% think there isn’t enough. Support for greater restrictions on sexual content on the internet is 53% to 41% amongst men, but 86% to 10% amongst women. 9% of men think using pornography is morally wrong, 27% of women do.

In contrast, women are far more tolerant of homosexuality – 14% of women think homosexuality is morally wrong compared to 27% of men.

Contrasts between the generations are predictably mostly cases of older generations being far more conservative. People born before 1940 are far more likely to object to sex on the television or the internet and far more likely to think homosexuality or pornography are morally wrong than those born after 1980. That isn’t to say that young people are entirely liberal – even amongst those born after 1980 37% think there is too much sex on the television, 59% think there should be greater restriction of sex on the internet and 15% think homosexuality is morally wrong.

There is also one striking exception to the trend – young people are far less tolerant of adultery. While 52% of people born before 1940 think adultery is morally wrong, the baby boom generation is far more liberal – only 39% of those born in the 1940s think it is wrong and only 38% of those born in the 50s think so. After that, it once again begins to climb until amongst those born after 1980, 60% think adultery is morally wrong. While young people are far more accepting of pornography and homosexuality, they do seem to have more conservative (or at least, more idealistic) views of the sanctity of marriage.

On the subject of marriage YouGov also asked if people thought that marriage was the best environment for children to be brought up within – 65% agreed, with men and older people more likely to agree (although there was a slight increase in agreement amongst those born after 1980, though not really large enough to be significant) – and if people thought divorce was too easy, 41% agreed, 5 disagreed.