A golden rule in looking at polls should be to examine to the big picture, the trend in the polls as a whole, rather than trying to draw conclusions from individual polls. However, because I try to report every new political poll that’s published, this blog sometimes misses out on the bigger picture. Hence in addition to the normal reports on new polls, I’m also going to re-introduce something I used to do back in 2004 – a monthly round up of voting intention polls.

  Date CON LAB LDEM Lead
YouGov/Telegraph 28/06/06 39 (nc) 33 (+1) 18 (+1) +6
YouGov/Telegraph 23/06/06 39 (+1) 32 (nc) 17 (+1) +7
ICM/Guardian 18/06/06 37 (-1) 32 (-2) 21 (+1) +5
Ipsos-MORI/Observer 18/06/06 41 (nc) 34 (+3) 18 (nc) +7
Populus/Times 04/06/06 37 (-1) 34 (+4) 18 (-2) +3

The voting intention polls paint a fairy consistent pattern this month – the boost in Conservative support that saw them rise to the high thirties seems to have been consolidated. None of the pollsters reported any significant change in their support, and it’s fair to assume that their support has stabilized at around 38%. MORI show a slightly higher level of support for the Tories, probably because of their very harsh filter by people’s reported likelihood to vote.

Labour‘s position is less clear cut, but I suspect they are starting to recover slightly from their nadir after the local elections – ICM’s poll that showed Labour falling is from a Labour score of 34% in May that seemed anomolously high (ICM had shown Labour increasing support after the local elections when everyone else showed them slumping). The first data from YouGov’s daily political trackers did indicate a degree of Labour recovery, with the negative impressions of some ministers recovering and the Tory lead on public services like the NHS fading away. That said, Labour’s reputation for competence had not staged a recovery, and their polling figures are still noticably below those from before mid-April.

There is an unusual lack of variance in reported levels of Lib Dem support. In recent months the main contrast between the pollsters has been the level of support for the Liberal Democrats indicated by the different methodologies (at the most extreme level, after Kennedy’s resignation YouGov showed the Lib Dems diving to 13% in the same week that ICM showed them at 19%). Now three of the pollsters (YouGov, Populus and MORI) all have the Lib Dems at 18% in their latest poll. While the Liberal Democrats are obviously a long way below the share of the vote they achieved at the General Election, they have recovered from the despairs of Kennedy’s ousting and, if anything, the trend now seems to once again be in their favour, with the last three published polls all showing small increases in their support. Ratings for Ming Campbell however remain atrocious – the YouGov tracking data showed him slumping after the local elections and YouGov’s monthly poll found only 6% of people thought that he would make the best Prime Minister (though that said, like the Dunfermline by-election during their leadership crisis, the Bromley & Chistlehurst by-election shows it doesn’t necessarily stop them winning votes).

As I mentioned this morning, YouGov and MORI’s polls at least indicate a drop in the “Others” vote – YouGov has shown quite a consistent trend downwards, from a high of 15% down to 14%, to 12% to 10% in today’s poll. A large proportion of this is the BNP vote fading away having peaked at the local elections.

I am sceptical of the value of averaging out polls, and indeed on the value of using uniform national swing to predict how shares of the vote would translate into seats (see here), but if the sort of figures suggested by this month’s polls – say, CON 38%, LAB 33%, LDEM 18% – were repeated at the next election, then on a uniform swing on the new boundaries Labour would remain the largest political party, albeit short of an overall majority – CON 280 seats, LAB 298 seats, LDEM 42 seats, Others 30.

A new YouGov poll shows David Cameron overtaking Blair as the party leader people think would make the best Prime Minister. 30% chose Cameron compared to 28% for Blair and 6% for Menzies Campbell. While Michael Howard did briefly match Tony Blair in the same question, this is the first time a YouGov poll has shown the Conservative leader enjoying a lead over Blair.

The poll also showed the two parties neck and neck on economic competence, both on 31%. This is mostly due to a sharp fall in the percentage of people who have faith in Labour’s ability to run the economy (down 18 points since the election), rather than any great increase for the Conservatives (up 4 since the election).

The topline voting intention figures in the poll show Labour up marginally but, unsurprisingly, there is no significant change from the YouGov poll last week, with CON 39% (nc), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 18%(+1). The “other” share of the vote is down to 10%, and has consistently fallen in the last few YouGov polls, down from 15%, to 14%, to 12% to 10% as the boost the minor parties received at the local elections has declined. Compared to last month, the Lib Dems also seem to be recovering slightly – up 2.

The Telegraph has also published more findings from the poll conducted last week, covering attitudes towards Gordon Brown. Opinions are divided over whether Brown will be a good (38%) or bad (43%) Prime Minister, and on whether he will be better (24%) or worse (23%) than Blair. Given a list of paired words and asked which applied to Brown, the same familiar pattern arises – people think Brown is competent (53%), decisive (56%) and effective (45%), but don’t find him caring (33%), likeable (32%) or trustworthy (29%).

In contrast, when Tony Blair first became Labour leader Gallup found comparable figures to Brown on whether he was decisive and effective…but found that 70% of people thought he was caring and likeable. If public perceptions of Brown don’t change, his popularity as Prime Minister will be an interesting psychological experiment. Rationally, people should value competence, effectiveness and so on more in a potential Prime Minister than if they are a nice person. Arguably though people tend to make judgements on far simpler things, like whether they look the part (what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Warren Harding Error), or come across as likeable people. We shall see…


ICM have conducted a new survey of British Muslims in the aftermath of the Forest Gate raid earlier this month. 54% of of British Muslims thought that Sir Ian Blair should resign over the bungled raid, with 29% saying he should stay on (the Guardian report notes that respondents in the South were more supportive of Sir Ian, with 32% saying he shouldn’t resign. With an overall sample size of 501 people though, a difference of 3 points between North and South is not significiant). Asked who they blamed for the Forest Gate raid was evenly split between the police and the intelligence services – 32% of Muslims blamed the intellience services, 30% the police and 32% both of them equally.

Most worryingly, only a minority (31%) of British Muslims thought it was right that the police should be able to act pre-emptively to prevent terrorist attacks when there was a risk that the intelligence might be wrong. 57% of respondents said it was wrong. A comparable question asked of the British public in general found 74% thought it was right for the police to take pre-emptive action with only 17% objecting. It would appear that too many arrests of people who are later released without charge are sapping support for the police amongst British Muslims.

YouGov/My Sunday, My Choice – 57% of people wanted to be able to shop where and when they wanted on Sundays, 23% disagree
MORI/Greenpeace – an international comparative survey about how much extra people say they would be willing to pay for a more environmentally friendly computer. People in the UK would apparantly pay an extra £64 for an environmentally friendly computer (and people in most of the other countries would pay even more). Ah…but look further down, across the whole survey 54% of people say price is an important concern when chosing a computer, but only 13% of people said environmental considerations were.
On an unconnected matter – I’m getting lots of google hits today from people looking for details of the new Parliamentary boundaries on the back of the Times’ coverage of Lewis Baston and Simon Henig’s report in the House Magazine. The contents of the House Mag are subscriber only, but my own report on the boundary changes is still available here and Lewis Baston’s earlier prediction are in a paper here.

The monthly YouGov poll for the Telegraph has the Conservative lead stretching slightly to 7 points. The topline figures with changes from last month are CON 39%(+1), LAB 32%(nc), LDEM 17%(+1). The changes from last month are not significant, but do suggest that the Conservatives are consolidating the lead they have enjoyed since the local elections. The total vote for “others” has fallen two points, but at 12% remains historically high.

The poll also included forced choice questions on whether people would prefer a Conservative government under Cameron to a Labour government under Blair, and a Conservative government under Cameron or a Labour government under Brown. With Blair as Labour leader the Conservatives lead 45% to 36%, with Brown as Labour leader this narrows to 44% to 38%.

These figures present a huge turnaround from the last election – in a comparable question on May 3-4th 2005, a Labour government under Blair led a Conservative government under Michael Howard by 17 points, more interesting though is what they say about attitudes to Gordon Brown.

Prior to David Cameron’s election polls consistently suggested that Labour would perform better with Gordon Brown as leader. Since Cameron became leader, every time a hypothetical poll about voting intention with Gordon Brown as leader has been asked, it has shown either the parties neck and neck or a Tory lead, and the majority have shown Brown doing worse than Blair. However, because the hypothetical questions include the names of party leaders, and normal voting intention questions don’t, these polls haven’t been directly comparable. The change could be because Brown is less popular than Blair, or it could be the effect of associating David Cameron’s name with the Conservatives.

These YouGov findings, which included party leader’s names in both questions, suggest that it is the Cameron effect rather than Brown damaging Labour’s chances. Of course, we still can’t say that Brown would help Labour’s position in the polls, since it is a forced choice question between just Conservative and Labour. Those people who prefer the Tories with Blair as PM, but Labour under Brown could all be die hard Liberal Democrat voters who wouldn’t vote for either of them. Polls like this can only either be hypothetical, so we’ll never know what will really happen until Blair is replaced, but what would give us the best idea is a normal voting intention question prompting with party leader names, and then another voting intention question but with Gordon Brown as the Labour leader (and then possibly, just to put the cat among the pigeons, some with Alan Johnson, John Reid, Hilary Benn, etc, etc…)