A YouGov poll for Saturday’s Telegraph has the two main parties neck and neck on 36%. The full topline figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll are CON 36%(-1), LAB 36%(+3), LDEM 16%(-2).

While it is but a single poll, if other polls show a similar trend it will suggests that Labour have significantly benefited from their conference and from the leap in perceptions of Tony Blair. Apart from the MORI poll earlier this month this is the first poll to put Labour as high as 36% since before the local elections in May, certainly they have been steady at around 31%-33% in YouGov’s polls for the last five months. The Labour boost is at the expense of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems (while the Conservatives are down only 1 point on the most recent YouGov poll, they are down 2 from another YouGov poll with only slightly earlier fieldwork).

It’s not unusual to see parties’ receive boosts from the party conferences. It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary effect of the glow around Tony Blair’s final conference speech that will rapidly dissipate or a more substantial recovery for Labour after a difficult six months, and indeed whether the boost is cancelled out by a Tory boost from their conference next week.

More to come tomorrow…

Below is the updated graph of the net impression figures for senior Labour party politicians from YouGov’s BrandIndex tracker, now including the effect of the Labour party conference. Click on the graph to see a larger version of it.


The figures are all based on a five day rolling average, so it will take a few days for a full effect of the conference to work its way through onto the graph, but the figures already tell an obvious story. There is a general upwards trend in ratings after a Labour conference that could have been dominated by infighting, but wasn’t. The most striking increase is in Tony Blair’s ratings, which have shot upwards since his powerful leaving speech – his ratings are now at the highest level yet recorded on the BrandIndex political trackers, above those recorded before the prisoner release scandal and “Labour’s Black Wednesday”.

Gordon Brown’s figures are up as well, but were gradually recovering from the slump that followed Tom Watson’s resignation even before the conference, which doesn’t seem to have speeded the pace of his recovery. He remains below his ratings prior to Watson’s resignation.

There is also a noticable increase in perceptions of John Reid. Alan Johnson’s figures do not seem to have been affected by the conference, but have been slowly rising over the past month.

The chart below, based up on the 3-day rolling averages (i.e. around 1,875 responses, so still reasonably robust) shows the contenders ratings before and after the party conference.

NET rating 22 Sept NET rating 28 Sept Change
Tony Blair minus 31 minus 19 UP 12
John Reid minus 12 minus 7 UP 5
Gordon Brown minus 28 minus 24 UP 4
Alan Johnson minus 7 minus 6 UP 1
David Miliband minus 13 minus 12 UP 1

Given that John Reid’s speech was on the final day of conference, his boost was probably more to do with his ‘victory’ in Newsnight’s focus group on the Labour leadership (or more to the point, given that not many people actually watch Newsnight, the media speculation that followed it). He may yet get a further boost (or a reverse) as data from after his conference speech comes in.

There haven’t been any voting intention polls since the party conference yet, but if the boost in people’s perceptions of Tony Blair is in any way echoed in voting intentions Labour should see a healthy conference boost. We shall see…

*As ever, BrandIndex does not use a nationally representative sample, but a sample that is slightly skewed towards younger and wealthier respondents. However, because the demographic make-up of the sample is consistent from day to day, trends within the data will be broadly accurate. The political figures are calibrated to match the answers given in a parallel nationally representative sample.


Populus Message Meter

Via Danny Finkelstein’s blog, there is an open access version of Populus’s message meter poll on Tony Blair’s conference speech (i.e. where one turns a dial, or in this case a slider, up or down in response to how positive or negative you feel about a speech) here. Obviously, it is an open access poll, so the results aren’t representative of anything, but it’s more fun than your average click a button voodoo poll.

UPDATE: And now the results are here

Harris/FT – 50% want Brown to call an immediate general election if he becomes PM, Brown leads Reid 21% to 9% as preferred successor.
Populus/BBC – 33% of people think Brown has changed his image over the last 12 months…but 79% think he is just as responsible as Blair for decisions like Iraq.
ICM/News of the World – 86% of British Muslims would inform on a Muslim they thought was involved in terrorism.

A new YouGov poll in today’s Telegraph is a prime example of the difference sample error can make – the topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 18%. The poll was begun before the YouGov poll in the Sunday Times, but there was a substantial overlap in the fieldwork, so the simple explanation for why one YouGov poll shows the Conservative lead static and one show it falling is normal sample error. For all the attention we pay to small changes in parties’ support in voting intention polls, movement in a single poll can always be just the normal variation between different samples. What we should be looking for, is trends that are supported across a number of different polls, only then can we be confident that real change is occuring.

YouGov other questions report similar findings to the myriad of other polls on the Labour leadership we’ve seen in recent weeks. Gordon Brown’s ratings are continuing to fall – in February YouGov found that 36% thought Brown would be a good Prime Minister, 33% that he wouldn’t (a net figure of +3), by the beginning of September the net figure had fallen to minus 8, now only 27% think he will be good, with 44% disagreeing, a net figure of minus 17. Amongst Labour voters 56% think Brown will be a good Prime Minister, 19% think he won’t. As in ICM’s recent poll when asked who they would prefer as Prime Minister, Brown trails behind Blair (27% to 32%).

A list of questions about how people see Gordon Brown reveals the usual pattern. Brown has positive figures on competence, decisiveness and being effective. Everywhere else he is regarded negatively, being seen as concerned only for himself and his party, being uncaring, untrustworthy, unlikable and unable to unite the nation.

The same opinions about Brown came out in two ‘focus groups’ for the Guardian and the Times/Newsnight. Both reported that people thought that Brown was strong on substance, but weak on likeability. The more interesting finding amongst both groups was that John Reid, whose star had seemed to be fading since his boost in popularity after the terrorist arrests, was viewed more positively than Alan Johnson, who recently has seemed to be the man the media are gathering around to promote as the “anti-Brown”. Reid was seen as strong and tough, but willing to listen. Johnson was seen as pleasant enough, but not really a heavyweight, and a bit boring.

The headline reports on the two groups differed – the ICM focus group was reported as finding that, despite these faults, Brown still came out top. Frank Luntz’ reported that his group didn’t put Brown as first choice. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter – these aren’t quantative groups, you shouldn’t try and use them to work out who comes top or bottom or whatever – that isn’t he point of qualitative polling. These studies don’t tell you what proportion of people think positively or negatively about people, and shouldn’ tell you who is favourite. They tell you why people think positively or negatively about the contenders.