Communicate Research’s monthly poll for the Independent has topline voting intentions, with changes from last month, of CON 40%(+6), LAB 29%(nc), LDEM 17%(-4). The poll was conducted between the 23rd and 25th February.

On a uniform swing the eleven point lead would be enough to deliver a workable majority to the Conservatives – only the second poll to do so since the election (the 13 point ICM lead which received so much attention last week was a hypothetical question on how people would vote with Brown as leader, not a straight voting intention question).

Before Conservative supporters get too excited, it is worth pointing out that Communicate Research’s polls are not politically weighted by past vote. This has two effects – often it means that the polls are slightly more favourable to Labour than politically weighted polls like ICM’s and Populus’s (though clearly not in this particular case), secondly political weighting dampens down volatility since every sample will have of the same proportion of people who say they voted Labour in 2005, the same proportion of people who say they voted Conservative in 2005 and so on.

When averaged over time non-politically weighted voting intention polls like Communicate’s or MORI’s tend to produce figures that are broadly in line with the figures that are produced by companies that do use political weighting – however, individual polls tend to be far more erratic – you only have to look at the 6 point leap in the Conservative vote in this month’s poll. Until we start seeing more polls showing an eleven point Tory lead it’s probably best to put this one down as an outlier, rather than a Conservative surge.

Road Charging

The second part of YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph shows widespread hostility towards the idea of road charging.

The poll found that, while most people thought that traffic congestion on the roads near them was becoming more serious, only 7% thought it was a very serious problem, with 36% thinking that it is a fairly serious problem. 42% thought it was not very serious, 13% though tio wasn’t serious at all.

Overall people favoured the carrot over the stick – asked what the single most effective means of reducing congestion would be, 55% said providing more buses and trains, with only 9% favouring road charging and 2% favouring an increase in taxes like fuel duty or road tax.

Asked specifically about road charging schemes, 40% of people said their opinions of any government proposals would depend upon the precise details of the scheme – however, 48% of people are already set against any form of road charging with only 9% thinking that it is a good idea.

The reasons are straightforward – asked about a series of statements on what would happen if road charging were introduced respondents were highly negative. The majority of people think that congestion would not be significantly reduced, pollution wouldn’t fall and that it wouldn’t result in many more people using public transport. 82% of people think it would merely move congestion onto other roads.

There was extreme scepticism over the idea that road charging would be offset by reductions in fuel or road duty – 84% of people thought this wouldn’t happen. 72% of people thought that increased revenue would not be spent on public transport.

There also seems to be little faith in the government’s competence to implement such a scheme – 79% of people think it would cost more than anyone now says, 67% thought a lot of people would end up being wrongly charged and 55% of people expect the data to be insecure and end up being leaked.

Despite this hostility, the issue may not be strong political territory for the oppostion parties: 65% of people think that road charging will come in sooner or later whichever party is in power.

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph shows a pretty much static position across the board. Headline voting intentions with changes from YouGov’s most recent poll are CON 37% (nc), LAB 32% (nc), LDEM 17% (-1). The poll was conducted between February the 19th and 21st.

In the forced choice question between a Conservative government led by David Cameron and a Labour government led by Gordon Brown, the Conservative lead is up to 9 points from 6 points last month – but looking back this figure tends to bounce about a bit anyway and the change is probably just normal variation.

On best Prime Minister David Cameron now leads Tony Blair by 4 points (28% to 24%) and Gordon Brown by 5 points (29% to 24%) in both cases this is the largest lead Cameron has achived in a YouGov poll, though the runaway winner in best PM polls remains “none of the above”.

Finally YouGov asked about gun crime. 33% of people agreed with a statement that the shooting was a specific problem to do with gun culture and that young people were not generally worse than they used to be. 57% of people thought that the shootings reflected a wider malaise in society and a decline in responsibility.

The Guardian’s monthly ICM poll has headline voting intentions (with changes from the last ICM poll) of CON 40%(+3), LAB 31%(nc), LDEM 19%(-4). The poll was conducted between February 16th and 18th, so after the media coverage of David Cameron using cannabis at school.

The Guardian’s coverage of the poll however concentrates upon a seperate question asked in the poll – how people would vote with Gordon Brown as the Labour leader. Asked how they would vote if the party leaders were David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Sir Menzies Campbell voting intention becomes CON 42%, LAB 29%, LDEM 17% – as the Guardian says in its article, if repeated at a general election this would result in a healthy Conservative majority.

What is worth noting though is that questions of this type are not strictly comparable – normal polls do not include the party leader names, so we do not know whether the changes are a result of people imagining Gordon Brown as PM, or the effect of mentioning David Cameron or Menzies Campbell in the question (in fact Populus did test this last year, and found a similar but smaller swing to the Conservatives if you mentioned the current party leaders in the question). The question is also purely hypothetical, in reality people are not very good at predicting how they will feel in the future, how they will react to future events. These figures should certainly therefore not been seen as a prediction of how people would vote were Gordon Brown to be Labour leader although, as I’ve said before, I suspect they can give us a hint as to which way public opinion is blowing on Gordon Brown.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the poll is how strongly the Guardian have run with it. Julian Glover makes the same points as I do above about the question not being comparable, and the Guardian’s leader voices caution over hypothetical figures, yet the story forms a great big headline on the Guardian’s front page alongside huge, bold 29% and 42% figures. I think they’ve seen the poll as a convenient peg on which to call for a contested leadership election.

(UPDATE: Anyone who has come here looking for the swing calculator mentioned in the Guardian today can find it here)

Populus conducted a snap poll of 522 on Tuesday in response to the revelations over the weekend that David Cameron admitted using cannabis while at school.

81% of people said it didn’t matter that Cameron had taken cannabis at university and there was even higher support for Cameron’s contention that MPs shouldn’t be expected to answer such questions: 85% said that Cameron should not be expected “to answer detailed questions about whether he tried drugs in his youth because all politicians are entitled to have made mistakes when they were growing up”.

However, there are limits to the tolerance. David Cameron has previously only stated that he has not taken drugs since becoming an MP, leaving a gap between his student life and his entry into politics – 71% of people told Populus that “it would matter if it turned out that he had done so as an adult, after he started work”. Equally, while people don’t seem to mind about cannabis, 64% of people said it would matter to them if Cameron had experimented with more serious drugs at university.