ICM April Poll

ICM’s April poll suggests a narrowing of the Tory lead. The headline figures with changes from ICM’s last poll are CON 37%(-4), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 21%(+3). The Labour and Lib Dem figures are pretty much par for the course from ICM polls, and are similar to the levels of support ICM have been recording this year (though the level of support found for the Lib Dems tends to be more erratic than Labour), but the Tory vote is down slightly, having been at 40% or above in the last three ICM polls. The poll was conducted between April 20th and 22nd.

The hypothetical question naming party leaders and asking how respondents would vote with Brown as Labour leader as usual shows a larger Conservative lead, though not to the freakish degree of 15 points that was found last month and splashed across the media. Voting intention with Brown as leader stands at CON 40%, LAB 28%, LDEM 20%.

In comparisons with Gordon Brown, David Cameron’s position has strengthened (or perhaps more likely, Brown’s has weakened) – he has a one point deficit to Brown when respondents were asked who was most likely to make the right decisions when the going got tough compared to a seven point deficit last September; Cameron also has an 11 point lead over Brown as the man most likely to take Britain in the right direction compared to a 5 point lead in September. A large majority of respondents (78%) said they would like to see a contest when Tony Blair stood down as Labour leader.

Finally, 54% of respondents want to see a change of government after the election, with only 21% of people wanting Labour to remain in office. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise – remember the headline voting intention figures exclude don’t knows and won’t votes, so the 30% of voters supporting Labour is probably roughly equivalent to the 21% of people overall. This is however another suggestion that there is a public mood of “time for a change” – Labour must hope that the transition from Tony Blair to his successor, presumably Gordon Brown, will diffuse some of that desire or it will be a huge benefit to the Conservatives come the next election.

Communicate Research’s monthly poll for the Independent shows Labour at their lowest level for decades – the last polls I can find with Labour this low are from September 1983. The headline voting intention figures, with changes from last month are CON 36%(+1), LAB 27%(-4), LDEM 22%(+2). The poll was conducted between April 20th and April 22nd.

Last month Communicate started weighted their polls by past vote, so in theory at least (I haven’t yet seen the details of how they are weighting their polls) they should no longer be as volatile as they have been in the past. ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian and YouGov’s poll for the Telegraph are also both due in the near future. If they show a simialr drop in support for Labour then next month’s elections could be very unpleasant for the government.


Latest Scottish polls

Friday and today have seen new voting intention polls for the Scottish Parliamentary elections from Populus and YouGov. Support in the constituency vote stands at:

Populus: CON 13%, LAB 30%, LDEM 18%, SNP 34%
YouGov: CON 14%, LAB 30%, LDEM 15%, SNP 37%

And in the regional vote:

Populus: CON 14%, LAB 27%, LDEM 18%, SNP 34%
YouGov: CON 13%, LAB 28%, LDEM 13%, SNP 35%

The main difference between the pollsters, much as with Westminister polls, is the level of support for the Liberal Democrats. Both companies show the SNP with a solid lead over Labour of around seven points in the regional vote, and between 4 and 7 points in the constituency vote.

These two polls follow a couple of weeks when we’ve had to rely upon rather erratic polling from Scottish Opinion and mruk. Mruk managed to find a Labour lead when all other contemporary polls were showing the SNP ahead, while in two polls published just a few days apart Scottish Opinion found a Labour lead of 3 points and an SNP lead of 11 points. Mruk have no track record to judge them by, and there is no way of telling what weightings and adjustments were applied to the figures, neither do we know what weightings Scottish Opinion use, though the evidence from those two polls alone suggests that their results are volatile.

You have to go back to November to find a poll by one of the well known companies (Yougov, ICM, TNS System Three and Populus) that didn’t show a SNP lead and I think the picture presented by those pollsters whose methodology we do have the details of is pretty clear: the SNP have a consistent lead going into the Scottish Parliamentary elections and unless there is a change in public sentiment, or a systemic failure of the polls, we can expect the SNP to gain the most votes at the Scottish elections. How that translates into seats is a different matter – most projections suggest the SNP will be the largest party in the next Parliament, but there is no obvious coalition. The Lib Dems have suggested they will not agree to the central plank of the SNP programme, a referendum on Scottish independence, and the SNP would not go into a coalition with the Tories. It is possible that the SNP could emerge as the largest party, but Labour continue in power with the Lib Dems, propped up by the Conservatives.

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times as usual includes a hypothetical question asking how people would vote with Gordon Brown as Labour leader. As usual this shows the Conservative lead growing with Brown as Labour leader – to 11 points – though not as much as last month. What is slightly more interesting is that the lead under David Miliband would be 12 points. On this basis, Brown would perform better than Miliband but only just so, and Miliband is clearly advancing: earlier polls showed Brown performing better than Miliband by a substantial margin (a 13 point deficit compared to a 20 deficit with Miliband).

Now, in themselves I don’t think these polls are particularly meaningful. As I’ve said before, you probably can draw some rough conclusions about present negative perceptions of Brown, but hypothetical questions like this can in no way be a genuine prediction of what will happen once Brown becomes Labour leader. They are even less meaningful when it comes to David Miliband because, unlike Brown who the majority of people know and have formed an impression of, most ordinary people have very little idea of what David Miliband is like and what he stands for (though Populus did find that over half of respondents were able to pick Miliband out of a line up of photos, those who got it wrong did tend to pick Peter Mandleson though!).

Miliband’s advance since last month is probably due to no more than increased name recognition. However, where polls like this may yet be very important is if the trend continues and polls start showing Miliband performing better than Brown would in a hypothetical general election. Whether such polls would be particularly meaningful or not, they would be given huge media coverage and would be yet another bit of pressure behind Miliband to stand for leader.

Populus April Poll

Populus’s April poll has headline figures of CON 37%(-1), LAB 29%(-1), LDEM 20%(+2), a Conservative lead of 8 points. There is no significant movement from last month, though for those who record such things, this is Labour’s lowest score in a Populus poll to date. The figures do suggest that the Conservatives are now consolidating a lead of around 8 points, with them recording
similar leads in all the most recent YouGov and Populus polls, and larger leads in ICM polls.

Looking toward the elections next month Populus’s poll in April 2003, when most of the council, Parliament and Assembly seats that are up next month were last elected, stood at CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 22% – putting into context the sort of slump there has been in Labour support since these seats were last up for grabs. Asked this month about the local elections, only 14% of people said they would be voting on local factors – 16% said they would use their vote in May to pass their verdict on Gordon Brown, 24% to pass a verdict on Tony Blair and 39% to pass a verdict on the government.

Populus’s fieldwork was conducted between the 13th and 15th April.