A new ICM poll in the Daily Mail shows 82% of people think the revised EU treaty should be ratified by referendum, rather than left to Parliament. As David Boothroyd rightly pointed out in the comments here over the weekend, that doesn’t necessarily mean much as polls invariably tell pollsters they like referendums on nearly anything you care to name: it is almost the equivalent of asking “do you think your opinion on X should count?” – how many people’s answer will be “Crikey no, I’m a complete numbskull, don’t give me a vote”.

Potentially more interesting are questions measuring whether people actually care enough about the issue to change their vote. The ICM poll found that 24% of present Labour voters said they would be less likely to vote Labour at the next election if they decided not to have a referendum. 13% of Labour voters said it would increase their likelihood of voting Tory at the next election if they promised a referendum.

If the issue was really likely to lose Labour a quarter of their support this would be massive news…except it isn’t. It’s just an idle threat. Saying you’ll be less likely isn’t the same as saying you absolutely definitely wouldn’t, and telling a pollster you might not vote for a party if they do (or don’t) do something you want is an easy, cost free, hit. It’s not the same as actually doing it.

A EU referendum could potentially be a significant issue in an election, but questions like this can’t really tell us how much.

Since this poll gave splits for Labour and Conservative voters, it implies that a proper voting intention question was asked. We’ll see what else pops up when ICM put the full results on their site.

UPDATE: The full results are now available on ICM’s website here. It doesn’t contain any voting intention figures. The website says that “The vote intention cross break in this poll was included for analysis purposes only. ICM’s usual vote intention questions were not asked.” There are cross break figures for voting intention, but the poll wouldn’t have contained things like the likelihood to vote question and it’s possible it didn’t even use the same wording, so you can’t use them to engineer figures comparable to a proper ICM voting intention poll. Hopefully ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian should be along soon anyway.

There is a new YouGov poll in the Sunday Times covering Scottish voting intentions.

Voting intentions in Westminster (with changes since YouGov’s last poll of Westminster voting intentions, conducted in January 2007) are CON 14%(-2), LAB 40%(+5), LDEM 15%(-4), SNP 31%(+3). We can see a relatively modest BRown boost here at the expense of the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, but also an increase for the SNP post their victory at Holyrood.

Compared to the last general election however it reflects a larger shift in support, with the SNP up from 18% in 2005 and the Liberal Democrats down from 23%. Not that, if this was repeated at an actual general election, it would produce many changes. John Curtice suggests in the Sunday Times that this would equate to the SNP gaining 2 seats, Labour 1 and the Liberal Democrats losing 3. If the Liberal Democrats do drop support at the next Westminster election, Scotland where they have lots of pretty safe seats wouldn’t be bad place to lose it!

Holyrood voting intention, with changes from the last YouGov poll (conducted for the SNP in June) are, at the constituency level, CON 12%(-2), LAB 32%(+1), LDEM 12%(nc), SNP 32%(-6); at the regional level CON 13%(-1), LAB 32%(+4), LDEM 12%(+2), SNP 35%(+2).

Approval figures for Alex Salmond and his administration are very high – 65% think Salmond is doing well as leader of the government (including a majority of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters). 64% think the SNP are doing well as the government.

There also seems to be widespread support for a referendum on independence, with 74% of respondents in favour, though most (44%) of this is people who would support a multi-option referendum rather than a straight yes or no question on independence (30%). Should there be a referendum it looks as though giving more powers to the Scottish Parliament would be more popular than outright independence, given the choice 23% would opt for full independence, 39% would prefer more powers for the Scottish Parliament, 29% would perfer either the status quo or abolition of the Scottish Parliament.

Of course, we don’t know how those people who supported more powers but not independence would split in a straight choice between independence or the status quo. YouGov did however ask what would make people who didn’t favour independence change their mind, 13% of people said they might support independence if Alex Salmond did well as First Minister, 12% said they might favour it were the Conservatives to return to power in Westminister. 51% however said they would never support independence. This equates to about 43% of the Scottish population as a whole, suggesting that the SNP would need to win over the vast majority of floating voters were they ever to achieve a majority in favour of independence.


There were a large number of other areas touched on in the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times: Iraq and Afgahnistan. People think that British troops are failing in both Basra and Afghanistan. Only 15% think troops are making Basra safer for its residents and only 6% think British troops are winning against the Taliban (though a further 39% think victory is still possible). There is widespread support for the withdrawal of British troops from both arenas, 29% favour immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and 45% favour a phased withdrawal over the next year. The equivalent figures for Afghanistan are 28% and 37%. 38% of respondents favoured giving Iraqis who had worked as translators for British forces special treatment and allowing them asylum after British forces leave, but 42% of people were opposed.

Brown and Bush. Following his first meeting with President Bush Gordon Brown does seem to have managed to convince people that he will be less close to Bush than Tony Blair was. 73% of people thought he was less close to Bush, and 57% of people though he had got the relationship about right.

Climate change. A slight majority (52%) of people thought the recent flooding was not connected to climate change and was just a freak weather occurance. Just over hald of people thought Britain’s policy (54%) should be to do more about climate change and set an example for the rest of the world. 25% of people agreed there was a problem, but thought British action was pointless when put beside the carbon emissions of larger countries. 15% of people are still to be convinced that climate change is a problem that needs addressing.

71% of people claimed they had changed their lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly in the past year, though as I’ve mentioned earlier, I am highly dubious about such questions where there is an obvious “socially acceptable” answer. The majority of those people when asked exactly what they’ve done said they’ve recycled a bit more. Relatively few reported making any drastic change like flying less (17% of the 71%), using a low carbon emission care (4%) or offsetting their carbon emissons (2%). Asked if they would support policies that forced people to change their lifestyles only 25% said they would, though a further 45% said they would if other countries also did it.

Interestingly 70% agreed with the idea that green issues were only high on the agenda because of the benign economic climate, and that the issue would rapidly drop down the agenda if economic times became more difficult.

Boris v Ken. There was a lot of excitement over the last YouGov/Telegraph poll because it asked if people would support Boris or Ken, and respondents in London gave Boris a slight lead. It’s been asked again, and this time Ken has a one point lead over Boris. The question is different, this time there is a “neither” option, but the given the very low sample size and the unreliability of regional splits within nationally representative polls, the shift wouldn’t have meant much if it had been the same question. We still await a proper Boris v Ken poll – perhaps once the Lib Dem candidate becomes clear someone will be more likely to commisson one.

Madeleine McCann. It looks as though we’ve reached the point where British newspapers can be critical of the McCann’s and dare to measure public opinion. The poll found 71% of respondents agreed that Madeleine McCann’s parents were wrong to leave her alone, and 54% of people think they were treated sympathetically by the press here because they were middle-class professional doctors. Only 29% think that the Portuguese press have been wrong to be critical of them, with 27% thinking the British press should have been more harsh.

A new YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has Labour’s lead up to ten points. The topline figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, conducted for the Telegraph, are CON 32% (nc), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 14%(-2). It is Labour’s largest so far under Gordon Brown but, as with the MORI poll yesterday which showed Labour’s lead down a point, the changes from the previous poll are not themselves significant, so the wider picture seems to one of the Labour lead holding steady. The poll also equals the lowest level of Lib Dem support that YouGov have recorded.

I’ve before that I don’t think there is any realistic chance of an autumn election – there simply wouldn’t be enough time for Gordon Brown to be sure that the Labour lead in the polls wasn’t ephemeral. My assumption is that talk of elections this year is no more than media speculation and Gordon Brown keeping the opposition guessing. However, if Labour’s lead gets large enough then who knows, a snap election may become a real possibility. This is the first double point lead for Labour under Brown, and it’s looking as if, for whatever reason, the Brown bounce is producing larger leads in YouGov’s polls than in those of other pollsters. If other pollsters were to start regularly showing the same sort of lead we may yet be into snap election territory.

UPDATE: There is also an ICM poll in the Sunday Mirror – headline voting intentions, with changes from ICM’s most recent poll, are CON 33%(+1), LAB 39%(+1), LDEM 18%(-2). Once again, there is no change in the Labour lead. Difference pollsters are producing Labour leads of different magnitudes, but in every case the story seems to be that the lead is stabilising.

An Ipsos-MORI poll in Saturday’s Sun has the Labour lead holding steady at CON 33%(-2), LAB 38%(-3), LDEM 15%(nc) – changes are from MORI’s regular poll last month, though the Sun choses to draw comparisons with a poll a month previously, presumably because it fits the story they’d like to tell better (their comparisons are quite odd actually – their article says “Another poll last month put Mr Brown’s lead when he became PM at six points – but figures comparable to our own had him at two”. The six point lead was the most recent MORI poll, using MORI’s normal methodology. So either it’s comparable to this poll or there’s something odd about this one. There was an ICM poll in the Sunday Mirror last month that gave Labour a two point lead, the lowest lead they recorded during July, but since that was a different pollster using a different methodology it isn’t comparable.)

Having been faced with flood and pestilence during his first weeks in office Brown was seen as the best man in a crisis by 69% of respondents, compared to only 10% for Cameron. While Cameron still led on having more personality than Brown, there are signs of a slight personal warming towards the new Prime Minister – 43% said they would rather share a pint with Brown compared to 41% who would rather share a pint with Cameron. The changes are within the margin of error, but for what it’s worth prior to Brown’s accession to the leadership Cameron held a meagre one point lead in the same question.

UPDATE: The poll also asked about the European treaty. There continues to be overwhelming support for a referendum on the treaty, 66% of people said they felt strongly that it should be ratified through a referendum, a further 15% tended in that direction. Only 17% were in favour of the decision being made by Parliament. Asked how they would vote in a referendum, the balance of opinion was against the treaty, but not overwhelmingly so – 55% of people were against, with 37% in favour. However only 31% of people said they were against the treaty and would definitely vote against it, a further 24% of people said they were against it, but could be persuaded to change their minds. 10% were definitely in favour and 27% were in favour, but could be pursuaded to vote in favour. Were there to be a referendum those opposed to the treaty would clearly start with the clear advantage, but there is potential for the vote to go either way.