The full tables from YouGov’s Sunday Times poll are now up on the Sunday Times website. It leaves us in no doubt why Gordon Brown chose not to go to the country, the headline figures showing a Conservative lead of 3 points would resulted in Brown losing his majority, but YouGov do not factor in likelihood to vote which it’s generally thought you have been a big factor in a November poll. The detailled tables have breaks of only those certain to vote, which would have produced shares of CON 45%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%. These are not realistic figures, the turnout filter too tight, but it does show how a low winter turnout could have made the situation even worse for Brown.

Gordon Brown’s net rating on whether he is doing a good job as Prime Minister has dropped to plus 30 from plus 39 last time it was asked. David Cameron’s is transformed, up to plus 20 from minus 15.

Showed a list of words and asked which ones applied to David Cameron and Gordon Brown, Brown still has a more positive all round image. 40% think he is strong, 37% decisive, 40% think he sticks to what he believes in. The only measures where Cameron outscores Brown are Charismatic (34% compared to Brown’s 7%) and ‘in touch with the concerns of ordinary people’ (23% compared to Brown’s 20%).

It remains to be seen how perceptions of Brown change in the light of his decision not to call an election and the vicious reception it has recieved in the press. 43% of respondents told YouGov that they thought it would be a sign of weakness if Brown didn’t call an election but, as we’ve seen before, people are not necessarily very good at predicting how they’ll react to events in the future.

THe other questions give a picture of the parties as pretty evenly matched – Brown is seen as more trustworthy than Cameron, Cameron has a more optmistic and forward-looking vision for Britain, the Conservatives are seen as both likely to do more to support the family and more to raise peoples quality of life by marginally more people than Labour.

66% of respondens thought the Conservative’s plans to raise the threshhold for inheritance tax was a good policy, 79% approved of their plans to take most first time buyers out of stamp duty. Combined they have once again put the Conservatives as the preferred party on taxation – along with the traditional Tory issues of crime and immigration they also again lead on Europe, with Labour remaining ahead elsewhere.

The tax pledges are not an unadulterated success for the Tories though, 32% of people think their sums don’t add up, with only 22% confident that they all square. Despite the fact that the Conservatives have not pledged to reduce the overall tax burden – the pledges were based on extra taxes elsewhere – 27% of people think that a Conservative government would mean lower taxes than a Labour government. 13% think a Conservative government would mean higher taxes.

When I reported the YouGov poll following Gordon Brown’s speech I cautioned that it a snap poll taken right after the speech and it would probably fall back – a couple of days later the 11 point lead it showed was confirmed in a normal poll. On Thursday I again cautioned that the Tory increase was in a snap poll and the immediate Conservative boost would probably decline…and again it hasn’t. In fact it has grown.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has voting intentions, with changes from YouGov’s snap midweek poll for Channel 4, of CON 41%(+5), LAB 38%(-2), LDEM 11%(-2). The changes from the last full size YouGov poll a week ago are a stunning plus 9 points for the Conservatives, minus 5 for Labour and minus 4 for the Liberal Democrats.

This is the first time YouGov (or indeed any pollster) have shown a Conservative lead since June, the highest Conservative share they’ve ever shown (and highest of anyone since 1992). The last time I can find that the Liberal Democrats sank this low was in 2001. There is no longer the possibility of an imminent election of course, but were these figures repeated at a general election it would produce a severely hung Parliament – CON 296, LAB 316, LDEM 12 – even Labour and the Liberal Democrats together would have a majority of only 6.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to be extra sceptical about polls that show big shifts of opinon (there is a statistical ‘law’ called Twyman’s Law that runs along the same lines – “Any figure that looks interesting or different is usually wrong.”). Until we see some more polls backing up these findings it may just turn out to be a blip. There is support though in a BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday that has figures of CON 39%(+5), LAB 38%(-3), LDEM 12%(nc).

The further increase in Conservative support is plausible – most of the fieldwork for the YouGov poll in the week would have been completed before the newspapers had reported Cameron’s speech (ICM’s whose fieldwork would have included a greater proportion of interviews from Thursday had the parties neck and neck) and the media narrative since the party conference has been working in the Conservatives favour.

Then there is the question of the Liberal Democrats – it is clear that they have been savagely squeezed out by a Labour party revived by Gordon Brown and a Conservative party that has pulled itself together in the face of a possible election. I find it hard to believe that they won’t recover from this level, but with figures this low there must come a point where they need to address their situation.

Normally with a big shift in the polls like this I would say wait to the next polls to see if the changes are confirmed – in this case I’d be surprised if they weren’t even if this poll is a blip. The media reaction to Gordon Brown’s decision not to call an election shows every sign of being savage and I would be surprised if they didn’t suffer further in the polls. With no election in the offing though, the most interesting thing to watch in the coming weeks will not be voting intention but how attitudes to Gordon Brown change. At the moment he has a repution of being strong, tough and competent – will the decision not to have an election change that? We will see.


Or at least, it would were there an election called next week, which Gordon Brown is expected to confirm any second now that there will not be.

ICM’s News of the World poll in 83 Con/Lab marginal seats – the 49 most marginal Labour seats with the Conservatives in second and the 34 most marginal Conservative seats with Labour in second place – shows the Conservatives on 44% and Labour on 38%. According to the News of the World this would result in Labour losing 49 seats if replicated at a general election, wiping out their majority.

The poll didn’t include any Liberal Democrat marginals, so we can’t project these findings onto the whole House of Commons, but depending on how the Liberal Democrat marginals fell Labour would be left with something around 306 according to the News of the World. That implies the poll was based on the old boundaries, not the new boundaries that a new election would actually be fought upon (The number of seats Labour won 355 minus 49 = 206; 348, the number of seats Rallings and Thrasher have Labour winning minus 49 doesn’t), though that could just be the News of the World subtracting it from the wrong figures.

Notably the fieldwork was done between the 2nd and 5th, so some of this poll would have been carried out prior to David Cameron’s speech.

UPDATE: Peter Kellner has just confirmed on Sky News that the YouGov poll in tomorrow’s Sunday Times will show the Conservatives continuing to advance. I’ll update once the figures for that are available.

Now the dust has settled where are we with the polls? There were three polls last night, two of conducted in the day since David Cameron gave his conference address, one with fieldwork straddling the poll. All three showed a significant jump in Conservative support, up 4 points in Yougov’s poll, 5 points in both ICM’s and Populus’s. Labour fell to various degrees in all the polls, but remained in a strong position in the high 30s. The Labour lead, which given most seats are a Con vs Lab battle is relevant in projecting figures onto an election result, varied between a 4 point Labour lead from YouGov and a dead heat in ICM.

These polls were all done very quickly. YouGov’s poll had around 1700 responses rather than the normal 2000, ICM had 1008…eventually. Populus had only 800 people, and 40% of those would have been interviewed before Cameron’s speech. These are smaller samples than usual, making them less precise, and there are some drawbacks for very swift polls – normally if people aren’t in when phone pollsters ring them up they can keep on ringing them back to avoid non-contact bias. With a turnaround this fast there is limited opportunity for this. Sample size and fieldwork period are by-the-by a bit though – the real question mark is because the polls were so swiftly after the Conservative conference when they were dominating the media coverage.

The Conservatives will have got a conference boost, and this is largely what is reflected in this poll. The question is whether it lasts. It is likely some or all of the boost is just due to publicity, that it will fade away once Cameron is no longer dominating the news agenda. That is far from inevitable though, anything can happen – if a corner has been turned then the direction of travel could continue in the Conservatives’ favour, if the boost is policy based it may last. The media narrative this morning seems to be one of Gordon Brown on the back foot, hesitating over an election in the face of a Tory resurgence… a tide that may continue to help the Conservatives.

Looking at the underlying figures in the three polls, there is a significant increase in David Cameron’s ratings, and the first signs of a significant fall in Gordon Brown’s. 38% of people told Populus David Cameron had what it took to be a good PM (up from 30% last week), YouGov found Cameron’s net rating for being in touch or out of touch rose from -41 last week to -21 this week, while Brown’s fell from +10 to -2. Cameron’s net rating on whether he is doing a good or bad job rose from -27 last week to -3 this week. Asked about Gordon Brown’s troop announcement in Iraq 42% of people said they thought it was a cynical pre-election stunt, 33% thought his trip to Iraq was motivated by more legitimate reasons.

These are snap polls and we can’t really judge the big picture yet. It’s important to note that, while Cameron’s ratings have improved, he is still viewed far less positively than Brown. Opinions do seem to be shifting though. There should be at least 3 more polls over the weekend, plus the full results of the Populus poll whose fieldwork is still continuing, which will give us a better idea of what’s going on and let us see what voting intentions are when people are asked without Cameron’s speech still ringing in their ears.

The first poll since the Conservative party conference shows a shift in support to the Conservatives. The YouGov poll for Channel 4 has voting intention figures of CON 36%(+4) LAB 40%(-3) LDEM 13%(-2). The poll was conducted yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning, so after David Cameron had finished his speech.

Like the YouGov poll for Channel 4 after Brown’s speech this is a snap poll with a somewhat sample than a normal YouGov poll (though, I hasten to add, it isn’t actually that small.) It’s also important to note that it was taken immediately after Cameron spoke, when he was still splashed all over the newspapers and new bullettins (actually, most of it would have been before today’s papers), so you would expect him to get a boost… on the other hand the YouGov snap poll showing a Labour lead of 11 points straight after Brown’s speech was backed up by a normal full size YouGov poll a couple of days later that also showed an 11 point lead.

UPDATE – Populus’s poll has figures of CON 36%(+5), LAB 39%(-2), LDEM 15%(-2). This too was apparantly conducted after Cameron’s speech. There is also an ICM poll to come, and one for the Independent which will presumably be by ComRes.

UPDATE 2 – Here’s another – ICM have figures of CON 38%(+5), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 16%(-3). Like YouGov this one was conducted after David Cameron’s speech, on the 3rd and 4th October.

UPDATE 3 – Bizarre. The Guardian was orginally reporting that their poll showed a 1 point Labour lead, but now they’ve changed the story to say the figures are CON 38%(+5), LAB 38%(-1), LDEM 16%(-3), so neck and neck. Presumably the earlier story was based on interim figures, since it had a sample size of something like 977, while the final story refers to the sample size being 1,008. The poll was conducted on the 3rd and 4th October.

Where does this leave a November general election? Thanks to boundary changes a 4 point lead would end producing about the same majority as Brown has now, less than that would be a lower majority – at neck and neck Brown would lose his majority entirely. It is perfectly possible that a meagre lead could be eroded during an election campaign, either by a drift of Labour support towards the Lib Dems, who are unlikely to stay as low as this once they have the guaranteed news coverage and election brings, or by the campaign itself. Labour could easily do worse than the uniform swing result predicted by these figures thanks to the new incumbency boost of the Conservative MPs who were first elected in 2005, or if there are differential swings in the south of the country or in marginals. A lead of this size certainly isn’t enough for Brown to be sure that he will maintain his majority, or in fact win an overall majority at all.

Obviously there is a very good chance – a probablity even – that this is a Conservative conference boost that will decline, but if you were Gordon Brown would you want to gamble your government on that assumption?

Not calling an election wouldn’t be painless either though. The election speculation has reached the point that much of the media now assumes that Brown has pretty much decided he will call an election. If he now doesn’t call one, especially if it becomes clear he isn’t calling one after the Conservatives show an increase in the polls, it’s going to look very bad. One of the major positives in Brown’s public image, if not the major positive, is that he is seen as strong – the big, tough, brave leader who can be relied upon. The perception that David Cameron giving a speech is enough to make Brown run away and hide has the potential to severely damage perceptions of Brown as a strong, brave leader.

The actual fuss over him not calling an election would be a temporary thing that would pass – he’ll have a week of being laughed at and called frit in the Commons, but he’ll cope – but if real damage is done to underlying perceptions of Brown as a strong figure then that’ll last, and that’ll hurt.

There will be more polls over the weekend, who knows what they’ll show. Either way, it’s going to be a tough decision for Brown.