As part of a Newsnight debate on immigration the BBC have commissioned a new poll from ORB on the subject. The overall findings are similar to those in the Ipsos MORI poll for the Sun – only 24% of people think the government is handling immigration well, with 72% thinking they are handling it poorly.

A slight plurality of people think that immigration does more help than it does harm to the UK (by 44% to 41%). People are also more positive when asked about their own local area – 37% think immigration has has a positive effect on their community, only 27% think it is has a negative effect. Generally speaking though most people think that immigration has had little or no effect on their local area – 59% think it has either had just a little effect, or not effect at all.

ORB then asked about several potential risks connected with immigration. The idea that immigratrants might pose a threat to public order and safety met with the lowest agreement (36%). On the ideas of immigration posing a threat to employment 52% agreed, 48% agreed that a lack of immigration might damage the economy. The most widespread agreement (62%) was with the idea that immigration might lead to Britain losing its identity.

Looking at the two polls together there seems to be very hostility to immigrants themselves, people didn’t think they were criminals or scroungers (quite the opposite in fact, they think they hard working). Relatively few people think immigration has had much of a negative effect on their own area. Concerns are less specific, and more effect the effect on the country as a whole. On balance people tend to recognise that immigration has a positive effect on the country; they just think there is too much of it. The concerns the polls reveal, about the ability of public services to cope, the pressure on employment opportunities and the change on the character of Britain are all ones related to the sheer amount of immigration into Britain.

The latest Populus poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from last month, of CON 36%(-2), LAB 37%(-3), LDEM 16%(+4). In his commentary Peter Riddell emphasises the parties are virtually neck and neck, the gap is mostly due to rounding with only 2 respondents making the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.

Like ICM’s recent poll this suggests the Lib Dems are recovering from their awful ratings last month, presumably thanks to the publicity of their leadership contest.

What it doesn’t show is Labour closing the gap, Ben Brogan! I don’t, it has to said, have particularly high expectations of press coverage of polls, but Ben Brogan’s blog is normally one of the best, so slapped wrists Ben. Unlike all the other companies Populus have not shown the Conservatives back in the lead since the election, their methodology tends to produce figures that are slightly more favourable to Labour than other companies, and this is actually a relative advance for the Tories compared to Labour – though clearly the Lib Dems seem to gaining from both of them.

Peter Riddell’s article suggests that the polls may be returning to the sort of equilibrium they’d reached before Gordon Brown became Labour leader. I think it’s still too early to draw that conclusion, it’s possible they will, and the Conservative vote does indeed seem to be streadying at about the same level, but Labour and Lib Dem support is still on the move, and we still don’t know what the lasting effect of the Lib Dem leadership change will eventually be. I’m going to be very cautious about concluding that the polls are starting to be steady again.

UPDATE: I’ve had a chance to look at the rest of the poll’s findings. As with other recent results Populus have found a drop in perceptions of Gordon Brown. His figures here haven’t fallen off a cliff as they had in some measures on YouGov’s Sunday Times poll, but then, these haven’t tracked concepts of decisiveness which was where Brown had suffered the most. Populus have found a steady decline in the percentage of people who think Brown has what it takes to be a good PM (49%, down from 54% last month and 57% at the height of the Brown boost), those who see him as a strong leader (58% down from 60%, at the height of the Brown boost 77% thought him “strong”) and those who think he understands the problems facing ordinary people (47%, down from 49% last month and 61% during the boost). Meanwhile David Cameron’s figures are creeping upwards, 40% now think he has what it takes to be a good PM (up from 37% last month and 32% at the height of Brown’s popularity) and 42% think he is strong.

Despite the more hostile media narrative these days, these are actually all still pretty positive figures for Gordon Brown. The trend however is downwards and, while he still leads David Cameron on nearly all the measures Populus asked about, the lead is narrowing. Back in July he had a 24 point advantage in terms being seen as having what it took to be a good PM, now it’s only 9 points. Since a lot of the Labour’s increase in the polls has been Brown’s increase (satisfaction with the government increase only marginally during the handover while satisfaction with the PM rocketed), I suspect we won’t have stable figures for voting intention until perceptions of Brown have stabilised.

While looking for the past figures on leader perceptions I also found this poll Populus conducted for the Daily Politics last month on the Lib Dem leadership contest. As Mike Smithson commented yesterday, we are really flying blind on the Lib Dem leadership race – there has been no polling of Lib Dem members voting intentions, and the two candidates are so little known we can’t even really see what the wider public think of them. The Populus poll asked people if they would vote Lib Dem with Nick Clegg as leader, and if they’d vote Lib Dem with Chris Huhne as leader. 11% said they would vote Lib Dem with Clegg, 12% with Huhne – so no obvious difference. I should add that these low figures don’t represent some collapse of the vote with either man, it’s because 35% and 36% respectively said they didn’t know or hadn’t heard of them.


A new Ipsos MORI poll in the Sun has topline voting intentions of CON 40%, LAB 35%, LDEM 13%. This is in contrast to a MORI poll a week ago which showed Labour back up above 40%, ahead of the Conservatives. The five point Tory lead is the largest MORI have given them since back in April.

This poll was conducted over the telephone, rather than face-to-face like MORI’s standard monthly polls – MORI take the view that there is no systemic difference between voting intention figures from their phone polls and their face-to-face polls and, taking them at their word, I normally draw comparisons from the most recent MORI poll whatever the sampling method used. Compared to the last MORI face to face poll the changes are the Conservatives and Lib Dems steady, but Labour down 6 and the ‘other parties’ up 6. Compared to the MORI poll a fortnight before that, conducted over the phone, the changes are the Conservatives down 1, Labour down 3 and the Lib Dems up 2. I needs a better look, but on the surface I rather suspect the sampling method is making a difference somewhere along the line.

The rest of the poll asked a series of questions on immigration. MORI found deep dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of immigration, 72% of people were disatisfied with only 15% satisfied. 64% of people though laws on immigration should be tougher, not counting the 12% who wanted it stopped altogether. 68% thought there were too many immigrants in Britain.

Overall though a lot of the answers seemed a but confused… 48% of people thought that immigration in general was good for Britain, compared to 36% who disagreed. Asked if immigrants were having a good or bad influence on the way things are going in Great Britain though, only 34% said good and 52% said bad. The only answer I can think of to the apprantly contradiction is that the second question specifically prompted people to consider both legal and illegal immigration.

In their own area most people said immigrants had not had much positive or negative effect – only 15% believed immigration was creating problems in their own area. Most people did not think immigrants were more likely to commit crime either, only 24% did – and this question was again prompted to make people consider both illegal and illegal immigration. A large proportion of people also thought that immigrants worked harder than people born here – 45% agreed. Only 8% said they thought they worked less hard, suggesting the vast majority of people don’t actually believe the stereotype of a scrounging immigrant coming here for state benefits.

So, most people don’t think immigrants cause problems, don’t think they cause crime and don’t think they are layabouts (or at least, are not willing to admit thinking any of these things to an interviewer, which is not necessarily the same thing as not thinking them). Where the public did express fears was over pressure on public services: 82% of people thought that education and healthcare services would not be able to cope with rising population from immigration.

Almost a month since it was carried out the most recent YouGov poll for the SNP has been published on the YouGov website, I know some of my readers have been anxiously awaiting it!

The topline voting intention figures for Westminster are CON 18%, LAB 42%, LDEM 11%, SNP 27%. Compared to the last general election the Conservatives are up 2 points, Labour up 3 points, the Liberal Democrats down 12 points and the SNP up by 9 points. It was conducted between the 1st and 4th October. To put this is context, when this poll was conducted at the beginning of the month YouGov’s GB polls were still showing a 4 point Labour lead. Overall the pattern here is pretty much the same as the GB polls were at the time, a small Conservative and Labour advance with the Lib Dems collapsing, the difference being the strong progess of the SNP. Since this poll was taken of course we’ve seen a reverse in the national opinion polls, so it seems likely that the picture will have changed in Scotland to and Labour may not be doing so well.

The approval ratings for the Scottish Executive remain positive, 60% thinking they are doing a good job and 27% a bad job. The same applies for Alex Salmond, with 63% saying good job (including a majority of supporters of all parties) and 25% bad job. No figures have been released for voting intention at Holyrood – I don’t know if they were included, I haven’t looked since if I did know I couldn’t tell you anyway! This is a private poll for the SNP so while the methodology will be same as YouGov’s normal methodology for Scottish poll and the figures that are released can be trusted, the SNP aren’t obliged to publish findings they don’t wish to.

Meanwhile some of the findings of the annual survey of Scottish Social Attitudes have been published. This is an annual academic study using a genuine random sample – a slow and expensive process, hence the fact it was carried out over several months between May and August 2007. Asked about Scotland’s relationship with the UK they found only 23% in favour of complete independence, the lowest recorded since the SSA started asking the question in 1997 and down from 30% in 2006 and 35% in 2005.

The SNP responded to this poll by pointing to a more recent poll, published by TNS System Three in September (but carried out in August), that found 35% in support of Independence, claiming it showed a 12 point increase in support. This is somewhat disingenous, it could potentially be a better measure of Scottish sentiment, but it certainly doesn’t show an increase in support for Independence, the two questions were entirely different.

The TNS poll asked people how they would vote in a referendum on Scottish Independence, using the wording that had been proposed in the SNP’s white paper – it found 35% would vote “I AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state” and 50% would vote “I DO NOT AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state”. The SSA survey gave the people the choice of complete independence, a Scottish Parliament with or without tax raising powers or no Scottish Parliament.

In short TNS were asking a straight referendum voting intention question, where people only had the two options of independence or not, while the SSA gave people the range of options.

TNS’s question is obviously the right approach if you want to see how people might vote in a referendum tomorrow, but it is worded to reflect that, not to best elicit people’s actual preference for the constitutional framework for Scotland. In fact, generally speaking you will always find a higher level of support in Scottish polls that ask “Independence yes or no” than in ones that ask “Independence, or the Scottish Parliament you’ve got at the moment”

Non-Election Day

Had things worked out differently today would have been election day. What would have happened? Polls at the time of the non-election announcement showed the Conservative’s advancing, and polls in recent days have shown them in the lead, albeit, not by enough to get an overall majority. If ICM’s poll published yesterday had been repeated at a general election today it would have left Labour 26 seats short of a majority and the Liberal Democrats as power brokers.

So would we have been in for a long weekend as the parties bartered over coalition deals or pacts? Probably not actually, I suspect an actual election today would have worked out differently. Firstly the Liberal Democrats would obviously not have got rid of their leader – that doesn’t actually seem to have damaged their support, in fact it’s gone up without him, but I suspect if there had been an election it would have gone up anyway from the increased puiblicity they’d have been entitled too.

More importantly looking at the current polls I suspect Labour would have been ahead in an election today. The polls straight after the Conservative party conference when Gordon Brown decided not to have an election were showing a temporary Conservative boost from a successful party conference. In this alternate universe they would probably have subsided. In the polls we’ve seen lately Gordon Brown’s approval ratings have plummeted and pollsters are finding that he is suddenly seen as ineffective and indecisive, his image as being more of a heavyweight than David Cameron shattered. Without the humiliation of the non-election announcement I expect that change in perceptions of Brown would not have happened or, at least, wouldn’t have happened to such an extent. Labour’s poll rating would still have been sustained by a new Prime Minister riding high on his honeymoon, with a reputation for strength and decisiveness.

Of course, it’s a hypothetical question now. There is no election. It will probably be years until we know whether the date Gordon Brown does end calling the election on is more or less fortuitous then November 1st 2007 would have been.