I didn’t expect anymore polls this year, but the Sunday Times has a final YouGov poll that shows a recovery for Labour. The topline voting intention figures with changes from YouGov’s previous poll are CON 40% (-3), LAB 35% (+4), LDEM 15% (-1).

It suggests the beginning of a turnaround for Labour, as did the last ICM poll. It is also the first poll conducted entirely after Nick Clegg became Lib Dem leader and, despite the publicity around his appointment, shows a complete absence of any sort of leadership boost. The huge caveat that needs pointing out though is the timing of the poll: the dates are the 20th to the 27th of December. The way that YouGov polls are conducted means that most of the respondents answer in the first couple of days, so actually people would have answered this poll over the weekend before Christmas, very few if any at all would have been filling in their voting intention between opening presents on Christmas morning.

Still, even the weekend before Christmas has the potential to be skewed by the holiday effect, with people travelling to relatives, being out shopping or just generally having better things to do. The fact that only 1566 people took part in the poll, despite it being open for seven days rather than three, does rather underline the effect of the time of year (it could, of course, have been a smaller sample size to begin with, but I suspect it was more likely a low response rate). There’s no obvious reason for this to skew polls in one direction or another, it can just do funny things. With this and ICM there does seem to be a pattern of Labour recovering as the immediate air of crisis which hung about the government in November lifts, but I’d be wary of drawing any firm conclusions until we’ve seen some January polls that aren’t at risk of being skewed by the holiday period.

In what is likely to be the last poll of the year, ComRes’s December poll has topline figures of CON 41% (+1), LAB 30%(+3), LDEM 16% (-2). Like ICM it shows Labour recovering from their worst ratings last month, though as should be obvious, last month’s Labour score was unusually low. The Lib Dems are falling, but the poll was conducted way back between December 14th and 16th, so we certainly shouldn’t expect to see a leadership boost yet.

The other findings in the poll had David Cameron narrowly leading Gordon Brown 39% to 37% as the best man to be Prime Minister, Brown retaining his lead as the best man to take Britain through difficult economic times next year 44% to 36%, Cameron leading Brown 40% to 35% on having the best front bench team and, predictably, Cameron having a large lead on being the more likeable (51% to 31%).


ICM’s (presumably) final poll of the year has topline figures, with changes from their last poll three weeks ago, of CON 39%(-2), LAB 34%(+4), LDEM 18%(-1), suggesting a significant recovery for Labour from the worst of their lows. Unlike in the YouGov poll yesterday, there is no boost for the Lib Dems, but at least some of the poll would have been conducted before Nick Clegg was crowned Lib Dem leader, so we shouldn’t expect to see any boost from the publicity surrounding the new leader yet.

The poll was conducted almost simultaenously with yesterday’s YouGov poll, yet they tell sharply contrasting stories. YouGov had Labour still declining, ICM recovering. The other pollsters don’t give us much help – Populus also had Labour in steep decline, Ipsos MORI had them recovering.

Incidentally, something odd is happening with ICM polls lately. Normally I assume all polls done by the same pollster using the same methodology are perfectly comparable, ignoring considerations like what time of the week the poll was conducted or what paper commissioned it.

Looking at ICM’s polls since the Tories retook the lead in October though, there seems to be a consistent pattern of lower Tory shares in ICM’s Guardian polls compared to the ones for the Sundays. Their first poll to put the Conservatives back ahead was a poll for the Sunday Telegraph that put the Tories up on 43%, the following weekend poll for the Guardian put them down 3 points at 40%. A fortnight later a poll for the Sunday Express had them back up at 43%, the following Guardian poll had them back down to 37%, a week later they were back up at 41% in a News of the World poll, down they are back down to 39%. Until this poll there was a similar up-and-down pattern to the Lib Dem score in ICM polls, with higher Lib Dem scores in polls for the Guardian.

I was pondering whether this difference was due to Guardian polls being done at the weekend, and ICM’s polls for the Sundays which are conducted mid-week. This poll was conducted mid-week though. There is no apparant difference in any of the weightings or adjustments made to the polls ICM do for the Guardian or for other papers, perhaps it is purely co-incidence.

UPDATE: ICM have also updated their analysis of regional breaks in the vote. I always advise people to be wary of the regional breaks in normal polls because they have very low sample sizes, and because polls are only weighted at the national level, so may be skewed within regions. Every now and again ICM aggregate their data from several months of polls to produce regional breaks – this doesn’t necessarily do much to allieviate problems with weighting, but does at least take away concerns about sample size. When they did this exercise back in August they found the Tory advance was largely concentrated in the South outside London, with only modest advances in the Midlands and London and them going backwards in the North.

The latest analysis, based on data collected since October, shows the Tory advance is still strongest in the South, but they are now making strong progess in the North and the Midlands too. Only in Scotland and Wales are they relatively static, suggesting the Conservatives are now making a broader advance.

YouGov December poll

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph, and presumably their last poll of the year, has topline figures with changes from last week of CON 43% (-2), LAB 31% (-1), LDEM 16% (+2).

The Conservative lead seems steady, though they aren’t quite up to the 45% they reached last week. While the 1 point drop itself is not significant, this is the lowest YouGov have recorded for Labour since Tony Blair was leader. Gordon Brown’s net satisfaction rating is down to minus 36, with 24% satisfied with his performance as PM and 60% dissatisfied. The lowest Tony Blair ever reached on the same question was minus 38, but it took him 9 years to get there.

It’s also a good sign for the Liberal Democrats from the pollster that tends to produce the lowest figures for them. This poll was carried out between Monday and Wednesday, so almost entirely before the announcement of Nick Clegg as their new leader and the attendent publicity, so they may well get a further boost – ICM’s monthly poll will presumably be out next week and in contrast to YouGov they normally give the Lib Dems their highest scores, so look out for their score there.

Meanwhile, fun little story on the Telegraph’s politics blog. Apparently Labour didn’t bother with daily polling during the Tory conference this year, so while the Conservatives were seeing the polls rapidly reverse as the days went past, Labour were still sailing merrily onwards towards an early election until the weekly polling figures arrived…

A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times has voting intentions with changes from their last poll of CON 45% (+2), LAB 32% (nc), LDEM 14% (nc).

The 13 point Conservative lead is the largest YouGov have ever given them, and matches that recorded by ComRes (who tend to produce larger Tory leads than other pollsters) last month. 45% is their highest level of support since 1992 and the highest for any party since MORI started filtering by likelihood to vote, removing some of the towering Labour leads they used to report as their topline figures. On a uniform swing it would produce a Conservative majority of almost 100.

If the trends in this poll are repeated elsewhere then it would suggest the Conservatives have advanced beyond the 40% or so level they’ve been at for the last few weeks. Meanwhile the Labour party remain at 32% – the same level of support as they recorded in the previous two YouGov polls – despite the immediate air of crisis around the government fading. To say the least, this is not going to help morale within the Labour party.

The Liberal Democrats too are static on 14%. YouGov always tend to show the lowest level of support for them, and much lower than ICM, but across the board the polls suggest the recovery they experienced after Ming Campbell’s resignation has stalled. Next week will see Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne elected as their new leader and Liberal Democrat supporters will be hoping that the attendent coverage boosts their profile and support.