Round up

We are still in the period when no one really should be publishing any polls, since the fieldwork would have had to have been done over the Easter weekend. Here’s some things to keep you amused.

Firstly, over at the Election Guide part of the site I have – by popular demand – added the Northern Ireland seats. The boundary review in Northern Ireland makes very little difference to the overall picture, but for those who want to discuss seats in Northern Ireland the pages are here. As ever, I should recommend Nicholas Whyte’s site here, which has all the information on Northern Irish psephology you could possibly want and was a great help.

Secondly, there is rarely any polling done at all for local authority elections, except occassionally for the London borough elections when there is a nice geographical area where you know everyone has local elections at the same time. If you are hoping for polls on the May 2008 local elections you are probably going to be disappointed (apart, of course, from the London mayoral elections). What we do normally get are predictions from Rallings and Thrasher based on local authority by-elections, and some of their first predictions for the local elections have been published in the Local Government Chronicle, reproduced on LabourHome here.

Finally, for those of you pondering when we will get a proper poll, if everything goes according to normal timetables the monthly YouGov poll for the Telegraph should appear tonight or tomorrow. This should be an interesting poll – the last YouGov poll showed a 16 point Tory lead, a result that appeared to be an obvious rogue until ICM produced a 13 point Tory lead a few days later. The monthly YouGov/Telegraph poll will be our first chance to see if those huge Tory leads were the beginning of some sort of sea-change in British politics, or just a short-term negative reaction to the budget.

A question of class

We shouldn’t expect many political polls in the next few days given the Easter break (and if we do, we should probably be wary of them for the same reason) In the meantime here’s an Ipsos MORI poll on class. The poll found 52% of respondents considered themselves working class and 44% middle class.

Polls are of course weighted to represent the correct class breakdown of the country, but these breaks – based on occupation – bare little resemblence to how people classify themselves. Amongst the AB socially classification (that’s professionals like teachers, doctors, businessmen, managers and so on) 68% see themselves as middle class, 30% working class. At the opposite end of the scale, the DE social classification (that is, casual workers, the unemployed and long term sick, labourers, semi-skilled manual workers, etc) 66% see themselves as working class but 28% see themselves as middle class. It may mean people have strange ideas of what class they are, or it may just mean the ABC1C2DE classification of social grade by occupation isn’t actually very good.

More fun are the questions further on about what political parties and activities people associate with different classes. Perceptions of political parties representing different social classes are still present to a degree – 39% of people think the Labour party best represent the working class (compared to 10% who think the Tories do and 8% who think the Lib Dems do). 46% of people think the Conservatives best represent the middle cass (compared to 19% who think Labour do and 7% who think the Lib Dems do). 65% think the Tories best represent the upper classes.

Taking the bus is the activity most associated with being working class (by 62%), followed by having an allotment (52%, down significantly from 72% when a similar question was asked in 1991), eating in front of the telly (48%), watching Coronation Street (45%), going to football matches (42%), and eating peas with a knife (35%). Buying organic food was the activity most associated with being middle class (52%), along with going to museums (46%), playing cricket (41%) or rugby (39%). Going to the opera (61%) was associated with the upper classes.

Shopping at Lidl, Somerfield, Iceland, Morrisons or Asda was seen as working class, Tescos as relatively classless, Sainsburys as Middle class and Waitrose as either middle or upper class.


One I missed: a week or so ago there was a MRUK Cello poll in the Sunday Times on Scottish voting intentions. For the Westminster Parliament support stood at CON 18%, LAB 34%, LDEM 11%, SNP 34%. For Holyrood, the constituency vote was CON 15%, LAB 31%, LDEM 12%, SNP 39% and regional vote CON 13%, LAB 30%, LDEM 11%, SNP 40%.

On his blog Iain Dale has a presentation from a Lib Dem conference last spring that included some polling on attitudes towards coalitions. As the third party the media don’t often commission interesting polling stuff about the Lib Dems, so it’s nice to have some. Sadly he only has the presentation from a discussion session about hung Parliaments, and not the polling update from Chris Rennard that was promised for the following morning, but there goes!

The presentation includes the results of questions about the effect knowing or thinking (it’s sadly not made clear exactly what the question wording was) that the Lib Dems would form a coalition with David Cameron and the Conservatives or Gordon Brown and Labour would have on people’s likelihood to vote Lib Dem. In both cases just under 4/10 people said it would make no difference.

Overall the figures were not hugely different. 29% of people would be more likely to vote Lib Dem if they were going into coalition with the Tories, 31% less likely. 30% more likely if they were headed into coalition with Labour, 25% less likely.

Broken down by party, unsurprisingly if the Lib Dems allied themselves with Labour Conservative supporters would be drastically less likely to support them – 61% would be less likely, including 38% who would be “much less likely”. There is a mirror image for Labour supporters – 59% of whom would be less likely if the Lib Dems allied themselves with the Tories. No surprises there, though it underlines the importance for the Lib Dems of maintaining a neutral stance, there are plenty of supporters of both other parties who vote tactically for the Lib Dems to keep the other one out, and they can’t afford to alienate half of them.

More interestingly, amongst current Lib Dem supporters attitudes are far more positive towards a Brown alliance than a Cameron one. 34% of current Lib Dem supporters would be more likely to vote for the party if they allied themselves with Brown, with 24% against. Only 23% were more likely to vote for the party if they allied themselves with Cameron, while 34% were against.

An important caveat is that the polling is a year out of date now, so public attitudes towards David Cameron and Gordon Brown have probably changed. The Lib Dem presentation goes on to make the sound point that even if there is a hung Parliament, the decision will probably be made by the Parliamentary arithmatic, but – back in Spring 2007 at least – it looks as though Lib Dem supporters would have been much happier to see their party supporting a Brown government rather than a Cameron one.

While the 16 point Tory lead on Sunday provided big headlines and no doubt cheered up Conservatives across the country, I suspect even the most rabid Tory suspected in their heart that it was probably an outlier and that the lead would return to more normal levels in the next YouGov poll. The latest ICM poll however suggests there may indeed have been some sort of shift in public opinion.

The monthly ICM poll for the Guardian has topline voting intention figures, with changes from their poll conducted last week, of CON 42%(+2), LAB 29%(-2), LDEM 21%(+1). The poll was conducted between the 14th and 16th, so would have included David Cameron’s speech to the Tory spring conference.

The Conservative lead of 13 points is the largest I can find looking back at ICM polls since 1987. While it’s smaller than the 16 point lead the Tories enjoyed with YouGov at the weekend, this seems to be a pattern between ICM and YouGov recently – the higher levels of Lib Dem support reported by ICM are at the expense of the Tories. Whichever pollster is correct, they seem to be interpreting the same underlying position.

Asked about who they trust more with the economy, ICM found an 8 point lead for the Conservatives, 40% to 32%.

It appears that, for whatever reason, the budget has heralded a fall in confidence in Labour’s economic management and a decisive switch towards the Conservatives. While we’ve got a couple of polls confirming it, what we can’t tell is whether it will last at all. If it does we are in a new game – it’s the sort of lead where David Cameron is going to stop facing questions about why he isn’t doing better, and is instead going to end up facing more criticism from his own troops about why he isn’t being bolder. Labour would start facing assumptions of their defeat in the media and itchy backbenchers with the minds focused by possible unemployment.

UPDATE: Tables now up on ICM’s website here. The difference between the lead here and the lead in YouGov’s poll was actually mostly down to ICM’s topline adjustment for the “spiral of silence” – the theory that some people who say don’t know are actually supporters of an unpopular party who are too bashful to admit it to the interviewer. While people still refer to this an as adjustment to make up for “shy Tories”, for the past five years at least it’s normally favoured “shy Labourites”. This month ICM’s unadjusted figures would have been CON 43%, LAB 28%, LDEM 21%.