YouGov August Tracker

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has topline figures, with changes from their last poll, of CON 45%(-3), LAB 26%(nc), LDEM 16%(nc).

The Conservatives are down slightly compared to the last YouGov poll carried out for Compass a week ago, but that one in turn had seen them rise 3 points. The bigger picture is still relatively static. This is not, it has to be said, a huge surprise considering it’s August, but at least we are now heading towards the conference season when politics should wake up again.

Note that the Daily Telegraph reports figures of 46/26/16 in its report of this poll but gives a lead of 19 points in the article and Tony King’s analysis. I haven’t spoken with Peter Kellner to get the absolute final answer, but as far as I can tell the correct figures are CON 45%, LAB 26%.

The polls have been largely static for the last three months, showing Conservative leads between 13 and 24 points.

Written like that, it doesn’t sound so static does it? Say the position was closer between the main parties, no one would describe a situation where polls were showing results varying between a 6 point Labour lead and a 4 point Tory lead as consistent.

The reality though is that they are. My first sentence did rather deliberately make things look volatile by focusing on the lead, which since it includes variation in both the Labour and the Conservative share of support falsely magnifies small differences. It’s more accurate to say that recent polls have shown the Conservatives at 41%-48%, Labour at 24%-29%, the Lib Dems at 15%-20%.

Over at PoliticalBetting Bob Worcester puts it all down to normal sample error. Looking at those bands of support that seems to fit, especially if you dismiss the one Populus poll that had the Tories down at 41% as an outlier. The reality is however that this is an overly simplistic explanation for the variation.

If it was all down to random variation we’d see some YouGov polls showing a low Tory lead, some Populus ones showing a high lead. It would – as you would expect – be random. We don’t see that. We see some pollsters consistently showing a lower share for the Conservatives and higher share for the Lib Dems than other pollsters.

Taking polls since the start of June:

YouGov average is CON 46.4%, LAB 25.8%, LDEM 16.6%
Ipsos MORI average is CON 46.7%, LAB 26.3%, LDEM 16%
ComRes average is CON 45.2%, LAB 25.7%, LDEM 16.8%

All very close, but…

Populus average is CON 43%, LAB 26.7%, LDEM 19%
ICM average is CON 43.8%, LAB 27.4%, LDEM 19%

If the difference was down to sample error, which is as likely to go one way as the other and affects all pollsters, then given enough polls the average from each pollster should be much the same. Clearly they are not – Populus and ICM are showing a lower level of Conservative support and a higher level of Lib Dem support. This is only three months data, so could easily be chance, but regular readers will know that these are actually long term trends and suggest that the contrast in the polls is due to methodological differences between the pollsters.

Part of this is because ICM and Populus are measuring slightly different things from the other pollsters. YouGov, MORI and ComRes’s figures are based on how people say they will vote. ICM and Populus’s also take into account how ICM and Populus think people who say don’t know will vote, and at this moment in time this cuts the Conservative lead. The rest is likely to be down to differences in their respective weightings.

That doesn’t change the central point that the polls are NOT all over the place, they have been very stable over the last couple of months. The broad picture we have is not, however, of polls all agreeing with each other with differences explained solely by sample error, they have slightly different ways of doing things that produce slightly different figures…albeit, each set pretty stable when compared to themselves.


A new Harris poll in the Financial Times (full tables here) gives an interesting look at the state of Labour’s core vote.

Harris found 13% of people who said they had always voted for the Labour party. While this sounds low for the party’s absolute core vote, remember that turnout at the last election was 62%, so if all that 13% always vote (a dubious assumption in itself) we are talking about roughly a fifth of actual voters. Beyond that 13% said they had often voted Labour and 20% said they had sometimes voted Labour. 37% of respondents had never voted Labour and 17% said they had never voted at all.

Compared to their usual voting behaviour, Harris then asked how likely people were to vote Labour at the next election. Unsurprisingly those 20% of “sometime” Labour voters and the 37% who never vote Labour haven’t become any more likely to back them. The interesting bit is moving beyond that into Labour’s core vote. Of ‘often’ Labour voters, 51% said they were less likely to vote Labour now, of their hardcode ‘always’ Labour voters, 26% were less likely to vote Labour.

It’s important not to over-egg this – only 3% of hardcore Labour voters said there was no way they would vote Labour at the next election. The poll shows core Labour voters saying they are less likely to back Labour, not definitely deciding to abandon it. Still, it is a sign that even part of the core vote of the government is getting a bit shakey.

The rest of the poll contained various comparative questions on the economic situation in the five countries Harris do their regular poll in. The final question did catch my eye though. Harris asked people which country posed the greatest threat to global stability. The fieldwork was done between the 30th July and 12th August, so the majority of it would have been completed before the war in South Ossetia.

We’ve seen polls like this before so it’s no longer a surprise to find that more people in Britain think that the USA (34%) is the biggest threat to world stability than do places like Iran (13%), China (15%) or Russia (7%). What was more surprising was that when compared to other European countries, the UK is more anti-American than France, Italy and Germany in all of which people see China as more of a threat than the USA. Spain is the only other country where people see the USA as the biggest threat to stability.

Tucked away in the Observer there is also news of a YouGov poll for Compass which shows broad support for a one off windfall tax on “oil companies recent profits”. 67% supported a windfall tax, 13% opposed it.

Full tables for the poll are here and also include a voting intention question. Topline figures, with changes from the last YouGov poll, are CON 48%(+3), LAB 26%(+1), LDEM 16%(-2).

Latest ComRes poll

A new ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday has topline voting intention figures – with changes from the last ComRes poll – of CON 46%(nc), LAB 25%(+1), LDEM 16%(-2). Once again the position appears to be pretty much static. The poll was conducted on the 20th and 21st August.