I’ve had chance to look at the proper figures from this mornings YouGov poll, including their regular trackers which produce some interesting findings. While there were more respondents who claimed their opinion of Brown had got worse over recent weeks than those who said it had improved, the trackers confirm this really isn’t the case. A month ago Gordon Brown’s approval rating was minus 58, now it is minus 38. Still awful of course, but the improvement is undeniable.

Looking at some of the other trackers there is an interesting pattern. Across the board topline voting intention figures have shown Labour increasing their support… but Conservative support only falling slightly, with most polls suggesting they are holding on at 40+ percent support. YouGov’s trackers show a similar pattern. Looking at the best Prime Minister figures, Cameron’s lead over Brown has fallen from 18 points a month ago to only 7 now. However, Cameron has remained steady on 34%, it is Gordon Brown who has taken support from Nick Clegg and “don’t knows”.

On who will run the economy better, the Conservative lead has dropped from 17 points a month ago to only 4 points now, but their own percentage has dropped by only 3 points; the big shift was Labour gaining at the expense of “neither”. It suggests that what has happened in the last month is that Labour supporters who had been disillusioned with Brown’s government, but in most cases hadn’t embraced the Conservatives as the alternative and were just dismissing the lot of them, have been won back over.

The survey also included a very interesting finding about perceptions of party sleaze. YouGov found that 34% of people thought that the Conservatives gave the impression of “being very sleazy and disreputable” this compared to 42% who thought the same about the Labour party.

This shows that, despite the recent fuss over George Osborne, Labour are still seen as the “sleazier” party. However, the wording has been used by YouGov in the past and going back to look at find findings reveals a transformation in perceptions. The Conservatives score is up marginally from 31% in November 2007, but in general has been pretty stable – they registered 33% to 34% on the question several times between 2002 and 2006. The proportion of people who think Labour are sleazy though has plummeted – between 2002 and 2007 YouGov were registering between 56% and 69% of people thinking Labour were “very sleazy and disreputable” and the last time the question was asked in November 2007 60% said they were sleazy. 42% is a significant drop.

It could just be the aura effect of the government’s crisis handling, or perhaps just the fact there there is not currently any Labour scandal in the news (almost by definition these questions only tend to get asked when there is sleaze story in the newspapers), but it looks as though Gordon Brown is successfully decontaminating Labour from some of the perceived sleaze of the Blair years.

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has topline figures, with changes since the YouGov poll for the Mirror a fortnight ago, of CON 42%(nc), LAB 33%(-1), LDEM 15%(+1).

The Lib Dems are marginally up, Labour marginally down, but shifts of a single point are insignificant: as with ComRes earlier this week this is a “no change” poll. That in itself is interesting, since we’ve had two shifts in the political scene that could potentially have made a difference to the picture – firstly there has been a return to “normal politics”, with subjects other than the economy sneaking onto the news agenda, and secondly the affair of George Osborne and the Russian billionaire (of course, theoretically both these things could have happened and cancelled one another out!).

Looking at the underlying figures in the poll, the picture is pretty mixed. I’ve highlighted in recent weeks the constrast between questions asking which party people trust most on the economy, and which they trust to deal with the economic crisis right now. Here we get both questions. Labour have a narrow 1 point lead on being the party people would trust to get us out the present crisis, but asked which party they trust on the economy in general the Conservatives continue to lead by 34% to 30%.

Brown is still considered to have handled the crisis well by a narrow plurality of people (48%), with 45% thinking he has handled it badly. Worse is that now more people (27%) are saying their opinion of Brown has gone down in recent weeks than up (21%). Even so, while people might say their opinion of Brown hasn’t risen, his approval ratings in all the polls in recents months speaks for itself (I haven’t seen the figures in this one yet, but I’d be amazed if they weren’t up from the pre-crisis figures!)

YouGov also asked about George Osborne and Peter Mandleson and both are damned by the public, albeit it appears that Mandleson has come off marginally worse – 63% think his behaviour was “wrong and also very foolish” compared to 53% for Osborne.


As well as the voting intention poll for the Indy, ComRes have also published a poll they have conducted for Theos. As with every other UK poll on the US election, it shows British people would overwhelmingly back Barack Obama rather than John McCain were they to have a vote in the US election. 66% would back Obama, 10% McCain.

More interestingly though ComRes also asked a series of questions asking whether people would be prepared to vote for a leader who was black, muslim, gay or from another minority group. The question drew its inspiration from a similar poll conducted in the USA by Gallup last year, which found amongst other things that 5% of American voters said they wouldn’t vote for a black candidate and a majority (53%) wouldn’t vote for an atheist.

ComRes’s poll in the UK found that 5% of British voters said they would not vote for a black leader. For all the concern that American voters are somehow more racist and more likely not to vote for a black candidate, the proportion of people ready to admit that they wouldn’t vote for a black candidate is the same in this country (though naturally, we cannot tell how many other people share those views but were unwilling to admit them to a phone interviewer).

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise as analysis of electoral data shows a racial effect in how people vote. Roger Mortimore of MORI crunched the figures for the 2001 election and found Labour did 2.5% worse than average in seats where a ethnic minority candidate had replaced a white one, and 6.1% better in seats where a white candidate had replaced one from an ethnic minority.

I can’t track down a proper study, but most people with experience of local government elections will be able to reel off anecdotal examples of where there would appear to have been a racial bias in people voting in multi-member wards (see, for example, the two split wards in Bexley in 2006 – Belvedere and Erith here).

In the UK the factor that drew the most opposition was age. 43% of people said they would not vote for an otherwise acceptable candidate for leader who was 72 years of age, almost the same as in the USA where 42% said they would not vote for a 72 year old President. It is potentially possible, of course, that this is partially a reflection that people are more willing to admit discriminating in terms of age than on sexuality or religion. After that came being either gay or lesbian, or being a Muslim – in both cases 23% of people (presumably not the same ones!) said they would not vote for an otherwise qualified candidate in those circumstances. The Gallup survey did not ask about whether people would vote for a Muslim President, but did ask about a homosexual candidate and found 43% of Americans would refuse to vote for them.

Most other groups met with comparatively little opposition. Only 7% of British voters would not vote for a divorcee. (In the US survey, which clearly had Rudy Guiliani in mind, 30% said they would not vote for a thrice-married Presidential candidate). 7% of voters said they would not vote for a female leader – interestingly this was evenly split between men and women. 7% of people said they would not vote for a Christian leader – a question that would perhaps have been more interesting if ComRes has asked about committed or evangelical Christianity to see if there was any truth in Alistair Campbell’s famous “we don’t do God”.

In the US survey, the most electoral objectionable group was atheists, with 53% of Americans saying they would not vote for an otherwise well-qualified Presidential candidate who was an atheist. One would expect that figure to be much lower in the UK, but actually it is still surprisingly high at 20%. One might not have guessed it, but not believing in God would appear to be almost as much of an electoral handicap for a potential leader in the UK as being Muslim or gay.

There is a new ComRes poll in the Independent tomorrow with topline figures – with changes from ComRes’s most recent poll in the Sunday Indy – of CON 39%(-1), LAB 31%(nc), LDEM 16%(nc). The poll was conducted between the 24th and 26th October.

Clearly there is no significant change from the this previous poll, but that in itself is significant as since the last lot of polls the media narrative has moved away from blanket coverage of the banking crisis to more normal politics (in this case, George Osborne, Peter Mandleson and a rich Russian’s yacht…)

More tomorrow…

YouGov has a new poll of Scottish voting intentions in the Sunday Times. The full voting intentions, with changes from YouGov’s last Scottish poll in September are:

In a Westminster General election CON 20%(+3), LAB 38%(+6), LDEM 11%(-2), SNP 29%(-5)
In the Scottish Parliament constituency vote CON 14%(+1), LAB 31%(+5), LDEM 12%(-3), SNP 39%(-3)
In the Scottish Parliament regional vote CON 16%(+2), LAB 29%(+4), LDEM 11%(-3), SNP 32%(-3)

As in the rest of the country there is a clear increase in Labour support following conference season and the government’s handling of the credit crunch. Here it has come at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, who now once again trail Labour in Westminster voting intentions (though they continue to hold a, now much shrunken, lead at Holyrood).