With ComRes in the Independent showing the Tory lead symbolically dropping into single figures… but not actually collapsing that much, a second poll for BPIX in the Mail on Sunday shows no obvious signs of a Labour boost at all.

The topline figures, with changes from the BPIX poll in the Sunday Telegraph conducted after the Labour conference, are CON 46% (+3), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 13%(-3). The Lib Dems show the same drop we have seen across the board, but the Conservative lead is growing. The poll was conducted between the 16th and 18th of October, so was actually conducted slightly later in a period when the media narrative is in flux. That could explain the different trends here – or there could be something else going on. We don’t know the methodology of BPIX, so we can’t say if there is a noticable contrast between the way ComRes and BPIX weighted their polls. As always, we should always be wary when one poll shows something that doesn’t match the trend elsewhere – it could be the first sign of a shift in opinion, or it could be a rogue poll.

The underlying figures in the BPIX poll are still positive for Brown. More than half thnk he has handled the present crisis well and Brown has overtaken Cameron in terms of being seen as strong, realistic, dignified and honest (though still trails hm as being attractive, optimistic, charismatic, caring and patriotic). This just doesn’t seem to have been reflected in voting intentions.

There is a new ComRes poll in the Sunday Independent which has headline figures – with changes from ComRes’s previous poll in the Independent – of CON 40%(-1), LAB 31%(+2), LDEM 16% (-2). The poll was conducted on the 15th and 16th of October, prior to David Cameron taking a more aggressive line against the government.

It isn’t a huge shift in support from the last poll, which was conducted just before the Tory conference, but it does seem to confirm that narrowing of the Tory lead and – depending upon Lib Dem support – a Tory lead of 9 points puts us back in hung parliament territory, rather than the “landslide victory” leads we were seeing a few months ago.

On the subject of Lib Dem support the poll also reflects the same sort of fall in Liberal Democrat support that we’ve been seeing across the board. Despite Vince Cable mostly being seen as having come out of the banking crisis with the highest reputation, the level of Lib Dem support in the polls has only been going downwards. Being feted by people who watch politics doesn’t necessarily translate into any support from the wider public.

Also of interest was a question asking people whether “It is right that taxpayers’ money should be used to bail out banks”. 37% agreed and 58% disagreed. By focusing on “bailing out banks” and taxpayers money the question has probably produced a more hostile response than a question asking about the “rescue plan” would have, but all the same it shows the potential for a hostile response to the government’s action.

UPDATE: There are also some figures from an ICM poll for the News of the World here. The poll shows a majority (54%) think Brown is doing well in dealing with the crisis and he leads the Conservatives by 8 points on trust on the economy. However, ICM also asked whether people were now more or less likely to vote Labour at the next election (the exact wording is sadly not made clear) – 13% said more likely but 22% said less likely. As I’ve said many times, I don’t think much of “more or less likely” questions – but this doesn’t look particularly positive. There is sadly no sign of any voting intention question here.

I am expecting a BPIX poll as well tonight. With luck there could also be some others – perhaps ICM have voting intention figures elsewhere and MORI are a possibility (they’re not!). I’m clocking off for the night, so use this thread to discuss any further polls.


The BBC’s producer guidelines prevent them from commissioning voting intention polls without special permission. There is some merit in that, it itself, but it actually leaves us very ill-served by other political polls the BBC commission. When phone pollsters conduct voting intention polls the samples are weighted by past vote to be politically representative. When polls don’t include a voting intention question, they invariably aren’t. In practice, this will normally mean the samples are skewed towards Labour, since past vote weighting nearly always reduces the number of Labour supporters in a sample.

One should therefore always be wary about reading too much into any questions that compare the parties in polls like this. Mike Smithson over at Political Betting normally refuses to give them the time of day for this reason. For once, however, today’s results are quite interesting.

ComRes asked “who do you trust most to steer Britain’s economy through the current downturn”. Brown & Darling lead on 42%, compared to Cameron & Osborne on 31% and Clegg & Cable on 7%. The actual Labour lead is pretty meaningless given the make up of the sample, but what we can do is compare it when ComRes asked exactly the same question in another BBC poll back at the beginning of October. Then they found figures of Brown & Darling 40%, Cameron & Osborne 34% and Clegg & Cable 5%.

The wording of the question makes a big difference in “best on the economy” questions, we get different answers asking about best on the economy, best on the current crisis and so on. But here we’ve got the same question asked before and after the government’s rescue plan and there has been a clear shift towards Brown & Darling.

There should be some voting intention polls over the weekend and I would expect a further narrowing of the Conservative lead.

The Phi5000 figures on Friday suggested we might be about to see a jump in Labour’s support through their handling of the current economic crisis and indeed we have. A new YouGov poll in the Sunday Times has topline voting intention figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, of CON 43%(-2), LAB 33%(+2), LDEM 14%(-1).

The poll was conducted between the 9th and 10th October so, while the Populus poll in the middle of week would have caught part of the recent economic troubles, this is the first poll to taken after the government’s rescue plan. While the change from YouGov’s last poll isn’t that dramatic, looking at the wider trend it is a significant improvement for the government when you consider that from May to September YouGov were consistently showing Tory leads in the region of 20 points.

Asked who they would most trust to handle the present crisis Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are ahead of Cameron and Osborne by 33% to 27% and the rescue plan is supported by 59% of respondents, with 32% opposed.

However, it is not all good news…53% of people thought that the goverment were too slow in acting and while 29% think Brown is handling things well, 37% think he is handling things badly. Asked which team they think will improve their standard of living, people also continue to favour Cameron and Osborne over Brown and Darling by 34% to 25% (why the difference? Perhaps people are taking a longer view – they trust the experienced hand to deal with a crisis, but think Cameron would do better over time. Alternatively, perhaps they are including non-economic issues when they think about standard of living).

People are, unsurprisingly, very pessimistic about the economy. On the rescue plan 67% of people expect that taxpayers will end up losing at least some of the money spent proping up banks (including 39% who expect them to loose “a lot”). 90% of people think the economy is in bad shape, 75% of people expect house prices to fall next year (4% expect them to rise), 86% of people expect a recession in the next few years (including 20% who expect a 1930s style depression).

Turning to other questions, there has been a lot of speculation about how the current crisis will affect attitudes towards free-markets. YouGov gave people a list of three statements and asked people which they most agreed with. 20% thought that “whatever the short term problems […] the free market system with its risks and rewards, is the best way to increase prosperity” and that it would be a mistake to curb freedoms. 12% thought that the free market system was fundementally flawed, leaving a majority (54%) saying that free markets had both advantages and disadvantages and the time had come to introduce some tougher rules and regulations. Sadly we can’t really say this shows a decrease in support for free markets, since there are no comparable questions from before the present difficulties to compare it to.

Finally YouGov asked some questions about the return of Peter Mandleson… and people don’t seem overjoyed to see him back. 41% thought it was a bad appointment, compared to 17% who thought it was a good thing. 41% said they distrusted Mandleson, compared to 6% who trust him. 50% agreed with the statement that “leopards don’t change their spots, so his return to government will end in tears”. We’ll see I guess. 33% of respondents to the poll did not expect him to last in government until the next election.

We don’t yet have much actual polling evidence to show us what the effect of the economic crisis is upon public opinion. The expectation seems to be that it will aid Gordon Brown and there are some voices calling it Brown’s Falklands moment (see the bottom of this post for a comment on that) but equally others like John Rentoul, James Forsyth and Iain Martin are saying it spells doom.

The latest figures from PoliticsHome’s Phi5000 daily tracker of opinion amongst their panel has Brown’s ratings moving up steadily since conference, with an increasing proportion of people seeing him as strong, competent, effective… all the sort of positive things that people used to think about Gordon Brown before they decided he was none of them. We don’t have any headline voting intention figures yet that will tell us the effect on topline figures, but my expectation is that they will show an improvement for Labour.

This is to be expected. The present situation is working strongly in Gordon Brown’s favour in several ways. Firstly, it has shored up his own position and taken away a negative media narrative. Prior to conference the polical dynamic at play in the media was “when will Labour kick out useless Gordon?”, the press were filled with speculation about how he would be done in, every announcement was hailed as a feeble attempt to shore up his position and so on. Now that narrative has been pushed out of the media narrative, so Brown is gradually looking less weak, his party less divided.

Secondly, it plays to his strengths. Gordon Brown can portray himself as a serious experienced figure, making incredibly important decisions about how to save the economy, taking decisive action, doing something, fighting to protect the country against the turmoil. Suddenly Brown can look like that strong, decisive figure he once did and can talk about hard economic subjects where his lack of empathic language or charisma isn’t such a weakness.

Thirdly, it gives Brown a purpose. One of the causes of the Brown government’s poor ratings has been his inability to put forward any compelling vision or purpose as to why he is there. What exactly is the point of his government? Events have provided Brown with a purpose, to save the economy, and a reason for people to support him and his government.

Fourthly, the opposition have been pushed out of the picture. On the economy, they can only offer bi-partisan support and try and look like they have some influence. On other subjects… at the moment there are no other subjects.

So, in conclusion this is a thoroughly good thing for Brown? No, probably not. In the next few weeks or months they will help, but in the long term, things still look bleak.

This new media narrative won’t last forever. The public get bored, and the media get bored. At the moment there is a new low for the FTSE, a new banking collapse, a new rescue plan every day, the pure volume of economic bad news pushes everything else off the agenda. It won’t last, there are only so many banks, only so many recovery plans. That is not to say that the economic problems won’t last months or years, but that this “active phase” cannot. Eventually a recovery plan will work, the economy will stablise and start the road to recovery – or it will totally collapse. Either way, the media narrative will move on. People will not buy newspapers for long if every single day the headline is “FTSE breaks new low”… eventually it will be on page 2, then page 5, then page 94. Then, it’s back to politics as usual.

Secondly, the situation won’t play to Gordon Brown’s strengths for long. Right now it is he – not David Cameron – who is really the “man with the plan”, but it is only one plan. One cannot keep on presenting recovery plans and gaining from it, if you present lots of recovery plans and the economy is still a basketcase, it portrays you not as being strong and competent, but as being ineffectual.

Thirdly, there is unlikely to be good economic turnout from this. However well the rescue plan works, the real question is how long and how deep the recession ahead is. There is going to be a lot of financial pain for people, a lot of unemployment, reposessions, a lot of tears and misery – a lot of people looking to a government to help them, when that government’s coffers are empty. Regardless of how much of it is actually his fault, this is going to happen on Gordon Brown’s watch, and some of the blame will attach to him.

Fourthly, the underlying figures are still awful. Despite the boost in his ratings, Brown’s figures are horrendous, we are talking about deficits in the low teens as being an improvement for Labour. The recent Populus poll, which would have started seeing the first effects of the economic crisis on public opinion, still showed that 61% of people thought it was “time for a change”.

In the short term, my prediction is this will be a positive for Gordon Brown and Labour in terms of public support. In the longer term, I expect it to be bad.

– * –

*Falklands effect. Just for reference, prior to the Falklands War Gallup showed the Conservative party two points behind Labour and the Alliance, CON 31%, LAB 33%, All 33%. Three months later they were seventeen points ahead of the Alliance, CON 45%, LAB 25%, All 28% – a 19 point transformation in the party lead. We’ve got rather a long way to go before it bears comparison to the Falklands effect.