A ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday shows the main two parties static. The topline figures, with changes from the last ComRes poll, are CON 37%(nc), LAB 36%(nc), LDEM 14%(-3). The poll was conducted on the 10th and 11th December.

The previous poll from ComRes was the famous one showing a one point Tory lead (as does this one, obviously!). That this one shows the same suggests that one wasn’t a rogue. The poll isn’t, however, completely static – there is a 3 point drop in the level of Lib Dem support. The previous ComRes poll had showed them leaping by 5 points on the back of a sample that contained considerably more 2005 Lib Dem voters than their previous poll – I wouldn’t be surprised if this shift in the Lib Dem level of support has the same sort of reason – we’ll see when the tables emerge.

Meanwhile ComRes also tested four more statements. Unsurprisingly a majority (55%) disagree that taxes would be lower under the Conservatives – few polls ever show many people believing that any party would actually cut taxes. 52% agree that the fall in the value of the pound shows that Gordon Brown’s economic plans probably won’t work – which again, doesn’t tell us a huge amount – people are probably pretty pessimistic about the economy anyway. As with previous polls that have shown public concern over borrowing, 67% agreed that the government was planning to borrow too much. The most surprising of the four statements to me was “The Conservative response to the economic crisis seems to me like a ‘do nothing’ strategy” – normally polls reveal a pretty cynical attitude towards politicians from the public, and the Conservatives hadn’t seemed to have got any obvious alternative strategy across to the public, so I’d expected majority agreement here. In fact only 45% agreed, with 45% disagreeing – suggesting Labour’s line of attack on the Conservatives hasn’t chimed as much as it might have (not that this seems to be helping the Conservatives in topline voting intentions!)

I’m expecting at least one more poll to be released tonight, so we’ll see if they paint a consistent picture.

UPDATE: Tables are here. Looking at the recalled past vote in the survey, the reverse in the Lib Dem support does indeed appear to be more down to the make up of the sample than a great decline in support. In the last poll 12% of respondents said they voted Lib Dem in 2005. In this poll 9% did – so only three-quarters as many Lib Dems. It also makes it look rather less like unambigously good news for Labour. In the last poll 20% of the sample claimed they voted Tory in 2005, 24% Labour. In this poll only 18% said they voted Tory last time, 26% said they voted Labour. No change in the poll is not good news for Labour if the political make of the sample was more Labour to start with.

I should add that I am very confused by ComRes’s past vote weighting and why it varies so much. I did think that perhaps the first table in their pdf results was showing the unweighted recalled past vote, which ComRes then use to generate their target weightings. Having asked Andrew Hawkins about it though he tells me those are the weighted figures, which seems very strange to me.

Having been disappointed by its absense from the main report of the Times’ monthly Populus poll, I find they did include questions on Damian Green after all. We’ll have to have a proper look when the actual wording of the question is out, but on the face of it the public’s verdict seems to be a resounding Sorry, I couldn’t actually be bothered to read about it – what was it again?.

56% of people said they had not followed the Damian Green story close enough to express a view, though the minority who had followed it split in favour of Damian Green. 29% thought it was right for the civil servant to leak information, with 13% thinking it wrong. 26% thought it was right for opposition MPs to release such information when it is leaked to them, 16% disagreed. 30% thought Jacqui Smith had handled things badly, only 12% thought she had done well.

Overall 39% thought it was right MPs were paying the affair so much attention, but 45% thought it was a “typical Westminster argument that bears no relation to the lives of ordinary people.” In this context the Conservative drop in support doesn’t seem particularly surprising – they’ve switched from attacking the government over huge levels of debt and mishandling the economy, to battering away over an issue which apparently has barely any salience with the general public.


Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from last month, of CON 39%(-2), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 17%(+1). It was conducted between the 5th and 7th December. The other questions in the poll suggest similar slight movements away from the Conservatives.

Where ICM and MORI showed a boost for the Tories following the PBR and ComRes showed a collapse in the Tory lead, Populus is somewhere inbetween. The poll shows a drop in Conservative support, but Labour are unchanged and there is an insignificant rise in Lib Dem support. While the Conservatives are below the highly symbolic 40% level and it is the lowest Tory lead from Populus since March, really this isn’t a big month-on-month shift back to Labour.

It’s tempting, with polls showing things moving in opposite directions, to assume the one is the middle is most likely to be correct. That isn’t necessarily true, but when the picture has been confused until now, this would fit nicely with a narrative that the PBR was initially badly received, but now all those hideous newspaper stories about the government taking out monsterous debts and secretly planning to raise VAT to 18% have vanished, it hasn’t really damaged the government (it could also be that the Damian Green affair has reflected badly upon the Conservatives – sadly the coverage in the Times doesn’t suggest that there were any specific questions about Damian Green).

Then again, its a human failing to assume that things that fit nicely into a narrative are more likely to be true! Hopefully there should be plenty of polls over the next week or so as companies bring them forward to avoid the Christmas period, so hopefully we will soon have a far more complete picture.

Waiting for a poll

Tonight we should – finally – be getting a regular voting intention poll. It seems like a very long time since the last two polls, which rather unhelpfully showed an 11 point Tory lead and a 1 point Tory lead.

Populus’s regular poll for the Times should be published on their website tonight at around 8 or so (I’ll be stuck in a meeting, so won’t be posting on it until slightly later, but feel free to discuss it in the comments here) and we may yet have more polls to come.

As we approach the Christmas period sampling for polls starts getting a bit dubious – half the population spend their weekends away from their telephones and commuters waiting in a single big traffic jam near Bluewater (at least, it feels that way) and the closer we get to the actual Chistmas period the more likely people are to be visiting relatives. For that reason it’s likely the pollsters won’t stick to their normal timetables and we’ll also see some of the pollsters who would normally do their fieldwork later in the month bring their polls forward.

A new poll by ComRes in Tuesday’s Indy tells a completely different story to ICM and MORI’s recent figures. The topline figures, with changes from ComRes’s last poll, are CON 37%(-6), LAB 36%(+4), LDEM 17%(+5). The poll was conduced between Friday and Sunday.

In recent weeks we’ve become used to polls showing differing results – methodological differences have resulted in some pollsters showing much larger Tory leads than other ones. However, until now polls have been consistent in showing the same trends – until last week the pollsters, despite differences in extent, were all showing the Conservative poll shrinking. The two polls published since the press reaction to the PBR, conducted by ICM and Ipsos MORI, both showed that trend reversing, with the Conservatives again gaining support. This poll is not just out of line with the figures other companies have been presenting, but also it’s the exact opposite of the trend ICM and MORI are showing.

Normally when polls disagree I look at the methodologies and try to explain the difference. There is no obvious explanation here. I’ve looked through the ComRes tables and there is nothing obviously freaky or wrong – the Lib Dems appear to have been weighted to a much higher figure than their previous poll – 12% of the sample said they voted Lib Dem in 2005, as opposed to 8% of the sample in ComRes’ previous poll – which goes a long way towards explaining the jump in the level of Lib Dem support, but not that of the two main parties: the overall shares of recalled past vote are pretty similar to those ICM use to weight their polls.

This is the first poll conducted since Damian Green was arrested, so theoretically it could be possible that the public reaction to it has been the polar opposite to the media’s, but that would be unusual. It could also be that the the increased Conservative lead we saw from ICM and MORI was just a reflection of the bad press coverage the PBR was receiving at the time those two polls were carried out, and the public reaction to the PBR now it has sunk in properly is actually more positive. The alternative possiblity is, of course, that either MORI & ICM, or ComRes are “rogue polls”.

I am cautious about the term “rogue poll”. It tends to get thrown around willy-nilly against any poll people don’t like and sometimes at companies with methodology people see as faulty. What is actually refers to is that the 3% margin of error commonly quoted for polls is at the 95% level of confidence. In layman’s terms it means that 19 out of 20 times the “real” figure will be within 3 points of the figure quoted in the poll. A rogue poll is that 1 in 20 where the figure is more than 3 points out. It is inevitable that these things happen, and happen to all companies – but realistically it is impossible to ever be certain whether a poll that looks out of line is a rogue poll, or the start of a new trend. We won’t know for sure until we see some other polls that confirm or contradict this one, but until then I will urge my normal caution against polls that show large changes in support, or sudden reverses in the trend.