With the clear trend having been towards Labour since Gordon Brown’s bail out of the British banks, right at the tail end of last year we saw a couple of YouGov polls that indicated the trend might be moving back towards the Conservatives. The first poll of 2009 from Populus certainly appears to back that up. The topline figures, with changes from Populus’s December poll, are CON 43%(+4), LAB 33%(-2), LDEM 15%(-2). The poll was conducted between the 9th and 11th January. It puts the Conservatives back above the psychologically important 40% level and back in an election winning position, which will no doubt deliver them dividends in terms of morale and media narrative.

Other measures are also moving away from Labour again, Brown & Darling’s lead on dealing with the economic problems has dropped to 3 points from 9 last month, Gordon Brown’s lead as the best PM right now to deal with the economy has gone from 7 points last month to 0 now (as Peter Riddell points out in his commentary, it was as high as 20 points back in November) and Cameron’s 2 point lead on being the best PM after the next election a month ago has grown to 12 points.

As ever, we need to be slightly wary when the polls appear to change direction – one man’s beginning of trend is another man’s rogue poll – but with YouGov and Populus now showing the boost in Labour’s support from their handling of the economic crisis now beginning to wane, it is looking as if the Brown economic bounce is coming to at an end.

The poll also shows economic confidence falling again, after the rather counterintuitive increase towards the end of last year. While the sharp contrast between people’s pessimism about the economy as a whole and their relative optimism about their personal fiances remains, both have dropped since Populus last asked the question. In November net economic confidence for the country had rallied to minus 35, now it is down to minus 61, lower than it was in the summer. In November Populus record net economic confidence for people’s own families had actually returned to positive territory at plus 7, now it is down to minus 4, still far above the lows it hit in the summer.

The full tables from the YouGov European elections poll are now available here. It appears as if all the minor parties were included in the main voting intention question – something that has in the past lead to their support being overstated (though of course, that may be balanced out by the higher level of publicity the minor parties get as we actually approach the election).

Looking at the other questions, the single currency questions also asked whether the present economic difficulties had made people more or less likely to support British entry into the Euro. Regular readers will know my concerns about this sort of question, but for the record it picked up more people who said they had become less likely to support Euro entry than who said it had made them more likely.

The question on Britain’s relationship with the EU also had the caveat of asking how realistic people thought their preferred option of being able to renegoiate Britain’s relationship with Europe actually was. 51% thought it was not very realistic, or not realistic at all. 24% thought it was quite realistic and only 9% very realistic.

YouGov also asked whether any of the three main parties adequately represented respondent’s views on Britain’s relationship with Europe. 29% of people said they did, 45% said they didn’t. Note that – mathematically at least – this doesn’t necessarily mean that there are lots of people voting Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem at European elections who don’t agree with them on Europe – turnout in 2004 was 38%, so actually only 24% of the population voted for one of the big three anyway.

In actual fact, the cross breaks here show that 38% of people who say they would vote Tory in the Euro-elections don’t think the main parties represent their views, 34% of Labour European voters think they don’t and 40% of Lib Dem European voters think they don’t. This implies people are either voting for the nexrt best party in the absence of one that accurately reflects their views, or more likely, that they aren’t voting based on parties’ european policies.

The comments about Ken Clarke in the Sunday Telegraph’s report do appear to be entirely speculation, there were not any polling questions about him.


We’ve six months to go until the European Elections, but rather surprisingly we already have the first voting intention poll for them. A YouGov poll for the Taxpayers Alliance/Global Vision has European Election voting intention figures – with changes from the 2004 election – of CON 35%(+8), LAB 29%(+6), LDEM 15%(nc), UKIP 7%(-9), GRN 5%(-1), BNP 4%(-1), SNP/PC 4%. The poll was conducted between the 6th and 8th January.

Taking into account the reduction in seats on a uniform swing this would lead to the Conservatives winning 30 seats (up 3), Labour 24 (up 5), the Liberal Democrats 9 (down 2), the SNP and PC one each and UKIP 4 (down 8). The Greens would lose both their seats, while the BNP would fail to secure one. What isn’t clear from the newspaper report is how the question was asked, and which parties were included in the prompt. Back in 2004 YouGov included minor parties like UKIP in the main question prompt and, as a result, ended up over-stating the level of UKIP support – it will be interesting to see exactly how this question was prompted. Either way, how well UKIP will do is a hard one to predict. At the moment they get practically zero publicity in the mainstream media, so a huge drop in support is not a particular surprise. At the last European elections they received a lot of publicity because of Robert Kilroy-Silk, something that won’t be a factor this time. On the other hand, given their level of support last time the broadcasters may be forced to give them a lot more publicity in the run up to the election.

Accorded to the Sunday Telegraph report 10% of those who say they would vote Tory in a general election would vote UKIP in a European election, which implies that straight voting intention questions were also asked. There are no figures from this is the report, so again, we’ll have to wait for the full tables to see if they were.

The rest of the survey showed the usual Euro-sceptic feeling amongst the general public. Support for British entry into the single currency stands at 24%, with 64% opposed. On Britain’s relationship with Europe 16% support withdrawal, 48% a looser relationship and 22% the status quo. As ever, it is worth looking carefully at polls commissioned by pressure groups and we haven’t seen the wording of these questions yet, but there is nothing particularly surprising. The Sunday Telegraph’s report also says “Conservative support could fall still further if Mr Clarke makes a front-bench return, using his position to make high-profile interventions on European matters”. I have no idea if this is referring to something in the polling – the report doesn’t mention anything – or just the Sunday Telegraph speculating.

The full tables for YouGov’s Sun poll are up on their website here.

The questions on the two party leaders aren’t particularly flattering for either of them. 56% think Gordon Brown has no understanding or what ordinary people are going through, 54% think he is not providing the country with strong leadership, only 28% think he has sensible policies for tackling the current crisis.

These figures are a reminder that Gordon Brown is still viewed very negatively – when we talk about the improvement in his image, it is important to remember that it hasn’t gone from bad to good, it’s gone from atrocious to merely bad. Several of the questions in this poll were asked by YouGov back in September 2008 and illustrate this well: Brown’s net score on understanding real people’s problems has improved by 17 points since early September… but from minus 40 to minus 23. His net score on providing strong government has shot up by 30 points… but from minus 52 to minus 22.

David Cameron’s ratings on the same question aren’t particularly wonderful either, while he has a net positive rating on providing strong leadership (41% to 35%), 48% agree that he doesn’t understand what ordinary people are going through and only 26% think he has sensible policies for tackling Britain’s economic problems, though this is an area where one might have expected there to be a larger Labour/Brown lead – once again, the polling evidence is that the Labour charge that the Conservatives are a do nothing party doesn’t appear to be resonating.

Asked about the economy itself, people say they are more worried about the economic downturn and unemployment (54%) than they are the government borrowing too much and having to raise taxes in the future (40%). However, when asked about their preferred solution, they seem to shy away from more borrowing. Only 21% of respondents said their preferred option was for the government to cut taxes and spend more now, and then pay for it later once the economy had recovered. 40% preferred the route of cutting taxes by cutting back on public spending. 23% said they would prefer the government to do neither.

This would suggest that the Conservative stance on the economy should be the electoral winner. However, asked where they would like spending cuts to fall, the results are predictably that people would like less spent on foreign people (overseas aid and subscriptions to international bodies are by far the most popular areas for cuts), on long term things (climate change) and then on things that don’t affect them directly (subsidies to farmers or the post office, the armed services, welfare benefits for the poor). Very few people say they would prefer spending to be cut on schools and hospitals.

First poll of 2009

Tomorrow’s Sun has a new YouGov poll, the first of the year. The topline figures, with changes from the last YouGov poll, are CON 41%(-1), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 15%(+1). There is no significant change from the YouGov polls before Christmas, despite the flurry of high street retaillers being forced into administration that one might have expected to sour economic confidence. However, it does suggest a consolidation of the previous slight move back towards the Conservatives that YouGov was indicating.

The Sun’s coverage refers to several other questions about things like whether economic plans would work, what areas should bear any spending cuts and so on – there aren’t any detailled figures however, so I’ll update when the tables are available on YouGov’s website.