Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline figures, with changes from last month, of CON 42%(-1), LAB 28%(-5), LDEM 18%(+3). The poll was conducted over the weekend.

Populus’s methodology is quite close to ICM’s and we’ve got similar figures to their weekend poll. The Conservatives remain in the 40s, Labour sink down below the psychologically important 30% level and this time some of the support has moved to the Liberal Democrats, who jump up three points. Their support in this poll is significantly lower than the 22 points that ICM recorded, but it’s two polls in a row showing their support growing as Labour collapse further.

In other questions, economic confidence had improved slightly, albeit not significantly, after it’s big fall last month. Net confidence is at minus 57, compared to minus 61 in January and minus 35 in November when it enjoyed that strange temporary boost in optimism. David Cameron has moved ahead at the best Prime Minister to deal with the crisis now, having pulled level with Brown a month ago he is now ahead by 9 points.

Despite his “bail out boost” disappearing, Gordon Brown’s image is still much improved from last summer. The proportion of people who think he is strong (51%) is twenty-two points higher than last summer, those thinking him weak is 20 points down, those thinking he is up to the job is up 17 points to 42%. While Labour may be in a poor state, it is still not as bad as it was in summer 2008.

I’ve been told there will be some more stuff from Populus to come later in the week covering bank bonuses.

While we are waiting for Populus tonight here’s some bits and bobs from the last few days. Over the weekend there was a new System Three poll in Scotland showing voting intention in a possible referendum on Scottish Independence. The poll showed support for YES at 38%, for No at 40%. It’s a narrowing of the gap since the last time System Three asked the question in October 2008, but in pretty much the same territory as the previous times they asked the question.

Notably there is a huge difference between this and when YouGov asked a similar question in Scotland last week. They found support at 29% for YES and 55% for NO. There’s no obvious reason for the difference. The two questions are:

YouGov: The SNP wishes to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in due course. Voters would be asked whether they agree or disagree ‘that the Scottish government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state’. How would you vote if such a referendum were held tomorrow? I would vote YES (i.e. for Scottish independence)/ I would vote NO (i.e. against Scottish independence)/ Don’t know/ Would not vote

System Three: The SNP have recently outlined their plans for a possible refrendum on Scottish independence in future. If such a referendum were to be held tomorrow, how would you vote? I AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state/ I DO NOT AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state/ Don’t know

The YouGov version is a bit bolder – it spells out the YES (for independent) and NO (against independence) a bit more clearly, and perhaps makes people think rather more about the independence rather than the negotiations – but they are pretty much in the same ball park.

On other subjects, there is a YouGov poll for the Jewish Chronicle here asking about support for a boycott of Israeli goods. Only 29% of people think it would be a good idea, with 41% opposed. On the wider issue of Israel’s behaviour, 22% think Israel is doing all it reasonably can to live in peace with Palestinians, 47% think Israel is being too harsh towards Palestinians.

Moving on, ComRes have done some polling about belief in evolution for Theos. I may come back to think properly later, but I think Theos’s own report on the polling figures, and evolution, creationism and so on, which can be downloaded here, is well worth reading.

Later on today we should get Populus’s monthly poll for the Times – it normally shows up at around 7.30pm or 8pm. I expect a lot of people will be waiting to see if it shows an increase Lib Dem support comparable to ICM’s at the weekend.


There is a new ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph which is – rather inexplicably – already up on their website here. The topline figures with changes from the last ICM poll are CON 40%(-4), LAB 28%(-4), LDEM 22%(+6). The poll was conducted on the 4th and 5th February.

The changes since the last poll are rather odd – Nick Clegg got some good media coverage launching his parties new education policy… but probably not 6 percentage points worth! As ever it’s worth being a bit wary of any poll showing a big shift in any party’s support. My suspicion here is that the previous ICM poll’s Lib Dem figure was an anomoly – it had them three points down at 16%, which was their lowest score under Nick Clegg and meant YouGov and ICM were showing the Lib Dems on the same figure, whereas normally ICM have them a couple of percentage points higher. Moving up to 22 is still very good for the Lib Dems, their highest level of support for a long time when most other polls show them in decline – for that reason, treat it with some caution till it starts showing up in other polls.

It’s the second poll since Labour’s recovery turned sour to show Labour below 30%, though ICM tend to get a lot more attention than ComRes. It’s the first time ICM have put Labour that low since July 2008, though they had been in an even worse position before that – in June 2008 ICM had Labour at 25% and 26%.

Other questions in the poll apparently include a question asking whether Alistair Darling should be replaced – 51% think he should, 43% think he should stay at the Treasury (though the Sunday Telegraph’s write up implies this is a largely a partisan response, with Tory and Lib Dem respondents saying they’d like him gone and Labour voters saying they think he should stay.The poll also included a question on “British jobs for British workers”, 50% said they would like to see a tighter regime for EU workers and 46% think EU citizens should have the freedom to work in the UK.

Peter Hoskin over at Coffee House has forced my hand into looking at budget bounces, or the lack of them. The graph below shows the Labour lead in two YouGov polls immediately before the last seven budgets, and the two YouGov polls immediately after each one.


As you can see, there is hardly a history of Budgets leading to big improvements in Labour’s position. They crept up a point in 2003, but realistically 2006 is the only one where the budget can really have been said to have resulted in a boost for the government (for the record, there was nothing particularly outstanding in the 2006 budget. There were no real headline grabbing tax changes and the centerpiece was simply more money for schools).

In contrast, the 2008 budget shows how badly they can go down. The 2008 budget made the recession real – suddenly all the talk about recession hit home when Alistair Darling actually stood up and said there were hard times ahead. I suspect Alistair Darling will have to relay some quite grim news at the next budget too, so wouldn’t count on a boost for the government there.

So while Peter is right there, I would take issue with another assumption in the article. In Martin Kettle’s original article (which Peter was responding too) it is taken as read that the European and local elections will be a disaster for Labour. I have no doubt that the local elections will be – the last time the county council elections were fought was the same day as Labour’s 2005 general election victory, now they are being fought on a low turnout and normal mid-term protest voting Labour will be decimated.

The European elections on the other hand may be a different matter. In the YouGov poll on the Euro-elections conducted last month it showed both the Conservatives and Labour gaining support as UKIP collapse. Translated into seats, this would mean Labour receiving the biggest increase in seats at the election – a result emminently spinnable into a good news story. The local government election results are announced two days before the European results, so if it did happen Labour could get the bad local election news out of the way and then get good publicity from the Euros.

Still a long way away of course, polls could change and UKIP might not collapse, but don’t assume Labour will lose MEPs.

Channel 4 have released a new YouGov poll of marginal seats that projects a Conservative majority of between 60-70 seats were it to be repeated at a general election.

The last time YouGov carried out a marginals poll like this was at the tail end of October, when the Labour lead in national polls had narrowed to high single figures, but had get to reach the tighter position we saw towards the end of last year. Back then it showed the shares of support in the target seats at CON 43%, LAB 38%, LDEM 12%. Today that has moved to CON 43%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13% – so there has been a slight move against Labour. This is, again, pretty much in line with YouGov’s national polls which showed a 8 point Tory lead back in October and an 11 point Tory lead now. The movements in the marginal seats seem to be much the same as the national picture.

Expectations on the economy are low – only 14% say they agree with the government’s predictions that the economy will turn around this year. 41% think Britain will not come out of recession till 2010 and 32% think it will be even longer. They are also very pessimistic about whether the government’s actions to tackle the crisis will work. A rather pathetic 2% think they will make a big difference, 23% think they will make a small difference, but that this is worth the money. 35% think they will make a small difference and are a waste of money, 29% think they will do nothing at all.

Taking a slightly wider view on how the government have responded to the crisis, the public in marginal seats are split more evenly. 12% think they have responded well, 32% think have moved in the right direction, albeit not quickly or effectively enough – giving about 44% of people in marginal seats with a broadly positive view. In contrast, 18% think their strategy is wrong and they are doing more harm than good and 26% think they are taking panic measures with no clear strategy at all.

A large majority of people in marginals expect that the borrowing now will result in spending cuts or tax hikes later, the only difference is how large they expect them to be. 32% expect some spending cuts or tax hikes, 40% expect “big” cuts or tax hikes. Only 9% expect ecnonomic growth alone to deal with the present borrowing.

Moving on, there is agreement (58% agree, 33% disagree) that Gordon Brown is refusing to acknowledge the depth of the crisis. However, there is also agreement that “David Cameron is talking the economy down for political purposes” – 53% agree, 30% disagree. There is also strong agreement that the last Conservative government did little or nothing to help the victims of recession in the 1980s. This statement was agreed with by 60% of people, however, a significant minority (40%) of those people expected that David Cameron would do far more to help people than Thatcher’s government did in the 1980s.

Another question that caught my eye was on who was to blame for Britain’s economic problems. There have been countless polls asking this sort of question over the past months, but annoyingly few that have repeated the same wording, letting us see if people are blaming the government more or less as time passes and arguments come and go. Here YouGov have used the same words, and we can see the position has steadied, with blame firmly upon the banks. When YouGov first asked the question of people in marginal seats in September blame was spread between the general international situation in the food and energy markets (26%), irresponsible banks (36%) and the government’s policies (29%). By October blame has focused squarely upon the banks (61%, with 11% saying general international situation and 21% the government). Today’s poll shows little change, 7% international conditions, 63% the banks and 22% the government.

Finally, YouGov asked if people in marginal seats thought George Osborne or Ken Clarke would make a better chancellor after the next election. 39% backed Ken to George’s 15%. Amongst Tory voters they backed Ken by 46% to 28% for George.