Following YouGov’s poll yesterday giving the Lib Dems a three point conference boost, a new ICM poll in the News of the World gives them at 4 point increase. The topline figures, with changes from their last poll just before the Lib Dem conference began, are CON 40%(-3), LAB 26%(nc), LDEM 23%(+4).

This is the second highest Lib Dem rating in any poll since 2006 (the highest being that strange ICM poll in May this year that put them in second place on 25%). Of course, ahead of us we now have the Labour conference and – unless things go horribly wrong for them – we should expect to see them receive their own boost next week, followed in due turn by a Conservative boost in the final week. Such is the story of conference season polling – the interesting bit would be any departure from that pattern.

UPDATE: The News of the World report claims their poll shows “Gordon Brown could still win election”, and indeed BBC News 24 reported the poll as showing this in their headlines. Their full report is in the paper tomorrow, and perhaps there will be something in it to justify this. However, from the figures in their report there is nothing whatsoever that can lead to that conclusion. It appears to be based on 59% of respondents saying they think there is at least a slim chance that Labour could still win. This is not, I really shouldn’t need to point out, the same thing.

UPDATE2: Full tables are here.

The YouGov monthly poll for the Telegraph is out (presumably a day later than usual because of the Telegraph devoting yesterday to the story of how their expenses story was leaked). The topline figures, with changes from Yougov’s last poll CON 39%(-2), LAB 26%(-1), LDEM 20%(+3).

A nice little conference boost for the Liberal Democrats there, though it will likely to be cancelled out by equivalent boosts for Labour and the Conservatives over the next fortnight (unless something goes horribly wrong for either of them).

The commentariat of course almost universally dismissed the last week as a horrible car-crash of a Lib Dem conference – the reason the Lib Dems got a boost anyway is probably because the vast majority of people don’t pay much attention to whether David Laws disagrees with this policy, or the policy committee would vote against that policy, or whether or not Vince Cable consulted his colleagues over the mansion tax. For the majority of the public the effect of the Lib Dem conference was probably no more than to remind them of the existence of the Lib Dems, and bring the mansion tax to their attention.

On other questions, the Telegraph is quite wrong to say that the poll shows the leaders of the parties are less popular than their parties based on the Best PM question, though it’s a common mistake. The voting intention question is repercentaged to exclude won’t votes and don’t knows – best prime minister is not. The ICM poll this month actually had comparable questions showing whether the party leaders were more or less popular than their parties – Cameron is more popular than the Conservatives. Labour and the Lib Dems are more popular than Brown and Clegg.


I’ve already reported some nuggets from the September Populus poll, but hte full tables are now up on their website here. Populus normally carry out a special extended poll for the party conference, with some regular trackers on things like party image. This year is no disappointment.

Tactical voting. For Conservative supporters, 41% would vote Lib Dem if the Conservatives couldn’t win in their seat and it was the only way of stopping Labour. For Labour supporters it’s much the same, 35% would vote Lib Dem to stop the Conservatives winning. For Lib Dem supporters it’s a pretty even split – if they lived in a seat where the Lib Dems couldn’t win 18% would vote Labour to stop the Tories, 16% would vote Conservative to stop Labour.

It would appear that tactical voting is now working pretty evenly against the two main parties. I would add a caveat though – those questions went to people based on their current voting intention, and its possible that was already tactical. There could in theory be lots more Lib Dems who’d vote tactically against the Conservatives… but are already doing so and answered Labour in the first question (or vice-versa). It’s a surprisingly tricky thing to measure.

Party image. In my big round up of where the parties were before the conference I referred to Populus’s annual question on party image, so I’m delighted to find it’s still there. People’s perceptions of the Conservative party have continued to creep upwards – this year 53% said they had a good team of leaders (up 4), 42% said they shared their values (up 2), 55% said they were competent and capable (up 2) and 43% said they were for ordinary people, not just the better off (up 6). Honesty was unchanged on 41% and there was a slight drop in the proportion of people who saw them as united, down to 55% from 60%.

Labour’s ratings too were up slightly on last year, albeit from a much lower base. 31% said they had a good team of leaders (up 5), 33% that they shared their values (up 4), 32% said they were competent (up 2), 48% that they were for ordinary people, not just the better off (no change). Only 22% saw them as united (down 1) and the proportion of people seeing them as honest fell 5 points to 28%.

The Lib Dems had some significant increases on their party iamge, and on many measures had the highest ratings (though lagged behind the Tories on leadership, competence and having clear ideas). Their rating for having a good team of leaders rose 10 points to 44%, competence rose 7 points to 44% amd unity rose 8 points to 50%. Overall their 2009 ratings are their highest since 2005, but they still have some way to go before matching the sort of party image ratings they used to get before Charles Kennedy’s removal.

Best party on issues. Asked which party is best on particular issues Labour were behind on everything. The Conservatives had large leads on their traditional issues like crime (18 points ahead) and immigration (20 points ahead), but lead Labour even on the NHS (3 points ahead). The only issue where they didn’t have an overall lead was the environment, where they were second to the Liberal Democrats.

Leader image. These figures were uniformly hideous for Gordon Brown. To be honest, reading through them I started to feel sorry for the man – it’s getting to the point where asking questions about how the public sees Gordon Brown feels like kicking an ailing puppy. He had a negative net rating on every single measure. His highest rating was actually being “likeable” where his negative score was only minus 16. After that was substantial, where his score was minus 21.

On what were once Gordon Brown’s strengths he trails David Cameron badly. Cameron was seen as stronger, as more decisive and as more substantial. Far more people saw him as up to the job of PM where he got a net score of +25 compared to Brown’s minus 38. Cameron’s only negative score was that people thought he was more likely to say what people wanted to hear, rather than what he really believed. His highest ratings were on being likeable (+49), charismatic (+48), decisive (+42) and strong (+44).

Nick Clegg’s ratings were more mixed. His highest ratings were on being likeable (+40) and in touch with ordinary people (+14). His negatives were that he was seen as lightweight (-29), unlikely to get things done (-19) and not up to the job of PM (-39).

Note that Populus asked people to pick one of the pair of words even if neither exactly fitted their views, hence the rather high figures!

(On an unrelated issue, sorry for the downtime on the website this morning. I’ve upgraded the server that UKPR runs on, so hopefully things should be a bit more robust from now on).

Conference catch up

Want to get some nice publicity around conference season? Commission a poll! Quite a few little bits and pieces over the last couple of days, so I thought I’d catch up with some.

Firstly YouGov for Left Foot Forward asked about replacing Trident. 23% thought it should be replaced by an equivalent system, 40% thought a cheaper, less powerful system would suffice. 23% wanted to give up nuclear weapons completely. 32% of people still think that nuclear weapons make Britain safer, 21% think they make us less safe.

Secondly, Newsnight have a poll by ORB for the Conference season. They’ve got Barack Obama’s pollster Cornell Belcher (or at least, he’s one of several pollsters who worked on the campaign. Joel Benenson looks like he was actually the Chief pollster for Obama, but I guess Newsnight want to make the most of their chap) talking about polls during the conference season, so there’s some rather Obama themed quesions.

Asked which British politician is most like Obama, David Cameron leads with 18%, Gordon Brown on 11%, Tony Blair 7%, Vince Cable 6% and Clegg 3%. Being seen as similar to Barack Obama is, I should point out, still a good thing in the UK, if slightly less so across the Atlantic. Here 87% of respondents had a positive impression of him, only 9% a negative one (4% of people had never heard of Barack Obama…)

They also asked the classic US pollster question of “generally speaking, do you think things in Britain are moving in the right direction or are they pretty seriously off on the wrong track?” You’d expect the options to be right track/wrong track, or right direction/wrong direction wouldn’t you? But nope, they are mismatched. I think it’s just part of US polling culture now, so it doesn’t change. For the record, 30% thought things were on the right track, 67% pretty seriously off on the wrong direction.

Finally for now, ComRes have carried out a poll of 346 Lib Dem councillors for the Daily Politics. Asked what the party should do in the event of a hung Parliament where the party held the balance of power, 31% of Lib Dem councillors said they should back Labour, with only 16% saying they should back the Conservatives.

The assumption – probably not a bad one given they are largely the same people – is that this is probably roughly in line with the opinion of Lib Dem activists and members. It contrasts with the opinion of Lib Dem voters – on YouGov’s regular forced choice questions asking whether voters, if they had to choose, would prefer a Conservative or Labour government, the Conservatives are now normally their choice.

While it’s a interesting contrast, in terms of actual coalition or pact deals it probably doesn’t matter that much. Any form of hung Parliament looks unlikely with the present polls, and in the majority of hung Parliament situations only one party will realistically be able to form a government. The Lib Dems are not likely to actually end up in a situation where they are forced to choose.

Here’s a quick update on the Irish Lisbon Referendum. There was a new poll from Millward Brown on Sunday that put YES at 53% and NO at 26%. However, getting rather more attention is a poll from Gael Poll which claims to show YES and 41% and NO at 59%.

As far as I can tell, this poll is hokum. The company don’t seem to have a website so I can only go on what I’ve got, but the sampling of the poll seems to have been conducted at just ten sample points, suggesting a face-to-face survey with no attempt at a broad representative spread of sample. Compare this with a professional Ipsos MORI face-to-face poll, which uses in the region of 200 sampling points. Worse, a couple of sources indicate there is no attempt at weighting the poll.

The poll is being given some creedance because their poll before the first referendum got the result pretty much spot on, when polls carried out using what should have been solid methodology got it wrong. I would caution against reading too much into that. Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

Irish politics isn’t my thing, I’ve no idea how the referendum campaign may go in the last week, or how fluid opinion is. However, respectable polling outfits aren’t showing any real drop in that lead yet, and while some of the polls in 2008 got it wrong, they were showing the two sides very close – as opposed to the sort of towering lead the Irish polls are currently showing for the YES camp.

UPDATE: A mea culpa from Mick Fealty at Slugger O’Toole for reporting it. He has more detail from the methodology which really does bury this: “researchers were friends of the organisers who in turn interviewed people in their social groups, paying some attention to the spread of social class…” In other words, they asked their mates.