Over on Political Betting someone accidentally linked to last month’s Populus tables thinking they were for today’s poll. However, in doing so they’ve highlighted a fascinating question that I missed at the time.

In last month’s survey Populus found that 53% of people who said they voted Labour in 2005 would vote Labour in an election tomorrow. They then asked the other 47% to say, in their own words, why not.

The most popular answers were along the lines of it being time for a change, Labour having been in office for too long or having run out of steam – this reason was given by 17% of people. This is the drip-drip cost of government, over time they get tired, and people get tired of them. It’s hard (though not impossible) for a government to renew itself and look fresh again while in office.

Joint top on 17% were reasons connected with the poor economy, unemployment, too much borrowing, etc. This is more interesting – if that is a major reason for Labour’s previous drop in support, it makes sense that as economic optimism has recovered we are now seeing a shift back towards Labour in voting intention.

Third, with 14%, was Gordon Brown himself. Not much more we can add there.

Those were the big three reasons, and only ones that got over 5% – the total sample of former Labour voters was only 162, so we can’t really even rank them, those are just the big three things that people claim have driven them from Labour.

Other reasons that were were mentioned were immigration (3%), Labour “not being for ordinary people anymore” (3%), too soft on crime (2%), defence (2%) amd expenses (1%). Only 1% said they had abandoned Labour because they were impressed with another party or party leader.

As a caveat, it’s worth remembering that people aren’t always very good at accurately identifying the causes of their own opinions and attitudes (for example, we know packaging makes a massive difference when selling groceries, but I bet you’d get very few people who consciously explain their buying decisions on the grounds of it being in a pretty coloured box), so don’t take this as gospel. It does fit nicely with economic optimism being a factor in Labour’s recent recovery though.

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline figures, with changes from last month, of CON 38%(-1), LAB 30%(+1), LDEM 20%(+2).

While viewed as a single poll the changes are not particular significant, it echoes the trend seen in almost all the recent polls of showing the Conservative lead narrowing. More importantly, this really is a “proper” hung Parliament poll. In recent weeks we’ve seen a couple of polls showing a 10 point lead that on a strict uniform swing would have produced a hung Parliament, but in practice they’d probably have produced a Tory majority. Equally there was the famous MORI poll showing only a 6 point lead, but that was largely down to a sample that included an unusually high number of 2005 Labour voters. In contrast this poll really does put us in hung Parliament territory.

In recent months Populus have tended to show a lower Conservative lead than most other companies (and in the past thread at least one person has urged caution for that reason) – don’t let that fool you. While Populus’s weighting is very marginally kinder to Labour than ICM’s, there’s nothing in it that should produce figures that are significantly better for Labour. In short, while this is just a single poll, it should be kosher.

So, what’s causing it? I put up a couple of suggestions the other day. It’s possible that the Conservatives have lost support to UKIP since David Cameron’s new policy on the Lisbon treaty – the ICM and YouGov polls at the weekend gave some support to that idea, both showing a small rise for UKIP. This poll however shows others down to 12%, so it doesn’t seem likely it conceals a UKIP rise. Secondly there’s whether Labour are putting on a better show all round, are more united and purposeful and generally making themselves look more competent – I think there may be some truth in that, certainly Gordon Brown’s approval ratings, while still dire, are a lot better than in the summer. I think some of the shift may also be due to increased economic optimism, this poll found 35% now expected the economy to do well next year and found positive ratings on how well people thought they would do next year.

A final possibility is whether the government’s focus on painting the Conservatives as being a party for the rich as had an effect. In his Times analysis Peter Riddell concludes it hasn’t. While I tend to think the explanation lies elsewhere, I don’t think we can draw Peter’s conclusion from this poll. Populus found only 34% of people agreed that in view of Cameron’s Eton education and “priviledge upbringing” they thought his policies were aimed at “helping rich people, rather than the whole country”. However, that constrasts with the YouGov poll yesterday found 52% agreeing that the Conservatives were the party of the rich.

Neither of them can really tell us for sure if this is a factor. What we really need to know is whether the proportion of people thinking the Conservatives are only for the rich has risen or not, after all, while this question only found a minority agreeing, if the figure a month ago had been 24%, that’s still a shift in opinion. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a previous question we can apply either this or the YouGov question to.


There is a Populus poll due tonight. I’ve not seen any figures from it yet, but when it appears feel free to discuss it here. I’ll update later on.

UPDATE: As readers will probably know, the figures are CON 38%(-1), LAB 30%(+1), LDEM 20%(+2). Full report and analysis to follow in 15 minutes or so.

It’s another one for John Rentoul’s “Questions to which the answer is no”. An article by Sam Coates in the Times says that “Labour’s election planners believe an 8-point gap between the current party of Government and the Tories can be closed. They say that a third of Lib Dem voters have suggested that they might vote Labour, which would equate to 5 percentage points. Meanwhile, they believe that the numbers currently saying they support “others” in polls — greens, BNP and UKIP — may go back to Labour, closing the gap by a further 3 percentage points.” More joys from Labour’s private polling, but I can guess what the thinking is here from other publically available polls.

If you ask people how likely they are to change their voting intention a majority will often say there is some chance of doing so (exactly how much depends on the question). Take for example the PoliticsHome marginals survey – 61% of people said their was some chance of them changing their vote. It’s also worth looking in that poll at what parties those Lib Dem waverers might consider switching to. Of Lib Dem waverers 45% said they would consider voting Labour. Assuming that whatever figures Labour are looking at show roughly the same thing, you can see where they are coming from. If two thirds of Lib Dem voters might consider switching, and half of those might consider voting Labour, there’s your extra five points.

Real life, however, doesn’t work like that. In most cases people saying they might change their vote is a “never say never” answer, people who really are pretty certain of voting a certain way but don’t want to commit themselves totally. In the case of that PoliticsHome poll, the 61% included 33% who said “Unlikely – I may yet change my mind, but I would be surprised if I didn’t end up voting for this party”, people who I think are realistically very unlikely to change.

Polls normally show the Lib Dem vote as being the most “uncertain”, but I suspect this is more a result of the type of person who votes Lib Dem: more likely to see themselves as a floating voter dissatisfied with the big two. Certainly it is a regular finding in polls, but never translates into the Lib Dem vote collapsing at election time (indeed, more often they gain support in election campaigns, though it’s not the given some assume). While Lib Dem voters might claim uncertainty to pollsters, I would be more than surprised if Lib Dem support suddenly dropped by a third over the next 6 months.

It’s also worth pointing out that while that PoliticsHome poll showed 45% of potential Lib Dem waverers might vote Labour, it also showed 33% might vote Tory. If the Lib Dems were horribly squeezed, votes could go both ways.

More interesting is actually the fate of “other” voters. While it seems implausible to expect the Lib Dem vote to drop by 5 points, a drop of three points in support for others from their current high sounds more likely. Whether these voters would shift en masse to Labour seems less likely, especially when it comes to UKIP voters.

I’m sure both Labour and the Conservatives could gather some support from Lib Dem waverers, but 5 points worth is just silly. If Labour are to close the gap with the Conservatives, it’s more likely to be because people switch back from the Tories.

The BBC World Service have a Globescan poll of attitudes towards climate change in 23 different countries. In each country they asked how serious a problem people thought climate change was, and whether people supported action to address it “even if it hurts the economy”. I’m not a great fan of questions asking how serious a problem something is, but it’s still useful to see comparisons between countries.

Comparing the different countries surveyed, the most concerned about climate change were South American countries, the Phillipines and Turkey, where 80% or more of the public thought it was a very serious problem. The countries were the fewest thought it was a serious problem were the two African countries surveyed (Kenya and Nigeria), Pakistan and India, Russia and the USA. In all these countries less than 50% thought it was a very serious problem. In the UK 59% thought it was very serious.

The second question of whether people would support government action to combat climate change had surprisingly little correlation. The Phillipines and Turkey, two of the countries were people were most likely to view climate change as a serious problem, were also two were comparatively few people supported government intervention (only 32% and 49% respectively). The African countries Kenya and Nigeria were some of the least likely to view it as a serious problem, but had some of the highest levels of support for government action (77% and 68%).

52% of US respondents said they supported government action to fight climate change, the lowest of all was Pakistan on only 19%. 70% of UK respondents said they supported government action to fight climate change, the fourth highest. The highest of all was China with 89%, though I suspect that may be a cultural thing. In fact, I suspect a lot of the differences we see here may be down to different political traditions and viewpoints (and probably different attitudes towards answering the questions – there are vast differences in the proportions of don’t knows for example) rather than just attitudes towards climate change.

UPDATE: Note that the BBC compares the changes in the poll since 1998 when Globescan first did it. They have actually done more recent waves in 2006 and 2003 – see the results here. On average the countries that were surveyed in both 2006 and 2009 still show an increase in the perceived seriousness of climate change, but in many Western countries, including the UK, France, Germany and USA, the proportion of people saying climate change in a serious problem has fallen.

UPDATE2: There was also a climate change question in the YouGov Sunday Times poll – 21% of respondents thought that “the planet is warming and human activity is mainly responsible”, 62% thought that the planet was warming and human activity is partly responsible, but there were also other factors. 8% thought that the planet was warming, but it was nothing to do with human activity and 4% thought the planet was not warming at all.