Topline figures for the YouGov/Sunday Times poll are CON 41%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%. Proper report to follow tomorrow morning once the Sunday Times report and the tables are up.

UPDATE: Voting intention is pretty typical of late, but some of the findings are more negative for the government. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s approval ratings are down, David Cameron’s is plus 11, but Nick Clegg is minus 6, the first time he has registered a negative approval score since the general election (this does mean Ed Miliband has the highest approval rating of the three party leaders, though that will largely be the honeymoon effect – he still gets 42% don’t knows to the question).

On whether the government are running the economy well or badly we also have the first negative score since the election – 42% think they are doing well, but 45% think they are doing badly. All in all, not a good set of results for the government.

Looking at the rest of the survey, YouGov concentrated upon the spending review and the tuition fees.

On tuition fees YouGov found the same negative reactions as in the polling for the Sun during the week. Only 24% said they supported removing the cap on fees (lower than the poll in the week, but this one asked only about removing the cap – the YouGov/Sun poll in the week asked about the whole package, including raising the point where respondents had to pay back their loan, and found 38% support).

On the CSR, 29% think the government have the balance between cuts and taxes right, 29% would rather have higher taxes, 15% would rather have even larger cuts. 35% think the speed of cuts is about right, 43% think it is too fast and 8% too slow. 58% think they themselves will be affected by the cuts. All-in-all, the poll suggests people are somewhat apprehensive towards the forthcoming cuts, but we’ll obviously see their actual reaction within the week.

Personally I found the most interesting questions on the cuts were, first, that 53% think the cuts won’t be achieved (I haven’t seen a similar question asked before) and, secondly, that asked who people think will bear the biggest burden from the cuts, 48% said middle income people compared to only 35% who said people on low incomes. I shall have to have a dig around, but I think when similar questions have been asked in the past people expected people on low incomes to suffer the most. If so the switch may well be the impact of the child benefit saga.

ComRes – 40/34/14

ComRes’s new poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror is out. Topline figures are CON 40%(+1), LAB 34%(-2), LDEM 14%(-1), Others 12%(+2). Changes are since ComRes’s last online poll, conducted just after the Labour conference.

The 34% for Labour is quite poor by recent standards, but ICM and ComRes have tended to show lower scores for them (ICM probably as a knock on of showing a higher Lib Dem score, ComRes probably as a knock on of showing a higher “others” score).

With a new shadow chancellor in situ, ComRes have also been the first to ask a question on whether people trust Cameron & Osborne or Miliband & Johnson more to handle the recession. Cameron & Osborne lead by 45% to 23%.

This was, incidentally, another online ComRes poll – I’m sure sure if all their polls for the Indy stable are going to be online now, when they published their first online poll they said they would be using both modes in parallel, but both polls since then have been further online ones. UPDATE – Andrew Hawkins tells me they still doing both phone and online, the conference season just messed up the rota a bit.


Two new polls tonight – there is a new ComRes poll in the Indy on Sunday, and the weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.

Mike Smithson has a post up criticising the wording of the questions in the ComRes/Indy on Sunday poll. ComRes’s polls for the Indy group almost always use the same format – do you agree or disagree with a set of statements, using statements that are often worded in quite a partisan way. It’s not the first time they’ve come into criticism for it.

Now, I deliberately try to avoid writing posts here criticising the wording of particular questions in polls, or at least, not unless they are utterly shocking. The main reason is that no poll can be perfect and pollsters try their level best to word questions in as fair and even way as possible. There will be lots of questions that I’d have worded slightly differently if I’d have been writing them – but I’m sure other pollsters would write some of my questions slightly differently too (hell, sometimes in hindsight I’d write some differently). More to the point, bias is in the eye of the beholder – almost always people who don’t like a poll can convince themselves that the results don’t count because the wording is biased, and there’s no much you can say to convince people otherwise. I have no desire to get into arguments over whether this or that question could have been worded slightly differently.

So I’m not going to comment on the particular questions on the ComRes poll, but I did want to address the style of questions they use and the purpose of doing it that way. I often write questions like that myself – that is, a bank of statements each from a clear political direction, asking people to agree or disagree with each one. The purpose of it is to see how many people sympathise with political arguments that might be put forward, arguments that may be comparatively complex or use partisan rhetoric.

Often if you want to test out the sort of partisan arguments being used by the parties to see which the public sympathise with, and this is a good way of doing it. Another good way is to give people two opposed statements and ask which best reflects their view, or – similarly – word a question that ascribes these views to “some people” – i.e. something along the lines of “Some people have said that X, while others say Y, which do you agree with”.

To give a recent example, asking questions about whether people perceive the Lib Dems as betraying their principles by entering coalition. Asking a straight question of do you think the Lib Dems have betrayed their principles would sound a bit biased – there’s no nice neutral way of wording “betraying your principles”. Hence the best way is probably to ask if people agree or diagree with a statement of “The Liberal Democrats have betrayed their principles by going into coalition with the Conservatives”, and stick it in a block of questions along with some that are more positive, such as “The Liberal Democrats did the responsible thing by agreeing to coalition at a time of crisis” (and indeed, that’s how I did do it.) Therefore you’ve tested both the argument the Lib Dem’s critics would use, and some Lib Dems defences, and you should get a good overall picture.

That said while this question structure has its purposes, it isn’t the best choice for every question (personally I tend to use it pretty sparingly) and I wouldn’t necessarily use it for lots of the things the Indy asks about.

Anyway, I’ll post later when results are out – ComRes is due at 7.30pm, YouGov at 10pm.

Conservative Home has two new Constituency polls conducted by Populus for Michael Ashcorft and looking at the constituencies of Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. Full tables are on Lord Ashcroft’s website here and here.

Taking Eastleigh first, Chris Huhne’s seat is a Con/LD marginal. In 2005 it was an ultra-marginal with only 568 votes in it, in 2010 Chris Huhne extended his majority to 3864 (7%) – the shares of the vote were LD 47%, CON 39%, LAB 10%. Lord Ashcroft’s poll has currently voting intention in Eastleigh at CON 42%(+3), LAB 21%(+11), LDEM 31%(-16) – suggesting the Lib Dem vote collapsing towards Labour and letting the Conservatives through.

Moving onto Sheffield Hallam, this is currently a pretty safe Lib Dem seat for Nick Clegg, with the Conservatives currently in a distant second place. The topline figures for general voting intention in the Populus poll are LDEM 33%(-20), LAB 31%(+15), CON 28%(+4): an even bigger collapse from the Lib Dems to Labour, but as Labour start off in third place Nick Clegg narrowly holds on.

Before anyone gets too excited though, constituency polling in Lib Dem seats is extremely difficult. As noted in Lord Ashcroft’s article, in the large scale polls YouGov did for PoliticsHome in 2008 and 2009 voting intention in Lib Dem seats shifted massively once you asked people to think of their own specific seats and they took into account tactical consideration and their own particular MP. It’s clear that some people answer voting intention polls based on their national preference, even if locally they may vote tactically or on the record of their local MP, and this problem is most severe in seats with Liberal Democrat MPs.

This means that we can’t tell if the results above are a sign off massive unwind in tactical voting for Lib Dems, or a massive failure of polls to pick up tactical voting for Lib Dems.

In Lord Ashcroft’s poll there’s a nod to this – they ask how people would have voted in their constituency where Chris Huhne/Nick Clegg is MP had they known the Lib Dems would form a coalition with the Conservatives, prompting with all the candidate names. Amongst those saying how they’d have voted, the figures in Eastleigh are CON 35%(-4), LDEM 42%(-5), LAB 18%(+8). In Sheffield Hallam they are LDEM 43%(-10), LAB 27%(+11), CON 20%(-4). It’s still not perfect, people may think they’d still have voted X in May but would have changed their minds since (in response to Labour’s change of leader perhaps), but it does suggest there is still a strong personal vote there that will help Clegg and Huhne.

(For methodology anoraks, looking at the cross breaks there are some odd figures. 14% of people who said they voted Labour in Eastleigh in 2010 say they would have voted for Huhne if they’d known about the coalition. That seems like strange behaviour. My suspicion is that those are people who “supported” Labour in 2010, but actually tactically voted for Huhne. However, Populus weighted the data to the actual shares of the vote in Eastleigh based on people’s 2010 recall. In their shoes I think I’d have changed the wording of the vote recall question to ask people specifically about their own constituency and weighted using that)

YouGov’s daily voting intention figures tonight – the first since the tuition fees announcement – are CON 41%, LAB 40%, LDEM 11%. Government approval is minus 7, not the lowest they’ve been (there were a couple of minus 8’s last month) but significantly down on the positive figures we’ve seen since conference.

It’s too early to say this is a negative reaction to the fees announcement – it could just be coincidence. Yesterday’s daily poll had a seven point Conservative lead which I expect was just an outlier, other than that polls over the last week or so have been pretty consistent in show a four point lead or thereabouts. This could be a knock from the tuition fees announcement… or just an outlier in the opposite direction to yesterdays’. We’ll see.

On other matters, on the YouGov website there are also results from a large poll on the AV referendum for the Constitution Society. This contained a similar exercise to the YouGov poll in the summer that asked people how they would vote in an AV referendum, then exposed to them to various pro- and anti- arguments on AV, along with questions about what they wanted from an electoral system, which parties would benefit and so on to encourage them to think around the issues. At the end of the survey they were asked again, and once again opinion had shifted further against AV.

Unlike at the time of the Summer exercise of course, YouGov’s regular tracker is now showing a steady lead for the NO campaign anyway. The last time it was asked was the 5th October, which had the YES campaign on 35%, NO on 40%.

On the subject of the referendum, the bill was amended on Tuesday to change the question – the new wording is “At present, the UK uses the “first past the post” system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the “alternative vote” system be used instead?”