ITV Wales have published their monthly YouGov poll of voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly elections next year. The topline figures, with changes from last month, are:

Constitutency: CON 21%(+2), LAB 44%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), PC 21%(nc)
Regional: CON 20%(+2), LAB 41%(+1), LDEM 9%(nc), PC 20%(-3)

On a uniform swing (and assuming Labour take Blaenau Gwent), these would give Labour 30 seats, 1 short of an overall majority of 31. Incidentally, in the comments last month someone raised the possibility of UKIP sneaking a seat at the regional level. On the current levels of support they wouldn’t, obviously it all depends on the exact configuration of seats and support, but as things stand it would take roughly 7% or so support for them to get a regional seat. In this latest poll they are at 4%, down from 6% a month ago.

Shy Liberal Democrats

As regular readers and watchers of polling methodology will know, one of the questions facing pollsters is what to do with people who say don’t know or refuse to answer voting intention questions. A purist approach is to ignore them, to base reported figures only upon people who actually say who they would vote for or, for companies using a squeeze question, who they are most likely to vote for – this is the approach used by most pollsters in the UK. The alternative approach is to estimate how they would vote based on one of their other answers.

This re-allocation of don’t knows was pioneered by ICM after the 1992 debacle when the pollsters all vastly overestimated Labour. They noticed that there were a lot of former Conservatives now saying don’t know, and theorised that many of these were people who would still vote Tory, but were reluctant to admit to pollsters that they were supporting an unfashionable party. This was supported by recontact surveys after elections, when people who had said don’t know to pollsters prior to the election did tend to end up voting for the party they had done at the previous election.

As a result, ICM started reallocating 50% of don’t knows and refusals to the party they said they supported at the previous election. During the 1990s this invariably helped the Conservatives, and became known as the “Shy Tory adjustment”. The name stuck, so it was often still known as the shy Tories through the last two terms of the Labour government, when it actually tended to help Labour instead. Andrew Cooper of Populus called them “Bashful Blairites”.

In recent months it has changed again, polls are now showing a large proportion of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 saying they don’t know how they would vote in an election tomorrow, and ICM’s reallocation of don’t knows is now favouring them. In ICM’s last three polls the re-allocation of don’t knows has bumped up the level of Liberal Democrat support by 2 points – yesterday’s topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 38%, LDEM 14% were CON 37%, LAB 40%, LDEM 12% without the don’t knows.

Naturally this leads us to the question of whether this is a sound thing to do. Certainly there is solid evidence to back up what ICM and Populus do. Re-contact polls after past elections always supported it, and ICM’s re-contact survey this time round found that about 50% of people who said don’t know in the pre-election polls did indeed end up voting for the same party they did in 2005. Equally, at past elections the adjustment has tended to make ICM’s figures more accurate. None of this guarantees it will still work in the future – the current political situation is rather unusual and these former Lib Dems may behave differently – but it’s a sound starting point.

The difference between re-allocating don’t knows and not doing so is more one of principle. Should polls report just what people say, or should we estimate what the people who refuse to answer think? There are good arguments for both, and in terms of voting intention I think it’s a positive that both are produced. We can see what people are actually saying, but also take account of the fact that there are lots of former Liberal Democrats out there saying don’t know, who may or may not filter back come election day. It’s just important to know which pollsters already factor in those don’t knows, and which ones don’t.


ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 36%(-3), LAB 38%(+2), LDEM 14%(-2). Changes are from ICM’s last poll a month ago. It’s the highest ICM have shown Labour, and the lowest they’ve shown the Liberal Democrats, since the election-that-never-was in October 2007. The move towards Labour is, of course, very much in line with other companies who have now all shown Labour overtaking the Conservatives, though the last few YouGov polls have suggested that this may have been a short term shift.

The Guardian’s report also highlights a rather unexpected shift in attitudes to cut. Generally speaking the drift of public opinion has been away from the cuts and towards the idea that they are being done too fast or too deeply. In this month’s ICM poll they found the proportion of people thinking the cuts are going too far down 3 points to 45%, while those thinking they are about right or should go further is up 6 points to 49%. Julian Glover speculates it could be because of news stories about Ireland at the time the poll was being done – which it could be – or alternatively it could just be a blip.

Still to come tonight is the daily YouGov poll.

UPDATE: YouGov’s daily poll tonight has topline figures of CON 41%, LAB 38%, LDEM 11%. This is quite surprising – all the polling companies (including YouGov, who had Labour ahead for three polls in a row) seemed to be telling the same story – Labour moving ahead of the Conservatives and establishing a small lead. Since then the last two YouGov polls have shown the Conservatives pushing back ahead – perhaps it’s a fading effect from the tuition fees row, or perhaps the situation in Ireland is indeed having an effect. It’ll be interesting to see YouGov’s economic trackers when they start rolling around, to see if they echo the movements in ICM’s monthly tracker.

Polls tonight

I’m at a meeting tonight, but I’m expecting a new ICM poll along with the usual daily YouGov poll for the Sun. Feel free to use this thread to discuss them.

Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 38%, LDEM 11%. This puts the Conservatives back ahead in YouGov’s poll after over a week of Labour leads or the two parties neck and neck.

From what we’ve got, it’s impossible to be certain of the underlying position. It could be that Labour are still ahead, and this poll is just a bit of an outlier, or it could be that there was a short-term movement against the Conservatives, possibly as a result of the protests against tuition fees, but it has faded away again as the news agenda has moved on.