Tonight’s YouGov/Sunday Times poll has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 43%, LDEM 10%, so the eight point lead seems increasingly steady. Full report to come tomorrow when the tables are up.

Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 43%, LDEM 11%. It looks as though the bigger Labour leads of up to 8 points that YouGov have shown since the phone hacking scandal hit its peak haven’t quite faded away yet after all.


Ipsos-MORI’s monthly political monitor is out, and has topline figures of CON 32%(-5), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 11%(nc), Others 18%. Changes are from last month’s poll, and clearly show a significant drop for the Conservatives and a boost for minor parties.

On leader ratings David Cameron’s net approval stands at minus 15, a signifcant drop from last month’s minus 2. Ed Miliband’s rating is minus 7, up from minus 15 last month and, I think, the first time a poll has shown him with an approval rating above David Cameron’s. Scrap that bit – Miliband certainly had more positive ratings when he first became leader and it’s actually been quite common for Miliband to have better net ratings than Cameron in MORI’s version of the question

One caveat about this though, it has a slightly odd sample. MORI’s sample contained significantly fewer people who said they voted Tory in 2010 than it usually does, in fact the weighted sample still had more people who claimed they voted Labour in 2010 than claimed they voted Tory. Regular readers will know that ICM, Populus and YouGov all use political weighting to make sure how people in their sample claim they voted at the last election roughly reflects what actually happened (with some variation due to assumptions about false recall). MORI do not (for reasons which I’ll come to below), therefore the political make-up of their sample can be significantly different from one month to the next.

Looking at the polls over the last few days and based on the information available from each company’s tables (only ICM gave full details in their tabs, so the others make some assumptions about the proportion of 2010 “others”):

In the last ICM poll, people’s recalled 2010 vote was CON 37%, LAB 30%, LDEM 24%
In the last Populus poll, people’s recalled 2010 vote was roughly CON 37%, LAB 30%, LDEM 24%
In the last YouGov poll, people’s recalled 2010 vote was roughly CON 36%, LAB 31%, LDEM 25%
In the last Ipsos-MORI poll, people’s recalled 2010 vote was roughly CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 23%

The reason MORI do not weight by party recall or past vote is because they are concerned that people’s past recall of how they voted could change rapidly, and therefore weighting by it risks dampening out genuine volatility in public opinion. ICM and Populus also think that levels of false recall can move, but think it changes only slowly over time, something which their model takes into account. YouGov are panel based, so store respondents’ answer to how they voted in 2010 and don’t need to worry about false recall changing.

These are legitimate differences of opinion, and obviously the different companies each believe that they are doing what is correct… but we shouldn’t be surprised if they result in different answers, and if a poll that has far more 2010 Labour voters in it is better for Labour and Ed Miliband than a poll with more 2010 Conservative voters in it.

There are three voting intention polls tonight. Their topline figures are as follows

YouGov/Sun – CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%
ICM/Guardian – CON 37%, LAB 36%, LDEM 16%
Populus/Times – CON 34%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%

ICM shows Labour down since before the phone hacking scandal broke, putting the Conservatives ahead for the first time in months. Populus show the Conservatives sharply down. What’s the real situation?

First off, it’s worth remembering that all polls are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points – so if Populus happen to have got a sample that’s a bit light on loyal Tories, if ICM have a sample that’s a bit light on loyal Labour voters, there’s your difference. The methodologies used by ICM and Populus are very similar, so sample error is the most obviously explanation for the difference.

ICM continue to show much higher support for the Liberal Democrats than any other company – ComRes, Populus & MORI all tend to have them at about 11%, with YouGov a point or two lower – the reasons for the size of the difference are unclear, but this difference probably also explains why ICM has twice shown a Tory lead this year: their 2010 Lib Dem voters seem to be less likely to have switched to Labour than those in other polls.

So, has “hackgate” impacted on voting intention or not? Well, the biggest advantage of YouGov’s daily polling is that we don’t need to worry about random sample error to the same extent – if there is a rogue poll, it should become clear the following day. The news that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, which effectively brought the phone hacking scandal to a peak, broke on the 4th July. In the month leading up to that YouGov had pretty consistently shown a Labour lead of 5-7 points, with the Conservatives on 36-37% and Labour on 41-43%. In the fortnight since then YouGov has shown Labour leads of 8+ points on five occassions, and the Conservatives down on 35% on five occassions. While one cannot rule out co-incidence, this obviously suggests a small but genuine knock to the Conservative party’s support from hackgate. However, the last three YouGov polls have been back within the normal “pre-hackgate” range, suggesting it may have been a short-term effect that is already fading. We shall see.

The big increase in Lib Dem support in the ICM poll is probably illusionary – they fell by 3 points in the last ICM poll so I suspect the increase this month is mostly just a reversion to the mean. Populus’s Lib Dem score a month ago was also conspicuously low. However it’s possible that there has been some benefit for the Lib Dems, while their score in YouGov’s daily poll today is typical, they hit 11% in a YouGov poll on Sunday for the first time in weeks. I’ll reserve judgement on that one.

The other impact of “hackgate” is on perceptions of the leaders. Now, there are two ways of measuring whether an event has changed how people perceive a party or leader. You can ask people if their opinion has gone up or down, which is what Populus did in their survey. This found 39% of people thought worse of Cameron as a result of hackgate, but also found people were more likely to think worse than better of Ed Miliband. However, questions like this tend to give misleading results – people who never liked a politician to start with say it’s made their view worse and vice-versa.

The better way, if you are lucky enough to be in the position to do it, is to have asked people what they think before the event happened, ask them again afterwards, and see what the difference is. ICM, YouGov and ComRes have all been in a position to do this, and have found the same pattern – David Cameron’s ratings are down, but only marginally, Ed Miliband’s ratings are significantly up.

While YouGov found people thought Cameron had handled the phone hacking affair badly, it hasn’t had much affect upon his approval ratings. YouGov have Cameron’s approval rating at minus 12, compared to minus 10 before hackgate. ICM have his approval rating at minus 5, unchanged from last month. ComRes have 33% thinking he is a good PM, down from 37% a month ago. In contrast, there clearly has been a positive effect on how people view Ed Miliband. His approval rating from YouGov has risen from minus 34 to minus 21, his rating from ICM has risen from minus 21 to minus 16, with ComRes 27% think Miliband is turning out to be a good leader, up from 18%. Whether these positive ratings remain once the political agenda moves on is, of course, something else that remains to be seen.

So in conclusion – from the polling so far hackgate appears to have had only a small negative effect on the Conservatives in the polls, and one which may already be fading. While people think Cameron has handled it badly, it has had only a minor effect on his broader approval ratings. Ed Miliband meanwhile has seen a significant boost in how the public see him, though it remains to be seen if it lasts.

The other poll tonight is from ComRes for ITV news. The most interesting question in there was whether people agreed or disagreed that James Murdoch should resign – 65% think he should, 9% disagree.

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 37%(nc), LAB 36%(-3), LDEM 16%(+4). This is the first poll to show a Conservative lead since March, which was also ICM.

In contrast Populus’s monthly poll in the Times has figures of CON 34%(-5), LAB 39%(-1), LDEM 11%(+2), a big drop in Conservative support, and their higher Labour lead since, er, March.

I will do a bigger round up later on when we have all the polls from tonight. We still have YouGov for the Sun at 10pm, and a ComRes poll for the News at Ten (though that does not have voting intention).