This mornings YouGov poll for the Sun has topline voting intention figures of CON 35%, LAB 42%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 7%. The seven point lead is the same as yesterday’s poll, and suggests the Conservatives have enjoyed a modest but not particularly dramatic boost from their conference. As conference season ends, we appear to have followed the normal roller coaster pattern – we entered it with a Labour lead of about 10 points, it peaked at 14 points after Labour’s conference, and fell down to seven points after the Conservative conference. While we’ll have to wait and see, I expect it will go back towards ten points once the publicity from the Conservative conference fades.

As was the case with the Labour conference, there has been more of an impact on Cameron’s ratings than on the main voting intention figures. When YouGov asked who would make best Prime Minister a week ago after Miliband’s speech Cameron’s lead over Miliband had been cut to 4 points, now it is back up to 14 points.

The proportion of people who think Cameron is decisive is up ten points to 46%, the proportion who think he is strong is up 7 points to 41%, the proportion who think he is out of touch has dropped 7 points to 59%, but remains his greatest weakness. There was a big increase in people who think they know what Cameron stands for. At the start of the month only 45% of people said they felt they knew what he stood for, that is now up to 60%.

So, conference season is over and normal service is resumed. We’ll have to wait a bit for the polls to settle down and the Conservative party’s publicity boost to fade to see if there is any lasting effect in terms of public opinion.

This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 41%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 10%.

The seven point Labour lead is lower than YouGov have shown of late – it may be the first sign of a conference boost for the Tories, or it may just be normal margin of error. The temporary boosts parties get from their conferences normally tend to appear after the leaders’ speeches, so we shall see.

Just for the record, David Cameron spoke slightly earlier in the day than leaders normally do, so probably about a quarter of this poll would have been conducted after David Cameron started speaking (though of course, that is definitely not the same thing as assuming a quarter of the respondents had actually had chance to see any reports of the speech! Tomorrow’s poll will be the first when a significant proportion of respondents will actually have had chance to see reports of the speech.)


TNS-BMRB have released a new poll with topline figures of CON 31%(+3), LAB 44%(nc), LDEM 8%, Others 17%(-2). Changes are from their previous poll which was conducted prior to the Liberal Democrat conference – on the face of it is shows a rather counter-intuitive Conservative increase during the Lib Dem and Labour conferences, but I suspect this is actually a reversion to the mean following the rather outlandish 16 point Labour lead in their last poll.

Meanwhile this morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 44%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 7%.

A couple of articles by James Forsyth and Gary Gibbon at the weekend mentioned a Conservative belief that they would do better because there were “shy Tories” out there. My initial reaction was that it smelt a bit “straw-clutchy”, but equally James cited Andrew Cooper and Stephen Gilbert* who are both wise heads who wouldn’t go in for that sort of thing.

Having spoken to some journalists up in Birmingham, it actually seems more sensible than that. The belief in shy Tories seems to be no more than people in CCHQ thinking that the polls that re-adjust to account for “shy voters” (that is, mainly ICM and Populus) are a better steer on the actual position than polls that don’t – and indeed, for four months or so ICM were showing a 5 point Labour lead compared to a 10 point Labour lead in YouGov (though in ICM’s most recent poll the lead went up to 10).

Given that YouGov don’t reallocate don’t knows, you might expect me to think reallocation was a bad thing. I really don’t – there is good evidence from recall surveys at past elections that don’t knows are disproportionately likely to end up voting for the party they voted for at the previous election. I regard it more of a philosophical question, the question of whether a poll should reflect only what respondents say they’d do, or what the pollsters believes they might actually do. I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer to the question.

The point is, however, that whether or not pollsters include them in their figures those don’t knows are still there in the population. Around about 14% or so of people who voted Tory last time normally tell pollsters they don’t know what they would do next time (around about 20% of people who voted Lib Dem say don’t know!). Past evidence suggests those people are more likely to go back to the Tories at the next election… this is already factored into polls by ICM and Populus (so don’t go double counting!), but not for most other companies – hence one of the reasons they tend to show lower leads than YouGov.

The other things mentioned by James and Gary as the Conservative reasons for some optimism are incumbency and targeting. Incumbency is certainly correct – while MPs don’t have as much of a personal vote as they probably think they do, it is there, and it is most evident for first time MPs who have won a seat from an opposing party. They, in effect, have a double incumbency bonus – the party they defeated will have lost the incumbency bonus they had at the last election while the new MP will gain an incumbency bonus he did not have the previous time round. For MPs who are not new it is less of a factor, as they already had an incumbency bonus at the previous election… most of it is already factored into the price as it were. Most Conservative marginals at the moment, however, are seats they won at the last election with new MPs.

Dan Paskini has linked to some of the attempts to measure incumbency bonus in a piece for Liberal Conspiracy here, but the effect of incumbency is probably about 1.2% – 2% of the vote (or double that for those MPs in seats won from an opposing incumbent!). This will obviously be a big advantage to many 2010 Conservative MPs defending their seats for the first time… though obviously wont particularly help the Conservatives to get a majority as, by definition, that involves winning seats they don’t already hold!

Targeting is rather more worrisome. Parties always say they will target better and perform better in marginal seats and so on, but it is very easy to say and hard to do. What the Conservatives do have in their favour is that in 2010 they needed to win over a hundred seats for a majority, in 2015 they only need to win 20. Clearly it is easier to concentrate resources on a smaller number of seats. What is less in their control is how many seats they need to defend, and at what level of majority they feel comfortable that a seat will be held and put their resources elsewhere.

A final point they are making is whether the disconnect between Labour’s substantial lead in voting intention polls and their less positive polling on Miliband as PM or best party on the economy (where Lab & Con tend to be equal) suggests the Labour lead is fairly soft. I’ve discussed this at length before in posts on Ed Miliband – suffice to say, it is possible that it means that, or it is possible that people will vote Labour despite not thinking that much of Miliband. Only time will tell.

In conclusion, there isn’t really anything here that qualifies as straw clutching – it is all fairly straightforward. Neither, however, is there anything particularly new – reallocation of don’t knows, incumbency advantage, whether parties can do better in marginals (something we’ve avoided since the election but will no doubt return to at some point!), whether Labour’s lead is soft – all things we’ve discussed here before.

(*in case you were wondering, yes, the photo in the Daily Mail article is of the wrong Stephen Gilbert. Their photo is of the Lib Dem MP, not the Prime Minister’s Political Secretary of the same name)

This week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 45%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 8% – maintaining the conference boost for Labour that we saw straight after Ed Miliband’s speech. Looking more specificially at Ed Miliband, his job approval rating is minus 9, a big jump from minus 29 last week and his highest since the early months of his leadership back in 2010 and early 2011.

YouGov repeated the bank of questions asking people to compare David Cameron and Ed Miliband that they asked a week ago, and found significant boosts in Miliband’s figures on many measures, but that he still trails Cameron in the same places he trailed him a week ago. So the proportion of people thinking Miliband is the stronger leader is up 5 to 26%, thinking he is the most decisive up 7 to 28%, more likeable up 3 to 34%, having a better strategy on the recession up 5 to 29%, however on all of these he continues to trail behind David Cameron. The biggest single increase is on having a clear vision for Britain where Miliband is up 8 points to 30%, putting him only just behind Cameron on 32%.

30% of people said that they have a more positive view of Miliband since the party conference. The majority of these are Labour supporters anyway, but given that the pattern of previous polling has been a lot of doubt about Miliband amongst Labour’s own voters this is no bad thing for him. Miliband needed to be able to convince people who supported Labour but don’t rate him that he is up to the job, and he is making progress.

Movement on whether people Ed Miliband will ever be Prime Minister is more modest. Asked whether it is likely that Ed Miliband will ever become Prime Minister 32% of people now think it is fairly or very, 54% think it is fairly or very unlikely. Prior to conference the figures were 30% and 57%. What we need to watch now on the Miliband figures is whether these changes last or whether they drop again once memories of the conference fade.

Turning to the government 49% of people said that Ed Miliband’s description of the government as the “most incompetent, hopeless, out of touch” government was a fair description, 40% said it was unfair – unsurprisingly these figures were strongly correlated with voting intention! Actually asked to say how competent recent governments were, the coalition government comes somewhere between Blair’s government and Brown’s government – 45% think the Labour government under Blair were competent, 34% think the current coalition government under Cameron are competent, 24% think the last Labour government under Gordon Brown was competent.

Looking more specifically at how people think the government are doing, on every area asked about a majority thought the government were doing a bad job – very much in line with the negative government approval figures. Whey are viewed most positively (or least negatively!) on their handling of the economy (31% think they are doing a good job), education (29% a good job) and reforming benefits (29% a good job). They are seen as doing least well on immigration (14% a good job) and – perhaps not surprisingly given the current news headlines – transport (22% a good job).

Turning to the rail bid, 33% of people think the civil servants were mostly to blame, 45% think the ministers were, 21% don’t know. They seem happy for both to take the blame though – 58% think the government were right to suspend the civil servants responsible, 51% think Justine Greening should resign. Notably while Labour supporters invariably think government ministers under fire should resign anyway, Conservative voters are also narrowly in favour of Greening resigning – 39% to 34%.

Finally on Jimmy Savile, 54% of people think the BBC have handled the issue badly and 56% believe they are guilty of covering up allegations in the past. 54% of people think there should be a full investigation, 35% think there is nothing to be gained from an investigation given Savile is already dead.

Yesterday there was also a new Opinium poll in the Observer which had a more modest conference bounce for Labour – their voting intention figures were CON 30%(+1), LAB 41%(+2), LDEM 9%(-1), Others 20%. They found the proportion of likely voters with a positive opinion of Ed Miliband rose by 5 points from 23% to 28%.