We are a year and a half away from the European elections, but the recent rise in UKIP support in Westminster polls has brought some attention to them, meaning we are already seeing voting intention polls for the European elections. ComRes have an online European elections poll in the People tomorrow, and Survation had one in the Mail on Sunday last weekend. Whether they mean anything at this stage is a different question, but here they are for the record.

ComRes/People – CON 22%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 23%, GRN 5%, Others 8%
Survation/MoS – CON 24%, LAB 31%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 22%, GRN 6%, Others 6%

Both show Labour topping the poll – what we’d expect given their strong lead in the Westminster polls and the mid-term nature of the elections. What will get more attention is that both polls also show the Conservatives and UKIP closely placed for second place – Survation had the Conservatives narrowly ahead, ComRes UKIP narrowly ahead.

The other questions in the ComRes poll seem to show a slight movement towards support for the European Union since ComRes last asked them in October 2011. The percentage of people agreeing that EU membership was a costly mistake fell from 54% to 48%, people disagreed with the statement that they’d vote in favour of withdrawal by 42%-33%, when in October 2011 it had been evenly balanced at 37%-37%. I’ll write more about this tomorrow…

This weekend we are also due the weekly YouGov/Sunday Times poll and, assuming they are sticking to their current timetable, the fortnightly Opinium/Observer poll.

UPDATE: Opinium’s fortnightly poll for the Observer has topline figures of CON 31%(+2), LAB 41%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 12%(-3) – Observer write up here.


This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun is here and has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 43%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 10%. Once again, the Lib Dems remain in double figures.

Yesterday Opinium also put up an interesting article clarifying their methodology and pondering why it could be that they consistently show some of the highest levels of support for UKIP. First, it confirms that Opinium use two-stage prompting in their voting intention question, asking people if they’d vote Con, Lab, Lib Dem or Other, and then only giving the options of BNP, Green and UKIP to people who say other (this is the same as YouGov and in contrast to Survation, who prompt for UKIP in their main question).

Opinium’s guess seems to be that their higher UKIP scores are down to not politically weighting their sample. As regular readers will know, the majority of polling companies use some sort of political weighting. In most cases they weight their samples so that respondents’ recalled 2010 voting behaviour roughly matches what actually happened in 2010, with some allowances made for faulty memory, though YouGov instead weight using party identification. The two exceptions are Ipsos MORI and Opinium.

Ipsos MORI do not weight by past vote because they worry that the levels of false recall can change in response to changing public opinion, in particular they worry about people aligning their recollection of how they voted in May 2010 with how they’d vote now. Other companies like ICM and Populus acknowledge the reality of false recall, but think it is basically pretty constant and changes only slowly over time. In practice it means that MORI’s samples are sometimes more Labour inclined than those of other companies, and can be more volatile (although MORI would argue that this is genuine volatility that weighting by recalled vote is disguising).

Anyway, Opinium are the other company that do not politically weight and suggest in their article that this could be why they are showing a higher level of UKIP support than most other companies. This is certainly feasible. As I’ve written before, the two most obvious explanations for the difference between online and phone polls in terms of UKIP support is either interviewer bias (people are embarrassed to admit to a human interviewer that they are supporting a party outside the main three, less so to a computer screen) or if people who are online are more likely to vote UKIP than those who are not (or, of course, a combination of the two factors). If online panels do get a disproportionately large proportion of the sort of people who’d vote UKIP, then not using some sort of political weighting to control for this could easily produce much higher levels of UKIP support.


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This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 41%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 9%. The change is very small, but YouGov’s reported level of Lib Dem support does seem to have crept up slightly over the last month or two – the average Lib Dem score in YouGov’s December polls was over 10 for the first time since 2010, and the four polls so far this year have all had them at 10 or above.


Back at the start of November I did a post looking at the level of support UKIP had in the polls and the widely differing results from different pollsters, at the time ICM and ComRes had them as low as 3% or 4%, while Opinium and Survation had them up on 10% or 12%.

Well since then UKIP have increased their support across the board, so here’s an update of the same graph I used then, again taking the three last three months or so of data:

As you can see, while everyone except MORI have UKIP higher (the drop in UKIP’s support from MORI is because of their November poll, which had UKIP on only 3%. Their December poll had them at 7%), there continues to be a big spread between different polling companies, from around 7% all the way up to around 14% to 16%.

Apart from Populus (who only had one poll in the period), the divide continues to be between online and telephone polling, with telephone polls averaging at around 7% for UKIP, and online polls averaging at around 11% for UKIP (although even within those groups, there is significant variation – YouGov, for example, tend to show figures closer to telephone pollsters, Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support due to prompting)


The tables for this week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are now up here. This week’s topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 9%, very much in line with YouGov’s recent daily polling results. The rest of the poll mainly dealt with benefits and train fares.

Benefits

On the overall issue of welfare benefits Labour are the more trusted, by 30% to the Conservatives 22%. Despite the later questions showing significant minorities of Labour voters backing many Conservative welfare policies or arguments, responses to the question were very much along party lines: Labour voters trusted Labour, Conservative voters trusted the Conservatives.

On the list of specific policies YouGov asked about – some actual government policies, some that have been floated – the most popular were stopping child benefit for households where someone earns over £60000 (supported by 77%), capping the total amount of benefits a family can claim each year at £26000 (supported by 74%) and stopping benefits for people who refuse to accept offers of employment (supported by 76%). All these of these policies are supported by a majority of Con, Lab and Lib Dem voters.

People are more evenly split over the other policies YouGov asked about. People supported limiting the increase in benefit payments to 1% for the next three years by 45% to 35% – the policy was supported by 70% of Conservatives, but opposed by 56% of Labour supporters. People were evenly divided on the idea of stopping age-related benefits for pensioners earning over a certain amount – 43% supported the idea, 40% opposed it. The least popular of the policies tested was stopping housing benefit for under 25s – 32% of people supported this, but 43% of people were opposed.

(Remember the difference between YouGov, ComRes and MORI polls over the uprating figures that we looked at here – one of the possible reasons for it that looked quite convincing was that MORI mentioned that the freeze included jobseekers, income support and child benefit. This YouGov question cited the same examples though, and still showed people in support. Hmm)

Testing more general approaches towards welfare reform, more people had sympathy with the Conservative argument that it was unfair for benefits to rise by more than 1% when wages were rising at less than inflation (50%) than had sympathy with the Labour argument that increasing benefits by less than inflation was unfair on the many families in work that relied on benefits to make ends meet (34%). On attitudes towards benefits for those out of work, 28% thought the government was too harsh, as most people on benefits would like to work if they could, 47% thought the government should be harsher and do more to force people to work.

Trains

16% of people think the train services they use have got better in the last five years, compared to 33% who say they have got worse. The gap is similar amongst regular train users, 22% of whom think their train service has got better, but 38% of whom think it has got worse.

Only 8% of the public and 10% of regular train users think the recent fare rises are justified, but the main blame for this is put upon the train operating companies (49%) rather than the government (30%). 35% of people would still prefer a freeze in prices even if it meant higher general taxes to pay for it, 23% would prefer prices to rise (as you’d expect, regular train users were much more supportive of tax subsidies to keep rail ticket prices down). Asked to balance increased fares against improvements to rail service people were far more evenly split – 33% would rather see better services, even if it meant higher fares. 36% would rather see fares frozen or reduced, even if it meant less investment in service improvements.

There is also a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday, with topline figures of CON 29%(-1), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 11%(+2), UKIP 16%(+2). Little change for the main parties and the usual high score for UKIP from the company that tends to give them their highest levels of support.