The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now up here. Topline figures are CON 31%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%, so pretty much normal. The fieldwork of the poll straddled Thursday and Friday so was partially after the Eastleigh result, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect any significant impact until next week’s polling.

On the other trackers there is a drop in approval ratings for both David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Cameron’s approval rating is at minus 23, the first time he has dropped below minus 20 this year. Ed Miliband’s rating is at minus 31, the first time he has dropped below minus 30 since last August.

Economic figures remain extremely bad. On the government’s policy 31% support the government’s basic policy of prioritising the reduction of the deficit, 40% prefer what is essentially the Labour party’s alternative message of prioritising growth in the economy. Looking more specifically at the cuts, 49% think that the government are cutting too much and should reduce or slow the cuts, 35% think they should either speed them up (15%) or that the current balance is about right (20%).

33% of people say they have confidence in Cameron and the coalition to get the country out of the current economic mess, 61% do not. Just 20% of people say they would like to keep George Osborne as Chancellor (very low, but actually marginally up from when YouGov asked the same question last September!). A majority (53%) would like to see him replaced. Amongst Conservative voters a narrow majority (53%) want Osborne to remain.

There were also some questions on Clegg and the Rennard affair. It remains to be seen whether Eastleigh has moved the political narrative on from Rennard – for the last two days it looked as if the story had died a death, but this morning’s Marr show is full of it again. Anyway, for what its worth only 14% of people think that Nick Clegg has been open and honest and only 7% think the Lib Dems have handled the issue well but, as we’ve seen in voting intention polls over the last week, it doesn’t really seem to have had any impact on Lib Dem support. Asked about Nick Clegg’s own future 39% think he should resign, 32% think he should remain… but those thinking he should go are mostly opponents of other political parties. 63% of Lib Dem supporters think Clegg should stay.


I wrote most of what I had to say about Eastleigh on Tuesday night: by elections are very unusual events and you can’t tell anything about public opinion from them that you couldn’t get a much better handle upon from national polling. It won’t stop acres of press being written about it today! Suffice to say, the result in Eastleigh does not show the Lib Dems retaining their support in their own seats (their drop in support was completely in line with national polling), it does not necessarily show anything about patterns and extent of tactical voting (since this is a by-election and they are extremely unusual in terms of campaign intensity and having no direct impact on who actually governs), it does not necessarily show Labour face problems in the south (it’s perfectly normal for a party with no hope of winning to see its support squeezed in a by-election), it does to some extent confirm growing UKIP support… but we knew about that from national polling anyway.

Equally, as I said yesterday, this doesn’t mean the result is unimportant or irrelevant, quite the opposite. A victory for the Lib Dems is vital good news for Clegg and the Lib Dems will hope it helps them move on from the Rennard crisis. There was speculation prior to the by-election that losing it on top of the Rennard scandal would put Clegg’s leadership in peril… now we shall never know. For the Conservatives it is much worse news in terms of the morale of the Parliamentary party. Fractious already, we now have to see if they hold it together or go into complete panic. For UKIP it is obviously terrific news, building into a narrative of growing support – expect to see another round of good publicity possibly translating into increased support in the polls.

And on the subject of the polls, the final polls by Lord Ashcroft and Populus were pretty accurate in terms of Con, Lab and Lib Dem support… but significantly underestimated UKIP support. As ever it is possible that people simply changed their minds between fieldwork and poling day, especially since momentum did appear to be with UKIP, but as I said when the Populus poll was published I am less than convinced about the utility of reallocating dont knows in by-election polls. There is good evidence that people still saying don’t know on the eve of a general election are disproportionately likely to end up backing the party they did last time, but I’m not certain we can assume that the same applies in by-elections. Certainly in this case the Populus and Ashcroft polls were both more accurate before don’t knows were reallocated.


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