I’ve been out and about today so haven’t had chance to do my normal write up of the YouGov Sunday Times poll. For the record the full tables are here, and the topline voting intention figures are CON 30%, LAB 41%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%.

The eleven point lead for Labour is higher than YouGov have been showing lately (indeed, it’s their first double digit Labour lead since June). All the normal caveats apply – sure, it should be the start of Labour climbing back into double-point leads, or it could equally well be normal margin of error and we’ll be back to more typical seven or eight point leads in the next poll.

The poll also asked about Ed Miliband, Labour and the Unions and found much the same as the YouGov polling midweek. There was a positive reception to Miliband’s proposals: 62% of people say they support the proposed changes to how union members pay fees to Labour, and people think he is right to try and reduce Labour’s links to the unions by 44% to 13% (22% think he is not actually trying to reduce links at all). However 37% of people still think Miliband is too close to the Unions, up from 29% last week, and while his figures on being a strong leader are slightly more positive than a week ago, it’s not by very much – he is still seen as a weak leader by 46% of people, a strong leader by only 12%.

Moving on, 62% of people agree that MPs should be working full time on their main jobs, and that second jobs risk corruption or conflicts of interest. In comparison, 21% think that MPs doing second jobs keeps them in touch with ordinary people and is better than just having full-time politicians. 56% would support a ban on MPs having second jobs. The poll also had questions on airport capacity and high speed rail, and the replacement of Trident.

Also new out yesterday was a Beaufort poll of Wales for the Western Mail asking how Wales would vote in a referendum on EU membership. 29% would vote to stay, 37% would vote to leave and 35% said either wouldn’t vote (21%) or don’t know (14%). Full report in the Western Mail here.

ComRes have their monthly online poll for the Independent and Sunday Mirror out tonight. Topline figures are CON 28%(+2), LAB 36%(+1), LDEM 8%(-2), UKIP 18%(-1). The Labour lead of eight points is pretty much the same as we’ve been seeing in YouGov’s daily polls, but ComRes’s online polls still have UKIP up at around 18% (note the difference between ComRes’s telephone and online polls on the UKIP front).

ComRes also asked whether various politicians were doing well or badly in their current jobs. Unsurprisingly Boris Johnson came out a mile ahead, the only figure with a positive score (+25). David Cameron’s net score was minus 21, Ed Miliband minus 28, George Osborne minus 29, Ed Balls minus 28. Michael Gove was minus 30, Jeremy Hunt minus 26 (though in both cases around half of respondents said don’t know… realistically questions like this aren’t that much use when you get beyond the best known figures). The surprise hit was Theresa May, who enjoys a net score of only minus 4, in a job that’s normally a political minefield.

Opinium also have their fortnightly poll for the Observer. They have topline figures of CON 27%(nc), LAB 38%(+1), LDEM 6%(-1), UKIP 19%(nc). Clearly there is no significant change there at all from a fortnight ago. The Liberal Democrat score of just 6% equals their lowest this Parliament, the other six pointer also having come from Opinium back in May – they do typically show lower Lib Dem scores than other companies.

A note on interpreting polls today… and on Monday/Tuesday this week. By a strange co-incidence we’ve got to a point where ComRes’s online poll, Opinium’s poll for the Observer and probably a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday all come out on the same weekend… and are the three companies that tend to give the highest levels of support for UKIP. At the same time ICM and Ipsos MORI have also fallen into publishing their monthly polls at the same time each month, and along with YouGov they tend to show the lowest scores for UKIP. It’s a veritable trap for the unwary observer trying to interpret polls! One weekend a month you’re going to get three polls on the same day, all apparently showing that UKIP are actually doing much better than people think… and then two days later, you’ll get two polls on the same day apparently showing they are actually not doing nearly as well as the weekend polls showed. Don’t fall into it and start drawing wild conclusions, it’s just the result of methodological differences and the way the polling rota happens to fall.

UPDATE: The Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday has topline figures of CON 28%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 20%. Survation have changed their weighting scheme since last month, adding a weighting by household income. They say it’s a minor change, implying it doesn’t make much difference, but they don’t regard it as comparable to last month in terms of changes in vote share. (For the record the Conservatives were five points lower in their last poll, UKIP two points higher, Lib Dems one point higher… but of course we don’t know how much of that difference is down to different weighting).


This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 37%, LD 11%, UKIP 12%. The five point lead is right at the bottom of YouGov’s current range – we had a couple at the beginning of July, but other than that it’s the lowest this year. That said, it’s within the normal margin of error for a lead of seven points or so, so don’t read too much into it. Full tabs are here.

YouGov also asked some questions in response to Ed Miliband’s announcement on the Unions. They are pretty cutting about the situation now, but much more positive about his proposals.

The announcement hasn’t yet made people see Miliband as being any stronger – he’s still seen as weak by 47% of people, strong by just 10%, the same figures as YouGov showed at the weekend. Neither has he distanced himself from the Unions yet – 36% think he is too close to Unions, up from 29% at the weekend. Asked who they think is currently more powerful within the Labour party, 36% say the leaders of the large trade unions, 33% say Miliband and the party leadership.

More positive for Miliband was people’s reaction to his proposals on trade unions and donation caps. 50% said they reflected a weakening of Labour’s link with the Unions, and most thought this was a good thing. 22% thought it wasn’t a weakening of the link… but most of them thought it was a good thing too, so initially at least it looks like he’s managed to keep both sides happy! Overall 52% think his proposals are a good thing, 20% a bad thing, 28% don’t know.

So a thumbs up for the specifics, but no positive movement yet general perceptions of Miliband. Remember it’s perfectly possible for people to like the specifics and it to have no effect simply because most people won’t have paid the slightest attention to them…they gave an opinion in the poll because YouGov told them what Miliband had proposed, and then asked people what they thought. In reality most people will be blissfully unaware of them. What probably matters more in the longer run is whether people pick up a broader perception of Ed Miliband being a stronger and more effective leader, stamping some authority on his party, or a perception of Labour having some internal row or other, and Ed Miliband being pushed around by the Unions.

Ipsos MORI have released a fascinating chunk of polling on how people’s perceptions differ from reality – report here and full toplines here.

A lot of the poll won’t be anything new to regular readers. We’ve all seen previous polls showing that the general public underestimate this or overestimate that, especially on figures that we really have no reason to expect the average man in the street to know. The public underestimate the average salary, they overestimate the proportion of children living in poverty and the number of over 65s. They underestimate turnout at the last election, and overestimate the proportion of crime that is violent. In all these cases though, why would we really expect people to know – they are the sort of thing you look up if you need it.

A few cases are also probably cases of people answering slightly different questions to the ones MORI asked or intended to ask. For example, on average people thought 34% of people in Britain were Christians, whereas 59% of people identified themselves as Christian in the census. Did people get it wrong? Well, we don’t really know, as while 59% describe themselves as Christian in the census, we know most of them don’t go to church and polling shows many don’t even believe in a God…so exactly how were respondents defining “Christian”? Respondents said that on average that 28% of people in Britain are single parents (my emphasis), when the actual figure is 3%. 28% would be absurdly high once you factor in the proportion of people in Britain who are children themselves or don’t have children… but my guess is that many people have probably mentally parsed that as having asked what percentage of parents are single parents (I suspect they’ve still overestimated it, but not by so much!)

In a few cases though people really do give quite barking answers. For example, on average people think that a quarter of the British population are Muslim (the actual figure is 5%). 5% of people are under the impression that over half of the British population is Muslim. People think that 15% of girls aged under 16 get pregnant each year, when the actual figure is 0.6%.

Some of this is what I think of as “hell in a hand basket” responses. Whatever the reality and whatever the statistics show, people do normally tend to say that things are getting worse and heading the wrong direction. I’ve previously mentioned crime figures and the public’s firm opinion that crime is rising, regardless of the firm evidence that crime has been falling for twenty years or so. MORI tested some true and false statements along those lines in this survey, and found the usual pattern – if there was a false negative statement, people belived it. If there was false positive statement, people didn’t believe it, and vice-versa with true statements. The only true, positive statement that a plurality of people believed was that MRSA infections in hospitals were falling. I expect things like people overestimating rates of teenage pregnancy stem from similar causes.

As well as the familar litany of public ignorance though, MORI also asked some fun questions I hadn’t seen before. One of the statements asked what proportion of people in Britain today are immigrants (that is, were born outside the UK). On average people said 31%, when the actual figure is 13%. MORI then went back to those people who said the proportion was 26% or more (that is, those who were wildly out), told them the official census figure and asked them why they had thought it was so much higher. 23% gave the honest and straightforward answer that it had just been a guess, a further chunk of people said they’d be answering based on what they saw in the media (19% TV, 16% papers – people could give more than one answer) or in their local area (36%). The biggest chunk clung to their view anyway, with 56% saying the census must be missing out on illegal immigrants, and 46% saying they still believed it was more than 13%. People are very keen to defend their faulty opinions, even when, as in the this case, it is probably just an on the spot guess they’ve made in an online survey.

Another question in the MORI survey repeated a question that YouGov asked for the TUC last year, asking people what proportion of benefits are claimed fraudulently. The actual answer is about 0.7%, but on average people said 24% (very similar to the 27% that YouGov got). MORI then asked people what sort of fraud people were including when they answered the question. 42% of people said they were including people from abroad claiming benefits, 34% were including people claiming benefits who hadn’t paid tax, 32% were including people having children just so they could claim more benefits. So at least part of the reason for the discrepancy is that when some people say people are fraudulently claiming benefits, they are apparantly including “people I don’t much like claiming benefits in a perfectly legal and honest way”.

Another fun question was that after asking people whether the economy was in a good or bad shape, MORI then asked them what figures they based their answer on. The top answer was unemployment (52%), followed by inflation (40%), government debt (38%) and high street shops (32%). GDP figures were 23%. Now, I should add that while this is interesting, the answers are almost certainly complete nonsense – most of us really don’t have a very good idea of how we actually reach decisions and what we actually base our beliefs upon. A glaring ommission from the options, whether or not people would have consciously picked it, is “whether the TV, radio and newspapers tell me the economy is getting better”. Nevertheless, it would be an interesting experiment to take economic optimism figures for the last forty years and plot them against unemployment, inflation, growth and so on and see which, if any, does correlate the most. I suspect we wouldn’t see a consistent pattern, as the measures the media and political world have fixated upon have changed over time, back in the 1960s and 70s they got het up about the balance of payments, then levels of inflation – these days it’s GDP that seems to be the measure the media focus the most attention upon.

All in all, the poll is a reminder of how public perceptions of the economy, crime, immigration, social issues and, I am sure, many other facets of social policy can have little or no resemblence to reality. When we talk about how improving standards here, or the government missing targets there, might affect people’s votes, remember that people’s perception of those standards, those targets or those changes may be completely at odds with reality.

YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun this morning has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 10%. For the record the 34% for the Conservatives is the highest since early February.

Out yesterday there were also some more results from YouGov’s poll of Conservative party members for Tim Bale and Paul Webb – the new results are here and I’ve written about them in more detail over on Huffington Post here.

Also worth reading this morning is Peter Kellner’s take on Miliband’s latest polling figures and Labour’s relationship with the Unions here.