The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up on the website here, topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%. Tabs are here

A large part of the poll covered perceptions of Ed Miliband, something that we’ve seen in other polls lately and seen covered a lot in the media. There is nothing particularly new in the Ed Miliband figures in this poll – a majority (51%) think he’s weak leader, 56% think he’s out of touch with ordinary people, 60% think he wouldn’t be up to the job of PM. Nothing here we didn’t already know, though they are still worth asking to see if opinion changes. At this point though I doubt they will unless Ed Miliband actually becomes Prime Minister. Once the public have taken against a politician, whether that perception is fair or unfair, it’s mighty hard for them to shift(the exception tends to be when they actually become PM, then people can see them in a new light.)

The Ed Miliband paradox is something I’ve come back to several times here, partly because it’s one of those things that I think has the potential to make a difference at the next election, partly because I see such partisan idiocy written about it. I see some people writing about it as if a popular or unpopular leader is the utter be-all and end-all of politics, a guarantee or victory or defeat, and see others writing as if it’s a total irrelevance. Both are utter nonsense.

I wrote about it at length here and while the figures have changed, the essential situation hasn’t, in summary:

  • People’s perceptions of party leaders ARE an important factor, the key driver analysis of British Election Study data at recent elections demonstrates it, some respondents will consciously say it is that a primary concern, many others it will be a factor in the mix. It would be almost perverse if the main public face of a party and its policies and principles was not a factor.
  • But it is by no means the ONLY factor. Perceptions of party competence on the issues people consider important are of critical importance, so are party identities. By extension (since they drive those factors) government performance and wider perceptions of the parties and their values are also extremely important. Hence it is perfectly possible for a party with a duff leader to win if it is outweighed by other factors like competence and party identity. Thatcher won in 1979 despite trailing badly to Jim Callaghan, presumably because other factors outweighed the minus of her leadership.
  • Labour have been in the lead in the polls for a couple of years, despite the public being well aware of Ed Miliband and having a negative view of him. That does NOT mean that he is not a drag on Labour’s support (we don’t how whether Labour’s lead would be larger under a different leader), but it does mean that his negative ratings are already “priced into the market”.
  • The questions is whether the importance of the opposition leader grows in the immediate run up to an election. There is the potential for people’s opinions to be driven mainly by unhappiness and disapproval of the government mid-term, but to view it increasingly as a choice between two alternative governments and Prime Ministers as the election actually approaches (thus contributing to the familiar pattern of “mid term blues”). That brings the potential for the “Miliband issue” to matter more as we get closer and closer to the election… but it is impossible to reliably test.
  • In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.

Anyway, looking at the rest of the poll, since we touched on party image and competence as other big issues further up, YouGov re-asked a question from last February essentially exploring the contrast between parties being “nice” and being “effective”. They asked if parties were seen as “nice but dim”, “mean but smart”, “mean and dim” or “nice and smart”. The Conservatives clearly still have “nasty party” issues – 40% think they are smart, but only 26% think they are nice. For Labour it’s the other way around “their heart is in the right place, but…”; 48% think they are nice, but only 20% think they are smart. It might get less attention than Miliband, but right there you’ve got two big issues for the two main parties: people still don’t think the Tories’ hearts are in the right place, and still doubt Labour’s competence in government.

The poll also had a batch of questions about education in England – essentially showing appetite for reform in general, but opposition to the specifics of Michael Gove’s reforms. 43% think schools are doing well, 46% badly and people tend to think they provide worse education than in comparable European countries. 64% think schools need reforming to a large or moderate degree. Asked about Michael Gove though 55% think he’s doing badly as education secretary, people are opposed by 41% to 31% to schools becoming academies and by 53% to 23% to the idea of free schools.


The fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer is out tonight, with topline figures of CON 31%(nc), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 17%(-2), Greens 5%. Their Labour lead remains at four points.

Yesterday there was also a “new” TNS voting intention poll, as far as I can tell the first Westminster poll they’ve published since last November. Topline figures there are CON 29%, LAB 35%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 23%. While it was newly published, the fieldwork was actually carried out a week and a half ago (I’m not quite sure why they publish so late – with their Scottish polls I’ve always assumed it’s something to do with the difficulties of doing face-to-face polling, but their Westminster polls are done online).


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Having polled Lab -v- Con seats last month, Lord Ashcroft has now done a similar exercise in ultra-marginal seats between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. He polled 17 seats. 6 are Conservative held seats where the Lib Dems came a close second last time and need not unduly delay us, all show a shift from Lib Dem to Conservative and Conservative holds, the most interesting ones being Watford (which was a three way marginal in 2010 and remains so in this poll) and the two Cornish seats in the sample which both put UKIP in second place, more on that later.

Turning to the Lib Dem seats polled, Lord Ashcroft did fieldwork in the ten most marginal Lib Dem seats with the Conservatives in second place. He also polled the special case of Eastleigh because of the by-election and UKIP, but we’ll set that aside for now. The ten Lib Dem ultra-marginals represent seats with majorities of up to 6.4%, so they’d need a swing of 3.2% from LD to Con for the Tories to take them all at the next election. Based on national polling the Conservatives should do that easily (the national LD=>Con swing is about 5.5%), but as we know, Liberal Democrat MPs rely far more upon their personal support and tactical voting than MPs from other parties, and tend to be better able to confound a national swing.

Across the ten LD ultra-marginals the average swing from LD to Con was 3.4, so the Lib Dems continue to do far better in their own seats than in the country as a whole. However, “doing better” doesn’t mean completely immune from loss. If that was repeated across all LD-Con marginals they’d still lose all those ten to the Tories plus perhaps Eastborne. In practice there is variation between seats, so some seats with smaller majorities the Lib Dems would cling on to, some more distant targets they’d probably lose. Looking at these particular seats Ashcroft found the Lib Dems doing far better than average in Sutton & Cheam, which this suggests they’d hold with ease, and better than average in Cheadle which this also suggests they’d hold. Those two are the most urban of the two seats polled – but with limited data points its difficult to tell if that’s significant. North Cornwall’s swing isn’t far from the average, but would be too close to call.

If the Liberal Democrats lost only 10 or 11 seats at the next election they’d probably be quite pleased… but remember, the Lib Dems also have around 10 English seats where Labour is the challenger and 11 seats in Scotland that could be vulnerable to either Labour or the SNP, so this is not the only battleground for them. It’s the largest Lib Dem battleground, but not the one where they are most vulnerable.

Two other things to note. Seats that have had a by-election are changed by it, so Eastleigh is probably representative of nothing but itself, but for the record Ashcroft found voting intentions there of CON 27%, LAB 10%, LDEM 39%, UKIP 22%. Also worth noting is how well UKIP are doing in the Cornish seats included here. Because it’s a close LD v Con battleground Ashcroft’s sample happened to include five of the six Cornish constituencies, and UKIP were running in second place in three of them. Take the UKIP scores with a slight pinch of salt because the timing of the fieldwork (it was mostly done during or in the fortnight following the European elections, so when UKIP were on a bit of a publicity high), but it’s another potential pointer as to where they could do well.


The daily YouGov poll for the Sun tonight has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 38%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%.

We also had the monthly Ipsos MORI political monitor earlier on today – details here. They had topline figures of CON 31%(nc), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 14%(+3), GRN 8%(nc). An increase for UKIP following the European elections, but very little change elsewhere (though note the Greens equal with the Lib Dems).

MORI also asked some questions on whether Labour and Ed Miliband were ready for government. 35% of people think that Labour are ready for government, 22% that Ed Miliband is ready to be PM. The Ed Miliband figure is very similar to the YouGov question in the past asking if he looks like a “Prime Minister in waiting”, but MORI have been about for longer than YouGov, so in their case we can look at some historical comparisons here and here.

Looking at when MORI asked the same questions about oppositions a year or two out from an election (as opposed to immediately before an election when they score better), in 1996 58% thought Labour were ready for government, 56% thought Blair was ready to be PM. In 2000 23% thought the Tories were ready for government, 18% that Hague was ready to be PM. In 2003 21% thought the Tories ready for government, just 16% that IDS was ready to be PM. The government question wasn’t asked in 2004, but 31% thought Michael Howard was ready to be PM. In 2008-2009 between 41-58% thought the Tories were ready for goverment, 43% that Cameron was ready to be PM. On these measures at least Labour and Miliband are in better shape than the Tories under Hague and IDS, but worse than under Cameron and Howard.


YouGov had a new Scottish referendum poll in this morning’s Sun – tabs are now up on the website here. The headline referendum voting figures are 36%(-1) for YES, 53%(+2) for NO, changes are from YouGov’s last poll in April. Excluding don’t knows this works out at YES 40%, NO 60%.

The changes are within the margin of error from April, so don’t read too much into the movement to NO. More notable is what it doesn’t show – the recent Survation, Panelbase and ICM polls showed movement to YES (albeit, the ICM one was probably reversion to the mean), so it’s notable that YouGov aren’t showing the same. The wider picture of Scottish referendum polling remains that what movement there is in voting intention is so slow that it is hard to discern beneath normal random variation, and right now it is difficult to be certain whether there is still a drift towards YES or whether things have stagnated. There also remains a substantial and difficult to explain difference between the figures from different pollsters, one I doubt will be resolved until the votes are counted.

If the topline figures here will be a relief to the NO campaign, the rest of the poll is a much more mixed picture. The Yes Scotland campaign is seen as the more positive of the two campaigns – more people think it has been positive than negative, while people are more likely to view the Better Together campaign as negative than positive. However, the Better Together campaign is seen as having been mostly honest (by 40% to 34%), the Yes Scotland campagn mostly dishonest (by 42% to 35%).

On the question of a televised debate, the Scottish public would much prefer to see a debate between Alex Salmond and David Cameron (48%) than between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (21%). Finally Yes Scotland seem to have a substantial advantage in the ground war – something you see claimed anecdotally, but it’s nice to have evidence to prove it. 49% of people recalled being contacted by Yes Scotland over the last few weeks compared to only 38% saying they’ve been contacted by Better Together.