Two interesting polls last night. The daily YouGov poll for the Sun had topline voting intentions of CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%. That’s a couple of lower Labour leads in a row, but as ever, that could easily be margin of error. Worth noting is the 6% for the Lib Dems, that’s the lowest that YouGov have ever shown since they started polling in 2001 (the lowest the Lib Dems have recorded in any GB poll is, so far as I can tell, a 3% in an ICM poll for the Sunday Correspondent in 1989. You occasionally get Lib Dem politicians rolling out the old story of how they remember when the Lib Dems were just an asterisk, which pollsters sometimes use to denote less than 0.5% but not actually zero. As far as I can tell, and I’ve been tracking the mythical beast for years, that never happened in a GB poll, though it could have done in a Scottish or by-election poll. 3% is the lowest to beat!)

Secondly there was a new Survation Scottish poll for the Daily Record. It has referendum topline figures of YES 39%(+2), NO 44%(-2). Excluding don’t knows that works out at YES 47%, NO 53%. Looking at Survation’s past Scottish referendum polling they’ve typically been showing YES at 37-39% and NO at 46-48%, so it does suggest movement away from NO… but as ever, it is only one poll and it’s the wider trend that counts. Tabs are here.

There was also a “new” TNS poll out yesterday, though the fieldwork was actually conducted about a fortnight ago, so much older than the Survation poll. That had referendum voting intention figures unchanged from the month before, YES 30%(nc), NO 42%(nc).

We’ve had a couple of weeks to digest the European elections now, and it looks as if the polls since then have been showing a slightly increased Labour lead. I’ve done a graph below of the last few months of polls – in order to remove any variation from irregularly or infrequently published polls the graph below shows voting intention in just YouGov and Populus polls – the two most regularly published polls. I’ve used a seven poll average, as it means (bank holidays aside) every data point is made up of 5 YouGov polls and 2 Populus polls giving us a nice steady figure.

Looking at the parties one by one, there’s an obvious downwards trend in Labour support, interrupted by the aftermath of the European elections, since when they seem to have enjoyed a minor lift in support. Conservative support wiggles about a bit, but there is no definite trend. UKIP support rises in the run up to the European election, but fades as they actually approach (perhaps the impact of the widespread accusations of racism, perhaps just random variation) before increasing in the aftermath of the elections. The Liberal Democrats are steady, but have perhaps faltered since the European campaign. Finally there is an obvious upwards trend in the previously steady level of support for the Green party.

The question of course is whether any of this will have any long term impact whatsoever, or is the merely the impact of the publicity and campaigning around the European elections. After the local elections last year we got a spike in UKIP support, which by July settled down again. We need to wait a couple of weeks and see if all the apparent changes in party support over the last couple of weeks revert back to the trends they were showing before May, or if they’ve had any longer lasting impact.

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 37%, LD 8%, UKIP 12%. A lower Labour lead than the last few polls, but nothing yet that couldn’t be normal sample variation.


Lord Ashcroft’s weekly poll this afternoon has topline figures of CON 28%(+3), LAB 32%(-2), LDEM 8%(+2), UKIP 17%(-2). The Labour lead is down by five points but this is very probably a reversion to the mean after an unusual looking poll a week ago. Full tabs are on Lord Ashcroft’s website here

The other new poll out today was Populus’s twice-weekly online poll – that had topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%. Tabs here

There are two polls in this morning’s papers. The fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer has topline figures of CON 31%(-1), LAB 35%(+2), LDEM 6%(-1), UKIP 19%(nc). Charges are from their pre-European election poll, so show the sort of increase in the Labour lead we’ve seen in other polls since the European election.

The YouGov/Sunday Times poll is here and also has a four point Labour lead: CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%.

Newark by-election

Yesterday was the Newark by-election, a relatively comfortable hold for the Conservatives over UKIP in second place. When the by-election was first announced there was an obvious risk for the Tories – it was taking place at a time when UKIP would be basking in the glory of a successful European election, there was always that chance that they could have pulled off a surprise victory. In the event it never happened.

I expect to see lots of comment today about what Newark tells us about the state of public opinion. I’ll make my usual post by-election comment that it doesn’t tell us much at all. By-elections are extremely strange beasts that bear very little resemblence to politics as usual. They take place in but one constituency (which may be extremely unrepresentative of the country as a whole), they have no direct bearing upon who runs the country, only on who the local MP is (voters in Newark knew that whoever won, the next morning there would still be a coalition government under David Cameron) and they experience an intensity of campaigning unlike any other contest. Essentally, if voters at a by-election perform pretty much in line with the national polls it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, if they behave in a different way then it’s likely because of the extremely unusual nature of by-election contests.

It doesn’t mean that by-elections don’t have an important effect on politics – they do. If UKIP had won or been a closer second it would have continued the “UKIP earthquake” narrative. As it is I think it might start playing into a “UKIP faltering” sort of narrative. That wouldn’t really be fair – it was, after all, a pretty safe Conservative seat and UKIP increased their vote by 22% – but politics is not always fair.

I’ve also seem some comment along the lines of why Labour weren’t in contention, and whether it was a bad night for them. Realistically by-elections do tend to end up becoming a two-horse race – people rapidly identify who the challenger party is and it normally becomes a fight between them and the incumbent; Labour were just a victim of that. Of course, in a different situation Labour could have been the challenger party – Labour would have needed a swing of 16% or so to win Newark, the sort of swing that the Conservatives got in Norwich North and Crewe & Nantwich. The fact is though that we knew anyway that Labour weren’t in that sort of position – they aren’t an opposition that’s tearing away into the sunset, they are an opposition holding onto a relatively modest poll lead. In the present political context, we shouldn’t expect them to be competitive in a seat like Newark.

Finally a brief word about the polling. Survation released a second by-election poll yesterday evening (conducted before the by-election, but released after polls closed), which was almost identical to Lord Ashcoft’s a few days earlier. Both polls had the Conservatives on 42%, both had UKIP on 27% and both were relatively close to the actual result of CON 45%, UKIP 26%. Worth noting in particular is that both polls got UKIP right this time, when previous by-election polling has tended to underestimate their support.