Three new polls today – two GB polls and one Scottish one (and YouGov to come later).

A week ago we had sharply contrasting polls from Lord Ashcroft and Populus – one showing a chunky Conservative lead, one showing a chunky Labour lead, both probably outliers. Today’s Ashcroft and Populus polls are far more normal, both showing a tight race between Conservative and Labour.

Topline figures from Populus are CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. (tabs). Lord Ashcroft’s weekly poll has topline figures of CON 29%(-5), LAB 28%(nc), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 15%(-1), GRN 11%(+3) (tabs). While Ashcroft’s gap between Labour and Conservatives looks a little more normal, the poll has an eye-catching Green score – up to 11%. This is the highest the Greens have scored in any poll since their initial but short-lived breakthrough back in 1989.

As ever, be wary of giving too much attention to the poll that looks interesting and exciting and ignoring the dull ones. The Greens certainly are increasing their support, but there is much variation between pollsters. Below are the latest levels of Green support from those companies who have polled so far in 2015:

greensupport

Support varies between 11 percent from Ashcroft and just 3 percent from Populus. For the very low scores from Populus and ComRes there are at least clear methodological reasons: Populus downweight voters who identify as Green supporters quite heavily, while in ComRes’s online polls they appear to have added a much stricter turnout filter to Green and UKIP voters since they started prompting for UKIP. At the other end of the scale Lord Ashcroft’s polls have consistently tended to show a higher level of support for parties outside the traditional big three, but the reasons for this are unclear.

Meanwhile there was a new Scottish poll from Survation from the Daily Record. Topline Westminster voting intentions with changes from Survation’s previous poll are CON 14%(-2), LAB 26%(+2), LDEM 7%(+2), SNP 46%(-2), GRN 3%(+2), UKIP 4%(nc). (tabs). It shows a small narrowing in the SNP lead, but it was from an extremely large lead last time, so it still leaves them with a huge twenty point lead.


Back now, and ready to go through the rest of the Sunday polls apart from the voting intentions and pick out some of the more interesting findings:

  • YouGov’s poll for the Sun on Sunday asked about tactical voting (it didn’t actually use the term, as I think many people use it to refer to different things. It asked if people were voting for their first choice, or a different party that would beat a party they disliked from winning). 77% of people said they were voting for their first choice, 11% tactically. A word of warning about interpreting this – 8% of Tory voters said they were voting tactically, 11% of Labour voters, 12% of Lib Dem voters, 11% of UKIP voters… but we don’t know if that means 8% of Tory voters are voting Tory for tactical reasons, or that 8% of would-be Tory voters are actually going to vote for someone else for tactical reasons (or a mixture).
  • The YouGov Sunday Times poll had a number of questions on British Muslims and on terrorism. People were split over how well integrated British Muslims are into British society and the extent to which they share British values. 46% of people think the majority or almost all British Muslims share British values, 46% of people think that only a minority or hardly any British Muslims share British values. 42% of people think that most or the majority of British Muslims are well integrated, 50% think a minority or hardly any are. UKIP voter’s attitudes towards British Muslims are far more negative than supporters of other parties – 73% of UKIP supporters say most Muslims don’t share British values, 79% say most British Muslims aren’t well integrated. Nigel Farage’s comments about areas of Britain being like ghettos with sharia law were rejected by most respondents – 33% though they were broadly true, 41% thought they were false. 75% of UKIP’s own supporters believed them.
  • There was a particularly interesting immigration question in the Sun on Sunday poll, essentially asking people to choose between a multicultural approach and an integrationist approach. Slightly to my surprise a multicultural approach was the more popular – 36% thought it better that immigrants leave their own cultures and traditions behind and integrate fully into British culture, 48% thought it better than immigrants retain and celebrate some of their own cultures and traditions.
  • Going back to the terrorism and surveillance questions in the Sunday Times poll, just over half of respondents (52%) thought that the security services do need more access to the public’s communications in order to fight terrorism, 31% thought they already have all the access they need. A similar proportion (53%) would support requiring internet and phone companies to retain users data for 12 months and provide it to the security services on request, though by 51% to 35% people think accessing someone’s personal communications should require the consent of the Home Secretary. While people think accessing personal communications data should require the consent of the Home Secretary, when asked whether they trust the authorities to use the information they obtain responsibly they actually trust Ministers & the Home Office less than the police and the intelligence services. 50% trust the police to use the information responsibly, 63% the intelligence services, 45% the Home Office, Ministers and civil servants.
  • In the ComRes poll they asked (via my old favourite the agree/disagree statement, grr!) whether people agreed with the statement that “Ed Miliband is using the issue of the NHS for his political advantage, not because he cares about it”. 49% of people agree, 26% disagree. That looks bad, but I have my doubts about questions about politicians’ motives. I suspect they largely just reflect a general cynicism towards the motives of all politicians, rather than opinions about particular politicians or decisions. YouGov asked a very similar question in their Sun on Sunday poll, but asked it about Ed Miliband AND David Cameron, and got answers that were almost the same. 46% thought Ed Miliband was using the NHS for political gain, 19% doing what he thought was best for it, 20% both equally. 48% thought David Cameron was using the NHS for political gain, 15% doing what he thought best for it, 19% both equally. As you’d expect, in both cases supports of the Conservative and Labour party both thought their own leader was doing what was best, but the opposing leader was just using it for political reasons.
  • The debate over the debates rolls on, and so do poll questions about it. Opinium asked about whether particular leaders should be invited – 61% think the leader of UKIP should, 46% the leader of the Greens, 30% the leader of the SNP, 23% the leader of Plaid Cymru. The current proposals for debates between Con, Lab, Lib Dem and UKIP leaders was supported by 37% of people, opposed by 31%. YouGov in the Sun on Sunday asked people to pick from some possible combinations. The most popular individual option was the widest, the Lib, Lab, Con, UKIP, Green and the SNP and Plaid. This was picked by 35% though, so while it was the most popular single option, 49% favoured a narrower option – 20% favoured the proposed Con, Lab, LD & UKIP, 17% Con, Lab, LD, UKIP and the Greens (but not the two nationalists). 12% supported an even narrower option, excluding UKIP. In their Sunday Times poll YouGov found people still think David Cameron should take part even without Natalie Bennett – if she is excluded 31% think Cameron should refuse to take part, 52% think he should take part anyway. However, asking about the other side of the deadlock, if Cameron refuses to take part without Bennett 52% think the broadcasters should call his bluff and invite her, 28% think the debates should go ahead without him, 8% think the debates should be cancelled.

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Sunday polls

I’ve been caught up with various family commitments this weekend, so a very brief summary of the polls in the Sunday papers. We have the monthly ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday, the fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer, two YouGov polls (one in the Sun on Sunday, one in the Sunday Times) and a Panelbase Scottish poll in the Sunday Times.

Opinium in the Observer have topline figures of CON 28%(-2), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 20%(+3), GRN 6%(+2) – a return to decent Labour lead after their poll a fortnight ago had shown things tightening up.

ComRes’s monthly online poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror has no such movement, with the race remaining very tight. Their topline voting intentions show virtually no change from last month’s, with topline figures of CON 33%(nc), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 18%(nc), GRN 3%(+1)

YouGov in the Sunday Times also show a one point Labour lead with topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 7%. There is a second (and completely separate) YouGov poll in the Sun on Sunday but with fairly similar topline figures, CON 31% and LAB 33%.

Finally the Panelbase Scottish poll in the Sunday Times has topline Westminster voting intentions of CON 14%(-1), LAB 31%(+3), LDEM 3%(nc), SNP 41%(-4), UKIP 7%(nc). The SNP lead of ten points would still be pretty good for them by historical standards, but it’s a drop compared to the very large leads they’ve been showing in other Scottish polls since October, which have varied between 16 and 29 points. As ever, it is only one poll – it may be the first sign of that SNP lead narrowing a bit, or may just be random sample variation.


Sixteen weeks to go

I’m in meetings and out and about tomorrow, so I’m doing week two’s round up tonight. The second week of 2015 and the long campaign we saw the first two phone polls of the year – Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor and the first weekly Ashcroft poll of the year.

YouGov/S Times (9/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 6%
Ashcroft (11/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 28%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%
Populus (11/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%
YouGov/Sun (12/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 17%, GRN 6%
Ipsos MORI (13/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 11%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (13/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (14/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (15/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 32%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 16%, GRN 8%

Ashcroft’s poll looks like an obvious outlier with a six point Conservative lead, most polls however clustered around a wafer thin Labour lead. The UKPR average of the latest polls now has figures of CON 33%(nc), LAB 33%(-1), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 15%(+1), GRN 7%(+1). Lord Ashcroft also started the year with a change to his methods, like YouGov moving to include UKIP in the main voting intention prompt.

Week 2 of the long campaign

The week started in the shadow of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and there was some polling in the YouGov/Sunday Times poll on people’s attitudes towards free speech and religion. Around a quarter of people thought the media should not be allowed to mock or ridicule religious beliefs or figures and 18% think the media should not even be allowed to criticise or question religion. Asked about Charlie Hebdo itself 69% of people thought it was acceptable for them to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, 14% unacceptable. 63% think that other newspapers should have reprinted the cartoons, 71% that the media have an obligation to show newsworthy items even if they might upset people.

Most of the political week though has been dominated by debates over debates. David Cameron refuses to take part in debates without the Green party being invited, and the broadcasters have yet to agree to invite the Green party. Public opinion is fairly clear – two thirds of people think that Natalie Bennett should be included in the debate… but in the event that she isn’t, a majority of people think David Cameron should take part anyway.

I wrote more about the potential impact of the debates not happening yesterday, but this week the effect seems to have been an opportunity cost for the parties (time spent debating debates is time spent not talking about issues like the economy or NHS), and a spike in the Green party’s membership, which they claim has now overtaken UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

BBC Larger and smaller parties

Following OfCom’s consultation paper last week, the BBC have released their guidance on party coverage at the election for consultation. They put UKIP in with the larger parties (Con, Lab and Lib Dem) saying “programmes must ensure that UKIP is given appropriate levels of coverage in output to which the largest parties contribute and, on some occasions, similar levels of coverage.” The Greens are under smaller parties with guidance that “programmes must ensure that the Greens are given proportionate levels of coverage in output to which the larger parties contribute, and, on occasion, similar levels of coverage, if appropriate.”

Projections

The latest forecasts from Election Forecast and May 2015 are below – both are showing a hung Parliament with Labour the largest party. Steve Fisher’s Elections Etc should be updated tomorrow.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 277(-7), LAB 289(+8), LD 27(+1), SNP 32(-1), UKIP 3(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273(nc), LAB 280(-1), LD 24(nc), SNP 46(nc), UKIP 4(+1)


Ipsos MORI’s monthly poll for the Evening Standard came out today. MORI’s last two polls rather stood out from the crowd by showing three point Conservative leads when all others were showing ties or small Labour leads. Today’s poll looks far more like the average Labour lead, with topline figures of CON 33%(+1), LAB 34%(+5), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 11%(-2), GRN 8%(-1) (full tabs are here.)

MORI also asked about which issues would be important to people at the election. Following the earlier polling from ComRes and YouGov that showed health moving sharply up the agenda, this showed healthcare coming top, followed by the economy and immigration. (This isn’t actually MORI’s monthly issues tracker, which is done face-to-face and asks about the most important issues facing the country, but it’s obviously picking up a similar trend)