This week’s YouGov results for the Sunday Times are here. Topline voting intention figures are CON 32%, LAB 35%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%. This is a second YouGov poll in a row showing a three point lead. That could possibly be an impact from a week spent on the topic of tax avoidance, but equally it could easily just normal random error spitting out a couple of polls with above average leads in a row.

Most of the rest of the YouGov poll concentrates on that issue: HSBC, tax avoidance and evasion and party funding. Public opinion is predictably hostile towards HSBC – 80% think it’s unacceptable for banks to actively help their clients avoid tax, 75% unacceptable for them to turn a blind eye to clients doing things to avoid tax. By 71% to 15% people think that HSBC should face criminal investigation.

Blame for allowing banks to assist clients with avoiding tax is fairly evenly spread between Labour and the Conservatives. 21% think the last Labour government was more to blame, 14% that the current coalition government is more to blame, but 44% think both equally. Looking forwards, Labour have a lead on which party would do the most to tackle tax avoidance and evasion – 23% to the Conservatives’ 16%, though 50% of people said none or don’t know, suggesting little real faith in any of the parties to address the issue (compare and contrast this to the ComRes poll yesterday that showed Miliband and Cameron equal on 31% on the issue – that may be the effect of asking about leaders rather than parties, or perhaps it was because YouGov made it easier for people to say neither).

Moving onto party funding the public are critical of both the Conservative’s reliance on business funding and Labour’s reliance on Union funding. By 48% to 30% people think Labour should try and reduce Union funding, by 52% to 25% people think the Conservatives should try and reduce their business funding. More broadly only 24% of people think that donors give money purely to support a party, 68% think they do so also (19%) or mainly (49%) in the hope of getting something in return like honours or influence. Around two thirds of people would support a cap on business and trade union donations, 51% would support a cap on individual donations to political parties. There is little support though for state funding – only 19% would support taxpayer funding with 59% opposed. Even a forced choice between the current situation of a labour party getting trade union funds & a Conservative party getting business funds or a system of state funding, people would prefer the status quo by 63% to 37%.

We have three GB polls due in the Sunday papers, Opinium in the Observer, ComRes in the Sunday Indy/Sunday Mirror and YouGov in the Sunday Times. We have the first two already, YouGov will follow later on tonight or tomorow morning.

Opinium have topline figures of CON 33%(+1), LAB 35%(+1), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 6%(-2). Both the main parties up one point and last week’s two point Labour lead remaining unchanged. Tabs are here.

ComRes have topline figures of CON 32%(-1), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 16%(-2), GRN 4%(+1). The Conservatives down one point, so both polls show a two point Labour lead, but neither show any significant change compared to their previous poll. This month’s ComRes poll also had a bank of questions asking people whether Ed Miliband or David Cameron would be better on various issues. On their usual strengths and weaknesses Cameron leads by 25 points on having the qualities needed in a leader, 23 on managing the economy and 16 points on immigration; Miliband leads by 10 points on the NHS (and I expect would lead on being in touch with ordinary people if it had been asked – the overall picture on questions like this is influenced by what measures are asked about!). Given the current political agenda though the topical measure is “more effective at cracking down on tax avoidance” – there 31% think Miliband would be more effective, 31% Cameron.


12 weeks to go

Here are this week’s polls

YouGov/S Times (6/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%
Opinium/Observer (6/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%
Ashcroft (8/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 31%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%
Populus (8/2/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 4%
YouGov/Sun (9/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (10/2/15) – CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
Ipsos MORI/Standard (10/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 9%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (11/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (12/2/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
Populus (12/2/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

The big picture remains stable, with Labour and Conservatives very close. There were a couple of Conservative leads at the start of the week, but a couple of three point Labour leads at the end of the week mean the UKPR polling average continues to show a two point Labour lead – CON 32%(+1), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 7%(+1). Whether those two larger leads at the end of the week are anything more than normal sample noise remains to be seen. The MORI poll showing UKIP on just nine percent was their lowest since last September – I wrote on Thursday about the difficulties of actually telling what’s happening to UKIP support given changes in methodology, it looks like they might be declining slightly, but it’s hard to be sure.

Scottish and marginal polls

There were two other voting intention polls this week, a Scottish poll from TNS and a marginals poll from ComRes. The TNS poll showed a significantly smaller SNP lead than other recent Scottish polls. Survation, MORI and YouGov are all showing the SNP twenty points or more ahead; TNS produced an SNP lead of only ten points. This is presumably something to do with the methodology (TNS is a traditional face-to-face poll, rather than an online or telephone poll) as the long fieldwork for the TNS poll actually overlapped with all three of the other polls, meaning it can’t have been that opinion has changed. Meanwhile the ComRes poll showed a 4.5% swing from Con to Lab in the 40 most marginal Conservative vs Labour marginals – the equivalent of a two point lead in national polls… exactly what the national polls are currently showing!

Week 6

  • The sixth week of the long campaign started with Tristam Hunt defending comments he had made about nuns, then went through whether Labour’s women’s campaign was right to have a pink van, before settling on the rather more serious matter of tax evasion, the role of HSBC and an abortive legal threat against Ed Miliband by Lord Fink, a Tory donor with a swiss bank account. I expect we shall see some polling about tax evasion and party donors come the weekend, though possibly not about nuns.
  • UKIP launched their election campaign in the seat of Castle Point on the south coast of Essex, a potential target seat that may or may not have had UKIP’s first MP (it was never quite clear whether the defector Bob Spink formally joined UKIP or not) and where the party have formed an alliance with the Canvey Island Independents.
  • The Lib Dems launched the front page of their manifesto, showing us their main points (and their presumed demands in any coalition negotiations) will be promising to increase the personal allowance to £12,500, balance the budget fairly, invest £8bn in the NHS and provide equal mental health care, guarantee education funding and provide qualified teachers and pass “five Green Laws”.


The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015 and Elections Etc are below. The long promised seat model from the Polling Observatory team (Rob Ford, Will Jennings, Chris Wlezien and Mark Pickup) finally made its debut this week too. I don’t think it’s up on a website yet, but they put it out at the NCRM’s conference on election forecasting and tweeted it, so I’ve included it below.

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 281(-1), LAB 281(+2), LD 23(nc), SNP 41(nc), UKIP 3(nc)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 280(-2), LAB 283(nc), LD 27(+3), SNP 37(nc), UKIP 2(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 269(-1), LAB 274(+2), LD 24(-1), SNP 56(nc), UKIP 4(nc)
Polling Observatory – Hung Parliament, CON 269, LAB 293, LD 21, SNP 37, UKIP 1

I’ve my usual weekly update to do later tonight or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime a quick note on the new ComRes poll of marginal seats, which has tables here. My heart always sort of falls when I see a marginal seats poll, as I know how people will misinterpret it. Twitter inevitably sees lots of comments about how Labour has a great big lead in the marginals that count, or Labour might be neck-and-neck nationally but they have a big lead in the important marginals – seemingly oblivious to the fact that the topline results and what they mean depends entirely on which marginals you are polling. What could be a bad headline result for Labour in a batch of seats they only just missed out on in 2010 could be an excellent one in a batch of target seats they need for an overall majority. The crucial thing when looking at marginal polls is the swing from the last election, and how that compares to the swing implied by the national polls.

So, using today’s ComRes poll as an example, here’s how you should interpret a poll of marginal constituencies. I expect this will covering old ground for many people, so I hope regular readers will forgive me stating the bleeding obvious in some cases!

The first thing is to look at what the shares of the vote were in those seats at the previous election – without knowing that, any swing or change is meaningless. In the case of ComRes, their marginal seats polls cover the 40 most marginal seats with Labour and Conservative in first and second place. That consists of 25 Conservative seats and 15 Labour ones, with shares of the vote at the last election of CON 37%, LAB 37%, LDEM 18%, UKIP 3%.

The next step is to compare the results of the previous election to what the poll shows. Topline figures in today’s ComRes poll, with changes from the election, are CON 31%(-6), LAB 40%(+3), LDEM 8%(-10), UKIP 15%(+12). From being equal at the last election, Labour now have a nine point lead – the equivalent of a 4.5 percent swing from Conservative to Labour (the swing is the relative change, divided by two).

Now compare it to the national polls. Looking over the current UKPollingReport average it shows a two point Labour lead. Labour were seven points behind the Conservatives in 2010, so conveniently enough this is also a nine point relative change in the lead, and the equivalent of a 4.5 percent swing from Conservative to Labour. In other words, this poll doesn’t show Labour doing better or worse in the marginals, it shows the Con-Lab marginals behaving exactly like the national GB polls suggest they will.

Of course, this is just a single poll of 1000 people anyway, so even if it did show a swing that was a point or two higher or lower in the marginals it wouldn’t be worth reading much into. It could just be sample variation. Looking back over other Ashcroft and ComRes polls in Con-Lab marginal seats we’ve had some showing the Conservatives doing slightly better in the marginals, some showing them exactly the same, some showing Labour doing slightly better. All in all it suggests the swing in Con-v-Lab marginals is very much in line with the swing in the national polls. And that’s to be expected. If history is any guide we might expect the Conservatives to do a little better as most of the battleground seats have new Conservative incumbents, but only by a very small amount – the reality is that Con-Lab marginals do tend to behave in pretty much the same way as the nation as a whole does.

The monthly Ipsos MORI poll for the Standard is out and has topline figures of CON 34%(+1), LAB 36%(+2), LDEM 6%(-2), UKIP 9%(-2), GRN 7%(-1). MORI tend to give UKIP some of their lower figures anyway, but this is the first poll from any company to put UKIP down in single figures since September last year. This is only one poll though, as ever, it’s important to look at the wider picture.

Watching the trend is UKIP support is difficult because of the big contrasts between pollsters and the way they have had to adapt their methods to account for the new kid on the block. So for example, Opinium’s latest poll had UKIP on 15%, their lowest level since August… but they had introduced new political weighting that reduced UKIP support, so this wasn’t necessarily a “real” fall. Populus too have had UKIP at around 15% so far this month, but for them that’s higher than in previous months. That isn’t necessary a “real” increase either though, as they’ve changed their weighting in a way that increases UKIP support.

Chopping and changing and contrasting methods makes it very difficult to see the underlying trend. Given the way that many companies (YouGov, Ashcroft, ComRes and Populus) have switched to including UKIP in their main prompt in recent months, MORI, ICM and Survation are actually the only companies NOT to have some sort of change to how they measure UKIP support. Looking at them, MORI now have UKIP at 9%, compared to 11% last month, 13% in Dec, 14% in Nov and 16% in October. ICM’s poll last month had UKIP at 11%, compared to 14-15% between October and December, but only 9-10% last Summer. Survation still had them at 23% last month, but they had them as high as 25% earlier last year.

Accepting all the methodological changes (which apart from Opinium have been changes likely to help, rather than hinder UKIP) and just taking monthly averages of all polls suggests a slight drop in UKIP support since their peak in the Autumn. Their highest monthly average so far was 16.1% in October, following the Clacton by-election and Mark Reckless’s defection, in November it was 16%, in December 15.5%, in January 15.2%. A slight trend, but certainly nothing to get too excited or distraught about, and given the changes in methodology it’s difficult to know how meaningful it is.