Kantar have published a new voting intention poll ahead of the budget, the first I’ve seen from them since the general election. Topline figures are CON 42%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 5%. Fieldwork was between last Tuesday and this Monday.

This is the first poll to show a Conservative lead since September and the largest Tory lead in any poll since the election. As ever, it’s best to look carefully at any poll that shows an unusual result before getting too excited/dismayed. The reason for the unusual result appears to be methodological, rather than from some sudden Tory recovery, and down to the way Kantar treat turnout. As regular readers will know, many polls came horribly unstuck at the 2017 election because instead of basing turnout on how likely respondents said they were to vote, they predicted respondents likelihood to vote based on factors like their age and class. These methods assumed young people would be much less likely to vote, and produced large Conservative leads that ended up being wrong. Generally speaking, these socio-economic models have been dropped.

At the election Kantar took a sort of halfway position – they based their turnout model on both respondents’ self-assessed likelihood to vote, whether they voted last time and their age, assuming that older people were more likely to vote than younger people. This actually performed far better than most other companies did; Kantar’s final poll showed a five point Conservative lead, compared to the 2.5 they actually got. As such, Kantar appear to have kept using their old turnout model that partly predicts likelihood to vote based on age. The impact of this is clear – before turnout weighting Labour would have had a one point lead, very similar to other companies’ polls. After turnout weighting the Conservatives are four points ahead (the full tabs and methodology details are here).

(Another noticable difference between Kantar’s method and other companies is that they use the leaders’ names in their voting intention question, though given there is not nearly as much of a gap between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings as there used to be I’m not sure that would still have an impact.)


Opinium’s regular poll for the Observer suggests party support is still static, despite a difficult few weeks for the government. Topline voting intention figures are CON 40%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(+1). Fieldwork was between Tuesday and Thursday and changes are from a month ago. Ahead of the budget Opinium also asked about the most trusted team on the economy. May & Hammond led by 36% to Corbyn & McDonnell on 28% (as with the best PM question, the majority of respondents said either None (24%) or Don’t know (12%). Full tabs are here.

Midweek we also had ICM’s poll for the Guardian – that too showed a pretty much static position, with topline figures of CON 41%(-1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 7%(nc). Tabs for that are here.

A budget is, of course, the sort of major event that can sometimes cut through with the public if it contains something particularly compelling or – more likely – something particularly unattractive. As I’ve often written here, it’s very rare for budgets to result in a boost for the government, but there are plenty of examples of budgets going horribly wrong and damaging party support – they are very much a bullet to be dodged, rather than an opportunity to win support. We shall see what happens this week.


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The government have, needless to say, not had a particularly good few weeks. They have lost two cabinet minsters and have several more under clouds who the media have portrayed the Prime Minister as too weak to sack. You’d probably expect the government to be tanking in the opinion polls.

Yet YouGov’s latest poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 40%(nc), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 6%(-2). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday, so right in the middle of the Priti Patel row but before her resignation, and changes are from mid-October. Labour are ahead, but it’s the same sort of narrow lead that they’ve held since just after the election. As in other recent polls, Conservative support appears to be holding steady at around 40%.

It is a similar case with Theresa May’s own ratings. Her approval ratings are negative, but show no sign of collapse: 31% think she is doing well (unchanged from last month), 55% think she is doing badly (four points down from last month). 29% of people think she is a strong leader (up one point), 49% think she is weak (down three). 42% think she is competent (no change), 38% think she is incompetent (down three).

This raises the question of why support for the government and Theresa May is holding up when, on the face of it, they seem to be in such a mess. One eternal reason is that most people pay far less attention to political news than anyone reading this blog does. Cabinet rows and government weakness will make no difference to the voting intention of people who are wholly unaware of them. As an illustration, the poll also asked people if they thought Theresa May should get rid of Priti Patel (at a time, remember, when the story was all over the news and had been for four days). 17% said she should stay, 30% that she should go, 53% gave a “don’t know”. Government incompetence won’t hurt Tory support among people who are unaware of it.

An alternative possibility is that Tory voters are sticking with the Conservatives, however poor they are, because the alternative is Jeremy Corbyn. To test this YouGov asked people who said they’d vote Tory tomorrow why they were supporting them. Only 7% of Tory voters said it was because they both agreed with the government’s aims and thought they were delivering them, 48% said they agreed with the government’s aims even if they were struggling to deliver them, 22% said they thought the government were competent, even if they didn’t agree with all their aims. 19% of Tory voters, however, said they didn’t think the government were governing well and didn’t agree with their aims… but they still preferred them to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Why is the government’s support holding up? As ever, there is never a single simple reason, but part of it is that most people don’t pay much attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics, so individual scandals will not necessarily make a huge difference. Secondly, while even most Tory voters think the government are struggling to deliver their aims, they do mostly agree with what they are trying to do. Thirdly, there are a significant chunk of Tory voters who don’t think they are governing well and don’t agree with what they are doing… but would still vote for them because they aren’t Labour.

Full tabs are here.