Today’s Times has some fresh polling of Labour party members. It was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday this week in the wake of the anti-Semitism row, though is also the first opportunity we’ve seen since the general election to take the general political temperature among Labour party members.

On that second point, the first thing to notice is the major shift in the level of support Jeremy Corbyn has among Labour party members. Two years ago this was still a party divided on the leadership and unsure of his future. Now they are solidly behind him. 80% of Labour members think Corbyn is doing well as leader, just 19% badly. 74% of Labour members think that Jeremy Corbyn should lead the party into the next general, and 64% of members think it is likely that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister in the future.

This is a complete transformation of attitudes since 2016 – back then, Labour members were split on Corbyn’s performance, didn’t think he could ever win, most didn’t want him to fight the next election. Now, following Corbyn’s victory against Owen Smith and the party’s revivial at the election, Corbyn’s support in the party looks absolutely solid.

Looking briefly at two of the other recent decisions Jeremy Corbyn has made, his members also back him over both his handling of the Salisbury poisonings and his sacking of Owen Smith. 69% think that Corbyn has responded well to the poisonings, and by 50% to 37% they think sacking Smith was the right decision.

Now, moving on to the anti-semitism row that Labour have found themselves in.

19% of Labour members think that anti-semitism in the party is a serious and genuine problem that needs addressing. A further 47% of Labour members agree that there is a serious and genuine problem, but think that is has been exaggerated for political reasons. Finally, 30% think that there is not a serious problem of anti-semitism at all. Broadly speaking, two-thirds of members think there is a problem (though many of those think it is being exaggerated for political effect), just under a third think there is not.

In terms of Jeremy Corbyn’s own handling of the row, most of his members think he has dealt with it well. 61% say he has responded very or fairly well, 33% think he has responded fairly or very badly. It’s less good than his approval overall (implying there are some Labour members who approve of Corbyn’s leadership in general, but think he’s dropped the ball here) but there is still clear majority approval.

Finally, the poll asked whether Labour party members wanted to see Ken Livingstone readmitted to the party or not. 33% wanted to see him return, 41% did not.

I’ll put a link up to the full tabs when they are released.

One year to go

You will unavoidably have noticed that today marks one year until Brexit day, when the article 50 timetable runs out and the British government has signalled its intention to leave the European Union. I’ve written a long piece over on the YouGov website here about where public opinion stands on Brexit which I’d encourage you to read, but here is a brief take on where we are.

Firstly, there has still been no big shift in opinion since the referendum. Since last year there has been a gradual drift, but nothing substantial. However, given the original vote was so close, that still means that you tend to find marginally more people saying Brexit is a bad thing than a good thing. YouGov ask a regular question asking if Brexit was the right or wrong decision – until the middle of last year it was typically showing an even split, in recent months it’s typically showing slightly more people think it was the wrong decision than the right one.

While it’s right to say people have moved against Brexit, it’s not right to say that most people want it stopped. If you ask people what the government should do now, the majority still want Brexit to go ahead in some way. The reason for this apparent paradox is that there is a minority of Remain voters who say the government should go ahead with Brexit – presumably because it is seen as democratic duty given the result of the referendum. One should be careful when interpreting individual polling results for this reason – you’ll sometimes find pro-Brexit sources representing polls showing a majority want to go ahead with Brexit as indicating majority support for Brexit, or anti-Brexit sources representing polls showing people disapprove of Brexit as opposing it going ahead. Neither appears to be true – looking at polling evidence in the whole the position appears to be that the public want Brexit to continue, despite starting to think it’s a bad idea.

Secondly, as ever it’s worth remembering that most people are really not that fussed about the details of Brexit. I could apply this caveat to almost any political issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth repeating. One reason that the ins and outs of the Brexit negotiations don’t make an impact on views is that people aren’t paying that much attention. 55% of people say they find news about Brexit boring (36% interesting). 47% of people say they are following Brexit very or fairly closely (itself probably an exaggeration) – 48% say they aren’t following it closely or at all.

Thirdly, support for a second referendum. Different polling companies produce very different results for this question, some (including the YouGov poll today) show more support than opposition for a second referendum, others show more people now support one. It seems to depend how the question is asked – wording along the lines of “asking the public” tends to provoke more support.

If a referendum was to happen, it would most likely be because of a government defeat in the Commons on the Brexit legislation or deal. The new YouGov poll asked whether people thought it was legitimate or not for the MPs to vote against Brexit. On the deal, the balance of opinion was that it was legitimate for MPs to block it – 42% thought it legitimate, 34% thought it was not. However, if it came to actually blocking Brexit itself the position swaps over – only 33% would see it as legitimate, 45% would not (as you might expect, it is mostly Remainers who see blocking Brexit as legitimate, most Leavers do not).

Finally the poll included some questions about whether the campaigns cheated in the referendum and the impact it had. Once again, people largely viewed it through the prism of their existing support for Remain or Leave.

  • 66% of Remain voters thought that the campaigns had cheated (39% Leave only, 3% Remain only and 24% both), and 45% of Remainers thought that if the campaigns had followed the rules Remain would have won.
  • 47% of Leave voters thought that the campaigns had cheated (14% Remain only, 4% Leave only and 29% both), but only 7% of Leavers thought that if the campaigns had followed the rules Remain would have won (16% thought Leave would have won more convincing had the rules been followed).

The full article on the YouGov website is here and the full tables are here.


ICM’s regular poll for the Guardian today has topline figures of CON 44%(+1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 8%(+1). Fieldwork was between Friday and Monday, and changes are from a fortnight ago. Tabs are here.

There was also an Opinium poll for the Observer at the weekend, which had toplines of CON 42%(nc), LAB 40%(+1), LDEM 6%(-1). Fieldwork for that was Tuesday to Thursday, and changes are from February. Tabs are here.

Both polls also asked questions about how political leaders had responded to the poisoning in Salisbury, finding a similar pattern to YouGov last week. ICM found people thought Theresa May had responded well to the Salisbury poisoning by 51% to 22%, and thought Jeremy Corbyn had responded badly by 42% to 23%. Opinium only asked about approval of May’s response, but 41% said they approved, 20% disapproved.

Neither the ICM nor Opinium poll has significant changes, so I’d be cautious about concluding that the poisoning has had any impact on political support. Nevertheless, if we look at the longer trend in public support it does look as though there has been a slight improvement in the Conservative position – late last year the polls were typically showing a small Labour lead, in the last couple of months they’ve averaged out with Labour and Conservative neck-and-neck. Whether that small change really matters is a different matter, we’re a long way from a scheduled general election and there are some very big “known unknowns”, like Brexit, before we get to one. A couple of points either way at this stage of the Parliament is neither here nor there.

Tonight’s Times has a YouGov poll conducted on Wednesday night and Thursday daytime, giving us our first steer on the public reaction to the poisoning in Salisbury.

73% of people in the poll think that Russia is responsible for the poisoning, 21% are unsure, 5% don’t think it was Russia. There is also broad public support for the government’s reaction – 60% support the measures they’ve announced so far and 14% are opposed. Asking more specifically about the response of the party leaders, 53% think Theresa May has responded well to the incident, 23% badly; 18% think Jeremy Corbyn has responded well, 39% badly (and 43% don’t know).

SkyData had a poll earlier on today which asked similar questions about how well respondents thought May and Corbyn were dealing with Russia, with very similar results. They found 61% thought May had done a good job, 29% a bad job; 18% thought Corbyn had done a good job, 57% a bad job.

Returning to the YouGov/Times poll, the voting intention figures are CON 42%(+1), LAB 39%(-4), LDEM 7%(nc). I’m sure people will be tempted to interpret that as Labour’s support taking a hit from their reaction to the poisoning… I’d be very cautious before concluding that. The changes are within the margin of error, and nothing we haven’t seen before (for example, while YouGov’s last few polls have shown Labour just ahead, they had another poll in early February showing a small Tory lead that turned out to be just a blip). If we see other polls showing a drop in Labour support then it will be a fair conclusion, but a relatively small change in a single poll could easily be co-incidence.

We’ve had three voting intention polls in the last couple of days:

  • Ipsos MORI‘s monthly political monitor had topline figures of CON 43%(+4), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(-3). Fieldwork was over last weekend (Fri-Wed), and changes are from January. Tabs are here.
  • YouGov/Times on Friday has toplines of CON 41%(nc), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 7%(nc). Fieldwork was Mon-Tues and changes are from last week. Tabs are here.
  • Survation/GMB, reported in the Sunday Mirror, has CON 37%(-3), LAB 44%(+1), LDEM 9%(+1). Fieldwork was Wednesday and Thursday, and changes are from the tail end of January. No tabs yet.

There is no clear trend – Labour is steady across the board, Survation have the Tories falling, MORI have them rising. MORI and YouGov show the two main parties neck-and-neck, Survation have a clear Labour lead.

The better Labour position in Survation is typical, but it’s not really clear why. As regular readers will know, Survation do both online and telephone voting intention polls. Their phone polls really do have a significantly different methodology – rather than random digit dialling, they randomly select phone numbers from consumer databases and ring those specific people. That would be an obvious possible explanation for a difference between Survation phone polls and polls from other companies. However, this poll wasn’t conducted by telephone, it was conducted online, and Survation’s online method is pretty similar to everyone else’s.

Survation’s online samples at the general election were much the same as everyone elses. The differences were down to other companies experimenting with things like demographic turnout modelling in order to solve the problems of 2015, approaches that ultimately ended up backfiring. However, polling companies that got it wrong have now dropped the innovations that didn’t work and largely gone back to simpler methods on turnout, meaning there is now no obvious reason for the difference.

Meanwhile, looking at the other questions in the surveys the YouGov poll also included their all their regular EU trackers, following Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches. Neither, unsusprisingly, seem to have made much difference. 29% of people think that the Conservative party’s policy on Brexit is clear, up on a week ago (25%) but still significantly down from January (37%). 36% of people say they support May’s approach to Brexit, barely changed from a week ago (35%). For Labour, just 18% of people now think their Brexit policy is clear (down from 22% straight after Corbyn’s speech), 21% of people say they support the approach that Jeremy Corbyn is taking towards Brexit.