The latest YouGov poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 43%(+3), LAB 38%(-2), LDEM 8%(-1). The five point Conservative lead is the largest YouGov have shown since the general election.

The fieldwork was at the start of the week, so it is possible that this reflects a bump in government support from the Syria bombing – certainly “security and defence” has risen significantly on the question of what the most important issues facing the country are, up 5 points to 27%, the highest since July last year. While the bombing itself was not popular, polls did still find that people trusted Theresa May more to handle it than they did Jeremy Corbyn, so it’s plausible that an increase in the salience of security could boost the Tories. On the other hand, the changes are within the margin of error, so the increased lead may very well represent no more than normal random variation. Even if it is the impact of Syria and the lead is down to security increasing in salience, it will probably fade away once the political agenda moves onto something else.

It’s also worth noting that the fieldwork was before the row over the government’s handling of the immigration status of the Windrush generation so won’t take into account any impact from that (personally I suspect neither Syria nor the Windrush row will make any long term difference – voting intention seems to be very steady around neck-and-neck).

Full tabs for the poll are here.


There were four voting intention polls yesterday – an unusual flurry, largely it appears because of the military action in Syria. YouGov and Opinium were their regular polls, but ComRes seems to be asked on Wed & Thurs in order to measure support for an attack beforehand, Survation was conducted on Saturday to measure support afterwards.

YouGov‘s voting intention figures for the Times yesterday were CON 40%(-2), LAB 40%(-1), LDEM 9%(+2). Fieldwork was Monday and Tuesday and changes are from the previous week. We’ve already seen YouGov polling on Syria earlier in the week, which asked specifically about missile attacks and found 22% support, 43% opposed. Tabs for the voting intention poll are here.

Opinium for the Observer had topline figures of CON 40%(-2), LAB 40%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1). Fieldwork was Tuesday to Thursday. It included only the briefest of questions on Syria; asked which leader people would trust the most to respond to the situation 35% said Theresa May, 20% said Jeremy Corbyn. The full details of the poll are here.

ComRes for the Sunday Express is the first voting intention poll the company have produced since the general election (I was beginning to ponder whether they’d given it up!). Looking at methodology changes, ComRes appear to have dropped the socio-economic turnout model that resulted in such problems at the last election and returned to essentially the methodology they used at the 2015 election, weighting by just standard demogs and past vote, and weighting by self-assessed likelihood to vote. This produced topline figures very much in line with everyone else – CON 40%, LAB 41%, LDEM 7%.

On Syria, ComRes asked about whether people agreed Britain should join the US and France in taking “military action against President Assad in Syria”. 29% of people agreed, 36% disagreed, and 35% didn’t know… another poll showing the balance of opinion opposed to strikes. Full tabs are here.

Survation for the Mail on Sunday is the only poll conducted after the missile attacks, with fieldwork wholly conducted during the day on Saturday. As regular readers will know, Survation typically show the largest Labour leads in their polling, but today’s figures are very much in line with everyone else – CON 40%(+2), LAB 40%(-5), LDEM 9%(nc).

Survation asked about whether people supported the “missile strikes on Syrian government facilities overnight in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack”. 36% of people said they supported it, 40% said they were opposed – a closer division than in some of the pre-strike polling, which may be because the question specifically linked it to the chemical attack, or may be because people just become more supportive once it has actually happened.

Survation also found 54% of people thought May should have sought Parliamentary support beforehand (30% did not), but on balance tend to approve of how she has handled the situation. 37% think she has dealt with it well, 29% badly. In contrast 19% think that Jeremy Corbyn has handled it well, 36% badly. Full tables are here.

Looking at the situation overall, headline voting intention polls continue to show Labour and Conservative neck-and-neck on average. On Syria, differently worded questions produced results that vary from clear opposition to just slightly more opposition than support, but it’s clear the public did not whole-heartedly support military action in Syria.


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This morning there was a new YouGov/Times poll asking about whether Britain should take part in military intervention in Syria.

A solid majority of the public believe that there probably was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government or their allies – 61% agree, compared to 5% who believe that the attack was a fabrication, and 5% who believe neither claim. 29% do not know.

This does not, however, translate into support for military action. By 51% to 17% people oppose sending Britain and allied troops into Syria to remove Assad. The more likely option of a cruise missile attack on Syrian military targets also faces fairly solid opposition – just 22% would support it, 43% are opposed.

60% of people say they would support enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, though given the opposition to other military options one suspects this could be because a “no fly zone” is a rather peaceful sounding euphemism for something that would in practice also involve attacking anti-air defences or the Syrian air force. The full tabs for the polling are here.

While the YouGov figures suggest that there is little public support for Britain getting involved in military action against Syria, there was also some Sky Data polling yesterday which was less clear. Asked if people would support or oppose “UK military action in response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria” 36% said support, 37% said oppose. However, asked about UK military action that might result in conflict with Russia, only 28% said they would support, 48% said they were opposed. Tabs are here.

The reason for that higher level support in that first Sky Data poll is unclear. It could be because the chemical attack was mentioned in the question, or perhaps because it asked about a vague “miliary action” rather than the more specific actions in the YouGov questions. Either way, it is clear that the public are, at best, ambivalent towards military action in Syria, with opposition to most specific proposals and to intervention that risks conflict with Russia.


Today’s Observer has, inevitably, news of someone else who wants to set up a New Centrist Party (NCP). Hence, to save some of the phone calls I’ll get tomorrow asking whether the polls suggest a NCP would actually do well, here’s my answer.

First, one should not assume that there is actually a big appetite for a new party in the place some in the commentariat seem to think there is. While most of the public consider themselves to be at or around the political centre, this does not mean there is a consensus about what that centre is, or that those people who consider themselves to be in the “centre” necessarily share their views with what the Westminster/media think the “centre” means. Public opinion tends to the left on economics, and is quite right-wing on more cultural issues like immigration and crime. There may well be a gap for a political party putting forward that combination of views, but it doesn’t seem to be the same gap that most of the proposed centrist parties are seeking to fill, which often seem to be aimed at a far more liberal worldview.

Even assuming there is a gap to be filled, can we tell how well it would do? Could you do a poll asking how many people would support a new party is one of the most depressing questions I get asked. It is one of those things that opinion polling simply can’t do very well. If you were setting up a NCP there is certainly lots of useful things market research could tell you about which demographic groups are most open to considering it, which messages would chime, what obstacles it would face – but in terms of predicting how well it would actually do? No, it can’t be done in any sort of useful way.

Imagine someone set up a new NCP in the UK. How would you ask a question measuring its support? Well, you can’t just say would you vote Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem or NCP, as no one would know what the hell NCP was or what it stood for. But if you tell people in the question all about this new party, then you are essentially giving it a little advert, pushing all its positive attributes in the question and putting it at the forefront of people’s minds, so that would be hideously leading. Also, what about all the other things that drive voting intention apart from policies? What about existing party loyalties? Who the party leader is? What about about how seriously the media take it? What about whether your friends and collegues are all talking about it, or have never heard of it? What about whether it is seen as a serious contender, or as a wasted vote in a tight Con -vs- Lab battle? Whether people would vote for a new party is dependent on so many unknown hypothetical questions it is impossible to expect people to give any sort of useful answer.

Today’s Observer has a news story about another NCP that may or may not be launched. Except, wasn’t there another one of those a month or two ago? And another one a few months before that? Didn’t George Osborne’s old Spad set one up? If you look throught the Electoral Commission’s list of registered parties there are a fair few examples of people setting up new Centrist, pro-European parties over the last couple of years, none of which have made any impact at all. This is not because of their political positioning (I expect all have espoused very similar views), but because no one really noticed them or considered them a serious electoral contender.

A party with £50 million to spend on publicity should at least get noticed, but a lot more will depend on how seriously it is taken. Do established MPs who bring credibility and a voice in Parliament defect to it? Is it reported along the main parties in media? Does it make a leader who is known to the public and seen as a viable, potential Prime Minister? How, under FPTP, does it propose to deal with the Liberal Democrats who are fishing for the same vote? Those are the actual obstacles facing a new party getting off the starting line (let alone actually being a success at elections), and opinion polls can’t predict how well they’d deal with them.


This morning’s Times has their regular YouGov polling figures, a chance to see if the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the Labour party has had any actual impact outside the Westminster bubble. Asked if Jeremy Corbyn is doing a good or bad job as Labour leader, 56% now think he is doing badly (up from 37% back in December), 31% think he is doing well (down from 45% in December). It’s a big drop, but since the question was last asked at the tail end of last year one cannot necessarily assume it is due to the anti-Semitism row, many other things have happened in the last three months.

More importantly, it doesn’t seem to have had any real effect on voting intention. Topline vi figures remain neck-and-neck, with Labour actually a couple of points up on last week’s poll (though the change is well within the normal margin of error) – CON 42%(-1), LAB 41%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1).