ComRes have a new poll out in the Telegraph. Topline voting intention figures with changes from last month are CON 25%(+2), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 16%(-1), BREX 19%(-3).

The Telegraph headline their report on hypothetical questions asking how people would vote if Boris Johnson was Tory leader, I’m rather sceptical of the worth of such questions when it’s a hypothetical that actually appears to almost certainly happen in a week or two’s time, but there goes. For what it’s worth, in the hypothetical Boris question the voting intentions are CON 32%(-5), LAB 25%(+3), LDEM 17%(-3), BREX 14%(nc) – a substantial drop in Conservative support from the same hypothetical question a month ago, suggesting perhaps it wasn’t such an effective prediction of Boris’s future impact.

Anyway, my general assumption is that parties normally do get something of a boost from new leaders, if only from the news coverage, enthusiasm of their supporters and whatever the new leader has planned to make an early impact. We shall see for real in the coming weeks.

As ever, other polls are also available – there have been two other voting intention polls this month:

Opinium in the Observer at the weekend had topline figures of CON 23%, LAB 25%, LDEM 15%, BREX 22%, GRN 8% (tabs here)
YouGov in the Times last week had topline figures of CON 24%, LAB 18%, LDEM 20%, BREX 23%, GRN 9% (tabs here)

There remains a significant difference between polling companies, most notably on the level of support recorded for the Labour party. The reason for this is unclear – polling companies these days are not taking radically different approaches towards turnout modelling or reallocating don’t knows, nor in how the questions are asked (though whether the Brexit party or Greens are prompted may be making a difference in some cases). By default that means the differences are more likely to be down to sampling make up – whether by the way respondents are sampled or weighted, companies are interviewing slightly different people. Specially, some companies seem to get Labour voters who are more loyal than others. I suspect some of this may be down to weighting variables (the measures polling companies choose to use, such as whether they control on education or political interest), perhaps some down to when past vote weighting data is collected – whether it is collected in the survey itself, or was collected at the time of the election (or in the case of MORI, whether past vote weighting is avoided entirely).

My advice, as ever, is to avoid the temptation of assuming that the polls that you’d like to be accurate are the ones that are, and that polls with results that you dislike are wrong ones that can be ignored.

However, it is probably worth paying some attention to polling for the European election results in May. At those elections we saw a very similar difference across polling companies, with extremely large spreads in terms of Labour support (final polls varied from 13% to 25%). It did tend to be the same companies showing high and low Labour support, the most obvious explanations did appear to be down to sampling, and when comparing to final results those companies showing low levels of Labour support were substantially more accurate. I am cautious about how much weight to put on these – after all, along with Ipsos MORI who were most accurate, my own company did conspicuously well here, and I wouldn’t want to fall into wishful thinking myself. There are obviously different challenges in polling low and high turnout elections (and other companies have other questions to ask about, for example, Brexit party support), but I would have thought that, in the absence of changes or explanations, it would sensible to be somewhat cautious of polls at the top end of Labour support if those same polls have very recently overstated Labour support in a national election.


On Saturday YouGov released a new poll of Tory party members for the Times, timed to coincide with ballot papers going out and members actually starting to cast their votes. If the race was to be in any way close it would really need to have shown a substantial drop in Boris Johnson’s lead. It did not show any drop at all – Boris Johnson continued to have a 48 point lead over Jeremy Hunt, 74% to 26%.

Boris Johnson’s private life was seen as irrelevant, members would be happier with him as leader, trusted him more, thought he would be a better Prime Minister. In terms of the race itself, the poll was very much cut and dried. With that in mind, perhaps the more interesting thing to look at is members’ expectations. Despite Boris Johnson’s stated aim, only 45% of party members think he will actually be able to negotiate a better deal. His attraction seems more because 90% of members think he would be prepared to leave without one. Even then, only 54% of party members think a Johnson led party would actually end up leaving without a deal by Oct 31st (26% think he will leave with a deal, 13% that we won’t have left by then). Even so, most party members don’t seem to be in the mood to set red lines – only 34% think that it would be a resigning offence if the new leader failed to deliver Brexit by October 31st.

Full tables are here.

Since I’ve been asked about it by a lot of journalists over the last week or so, I should probably also explain a bit more about how polling party members works. First up, it is hard. If you think about the traditional approaches towards polling, they simply aren’t plausible for polling members of political parties. The Conservative party themselves are not likely to provide polling companies with a list of party members’s contact details to randomly select people from. Given far less than 1% of the population are Conservative party members it is certainly not feasible to randomly ring people up in the hope of finding Conservative party members, neither do members live in geographically concentrated areas that would make the sort of clustered face-to-face sampling that is sometimes used for BME polling feasible. Apart from an academic study in the 1990s that had the co-operation of the party itself, polling of party members was simply impossible before the advent of internet polling.

The only way that it is possible these days is to use an internet panel, either a small, specially recruited one like ConHome’s mailing list, or the way YouGov do it – by having a panel of the general public that is so large that you can draw very niche samples like party members from within it. YouGov identify Conservative members as part of the general process of collecting demographic information about respondents – as well as age, gender, occupation and so on panellists are asked if they are a member of organisations such as the National Trust, WI, RSPB, English Heritage, Conservative party, Labour party and so on. The parties are asked alongside other organisations, at neutral times (and the occasional clever bugger who claims to be a member of every party to get into all the surveys is excluded from them all). Party membership is asked again during the survey to check answers are consistent.

It remains tricky however because of a lack of demographic targets. For normal polling of the British public quotas and weights will be set based on known demographics of the target population. For example, we know from the census and ONS population estimates that around 49% of the adult population in Britain are male, 51% female, so polling companies will ensure samples reflect that. The Conservative party does not publish any such targets, so polling companies are flying a little blind. YouGov estimate targets based on the demographics of party members on our wider panel and known skews within it, but it poses an additional difficulty.

So polls of party members pose particular challenges, but in this case Boris Johnson’s lead is so large and, more importantly, so consistent across groups that he is likely to win regardless. He leads among different age groups, men and women, working class and middle class, and every region – so in the event that the balance of those groups were a bit off, it wouldn’t change the victor. The only group Jeremy Hunt leads amongst is those party members who voted to Remain.

For whats worth, YouGov’s record of polling party leadership contests has been extremely good in the past. If anything, the problems that have bedevilled polls in recent decades and companies have spent so much time and money addressing – getting respondents who are too interested in politics – have been a positive in recruiting respondents to polls of party members.


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