YouGov’s regular voting intention poll this week has topline figures of CON 40%(-3), LAB 41%(+2), LDEM 8%(nc). Fieldwork was on Monday and Tuesday and changes are since last week. Full tabs are here. The movement towards Labour here is likely to be just a reversion to the mean after an unusual outlier last week. As ever, one shouldn’t put too much weight on unusual movement in voting intention polls when there is no obvious reason to expect a change, more often than not they’ll turn out to just to random sample variation.

And, for the benefit of the weird 500 post mumsnet thread about why Labour are losing women, based on a crossbreak in last week’s poll than showed Labour dropping six points among women, Labour are back up by five points among women this week. Demographic crossbreaks in polls have smaller samples, hence are more volatile and can bounce about a lot from poll to poll, often producing strange things. In something as subtle as voting intention where a difference of a few points can change the picture completely the crossbreaks in individual polls are best just ignored. If you really want to look at the demographic breakdown of voting intention, look for trends across a large number of polls over a period of time and look for consistent change – don’t jump on a figure in a single poll that fits a convenient narrative.

Last week I wrote about the unusual YouGov poll showing a four point Conservative lead and said I personally thought it was more likely to be statistical noise than the first sign of the Conservatives opening up a lead in voting intention.

However, at the weekend we also had a new poll from Opinium that had topline figures of CON 42%(+2), LAB 39%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1). Fieldwork was Tues-Thursday and changes were from mid-January (tabs). This morning’s Independent reported partial figures from a new BMG poll that apparently had Labour and Conservative equal on 40% each – this would be an increase of three points in the level of Tory support since the last BMG poll in December.

The government have done little to endear themselves to the public in the last few weeks, nor have Labour done much to lose support. There is no obvious reason for movement in the polls, so I’m still a little sceptical (in themselves the changes are within the margin of error, and it’s perfectly possible for random chance to spit out a couple of polls that just happen to show movement in the same direction). Nevertheless, it’s possible we’re seeing some movement in the government’s direction. If we are, what should we make of it?

This far from the next timetabled general election voting intention polls have very little predictive value, all the more so when we have a known unknown as large as Brexit looming ahead of us and at least a fair chance of a change of Conservative leader before the next election. However for better or worse, mid-term voting intention is the barometer that we tend to use to measure how well the government and opposition are doing against each other, and that is reflected in the morale of the political parties and media perceptions of how well or badly they are doing. If it turns out to be genuine it may bolster Theresa May’s position a little, and may put Labour on the back foot, but we shall see.


The latest YouGov poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 43%(+1), LAB 39%(-3), LDEM 8%(+2). Fieldwork was Monday to Tuesday, changes are from last week. The full tables are here.

The big risk when watching opinion polls is to pay too much attention to exciting looking outliers and not enough to run-of-the-mill polls showing not much has changed. Polls have a margin of error, and normal sample variation spits out unusual results sometimes even when public opinion is actually unchanged. Before one gets too excited about an unusual or interesting looking poll one should wait to see if it is replicated in other polls or is just a blip. Sure, this could be the start of the Tories opening up a lead, but it could just be random noise. Given the government’s current travails, I think it’s more likely to be noise, but we shall see.

As ever, the thing to watch is the trend across the polls as a whole. So far 2018 has produced two polls showing small Tory leads, three polls showing the parties equal, five polls showing small Labour leads, suggesting that the actual picture is that the Conservatives and Labour have very similar levels of support. That itself is interesting – the Conservative government often seem paralysed by infighting and are doing very little except for Brexit (which most people think they are doing badly). Yet they remain equal with the opposition when past governments stuck in similar mires – such as those of Gordon Brown or John Major – trailed badly. I can see a couple of possible explanations – it could just be that the public aren’t paying attention, there is so little happening in politics and they are so turned off that they aren’t noticing this stuff. Alternatively, it could be that people are just lined up along EU divisions – for now, the Conservatives are the party that’s delivering Brexit, so those who want Britain to leave are sticking with the Tories. A third possibility is that Labour have reached a ceiling in their support – Jeremy Corbyn may be very popular among Labour supporters, but he is anathema to others and the alternative of Corbyn’s Labour is propping up Conservative support that might otherwise be faltering. Naturally, these are not mutually exclusive.

Meanwhile, in the interests of reporting the non-exciting poll figures, the YouGov tracker on whether Brexit was the right or wrong decision has returned to normality after an unusual figure last week. 43% think it was the right decision, 44% the wrong decision – typical of recent months.

ICM’s regular poll for the Guardian is out today and has topline voting intention figures of CON 41%(nc), LAB 40%(-1), LDEM 8%(+1). Fieldwork ws Friday to Sunday and changes are from the large ICM poll in mid-January. Tabs are here.

The latest Survation poll meanwhile has topline figures of CON 40%(+3), LAB 43%(-2), LDEM 8%(+2). Fieldwork was the previous weekend, and changes are since the start of December. While Labour’s lead has fallen away since the previous poll, I suspect this is largely a reversion to the mean after an unusual poll last time. Full tabs are here.

Survation also ask how people would vote in a second referendum on EU membership (and unlike some other polls that ask this question, weight it by likelihood to vote!). In the latest poll the figures are Remain 51%, Leave 49%.

YouGov’s regular voting intention figures this week are CON 42%(+1), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(-1). Fieldwork was Sunday to Monday and changes are from mid-January, showing the stable levels of support that have become the norm in recent months.

One thing that is notable in the tracker questions is the question on whether Brexit was the right or wrong decision: 40% said right, 46% said wrong. Six points is the largest lead for “wrong” that YouGov have shown in this tracker, which has provoked some comment. In YouGov’s last poll there was a blip in the opposite direction and the results put “right” ahead for the first time in months. That didn’t mean anything in hindsight, so I’d urge caution on this one too. All polls have a margin of error, so you get extremes one way or the other – the thing to pay attention to the trend (which does now tend to show slightly more people think it’s the wrong decision than the right one) rather than get wrongly excited about the outliers.

Full tabs are here.