A quick post about the YouGov poll in Friday’s Times. Topline Westminster voting intention figures are CON 19%, LAB 19%, LDEM 24%, BREXIT 22%.

These are obviously startling figures, unprecedented even. There are historical examples of third parties taking the lead (Cleggmania, for example, or the early successes of the SDP-Liberal Alliance), but I don’t think there are any when the Conservatives and Labour were both pushed out of the top two.

However, even leaving aside the traditional warning that this is “just one poll”, this is one poll conducted in the immediate aftermath of the European elections. Part of what we are seeing is a boost for the Liberal Democrats and Brexit party from doing well in the Euros, getting lots of media coverage and looking like winners. Under normal circumstances we would expect that boost to fade in time (though a success for either of them at the Peterborough by-election could potentially keep it going).

Realistically though, we’ve got several weeks of coverage of the Conservative leadership election ahead of us, followed by the media circus around the elevation of a new Prime Minister. The media agenda will move back towards Labour and the Conservatives, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t seem one or other of them move back into the lead.

Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable poll, and like the election results last week, again brings home the extent to which Brexit is tearing apart the party identities, loyalties and assumptions that have traditionally underpinned our electoral politics. Our party system really does seem to be straining under the pressure. I don’t expect it to break just yet, but looking ahead we still have Brexit itself to deliver (or not, as the case may be). There is almost certainly plenty more political instability to come.


To start with, here’s an update of all the pre-election polls (Ipsos MORI, Survation and NCPolitics all published theirs on the morning of election day, after my last post).

Note that ComRes and Hanbury also produced polls during the campaign, but not with fieldwork conducted on or after the final weekend of the campaign. For what it’s worth, they tended to show high Labour support, though we’ll never know what their polls would have shown in the final week.

Needless to say, the pre-election polls varied wildly from one another for all the main parties. Labour had a twelve point spread (13% to 25%), the Conservatives eight points (7% to 15%), the Liberal Democrats (12% to 20%), the Brexit party eleven points (27% to 38%). In the event, the polls that had low Labour scores and high Liberal Democrat scores were closest to reality. Compared to the final results, Ipsos MORI took the laurels, getting close to the correct result for all parties. YouGov were next, getting within a point or two of most parties but overstating the Brextit party. Other companies recorded significant errors, with a few double-digit overstatements of Labour support.

It is difficult to point at a single obvious cause for the wide variation. When there were huge differences between polls at the 2017 election the reasons the were clear: pollsters had adopted demographic turnout models and other post-fieldwork adjustments which backfired and overstated Tory support. There is no such easy explanation for the 2019 polls – pollsters have mainly reversed the missteps of 2017 and, while there are some variations in approaches to turnout, the elaborate turnout models that made such a difference in 2017 have disappeared. Different approaches to turnout perhaps explain differences of a point or two, they don’t explain differences of 10 points. The differences here look as if they are more likely to be down to pollsters’ different approaches to sampling or weighting, and the representativeness of their samples.

From the beginning these European elections were going to be a challenge. They are a low turnout election, when at recent elections polls have struggled to correctly reflect the demographic pattern of turnout. In recent decades most British pollsters have also relied upon past-vote weighting to ensure their polls are politically representative, and this was an election when past vote was a particularly poor predictor of current voting intention.

In terms of what this means for wider polling, errors here don’t necessarily transfer directly across to Westminster polls. The challenges posed by high-turnout elections can be very different to those posed by low-turnout elections and just because some polls overstated Labour support in the European elections does not necessarily mean they are overstating Labour support for general elections. On the other hand, given the recent history of errors, it probably isn’t something we in the polling industry should be complacent about.


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There are five polls with fieldwork conducted at least partially since the weekend – I don’t know if there are more to come overnight (I think there may be at least one more. ComRes and Survation have both polled during the campaign, but I don’t know if either are doing a final call):

Panelbase (14th-21st May) – BREX 30%, LAB 25%, LDEM 15%, CON 12%, GRN 7%, ChUK 3%, UKIP 3% (tabs
Kantar (14th-21st May) – BREX 27%, LAB 24%, LDEM 15%, CON 13%, GRN 8%, ChUK 5%, UKIP 4% (tabs)
Opinium (17th-20th May) – BREX 38%, LAB 17%, LDEM 15%, CON 12%, GRN 7%, ChUK 3%, UKIP 2%
YouGov (19th-21st May) – BREX 37%, LAB 13%, LDEM 19%, CON 7%, GRN 12%, ChUK 4%, UKIP 3% (tabs)
BMG (20th-22nd May) – BREX 35%, LAB 18%, LDEM 17%, CON 12%, GRN 8%, ChUK 4%, UKIP 2% (tabs

The broad story across the polls is the same – the Brexit party are ahead, Conservative support has utterly collapsed, the Lib Dems are doing well in the mid-to-high teens, and both Change UK and UKIP have failed to shine. There is more variation in the detail, and particularly in how well or badly Labour are doing. Kantar and Panelbase have them not far behind the Brexit party; Opinium and BMG have them down in the teens, YouGov have them below the Liberal Democrats in third place.

This isn’t an election like 2017 when pollsters took very different approaches and the differences are easy to explain. The polling companies aren’t taking radically different approaches – there are some differences in turnout modelling (BMG and Opinium, for example, are taking only those most certain to vote, which will be boosting the Brexit party and Lib Dems), Kantar are estimating the likely vote who say don’t know based on their demographics and answers to other questions, which explains their comparative low figure for the Brexit party (they’d be on 31% otherwise). And don’t overlook simple things like when the fieldwork was conducted – all the polls have been showing a downwards trend in Labour support, so it may not be co-incidence that the polls from Panelbase & Kantar whose earliest fieldwork is over a week old have higher support for Labour.

The bottom line however is that this is a tricky election. Firstly, turnout for European elections is normally low (and one of the problems with polls in recent years is getting too many of the sort of people who vote, and not enough of those who don’t bother). Secondly, most polling companies rely on some degree to weighting by past general election vote to make sure their samples are representative, as how people voted at previous elections normally correlates pretty well with their current vote. An election like this, when an awful lot of people are not voting for the party that they voted for at the last election, will make those techniques less effective. We shall see on Sunday.

In the meantime, several people have asked me about exit polls tomorrow. There won’t be any. The big, offical BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll is only conducted at general elections anyway, but even if they wanted to, they couldn’t do one tomorrow. For the European elections the rules that ban the publication of exit polls until after polls close apply across Europe, so it wouldn’t be legal to public any exit poll until the polls have closed everywhere in the European Union… and some countries won’t finish voting until Sunday night.


The Times have released a new YouGov poll of party members – the report is here and the tables here.

Theresa May’s time is essentially up. Party members are normally the loyalist of the loyal, but even here there are few good words to be said. Only 20% of her own members think she is doing well and 79% think she should resign. Asked about her record, 25% of Tory party members think she has been a poor Prime Minister, 38% a terrible Prime Minister.

Let us therefore move swiftly onto her replacement. The obvious frontrunner with party members remains Boris Johnson. He is seen as a good leader by 64% to 31%, and is the first choice of 39% of party members, easily ahead of his rivals. He has the highest positive ratings on every measure YouGov asked about – 77% of party members think he has a likeable personality, 70% that he would be able to win a general election, 69% that he shares their outlook, 67% that he is up to the job, 69% that he would be a strong leader, 61% that he would be competent.

Johnson is very clearly in pole position – yet in past Conservative leadership elections the clear early frontrunner has not necessarily gone on to win (and indeed, there is no guarantee that Johnson will even reach the final round or get to be voted on by party members). One can recall the time when Michael Portillo was the obvious frontrunner to succeed William Hague, or David Davis the obvious frontrunner to succeed Michael Howard.

Looking at the rest of the field, Dominic Raab is in second place in first preferences on 13%. As the other candidate to have resigned from the cabinet – and likely to be see as a “true Brexiteer” by members – he comes closest to Johnson in the head-to-head match ups and beats ever other candidate in head-to-head figures. Considering he has a substantially lower profile than Johnson, it is a positive finding.

Of the Brexiteers in the cabinet, Michael Gove is the second best known candidate after Johnson, but polls badly on many counts. While most see him as competent and up to the job, he is not seen as capable of winning an election or having a likeable personality. Andrea Leadsom is seen as likeable, but not as an election winner. Penny Mordaunt receives high don’t know figures on most scores.

Looking at the candidates who backed Remain in the referendum, Sajid Javid seems best placed candidate from that wing of the party. In first preferences he is in joint third with Michael Gove, and in the head to head scores he would beat Hunt, Hancock, Mordaunt or Stewart (and tie with Leadsom). He scores well on being likeable, competent and up to the job, but his figures are more mixed on being seen as an election winner.

These are, of course, only the opinions of party members. While they will have the final say, they do not get a say on who makes the shortlist. That is down to MPs, and as things stand there is very scant information on who is doing well or badly among that electorate.


Today’s Sunday papers have the first polls conducted since the local elections, from Opinium and ComRes.

Opinium for the Observer have Westminster voting intentions of CON 22%(-4), LAB 28%(-5), LDEM 11%(+5), BREX 21%(+4), GRN 6%(+2), ChUK 4%(nc), UKIP 4%(nc). Fieldwork was between Wednesday and Friday, and changes are from late April. Full tables are here.

ComRes for BrexitExpress have voting intentions of CON 19%(-4), LAB 27%(-6), LDEM 14%(+7), BREX 20%(+6), GRN 5%(+2), ChUK 7%(-2), UKIP 3%(-2). Fieldwork appears to be all on Thursday, and changes are since mid-April.

Both polls have Labour and the Conservatives rapidly shedding support, with support growing for the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit party. I suspect we are seeing a combination of factors at work here, most obviously there is the continuing collapse in Conservative support over Brexit, a trend we’ve been seeing since the end of March, with support moving to parties with a clearer pro-Brexit policy. Originally that favoured UKIP too, now it is almost wholly going to the Brexit party.

Secondly there is the impact of the local elections and the Liberal Democrat successes there. For several years the Lib Dems seemed moribund and struggled to be noticed. The coverage of their gains at the local elections seems to have given them a solid boost in support, more so than the other anti-Brexit parties – for now at least, they seem to be very much alive & well again.

Third is the impact of the European elections. People are obviously more likely to vote for smaller parties in the European elections and in current circumstances obviously appear more willing to lend their vote to a different party in protest over Brexit. To some degree this will be influencing other voting intention figures as well, so I would treat Westminster voting intention figures with some scepticism in the run up to the European elections (and probably in the immediate aftermath as well, when those parties who do well will likely recieve a further boost in support).

In short, these are startling results – but we have seen startling results before (look at the polls at the height of SDP support, or just after the expenses scandal broke, or during Cleggmania). These are indeed very unusual results – the combined level of Con-Lab support in these polls are some of the very lowest we’ve seen, the Conservative share in the ComRes poll almost their lowest ever (I can find only a single Gallup poll with a lower figure, from back in 1995). What we cannot tell at the moment is whether this portends a serious readjustment of the parties, or whether things will return to more familar patterns once the European elections have passed, the Conservatives have a new leader and (assuming it ever happens) Brexit is in some way settled.

Both polls also had voting intention figures for the European Parliament elections

Opinium Euro VI – CON 11%, LAB 21%, LDEM 12%, BREX 34%, GRN 8%, ChUK 3%, UKIP 4%
ComRes Euro VI – CON 13%, LAB 25%, LDEM 14%, BREX 27%, GRN 8%, ChUK 6%, UKIP 3%

Both have the Brexit party ahead, though they are doing considerably better with Opinium than with ComRes. In both cases the Liberal Democrats have recieved a post-local election boost, putting them above the Conservatives in European voting intentions.