Saturday’s Times had the latest YouGov voting intention results, which were CON 40%(nc), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc).

It also had results from a poll asking about the media allegations about Jeremy Corbyn having met a Czech spy in the 1980s, which clearly illustrated why such things make very little difference.

To start with, most people pay very little attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics. 40% of people said they had been completely unaware of the story until taking the survey, a further 31% said they had noticed it, but hadn’t really paid it any attention. That leaves less than a third who had actually taken it in. Obviously things that no one notices have no real impact, especially since those people who do watch political news stories will disproportionately be those who are interested in politics and have firm political allegiances.

Asked if they thought the allegations were true, the results were as you’d expect. A large majority of Labour voters thought that Jeremy Corbyn probably had a perfectly innocent meeting with someone he thought was a diplomat, and that he probably didn’t give any information to any Czech agents. The only people who believed it were Conservatives. This is typical of such allegations: people view them through the prism of their existing political allegiences. If it’s an allegation against a party you support, you are likely to view it with scepticism and give the politician concerned the benefit of the doubt, if it’s an allegation against a party you dislike then it will confirm all the negative things you thought already.

Finally, YouGov asked if the spy allegations and the way Jeremy Corbyn had responded to them had changed people’s opinions of Jeremy Corbyn at all. Only 8% of people said it had made them think more negatively about him (and they were mostly Tories to begin with). 6% said it made them think better of Corbyn (and they were mostly Labour voters to begin with). A hearty 64% said it made no difference at all.

Full results for the voting intention are here, and the Corbyn results are here.


YouGov poll of London

YouGov have a new poll of London for Queen Mary University of London. Westminster voting intention in London stands are CON 33%, LAB 53%, LDEM 8% – little different from at the general election.

More interesting, given we are only a few months away from the London council elections in May, are local government voting intentions of CON 28%(+2), LAB 54%(+17), LDEM 11%(+1), GRN 4%(-6) UKIP 2%(-10). Changes are since the last London local elections which were back in 2014, on the same day as the European Parliament elections.

If these figures were to be reflected in May’s elections it would be an extremely strong performance for Labour, building upon 2014 results which were already pretty strong. Exactly how good it would be in terms of seats and councils gained depends on how the vote is distributed. The figures suggest a very different picture in inner and outer London. In inner London the poll suggests a swing of 13 points from Conservative to Labour – that would be enough for Labour to win the “flagship” Tory borough of Wandsworth (controlled by the Conservatives since 1978) and Westminster (controlled by the Conservatives since it was created in 1964). However, it wouldn’t necessarily net Labour a huge number of extra councillors since in many inner London boroughs like Islington, Lambeth and Lewisham Labour already hold the overwhelming majority of the councillors anyway.

In outer London, where the Conservatives are likely to be picking up votes that went to UKIP last time, the poll suggests a much smaller swing to Labour – something around four points. That would be enough for Labour to take Barnet, but the Conservatives would probably be able to hold onto other outer London councils where Labour are the main challengers. The battle between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in South West London is, of course, difficult to discern from a Londonwide poll.

The full tabs for the London poll are here.

There was also a new GB poll out today from ICM for the Guardian. Topline figures there are CON 42%(+1), LAB 43%(+3), LDEM 7%(-1). Tabs are here.


-->

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.