Populus’s monthly poll in the Times also shows a boost for the Tories, up three points under their new leader, however unlike ICM and YouGov this is not enough for them to overtake Labour. The topline figures are CON 35%(+3), LAB 38%(-2), LDEM 19%(nc). In Peter Riddell’s commentary he suggests it may be because Populus conducted their poll slightly later than ICM and YouGov – personally I think the difference may simply be one of methodology – while before the election Populus and ICM weighted their polls almost identically, last month Populus weighted past Labour voters signficantly higher, and past Conservative voters significantly lower than ICM did.

(UPDATE – part of the difference was indeed this – if Populus had used ICM’s weightings it would have been LAB 37%, CON 36%. The Labour lead could, as Peter Riddell suggests, be the immediate rush of Cameron euphoria passing, but it could equally be normal variations within of margin of error)

While Labour retain a lead at the moment, Populus also asked how people will vote on the assumption that Gordon Brown becomes Labour leader by the time of the next election – the result would be CON 41%, Labour 35%. Hypothetical questions like this are just that – hypothetical – and you shouldn’t read too much into them. That said, this follows polls by ICM and YouGov that showed Labour performing worse under Brown than under Blair, and if polls continue to show that Brown would damage Labour’s electoral hopes it will over time damage his chances of succeeding Blair.

Populus also asked about the images of the political parties. David Cameron’s accession has not changed the underlying perceptions of the party – the number of people thinking the Tories are honest, or that they care about the problem of ordinary people, have not changed. What has significantly increased is the proportion of people thinking that the Tories have a good team of leaders, and are united. It’ll be interesting to see if David Cameron can build upon that to improve the more fundemental problems with the Tory image.

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