This month’s ICM poll for the Guardian is out and has topline figures of CON 39%(+3), LAB 36%(-1), LDEM 15%(+1), Others 10%(-3). ICM normally show the best figures for the Liberal Democrats and the worst figures for Labour for methodological reasons, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they they putting Labour in a worse position than other recent polls, what is interesting is the direction of travel. While different polling companies have methodological differences that tend to favour one party or another, they normally all show the same direction of travel. YouGov’s daily polls, ComRes, MORI and Angus Reid have all suggested a movement back to Labour in recent polls, this (and Opinium’s last poll) show a movement back to the Conservatives. As such I’ll add my normal caveat – sure, it could be the Tory boost… or it could be normal variation within the margin of error.

For methodology anoraks, it’s also worth noting that this the first of ICM’s monthly Guardian polls to include mobile phones in its sample. I don’t know what, if any, impact that has on results (it may well, before anyone leaps to conclusions, be none whatsoever).

The other questions unsurprisingly looked towards this week’s budget. On which team was best to run the economy respondents preferred Cameron & Osborne to Miliband & Balls by 42% to 25%. On prospective budget measures, 67% of people thought the 50p top rate of tax should be kept, 62% would support a mansion tax and 47% supported stopping child benefit for households with higher rate taxpayers.

UPDATE: YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun meanwhile has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%. Clearly no movement back to the Conservatives there.

Inevitably many of you reading this will be asking why the big difference. Well, there are a couple of obvious reasons. Firstly there is likelihood to vote. YouGov do not filter or weight by how likely people say they are to vote. ICM weight respondents by how likely they are to vote, and also weight down people who did not vote in the last general election. This helps the Tories and hurts Labour, and according to the Guardian’s write up without the likelihood to vote weighting Labour would have been ahead in ICM’s poll.

Secondly there is how the two companies treat don’t knows. YouGov’s figures are based only on how people say they would vote in an election tomorrow – people who say they don’t know how they would vote are ignored. ICM on the other hand make an educated guess as to how the don’t knows would vote, assuming that 50% of them will vote for the party they voted for in 2010. This normally gives the Liberal Democrats a significant boost.

Finally, there is normal margin of error, the random variation between one sample and the next that is unavoidable in all polls. Because we get daily polls from YouGov we can be fairly certain that their underlying average is a Labour lead of five points or so, and daily polls fluctuate randomly around that: today’s is clearly a little bit more Laboury than of late. From ICM we have just the one monthly poll, but it’s possible that normal variation has produced a sample slightly more Conservative than usual (it’s equally possible that the sample is more Labour than usual, but that would hardly help explain the difference!).

Beyond this there are all sorts of other factors that produce variation between different polling companies figures (what figures they weight to and particularly what political weights they use, when the weighting data is collected, how they sample, what questions they ask, etc). All of these go together to produce the “house effects” of the different companies – which are more favourable to Labour or the Tories or the Lib Dems. Most of the time (with today being an unusual exception that I expect will vanish soon enough), all the companies show the same trend…and away from elections that’s the thing to watch.

75 Responses to “New ICM and YouGov polls”

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  1. Why does the Guardian always report when the M.o.E. takes the Conservatives about Labour, but never the other way round? It’s really rather saddening. If I possessed Anthony’s patience and willingness to follow these things up, I’d write a strongly worded letter.

  2. Top Hat – newspapers tend to make a big fuss over their own polls and pretend polls commissioned by other newspapers don’t exist.

  3. Interesting. Hard to believe this is going to turn out to be more than a blip though. The consistent message everywhere else is of a measurable improvement for Labour.

  4. I start to wonder if something significant is occurring around a shift in false-recall that ICM’s methodology is reflecting, and others are not.

  5. Anthony

    Great site and very good analysis. I just wonder if there was any way to include by-election results in the site.

    I know these can be heavily distorted for local issues but there must be a pattern emerging if there are enough of them.

    This would be especially useful as we do have this issue of ICM/Guardian consistently with higher Lib Dem support than YouGov. One of them must be right and the other wrong!

  6. @Top Hat, @Anthony Wells

    The problem isn’t so much that polls are reported by their commissioning newspapers, but rather what others make of them. And that leads to the sad conclusion that there are rare occasions when (and I have to pinch myself as I write this) it’s regrettable that journalists at the BBC seem to take more notice of what they read in the “world’s leading liberal (Democrat?) voice” as opposed to the Sun.

    On the poll itself, FWIW I’ve noticed that in past polls the ICM sample of those actually expressing an opinion (leaving aside those whose opinion is assumed from their past choices) is in practice quite small. So there is room for a bit more m.o.e. volatility than, say, for YouGov or ComRes.

  7. Richard: assuming you mean local by-elections it is very difficult to get anything meaningful out of them:

    To some extent, ICM is just measuring something different to other companies (although it’s not really a binary issue, other companies do it to a lesser extent). ICM are measuring how they think people would vote in an election tomorrow, making educated guesses about people who say don’t know. In contrast YouGov only include how people actually say they would vote in an election tomorrow. Between those two extremes other companies reallocate or squeeze don’t knows to different extents.

  8. According to the Guardian story:

    The detailed figures suggest that part of Labour’s present problem is a failure to inspire its own backers. The crude voting intention results give Labour the edge, and yet just 59% of its supporters say they would definitely make it to the polling station compared with 70% of Conservative supporters. The overall Tory edge emerges after adjusting the figures for this difference in enthusiasm.

    ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 16-18 March 2012. 850 interviews were conducted on landlines and 150 on mobile phones. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults

    Hopefully ICM will have trialled to see the effects of using mobiles and it would be interesting to know their refusal rate and whether the profile is very different. In particular it would be nice to know if they are contacting and getting responses from people without landlines.

    Interesting that they have gone for a 850-150 split – RedC use a 50-50 breakdown between mobile and landline I think.

    The field work was over the weekend, just after that for the YouGov-ST poll which only had a 2 point Labour lead – possibly what this poll would have had before adjusting for turnout. Whether this was a blip or not will be interesting.

  9. Roger – the 850-150 split is, I assume, because 15% of households in the UK have mobile phones but no landlines according to OfCom (alternatively, it is a freakish co-incidence!)

  10. Once again ICM is probably overestimating LibDem support by assuming the existence of a significant core vote – such is enjoyed by Tories and Labour.. Very unlikely to be so – a lot of LibDem support is ‘easy come easy go’.I suspect that in reality relatively few former LibDems are out there looking for an excuse to return home!

  11. NHS bill passed by Lords, 95 majority, Éoin’s cunning plan didn’t work. :-)

  12. The Baldrick of political blogging :-)

  13. Anthony

    Roger – the 850-150 split is, I assume, because 15% of households in the UK have mobile phones but no landlines according to OfCom (alternatively, it is a freakish co-incidence!)

    That makes no sense to me. Firstly because ‘households’ is not the same as ‘voters’. I suspect no-landline households are much more likely to be single person, which means that it won’t necessarily be 15% of all voters.

    But more important, unless you actually make the effort to seek out those without landlines for your 15% (or whatever) the split percentages are irrelevant. Because the vast majority of mobile users will also live in households which have landlines and so also have a chance of being contacted that way. So the profile of the two parts of your survey will be very similar because they are basically the same people

    Of course you can keep on ringing mobiles till you get people without landlines and quiz them. But given that I think you said that telephone surveys only get a 1 in 12 response and I would imagine that those rung up on their mobiles would be even less willing to answer a long survey (no one’s in Tescos or on the bus when they answer their landline) that’s going to need an awful lot of phone calls.

  14. TOP HAT
    `Why does the Guardian always report when the M.o.E. takes the Conservatives about Labour, but never the other way round?`

    Actually the Guardian front page doesn`t give prominence to the Tory lead at all concentrating on the 50 p rate cut instead.

    Good poll for the Tories although I am surprised that Labour voters are less committed to vote…Maybe that`s where the leadership needs to inspire them

    It would be interesting to see what effect the budget has on the polls,and also the local elections on May 3rd…I did wonder like another poster that with London mayoral elections six weeks away,the polls seem to be few and far between.

  15. Roger – apologies, it may have been % of adults in a household with mobile phone but no landline, haven’t been back to the OfCom site to dig the figure back out and check.

    SMukesh – Labour supporters are nearly always less likely to vote, probably because of underlying socio-economic factors rather than current party enthusiasm.

  16. “Internet-driven business made up 8.3 percent of the UK’s economy, a bigger slice than in any other G20 nation, according to figures from Boston Consulting Group.

    E-commerce, online ads, cloud data storage and other internet-related spending contributed £121bn to the UK’s gross domestic product in 2010.

    If it were formally categorised as a sector, the internet would be the fifth largest in the UK, ahead of education, healthcare and construction, according to the report.”


  17. Update – Labour lead stable: Latest YouGov/The Sun results 19th March CON 36%, LAB 42%, LD 9%; APP -26

    Lab 6 point lead; somewhat diifferent to ICM, then…

  18. Tonight’s YouGov………..

    C 36
    L 42

    Obviously an outlier………. :-)

  19. Tonights more accurate pollling from You Gov

    Labour 42%
    Tory 36%
    LD 9%

  20. Good Evening all.

    yes, outlier too high for lib dems I think.

    But what about ICM?

  21. 39 – 36 (3 different)
    36 – 42 (6)
    15 – 9 (6)

    So, basically we are looking at one pollster predicting Con getting a majority, albeit tiny, the other saying Lab will have a tidy majority. Lib Dems are either left as a rump or wiped out.

    The six point differences are a bit odd, wouldn’t you say?

  22. COLIN………Why isn’t it plastered all over the media ? I wonder if it’s because success in business is just a tad distasteful to our commentators, bearing in mind that most of ’em are prophets of doom. :-)

  23. Anthony- thanks for the reply and having read your link and thought about things I think that you are right and it is almost impossible to predict on the basis of local by-elections. It’s tempting to try though because these are real votes!

    When I was involved in politics in the 1980’s it was interesting that my local ward at the time produced different results on all three major elections. Euros they were Labour (Labour Euro MP), locals they were Lib Dem (Lib Dem councilors close fight with Labour) but general election they were Tory (Tory MP). Obviously we didn’t have figures as such (apart from the locals) but it was clear from tests of the count itself.

    The ward I am in now only produces Labour councillors when the locals come at the same time as the general election- presumably because it is split between middle class and poor areas and there seems to be a much bigger turnout of Labour (poorer) voters at General Election.

    I am still not convinced about ICM though. It seems they are making assumptions that the other pollIng companies are not making.

    We all have our small group of friends and probably the majority have similar views so my feeling may not come from a wide enough sample but my gut feeling with the Lib Dem vote is that they have lost the left leaning voters in Lib Dem marginals with Labour. The big question being how many of those in Tory-Lib Dem marginals will come back when push comes to shove. I suspect many will- however many will not and they will have needed to have quite a big majority to hold their seats. That’s the main reason I disagree with ICM because I think they are going on past trends and not taking into account that now that people have seen Lib Dems with some sort of power that people have made a much firmer judgment on them than they have in the past. Ie- no longer a forgotten about party until the election itself.

  24. “Labour 42%
    Tory 36%
    LD 9%”

    Ah, thank goodness for YouGov, the Gold Standard of opinion polling!! lol

    Again, the recent ICM poll is obviously a nonsense, just as their ludicrously out of synch poll on January 22nd was, showing as it did a 5% Tory lead.

    Anthony, if I was you, rather as an old mutual hero of ours would have said, Rejoice, Rejoice that you work for a polling organisation that so accurately guages public opinion!

  25. A lot of the LD’s 2010 vote will go to Labour IF we give them something to vote for.

    At the moment, ICM is probably correct to mark Labour down for some x-LD voters who, if they vote, would vote Labour but may decide not to bother voting.

    But I also think ICM are wrong to give the LDs quite a significant proportion of 2010 LDs who don’t know which Party they’ll vote for because I doubt so many of them will vote LD. I think that they’re more likely to vote for another Party or not vote.

    Angus Reid ‘leaners’ might be a good test of that – except maybe their outcome is too different from ICMs. Perhaps, if I have time to compare & contrast the two, I’ll post an analysis… unless somebody beats me to it (Roger, d’u have a hot date tonight? If not, any chance of taking a look at this, please).

  26. Crossbaty

    Guage – a new variety of fruit?

  27. Richard – ICM are not unique in the way they treat don’t knows, they just do it *more* than other companies.

    Populus do the same reallocation of don’t knows according to 2010 vote, but reallocate former Lib Dems at a lower rate than former Lab & Con. ComRes also do some reallocation – for their don’t knows they first ask how their don’t knows would vote if they forced to do so by law, and then for those who still say don’t know they reallocate them according to which party they identify with most.

    Ipsos MORI and Angus Reid both use a squeeze question, asking don’t knows who they are more inclined to vote for, but then ignore people who *still* say don’t know.

  28. CHRISLANE1945………… As you know, I am an admirer of yours, your prescience on the specialist subject of Lib Dem polling is legendary……however, in the interest of humanity, cut ’em some slack, they’re very sensitive. :-)

  29. Crossbat – ICM have got a pretty good record and are not to be sniffed at.Certainly they did rather better than YouGov in 2010.

  30. @Hal

    “Guage – a new variety of fruit”

    You’re quite right; I got the “a” and the “u” in the wrong place. Normally it’s only my “p’s” and “q’s”!

  31. There is one thing (among others) I don’t understand about Labour supporters which is that if a poll is not favourable to Labour they always try to explain it away. Why the denial? Why not say, well, not such a good poll but let’s see what the next one holds?

  32. The ICM poll shows large-scale opposition to the 50 p tax cut…I think fair minded people can see that the rich can afford to pay 50 p per pound earned while everyone else is losing jobs and more

  33. CROSSBAT11………..Perhaps you could get away with, ‘quap’ that should do it ! :-)

  34. SERGIO
    `Why not say, well, not such a good poll but let’s see what the next one holds?`

    Because it doesn`t fit with the other polls…Not that it makes it wrong but we regard it with suspicion

  35. KEN.
    Before bidding you good night prior to compline, I will ponder on your guidance about giving the sensitive ones some slack in the interests of humanity.

    The people who come on here are very good people I agree.

  36. @ Peter Buss

    Crossbat – ICM have got a pretty good record and are not to be sniffed at.Certainly they did rather better than YouGov in 2010.
    Not really. When it is within a day of the election, an element of luck is involved due to sampling variation. Look at all the polls for a few days before the 2010 GE & there was nothing to choose between the major polling firms – they were all very close to being correct.

  37. The Boy George is doing a bad job as chancellor!

    At last – I get to say it & it isn’t partisanity :rasp: the majority on YG think it, so nyah.

  38. I know, that was childish but indulge me, I was having a ‘down’ day & being a bit childish cheered me up.

  39. @Anthony Wells

    Is a 9% net gap between ICM and YouGov polls published on the same day the biggest on record (post 2010 at least)?

    You’re being a bit charitable in describing ICM’s guess as “educated”, although I suspect that description reflects a hidden pact that prevents polling rivals from openly criticising one another..

    Is there any recent research that supports the use of 50% applied arbitrarily to reallocate to all parties? If not, I’d describe ICM’s as an uneducated guess. It seems to go against the current evidence rather than be educated by it. The squeeze questions applied by other companies to don’t knows/refusals (a) lead to a much more modest boost to the LDs and (b) do not lead to any narrowing at all in the Lab-Con lead. That in turn is consistent with the theory that the pre coalition LD has been redefined, so for that party at least a reversion of “don’t knows” to past allegiances is highly questionable.

  40. @AmberStar

    Indeed. And because ICM conducted their last sample a day before the other companies, if you have to pick a single poll they are better compared with YouGov’s penultimate one in 2010.

  41. @Amber Star

    IpsosMORI also squeeze the “undecided or refused *and* certain to vote” (table 12):

    The Feb poll seems (I can’t read tables) to show Labour 2010 undecideds the most likely to return to the fold, followed by LD, and Tories least likely.

  42. Phil – it’s educated in the sense that it isn’t a random percentage, ICM conducted post-election call back studies at past elections which found that about 50% of those who said don’t know ended up voting for the party they had backed at the previous election.

    Whether it holds true now is a different matter of course, but there is a good evidential base for what ICM do.

  43. I think this is a bit high for blue too. Id like to remind people that ICM have the best results in predicting electoral results though and id say blues in reality are at least even now.

  44. Ken
    You are awfull ….but I like you

  45. Amber Star

    “A lot of the LD’s 2010 vote will go to Labour IF we give them something to vote for.


    A lot of the LD’s 2010 vote will go to Labour EVEN IF YOU DON’T give them something to vote for.

    North of Stirling, the SNP will take the greater share. Elsewhere, Labour will get most of 2010 LibDem votes.

  46. @Amber
    “Angus Reid ‘leaners’ might be a good test of that”

    “We’ve noticed you did not select a party. Is there a party you are currently leaning towards”

    Which produces in response…
    Con 38
    LD 24
    SNP 2
    PC 1
    UKIP 16
    Green 10
    BNP 2
    (Still) Not Sure 195
    Won’t Vote 131

  47. JOE R
    ` id say blues in reality are at least even now.`

    You may well be right but what`s more likely to be right is AW`s UK polling average which does include the ICM poll in it`s calculations

  48. Now contrast Angus Reid figures above for Lab/Con/LD with what we can infer that ICM do.

    ICM figures below are from their Feb poll, looking at dont knows and refusals whose 2010 vote is known and which are reallocated back:

    Con 43DK, 9 Ref = 52 Total
    Lab 23 DK, 2 Ref = 25 Total
    LD 45 DK, 5 Ref = 50 Total

    Figures may seem small but given that the identified voters by ICM only total 515 for all parties, reallocating 50% of these back pro-rata will still have a big impact.

  49. @ Phil

    Thank you – & for your earlier general comment about squeezed leaners ;-)

    So, the evidence does seem to support my intuition that squeezed voting is pretty much in proportion to top-line VI & doesn’t give the LDs much of a bump up at all.

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