Prorogation polling

Three polling companies – YouGov, Ipsos MORI and Survation – have so far released polling on the government’s decision to prorogue Parliament in mid-September.

YouGov polled on the issue twice – a snap poll on the day of the announcement itself, with the same question repeated overnight. The on-the-day figures were 27% acceptable, 47% unacceptable, 26% don’t know. The follow-up poll had a similar split, but with the number of don’t knows dropping off as people became aware of the story – 31% said it was acceptable, 53% unacceptable, 16% don’t know. Tabs are here)

Ipsos MORI did an unusual online poll (almost alone among pollsters these days, most of their polling is done by phone). They found 30% thought the decision to prorogue Parliament was right, 46% thought it was wrong. Tables are here.

Finally there was a Survation poll for today’s Daily Mail. This found a closer result, with the public fairly evenly split – 39% were supportive, 40% opposed (note this is rounding the totals for support/oppose after they’ve been summed, hence the apparent discrepancy with the tables). Tables are here.

Overall it looks as if the public are opposed to the prorogation decision – though it is unclear to what degree. Whether that really matters or will make any dent in the government’s support is a different matter. Opposition to prorogation is concentrated among Remainers (in YouGov 82% of Remainers think the move is unacceptable, but only 24% of Leavers, in MORI’s poll 74% of Remainers think it was wrong, only 20% of Leavers, in Survation 74% Remainers, 14% leavers). If most of the opposition to the move comes from people who are opposed to the government’s policy anyway (and I expect the more fervent opposition comes from those who were most fervently opposed already) the government are hardly likely to worry too much over losing the crucial “people who hated us anyway” vote.

Both YouGov and Survation included voting intention in their surveys:

YouGov’s topline figures were CON 33%(-1), LAB 22%(nc), LDEM 21%(+4), BREX 12%(-1), GRN 7%(-1)
Survation’s topline figures were CON 31%(+3), LAB 24%(nc), LD 21%(nc), BREX 14%(-2), GRN 3%(nc)

Changes in the YouGov poll are from a poll earlier this week, before the announcement. In Survation changes are from a poll three weeks ago. There is a little movement up and down, but certainly nothing that suggests the announcement has done immediate damage to Conservative support.


I am a little cautious of the value of voting intention polls at this point, we can expect the appointment of a new Prime Minister to have a significant impact on political support, so voting intention polls right now seem a trifle redundant. However, for what they are worth there have been two new VI polls this week so far.

YouGov for the Times had topline figures of CON 22%(+2), LAB 20%(nc), LDEM 19%(-2), BREX 22%(-1), GRN 10%(+1). Fieldwork was Monday to Tuesday, and changes are from mid-June. Tabs are here.

Ipsos MORI‘s monthly political monitor in the Standard had topline figures of CON 26%(+1), LAB 24%(-3). LDEM 22%(+7), BREX 12%(-4), GRN 8%(-1). Fieldwork was over the weekend, and changes are from last month. Full details are here.

Both the polls have the Conservatives and Labour at similar levels of support, both have the Liberal Democrats close behind them and doing far better than in recent years.

There is a significant difference in levels of support for the Brexit party – 22% or 12%. Some of this may be down to one survey being online, one by telephone, with all the potential differences that leads to in terms of sample and interviewer effect. However at the European Parliament elections YouGov and MORI had the Brexit party at pretty similar levels to each other (YouGov had them 2 points higher than MORI), which doesn’t suggest that’s the main reason.

The more likely cause appears to be prompting. YouGov now include the Brexit party in their main prompt when they ask which party people will vote for, Ipsos MORI have not, so as not to upset their trend data. How much difference this makes is unclear… and indeed, it may have a different impact on online polls (where the answer options are there in front of people) and telephone polls (where people may be prompted with options, but can say what they like). MORI note in their write-up that it remains under review, and they may add the Brexit party to their main prompt in the future.


-->

There are two new voting intention polls out today – YouGov for the Times, and Ipsos MORI’s monthly political monitor in the Evening Standard.

Ipsos MORI‘s topline figures are CON 38%(nc), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 10%(+1), UKIP 4%(nc). Fieldwork was between Friday and Tuesday (1st-5th), and changes are from MORI’s last poll back in December.

YouGov‘s topline figures are CON 41%(+2), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 10(-1), UKIP 4%(-2). Fieldwork was on Sunday and Monday, and changes are from YouGov’s last poll in mid-January.

This does not, of course, offer us much insight on what is really happening. At the weekend a lot of attention was paid to a poll by Opinium showing a big shift towards the Conservatives and a 7 point Tory lead. Earlier in the week Opinium also published a previously unreleased poll conducted for the People’s Vote campaign the previous week, which showed a four point Tory lead, suggesting their Observer poll was more than just an isolated blip. Today’s polls do little to clatify matters – MORI show no change, with the parties still neck-and-neck. YouGov show the Tories moving to a seven point lead, the same as Opinium, but YouGov has typically shown larger Tory leads anyway of late so it doesn’t reflect quite as large a movement.

I know people look at polls hoping to find some firm evidence – the reality is they cannot always provide it. They are volatile, they have margins of error. Only time will tell for sure whether Labour’s support is dropping as events force them to take a clearer stance on Brexit, or whether we’re just reading too much into noise. As ever, the wisest advice I can give is to resist the natural temptation to assume that the polls you’d like to be accurate are the ones that are correct, and that the others must be wrong.

Ipsos MORI tables are up here, YouGov tables are here.


A brief update on the state of the polls as we head towards Christmas. First let look at voting intention. The six voting intention polls we’ve seen published so far in December have all shown the two main parties essentially neck and neck – two have shown tiny Labour leads, two have shown tiny Conservative leads, two have had them equal (the YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign in the Sunday papers today may have had a slighter larger lead, but it shouldn’t upset the average).

Opinium (14th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 39%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 6%
YouGov (7th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 3%
Kantar (6th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 5%
Ipsos MORI (5th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
YouGov (4th Dec) – CON 40%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
ComRes (2nd Dec) – CON 37%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 6%

Despite the incredibly turbulent situation in British politics, there has been relatively little change in voting intention since the general election. Through late 2017 there was a very small Labour lead, for most of 2018 there was a very small Conservative lead (with a few periods of Labour ahead – most significantly the weeks following the Johnson/Davis resignations). At no point has either party really pulled away. Politics may have been chaos, but voting intention have been steady.

This itself is remarkable given the state of the government at present. If you look at any other measure, they are in a dire situation. The government’s net satisfaction rating in the MORI poll last week was minus 45 (24% satisfied, 69% dissatisfaction). That is comparable to the sort of figures that the Brown government was getting in 2008 or the Thatcher government in 1990… both periods when the opposition had a clear lead in voting intention. Any question asking about the government’s main policy – the delivery of Brexit – shows that a solid majority of people think they are doing badly at implementing it. Today’s poll from Opinium found people thought the party was divided by 69% to 18% (and quite what those 18% of people were thinking I do not know!). And yet, the Conservatives remain pretty much neck-and-neck in the polls.

I can think of three potential explanations (and they are by no means exclusive to one another). The first is that people have simply switched off. The ongoing chaos isn’t impacting people’s voting intention because they are not paying attention. The second is that voting intentions may still be being largely driven by Brexit and, regardless of how well the Conservatives are delivering Brexit, they are the main party that claims it is committed to doing so, and while support for Brexit has fallen, the split in the country is still normally around 47%-53%.

The third potential reason is that Labour are not a particularly attractive option to many voters either – one of the few clear changes in the polls this year is a sharp drop in Jeremy Corbyn’s approval ratings. At the end of last year his approval rating from MORI was minus 7, in the MORI poll last week it was minus 32. On YouGov’s Best Prime Minister question he continues to trail well behind Theresa May (and often both of them trail behind “Not sure”).

While it is interesting to ponder why the voting intention figures remain stable, it’s not necessary particularly meaningful. In the next four months Brexit will either go ahead with a deal that many will dislike, go ahead without any deal with whatever short or long term consequences that may bring, or be delayed or cancelled. Any of these has the potential to have massive impact on support for the parties.

On Brexit itself, public opinion on what should come next is not necessarily much clearer than opinion in Westminster. Throughout 2018 opinion has continued to drift slowly against Brexit – asked if we should remain or leave polls tend to find a modest lead for Remain – typically showing a swing of around 5 points since the referendum (They are helpfully collated by John Curtice here – his average of the last six polls to ask how people would vote now currently shows a Remain lead of 53% to 47%).

While the majority of people don’t support Brexit any longer, that does not necessarily translate into clear
support for stopping it, or indeed for most other courses of action. Poll after poll asks what the government should do next, and there is little clear support for anything. Theresa May’s proposed deal certainly does not have majority support (YouGov’s Sunday Times poll last week found 22% supported it, 51% opposed. MORI’s poll found 62% thought it was a bad thing, 25% good). When Opinium asked what should happen if the deal was defeated, 19% wanted to re-open negotiations, 20% said leave with no deal, 10% said have an election, 30% have a referendum, 11% cancel Brexit altogether. When MORI asked a similar question with slightly different options 16% said renegotiate, 25% said no deal, 10% an election and 30% a referendum.

When polls ask directly about a referendum they tend to find support (although, to be fair, most polls asking about referendums normally find support for then – it is essentially a question asking whether the respondent would like a say, or whether politicians should decide for them). However, a new referendum is obviously a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

And therein lies the problem – there is scant support for most plausible leave outcomes, but reversing Brexit in some way risks a significant minority of voters (and a majority of the government’s supporters) reacting extremely negatively indeed. In the YouGov Sunday Times poll last week they asked what people’s emotional response would be to the most plausible outcomes (current deal, no deal, soft Brexit, referendum and no Brexit). Would people feel delighted, pleased, relived, disappointed, angry, betrayed, or wouldn’t mind either way?

If Britain ended up leaving without a deal 23% would react positively, 53% negatively.
If Britain ended up leaving with the proposed deal, 20% would react positively, 51% negatively.
If Britain ended up with a softer Brexit, staying in the customs union and single market, 27% would react positively, 35% negatively.

Finally, if there was a referendum and Britain voted to stay, 42% would react positively, 39% would react negatively. This is the outcome that would have a positive reaction from the largest proportion of people, but it would also be by far the most divisive. When asked about their reaction to the deal or a soft Brexit, most people gave people towards the middle of the scale – they’d be disappointed, or relieved, or wouldn’t mind. Asked about reversing the decision to Leave, answers tended to the extremes – 26% would be delighted, but 23% would feel betrayed, including 51% of people who voted Brexit back in 2016.


The regular Ipsos MORI political monitor came out in today’s Evening Standard. Topline voting intention figures were CON 39%(+1), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 13%(+3), UKIP 2%(-4). Fieldwork was Friday to Tuesday and changes are from MORI’s last poll in July (they take a month off for August).

As with other recent polls the Conservatives seem to have recovered a tiny lead since falling behind after the Davis & Johnson resignations. Worth noting is that 13% for the Liberal Democrats. This is the highest they have recorded in any poll since the general election. While one shouldn’t read too much into a single poll – especially one whose fieldwork overlapped with the Lib Dem party conference – the wider polling trend does suggest some uplift in Liberal Democrat support: six of the nine polls so far this month have the Liberal Democrats back up in double figures.

The poll also asked about confidence in the Brexit negotiations, finding predictably low figures. 28% of people said they were confident Theresa May would get a good deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations, 70% were not.

There was, however, not much more confidence that alternative Prime Ministers would do any better. 28% were confident Jeremy Corbyn would get a good deal were he Prime Minister, 67% were not. If Boris Johnson was PM 33% would be confident he’d get a good deal, 64% would not.

Full details are here.