Back in May an ICM poll for the BBC’s Politics Show asked if, in light of devolution, it was right or wrong that a Scottish MP can become Prime Minister of the whole UK. Then only 45% thought it was right, with 52% saying no. Professor John Curtice cast doubt on the poll earlier this week saying that it was a leading question.

A YouGov poll in today’s Telegraph asks a similar question, but with slightly different wording. YouGov asked whether an MP for a Scottish constituency should be able to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, or if they should be barred. 56% thought they should be able to serve as PM, only 25% said they should be barred from serving.

The main differences in the wording are that ICM asked about right/wrong and YouGov asked if MPs from Scottish constituencies should actually be barred from serving as PM (it is possible to think that something is ‘wrong’ without thinking it should be actually banned), secondly YouGov spelt out in the text that Gordon Brown was an MP for a Scottish seat, so answers were more likely ot be skewed by pro-or-anti Brown sentiment, and thirdly YouGov’s actual wording said “a Westminster MP for a Scottish constituency” as opposed to “a Scottish MP” in the ICM/Politics Show poll.

Finally, a Populus poll for the Daily Politics on Friday asked whether “Now there is a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh assembly the next Prime Minister ought to come from England” – 40% agreed, 53% disagreed.

I shall leave it up to you to decide how fair you think the wording is the three polls – to an extent it is irrelevant anyway. What would matter is whether people felt strongly enough about the location of Gordon Brown’s constituency to prevent them from voting Labour under his leadership, and neither poll gives any idea of what extent, if any, that is true.

YouGov’s poll also asked about the position of Scottish MPs in general post-devolution, and the continuation of the Barnett formula. 55% of people thought that Scottish MPs should be banned from voting on matters affecting on England, and this included a plurality (46%) of respondents in Scotland. Interestingly though, this figure is falling, not rising – in February 2004 YouGov asked the same question and 67% of people thought Scottish MPs should not be able to vote on matters affecting only England and Wales. A very slight fall was also seen in a YouGov poll commissioned by the English Democrats Party which found support for an English Parliament fall by 1 point since 2004 to 23%, and support for only English MPs being able to vote on issues affecting only England falling 4 points to 43%.

On the Barnett Formula there were far sharper differences in opinion between Scotland and the rest of the country. Only 11% of respondents in England thought that Scotland should continue to receive extra spending, while 74% of Scots agreed; 70% of English respondents thought that the Barnett formula should be scrapped, only 12% of Scots did.

Finally (in the tradition of the rather more frivolous story about skateboarding dogs at the end of the 6 o’clock news), YouGov asked about Gordon Brown’s professed support for England in World Cup. 34% of people thought that Brown genuinely wanted England to win, 45% though he was just pretending.

Communicate Research/Choose Life – poll on abortion.
YouGov&ICM/Sony Ericsson WTA Tour – 80% think on principle women should have equal prize money at Wimbledon, 67% think it would send a positive signal for Wimbledon to give equal prize money this year.


ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian yesterday had the Conservative lead up to 5 points. This is the largest Conservative lead in an ICM poll since prior to September 1992. The topline figures, with changes from last month, are CON 37% (-1), LAB 32% (-2), LDEM 21%(+1) and suggest that Labour have not yet begun to recover from the problems that have recently beset them. It also shows no decrease in the level of support of “other” parties.

Interestingly ICM’s adjustment for the spiral of silence had a large effect upon these figures. After the failure of the polls at the 1992 election, one of the explanations put forward for the errors was that of “Shy Tories” – the Conservative party had become so tainted in people’s eyes that they were embarrassed to admit to pollsters that they were going to vote Tory and instead refused to answer or claimed they didn’t know how they would vote. To deal with this ICM started adjusting their published figures by assuming that half of those who said “don’t know” would actually end up voting for the same party they told ICM they voted for at the previous election – the accuracy of this adjustment has subsequently been supported by several studies that recontacted “don’t knows” after elections to see how they actually voted.

Initially the adjustment tended to boost the reported level of Conservative support in polls and was one of the reasons why ICM was the most accurate pollster in 1997. Sometime around 2000 the balance slowly shifted and ICM’s adjustment started to favour the Labour party, presumably because people were starting to be more embarrassed to admit to voting Labour (the phenomenon was dubbed “Bashful Blairites” by Andrew Cooper of Populus). In this poll the adjustment has reduced the Conservative lead by 3 points; the unadjusted figures were CON 39%, LAB 31%, LDEM 21%, but ICM has estimated that many of the people who said “don’t know” would vote Labour if there was really a general election tomorrow, cutting the lead to 5 points.

This adjustment is likely to be part of the reason why MORI, who make no such adjustment, are reporting larger Conservative leads than the other pollsters (Populus make a similar adjustment to ICM, and it is thought that people are not so embarrassed to admit to unfashionable opinions on internet polls like YouGov’s).

As yet the voting intention figures are the only ones available – the Guardian do sometimes stretch coverage of their ICM polls over several days so something else may yet appear.

Communicate Research/GCap Media – 30% would support David Beckham being given a knighthood if England won the World Cup. 15% would support him being given a peerage! Bobby Moore, incidentally, got an OBE.

Data from the first two months of YouGov’s daily political trackers on BrandIndex shows that the week before the local elections caused lasting damage to Tony Blair’s own reputation and to the Labour party’s reputation for competence. Local election success turned around public perceptions of David Cameron, whose ratings had been beginning to flag at the end of April. Meanwhile opinions of Ming Campbell have fallen sharply.

Since the mid-April YouGov’s daily BrandIndex consumer brand surveys have included political trackers, including approval ratings for the party leaders, whether people have positive or negative opinions of high profile politicians, party image, which party is best on particular issues and various other things. BrandIndex itself is a subscription service, and how the political data will be available in the long run is still being decided – but I’ve had the opportunity to look over and analyse the daily tracking data from the first two months.

Firstly there needs to be a caveat. BrandIndex is slightly skewed towards younger and wealthier people, because it is primarily a product aimed at business and clients are more interested in young trendsetting affluent people’s opinions. This means that, at present, the absolute figures would be skewed against Labour, but the changes and trends in the figures would still be significant. However, in order to counteract this bias we did a normal YouGov political survey a week or so ago, using YouGov’s normal political weightings, asked exactly the same questions, and then adjusted the tracker data to match.

Three main findings come out of the recent data – firstly Labour have sustained lasting damage from the recent difficulties that have engulfed them. As one would expect, their figures plummeted during the week of ‘Black Wednesday’, opinions of ministers fell, government approval fell, they fell behind the Tories on major issues and so on. This is hardly surprising given that the media were constantly reporting that the government were in crisis. What is more important is what measures fell and then stayed down.

While opinions of ministers like Patricia Hewitt have gradually recovered since the local elections, Tony Blair’s own ratings have remained significantly down. Perhaps more worryingly for Labour, since Blair himself will be gone by the next election, the party’s reputation for competence dropped sharply during the week of ‘Black Wednesday’ and has not staged any sort of recovery. In April around 25% of people associated Labour with being competent, the figure has now settled at around 17%. Labour aren’t just suffering because of bad headlines – there has been a shift in people’s perception of their competence.

Secondly there is David Cameron’s approval ratings – there has been some discussion in the media about Cameron’s star beginning to fade (notably an article by Andrew Rawnsley that described Cameron’s figures as being in steep decline that provoked much discussion on Mike Smithson’s Political Betting site). Those stories were based on old and sporadic data; the YouGov trackers do indeed show that Cameron’s approval ratings were just beginning to decline prior to the local election when he was being faced with criticism about having his chauffeur follow his bike carrying his briefcase and attacked by Labour as a blue chameleon… but the local election results changed that.

Cameron’s approval ratings and positive or negative perception rating both peaked after the Conservatives made the most gains in the local elections on May 4th and have been on a steadly upwards trend since then. The difference is presumably because Cameron is now seen as a ‘winner’, putting him in a positive light. The local elections came along at just to right time to give his image boost; it seems he has once again been very lucky indeed.

Finally there is Ming Campbell. There has been a lot of questions raised over Campbell’s performance as leader by the commentariat, there has been scant evidence until now though of whether real people think he is performing badly. Looking at the YouGov BrandIndex trackers there can be little doubt that this is not just a story within the Westminister bubble. Campbell’s approval ratings prior to the local elections were broadly neutral, with those thinking he was doing a bad job balanced out by those thinking he was doing a good job. Since the local elections they have declined sharply, and his approval rating is now -23. Interestingly the decline didn’t start straight after the election, but in the middle of the week afterwards when the commentariat started questioning his PMQs performance and mutterings about his leadership began.

The last few days of data covered were after a successful PMQs performance by Campbell and positive coverage of the Lib Dems tax plans. As yet they haven’t improved matters, but obviously these things can take time. The only good news for Campbell is that the proportion of people who don’t know what they think about his leadership – while declining – is still in the mid-40s, so there are plenty of people who haven’t mind their minds up yet.

More details, and graphs showing all these trends, can be downloaded in the report below:

pdf Download full report HERE.