Sunday polls

The Sunday Times carries a new YouGov poll. Voting intention, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, is CON 37% (-1), LAB 33% (+2), LDEM 18% (nc). The changes are well within the range of normal sample error, but like the recent ICM polls show the the Conservative lead is falling, despite Labour’s interenal wranglings. 24% of people say the arguments over the Labour leadership has made them less likely to vote Labour, but it isn’t showing up in their voting intentions.

64% of people would like Blair to set out a leaving date in his conference speech, and 69% of people would like it to be before next Spring. Asked who they would like to see as the next Labour leader, Brown continues to lead, but once again his margin has fallen. 23% of people say Brown is their choice for the next Labour leader, compared to 28% in the last YouGov poll – though once again the options given were different, so the figures are not strictly comparable. John Reid is in second place on 10%, Jack Straw on 5%. Despite the media commentariat continually mentioning him as a potential runner, Alan Johnson was named by only 3% of people.

Brown’s charm offensive, such as his TV interview talking about the death of his daughter, hasn’t had any real effect. 13% said they had become more sympathetic towards Brown, 12% less sympathetic (though that is a conscious response, while people may not think seeing a more human side to Brown has changed their opinion, it may be gradually changing their attitudes in a way people don’t realise themselves). 48% of people think that his recent conduct towards Blair has raised questions over his suitability to be Prime Minister.

A separate NOP poll for ITV found 81% of people wanted a proper leadership election, not a coronation, and, as found in previous polls, a majority supported a general election soon afterwards. (This was echoed in YouGov’s poll, were 51% supported a general election).

A third poll for the Independent on Sunday by Communicate Research found that 59% of people thought Labour was headed for defeat at the next election. 71% though Labour was split into warring factions, 55% thought Blair had been badly treated by the Labour party and 64% of people thought the public would feel cheated if there was a coronation rather than a contest.

Moving away from the Labour leadership YouGov and Communicate Research also asked about environmental taxes and found conflicting attitudes. YouGov asked respondents if they would be prepared to pay substantially more in motoring and energy taxes in exchange for lower income tax, only 22% of people said yes, with 65% saying no. The rejection was strongest amongst Tory voters (20% support, 71% opposition) but even a majority (56%) of Liberal Democrat voters rejected the offer.

In contrast Communicate found that 55% would support an increase in energy taxes if it was offset by a cut in income tax (presumably the different results were because of the mention of motoring taxes in YouGov’s question). On air taxes Communicate found the public split down the middle 48% said it should become more expensive to combar climate change, 49% said it shouldn’t.

Communicate also asked whether people thought that David Cameron’s concern for the environment was a “deeply held conviction”. Surprisingly, given most people’s cynicism towards politicians, 46% of people did. Obviously this was largely Conservative supporters, but also included 45% of Lib Dem voters.

A new ICM poll in Friday’s Guardian shows little change from ICM’s poll in the Sunday Mirror last week, with voting intentions of CON 36%(-1), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 22%(+1). There is no substantial conference boost yet for the Liberal Democrats, but the poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, so they may yet benefit from a smoothly run conference. The poll does suggest that the drop for the Conservatives in the ICM/Sunday Mirror poll was more than just a blip.

As usual the Conservative lead increased slightly when people were asked how they would vote with Gordon Brown as Labour leader (37% to 31%). Asked to compare Cameron and Brown on various criteria, Brown was more trusted to make the right decisions (by 32% to 25% for Cameron), but on eight other measures Cameron was preferred to Brown. Cameron was seen as more enthusiastic, more honest, more capable of working with colleagues, as having the more pleasant personality (even by Labour voters). Brown meanwhile was seen as more arrogant and more likely to stab colleague in the back. The choice of questions probably doesn’t flatter Brown – we know from previous polls that he outscores Cameron on things like competence and strong leadership – but overall Brown’s image obviously is damaging him. Asked who woul make the better Prime Minister, Cameron had a 3 point advantage over Brown (35% to 32%).

Attitudes towards the Labour government were also negative – 62% of people thought Labour was not working in the country’s best interests, 64% think it has run out of steam, 62% think it does not deserve to win the next election. What should be most worrying for Labour is that, as noted in the headline above, 70% think it is “time for a change”. In an article for the Times back in 2002, Nick Sparrow and Dennis Kavanagh wrote that only four messages, four narratives, really had an effect in general elections – “let us finish what we started”, “don’t let them ruin it”, “their policies won’t work” and “time for a change”. Simple though it might be, once a government looks old and tired, if the opposition looks new and fresh it’s a powerful message. Labour need to hope that Gordon Brown is enough of a change to satisfy the public’s desire.


I somehow missed this NOP poll earlier this month, conducted for the BBC just before September 11th. Most of the results were in line with the myriad of other polls on the war on terror which were commissioned around the 5 year anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers – 56% of people thought the West was losing the war on terror, with only 20% thinking the West was winning. 52% supported withdrawing British troops from Afghanistan, 50% supported withdrawing British troops from Iraq. 55% thought the government was too closely aligned with the US on foreign policy.

The most surprising finding was on the question of whether Western governments should negotiate with Al-Qaeda. Most other polls have asked questions along the lines of whether Britain should be more conciliatory towards the Muslim world on a unilateral basis. This is the first one I’ve seen that has asked if Western Governments should actually negotiate with Al-Qaeda. A majority of respondents (52%) said no, we shouldn’t, but 32% of people think that we should.

Every year Populus carry out a special conference poll which is published over the three weeks of the party conference and covers, amongst other things, party image. The first part of the data – for the Liberal Democrats – is published today. Previous years’ data is here and here.

The poll contains what should be worrying trends for the Liberal Democrats. The most positive finding in the poll is that that 51% of people agree that their redistribute and green policies mean that the Liberal Democrats are now a “credible alternative” to Labour. Notably, this includes 43% of people who currently vote Labour, suggesting there are yet more Labour voters who the Lib Dems could pry away. The proportion of people who dismiss the Lib Dems as a protest vote with no chance of winning has fallen slightly at 61%, down from 64% last year.

The percentage of people agreeing with the statement that “the Liberal Democrats are decent people but their policies probably don’t add up” is broadly static at 66% (up from 64%). The question unfortunately includes two separate concepts – whether the Lib Dems are decent people, and whether their policies add up or not. Hence it would be impossible to say if any movement was the result of people changing their opinion on Lib Dem policies or how nice they were. Personally I think the fact that is hasn’t fallen is probably a good thing for the Lib Dems, being seen as “decent people” is one of the party’s strongest cards, and the removal of Charles Kennedy did have the potential to damage it.

Elsewhere there are more negative findings. 47% of people agree that “the Lib Dems made a big mistake in choosing Menzies Campbell”, including 51% of Liberal Democrat voters. Questions on party image all show that the Lib Dems still have a very strong and positive party image, but that it is in decline. 43% of people “think they understand the way people live their lives in today’s Britain”, most than both the Tories and Labour (both on 35%), but the figure is falling, down from 55% in 2005 and 56% in 2004. 50% of people think the Liberal Democrats care “about the problems ordinary people have to deal with”, more than Labour on 40% and the Conservatives on 36%…but the figure is down from 57% in 2005 and 66% in 2004. Looking at Labour and the Conservatives, Labour too are down – as might be expected given their troubles – and there is little movement for the Conservatives, with the slight rises in both their figures not large enough to be significant.

The changes are sharpest on whether the Lib Dems are a united party – 46% agree, down from 71% last year. Of course during last year’s conference season the Conservatives were undergoing a leadership contest and Labour were, as ever, in a fit of the TB-GBs – it is hardly surprising that the Lib Dems scored so highly on unity when compared to the state the other two parties were in. However, the change is probably also a result of Charles Kennedy’s removal. Labour and the Conservatives have also seen sharp changes, 49% of people now think the Tories are united (up from 28% last year) and only 14% of people think Labour are (down from 46% last year).

In previous years Populus have asked a wider range of questions on party image, including honesty, competence, shared values and leadership. I have no idea if the other questions were included this time, if so I expect the Times are saving them for their reports on the findings about Labour and Conservative parties. Until then we can’t tell if these trends are present across all the measures of party image. For the moment it appears that, while the Liberal Democrats’ image is still a strong asset and they are still perceived the most positively of the three main parties, their reputation of being more understanding, caring and united than the other parties is slowly draining away…

UPDATE: Populus’s website has the full questions on party image, the sharp fall in perceptions of the Liberal Democrats is indeed across the board. I had expected that the Times had taken only the most dramatic figures, and that I’d find much less drastic falls amongst the other measures, but the image of the Lib Dems really has plummetted. The proportion of people thinking they are “honest and principled” has dropped 11 points to 41% (though this is still higher than the other two parties), competence has dropped 14 points to 32% (Labour had an even sharper fall – down 15 points to 36%. The Conservatives are now seen as the most competent party), the proportion of people thinking the Lib Dems share their values is down 12 points to 38% (now equal with the Tories) and the proportion of people thinking the Lib Dems have a good team of leaders is down 20 points on 32% (the Conservatives meanwhile are up 21 points on 41%, though last year’s figure was obviously during their leadership contest).

During the last conference season, the Lib Dems came top on six of the eight measures used by Populus, Labour two and the Conservatives none. In this conference season, the Lib Dems came top on four of the eight measures, the Conservatives three, Labour none (one measure was equal between the Lib Dems and Conservatives).

A new ICM poll for the Sunday Mirror shows a drop in the Conservative level of support. The topline figures with changes from ICM’s last poll for the Guardian are CON 37%(-3), LAB 33%(+2), LDEM 21%(-1) – presumably “others” are up two points, having seemed somewhat low compared to other pollsters in ICM’s last monthly Guardian poll.

Assuming the change is a real one, and not just normal sample error, it may that the increased media coverage for the Labour party is firming up their vote, or that there is some degree of sympathy for Tony Blair that is boosting Labour support (the YouGov trackers showed a boost in people’s opinions of Tony Blair and when Tony Blair originally announced that he would leave during his third term, back in September 2004, there was a large boost in his ratings). David Cameron also made his speech on forign affairs between the two polls, though it received little media coverage compared to the Labour leadership.

The poll also suggests that eagerness for Blair’s departure has dropped slightly since the peak of the crisis. Questions on Blair’s tenure are remarkably tricky to compare, because each pollster tends to give respondents a different set of options to chose from. However, the ICM poll conducted straight after Tom Watson’s resignation found 50% of people wanted Blair to go this year, and 12% before the local elections. This lastest poll finds that 45% want him to go now, and 11% before the local elections.

The poll isn’t so rosy for Gordon Brown. He is still the overwhelming favourite to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister. 46% of the public named Brown as their preferred successor, with John Reid second on 10% (Alan Johnson was on 5%, David Miliband was on 2%. John McDonnell was not included in the question, but somewhat strangely Charles Clarke was on 8%.) The printed figures seem to be excluding those who said don’t know, so can’t really be compared to any previous figures.

Asked if “claims he plotted to unseat Tony Blair over the past 2 weeks” had helped or harmed Brown, 79% of people said they had harmed him. Asked whether Brown or Blair would make the better Prime Minister, 57% said Blair, 43% Brown. Again, this seems to be excluding don’t knows, but an ICM poll in March 2006 asked what appears to be the same question and found 30% Blair to 30% Brown. In March 2005 poll ICM found Brown ahead, 40% to 32%. Brown’s popularity compared to Tony Blair does seem to be falling.

UPDATE: The full tables are now on ICM’s website here. Asked if Blair or Brown would make the better Prime Minister, 40% said Blair to 30% for Brown, suggesting a shift from the don’t knows and neithers to Blair since the March 2006 poll. Without excluding don’t knows, the figures for preferred leader are Brown 33%, Reid 7%, Clarke 5%, Johnson 4% and Miliband 2%. Amongst Labour members the figures are Brown 57%, Reid 7%, Clarke 1%, Johnson 4%, Miliband 2%.