I expect the benefit data incident will result in a deluge of polls over the next few days – the first one is already out, a snap YouGov poll for Channel 4 news. The topline figures with changes from YouGov’s last poll are CON 41%(nc), LAB 32%(-3), LDEM 14(+1).

Labour’s support is down, as might be expected, but it has not benefited the Conservatives who remain static at 41% (the same level they’ve been at for the last 4 polls), the benefit going instead to the Lib Dems, continuing to creep upwards from the appalling figures last month, and “others”. Not that this is likely to dismay the Conservatives too much, it is the largest lead YouGov have given them so far.

It is a snap poll, taken straight after the news of the missing discs that would have been conducted when the news of the missing data was still all over the news. That said it doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour will automatically recover in any later, full-size polls. I remember putting similar caveats in my reports of the snap YouGov/Channel 4 polls after Brown and Cameron’s conference speeches and in the end their findings were supported by full size standard polls the following weekend. I would be amazed if we don’t have many more polls to compare this one to in the next few days.

UPDATE: There are also reports of a snap Populus poll for the Times, this one done on Wednesday night. It reasked the question on whether people would trust Brown & Darling or Cameron & Osborne to handle economic problems. In September, just after Northern Rock first faced problems, Populus found 56% of people trusted Brown & Darling more with only 18% trusting Cameron & Osborne more. The figures now are 28% for Brown & Darling and 34% for Cameron & Osborne. 44% think Darling should resign.

Strictly speaking the figures may not be directly comparable – this survey was conducted online, rather than by phone, so we don’t know what difference the sampling and the absence of an interviewer effect may have had, but realistically any difference would be small and this represents a crushing collapse in confidence in Brown and Darling. Again, we don’t know to what extent it will last and, as yet, most people aren’t suddenly enamoured of Cameron & Osborne.

The poll also found the percentage of people who think the government is competent has slumped from 56% to 25%, the percentage of people who think they are honest and principled has fallen from 37% to 20%. If these figures are maintained in polls when the newspapers aren’t full of hostile headlines, as they were when this poll was conducted, they will be very bad indeed.

UPDATE 2: A lot of commentary in the last couple of days has the air that Labour have blown it, that the next election is all but over. It is worth pointing out that a 9 point lead for the Tories really doesn’t justify this, especially given that on a uniform swing it would deliver the Tories only a small majority. The more significant finding is disasterous drop in people’s trust in Brown and Darling to run the economy, as shown in the Populus poll.

Labour’s big trump card for the last 15 years has been the economy. The Tories have been ahead on things like crime and immigration for years. I’ve seen polls where the Conservatives have pulled ahead on core Labour issues like education and the NHS, certainly people’s perceptions of how well Labour have done on the NHS is very poor. The one thing solid banker Labour have always had though is the economy. The public think that Labour have delivered on the economy, that Gordon Brown can be trusted on the economy and that Labour are, if not far more trusted than the Conservatives on the economy (which polls almost always show) at the very least pretty much equal with them. If Labour lose their advantage on the economy, they have lost their biggest advantage and probably are in deep trouble.

That said, this is a poll done in the midst of bad news for the government. We really want to look at opinion when it has settled to see if permanent damage has been done to the government’s reputation for economy competence. It’s also important to note that the collapse in trust in the government’s running of the economy wasn’t echoed in the YouGov poll which asked people to rate Brown & Darling and Cameron & Osborne separately on competence and found the two of them neck and neck.

UPDATE 3: It would have been conducted bang in the middle of a poll asking about data security, so let’s see what happens when that leaves the headlines, but it’s still worth noting that Populus also found only 29% of people in favour of ID cards, with 55% against.

Ken leads Boris by 6%

With all the main candidates in place last week saw the first proper poll on next year’s London mayoral election (there have been some previous polls, but these were from sources without a strong track record and pitted Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone against unnamed alternatives). The poll was conducted between the 7th-8th November (actually before Brian Paddick was selected, though the question named him as the Liberal Democrat candidate).

The YouGov poll for the London Policy Institute found Ken Livingstone ahead on 45%, Boris Johnson on 39% and Brian Paddick on 8%. These are very high shares of the vote for the two main parties compared to last time, no doubt because virtually no one has any idea of who the other candidates are for next May’s election. I expect they will drop in time – in 2004, around 18% of people voted for an “other” party using their first preference vote, in addition 15% voted for Simon Hughes. I strongly suspect Livingstone and Johnson will not be getting a combined share of the vote of 84%! Taking into account second preferences the final voting intention would be Livingstone 53%, Johnson 47%.

Neither of the past mayoral contests have produced a lot of polling, but what there was rarely showed anything but huge Livingstone leads. These are obviously far closer. In advance of next year’s elections I’ve added a London page to the election guide here.


A new YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has voting intention figures, with changes from YouGov’s previous poll at the end of October, of CON 41% (nc), LAB 35% (-3), LDEM 13% (+2). No dates yet, but the poll would probably have been conducted between Thursday and Saturday.

After some incredibly volatile polls over the last few months I think we are at last beginning to see a clear picture in the polls. With the exception of Populus who have them slightly lower, Conservative support seems to have steadied in the low fourties – YouGov have had them at 41% for three polls in a row, Ipsos-MORI at 40-41 for three polls, ICM at 40-43% for three polls. Interestingly thir support seems to have settled at a higher level than before the Blair to Brown handover, the reason that they are not recording larger leads than they were back then is that is has also increased Labour’s support. All the pollsters have Labour in the mid-thirties, whereas during Blair’s long goodbye they were languishing in the low thirties – of course, Labour are still falling, we don’t know if trend will continue downwards, stay in the mid-thiries, recover or whatever.

Finally, the increase in Lib Dem support from YouGov’s poll means that all the polling companies have shown the Liberal Democrats recovering slightly, presumably thanks to the publicity of their leadership election – their ratings are still very low compared to the past few years, but their trend is upwards. Obviously it remains to be seen what happens to their support once their new leader is chosen.

UPDATE: Looking at the rest of the figures, Gordon Brown’s ratings have slumped – down from +30 the last time YouGov asked the question using this wording to -10 now, David Cameron’s are also down slightly at +15 rather than +20 in the last poll, which was done straight after his conference speech.

The poll also asked about Gordon Brown’s relationship with President Bush. An overwhelming 74% of people think Brown is less close to Bush than Tony Blair was, and they tend to approve of this. Only 10% think he is too distant from President Bush, 45% think he has the relationship about right. 21% would like him to be still more distant.

YouGov also asked about expectations of house prices next year – 33% expect them to continue rising, 25% expect them to drop.

There is surprisingly little here compared to the amount of polling the Sunday Times normally do – in the past they’ve done a nice series of consistent questions about preceptions of Gordon Brown’s and David Cameron’s characters, I didhope they’d do them again. More likely they’ve done something that isn’t time sensitive that they can publish at a later date.

Depending on which pollster’s figures you look at the Liberal Democrats have lost between a quarter and a half of their support since the last election. Where has it gone? Who will lose out if they recover?

The graphs below shows the voting intention of respondents in ICM’s polls for respondents who said they voted for each of the main parties in 2005*. When I started this post I was going to look just at the Lib Dems, but actually it is as interesting to look at the others too. Hopefully it’s self explanatory which is which – white is those who told ICM their chance of voting was less than 7/10, grey the don’t knows and won’t says, purple other parties and gold, red, blue are Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative. Looking at the individual breaks on each graph can’t tell us much – the sample size is small and the figures erratic – so these are rolling averages of the three most recent polls.


Looking at those people who told ICM they voted Tory in 2005 they remain very loyal. Over 70% consistently say they would vote Tory again, what leakage there is goes mostly to don’t knows and not sure to votes – very few people who voted Tory in 2005 say they’ll vote for other parties, and when they do it has a tendency to be for “other” parties like UKIP. Even at the height of the Brown bounce few would vote for Labour. The 2005 Tory vote is solid.


Moving to Labour we should add a caveat. People who tell ICM they voted Labour in 2005 are not necessarily the same as people who actually voted Labour in 2005. Because of false recall many of those people who say they voted Labour are actually people who didn’t vote at all, or people who actually voted tactically (or as a protest) for the Lib Dems. Hence the reason why former Labour voters look less likely to vote may just be because they didn’t actually vote last time either!

Looking at how people who say they voted Labour say they will vote now we can see a substantial wedge don’t know or aren’t sure if they will. While Tony Blair was Prime Minister the proportion of Labour voters staying loyal was only just above 50% (if that sounds low, remember again that the chances are not all these people really voted Labour), with a big wedge of former Labour voters defecting to the Conservatives, Lib Dems and others. There is an obvious step change at the point when Gordon Brown takes over as PM: since Brown became Prime Minister he has attracted back a significant proportion of those disloyal Labour voters, putting Labour’s vote retention back into the region of 60%. However, having been split between Lib Dems, Conservatives and others, in the three months since then though the remaining ‘disloyal’ Labour voters have coalesced around the Conservatives.


Finally we come to the Lib Dems. Whereas with those people who said they voted Labour in 2005 probably includes people who didn’t, people tend to under-remember voting Lib Dem – this sample probably misses out many Lib Dems. Looking at the graph the Lib Dems are only retaining around half of those people who claim to have voted Lib Dem in 2005, and since Gordon Brown became leader that has fallen further, now down into the low 40s. The interesting bit is looking at the group of former Lib Dem voters now backing other parties. This was around 18% or so of 2005 Lib Dem voters when Blair was PM, and they were mostly backing the Tories. It’s grown since then to almost a quarter, but those voters have been swinging about, first backing Labour and then moving back towards the Conservatives.

So looking at these breakdowns what can we tell? Firstly past conservative voters are solid. Past Labour voters swung back to Labour after Brown became leader, and that renewed support hasn’t faded, Labour might be behind again in the polls but the past Labour supporters Brown won back haven’t gone anywhere, they are still sticking with him. Unless that changes Labour aren’t going back to the depths they experienced prior to Brown becoming PM. The movement and the recent Conservative recovery has all been amongst the floating voters who backed Labour or Lib Dem in 2005 but aren’t anymore. Those former Labour voters have gathered behind the Tories in the last few months, 2005 Lib Dem voters looking for someone else to support have backed first Labour and then the Tories.

So back to the question of what happens if the Lib Dems recover, who will they take support from? Well, amongst past Lib Dem voters far more have defected to the Tories than Labour, if people came back in direct proportion to who they are backing now it would damage the Conservatives more. It doesn’t necessarily work like that though – the people who have drifted away from the Lib Dems in the last few months may be more likely to come back, and they would appear to be more likely to be backing Labour. It may also depend up who the Lib Dems select- conventional wisdom is that Nick Clegg would be better at attracting Tory votes, Huhne better at attracting Labour votes. My own suspicion is that it probably doesn’t make much difference where the Lib Dems are placed ideologically, it will be more important how successful the new leader is at getting media coverage and once again becoming part of the mainstream media agenda, rather than being rather sidelined as the Lib Dems seemed to be under Ming Campbell.

*Not all the figures are on ICM’s tables, so I’ve assumed that the difference between the number of people who gave their likelihood of voting at 7 or above and the total of those who did give voting intentions is made up of don’t knows and won’t says. The proportions supporting each party would be much the same anyway.

A new poll by ICM in the Sunday Express has topline figures, with changes from ICM’s previous poll, of CON 43% (+3), LAB 35% (nc), LDEM 15% (-3). The poll was conducted between November 8th and 10th – Thursday to Saturday – so there does not appear to have been any boost for the government following the announcements in the Queen’s speech and the Lib Dem recovery in the last ICM poll, now looks rather like a blip. They are still up from their very lowest point, when they hit 14% in an ICM poll, but only just. Obviously the figures are a strong contrast with Populus’s a week ago – Populus do use weighting that is somewhat more favourable to Labour than ICM’s, but the difference is relatively small. Chances are one of the two polls is just an outlier thrown up by normal sample error.

If repeated at a general election on a uniform swing these figures would just give the Conservatives an overall majority. It’s often quoted that the Conservative need a lead of around 11 points to win a majority – that’s based on a straight swing from Labour to the Conservatives, if the Lib Dems do badly and the Conservatives pick up seats from them they could win with a smaller lead (and in really swings are not uniform anyway, so any party could easily do better or worse than the uniform swing suggests depending upon how variables like tactical voting pan oout).

As in other recent polls Gordon Brown generally remains ahead of David Cameron asked about personal qualities, being seen as more courageous by 39% to 33%, better at handling the economy by 53% to 28% and as a strong leader. Cameron was seen as the most likeable by 46% to 33% and as most likely to get the issue of immigration right by 45% to 30%. These figures can’t be directly compared to any other recent polls, so we can’t tell if Brown is still falling, steadying or recovering – only that he remains ahead of David Cameron.