Budget polling

We won’t have any more voting intention polls till tonight, but we have had some polling as the budget itself. YouGov’s Sun poll also had some specific questions on the poll, ComRes had a poll for the Daily Politics, Populus have some findings here and Political Betting have a new poll from Angus Reid. At first glance the two latter ones look rather contradictory – ComRes implies the budget has gone down well, Angus Reid doesn’t. Compare all three and the picture is slightly more consistent.

A majority of those with an opinion disapprove of the budget.
Angus Reid found 54% disapproved, 30% approved. YouGov found 41% thought it wasn’t fair, 32% thought it was. This is not unusual though, or necessarily that bad. Budgets are not usually very popular. In recent years I’ve commented here about polls that have found all the measures within the budget are approved of, but the budget as a whole is still frowned on. People just don’t like them!

If YouGov’s “net fairness” for this budget is minus 9, that needs to be seen in the context of previous years. In 2009 it was -16, 2007 it was -14, 2006 -7, 2005 +15. Hence the budget is not seen as being as fair as those in better times, but it is being received considerably more positively than recent budgets.

ComRes, incidentally, gave people the option of saying the budget wouldn’t make much difference, and the majority of respondents too it! Of those who thought it would make a difference more thought it was good (18%) than bad (12%)

The budget has improved Alistair Darling’s reputation. This was the big finding from ComRes’s budget poll, that Brown & Darling lead Cameron & Osborne as the most trusted on the economic downturn by 33% to 27% (Populus asked a similar question and found a similar lead for Brown & Darling). This is in contrast to other recent poll findings still showing Cameron & Osborne ahead, but that will largely be because ComRes offered the third option of Clegg & Cable, whereas most of these economic team questions ask only Brown & Darling v Cameron & Osborne (it also looks as though neither poll was politically weighted – Populus’s question on how people’s vote was affected by the budget implies the sample is far more Labour than their normal ones).

In contrast YouGov’s post-budget poll asked a normal best party on the economy question giving people a forced choice between Labour and the Conservatives and continued to find a narrow Tory lead (34% to 30%) – though some of that difference will also be from asking parties rather than politicians.

More interesting is that when ComRes previously asked an identical question in December Cameron & Osborne were ahead, so there is movement in the direction of Brown & Darling. YouGov also found a boost in Darling’s reputation. They asked the same questions on the Tuesday before the budget and straight afterwards. Pre-budget 17% of people thought Darling would make the best Chancellor, that rose to 20% afterwards. His job approval rating rose from minus 17 to minus 14.

Economic optimism has dropped. Asked immediately before the budget YouGov found economic optimism at minus 10, straight after the budget it had fallen to minus 19. Like previous budgets, this one seems to have reminded people quite how bad the economic situation is. Increasing economic optimism does appear to have played a significant role in Labour’s recovery over the last 6 months, so this could be significant.

Tonights’s Yougov tracker has topline figures of CON 37%(+1), LAB 33%(-1), LDEM 18%(+1), so the Tory lead goes back to four points. As I said yesterday, we’ll never know for sure whether yesterday’s two point lead was just an outlier, or whether it was a real narrowing reversed by the budget.

This poll was conducted between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon – so it is entirely after the Budget was delivered, but not necessarily after people had heard or read about it. Certainly many respondents would have answered the survey before having read the newspaper coverage of the budget this morning. While this first test of public opinion after the budget suggests it is not a game changer, there may well be more to come in the weekend polls.

My view is that the budget was more of a risk than an opportunity for Labour – Darling had no money for giveaways and the last two budgets had a strongly negative impact on Labour’s poll ratings. If Labour emerge unscathed, it’s probably good news for them… if they emerge unscathed – this is, after all, just one early poll and I expect we’ll have a lot more to digest over the weekend.


Ipsos MORI have conducted a new poll of marginal seats for Reuters. The poll covered marginal seats currently held by Labour, in which the Conservatives need a swing of between 5% and 9% to win (that’s seats with majorities between 10% and 18%, so some pretty distant hopes in some cases – the top end of that scale will be places like Bridgend and Blackpool South. To get a majority the Conservatives need a swing of about 7%, so this sample of seats is either side of that.)

Current voting intention stands at CON 37%, LAB 41%. This represents a five point swing from Labour to the Conservatives. In comparison MORI’s last national poll showed a swing to the Conservatives of four percent, so as with all the other polling we’ve seen of Lab/Con marginal seats, the Tories are slightly outperforming their national swing… though not by that much.

Depending on where the cut off point was, a five point swing might not be enough for the Conservatives to win any of these particular seats polled! With the polls narrowing the battleground is now seats slightly more marginal than these. The poll was conducted over the weekend, so is entirely before the budget.

UPDATE: The full tables for MORI’s poll are here. A few other interesting findings. The Lib Dem share of support in these seats was 11%, but of that 77% said they might change their mind. It suggests some potential for tactical voting, but for it to happen people probably need to think their seats are marginals.

MORI did indeed ask people if they lived in a marginal seat, 30% said they did not, and 45% didn’t know. Of course given that these are seats with majorities of between 10% and 18%, this isn’t a huge surprise. By most historical definitions these aren’t marginals! There was no second choice question in this poll, so we can’t say who would benefit from tactical voting if it did happen. The closest are the final questions which asked people what outcome voters thought would be best for the economy. Amongst Lib Dem voters 53% thought a Conservative majority or hung Parliament with the Conservatives the largest would be best, 30% thought a Labour majority or hung Parliament with Labour the largest party would be best.

The purpose of the question, incidentally, was to test people’s reaction to the idea a hung Parliament would damage international confidence in the UK’s economy, and the result was that it didn’t really seem to figure highly in people’s preferences. 28% of people thought a hung Parliament would be best for the economy, 23% thought it would be best for international confidence in the economy – lower, but not vastly so.

YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 36%(-1), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 17%(-1). Back to a very tight 2 point lead, and signs that the Lib Dem boost we saw last week is subsiding. The poll was conducted almost entirely before the budget, and wholly before the main media reaction to it tonight and tomorrow morning – so realistically it is already out of date.

I normally offer a caveat about waiting for other polls before concluding anything from a widening or narrowing of the lead. In this case we will never know. If tomorrow’s poll shows a bigger Tory lead we’ll never know if this was a blip, or was a genuine narrowing stamped out by the budget. If tomorrow’s poll confirms this one we’ll never know if this one was the beginning of a trend, or it’s really a budget boost for the government and this one was just a co-incidence.

In terms of when we can expect to see a reaction to the budget, the next YouGov/Sun poll (the one that will be published in 24 hours time) went into the field late this afternoon, so will be entirely post budget and we may see an impact then. On the other hand, we may see a different result once people have watched the media reaction on the TV tonight, or in the newspapers tomorrow – if that’s the case we will need too wait for the polls in the Sunday papers for the full story. Time will tell.

New Harris/Metro poll

There is a new Harris poll in this morning’s Metro. The topline figures are CON 35%(-1), LAB 28%(nc), LDEM 17%(-1). Others are up to 20%. Changes are from Harris’s previous poll and are well within the margin of error.

The Metro, for some unknown reason, have chosen to draw comparisons from the poll before that – perhaps because it makes it look more dramatic. They claim this poll shows support for the main parties being hit by the fuss over the fake lobbyist sting, which is rather tenuous given that the fieldwork was conducted between last Wednesday and this Monday (so two thirds was before the story broke) and that it doesn’t actually show any notable movement from the previous poll.

Anyway, I have also had a look at the tables for the poll, so have some more details of Harris’ method. Unlike most other UK pollsters, they do start out by asking people whether they are registered to vote and excluding the 4% who say no and 3% who are not sure. They also use a squeeze question on people who say they are undecided, and while they ask likelihood to vote using a verbal scale, I don’t think they actually filter or weight by it.

On weighting, Harris use age, gender, education, region and internet usage (obviously all users are online, but some people are more online than others – this is their way of controlling differences between “fast responders” and “slow responders”). Education is unusual, as is the absence of social class as a weighting variable. Finally Harris weight by their own “propensity scoring” – a figure they have calculated themselves to deal with the differences between people who join online panels and take surveys, and the majority of people who do not. It is based on attitudinal, behavoural and demographic characteristics and calculated by comparing the online sample to a representative face-to-face sample, and weighting as appropriate.