There is a new ICM poll in this morning’s Guardian. The topline figures, with changes from the previous ICM poll in late June, are CON 38%(-3), LAB 34%(+3), LDEM 19%(+3). That’s a bouncing back for the Lib Dems from 16% in the previous poll and the first survey to show the Conservatives below 40 since Populus after the budget.

On other questions, people are pessimistic about the economy, with 51% thinking it is likely to fall back into recession compared to 43% who think it will not. On the defecit reduction plans so far, 38% think they go too far, 39% think they are about right and 16% think they do not go far enough.

YouGov’s overnight voting intentions were CON 42%, LAB 35%, LDEM 15%. Net government approval was just plus 3, the lowest YouGov have shown it so far in their daily government approval figures.

I expect there will be a lot of attention paid to the difference between the Lib Dem figure in ICM and YouGov. The rather unexciting truth is that it’s probably premature to read much into it at all. The previous ICM poll in June was pretty much in line with YouGov’s, with ICM showing 16% and YouGov 17%. All in all, there have been 5 ICM polls since the election, in 2 cases they showed an identical Lib Dem figure to YouGov, in one case they had the Lib Dems lower than YouGov and in two cases higher than YouGov.

The sheer volume of YouGov’s daily polling means we know their Lib Dem score is averaging about 15%, and if you get a 13% or a 17%, it’s likely just noise. In more traditional polling with just one or two polls a month, you can’t really be sure if something is an outlier or not – there may well be no difference here at all (or perhaps a smaller difference than these particular figures imply).

If it persists over time, then I’ll look at it properly, since it’s certainly plausible that there’s a difference. ICM’s “spiral of silence adjustment” consists of reallocating people who say don’t know to the party they voted for at the previous election, so if a lot of former Lib Dem voters are now saying don’t know, this adjustment will help the Liberal Democrats. In Martin Boon and John Curtice’s article on the 2010 election polls they also said they thought they might have been weighting the Lib Dems too highly, and would be looking at it in the future. So I can think of some theoretical reasons why ICM might show a higher Lib Dem score than YouGov, but on the evidence we’ve got at the moment, I’m not certain they consistently are.

We’ve also got a MORI poll due in the next day or two.

UPDATE: Full tables for ICM are here. For what it’s worth, 2010 Lib Dem voters were slightly more likely to say don’t know to voting intention than former Con or Lab voters… but it wasn’t enough to increase their topline figure. In fact, the effect of the topline adjustment was to decrease Labour’s support by 1 point. There do not, as yet, appear to be any changes to ICM’s methodology from pre-election (aside, of course, from the fact that ICM will be weighting to 2010 recalled vote instead of 2005 recalled vote).

Last week the government published the wording that will be used in the AV referendum: “Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”

In the fullness of time, the polling questions we ask on how people will vote in the referendum will naturally switch over to match the actual question that will be used, but in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to see if the actual wording made any difference in this case, so on the YouGov poll for Sunday we put the question we have used in the past to one half of the sample, and a question including the actual referendum wording to the other half.

The result – almost identical results:

The standard question was AV 41%, FPTP 35%, Wouldn’t vote 5%, Don’t know 20%.
The question with the referendum wording was AV 40%, FPTP 35%, Wouldn’t vote 6%, Don’t know 19%.

UPDATE: I am about to go out to a meeting so this is very quick, but there is a new ComRes poll for Newsnight here. 86% of Tories say they would still have voted Conservative if they’d known they would go into coalition with the Lib Dems, but only 58% of Liberal Democrats would have voted Lib Dem if they’d know.

There were also Ipsos MORI and ICM surveys in the field over the weekend, so we may or may not see them tonight. I’ll update later if they appear.


Sunday polls

Two polls in the Sunday papers: YouGov have topline figures of CON 41%, LAB 36%, LDEM 14% – which is still very much within the margin of error of the CON 42%, LAB 35%, LDEM 15% figures that YouGov have been floating around for the last few weeks.

There is also a OnePoll survey in the People with topline figures CON 40%, LAB 30%, LDEM 23%. Regular readers may recall I gave these no credence to their polling during the election campaign, given did not publish the necessary information to judge whether their sampling and methodology were likely to produce representative findings. In the event their final poll bore virtually no resemblence to the election result, with shares of CON 30% (out by 7), LAB 21% (out by 9) and LDEM 32% (out by 8) – in the same way as I do not know how they conducted polling prior to the election, I have no idea if they have changed their methods since then.

Rumours of ICM and MORI polls tonight were false apparently, though both are due polls in the coming week.

The detailled legislation for the boundary review and the AV referendum is now out – if you are not a hardcore political anorak, you may wish to skip this post! For those who are left, here are the details.

Alternative Vote is the more straightforward section. The referendum is May 5th and the question is “Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the “alternative vote” system instead of the current “first past the post” system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”. There is no minimum turnout or anything on the referendum and it is binding – if the referendum is won, the minister must bring the provisions introducing AV (which are all in the Bill) into effect.

Rules for boundary changes are much more complicated. First, the legislation proposes boundary reviews every five years, significantly speeding up the current timetable where they occur between 8 and 12 years apart (normally at the latter end). With fixed term Parliaments of 5 years, that means seats would change every Parliament (though it would also mean that the changes were normally quite small).

There will one national UK quota, rather than seperate quotas for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is, however, an exception to this for Northern Ireland, where if the number of seats Northern Ireland is entitled to is more than a third away from a whole number (as it probably will be this time round), they will have their own quota to aim at, which prevents the boundary commission in Northern Ireland being left with an impossible task.

The quota will indeed be based around the electorate of the UK, minus the two protected seats, divided by 598. All seats must be within 5% of the quota, with three exceptions: the two preserved seats (the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland), Northern Ireland under the circumstances discussed above, and any seat with an area above 12,000 sq. kilometers where the commission is satisfied it is not possible to get it within quota. As proposed before, there is a cap of 13,000 sq km on the size of consistuencies.

The Commissions may still take in account special geographical considerations, like size and shape, local government boundaries, local ties and minimal change (except, that is, for the coming boundary change, when they should not pay heed to minimising disruption). They may now also take into account the European electoral regions (making some of the possiblities I wrote about in this post less likely). All these considerations are subject to the rule on seats being within 5% of quota, which means that the boundary commissions will have to cross county boundaries if it is necessary in order to get within 5% of quota.

There is no mention of splitting council wards, but then, the old legislation doesn’t refer to them outside Northern Ireland either. In practice, the rule about seats being within 5% of quota may compel Boundary Commissions to split wards in places like Birmingham with very large wards.

In terms of speeding up the review process, the Bill is pretty brutal. Local inquiries on boundary changes are abolished – though it is slightly balanced out by the period for written representations being extended from 1 month to 12 weeks.

All of this is, of course, subject to whatever amendments get made as it trundles through the Commons. I expect some bits may have a tricky passage.

We still haven’t seen a post-election Populus voting intention poll (though to answer Mike Smithson’s question here, I understand they are still doing them, they are just having a quiet period following the election), but Lord Ashcroft has commissioned them to do some polling in marginal seats, with some interesting findings.

Firstly, in Conservative -vs- Labour marginals the Conservative vote is largely unchanged from the general election, but the Liberal Democrat vote has dropped to the benefit of Labour, this means on a uniform swing Labour would gain about 28 seats from the Conservatives (though these would be seats that the Conservatives gained at the last election, so in practice the Tories would be helped by the incumbency bonus of the new MPs).

In Conservative -vs- Lib Dem marginals the Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed towards the Labour party, presumably partially as Labour voters who previously voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats cease to do so (thought it would be interested to know how the questions were worded, since unless prompted people don’t necessarily consider the tactical situation in their own constitency when answering voting intention polls). On a uniform swing, this would give the Conservatives about 30 seats from the Lib Dems. The poll did not cover Lab -vs- Lib Dem marginals.

Populus then asked how people would vote under AV. Exactly how they asked this is unclear from Lord Ashcroft’s report, but the ultimate effect is that the Conservatives hold onto an extra 12 seats in Con -v- Lab marginals (implying that Lib Dems and others’ second preferences broke in the Conservatives favour), and the Lib Dems hold onto an extra 11 seats in Con -v- LD marginals. Once again, we have no indication of what would happen in LD -v- Lab seats.

UPDATE: The full tables are now available on Lord Ashcroft’s website (see the links at the bottom of this document). A few things worth pointing out. First, the AV questions were done in much the same way as the YouGov polls on it – people had AV explained briefly to them, then asked how they would cast their first and second preferences under that system (as opposed to making the often false assumption that people would cast their first prefences under AV in the same way as their vote in FPTP).

Secondly, this is the first AV polling I’ve seen that asked about third preferences. So far only 32% of respondents actually give a third preference (and a third of those were to minor parties who it is unlikely to benefit). At present of course it really isn’t comething respondents will have given any thought to, so it won’t necessarily bear any relation to how people would actually cast their other preferences, but it’s something that would need to be taken into account if AV did come to pass.

Thirdly, the voting intention questions for FPTP were just the standard Populus VI question. That should be okay in the Labour -v- Con seats, but as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how good marginal seat polls in Lib Dem marginals they. Even when the Lib Dems are riding high in the polls they tend to show the Lib Dems doing badly and Labour gaining, probably because some people give their voting intention as their real first preference, rather than their local tactical one. My suspicion is that the FPTP position in those Con -v- LD seats may be unduly negative.