There are two new GB polls out tonight (plus a Scottish one, but more on that later). A phone poll from ComRes has voting intentions at CON 35%(nc), LAB 41%(+2), LDEM 13%(+1), Others 11%. Changes are from the last ComRes poll conducted by telephone, a month ago.

Meanwhile YouGov’s daily poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 44%, LDEM 9%. Normal caveats aside, the apparent temporary budget boost in YouGov’s polls at the end of the week does not seem to have lasted.

ComRes’s poll also found people thought the government was wrong to commit British forces to Libya by 47% to 43%. This is a somewhat narrower margin than ComRes’s other polls asking about the issue (but very different to YouGov’s polls showing more people in favour). As we’ve seen though, different wording and/or different question order can make a substantial difference on Libya questions, so whether this is meaningful depends on what ComRes actually asked.

Tonight there is also a new TNS-BMRB Scottish poll, showing a large shift towards the SNP and the SNP and Labour neck-and-neck on the regional vote. Topline figures there, with changes from TNS’s previous poll, are:

Holyrood Constituency: CON 15%(+3), LAB 38%(-6), LDEM 7%(-4), SNP 37%(+8)
Holyrood Regional: CON 14%(+3), LAB 35%(-4), LDEM 8%(-2), SNP 35%(+6), Green 5%

A poll with shifts this large should normally be viewed with some scepticism, but in this case the poll brings TNS-BMRB very more in line with the recent ICM and YouGov polls in Scotland, which both showed much smaller Labour leads.

UPDATE: The TNS-BMRB tables reveal they have adopted past vote weighting by recalled 2007 Scottish Constituency vote since their last poll, so the changes since the previous poll are somewhat artificial: it may to some extent be down to the methodological change.

The full tables for the YouGov/Sunday Times poll are now up here. The improved Conservative position in voting intention was echoed by improved ratings for David Cameron – his approval rating is now neutral, with 47% thinking he is doing well, 47% badly (the first time he’s been out of negative territory since January).

On the specific budget questions, people were pretty evenly split on whether the budget made the right or wrong decisions for the country (34% thought it was right, 37% wrong) but tend to think it would be bad for them personally – 41% though it was wrong for them, only 25% right.

Only 15% said it made them more confident about the future, compared to 43% saying it made them less confident. There isn’t actually much change to overall economic confidence compared to last week (last week only 11% expected their financial position to get better over the next 12 months, now only 10% do), but people are generally a lot more pessimistic than last year about whether the government’s policies will help. Most people (59%) think unemployment will increase in the next year or two, 57% think inflation won’t come down, 59% think poverty will increase. Only 27% think the government’s measures will make the economy grow faster in the long run…

That said, people still trust Cameron and Osborne to run the economy more than they do Miliband and Balls (39% for Cameron & Osborne, 30% for Miliband & Balls).

On the cuts, 29% think the cuts are right (25%), or not deep enough (4%). 29% think the size of the cuts is correct, but they are being done too fast. 15% think the cuts are too large, and there should be tax rises instead, 14% that neither large cuts nor tax rises are necessary.

Amongst Conservative supporters, 70% think cuts are right or too small, 23% think they are right but too fast, only 3% think they are too large. Amongst Labour supporters only 3% think they are right or too small, 32% think they are right but too fast, 30% would prefer smaller cuts and more tax rises, 27% don’t think either large cuts or tax rises are necessary.

On the specific issue of petrol prices, the majority of people (54%) put the blame for high prices on the government for the high level of tax, followed by 21% who blame the instability in the Middle East. Comparatively few people (11%) blame oil companies themselves.

Turning to the issue of Libya 50% now think David Cameron has responded well to the situation in Libya, 35% badly. This is considerably up on last week when 37% thought he was doing well and 44% badly. 45% now think we are right to take action in Libya, 35% wrong. 30% of people think it would be legitimate to deploy ground troops in Libya. Of course, that’s not the same as actually doing it – only 23% think it is worth risking the lives of British servicemen.

Note that while YouGov are consistently showing more people supporting than opposing the action in Libya, ComRes are still showing the opposite, this week they found 35% in support and 45% opposed. One of the reasons for the difference is probably the wording – ComRes ask if it is right for the UK to take action, YouGov ask if it is right for the UK, USA and France to take action. Another one may be question order – YouGov ask the right or wrong question about Libya by itself, ComRes ask it as part of a grid along with the other four questions they ask on Libya, with the order rotated – hence the majority of people would answer the question about British armed forces risking death or injury before answering the question about whether the action is right or wrong.


Tonight’s weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has topline voting intention figures of CON 38%, LAB 41%, LDEM 11%. The three point Labour lead is the smallest recorded in a YouGov poll since January and confirms the narrowing of the Labour lead we saw in YouGov’s immediate post budget poll.

On top of the ICM/Guardian poll it certainly suggests the government are enjoying some minor boost in the polls from from the budget, but there’s no particular reason to think it will last.

I’m not aware of any other polls due to come out tonight (apart from the Sunday Times and the monthly ComRes poll for the Indy on Sunday, which we’ve already had this month, polls for Sunday newspapers have dried up a bit) but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any! I’ll update tomorrow when the tables for the YouGov poll are published.

The ICM poll last night has produced various comments from people dismissing it or defending it. Let’s put it in some context. Firstly there is no large swing here. All the parties are within 2 points of ICM’s last poll, so there is no reason to think it is obviously a rogue. Indeed, the small shift from Labour to the Conservatives is entirely in line with the only other post-Budget poll from YouGov.

Both companies have the Conservatives at 37%. The difference is basically the Liberal Democrats – YouGov have them at 11%, ICM have them at 16%. In YouGov polls a large chunk of former Liberal Democrats now say they’ll vote Labour, so as a consequence of their different Lib Dem scores ICM also end up showing a lower Labour score than most other companies… hence the 1 point Tory lead yesterday.

This is not down to margin of error or we would see ICM giving the Lib Dems a lower score than YouGov half the time. ICM are consistently showing higher Lib Dem scores than other companies, suggesting it is a systemic methodological difference.

Part of the difference we have a straight explanation for. Most companies ignore people who say don’t know, ICM re-allocate 50% of them to the party they claim they voted for in 2010, on the basis of evidence from past elections that this is what people saying don’t know tend to end up doing. Over recent months this has typically increased the level of Lib Dem support ICM finds by 2%.

However, this is not the whole explanation – without it we would still have seen recent ICM polls showing the Lib Dems in the mid teens, when every other company has them between 9% and 11% (equally, Populus also reallocate don’t knows, albeit using a formula slightly less favourable to the Lib Dems and they have the Lib Dems at 11%).

There is no obvious methodological reason for the rest of the difference between ICM’s Lib Dem score and that other companies produce. In his post-mortem of the election result Martin Boon of ICM suggested they may be weighting the Liberal Democrats somewhat too highly… but looking at the current weighting targets ICM weight the Liberal Democrats to pretty much the same figure as other companies using past vote weighting, so that cannot be the reason for the difference.

Another suggestion is the wording of ICM’s question, which mentions “in your area”. I think this is probably too subtle to make such a large difference to the results and, besides, Angus Reid use the same sort of wording and have the Liberal Democrats at 10% (The example normally used of prompting by constituency making a difference to voting intention questions is a poll I did of marginal seats for PoliticsHome back in 2009. That, however, asked constituency voting intention straight after national voting intention and used very gung-ho prompting to shove people towards considering their own area. It wasn’t a tiny subtle word change like this).

Hence in terms of saying whether ICM are right on the Liberal Democrats (and therefore Labour), or whether the other companies are, there is no easy answer since we don’t know what is causing it. I expect, in practice, most people will tend to believe the results they want to.

Besides, while it may seem important this week whether the polls are showing Labour or the Conservatives head, remember that the Conservatives got a boost of a couple of points after the June budget too. It lasted all of a week. My guess is that we’ll be soon back into the more solid Labour leads we’ve become accustomed to.

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian, conducted after this week’s budget, has the Conservatives back ahead – CON 37%(+2), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 16%(-2). Changes are from their February poll, before both the budget and the intervention in Libya.

This is the first poll to show a Conservative lead since December, and the first time ICM have done so since October. I will add the caveat I always offer when a poll shows something unusual or unexpected, that it may just be an outlier and we should wait to see it confirmed. Having said that though, YouGov’s polls this week have also shown a post-budget, post-Libya movement back to the Conservatives. The two companies actually have the Conservatives at the same level of support – 37% – the difference is in Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with ICM continuing to show the Liberal Democrats at a much higher level than other companies, and consequentially showing Labour lower.

Looking at the rest of the poll, ICM also found a significant movement of support in favour of the scale of the government’s cuts. While 35% people still think the cuts go too far, this is down from 45% in November. 28% think the balance is about right, and 29% think the cuts are not severe enough, up by 15 points since November. That last figure here is particularly startling – suggesting a third of people would like even bigger cuts. Compare it to YouGov’s regular trackers on whether the cuts are too deep, too shallow or about right. YouGov too have shown the proportion of people thinking the cuts are too deep falling (down to 44% from 51% a month or two back), but they only find 9% thinking the cuts aren’t big enough.

Heading back to the ICM poll, on the budget itself, the biggest chunk of ICM’s respondents (48%) think it will make no difference to the economy, of the rest those thinking it will help the economy outnumber those thinking it will hurt it by 9 points. Finally on the cuts in fuel tax 21% think the measures in the budget were about right, 4% say they went too far, 70% say they didn’t go far enough.