ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has now been published. Topline voting intention figures with changes from last month are CON 34%(-2), LAB 39%(-2), LDEM 14%(+3), Others 13%(nc).

The three point boost for the Liberal Democrats is almost certainly a reversion to the mean, ICM typically show a significantly higher level of Lib Dem support than other companies and the 11 point score they had them on last month was conspiculously low for ICM (even though it would be unusually high for some other companies!).

In the Guardian’s write up they note the scale of difference that ICM’s reallocation of don’t knows is now making. Without it Labour’s lead would have been 10 points in this poll, the reallocation of former Tory voters saying don’t know brings it down to just 5.

Tonight’s YouGov figures are CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 11%, Others 14% (inc UKIP on 7%). The 11 points for the Lib Dems is the highest YouGov have shown since April (though normal caveats apply, it is most likely a blip that will return to usual tomorrow).

The Guardian has part of their monthly ICM poll, but it looks as though they may be keeping back the voting intention figures for tomorrow, as so far they have only published the results of questions on the Rio summit. Like YouGov yesterday ICM asked a tracker question on public belief in man made climate change. ICM found 57% of people thought that man-made climate change was happening (up 1 point from 2009), 30% thought climate change was happening, but not due to man (down 3 points) and only 7% who thought that the world was not getting warming at all (up 2 points).


The full tabs for this week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are now online here, covering a wide range of topics including Jimmy Carr’s tax, GCSEs, global warming and Julian Assange.

On the regular trackers David Cameron’s net approval is minus 18 (from minus 25 last week), Ed Miliband’s minus 27 (from minus 25), Nick Clegg’s minus 53 (from minus 55). There were also shifts towards the government in some of the other regular trackers – the proportion thinking the government is bad for people like them has dropped from 62% to 55%, the proporton thinking they are handling the economy well is up 5 points to 34%. This tallies with the voting intention figures, which are marginally less bad for the government than they have been for the last month or two… but still show them trailing badly.

Turning first to tax avoidance, 60% of people think it is unreasonable for people to use artificial schemes to avoid tax, compared to 36% who think it is reasonable enough and the government should pass stricter laws if they want to stop it. 67% also agreed with a statement that tax avoidance was as bad as benefit fraud…nevertheless, asked directly whether Cameron was right to criticise Jimmy Carr only 38% said yes and 50% said no. Part of this will be as suggested in the question – distate at the Prime Minister commenting on an individual, but it will also be a reflection of partisan viewpoints – Labour voters are most critical of tax avoidance, but are also least likely to view David Cameron or his actions in a positive way.

Moving onto GCSEs, people think they have got easier in recent years by 60% to 22% and by 50% to 32% would support a return to an O-level style system, with less academic pupils taking some equivalent of the old CSE. There is also very strong support for the idea of moving to one single exam board, supported by 75% with 12% opposed. People are less suportive, however, of abolishing the national curriculum. Only 20% think this would lead to a rise in standards, compared to 38% who think it would make things worse.

Turning to the topic of climate change, 70% of people think that the Rio conference will make little difference, with only 9% expecting it to lead to a better environment. YouGov also asked about broader attitudes towards climate change, a repeat question from 2010, and found a slightly larger proportion of people believing in man-made global warming. 43% of people thought the world was becoming warmer due to man (up from 39%), 22% thought the world was becoming warmer but not because of man (down from 27%), 15% thought the world was not getting warmer (down from 18%). 20% of people said they didn’t know, up from 16%. While the trend here is towards belief in manmade global warming, it is still lower than the same question was showing in 2008, when 55% of British people thought the world was getting warmer due to man’s activity.

Finally the survey asked about Julian Assange. 60% of people wanted to see Assange extradited (44% to Sweden and 16% to the US, though I believe the US haven’t actually asked for him to be extradited), 16% think he should not be extradited. However, a majority of people (60%) also think that diplomatic norms should be respected and Julian Assange should be allowed to take sanctuary in the Ecuador embassy. 24% think the police should breach diplomatic rules (and, indeed the law, though this was not made clear in the question) and arrest him regardless.

This week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has topline voting intention figures of CON 34%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 8%, the fourth YouGov poll in a row showing the Labour lead back down to 10 or below. I am out tonight so won’t be posting on any other polls that appear in the Sunday papers – I’ll do a proper update tomorrow.

Ed Miliband made a speech earlier today talking about immigration, saying Labour got Eastern European immigration wrong in the last Parliament and promising to introduce rules to deter firms from employing too many workers from overseas. I thought it a good opportunity to write about policies and their effect on public opinion.

I expect any poll asking directly about whether there should be changes to deter companies from employing too many foreigners would find it was extremely popular. However, a straight support/oppose question only really scratches the surface of public opinion on an issue. There are three (or possibly four) aspects to public opinion on any issue. The first is simple support or opposition – although even that needs to be seen in the context of party, the second salience, the third the effect on broader party image, perception and narrative, and the possible fourth, the impact on “elite” opinion (which you may or may not think counts depending on how you define public opinion!)

For immigration, almost all opinion polling suggests the public are broadly hostile towards immigration and, generally speaking, would support tighter restrictions upon it. Looking beyond that, Labour normally trail behind the Conservatives when it comes to which party people trust on immigration – it is a “Conservative issue” in much the same way that the NHS, for example, is a “Labour issue”. Generally speaking it is very difficult for parties to establish themselves as the preferred party on an issue that the other parties are strongly associated with. For example, for all his focus upon it in opposition the best David Cameron ever managed on the NHS was to drag the Conservatives to roughly equal with Labour in a handful of polls. Tony Blair made a supreme effort on the issue of crime and did manage to get Labour ahead on the issue for a while… but during the election campaign of 1997 there was still a meagre Conservative lead on the issue.

If Labour put enough effort in on immigration they could perhaps establish themselves as people’s preferred party on immigration, but they are hardly likely to want to make the issue their main focus in the years ahead, and in the absence of such a concerted effort it is likely to remain an issue of Conservative strength (I suspect it will remain so even given that the government are very unlikely to hit their own target of reducing immigration; hardly anyone expects the Conservatives to hit it anyway).

Secondly there is the effect on salience. Immigration is an issue is one that people do consider important to the country, but not necessarily towards their own lives. In questions asking what people think is the most important issue facing the country immigration has for the last few years come second or third. It does, however, tend to register lower down the scale when asked about what issues are important for people and their families. As an issue where people tend to favour the Conservatives moving it up the agenda however is not going to be particularly helpful to Labour.

Thirdly there is the effect on party perception and narrative. Unlike other angles this is almost impossible to objectively test in opinion polls, but just because something is difficult to measure doesn’t make it any less important. For example, the Conservatives tend to be cautious about the issue of immigration because talking about it too much risks reinforcing negative perceptions of the Conservative party as being racist, intolerant or stuck in the past, and would play to a narrative of the party “lurching to the right” or “playing the race card”. I suspect Labour do not have to worry about this to the same extent, as a party they are seen as far closer to ethnic minority Britons and don’t have the same baggage from the past. They can talk about immigration without risking some of the negative associations a Conservative politician would suffer – it takes a Nixon to go to China.

I suspect this angle also tells us why Ed Miliband is talking about immigration. It probably isn’t going to suddenly make immigration a strong issue for Labour, and it’s not an issue that would help Labour by being high on the political agenda. I suspect he is aiming more at tackling a negative perception of the last Labour government having become out-of-touch with the concerns and worries of its supporters.

The final angle one needs to consider is “elite” opinion – by which I mean the commentariat, columnists, party activists and so on. While the public tend to like anti-immigration policies or rhetoric, Labour supporters in the commentariat tend not to, so there has been a muted or sometimes quite negative reaction to his speech in places like the Guardian (though there have also been many voices welcoming it). This is rather beyond my remit – and going against the commentariat is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you want to look in touch with ordinary people, but it is certainly a factor that politicians need to consider.