This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 8% – still bang in line with the nine to ten point Labour lead that YouGov have been showing for months.

Political coverage today is likely to be dominated by the latest growth figures which showed an increase in GDP of 1% and, therefore, that the economy is technically no longer in recession. My constant refrain on this site is that you shouldn’t overestimate the likely impact of events – most people aren’t reading the political news or the business pages and those that do tend to interpret events through the prism of their pre-existing party identification anyway.

The announcement of GDP figures sometimes has an impact on the polls and sometimes it doesn’t. Unless they signal a particular turnaround they don’t normally register – they are a statistical number in the business news that says nothing about people’s real lives. When they can make a difference is if they trigger a media narrative that does say something people understand.

For example, there was no obvious impact in the polls from the horrid GDP figures in July, or those last January. In April 2012 when the GDP figures produced headlines about Britain being in a “double dip recession” there could have been an impact (Labour’s lead did rise, but it was part of the whole omnishambles period so it is difficult to differentiate one factor from another). If the media make a big fuss about the country being out of recession then it may filter through into more positive feelings about the government and their economic policy, or it may not. However public perceptions about the state of the economic are very pessimistic indeed, I suspect it will take a lot more than some good GDP figures to make much of a dent in them.

Boundaries update

The final section of the revised boundary recommendations, those from Wales, are now out. Most of the changes from the interim recommendations are shuffling about of a ward here or there – the biggest changes are around Cardiff and the valleys: the rather odd Heads of the Valleys seat has been abandoned and the salamandery Newport West and Sirhowy Valley has gone. Meanwhile a recognisable Cardiff Central has been resurrected. The return of Cardiff Central means the revised boundaries have one more Lib Dem seat and one less Labour seat. The changes now go out for a new round of consultation, after which the Commissions may make some final changes (from past reviews, these are quite rare and often minor tweaks or name changes) or confirm these as their final recommendations.

Adding all the revised boundaries together gives us notional totals for what the seats at the 2010 election would have been if counted on the new boundaries of CON 302 (down 4), LAB 222 (down 36), LDEM 51 (down 6), Others 25 (down 4). As ever, it is important to remember that there are (a) notional results for the last election, not what would happen now and (b) what seats would have been won if people’s votes had been counted on the new boundaries, NOT if they had voted on the new boundaries. Some people would have actually voted differently had the new boundaries been in force, particularly wards moving into Lib Dem marginals. For this reason I suspect notional calculations underestimate how well the Liberal Democrats would actually have done on these boundaries.

On current boundaries the Conservatives need a lead of 11.1% to win an overall majority on a uniform swing. They need a lead of 4.1% to be the largest party. Labour need a lead of 2.9% to get an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 53 seats more than the Conservatives.

On the revised boundaries the Conservatives need a lead of 7% to win an overall majority, they would need a lead of 1.4% to be the biggest party. Labour would need a lead of 4.7% to win an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 16 seats more than the Conservatives.

Note that all these targets are on a uniform swing between Conservative and Labour, they aren’t the same under all circumstances. Most notably, if Liberal Democrat support falls the sort of leads the parties need to get an overall majority get smaller. Given that the Liberal Democrats aren’t very likely to get 24% at the next election based on current polling, I’ve also given some illustrations on what the picture would be if the Lib Dems were on 12%.

On current boundaries, if the Lib Dems fell to 12% then the Conservatives would need a lead of 5.9% to get an overall majority, the Conservatives would need a lead of 3% to be the biggest party, Labour would need a lead of 0.4% for an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 41 seats more than the Conservatives.

On the revised boundaries, if the Lib Dems fell to 12% the Conservatives would need a lead of 2.7% to get an overall majority. Labour would need a lead 0.4% to be the biggest party and a lead of 3.8% to get an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote the Conservatives would have 3 seats more than Labour.

Of course, to some extent this all academic as currently the boundaries look unlikely to go through, with the Liberal Democrats repeatedly stating they will not do a deal on the boundaries. However, there was slight movement on another front yesterday. It is broadly assumed that the Conservatives could strike a deal with the DUP to support the changes, as well as the SNP, who do very well out of the boundary changes themselves (they are the only party who wouldn’t lose any seats at all). However, this would be not be enough to get them through. Yesterday, however, Plaid Cymru said they were also open to a deal to support the boundary changes in exchange for greater devolution to Wales.

On paper the Conservatives, SNP, DUP and Plaid together have a de facto majority in the Commons and could push through changes. In practice it still looks dubious, even if some deal could be struck (which is far from certain!), as it would require no Conservative abstentions or rebellions, and at least one Conservative MP has publically said he’ll vote against it. My expectation is still that the boundary changes will not happen.

Full notional figures for the revised boundaries for England, Wales and Scotland are now available as a google spreadsheet here (note that I have not done separate notional figures for UKIP in Scotland or the BNP in Wales, they are lumped in with Others).


Lord Ashcroft has commissioned a second poll in Corby (not Corby and East Northamptonshire – it might be the name of the Conservative association, but the seat is just called Corby). The topline figures are CON 32% (down 10 from the general election), LAB 54% (up 15), LDEM 5% (down 10%), UKIP 6%, Green 1%, BNP 1%.

The 22 point lead equates to a thirteen point swing towards Labour, a very strong performance indeed. Lord Ashcroft last polled the constituency back in August when they found a 15 point lead – more in line with the sort of swing we are seeing nationally. Given the national polls haven’t moved the difference between then and now seems to be campaigning – the Labour party are clearly putting up the strongest campaign on the ground: 33% of people reported having been canvassed by Labour, compared to only 11% by the Conservatives; 59% had received Labour leaflets, compared to only 42% Conservative ones; 14% had been phoned by Labour compared to only 6% by the Tories and so on.

Meanwhile last night’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 45%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 8%

There should be several polls out tonight. First up is the Guardian’s monthly ICM poll, which has topline figures of CON 33%(+2), LAB 41%(nc), LDEM 14(nc), Others 12%(including UKIP 5%, Greens 2%). Changes are from the last ICM poll just before conference season began. The poll shows a slight increase in Conservative support, but this is probably a reversion to the mean after the last ICM poll, which showed an unusually large Labour lead by their standards.

ICM also asked whether people thought Cameron & Osborne or Miliband & Balls were best able to handle the economy, showing a sharp narrowing of the Tory lead. Cameron and Osborne are on 31%(down 9 since July), Miliband and Balls on 27%(down 2). Later this week we have the 3rd quarter GDP figures, so it that shows something interesting enough to be noticed beyond the business pages it’ll be interesting to see the impact.

While I am here, kudos to Tom Clark at the Guardian for putting the ICM poll in the context of other companies polls in his write up and explaining the methodological reasons for some of the differences.

Earlier on today we also had the weekly TNS-BMRB poll, which has topline figures of CON 30%(+1), LAB 44%(+2), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 7%(-3), Others 11%(nc). Changes are from last week. Fourteen points is a high Labour lead by most companies standards, but is actually pretty normal for TNS-BMRB’s recent polls – they tend to show some of the bigger Labour leads and have the Labour lead between 13 and 16 points in their last few polls.

We may also get the monthly Populus poll for the Times tonight (the Guardian’s Tom Clark was polled for it!). I shall update if it surfaces.

UPDATE: The actual poll isn’t out yet, but the Guardian also mentions a new poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft in Corby, which is going to show Labour 22 points ahead there. That would be a very strong performance, a thirteen point swing since the general election. Full details of that are due tomorrow morning.

UPDATE2: Having been complementary about the Guardian’s coverage of their ICM poll I may now have to be less so about the Times’s coverage of their Populus poll. Of course, since the Times is behind a subscription wall the end of their coverage may be hedged with all sorts of caveats, but the beginning of it talking about “slashing Labour’s lead” doesn’t look good!

Anyway last month’s Populus poll was a pretty obvious outlier, showing a startling 15 point Labour lead when Populus had previously been showing Labour leads of around seven points and when no other company was showing similar huge swings to Labour. This month things are back to more usual results for Populus, with topline figures of CON 35%(+5), LAB 40%(-5), LDEM 9%(-1). Big shift from Labour to Conservative and pehaps a sign of a slightly reduced Labour lead, but the size of the shift is essentially meaningless.

At first glance the the polls appear to be giving a contradictory picture, but they really aren’t. Part of it is because of the methodological differences (companies like TNS-BMRB and YouGov tend to show bigger Labour leads than companies like Populus and ICM because they treat things like turnout and don’t knows differently) and part of it is because of sample error and reversion to the mean after some unusual results. The bigger picture though is that the polls were showing Labour averaging at around about 9-10 points before conference, and are showing Labour leads of around about 9-10 points now.

Sunday round-up

Results of this week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are here, with questions on the usual grab bag of subjects – most notably on tax avoidance and energy. The topline voting intention figures are CON 32%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 9%, so despite several YouGov polls in a row showing single-figure Labour leads things still appear to be averaging up around the 9-10 point lead that has been the norm for six months or so now. Leader approval ratings are Cameron minus 19 (from minus 20 a week ago), Miliband minus 18 (from minus 14), Clegg minus 56 (from minus 58) – Ed Miliband’s conference boost is still evident, but continues to gently unwind.

On tax avoidance, 64% of people think it is unacceptable to avoid tax compared to 26% who think it acceptable… however, 42% of people say that they personally would avoid taxation if they had an accountant to show them how. 71% of people think that high tax rates on business and the rich encourage tax avoidance, however only a minority (19%) think that this means tax rates should be reduced. The majority (52%) think that government should crack down on avoidance rather than cut taxes.

Turning to energy, the energy companies themselves are by far the most widely blamed for increasing energy prices – 58% think they are most to blame, compared to only 17% saying rising gas and oil prices and 11% the cost of carbon emission targets. Asked about shale gas and fracking people were evenly split – 32% think it should go ahead, 30% that it shouldn’t. 38% said don’t know, probably indicating it is an issue that many people have very little awareness of.

In the Mail on Sunday there was also a Survation poll, which had topline figures of CON 30%(+1), LAB 43%(+2), LD 8%(-2), UKIP 12% (nc). Changes are from the previously published Survation poll on the 23rd September. The Mail on Sunday’s write-up appears to be a prime example of how not to report opinion polls. It begins with a subheading of “Conservatives 13 points behind Labour, one point ahead of UKIP Party” which is clearly untrue, though probably an innocent error. The rest of the article though is worse – Conservative support hasn’t “fallen to 30”, it has increased to 30. They haven’t “dropped five points in ten days”, they have increased one point.

In the absence of any other polls from about ten days ago showing the Conservatives at 35 I can only assume that the 5 point drop comes from comparing the poll to the YouGov poll conducted on the 11th of October. This is doubly wrong – first it is deliberately cherry picking an unusually high score as a point of comparison to exaggerate the movement. Secondly (and assuming there was not some unpublished Survation poll they are comparing it too), they are comparing polls from different companies using different methodologies that produce consistently different results. Since April YouGov’s polls have shown an average Conservative support of 33% (the 35% was either a blip or a party conference publicity boost), since April Survation’s polls have shown an average Conservative support of 30%. In other words, the poll does not show Conservative support “plummetting”, it shows Conservative support at exactly the same level that the pollster in question has been showing them at for months and months.