I really don’t like “does X make you more or less likely to vote” questions. On policy questions they are particularly abhorrent as they are used to try and measure salience – or more often, to try and deliberately overstate the salience of an issue. It’s inevitably some pressure group, the campaign for ponies or whatever, asking a question saying “If party X offered you a pony would you be more likely to vote for them?”. Everyone says yes, as they like free ponies, and you end up with a press release saying that 70% of people will change their vote based on the issue of pony-ownership, and ponies are going to be the key election deciding issue. Sigh.

When it comes to questions about party leadership the question isn’t that bad (it’s one of the few contexts where I use that question structure myself) because it isn’t normally being used to gauge the salience of party leadership, it’s normally being used to see if a leader or potential leader has a positive or negative impact.

There is nothing wrong with a question asking if Jeremy Corbyn has made people more or less likely to vote Labour… but you need to be careful with interpretation. The overall figures will include a big chunk of people saying Corbyn makes them less likely to vote Labour who would never have voted Labour anyway, and a big chunk of existing Labour voters saying Corbyn makes them more likely to vote Labour (it’s why when YouGov ask the question we try to encourage those people to say no difference by offering opinions of “No difference, I was/wasn’t going to vote X anyway”).

The interesting bits are people who DID vote Labour last time, and say they are less likely, and people who voted for parties other than Labour last time and say they are more likely. But even then “more or less likely” is not a particularly high criteria to meet – “less likely” is a long way short of “not going to”. So a headline like the Independent’s today saying “Corbyn loses fifth of Labour voters”, based on 20% of Labour voters agreeing with a statement that with Corbyn as leader they are more likely to vote Tory is over-egging it. Those voters aren’t necessarily lost, they may still vote Labour tomorrow, their likelihood of Labour has just dropped to some degree. We’ll have to wait for some voting intention polls to see if there has been any substantial net damage to Labour’s support.

YouGov had a poll in this morning’s Times asking some first impressions of Jeremy Corbyn from what people had seen so far (tables here). 31% of people said they were delighted or pleased by Corbyn’s victory, 34% of people were disappointed or dismayed – 35% had no strong feelings or don’t know.

Looking at people who voted Labour in 2015, 45% responded positively to Corbyn’s election, 13% said they were disappointed, 14% dismayed. By 50% to 29% 2015 Labour voters expect Corbyn to do well as leader. The idea that most Labour voters are in despair isn’t true – most seem happy enough at the moment with their new leader. There is, however, a significant minority of 2015 Labour voters who really aren’t happy at all.

Later on in the survey YouGov asked people if they would trust Jeremy Corbyn to make the right decisions on various issues – the only one were he came up positively was the NHS, normally a safe issue for Labour, where 40% would trust his judgement, 34% would not. Everywhere else he struggled – only 28% would trust him on government spending and cuts, 27% on tax, 24% on immigration, 23% on the economy, just 20% on defence. It almost goes without saying that hardly any Tory voters would trust him, ditto for UKIP voters (some have suggested Corbyn could win back votes from UKIP, perhaps he could, but the poll here shows what a challenge it will be). More worrying here is the sizeable chunk of people who voted Labour in 2015, but don’t trust Corbyn on key issues. 21% of Labour voters wouldn’t trust him on spending, 35% wouldn’t trust him on defence, 26% wouldn’t trust him to run the economy.

Labour’s performance at the last election was poor to begin with and Corbyn needs to hold onto those Labour voters who are currently saying they don’t trust him (he can try to replace them instead with non-voters, Green converts and so on… but then he’s trying to attract new voters just to make up for those he may be losing. Labour need to keep their existing voters AND attract new ones.)

Of course it’s early days and Corbyn has a long time to build trust. To use a well worn metaphor, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That said, Corbyn’s start hasn’t been good: rather than a honeymoon, he’s had an initial week of bad press and perceived gaffes. It’s not a surprise that his initial ratings are negative given the media prism that most of the public have seen him through… but like it or not, that is the politics we have. We can only measure the opinion of the actual public – the actual voters, not some imaginary public where Corbyn got a better press. First impressions count, and the public’s first impressions of Jeremy Corbyn don’t seem good.


Friday is the anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, so we’ve had a flux of Scottish polls over the weekend from YouGov, Panelbase and Survation. They mostly covered the same ground – should there be another referendum and how would people vote, and how people will vote in the Holyrood election next year.

Should there be a second referendum?

In the Survation poll 43% of Scots wanted another referendum within five years, 36% said in five years or more time, 20% never. Panelbase found 36% wanted a referendum within five years, 55% did not.

In YouGov’s survey they didn’t ask a timing question, but asked a couple of questions on whether there should be a second referendum. 40% of people thought that a referendum should be a once in a generation event, and there shouldn’t be another for many years. 29% thought that a referendum should not necessarily be once in a generation, and there was no reason why there shouldn’t be another one soon. Inbetween those two groups were 24% of people who thought a referendum should be once in a generation…but that if circumstances change, an early second referendum could be the right thing to do. One potential such change could be the European referendum (15% of people told YouGov they didn’t support a second referendum, but would do if Britain voted to leave the EU), but the SNP could obviously seek to persuade Scots of the case for a second referendum because circumstances had changed in other ways.

How would people vote in a second referendum?

All three polls had very similar findings – people would still vote NO in a referendum tomorrow, but by a smaller margin than they did a year ago. Survation had figures of YES 49%, NO 51%, Panelbase had figures of YES 47%, NO 53%, YouGov had figures of YES 48%, NO 52%.

Holyrood elections

The main story across all three polls was again the same, and largely unexpected: the SNP are headed for another landslide victory in next year’s Holyrood election.

  • Survation/Daily Mail had constituency shares of SNP 53%, LAB 22%, CON 14%, LD 6%. Regional shares were SNP 42%, LAB 21%, CON 13%, LD 6%, GRN 11%.
  • Panelbase/Sunday Times had constituency shares of SNP 52%, LAB 23%, CON 14%, LD 6%. Regional support stood at SNP 48%, LAB 22%, CON 15%, LD 6%, GRN 6%
  • YouGov/Times had constituency support at SNP 51%, LAB 22%, CON 18%, LD 4%.Regional support stood at SNP 45%, LAB 20%, CON 18%, LD 4%, GRN 6%

All three had the SNP just over 50% in the constituency vote, and a little lower in the regional vote (which may be a Green party effect, the Scottish Greens don’t typically stand in the constituencies). The main differences between the polls are that Survation show the Greens doing significantly better than Panelbase and YouGov, and that YouGov have the Scottish Tories doing significantly better.

Tables for the three polls are here – Panelbase, YouGov (1),(2), Survation

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian is out today and has topline figures of CON 38%(-2), LAB 32%(+1), LDEM 8%(+1), UKIP 13%(+3), GRN 3%(-1). The full tables are on their website here.

The fieldwork for the poll was Friday to Sunday, meaning just over half of the interviews were conducted before Jeremy Corbyn was announced as Labour’s new leader. If you are waiting to see the impact of Corbyn on Labour’s voting intention figures, you’ll need to wait for another poll (and even then, if the next poll has Labour down a bit or up a bit, unless it’s a huge great shift it will be indistinguishable from normal sample error. As ever, we’d need to wait for a couple of polls showing movement in the same direction before concluding there had been any real effect).

Jeremy Corbyn wins

Jeremy Corbyn has, as expected, won the Labour leadership election. I say as expected but the reality is we didn’t actually have that much evidence to go on during the campaign – noise on Twitter and size of crowds at campaign meetings are bunk, the reports of what the campaigns canvassing operations found were very erratic and while we had concrete figures for local party nominations we didn’t know how good a guide that would be to how local members actually voted. The expectation that Jeremy Corbyn was going to win was based upon the polls, or more specifically, two YouGov polls, both conducted for the Times.

We only have to go back a few months to another election when there was a wide expectation of a particular result, based on what the polling evidence was telling us and it didn’t work out so well. Polling an internal party election is a very different challenge to polling a general election, in many ways a more difficult one – you have to track down respondents from a very small pool. The huge influx of new members and registered supporters made this election particularly tricky – YouGov had more demographic data about Labour party members than they did when they polled the 2010 leadership election, but that was only about half the electorate. The rest were an unknown quantity. Rationally I was confident in the polling showing Corbyn was ahead, not least because it showed Corbyn winning amongst every demographic group, but that didn’t stop the nagging fear that come Saturday Jeremy Corbyn would have trailled in last place and the whole of the media would have been following the wrong story based on wrong polls.

In the event, the YouGov poll actually seems to have matched up well against the final result, though there was a month between fieldwork and the end of the contest. The last poll was conducted back in August, and had figures of Corbyn 53%, Burnham 21%, Cooper 18%, Kendall 8%. This was before registration to take place in the election closed and a couple of days later when Labour released the final figures for the number of members, supporters and affiliates YouGov reweighted the figures to reflect the proper balance of the electorate. That took Corbyn’s share up to 57%. In the event Corbyn won with 59.5%

With the contest over, now we wait to see what the impact will be. I wrote at greater length here about what the polls could tell us about how well or badly Jeremy Corbyn will do (long and the short of it, as far as direct evidence is concerned they can’t tell us much). Personally I wouldn’t expect some immediate crisis in Labour support unless the party completely rips itself apart (most people simply don’t pay enough attention to what the opposition party is up to!), there could even be a short term boost from a new leader. We shall see.