Here’s a round up of polls over recent days. For a quiet February week in a post-election year, there’s quite a lot to rake over.

The monthly ICM poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 39%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 4%. Full tabs are here. The Conservative lead is up slightly from last month’s ICM poll (Martin Boon’s comments that “Labour drop three, which is perhaps a more realistic level of performance than the 35% we measured last month. Once again, this phone poll sample recalled voting in a Labour government in May 2015, the sixth time out of nine that our phone polls have done so since the election.”)

At the weekend we had the monthly online ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror. Voting intention figures there were CON 41%, LAB 27%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%, GRN 3%. (full details are here. The twenty-seven percent for Labour equals the lowest they’ve recorded since the election (and indeed, since 2010) but ComRes have tended to produce the worst figures for Labour in recent polling, largely because they’ve made the most extensive changes since last year’s polling error. ComRes have shifted to a turnout model based on socio-economic factors, while most of the other companies have produced comparatively minor interim changes while they wait for the polling inquiry to report. This may, of course, end up being the penultimate poll in the ComRes/Indy on Sunday series, though John Rentoul tweeted at the weekend that he hopes the ComRes polls will continue in the Sindy’s bright new online future.

Thirdly there was a fresh YouGov Wales poll this morning, as usual Roger Scully offers a full write up over on his elections in Wales blog. In short, they show no real change in Westminster voting intentions, a boost for UKIP in Welsh assembly intentions (Constituency vote is CON 22%, LAB 34%, LDEM 5%, Plaid 19%, UKIP 18%, Regional vote is CON 22%, LAB 31%, LDEM 4%, Plaid 19%, UKIP 18%) and movement towards LEAVE in Welsh EU referendum voting intentions – REMAIN 37%, LEAVE 45%, DK/WNV 19%. It’s worth noting that while Scottish opinion on the EU referendum is far more pro-EU than Britain as a whole, Welsh opinion seems to be similar to that in England.

Fourthly, there’s a fresh ComRes/ITV telephone poll on the EU referendum. As has been discussed a lot lately (I wrote about it here) there is a significant contrast between telephone polls on the EU referendum and online polls on the EU referendum, with the former tending to show a much better position for the REMAIN campaign. Today’s ComRes poll is the first telephone poll since the draft details of Cameron’s renegotiation were released, and they show a significant tighting of the race compared to previous telephone polls – topline voting intentions are REMAIN 49%(-5), LEAVE 41%(+5). The eight point lead for Remain is still much more positive for them than online polls are suggesting, but the movement towards leave since the draft deal was announced is the same. Full details of the poll are here.

Finally, YouGov announced today that Peter Kellner is going to retire as YouGov President at the end of March. Peter was YouGov’s Chairman for many years and was in charge of YouGov’s political polling until Joe Twyman took over the team in 2010. He’s continued to be our best known media face and an incredibly valuable source of wise counsel and good advice since then. I expect Joe or I will write more in due course, but he will be hugely missed.

Ipsos MORI have re-asked their questions on the junior doctors’ dispute ahead of the second strike today. The overall level of support remains the same, with two-thirds backing the strike, but underneath that opinions appear to be polarising. While the 66% of people supporting the strike is the same percentage as last month, within that the proportion saying “strongly support” has risen, those saying “tend to support” has fallen. Among the other third of the population the proportion of people saying they don’t know or have no feelings either way has fallen (from 19% to 12%), the proportion of people saying they oppose the strike has risen (from 15% to 22%).

Asked who is to blame for the dispute continuing this long 64% blamed the government, 13% the doctors and 18% both equally. Full details of the poll is here, and my write-up of the January figures is here.

As well as the quality polling by MORI, there is also sadly a new outbreak of newspaper reporting of voodoo polls on the issue. The Indy and Mirror are reporting a “poll” apparently showing 90% of junior doctors would resign if the contract was imposed. We’ve already had one outbreak of voodoo polling in this dispute, that one claiming 70% of junior doctors would resign… which turned out to be a “survey” conducted among the members of a Facebook group campaigning against the contract. This time the two papers reporting it are very tight lipped about where it was conducted, so I don’t know if it’s the same forum – the only clue is that it was organised by Dr Ben White, who is campaigning against the contract. From the Mirror’s write up Dr White did at least ensure respondents were real doctors, but false or multiple responses is far from the only thing that stops voodoo polls being meaningful, it’s also where you do it, whether you recruit respondents in a manner that gets a representative and unbiased survey. You would, for example, get a very different result on foxhunting in a survey conducted on a Countryside Alliance Forum or a League Against Cruel Sports Forum, even if you took measures to ensure all participants were genuine countryside dwellers.

Questions along the lines of “If thing you oppose happens, will you do x?” are extremely dicey anyway – people pick the answers that will best express their anger and opposition (Dr White himself seems to take that perfectly sensible angle in his quote to the Mirror, presenting his findings as an expression of anger). To quote what I wrote last time…

From a respondent’s point of view, if you are filling in a survey about something you oppose, you’re are likely to give the answers that most effectively express your opposition. Faced with a question like this, it’s far more effective to say you might leave your job if your contract is changed than say you’d meekly accept it and carry on as usual.

We see this again and again in polls seeking to measure the impact of policies. For example, before tuition fees were increased there were lots of polls claiming to show how many young people would be put off going to university by increased fees (such as here and here). After the rise, they miraculously continued to apply anyway. Nobody wants to tell a pollster that they would just swallow the thing they oppose.

I don’t doubt that many or most junior doctors are unhappy with the new contract […but…] you shouldn’t necessarily believe people telling pollsters about the awful consequences that will happen if something they don’t like happens. It’s a lot easier to make a threat to a pollster that you’ll resign from your job than it is to actually do it.

And that’s before we get to fact that “considering resigning” is very different to “resigning”. I consider taking up jogging every January, yet the people of Dartford are yet to be subjected to even the briefest glimpse of me in jogging gear.)


As well as the new EU poll, Friday’s Times also had a new YouGov Scottish poll. There was also a new TNS Scottish poll in the week. Topline voting intentions for Holyrood were:

YouGov (tabs)
Constituency: SNP 50%(-1), LAB 19%(-2), CON 20%(+1), LDEM 6%(+1)
Regional: SNP 42%(-3), LAB 20%(nc), CON 20%(+1), GRN 6%(nc), LDEM 5%(nc)

TNS (tabs)
Constituency: SNP 57%(-1), LAB 21%(-2), CON 17%(+5), LDEM 3%(-1)
Regional: SNP 52%(-2), LAB 19%(-1), CON 17%(+5), GRN 6%(-3), LDEM 6%(+2)

While the scale is difference, both polls have the usual overwhelming lead for the SNP. The obvious expectation is that they’ll easily secure a landslide win come May. More interesting is the battle for second place. YouGov have Labour and the Conservatives essentially equal (in the constituency vote the Conservatives are a point ahead after rounding… though this was nearly all in the rounding!). YouGov have tended to show the highest levels of Conservative support in Scotland and have had Labour only a whisker ahead of them for their last couple of polls, however other companies now seem to be showing the Labour and Conservative gap in Scotland narrowing too. TNS have the Conservatives up five points since December, bringing the gap in the regional vote down to two points, a Panelbase poll earlier this month also only had a two point gap between Lab & Con in the regional vote, MORI had the gap falling to 2-3 points in their last poll. Survation’s last Scottish poll still showed a 4-5 point gap this month, but it was down from an eight point gap in their previous poll.

Personally I’d still see the Conservatives coming second in Scotland as unlikely – while Ruth Davidson is well regarded (her approval ratings in the YouGov poll were substantially better than Kezia Dugdale’s) their brand seems almost irretrievably tarnished in Scotland. However if Scottish Labour fall far enough, I suppose it is possible. We shall see.

Tomorrow’s Times has a YouGov poll on the EU, conducted after the announcement of the draft renegotiation proposals. Topline referendum voting intentions are REMAIN 36%(-2), LEAVE 45%(+3), DK/WNV 19%. While the changes since YouGov’s last poll a week ago aren’t huge, since summer YouGov’s referendum polls have tended to show the race neck-and-neck, so today’s nine point lead for leave is a significant departure, and the largest YouGov have shown since 2014. The Times’s story is here and the YouGov tabs are here.

Asked about the details of the draft renegotiation (the emergency brake, child benefit changes, the “red card” and so on) most people were broadly supportive. However, these things are more than just the sum of their parts, and overall the draft agreement is seen as a bad deal for Britain by 46%, with 22% saying it’s a good deal. A majority of respondents said they thought the deal did not go far enough (17% thought it was about right, 4% too far) and 50% thought the deal represented little or no real change. In short, the public’s reaction seems to be “nice as far as it goes…but not nearly enough”.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday so in the context of some very negative press coverage. To some degree this may be a short term reaction based upon that, and we may see things revert back to the neck-and-neck position as the impact fades. Indeed, when people were asked in the poll how they would vote if Cameron managed to secure the draft deal at the EU meeting in February the LEAVE lead dropped back to three points, far more typical for YouGov’s polling. We shall see.

(On other matters, the Daily Express have tragically got their front page headline as the latest results from an open-access voodoo-poll on their own website. I really can’t be bothered to rehearse my usual rant, so here’s one I prepared earlier)