Update

Apologies for the lack of posts – there has, of course, been plenty of regular polling on public attitudes towards the coronavirus, notably from YouGov, Opinium and Ipsos MORI… I can’t quite bring myself to dive into it though.

This week there was also the regular Welsh political barometer, ably dissected by Roger Awan-Scully here.


In the last couple of days I’ve seen three polls asking about government handling of the Coronavirus. There was a short Yougov poll shared between Sky and the Times on Friday (here), a much longer YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times (here), and an Opinium poll for this morning’s Observer (here).

I should start by saying a little to what extent public opinion matters at all on a topic like this. In judging what the correct approach is, public opinion obviously weighs little if at all compared to the opinion of experts in epidemiology. However polls are not about finding the correct answer, they are about measuring what the public think, whether that is right or wrong, wise or foolish, and on other levels this does matter. We know the government are keen to stress they are following the scientific advice, but would they be blown off that course if there was widespread public dissatisfaction? We don’t know. Perhaps more importantly, many of the actions the government will take in the months ahead will depend upon the public’s willingness to get on board and follow their instructions, so public confidence in the government’s actions really will matter.

On the topline the majority of people approve of the government’s performance:

  • in the YouGov/Times/Sky poll 55% said the government was handling it well, 31% badly.
  • In the YouGov/Sunday Times poll 53% say they have a confidence in the governments handling, 40% do not.
  • In the Opinium/Observer poll 44% approved of the government’s reaction, 30% disapproved.

Overall these are positive findings. However there is a caveat. Asked about the amount the govt have done to respond the YouGov/Sunday Times polls dound 47% think have done too little, compared to 4% too much and 39% about right. Using a differently worded question Opinium found a similar breakdown of opinion (12% over-reacting, 41% under-reacting, 41% about right). In other words, while the public support the governments handling so far, there is some feeling they should now be going further (though given the government have been explicit that they will be introducing more stringent measures in future weeks it’s probably a good sign that there is public appetite for it… it would be far trickier if the public thought the government were over-reacting).

It’s also worth noting that Opinium found that only 36% of people trusted what Boris Johnson personally said on the issue of the coronavirus, a less positive figure than the government as a whole (in contrast 59% of people said they trusted Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Advisor – suggesting the government’s strategy of regularly flanking Johnson with Whitty and Patrick Vallance at press conferences may be a wise one).

Asked about specific changes that could be introduced there seems to be widespread support for a wide variety of measures. The YouGov/Sunday Times poll found majority support for a state of emergency, for travel bans, for food rationing, for cancelling large events. Opinium found similar. Asked about closing schools (perhaps the topic that has been discussed the most over the last week), Opinium found 44% of people in favour, 26% opposed – plurality support, but not the overwhelming backing they found for some other measures.


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Sky News have released a new YouGov poll of Labour party members and affiliated supporters for the leadership election. First preferences for leader stand at STARMER 53%, LONG BAILEY 31%, NANDY 16%. While on these figures Starmer would narrowly win on first preferences anyway, if you reallocate Nandy’s votes the final preferences would be STARMER 66%, LONG BAILEY 34%.

Compared to the previous YouGov poll conducted in January Long Bailey’s support is almost unchanged, while Nandy and Starmer are up 8 and 7 points respectively, presumably largely due to picking up the preferences of those who previously supported Jess Philips or Emily Thornberry. This is the first poll to include voters from affiliated trade unionists – Starmer’s support is slightly higher among affiliates than full members, increasing his lead slightly.

Looking through the demographic breakdowns Starmer leads among all age groups, among both men and women, and across all regions (though his lead is bigger in the South than the North, and bigger among older members). The most notable demographic difference continues to be in terms of social grade, with Starmer only having a lead of 4 points among C2DE respondents. The other interesting, if not wholly surprising difference is by length of membership – those people who joined the Labour party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership are more likely to support Rebecca Long Bailey, those who joined before 2015 or have joined since the 2019 election are far more likely to support Starmer.

The poll also suggests a clear winner in the deputy leadership contest. First round preferences are RAYNER 47%, BURGON 19%, ALLIN-KHAN 13%, BUTLER 12%, MURRAY 9%, with RAYNER likely to pass the fifty-percent mark once Ian Murray’s votes are redistributed. Redistributing all the votes would give a final round of RAYNER 73%, BURGON 27%.

Full tables are here.


Voting intention polling straight after a general election is probably the least interesting of any voting intention polling, especially a general election that has produced a decisive result. That goes all the more when two of the main parties have leadership contests, so voters don’t know who is going to lead them or what is going to be on offer. Nevertheless, any tracker needs to start somewhere.

So far we have had three voting intention polls since the general election. The first post-election YouGov poll came out in this morning’s Times, with topline figures of CON 49%(+4), LAB 29%(-4), LDEM 10%(-2), GRN 4%(+1). Fieldwork was over the weekend.

We have also had a first post-election poll from Opinium (fieldwork 15th-17th Jan), which had topline figures of CON 47%(+2), LAB 30%(-3), LDEM 9%(-3), GRN 4%(+1), and BMG (fieldwork 8th-10th Jan) which had figures of CON 44%(-1), LAB 29%(-4), LDEM 11%(-1), GRN 5%(+2).

All of them show a bigger lead for the Conservatives than at last month’s general election, probably no more than a honeymoon and a reflection that Labour don’t currently have a leader.


I’ve been catching up on sleep after the election, but this is just to add a brief, post-election round up of how the polls performed. In 2015 and 2017 the equivalent posts were all about how the polls had got it wrong, and what might have caused it (even in 2010, when the polls got the gap between Labour and the Conservatives pretty much spot on, there were questions about the overstatement of the Liberal Democrats). It’s therefore rather a relief to be able to write up an election when the polls were pretty much correct.

The majority of the final polls had all the main parties within two points, with Ipsos MORI and Opinium almost spot on – well done both of them. The only companies that really missed the mark were ICM and ComRes, who understated the Tories and overstated Labour, meaning they had Conservative leads of only 6 and 5 points in their final polls.

My perception during the campaign was that much of the difference between polling companies showing small Conservative leads and those companies showing bigger leads was down to how and if they were accounting for false recall when weighting using past vote – I suspect this may well explain the spread in the final polls. Those companies that came closest were those who either do not weight by past vote (MORI & NCPolitics), adjusted for it (Kantar), or used data collected in 2017 (Opinium & YouGov). ComRes and ICM were, as far as I know, both just weighting recalled 2017 past vote to actual 2017 vote shares, something that would risk overstating Labour support if people disproportionately failed to recall voting Labour in 2017.

The YouGov MRP performed less well than in 2017. The final vote shares it produced were all within 2 points of the actual shares, but the seat predictions showed a smaller Tory majority than happened in reality. Ben Lauderdale who designed the model has already posted his thoughts on what happened here. Part of it is simply a function of vote share (a small difference in vote share makes a big difference to seat numbers), part of it was an overstatement of Brexit party support in the key Conservative target seats. Whether that was having too many Brexit supporters in the sample, or Brexit party supporters swinging back to the Tories in the last 48 hours will be clearer once we’ve got some recontact data.

Finally, the 2019 election saw a resurgence of individual constituency polling, primarily from Survation and Deltapoll. Constituency polling is difficult (and I understand has become even more so since the advent of GDPR, as it has reduced the availability of purchasable database of mobile phone numbers from specific areas), and with small sample sizes of 400 or 500 it will inevitably be imprecise. Overall, it performed well this time though – particularly given that many of the constituency polls were conducted in seats you would expect to be hard to poll: unusual seats, or places with independents or high profile defectors standing. David Gauke’s support was understated, for example, and in Putney constituency polling overstated Lib Dem support at the expense of Labour. However, in many places it performed well, particularly the Chelsea & Fulham, Wimbledon, Finchley and Esher & Walton polls.

And with that, I’m off for a nice Christmas break. Have a good Christmas and happy new year.