Times poll gives Labour lead of 15pts over Tories


by Sunny Hundal    
8:07 am - September 18th 2012

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This is on the front page of The Times today.

Of course, the usual caveats apply: it could be an outlier poll (though it still means Labour is maintaining a 10pt + lead in the polls).

In a direct head-to-head match with Ed Miliband, Cameron does much better however.

But Cameron can’t take too much joy from that: people vote for parties not leaders. Plus, Cameron’s personal ratings have been on a relentless downward trajectory over the last two years.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Let us know in 2014 that’s when it counts not now, the problem is for labour in 2014 they will need to tell us where they are going, what they intend to do, and I suspect people will need to look at the ties to see which party the leaders belong to, and they may well be a different shade of blue.

So the most popular choice would be a Labour government led by Cameron…

3. James from Durham

Cherub

It makes sense. Like Blair, Cameron is so devoid of substance that he could “lead” any party. If the Labour Party were happy to be led by Blair, why not Cameron?

But Cameron can’t take too much joy from that: people vote for parties not leaders.

Tell that to the Scots. Labour were miles ahead on party polling in the run up to the last Scottish election, but Salmond was also mil;es ahead of Iain Grey. Remember the result?

How many years until the next election?

Seriously, will you give us a poll every week from now until 2014? Please don’t.

Tim J

Two differences with Scotland and Westminster.

1 – regional votes may make the leadership vote more significant – especially where the marginal difference between the Westminster leaders is not comparable to the gulf in popularity between the Edinburgh leaders in the run up to 2011.

2 – Labour didn’t develop any sort of lead over SNP until about about 2 and a half years into the SNP’s rule. So it was classic (if a little late) mid-term strength from the opposition, and thus, although it dissipated late (April 2011) it did follow fairly normal electoral patterns for fading come the election.

That is very unlike the growth in support for Labour since 2010, which saw an almost immediate ten point rise from about 30% to about 40% after defeat in the election. This was very abnormal and according to Ashcroft’s studies reflects a solid shift of about 10% of voters from Lib Dem to Labour because of percieved wasted votes in delivering a right wing government.

That, if true, creates a new “floor” vote for Labour that is in the upper 30%s – which is rather unlike the mid-term boost which one would expect to be rather fuzzy and likely to erode over things like policy or leadership popularity.

Of course this poll is a statistical anomaly anyway. The tories are marginally lower than their recent trend, and labour marginally up on recent trend – both within the margin for error – but combined they result in a labour lead about 4-5% higher than trend.

andreas

Polling is news – and when a new “highest” or “lowest” is recorded in a poll – it is an interesting, if slightly anomalous, indication of a state of play.

If you don’t find polls interesting (or just don’t like what they tell you) don’t read and don’t post.

The runes tell me :-

Labour :- Base support +15.

Tory :- Base support.

LibDem :- Unlikely to get better.

A bit like the French revolution. Too early to say.

CASSANDRA

I’d suggest that a stronger analysis would be that, if polling trends more widely are considered…

Labour = Base + 5-10
Tories = Base
Lib Dems = Base + 2

Lib Dems have averaged about 8% for a while, and Labour’s base is probably up somewhat from 2010 because of the shift of Lefty lib dems from 2010 who by June 2010 felt that they had been duped into voting right wing and so switched to their rivals.

I’ve been told this is being seen in the “how did you vote” analysis that polling companies do. It seems a lot fewer people than 23% voted Lib Dems in 2010 now, and a lot more than 30% voted Labour.

This tends to happen when people shift allegiences rather than just shift votes, because they either remember time-frames wrong or because they are keen to emphasise their new-found loyalty and hide their past “mistake” (as they see it).

@ 4 & 6

I think the big difference is that the Tories wont be able to rename themselves “Dave Cameron for Prime Minister” on the ballot paper in the way the SNP did in 2011.

“people vote for parties not leaders.”

Keep telling yourself that.

Of course even if you’re right, it’s hardly the most ringing endorsement of Ed is it?

12. Roger Mexico

#9. margin4error

I’ve been told this is being seen in the “how did you vote” analysis that polling companies do. It seems a lot fewer people than 23% voted Lib Dems in 2010 now, and a lot more than 30% voted Labour

Well if you look at this very Populus poll:

http://www.populus.co.uk/uploads/120918%20Populus_Times%20September%202012.pdf#page=27

when people were asked At the general election in May 2010, many people didn’t vote. Can you remember, did you vote in that election, or did you not vote? And which party did you vote for in the general election in May 2010? only 13% said Lib Dem instead of 15%; 23% said Labour instead of 20%. (Remember pecentages include non-voters)

So I wouldn’t say “a lot” and it’s complicated by polls being less likely to include non-voters, but there’s a little bit of an effect there and it’s also seen in Populus’s June and July figures.

13. margin4error

Roger

I apologise – I should have said “significant”. Bad practice of me to slip out of stats language.

You normally don’t see much change at all in past voting numbers – because of course it is a relatively fixed thing. It isn’t an opinion as to whether one voted for a party or not. It is a fact.

So to see a five percent swing across two parties like that – if it is consistent and not an anomalous poll (which the similar result in June andf July suggests is the case) then it is quite a signigicant stat.

As I say – I should have said “significant”. Sorry.

14. Roger Mexico

The Conservatives – and commenters such as Jimmy at #11 – seem to have a belief that Ed Miliband is some magic ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card’. No matter how bad things look in the polls, all they have to do is say “Look at Ed Miliband – he’s a bit weird” and the entire population will immediately vote Conservative.

It ain’t gonna happen folks. Firstly because he doesn’t look that odd – compared say to David Cameron who like all politicians is slowly morphing into his Steve Bell caricature. Secondly Party leaders matter, but they don’t matter that much. It may make a difference in a tight race as in 1992 (but even then it was the quiet leader not the ‘charismatic’ one who won) but if the people want a change in policy and Party, Attlee will always beat Churchill.

The other danger in the bash-Ed approach is what you might call the Prince Charles Effect. For various reasons (it always happens in Britain to adult heirs to the throne, unless they become monarch quickly as his Mum did) poor old Chas suffers from a continuous low level bad press, plus being a general butt of various jokes. This tends to be reflected in his polling numbers, which are to some extent about coverage and general perception rather than people’s fixed opinions.

However. after the Jubilee. YouGov showed a big turnaround in Charles’s numbers from when similar questions had been asked a mere fortnight earlier. For example the split of ‘good/not a good king’ went from 37-37 to 46-26 in favour.

Now these changes weren’t because Charles did anything special. It was just due to him behaving competently and getting neutral coverage.

In the same way Miliband has been constantly under attack from the press and become the subject of pro-forma jokes. However in an election campaign, where broadcast media become more important – and neutral and equal coverage there guaranteed – this may change quickly as we saw with Charles over the Jubilee.

The point is he doesn’t have to be spectacularly wonderful, he just has to be better than expectation. And the constant sniping mean that that expectation is low. This is why attacks on Miliband are in the long term counterproductive and why in weeks where he does get some good coverage his ratings go up substantially.

“No matter how bad things look in the polls, all they have to do is say “Look at Ed Miliband – he’s a bit weird” and the entire population will immediately vote Conservative.”

Not quite my point, for one thing it’s clear the nation has little affection for either leader. Two things seem reasonably clear: firstly that the lead is fragile, and secondly that we would be doing better with a leader who was not a drag on the party’s poll numbers.

16. margin4error

Jimmy

You make two assumptions there – neither fit with sound analysis.

1 – the lead clearly doesn’t seem fragile on the polling data. A consistent trend of double digit lead for about half a year now, and 40ish percent support for the last two years, suggests some level of solidity to the figures rather than fragility.

2 – while Ed would not have been my choice of leader – i’ve started to come around to thinking he is doing a good job as a conductor rather than a captain. Labour’s polling and its success in winning round Lib Dems early on is not a given. It is the result of its strategy and targeting over two years – and that’s down to the leader.

@margin4error,

I think it’s fragile in the sense that it represents opposition to the government rather than active support for Labour. Supplementary questions on policy show little enthusiasm for Labour as opposed to dislike of the tories. It’s noticeable that in polls which have prompted voters with the leaders’ names, the Labour lead evaporates alarmingly. During an election (which will presumably include debates now) this is likely to become more marked. This looks worryingly like 1992, when a winnable election was lost due to the fact that the voters simply did not see our leader as a potential PM.

18. margin4error

Jimmy

The 1992 election was lost in part because the Tory line of “experienced hands on the wheel” worked well – and because Labour appeared triumphalist before the election campaign.

Putting it down to leadership is rather unlikely as Major was of course generally seen as a terribly weak choice for Tory leader by the public.

And again, the fragility of the lead isn’t backed by the trend. People often get negative about specifics in polls – but the rapid conversion of lib dems to labour immediately after coalition was struck – suggests more than opposition to government at work. It suggests labour grew its base by successfully attracting left wing lib dems who had been betrayed by their party.

Were that happening now, it would be more conventional opposition to government sentiment one sees in mid-term. But it happened in the first three or four months, which historically just doesn’t happen to new governing parties. An expelled party always takes years to start building support. It never happens in the first year unless something more fundemental has happened.

19. Roger Mexico

#17. Jimmy

[...]It’s noticeable that in polls which have prompted voters with the leaders’ names, the Labour lead evaporates alarmingly. During an election (which will presumably include debates now) this is likely to become more marked…

Again a bit, but not alarmingly. YouGov explicitly mentioned Party leaders earlier in the month the gauge the effect:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/t046hzxg9l/Boris%20Results%2012.09.12.pdf

For some reason those tables aren’t accessible from the Archive, just directly, but the other questions (including some about Party leaders) asked of the sample are here:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/9piq0n9szz/YG-Archives-Pol-Sun-results-100912.pdf

Reminding voters of Party leaders didn’t have much effect on headline VI from 31/42/10 to 32/40/10. Mentioning Cameron still kept 95% of the Conservative vote. Miliband kept 93% of Labour’s with nearly all his loss to non-voting which may be in part a reflection of Labour voters being less engaged.

The big loser was Clegg who kept only 84% of the nominal Lib Dem vote – I suspect big losses to the Greens. The Lib Dem sample may have been a bit anomalous as it originally showed them keeping 42% of their 2010 vote (excluding current non-voters) and losing only 31% to Labour – the figures are usually closer.

Of course all Parties would also make some vote gains with the changed question – these are just the losses which are easier to check.

Introducing Boris into the equation changed the headline VI to 37/38/11 but “hypothetical” questions should be taken with a pinch of salt the size of Cheshire, especially given the mechanics and machinations that would be involved before Boris could become Tory leader. But there is some indication that if there is a negative Miliband effect it is already mostly built into the figures.

Apologies for using you as an exemplar of the “Get Out Of Jail” tendency, but there is a lot of it around. For example <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron-smarter-tougher-and-more-likeable-than-ed-miliband-reveals-poll-8156713.html"yesterday's Evening Standard piece which after considering the results of various loaded questions, claims:

This will reinforce what Mr Cameron’s own pollster, Andrew Cooper, has been telling him for months: “Don’t worry, Prime Minister, the voters won’t let Ed Miliband become Prime Minister.”

You would never know that if you actually look at Ipsos-MORI’s actual data tables:

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/ipsos-mori-political-monitor-september-2012-tables.pdf

for the usual questions that leaders are rated on:

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way David Cameron is doing his job as Prime Minister? 34% v 58% = -24

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Ed Miliband is doing his job as leader of the Labour Party? 38% v 47% = -9

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Nick Clegg is doing his job as Deputy Prime Minister? 23% v 66% = -43

that Miliband is well “ahead” in the least-unpopular contest. Even more revealingly, when you look at those “absolutely certain” to vote, the respective scores are -24, -3, -44.

m4e,

I hope you’re right, but what I hear from the uncommitted sounds ominously similar to the response to Kinnock.

One other note of caution, a lot of the tory vote in the polls has gone to UKIP. Expect that to return when push comes to shove.

21. margin4error

Jimmy

agree that the ukip vote will go home to the tories at the general election – though as always after a period in government, some of it will stay at home rather than actively support.

The key, as I say, is that big shift from lib dem to labou. That should see a lot of labour/tory marginals shift to labour even if the tory vote holds up.

Never mind look at Milliband. Osborne as was shown at the paralympics is absolutely detested by a lot of people. I would suggest that he puts people of the Tories as he looks like a 18th century noble draw a wig on him and he could have been in a stubbs painting


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