Conservative Diary

Opinion polls

17 Sep 2013 15:12:57

Euroscepticism is rising on the Continent, but is it enough to aid Cameron's renegotiation?

By Mark Wallace
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Euro meltdownTwo new polls out today offer some insight into the state of euroscepticism across the Continent. 

First, a poll by Ifop for the French newspaper La Croix shows rising opposition to Brussels. Their findings are that:

"In Spain, 37 percent of respondents said EU membership was a bad thing, up from 26 percent in June 2012, rising to 43 percent in France (from 38 percent), 44 percent in eurozone powerhouse Germany (from 36 percent) and 45 percent in Italy (from 39 percent)."

Following hard on their heels is Open Europe, who have polled German voters to find:

"Strong support for devolving powers from the EU to member states: By a margin of two to one (50% in favour, 26% against), German voters say the next German Chancellor should back the efforts by some European politicians to decentralise powers from the EU to the national, regional or local level."

German euroscepticism seems increasingly deep-seated, over a number of policy areas

OE Policy List

The European Parliament and the EU Commission are also viewed as the two most untrustworthy institutions by German voters - further testimony to the stereotype of teutonic common sense.

This has potentially interesting connotations for David Cameron's renegotiation. I've long been sceptical of his chances for success (particularly given the woeful Balance of Competences review), but the new polling suggests widespread sympathy among European electorates for his position.

Continue reading "Euroscepticism is rising on the Continent, but is it enough to aid Cameron's renegotiation?" »

16 Sep 2013 06:13:03

The Molotov-Ribbentrop, Miliband-Farage Pact

Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 20.42.08
By Paul Goodman
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Lord Ashcroft wrote yesterday on this site, while analysing his latest poll from Conservative-Labour marginals, that he is more optimistic about the Tories' chances at the next election than the survey "might at first glance give reason to be".  A brief look at its findings indeed provides no cheer for David Cameron, since "Labour’s lead in these seats has grown from nine to 14 points over the last two years, largely because of the defection of Tory voters to UKIP". Our proprietor's reasoning is that since leadership matters to voters, and David Cameron continues to lead Ed Miliband in that respect, Labour's lead in those marginals will fall as the election approaches.

Continue reading "The Molotov-Ribbentrop, Miliband-Farage Pact" »

9 Sep 2013 17:05:19

More evidence that young voters are shifting to the right - this time on the welfare state

By Mark Wallace
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A growing dataset has emerged over the last few months suggesting a rightwards shift among the young. Be it in the beliefs younger voters hold or the more modest shift in the party they support, it seems that Generation Y are striking out in a different direction to their parents.

More evidence comes today in a new Demos report, Generation Strains, in which the authors examine polling data on the views of different generations on the welfare state. Some of the results are predictable and driven by life-cycle, such as the tendency for young adults to make child benefit a high priority. Others, though, point to generational changes in opinion.

For example, look at the proportion of people in each generation who agree that "the creation of the welfare state is one of Britain's proudest achievements" (all graphs from Demos):

Demos Welfare State Generational
The young are strikingly less enthusiastic about the welfare state than the old.

Continue reading "More evidence that young voters are shifting to the right - this time on the welfare state" »

13 Aug 2013 08:28:05

The Conservative economic poll lead soars. But Labour's overall poll lead stays.

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 08.27.49
By Paul Goodman

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ICM produced a poll recently which showed that the Conservatives had drawn level with Labour, but its survey in today's Guardian shows a three-point gap:

Conservatives: 32 per cent.

Labour: 35 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 14 per cent.

UKIP: 10 per cent.

Today's daily YouGov tracker finds the Tories at about the same level, but Labour significantly higher:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 40 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent.

UKIP: 13 per cent.

These figures aren't all that different from Populus's twice-weekly tracker, which was published yesterday:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 39 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 12 per cent

UKIP: 10 per cent.

Finally, let's have a look at YouGov's poll for the Sunday Times of a few days ago which, unsurprisingly, is very like today's daily tracker:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 41 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 9 per cent.

UKIP: 10 per cent.

I don't believe that polls can tell us much about voting intention this far out from an election, but my summary of where we are is as follows:

Conservatives: The Guardian properly leads today on the rise in the proportion of respondents backing the Tory economic team over the Labour one: the proportion supporting the former has soared from 28 per cent in June to 40 per cent now.  But this support isn't being carried over into voting intention, at least yet.  The Party is coming consistently polling about a third of the vote.

Labour: ICM is showing Labour lower than the other two pollsters who've conducted samples recently.  These suggest that the running August story over Ed Miliband's leadership problems is doing nothing to prevent it holding a healthy lead over the Tories.  If you punch today's tracker figures into Electoral Calculus's general election calculator, it will produce an emphatic Labour majority of 88.

It's true that Labour's rating is a long way south of where the main opposition party should hope to be now, and I suspect that as the election approaches David Cameron will narrow the gap. The Liberal Democrats should do better in the seats they hold than their ratings above suggest.  And there's nothing to suggest that UKIP will fall as low as the three per cent they won in 2010.

None the less, the Conservatives have to open up a lead of between seven per cent and ten per cent on polling day for David Cameron to gain a majority - unless they perform extraodinarily well in the marginals (see this piece by YouGov's Peter Kellner).  I have a £100 bet with Dan Hodges that this won't happen, though it is certainly possible that we will be the biggest party.

All in all, there is no good reason to believe that there will be a majority Tory government after 2015, and thus none, either, for the current wave of Conservative optimism.  But Tory MPs in marginal seats are cheered by the belief that they've a better chance of holding them, and we're all cheered further by the cosmic uselessness of the worst opposition since Michael Foot's.

15 Jul 2013 18:56:18

Wow! ICM has the Conservative and Labour level. But is the poll a rogue?

Screen shot 2013-07-15 at 18.53.53
By Paul Goodman
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Here are the figures from the Guardian:

Conservatives: 36 per cent (+ 7).

Labour: 36 per cent (no change).

Liberal Democrats: 13 per cent (+ 1).

UKIP: 15 per cent (- 7).

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour writes that:

  • This is the best result for the Tories in an ICM poll since they led by 3 points before George Osborne's politically disastrous budget in March 2012.
  • "The fall in the UKIP share may reflect both the recent comparative decline in publicity for Nigel Farage as well as Downing Street's efforts to neutralise UKIP's appeal."
  • "Liberal Democrats will be concerned at the absence of any sign in the ICM poll that its overall vote is picking up, despite the decline in UKIP support."

Three additional points:

  • As Wintour says, UKIP is likely to argue that "the fall-off in support has not been reflected in most other polls". (At the weekend, four online showed UKIP support in the high teens).
  • YouGov's findings differ from ICM's. Its daily online poll shows Labour leading by about 11 points - a hardening in its poll ratings.
  • However, the Independent's poll of polls recently found a fall in the size of Labour's lead.  The paper reported that it fallen "from 13 to six points in the past four months".

Finally, remember that all other things being equal (which they admittedly never are), David Cameron needs a lead of some 7-10 points over Labour to win in 2015.

12 Jul 2013 08:19:14

From Lord Ashcroft’s research event, an impression emerges: people don’t believe politicians when it comes to immigration

By Peter Hoskin
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Picture 1

The courtroom: a conference room in a tidy, central London hotel.

The jury: 85 carefully selected members of the public.

The defendant: a regular ol’ hot potato called… immigration.

Don’t get me wrong, immigration wasn’t actually on trial yesterday. This was just the name of a research event put on by Lord Ashcroft Polls: “Immigration on Trial”. The aim was to gather a range of public opinion about immigration under one roof, and press and prod its skinfolds. The readings that emerged would supplement a nationwide survey, with some 20,000 respondents, that has already been conducted and that will be published soon. In his introductory remarks, Lord Ashcroft referred to it all as “the most comprehensive and detailed account of people’s attitudes towards immigration in Britain”.

And so, nearly one hundred people congregated at 9.30am in the Park Plaza hotel near London’s Victoria Station. They had been selected according to pre-defined attitudes towards immigration. Each group was seated around a table, ten in all, and joined by a moderator. For the next six hours, with breaks for food and drink, they’d discuss the issue at hand. “It’s like focus groups meets speed dating,” explained one of the attendant pollsters.

Ah, there’s that phrase: “focus group”. Before we continue, I feel two things ought to be said about it. The first is that focus groups don’t deserve the sneers they sometimes attract. Removed from behind the oak-panelled doors of Westminster, as it was yesterday, it becomes clear: they’re a very useful means of gauging public opinion. Here were various people, of numerous incomes, backgrounds, ethnicities, persuasions and creeds, all giving their take on a seriously serious subject. A politician needn’t be led or swayed by the information that emerges from it – they might simply be informed.

Picture 2And the second is that there have rarely, if ever, been focus groups such as this. A normal focus group might involve one of the tables at yesterday’s event. Here, there were nine others as well. And pains were taken to make the whole process as “interactive” as possible, not just a list of what-do-you-think questions. Throughout the day, there were presentations and video clips for the audience to respond to. They were armed with little gizmos (pictured to the right) through which they could express their views. Even from the sidelines, where I was skulking with my laptop, it was all very engaging.

The first session of the day saw those gizmos put to instant use. To establish a framework for the ensuing discussion, people bashed out their immediate thoughts on immigration. And the nature of those thoughts? Peering over the pollsters’ shoulders, one thing struck me: this wasn’t so much an outpouring of public opinion, as a general appeal for facts. Most of the audience members were asking questions rather than making statements:

“How many immigrants in prison?”

“How many immigrants are on benefits?”

“How would you describe Britishness?”

And the answers? They started to come in a pair of presentations that had been arranged for the morning. The first was by Sunder Katwala of British Future, and was broadly pro-immigration. He set about listing various benefits that immigration has brought to Britain – from entrepreneurialism to student fees – but was careful to address some of the downsides, and how they might be curbed. “I see very few benefits to Britain if we have immigration without integration,” is how he put it in his conclusion – to nodding from the more sceptical tables.

The second was from Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, who was there to question the scale of the immigration that this country has experienced over the past few decades. “When we have arrivals on this scale, it becomes very difficult to achieve integration in our society,” he said. Ear-catchingly, he also suggested that, as Lord Ashcroft tweeted, “he’s coming to the view that EU membership may not be compatible with controlling immigration”. This is not something that MigrationWatch has loudly broadcast before now.

Of course, the response to these presentations was varied. Weaving through the tables after each, I heard remarks such as “good sense”, “fantasy”, “spin”. That was the nature of this crowd.

Picture 3After lunch, a session from which more certain conclusions could be drawn – at least from my perspective. And this was when the technology really impressed. Three short video clips were played, of each of the three main party leaders – Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, in that order – talking about immigration. The audience members were then to bash furiously at the numbers on their gizmos, registering either their approval or disapproval of what they heard. Press 1, and it would mean “strongly disagree”. Press 5, and it would mean “strongly agree”. A live “worm poll” was simultaneously constructed out of everyone’s responses, as pictured to the right.

The result would have been rather disconcerting for the Coalition parties. Miliband – yes, Miliband – seemed to come out on top. He was followed by Cameron and then Clegg. What won it for Miliband was his insistence, at least in this clip, that immigrants should be able to speak English. What lost it for Clegg was disbelief, even laughter, at the government achievements he claimed. When he said that the Coalition had cut net migration by a third, you could almost hear a collective “yeah, right” ripple through the audience – even though the Lib Dem leader was speaking the truth. And this response wasn’t just reserved for Tuition Fees Nick. Cameron got some of it, too.

And it didn’t get much better for the Coalition partners in the final session of the day. Here, the tables were presented with some modest proposals for immigration policy. Depending on which group you listened to, some did like and some didn’t like ideas such as, “Impose an annual limit on the migration from outside the EU” – but there was widespread uncertainty about whether these were already Government policy or not. It brought proceedings back to those questions asked in the first session: however much the politicians blather on, voters still aren’t sure of the facts.

“We’ve certainly gleaned a lot from all of you today,” said Lord Ashcroft in his closing remarks. We shall have to wait for the final report, due later this month, to see just how much that “lot” is – but, from what I saw yesterday, it’s likely to contain much for the party leadership to ponder. Trust is a sparse commodity in British politics. You can probably underline and italicise that fact when it comes to immigration.

8 Jul 2013 10:54:43

Just when Cameron thought it was safe to get back into the water...

By Paul Goodman
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One of my old friend Daniel Hannan's favourite lines from Shakespeare is taken from Hamlet. There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave/To tell us this.  He quotes it when a statement has been made of the bleeding obvious.

I couldn't help but think of those lines when I read today about the results of a YouGov survey carried out by this site's old friend Professor Tim Bale of Sussex University, which found that -

  • 53 per cent (gasp) feel they are not respected by the Tory leadership.
  • 44 per cent (shock) say they spend no time on party activity in an average month.
  • And only 19 per cent (horror) believe that the party will win an overall majority at the election.

Someone somewhere could have saved themselves time and money by looking back at a recent ConservativeHome members' survey, which found that -

  • 15 per cent believe that there will be a Conservative majority in 2015.

Actually, add those who believe that there will be a Tory minority Government next time round or a Coalition, and the proportion believing Cameron will be in Downing Street then rises to over half.

I'm not greatly moved by the YouGov finding that one in five activists are "seriously considering" voting UKIP.  What they might do is one thing.  That so many want a pact is another.

Furthermore, it isn't clear whether those votes for UKIP may come at 2014's euro-elections or at the general election next year, or both.

None the less, the moral of the story is that Cameron's charm offensive will have to go deeper, faster and longer if it is to stand a chance of succeeding.

And there's no evidence that the good news about Abu Qatada, the Wharton referendum bill, the benefits cap and so on has made much difference to the disillusioned mood of many activsts.

2 Jun 2013 07:57:41

UKIP at record high with Opinium. (But is their method a good one?)

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 08.14.24The figures in today's Observer were reported yesterday evening by Harry Phibbs. They are:

Conservatives: 26% (- 1 from a fortnight ago)

Labour: 37% (No change)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (- 1)

UKIP: 21% (+ 1)

It's worth comparing the figures above with those of YouGov's daily tracker, which are:

Conservatives: 30%

Labour: 39%

Liberal Democrats: 10%

UKIP: 15%

Over at Political Betting, Mike Smithson has written and tweeted that "Opinium is only online pollster that takes no steps to ensure politically balanced sample. Doesn't even ask about GE2010 vote".

What's not in dispute, however, is the trend - so, for example, UKIP were at 17% with ComRes last weekendAs Anthony Wells has put it: "The correct approach is to look at the broad underlying trend and ignore the odd looking polls, the media normally do the opposite.

"The trend is that UKIP support has jumped substantially following their local election success, and that the Labour lead has been narrowing."  Downing Street is hoping that better economic news pushes UKIP's figure down and trims Ed Miliband's lead back further.

25 May 2013 23:21:50

Sunday's polling: UKIP ride high, but face a gender split

By Mark Wallace
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The first of the Sunday newspaper polls to land in my inbox is that done for the Mail on Sunday by Survation.

As some close followers of political polling may recall, Survation dropped a mini-bombshell earlier in the week when they reported the Conservatives on 24% and UKIP snapping at their heels on 22%. As with any outlying poll there were suggestions it was a blip.

Tomorrow's MoS poll, though, repeats the pollster's earlier finding:

Conservative: 24% (no change)

Labour: 35% (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 10% (-1)

UKIP: 22% (nc)

Another Party: 9% (+1)

Within Survation's panel and methodology the surprisingly close gap between the Tories and UKIP is consistent.

The methodology is worth a mention. While most polls only mention the three traditional parties upfront, requiring respondents to volunteer UKIP as their choice,  Survation prompt UKIP in a four-party choice. They also weight the results based on respondents' likelihood to vote - given UKIP's higher support among older voters, that boosts their Survation results further.

The detail buried in the tables is interesting, too. (They're here in PDF format if anyone's interested). As Mike Smithson of Political Betting points out, UKIP's support includes a massive gender divide - 27% of men to 16% of women. It's very possible Farage's blokey image is contributing to that by deterring female voters.

The poll also includes questions about the aftermath of the Woolwich terrorist attack. Encouragingly, it shows that the public are opposed to the possible return of the Snoopers' Charter by a margin of 47% - 40%. It seems the days of kneejerk introduction of legal restrictions on our freedom in the aftermath of such atrocities may be behind us.

20 May 2013 08:25:26

Getting to Know U-KIP 1) Who are UKIP?

UKIP_mag 3By Mark Wallace
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This week, ConservativeHome's "Getting to Know U-KIP" series explores the reality of the party hitting the headlines - who they are, how they work and what they believe. Today's piece is an introduction to UKIPpers, and asks what motivates them, why they do what they do, and what implications that has for British - and particularly Conservative - politics.

In June 2004, buoyed by the high profile declaration of support by Robert Kilroy-Silk, UKIP reached 26,000 members. It was a heady moment for the party - and one that would not last. Within months, the tangerine TV man had stormed out and the new recruits were melting away.

Last Tuesday, UKIP broke that 26,000 record for the first time. They are booming at grassroots level, as well as in the polls. They now have two targets - to reach 30,000 members by the time their party conference begins in September, and to hang onto the new recruits this time.

But who are the UKIPpers? We know what senior Conservatives think of them - from Michael Howard's "cranks and gadflies" and David Cameron's infamous "fruitcakes and closet racists" to Ken Clarke's disastrous "clowns" comment on the eve of the local elections. And yet despite the abuse, they are still on the march - for clowns they are very serious, and they have proved unusually long lived for supposed gadflies.

Understanding them matters - without an insight into their motivations, their history and their views then Conservatives have no way to come up with an informed response. Whether you want to defeat UKIP, ally with them or bring them into the Tory fold, you stand no chance of success if you don't know them.

Continue reading "Getting to Know U-KIP 1) Who are UKIP?" »