A look back at the polls: June ’09

We tend not to be too poll-obsessed here at LDV – of course we look at them, as do all other politico-geeks, but viewed in isolation no one poll will tell you very much beyond what you want to read into it. Looked at over a reasonable time-span and, if there are enough polls, you can see some trends.
Here, in chronological order, are the results of the twelve polls published in June:

Tories 37%, Labour 21%, Lib Dems 19% – YouGov/Telegraph (4th June 2009)
Tories 38%, Labour 22%, Lib Dems 20% – ComRes/Independent (9th June)
Tories 36%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 19% – Populus/Times (12th June)
Tories 35%, Labour 20%, Lib Dems 16% – Harris/Metro (23rd June)
Tories 40%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Times (14th June)
Tories 39%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 18% – ICM/Guardian (16th June)
Tories 39%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 19% – Mori/Unison (16th June)
Tories 38%, Labour 22%, Lib Dems 20% – ComRes/Independent (21st June)
Tories 38%, Labour 21%, Lib Dems 19% – Mori (unpublished)
Tories 38%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Telegraph (26th June)
Tories 40%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 17% – YouGov/People (26th June)
Tories 36%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 19% – ComRes/Independent (28th June)

Which gives us an average rating for the parties in June as follows (compared with May’s averages):

Tories 38% (-2%), Labour 23% (-1%), Lib Dems 18% (-1%)

All but one of the polls in this month’s round-up took place after the 4th June elections, and usually there is a ‘winner’s premium’: a small boost for whichever party is judged by the media/public to have done best. The same has proven true in 2009 – it’s just that the winner’s premium has been spread among the minor parties (Ukip, Greens, BNP et al).

Remarkably all three major parties have, according to our monthly average, shed support in the past month. I think that’s the first time this has happened in all the months I’ve been writing LDV’s poll round-ups. In fact, if you look at the past two months (ie, post-‘Expensesgate’), the Tories have dropped from 43% down to 38% (-5%) and Labour from 28% to 23% (-5%).

The Lib Dems can take some comfort that our support has remained steady at 18%, and we appear not to have been too badly hit by the relatively minor expenses indiscretions of a handful of our MPs. Equally, we’ll be disappointed that at a time when both Labour and the Tories have taken big hits, losing one-tenth of the public’s support, we have done no more than hold our own.

The FT this week published an analysis by academics Niall Ferguson and Glen O’Hara, Do not count on the Tories winning just yet, highlighting quite how unpredictable the coming general election actually is:

The reality is that the electoral position of the Tories is significantly weaker than that of Labour 12 years ago. Opinion polls have the Tory vote hovering between 36 and 40 per cent. This is nowhere near Labour’s poll position in early 1995, close to 60 per cent. The polls then probably overstated Labour support but the fact remains that the Conservatives have yet to win over the majority of voters. …

We are not saying that the Tories cannot win the general election. But it is by no means as certain as many assume. Even now, with the prime minister on his knees, our prediction would be for the Conservatives to be the largest party in a hung parliament or to have only a small majority. It is a long, hard slog that lies ahead.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.
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13 Comments

  • ‘The reality is that the electoral position of the Tories is significantly weaker than that of Labour 12 years ago.’

    You really need to do some homework and catch up before making those sort of off the cuff ill informed comments.
    Have a look at a quality blog like politicalbetting.com where you can find out for yourself how over stated the pre 97 polls were for Labour and how polling methodology has been so significantly changed since then;how the Labour bias was further accentuated by the dissproportinate amount of public sector workers used in the polling and the failure to ask and adjust findings for the ‘certainty to vote’ question.

    I know you always want to put an anti Tory spin on everything but if you got the basic facts right you would be taken more seriously.

    You mention:

    ‘we appear not to have been too badly hit by the relatively minor expenses indiscretions of a handful of our MPs.’

    No mention of Lord Rennard?
    Clegg said he was going to come down on expense abusers ‘like a ton of bricks’ and yet we have heard zero about whether or not Lord Rennard is going to repay the £41,000 of second home claims.
    We know that Rennard has resigned but is the taxpayer going to be reimburesd?

  • Stephen,sorry about the truth hurting, but next time you can hopefully take the time and effort to ensure that your articles are fact instead of fiction.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Jul '09 - 3:04pm

    Ignoring the Tory Troll, the people who should be most worried about these polls are the Tories. The most remarkable thing to me (on the experience of the past) is how well the LD vote is holding up.

    As the GE gets closer it is likely on past experience that the gap will narrow. The Tories need a consistent
    40%+ to get an overall majority and at the moment that is not looking likely.

    I guess that deep inside the Cameron Bunker there is a lot of worried debate going on. I think we have seen some of the knee-jerk results of this in his recent comments on devolution and section 28.

    Tony Greaves

  • Herbert Brown 4th Jul '09 - 3:57pm

    “The most remarkable thing to me (on the experience of the past) is how well the LD vote is holding up.”

    I agree about the Tory vote, but given the unpopularity of the government and the mediocre performance of the Tories, surely exactly the opposite is true of the Lib Dem vote.

    It’s not remarkable that it’s “holding up” – it’s remarkable that it’s no higher than the upper teens.

    Whereas in the past the third party would benefitted from the unpopularity of the other two, now it’s the “Others” who are benefitting from the unpopularity of all three.

  • Paul Griffiths 4th Jul '09 - 6:34pm

    JZ: The comment you disparage in your original post was made in the FT, not LDV. Try to keep up.

  • Tony Greaves

    ‘The Tories need a consistent
    40%+ to get an overall majority and at the moment that is not looking likely.’

    For someone with supposedly so much experience you are talking absolute rubbish,if Labour are polling around the mid twenties as they have been for some time now,the Tories do not, repeat not need to be polling above the 40% +,this level is required if Labour are around the mid thirties,which was what they achieved at the last election.

    You have a left of centre government with the worst polls in history,the most unpopular government ever and the best the alternative left wing party can get is a spread of 17-20% in the polls,I can understand how frustrating that must be and how much you want to try and deflect attention away from such a poor performance.

  • The most unpopular govt ever… Nah, a close run thing between Major Major or the Duke of Wellington.

    Has Rennard been found guilty then?

  • @John Zims: You suggest that polling methodology has improved since 1997 and has addressed earlier selection bias. And I agree, polls were better in the years leading up to the 2005 election. But we’ll only know if the polls have improved further when the 2009/2010 general election is held.

    Given that absence of information, it is reasonable to assume that current polls suffer from (unintended) selection bias and from Conservative shame (the inability of some people to admit voting Tory).

    Conservative shame is probably why all polls differ so much from the ballot box; when questioned today, it is understandable that some people forget how they voted at the last election; but it is bizarre that the Tory vote is consistently underestimated at exit polls when the interview subject put their cross in the box a few minutes previously.

    And if you want to analyse voter preference change, Conservative shame makes the process even less meaningful. A switch from a self proclaimed former Conservative voter to another party is distinct, because very few people lie about being a Conservative voter. At the same time, a LibDem or Labour “switcher” may actually be a former Conservative voter. You can only make a guess whether you have a real LibDem or Labour “switcher” in conjunction with the responses to social and economic questions. For an opinion poll, those responses are aggregated such that it is unrealistic to identify who switchers are or what their motives may be.

    Polling gets worse really, the more that you think about it. Let us say that you have a really big poll with 5,000 respondents — that is six per constituency. Under FPTP, the majority of those respondents are redundant apart from their contribution to social and economic questions (you’d get some regionality out if them, for example).

    Or you could create a series of small polls across marginal seats — LibDem behind Labour, Conservative behind Labour etc — and then you’d get some scary figures.

  • Stephen Tall

    Your much quoted FT,please see comments below from politicalbetting.com which simply further illustrates how misleading & inaccurate your article and Mr Greaves comments are.

    ‘For what Ferguson ignored was that the only firm with which you can make valid comparisons is ICM which has operated a consistent methodology since the mid-`1990s. The other firms that were working in that period have either radically changed their approach (MORI) or simply disappeared altogether from UK political polling (Gallup).’

    Game,set & match!

  • Anyone else wondering if there is now a ‘Labour shame’ factor depressing their polling?

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