A look back at the polls: October

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 ten polls* published in October:

Tories 42%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 17% – ICM/Guardian (3 Oct)
Tories 45%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 15% – YouGov/Telegraph (4 Oct)
Tories 45%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 15% – Populus/Times (7 Oct)
Tories 43%, Labour 33%, Lib Dems 14% – YouGov/Sunday Times (12 Oct)
Tories 40%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 16% – ComRes/Independent (19 Oct)
Tories 42%, Labour 34%, Lib Dems 14% – YouGov/Mirror (20 Oct)
Tories 42%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 21% – ICM/Guardian (21 Oct)
Tories 45%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 14% – MORI, unpublished (22 Oct)
Tories 39%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 16% – ComRes/Independent (28 Oct)
Tories 42%, Labour 33%, Lib Dems 15% – YouGov/Telegraph (30 Oct)

Which gives us an average rating for the parties in October as follows, compared with September’s averages:

Tories 43% (-1%), Labour 31% (+4%), Lib Dems 16% (-1%)

Well, what a month it’s been – and I’m going to keep this month’s retrospective brief as the polls have been pored over here on LDV enough already:

>> Is there anything more the party can do to turn the polls around? (12 Oct)
>> The polls: what, and who, to believe? (20 Oct)
>> Mike Smithson on why Lib Dem poll ratings vary so much (24 Oct)
>> ICM and the Liberal Democrats (27 Oct)

What’s clear is that the post-credit-crunch Labour bounce-back which began in mid-September has continued into October, with Gordon Brown’s party polling above 30% in every single poll for the first time since February (a fairly astonishing statistic).

Who have they gained from? Well, both the Lib Dems and the Tories have dropped a point in our October ‘poll of polls’, though what’s noticeable is the wide spread of up to 7% – beyond the margin of error – between their respective high and low poll numbers: the Tories range between 39% (ComRes) and 45% (YouGov), while the Lib Dems are between 14% (YouGov) and 21% (ICM). In comparison, Labour’s ratings are pretty stable, ranging 30-34%.

Will Labour’s revival continue? Well, two factors – one short-term, one long-term – might help determine that. First, the result of next Thursday’s Glenrothes by-election in Scotland: if the SNP were to snatch the seat neighbouring Gordon Brown’s then that might trigger a new bout of soul-searching among nervous Labour MPs – and, perhaps as importantly, change the “Brown’s Back” media narrative. Of course, a Labour victory, however slim, will be presented as a boost for the Prime Minister and his party.

The longer-term factor, of course, is the effects of the financial down-turn as recession reality begins to bite. So far, Labour has avoided much of the blame for their part in the British dimension of the global downturn. If the public’s mood changes, the more interesting question will be whether it’s Vince Cable and the Lib Dems or George Osborne and the Tories who are perceived as the best alternative stewards of the economy.

* LDV excludes all BPIX polls – used by the The Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday – as the company has failed to register itself with the British Polling Council, and refuses to publish any of the questions or data on which its headline polling figures are based.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.


  • Clegg's Ardent Admirer 3rd Nov '08 - 6:57pm

    Basically the October polling figures are the kind of Numbers that triggered the Crisis of Confidence in Ming. They are worse than the last days of Kennedy. Fortunately removing a third leader in a single Parliament is so absurd that we can’t afford to undermine Clegg other by now the briefing would have started about him as well.

    My view remains that the bloody coups against Ming and Chaz have done long term damage to the party brand. Having spent the period 1983 to 2005 broadly campaigning for higher public spending on public services we are having to perform the hand break turn of moving from that via no growth in public spending through sharing the proceeeds of growth to net cuts in Public spending.

    Its quite a strategic shift for any party to reverse one of its core possitions of 22 years standing in just 3 years. To do it against the back drop of leadership instability is quite another.

    To try and sell a smaller state against a back drop where everyone from the repossed to wall street is looking to the stae is quite another.

    The final ingredient in this witches brew is having our first establishment leader since perhaps Thorpe at the ehad of party with an anti establishment brand.

    I fear that this is going to end in tears.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 11th Nov '08 - 4:37pm

    Populus poll for today’s Times:
    CON 41%(-4)
    LAB 35%(+5)
    LDEM 16%(+1)

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 11th Nov '08 - 4:41pm

    Oh, and Anthony Wells, on UK Polling Report, says that on the ratings for the party leaders “Nick Clegg scores 4.08, the lowest recorded by any Lib Dem leader to date”.

  • David Allen 11th Nov '08 - 6:09pm

    CAA: Very good post. Just one issue:

    “Removing a third leader in a single Parliament is so absurd…”

    Debatable. How we all laughed and sneered as the Tories careened from one incompetent leader to another – Hague, Duncan-Smith, Howard, all gone within four short years. How we all then sobered up and stopped laughing when the Tories finally found someone who, whatever you think of him, does actually look like a leader.

    Perhaps we have something to learn from the Tories here, or for that matter Marks and Spencer and other large companies. Which is – if you’re paying top whack for a top grade leader, you should quickly get rid of anyone who doesn’t perform. Once you’ve found a good guy, people will quickly forget about all the people you had to say goodbye to.

    And just one more lesson from the Tories – Don’t assume that just because someone can’t do leadership, that they can’t do anything. Look at Hague and Duncan-Smith now. In Tory terms, they’ve both found something now that they can do well, and get plenty of credit for from their party. We don’t need to send Nick to Siberia!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 11th Nov '08 - 6:24pm

    “How we all laughed and sneered as the Tories careened from one incompetent leader to another – Hague, Duncan-Smith, Howard, all gone within four short years.”

    But they didn’t get rid of Howard until after he lost an election. I suspect the party is stuck with Clegg until 2010.

  • Clegg’s low public rating is more likely down to his low recognition factor at large – something Ming and CK had built up over a long period – so to be on 4.08 should probably be counted a success from where he started.

    Give him a general election campaign for people to get to know him and I’m pretty sure it will rise as he grows in confidence and assurance.

    Confidence in Ming slipped for a variety of practical reasons, which caused the decline in poll ratings, not the other way round. Particular in this was Ming’s dalliance with Labour over the coalition question – this was political suicide.

    The longer term trend for the GE is definitely swinging in our favour, even if it isn’t being reflected in the national polling figures. Both Labour and Conservative parties have been successfully softened up over recent months and there is all to play for – I am increasingly certain we will make significant gains.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 11th Nov '08 - 7:23pm

    “… to be on 4.08 should probably be counted a success from where he started.”

    Trouble is, he started on 4.40 …

    “Both Labour and Conservative parties have been successfully softened up over recent months …”


    According to Populus, Labour have “softened up” from 25% to 35% in the last 5 months.

    I know you have this compulsory optimism thing going, but at the moment you’re just sounding completely detached from reality.

  • CCF,
    maybe you could head over to PB where Andrew Cooper from populus has commented to say that 3/10 Labour and 3/10 conservative supporters say they may change the party they will vote for.

    The LibDem figure he cites is 4/10, but this has always been much higher than for the two main tribes, so the significant point is that the underlying conditions for the polls are more volatile and we are fighting on a more level playing field than ever before!

    Labour and Conservative parties have both had their soft underbelly exposed by the financial crisis (and maybe by yachtgate too – unless any Lord Rennard was wearing his cape of invisibility), so the likelihood is high that the polls will swing swiftly when the public mind is made up about which side has the best response.

    Now, who do you trust most on the economy – Brown/Darling, Cameron/Osborne or Clegg/Cable? Who has been consistently vindicated by events?

  • CCF:

    “I suspect the party is stuck with Clegg until 2010.”

    You could be right. But is disaster unavoidable?

    Back in 1987, some of us couldn’t see how the Alliance “dual leadership” of Steel and Owen was going to work in a general election. After the event, we belatedly realised that we low-ranking oiks from the provinces ought to have got up and screamed “It’s not going to work!” As you no doubt realise, I don’t want to make the same mistake again.


    “Give him a general election campaign for people to get to know him and I’m pretty sure it will rise as he grows in confidence and assurance.”

    This sounds quite plausible at first sight. After all, Paddy for example was – by his own admission – pretty dreadful for his first two years or so. Then he found the knack of leadership somehow, and got much better. Couldn’t Nick do the same?

    But I think Nick has a more fundamental problem. That is, his stance on key policies has not properly been validated in a leadership election. When Cameron beat Davis, the Tory party decided to accept pseudo-liberal leadership. That decision has hugely helped Cameron to lead as he chooses, without incurring a constant barrage of dissent from his traditionalist wing. By contrast, our leadership contest was largely a beauty contest, in which key issues such as tax cuts were hardly even aired. Clegg is hobbled by that. He now has to speak for an uneasy compromise and to fudge policy stances. In the heat of an election campaign, fudges and compromises fall apart.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 12th Nov '08 - 12:34am

    “You could be right. But is disaster unavoidable?”

    If there were really a prospect of getting rid of Clegg before the next election I would say unhesitatingly “screw your courage to the sticking-place” and do it.

    Because I think the whole strategy is wrong, and I think if the media really wanted to take him apart – as they might do if there were a real prospect of a hung parliament – they would have little difficulty in doing so, and the results would not be pretty.

    Though whether any of the alternatives – and only one was presented last time – would be a sufficient improvement to justify the trauma of another assassination, I don’t know.

  • David,
    Clegg’s fundamental problem is that he has been in the job as long as he’s been on the public radar.

    The ‘beauty contest’ leadership election showed how united we are as a party, while the closeness of the result showed how strong both candidates are and forced the winner to take more account of what the membership says than if he had a massive personal mandate.

    I wish you’d stop measuring us up against the competition – they only have consecutive generations of failure to show for themselves, which is no standard of success.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Nov '08 - 8:05pm

    YouGov poll for the Sunday Times:
    CON 41%(-1)
    LAB 36%(+3)
    LDEM 14%(-1)

    Changes are since the last YouGov poll a fortnight ago. According to Anthony Wells the survey was conducted at the end of the week after the “Baby P” furore at PMQs.

    So the Tory lead is down to 5 points. And this follows a Populus poll earlier this week showing the Tories with only a 6-point lead. A uniform swing calculation based on the YouGov figures would actually make Labour the largest party in the House of Commons.

    Results of another poll, by ComRes, are also due this evening.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Nov '08 - 8:13pm

    “According to Anthony Wells the survey was conducted at the end of the week after the “Baby P” furore at PMQs.”

    Correction: He did say that earlier on, but now he seems to be suggesting the opposite.

  • Clegg's Ardent Admirer 15th Nov '08 - 8:25pm

    Since my original post we have had the populus leaders ratings which are grim and declining and now down another point in You Gov. Lets let nick have his first anneversary on 18/12/08, get Christmas out of the way and if there is no improvement have the much needed Leadership debate in January. While there is still time.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Nov '08 - 9:02pm

    ComRes poll for the Sunday Independent:
    CON 43%(+4)
    LAB 32%(+1)
    LDEM 12%(-4)

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Nov '08 - 9:11pm

    That last rating of 12% for the Lib Dems is absolutely dire. As far as I can see it’s the lowest level of Lib Dem support ever recorded by ComRes. The previous low was 14% under Ming Campbell in December 2006.

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Nov '08 - 12:54am

    “That last rating of 12% for the Lib Dems is absolutely dire.”

    As the 1997 election got underway we polled 9% – our worst rating of that entire Parliament.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 1:18am


    The difference being, of course, that in 1997 most of the contests that mattered to the Lib Dems were against a desperately unpopular Tory party – and in 2001 and 2005 they were against a Tory party that lost the election. Whereas now they are against a Tory party about as popular as it was under Margaret Thatcher, at her three election victories.

    The uniform swing predictions based on that ComRes poll would see the Lib Dems losing nearly 50 seats and returning to the levels of parliamentary representation they had in the 1970s. Nick Clegg’s leadership would no longer be an issue, because Sheffield Hallam would be lost along with all the other seats.

    Maybe the party could salvage a bit more than that with the benefit of incumbency and so on. But I think it would be a mistake simply to shrug off these ratings, and hope that everything will somehow turn out all right despite the arithmetic.

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Nov '08 - 2:28pm

    POlls have had us between 21% and 12%. The last two (different companies) have the Tory lead increasing to 12% and falling to 5%.

    Given that volatility reading too much into any one poll is not likely to be conclusive.

    What worries me is that given that volatility small differences in methodology can have a significant impact (see eg the article by Mike Smithson a few weeks ago)

    People calling for leadership elections are even more insane than the people who called for a leadership election last time and the time before that (and that’s saying something!). We have conclusively tested to destruction the hypothesis that all that is needed is to change the leader to improve the party’s poll ratings.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 4:51pm


    I don’t think I have read too much into a single poll. The ComRes rating of 12% was absolutely dire, but all the polls are bad.

    The last BPIX had the Lib Dems at 13%, equalling the lowest rating since October 2007, and the last YouGov had them at 14%, equalling the lowest since November 2007.

    The last Populus poll admittedly had the Lib Dems at 16%, one point above the low for the year, but it also found that Clegg’s approval rating was the lowest it had recorded for any Lib Dem leader.

    The other two pollsters, ICM and Ipsos MORI, have the Lib Dems just 2 points above the low for the year.

    I recognise there’s no magic solution to the mess the party has got itself into, which is why I am dubious about the calls for a leadership contest that others are making. I suspect that the party is simply going to have to learn a very hard and painful lesson at the next election, and that there is now no way of avoiding that.

  • CCF,
    if you are concerned about our poll rating, perhaps you’ll understand why it is important to sign up more members, get more activists involved and get our message out more.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 5:23pm


    All that activity is likely to be wasted unless you can get to the bottom of why the party has been losing 400 members a month since Clegg took over, despite the best efforts of eager beavers like you.

  • Mark Littlewood 16th Nov '08 - 5:39pm

    It’s true that today’s polls are poor (12% and 14%). My worry (without having checked out the exact data) is that we’re slipping from high teens to mid teens – or worse.

    Even high teens is not goign to hold off a Tory advance if they are at 40+%.

    If anyone thinks a change of leader is the answer, they are mad.

    But, my worry is that I’m not sure we really have an electoral strategy. The party’s average poll position has been fluctuating somewhere between rather disappointing and very, very poor.

    If there is a plan to get our numbers back up to 20%+, it’s certainly a secret one.

  • David Allen 16th Nov '08 - 5:52pm

    Well – I do think Clegg has done rather better this week. He has managed to clarify his rather over-complicated messages on tax and spending, and he has shied away from some of the wild populist language we have heard in the past. Perhaps he simply recognises that when all the parties are talking about the same issue, its significance as a potential Lib Dem USP is inevitably reduced.

    So yes CCF, a change of leader would be no panacea. But the option should not be discounted. Hywel says “we have conclusively tested to destruction” the hypothesis that this is how to improve our ratings. That’s what the Tories thought, until they came up with their fourth choice since 2001. We’re still on our third…

    Despite his youth, Clegg too often comes across as an old-style arrogant party politician. “Constantly ahead of the curve” indeed. If you are worried sick about your job or your business, you won’t want to vote for a brash young man who keeps telling you how brilliant he is. You will be happier with someone like Gordon, who at least has the decency to sound solemn and sober. Or Vince, who sounds objective, fair, and capable.

  • CCF,
    the reason why our party is losing members is because people like you won’t rejoin.

    If you don’t stand up to be counted then you can have nothing to complain about.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 7:11pm

    “the reason why our party is losing members is because people like you won’t rejoin.”

    Or, to be more accurate, because people like me are resigning.

    I really can’t see how resigning one’s membership of a political party on a point of principle equates to failing to “stand up and be counted”. Quite the opposite.

  • So please tell us what principle you are standing up for, CCF.

    It would also be helpful if you told us how you think you are standing up for it by resigning your party membership.

    I have disagreements with the leadership line on certain areas, but I think using the privileges of membership is the best and most effective way to have an influence.

    Sniping from the sidelines is empty bitching which only promotes disillusion with the political process and discourages others from becoming involved.

    While I’m glad you are interested in your future I think you are doing more harm than help here and perhaps your efforts would be better spent telling on ConHome or LabourHome telling them that they are wrong.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 7:34pm

    “So please tell us what principle you are standing up for, CCF.”

    Admittedly I’ve only been through it about 50 times, so you may well have missed it.

    Without wishing to be rude, may I suggest that if you have nothing to contribute to the subject of this thread you would do better to go and scatter your pearls of wisdom elsewhere? Why not go and recruit some new members or something?

  • …was recruiting earlier this afternoon …what were you doing?

    You may have stated your reasons 50 times or more, but I’ve been listening to you consistently and I haven’t picked up on it yet, so perhaps your capacity to hold your nose isn’t as great as others…

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 7:59pm


    As I said, if you have nothing relevant to contribute to the topic under discussion, it would be better if you stopped disrupting the thread.

  • I think it is more relevant that our poll rating is related to the activity level of our members than it is to the activity level and temporary popularity of our leader and front bench team.

    I say this because I think the message of the party is spread by our active members far more widely than it can by any individual, whatever their profile, leader or not.

    What say you?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 9:19pm


    “I think it is more relevant that our poll rating is related to the activity level of our members than it is to the activity level and temporary popularity of our leader and front bench team.”

    I think you’re wrong about that.

    I think that’s demonstrated by the significant boost in the Lib Dem poll rating immediately after the party conference (at a time when many party activists were away from their constituencies, of course).

    I’m sure local activity helps to maintain the party’s popularity in those localities where the party is active – but what percentage of the country is that?

  • CCF,
    “the significant boost in the Lib Dem poll rating immediately after the party conference” – that would be during Clegg’s million door challenge then?

    If you are unhappy with the activity levels in your local branch area, or are unhappy with the internal branch politics, why don’t you tell us about it – you’ll find that there are many supportive and sympathetic people around and about who can provide good advice.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Nov '08 - 9:57pm


    “that would be during Clegg’s million door challenge then?”

    Now you’re just being daft.

    As I keep saying – to put it a bit more bluntly – if you have nothing to say that’s relevant to the topic of this thread (and apparently nothing sensible to say in any case), why not just shut up for a bit?

  • Oranjepan,

    If you are going to talk about people whose activities harm the party, I have to say I think you are one such.

    For you, it seems that just about every criticism of anything the party ever does is, by definition, unreasonable. No calls for reform or change should ever be taken notice of. Things that are going wrong should always be left to go on going wrong.

    I fear that we suffer from this Panglossian malady more severely than our opponents do. (It is a disease which has nothing specifically to do with Nick Clegg and the lurch to the right, by the way: it has always been around.) It prevents us from learning from our mistakes and doing better next time!

  • Learning from our mistakes 16th Nov '08 - 11:07pm

    which is why we did better in 1997 than in 1992, and in 2001 than in 1997, and in 2005 than in 2001 – never learning from our mistakes?

  • Fair point LFOM, yes we’ve learnt a lot about effective targeting, I wouldn’t want to pretend we never get anything right! That would be just as blinkered as the view that we never get anything wrong.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 18th Nov '08 - 12:41pm

    Ipsos Mori poll:
    CON 40%(-5)
    LAB 37%(+7)
    LDEM 12%(-2)

    Changes are since last month.

    The Lib Dem rating equals the 11-month low for Ipsos Mori set in September.

    A uniform swing prediction would put Labour 11 seats short of a majority in the House of Commons.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 22nd Nov '08 - 7:55pm

    ICM poll:
    CON 42%(-1)
    LAB 31%(+1)
    LDEM 19%(+1)

    Changes are since the last ICM poll about a fortnight ago.

    There’s a remarkable divergence of opinion developing between ICM on the one hand, and the four others that have put the Lib Dems on 12-14% (with Populus at 16%).

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 23rd Nov '08 - 1:29pm

    CCF wrote:
    “There’s a remarkable divergence of opinion developing between ICM on the one hand, and the four others that have put the Lib Dems on 12-14% (with Populus at 16%).”

    There seems to be a rather glib tendency in some quarters to say, in effect, “ICM is right and all the others are wrong” – partly based on claims that ICM’s accuracy in predicting the Lib Dem share of the vote has been more accurate in the past.

    On that question I thought these comments by Anthony Wells on http://www.ukpollingreport.co.uk were interesting:

    “[U]nfortunately past record gives us very little guide. At the last election, all but Populus were within 1 point of the actual Lib Dem score and Populus were only 2 points out.

    Rather ironically given the sort of figures we are getting presently, ICM underestimated them by 1 point, YouGov overestimated their support by 1 point, MORI got them bang on.”

    Incidentally, I thought Vince Cable’s casual-sounding remark on the Andrew Marr show this morning was quite funny – along the lines of “I think a poll this morning put us on 19%; of course we’d like to be higher …” Lucky he wasn’t being interviewed last weekend!

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 25th Nov '08 - 9:58pm

    YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph (apparently conducted after the pre-budget report):
    CON 40%(-1)
    LAB 36%(-)
    LDEM 14%(-)

    Changes are since the last YouGov poll, published a week and a half ago.

    On a uniform swing projection, this would make Labour the largest party in the Commons.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 28th Nov '08 - 7:21pm

    ICM poll for the Guardian:
    CON 45% (+3)
    LAB 30% (-1)
    LDEM 18% (-1)

    Changes are since the last ICM poll, last weekend.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 30th Nov '08 - 12:09am

    Ipsos MORI poll for the Observer:
    CON 43% (+3)
    LAB 32% (-5)
    LDEM 15% (+3)

    Changes are since the last Ipsos MORI poll a fortnight ago.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 1st Dec '08 - 10:41pm

    A dramatically different poll by ComRes for the Independent:
    CON 37% (-6)
    LAB 36% (+4)
    LDEM 17% (+5)

    Just when it appeared the Tories had regained a double-digit lead after the pre-budget report, this would indicate (on a uniform swing assumption) Labour just 3 seats short of an overall majority.


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