Archive for January, 2006

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Mori poll gives boost to Tories and Lib Dems

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

    Cameron gets approval rating of nearly 2-1

The results are out of a massive poll involving face to face interviews with more than 2,000 people by MORI. The main party shares based on those “certain to vote” are CON 40% (+1): LAB 38%(-1): LD 17%(+2). The comparisons are with the Sun Mori poll eleven days ago.

Asked how they saw David Cameron’s performance as Tory leader 31% were positive and 17% against. In an excellent commentary on the MORI site the pollster compares Cameron’s position at this stage with the last three Tory leaders and Tony Blair in September 1994.

The commentary notes: “David Cameron is currently perceived more favourably than any of his three immediate predecessors two months or so after each had been elected leader. However, the key figure to watch over the next few months is the “don’t knows” — will more of the public become satisfied with David Cameron’s performance as they begin to make up their minds, or will they be turned off — as has happened with every Conservative leader since 1997 as shown below?” Noting that Cameron’s 14% plus rating is the same as Blair’s at the same stage of his leadership MORI goes on: ” Here we see almost identical satisfaction ratings from the public. And in contrast to Conservative leaders post-1997, Tony Blair’s approval ratings rose as the public got to know him and he regularly recorded satisfaction ratings in the high 40s and low 50s in the three years running up to the 1997 General Election.”

On the main poll findings the Tories will be pleased to be back at 40% and the Lib Dems will feel much more comfortable at 17%. But the interviews took place from 19-23 January so would not have included the Simon Hughes news and only a part of the survey covered the period after Mark Oaten’s departure from the Lib Dem race.

Mori do not weight by past vote recall and their top-line figures are restricted to “those certain to vote”. If MORI had included the “less certains” then Labour would have had a 7 point lead. Unlike some previous MORI surveys this was not a phone poll. I am much happier with MORI’s approach with face-to-face surveys than with phone polls.


Mike Smithson



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Is Cameron’s success being built on women?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
    But why are men still unconvinced?

One of the main reasons why Tony Blair came to power in 1997 and was returned in 2001 and 2005 was his success with the female vote.

From a situation where women were traditionally more Conservative than men the political gender balance was completely changed. But might that all be going back?

    For from the latest detailed polling data there are signs that the Tory recovery is coming from a huge change in female support – men are still relatively unmoved.

Looking at the gender split of Tory support in ICM Guardian polls since the week of the General Election there’s been a big turnaround. These are the numbers:-

ICM Tory shares – Gender split
May 05: MALE 37% FEMALE 28% (General Election poll)
JUN 05: MALE 32% FEMALE 31%
JUL 05: MALE 31% FEMALE 31%
AUG 05: MALE 34% FEMALE 27%
SEP 05: MALE 29% FEMALE 32%
OCT 05: MALE 28% FEMALE 36% (Post Tory conference)
NOV 05: MALE 34% FEMALE 33%
DEC 05: MALE 38% FEMALE 36%
JAN 06: MALE 36% FEMALE 41%

We have to be careful, of course, taking a sub-set of data in a poll and we need further survey results to see if this trend is there.

But it is not just ICM that is showing Cameron’s Conservatives are well ahead with the female vote – data from the YouGov survey last Friday has Female:Male support for the Tories at 41-36 – the same as ICM.


    What this means for the future is hard to predict but if Cameron wants to win the next General Election his party needs to be making headway amongst men as well.

This might be being driven by Cameron’s personal appeal to women as well as the policy agenda he has sought to impose on his party. We need to track this closely in the coming months as well examining the gender split on views on Gordon Brown.

Labour, meanwhile, continue to be 0.9/1 betting favourite to win most seats at the nexr General Election.

Mike Smithson



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Can Blair keep it going for another two years?

Monday, January 30th, 2006
    Does Blunkett really know what’s going on?

The comments by the twice sacked ex-cabinet minister, David Blunkett, that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have reached “a new understanding” that will see a changeover at Number 10 within two years have set the Blair departure markets going.

In a BBC interview Blunkett said; “My sense is that there is a new understanding – yes..And it is good because anybody with any ounce of understanding of politics knows that when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown work together we are a winner. When they are divided, our opponents can divide us and it is as simple as that.” .And on timing Blunkett said this could be in “a year or two years”.

Quite what we are to make of the comments is hard to read. Does Blunkett actually know something or was he just responding when asked by Andrew Marr to speculate? For the phrase he used was “my sense” which does not imply that he has any real knowledge.

The one-two year spectrum is frustrating for gamblers and, in addition, there is the current uncertainty over the Education Bill and the continued effort by the Cameron-led opposition to divde the Blair-loyalists from the rest of the party.

    A change-over within eighteen months of a General Election would seem to be the best strategy for Labour. The next General Election is going to be a lot more challenging for the party than the last three and holding it during Brown’s honeymoon period looks the smart move.

It is interesting that David Cameron seems to be hell-bent on getting Blair out early. He wants to start taking on his real opponent as soon as possible.

My instinct is to assume that Blair will still be there in 23 months time and to take the 2.4/1 that’s available on him surviving until then. But I am not fully convinced and this is a market to keep away from at the moment.

Mike Smithson



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Why the 5% Lib Dem gap between ICM and YouGov?

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

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    A tale of two polls and two polling methodologies

A new poll by ICM for the Sunday Telegraph this morning should ease some of the jitters within the Lib Dems. After Friday’s YouGov survey putting their share down at 13% the ICM numbers out today are CON 37: LAB 36: LD 18. The only change on Tuesday’s Guardian ICM survey is a one point drop for the Lib Dems.

The timing of the polls meant that all the interviewing by ICM took place after the Simon Hughes admission in the Sun while only about a third of the YouGov respondees would have aware of that development.

So how is it possible that the two pollsters most watched by political gamblers should be giving such a different view of the Liberal Democrat position? This gap does not make sense. I think it can be put down to three key factors.

The weightings that are used. In order to ensure that their samples are representative ICM asks how people voted last time and then builds in an allowance to deal with “misremembering”. In the last poll for which there is data ICM’s past vote weighting was; LAB 38.5%: CON 32.2% LD 21.9%. YouGov uses what it describes as a “political party identifier” to weight its samples on the following basis: LAB 47.1%: CON 34.7%: LD 13.9%. By comparison the May 2005 General Election result was LAB 36.2%: CON 33.2%: LD 22.7%. Also YouGov does not weight by the likelihood that people will vote.

“Spiral of silence” adjustment. A top-line adjustment is made by ICM to deal with those who say they do not know. The pollster assumes that 50% of don’t knows vote the same way they did last time. In last week’s Guardian poll this adjustment added one point to the Lib Dem share. This correction was originally introduced to deal with “shy Tories” who, it was thought, were reluctant to admit their allegiance to an interviewer.

The actual question that is asked. The YouGov internet panel members is presented with the following on his/her PC screen: “If there were a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for? Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationalist/Plaid Cymru, some other party, would not vote, don’t know”. ICM has a much tougher approach that seeks to weed out non-voters by stating initially: “Some people have said they would not vote in a new General Election, while others would go and vote at their polling station. I would like to know how certain it is that you would actually go and vote in a general election?” Then the interviewer asks: “The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other parties would fight a new election in your area. If there were a General Election tomorrow which party do you think you would vote for?”

Each of the three factors would, I suggest, explain the differences between the two pollsters. I have never been able to understand YouGov’s political identifier weightings and if Peter Kellner is reading this it would be great if he could add a comment. So which pollster is right? Who knows but what seems to be happening at the moment is that many more Lib Dems are now saying that the do not know.

The reasons I press the pollsters for their detailed data is that you cannot judge a survey by its headline figures alone.

Mike Smithson

Mike Smithson



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Even most Lib Dems don’t recognise these faces

Saturday, January 28th, 2006
    Few crumbs for party in ICM data feast

The pollster, ICM, has now made available 41 pages of detailed data on its Lib Dem leadership poll that appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday.

It will be recalled that the survey was unusual in that it was carried out online and part involved respondents watching video clips of the candidates.

Even allowing for the fact that the sample was very small the results were shocking and showed the challenge the party faces even without the publicity nightmare of the past few weeks.

    For the overwhelming majority of its own voters failed to put names to faces of those who have put themselves forward to lead the party.
  • Just 34% of those who said they had voted Lib Dem last May could identify correctly Menzies Campbell.
  • Only 30% got Simon Hughes right and Chris Huhne was recognised by a mere 5%. And these were Lib Dem voters. The proportions were even worse amongst all voters.
  • Two percent of the Lib Dems thought Simon Hughes was “Simon Jenkins” and 1% named him as “Michael Hughes”.
  • A staggering 41% of the Lib Dem voters ticked the “none/nothing/never heard of him” box for Campbell. Hughes rating here was slightly better at 34% and the relative newcomer, Huhne got a a 67% “none/nothing/never heard of him” rating.
  • More than a fifth of the Lib Dem voters of last May thought Campbell was too old
  • In many ways this is a reminder to the PBC community that those of us with an abiding interest in politics and political outcomes are a very small minority of the population as a whole. Many people simply do not care.

    In the betting the money has continued to go on Campbell who is now at 0.41/1 on Betfair.

    Mike Smithson



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    Apology to ICM

    Friday, January 27th, 2006

    In the article on the Guardian ICM poll on Tuesday I made certain comments in relation to getting data from the pollster ICM about a poll in the News of the World earlier in the month. I said that I had requested the full data-set which had not been forthcoming. It now transpires that the email address I used to contact Nick Sparrow of the firm was incorrect and did not get delivered.

    I also made the statement “ICM is by far the worst of the pollsters when it comes to transparency and its main client, the Guardian, ought to put pressure on. Maybe this is something that the paper’s Jackie Ashley ought to take up?” I withdraw unreservedly this and all the other critical comments about the pollster that appeared. I fully accept that my observation about ICM being the “worst of the pollsters” was wrong and went far beyond normal comment.

    The article has now been amended and all the critical comments have been deleted.

    My full apologies to the firm and its head, Nick Sparrow.

    Mike Smithson



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    YouGov puts the Lib Dems down at 13%

    Friday, January 27th, 2006

      Labour back in the lead even though the Tories make progress

    YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has the Lib Dems share dropping by 5 points with almost all of that going to Labour. The result is that while the Tories continue to make progress the major beneficiary of the problems in the Lib Dems has been Tony Blair’s party.

    The party shares with changes on last month are CON 39%(+1): LAB 40%(+4): LD 13%(-5). It should be noted that the poll was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday – so most of the respondents would have sent their internet replies back to the pollster before the Simon Hughes broke.

    Compared with the General Election last May the Lib Dems are down 10 points with Labour up four and the Tories up 6.


      So while the Tories will feel pleased to be still making progress they will be very disappointed that Labour have put on four points to overtake them.

    The Lib Dems might take some consolation in the fact that the internet pollster sometimes magnifies trends. ICM in the Guardian on Tuesday had the party on 19% – so the difference between the two pollsters is enormous.

    This poll is bound to have an impact on the Lib Dem leadership battle though at this stage it is hard to work out how party members will respond. My guess is that it will reinforce the move against Simon Hughes and boost support for a “safe” candidate. Whether that is Huhne or Campbell we will have to wait and see.

    In the Lib Dem leadership betting the money Hughes has recovered a touch but he is still at 5/1 with Huhne on 2.95/1 and Campbell at 0.68/1.

    YOUGOV UPDATE 0745. On the leadership the survey has with all voters: Hughes 18: Campbell 16: Huhne 5. With those saying they would vote Lib Dem the split is: Hughes 23: Campbell 22: Huhne 13.

    But at least two-thirds of those answering did so before yesterday’s SUN story about Hughes. These figures contrast with the 62% support from Lib Dems that Hughes enjoyed in Wednesday’s ICM poll.

    Only 29% of those polled said they thought that the party was “a credible force in British politics.

    Mike Smithson



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    So is it down to two?

    Thursday, January 26th, 2006

      So what are we to make of the incident-packed Lib Dem leadership race now?

    Each day something new seems to be happening and keeping up with the betting has become a nightmare. After switching big funds into Hughes yesterday I became part of the exodus early this morning.

    In the aftermath of Mark Oaten I felt that the loser would be Hughes – only to have that view confounded by yesterday’s ICM poll.

    Now, as every bulletin focuses on this morning’s revelation, the only thing going for the party president is that the serious media is leading on the Palestine election but with him only a bit behind.

    I cannot see Hughes recovering from this. The only question is what will be the impact on the voting with the AV system that the party employs.

    The betting has swung to Ming with Huhne back in the second favourite slot. My guess is that Hughes will now come in third place with 20-25% of the first choices. Huhne will get 30-35% with Campbell on 40% plus.

    The leadership will be decided by how Hughes’s second preferences split. Huhne will need the majority of them to be for him and he could just do it.

    But who knows what will be in the Murdoch press in the coming days?

    Mike Smithson