A rogue poll, or are we kidding ourselves?

by Stephen Tall on September 25, 2007

There’s no point obsessing about every poll, but… having reported last week’s ICM survey for The Guardian showing the Lib Dems with a 20% share of the vote, balance compels me to mention tonight’s Channel 4 YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems with just 13%, the party’s lowest YouGov rating since January 2006.

YouGov has (as Lib Dem chief executive Chris Rennard remarked on LDV last week) been consistently recording lower vote-shares for the Lib Dems than other pollsters for some months now.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that – if this poll is accurate – Labour is now more popular than they were in 1997 (when they won 43% of the national vote), nor that the Lib Dems are faring as badly as they did in the chaotic aftermath of Charles Kennedy’s enforced resignation 20 months ago.

The poll was conducted, according to Channel 4, “after Gordon Brown finished his keynote address yesterday”, and is likely to have been skewed by the media coverage his speech attracted. As Anthony Wells fairly notes on his Polling Report blog:

… it’s a snap poll, taken while Brown’s speech was still rumbling in respondents’ ears, there is very clearly a conference speech boost to Labour’s support, largely at the expense of Liberal Democrat voters. Gordon Brown’s first speech may very well give Labour a lasting boost in the polls, but this isn’t it – my guess is that this is just the transitory boost from the speech, exaggerated by doing the whole poll within 24 hours straight afterwards.

If you look over at the voting intention graph, you’ll see a similar sudden spike in Labour’s support at their last conference that put them equal with the Conservatives from being 7 points behind a week before. It faded away, I expect this one will too.