A look back at the polls: September

by Stephen Tall on October 1, 2008

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 eight polls* published in September:

Tories 44%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 17% – ComRes/Independent (6th Sept)
Tories 46%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 16% – YouGov/Sunday Times (14th Sept)
Tories 52%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 12% – MORI, unpublished (18th Sept)
Tories 39%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 21% – ComRes/Independent on Sunday (21st Sept)
Tories 44%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 20% – YouGov/Telegraph (20th Sept)
Tories 41%, Labour 32%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Sun (27th Sept)
Tories 44%, Labour 29%, Lib Dems 19% – ICM/Guardian (19th Aug)
Tories 41%, Labour 29%, Lib Dems 18% – ComRes/Independent (30th Sept)

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

Tories 44% (-2%), Labour 27% (+1%), Lib Dems 17% (n/c)

As regular LDV poll-watch readers will know, I’ve been using the above standard introductory paragraph for months now: rarely has it seemed to apply more than in a month where all three party conferences are taking place, and when the financial markets are currently in crisis.

Just 10 days ago, most of the press was splashing with the MORI poll showing the Tories topping 50% of the vote, with a massive 28% lead over Labour, and the Lib Dems down at a pretty dismal 12%. Cue much breathless excitement among not only the Tory blogosphere, but among much of the media, whose then Labour-are-collapsing narrative the poll suited.

But then the Lib Dem conference happened, and (somewhat to most folks’ surprise, including my own) the party got a boost, with both YouGov and ComRes showing us polling at 20% or above. And this was followed by the Labour party conference, which also boosted Gordon Brown’s party, with two polls showing Labour above 30% for the first time since the local elections in May.

Both conferences coincided with the economic turmoil, which has itself now produced a new media narrative backed up by some selective polling: that Mr Brown is the most trusted leader to weather the financial storms ahead.

Though our LDV ‘poll of polls’ shows little movement between August and September, the averages conceal a little of what’s happened. Between 2nd May and mid-September, in the 36 polls conducted the Tories averaged 45%, Labour 26% and the Lib Dems 17%. In the five polls conducted since mid-September, the average is Tories on 41% (-4%), Labour on 29% (+3%) and the Lib Dems at 19% (+2%).

Whether this Tory downturn is a blip which will be reversed by the additional media coverage their party conference will attract; or whether it is a correction to the unduly high Tory summer ratings; or whether this does demonstrate that David Cameron and George Osborne are not yet trusted to manage the British economy in the tough times – well, only time will tell us that. And certainly not the next individual opinion poll, however much it cheers up the party activists whose party is shown to be on the up.

* LDV excludes all BPIX polls, 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.