A look back at the polls: November

by Stephen Tall on December 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 nine polls published in November:

Tories 43%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 18% – ICM/Sunday Telegraph (9 Nov)
Tories 41%, Labour 35%, Lib Dems 16% – Populus/Times (10 Nov)
Tories 40%, Labour 37%, Lib Dems 12% – MORI, unpublished (14 Nov)
Tories 41%, Labour 36%, Lib Dems 14% – YouGov/Sunday Telegraph (16 Nov)
Tories 43%, Labour 32%, Lib Dems 12% – ComRes/Independent (16 Nov)
Tories 42%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 19% – ICM/Sunday Mirror (21 Nov)
Tories 40%, Labour 36%, Lib Dems 14% – YouGov/Telegraph (26 Nov)
Tories 45%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 18% – ICM/Guardian (29 Nov)
Tories 43%, Labour 32%, Lib Dems 15% – MORI/Observer (30 Nov)

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

Tories 42% (-1%), Labour 33% (+2%), Lib Dems 15% (-1%)

In one sense, the story of November’s polling is easy to state: Labour gains a bit (again), at the expense of both the Lib Dems and Tories. And that may well be the underlying reality. But, as we at Lib Dem Voice have been noting for many months, your view of reality really does depend on which polling company you most trust.

This is certainly the case if you’re a Lib Dem, with the different polling companies’ methods exerting a disproportionate effect on Lib Dem support. Below is the party’s average rating according to the last five polls conducted by the main five polling companies:

ICM – 19%
ComRes – 17%
Populus – 17%
Mori – 14%
YouGov – 14%

Glass half-full Lib Dems will, very understandably, prefer to believe ICM, which consistently tends to show the party doing better than other pollsters (and which has a proven track record of accuracy over many years). Glass half-empty Lib Dems will point to Mori and YouGov’s significantly lower ratings. Many of us will choose to split the difference, and guesstimate that the party is hovering around 17% as suggested by ComRes and Populus.

In the past month, it’s not only been Lib Dem ratings which have fluctuated according to pollster; so, too, have Labour’s. There does seem to be something of an inverse relationship currently between Labour and Lib Dem ratings: in November, Labour’s highest ratings were from YouGov (36%, twice) and Mori (37%) – the two pollsters which show the Lib Dems doing least well; while ICM is pegging Labour support at 30% (twice) and 31% – while showing Lib Dem support within touching distance of 20%.

For the moment, at least, Tory support seems to be reasonably consistent, ranging between a within-the-margin-of-error 40-45%. Interestingly, it’s currently ICM which is proving to be the friendliest to the Tories, while YouGov, sometimes regarded with suspicion owing to its links to top Tory Stephan Shakespeare, is showing them at the lower range.