A look back at the polls: June '09

by Stephen Tall on July 4, 2009

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 twelve polls published in June:

Tories 37%, Labour 21%, Lib Dems 19% – YouGov/Telegraph (4th June 2009)
Tories 38%, Labour 22%, Lib Dems 20% – ComRes/Independent (9th June)
Tories 36%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 19% – Populus/Times (12th June)
Tories 35%, Labour 20%, Lib Dems 16% – Harris/Metro (23rd June)
Tories 40%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Times (14th June)
Tories 39%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 18% – ICM/Guardian (16th June)
Tories 39%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 19% – Mori/Unison (16th June)
Tories 38%, Labour 22%, Lib Dems 20% – ComRes/Independent (21st June)
Tories 38%, Labour 21%, Lib Dems 19% – Mori (unpublished)
Tories 38%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Telegraph (26th June)
Tories 40%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 17% – YouGov/People (26th June)
Tories 36%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 19% – ComRes/Independent (28th June)

Which gives us an average rating for the parties in June as follows (compared with May’s averages):

Tories 38% (-2%), Labour 23% (-1%), Lib Dems 18% (-1%)

All but one of the polls in this month’s round-up took place after the 4th June elections, and usually there is a ‘winner’s premium’: a small boost for whichever party is judged by the media/public to have done best. The same has proven true in 2009 – it’s just that the winner’s premium has been spread among the minor parties (Ukip, Greens, BNP et al).

Remarkably all three major parties have, according to our monthly average, shed support in the past month. I think that’s the first time this has happened in all the months I’ve been writing LDV’s poll round-ups. In fact, if you look at the past two months (ie, post-‘Expensesgate’), the Tories have dropped from 43% down to 38% (-5%) and Labour from 28% to 23% (-5%).

The Lib Dems can take some comfort that our support has remained steady at 18%, and we appear not to have been too badly hit by the relatively minor expenses indiscretions of a handful of our MPs. Equally, we’ll be disappointed that at a time when both Labour and the Tories have taken big hits, losing one-tenth of the public’s support, we have done no more than hold our own.

The FT this week published an analysis by academics Niall Ferguson and Glen O’Hara, Do not count on the Tories winning just yet, highlighting quite how unpredictable the coming general election actually is:

The reality is that the electoral position of the Tories is significantly weaker than that of Labour 12 years ago. Opinion polls have the Tory vote hovering between 36 and 40 per cent. This is nowhere near Labour’s poll position in early 1995, close to 60 per cent. The polls then probably overstated Labour support but the fact remains that the Conservatives have yet to win over the majority of voters. …

We are not saying that the Tories cannot win the general election. But it is by no means as certain as many assume. Even now, with the prime minister on his knees, our prediction would be for the Conservatives to be the largest party in a hung parliament or to have only a small majority. It is a long, hard slog that lies ahead.