After a quiet patch in early August, the past few days have brought a flurry of opinion polls, as editors desperately try to generate some news during the silly season.
There has been much comment across the blogosphere on yesterday’s ICM poll for The Guardian, which gave the Tories a 9-point lead. The first point to make is a pessimistic one from The Daily’s point of view – though this may be a blip, most polls under-estimate the Tory lead.
ICM over-estimated the Labour lead by 3 points in 2005 and even more in 2001. Furthermore, simple “voting intention” polls currently show lower Tory vote shares than those polls which mention the party leaders – the nominal Cameron-Brown lead has actually been about 9 points since May. This lead may now be even higher.
On the plus side, it is worth rebutting one myth – Labour has fallen to 31% since 1997, in a September 2003 ICM poll, and recovered.
It has been suggested that the poll reflects badly on John Reid’s popularity, but this weekend’s YouGov tracker poll, which got little press coverage, actually shows that his approval ratings have shot up, having initially plunged after he took over at the Home Office.
He and Hilary Benn are now the only politicians more popular than David Cameron. However, Reid’s figures are volatile and likely to dip again, while Benn will have far lower recognition. Tony Blair, incidentally, is now at his lowest ever YouGov approval rating of -37.
Better news for Gordon Brown comes from the weekend’s Ipsos-MORI poll. The Daily has mentioned its findings on immigration elsewhere, but it also included a question on who would make the best PM from Cameron/Brown/Campbell. Brown maintains his consistent lead, currently 7 points, though the Sunday Times neglected to mention that in the story on their poll. It is also worth noting that the Tory lead on immigration has dramatically shrunk since 2005, with a majority of the public reverting to the opinion that no party has the best policy.
Of course, all polling comes with the health warning that it is often misunderstood and sometimes just plain wrong – but given their use as political ammunication, The Daily will endeavour to get behind the headlines and report the facts.