Nerves are now certainly jangling in Conservative Central Office, with a Yougov poll last weekend showing a drop to only a 5-point lead, before easing to a 7-point lead. Survation, out with a phone poll this morning, split the difference with a 6-pointer for GMTV.
This, from an ICM 22-point Conservative lead just three weeks ago.
We too see a continuing Tory tumble with our latest Guardian poll out this morning, which shows a more comfortable, but still rapidly dwindled 12-point Conservative lead. The Tories have dropped two points since our last Guardian poll a week ago, and one point compared to our Sun on Sunday poll published yesterday. Labour remain stable or are up one, depending on your comparison preference.
This poll was completed before last night’s leaders’ grilling on Sky/Channel 4.
The published numbers are (versus last Guardian poll published on 22nd May):
Conservative 45% (-2)
Labour 33% (nc)
Lib Dem 8% (-1)
UKIP 5% (+1)
SNP 4% (nc)
Green 3% (+1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)
Other 1% (nc)
The dramatic shifts in polling numbers have been argued in many places to be a function of a sudden surge in young voters and/or 2015 non-voters, motivated by Jeremy Corbyn’s populist platform including the abolition of student tuition fees and return to state funded grants. The Survation poll this morning revealed that 82% of 18-24s would/already have voted, which compares favourably with the next two older age cohorts and is only a tick below that of the uniformly voting 55+ cohorts.
Either this requires a full re-writing of the psephological textbook or needs to be viewed with extreme caution. Our own poll suggests that about half that number (44% saying 10/10 certainty of turning out) of 18-24s will actually vote (even when fully unweighted, it was only 50% of them).
Clearly, this difference does bring to a head the new methodological battleground. Some pollsters, especially ICM, believe that the 10-point turnout scale no longer has value in disentangling voters from non-voters, because the fieldwork process (phone and online) predominately fails to reach the latter who are less interested in politics and by corollary, less interested in answering survey research. ICM stopped phone polling after the EU referendum, partly because we found it incredibly difficult to reach certain demographic groups – especially 18-24s.
We, along with other pollsters typically reached half or less of the 18-24 target (by phone). We note with interest that Survation did a brilliant job in reaching them though – a full 80% of the target number (up-weighting them takes care of the missing residual). Whether Survation achieved this through full Random Digit Dialling or whether they utilised some targeted sample would be interesting to know, but either way, the great irony about being good at their job is that this success could easily introduce the very skew that kills the poll’s accuracy. If the 18-24s reached are in some way different to the 18-24s not reached, i.e in saying they will disproportionately vote and vote Labour at that – when their wider counterparts will not and do not – it’s likely that the same polling failings of 2015 will be very much embedded in this sample.
So how pollsters address the turnout issue is now central to what a poll says. We at ICM turnout weight using a matrix that assumes younger people will be less likely to vote than older, and less affluent people will be less likely to vote than the wealthy. This has been the general pattern of General Election’s for an age, and whether you believe our poll findings or those of others will depend on whether or not you think Jeremy Corbyn can actually buck that trend.
What impact does it have today? Well, if we still used the 10-point scale for our turnout weight, we too would have been looking at Survation-type numbers.
In other news, the poll assessed how well Theresa May handled the Manchester atrocity, with over half (53%) saying she did well; only 17% saying badly. If Corbyn had been PM and had to handle it, the same number (17%) think he would have done so better than May, but twice as many (32%) think he would have handled it worse.
Other poll questions include how the campaign has impacted on probability of voting for different parties, with (unsurprisingly given the headline reduction in the Conservative lead) people now less likely to vote Conservative and more likely to vote Labour as a result of campaign action they have seen or heard about.
Despite May’s problems over the last week, she has a net campaigning impact score of only -2, while Corbyn scores at +2, begging the question: how much does campaign activity really make a difference to national perceptions?
ICM Unlimited interviewed a representative sample of 2,002 adults aged 18+ online on 26-29th May 2017. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.