A reminder of what moves polls

A reminder of what moves polls
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Today's topline figure of 14% for UKIP is unlikely to be connected to the ongoing troubles around Maria Miller – which may have no effect on the Conservatives' poll ratings, either

This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 14%. The three point lead for Labour is lower than usual, though nothing to get too excited about as it is well within the normal margin of error for a lead of five points or so. The 14% for UKIP is right at the top end of their their normal range. YouGov have had them at 14% a couple of times this year, but you need to go all the way back to November to find them any higher.

I saw a couple of people commenting on this poll and on yesterday’s Populus poll in relation to the ongoing troubles around Maria Miller, asking about whether there would be a Miller effect, or pondering why it hadn’t damaged the Conservatives.

Obviously this is just one poll so one probably should not read too much into it. More importantly though, I would not expect to see any impact at all from the Miller scandal anyway. As ever, the vast majority of the Westminster soap opera has no discernable impact upon voting intentions. The majority of people do not follow or watch Westminister events, will not be aware of who the people are or what they are supposed to have done. Those people who are interested in politics will tend to view events and scandals through the prism of their pre-existing political loyalties. For example, if a Labour politician is involved in a scandal, Labour supporters will be more likely to see it as a smear, or at worst one bad apple amongst an otherwise decent party; Conservative supporters will be more likely to see it as some major failing and characteristic of a rotten party (and vice-versa for scandals affecting Conservative politicians). I expect all these things have a drip-drip effect upon party image, but not one that is measurable or quantifiable.

A good reminder is to go back and look at the ups and downs of the polls in the last Parliament, or the Parliament before and see what has changed polls. Most of the time they trundle along larged unaffected by short-term events – leadership changes affect them, budgets sometimes do, recessions and recoveries, wars, mid-term elections, party conferences (for a week). The weekly Westminster stories of speeches, policy announcements and scandals rarely do – the main exceptions I can think of in recent years are the expenses scandal in 2009 (but that was the whole political class, a huge event); Charles Kennedy’s resignation (but he was a party leader) and I suppose Labour’s black Wednesday in 2006 (when Charles Clarke, John Prescott and Patricia Hewitt all managed to get themselves in a mess in the same week). Perhaps Maria Miller will join that list, but I really wouldn’t count on it.

Image: Getty

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