Voters back Labour on welfare, and the Tories are unpopular with women – but the poll lead is down

21st January, 2013 3:08 pm

There’s a conventional wisdom challenging poll out from the Guardian/ICM today. Conventional wisdom says that Labour’s poll lead has stabilised at 8-12 points, but ICM has the lead down to 5 points (38 to 33) in their latest poll. Presumably that’s because (conventional wisdom again) Labour have taken a ‘risky’ position on welfare?

Yet ICM also found that the public overwhelmingly favour Labour’s position on the “Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill” to the government position. Labour’s position (of benefits rising with inflation) is backed by 58% of voters, compared to just 36% for the Tories.

squeezing benefits


There’s also a profound gender split in the latest ICM poll. Whilst the Tories are leading Labour by one point amongst men, Labour leads the Tories by 16 points among women:


Some will of course draw attention to the headline voting intention figures of this poll (despite the fact that such a result in 2o15 would deliver a healthy Labour majority). Indeed it’s always concerning to see the poll lead fall, but it’s also important to look at trends rather than individual data points. Or as Hopi Sen put it succinctly on Twitter:

“OK If anyone in Labour starts to talk about a 38/33 poll as being bit worrying, I am going to carve the words Margin of Error on your face.”


  • aracataca

    Its an ICM poll – always bigging up the LibDems

    • John Ruddy

      Thats a result of their methodology reallocating Dont Knows back to the party they voted for in 2010.

  • Amber_Star

    At 38L 33C 15LD, Labour would have a 52 seat majority based on a universal swing & assuming no boundary changes.

    • tanith

      YEP labour will win ED our next PM I predicted it over a yr ago x

  • kb32904

    A single poll result is meaningless. Trends are much more meaningful and the trend is showing a steady Labour lead.

  • Monkey_Bach

    I do not believe that this poll is attributable to Labour’s correct attitude towards the welfare cap. I see no evidence to support such a contention, rather the opposite in point of fact. But if the Tories can win a few percent of voters back from Labour by outbidding Labour as far as visiting suffering upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society goes the Party would still be right to take a less extreme contrary position, because the Tories would simply promise to deliver harsher, more unfeeling, and cruel policies than Labour could compete with, even with Liam Byrne at the DWP. Eeek.

    • dave stone

      Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Labour should stop conceding ground to the Tories and allow policy to continually drift rightward. Labour should tirelessly be seeking to pull the centre of gravity of British politics from the right, leftward, back towards sanity, decency, and innate compassion of the middle ground. Eeek.

    • Dave Postles

      … is a person of double capacity public and private, and that may be one reason, why he is said to deal doubly with all men that have to do with him. He is but a pimp to his place.’ (Samuel Butler, Characters</i 1667-9, cited by Conal Condren, Argument and Authority in Early Modern England … (Cambridge, 2006), p. 54)

  • Matthew Blott

    Yes yes yes Mark Ferguson, the last paragraph is all very well but it could just as easily apply to the other polls. I’m afraid the Labour lead is incredibly soft and a Labour victory looks pretty far away from where I’m sitting – certainly a Labour majority is almost certainly out of the question. Why? Well you say look at trends and if you do that the worrying factor is Labour is making no traction on the economy despite everything this government is doing to run it into the ground – and that is pretty damning.

    This is like the 1980s revisited. Mark Ferguson tells us how the public are with Labour on welfare but when has that not been the case? Polls in the ’80s showed voters agreed with Labour that we should invest more in the economy and public services but Labour always polled behind the Tories on the economy. And also, to compound things, Neil Kinnock’s personal ratings were always very poor – ditto Ed Miliband.

    Mark Ferguson is a bit younger than me and likely doesn’t remember the Thatcher years but I remember many large poll leads, bigger than Miliband has at the moment. And as election day neared, the leads evaporated. I agree we can obsess over polls too much but if you look at the underlying trends it is very worrying for Labour.

  • Redshift1

    The headline figure – random sample variance. Looking at previous ICM polls its well within the margin of error.

  • Redshift1

    This is actually complete nonsense.

    There is no trend suggesting the Labour lead is going to evaporate.

    Even if it does shrink (which I am by no means saying won’t happen), this poll isn’t evidence that it is doing so, indeed as of yet there is no evidence it is doing so.

    Excluding outlying polls, the Labour lead has in general been 8-12 points since the budget last year. Before that it was about 5 points consistently for a good 18 months with only two shortlived blips, one 8-10 lead during the Murdoch scandal and a Tory 1-2 point lead during the whole EU veto situation. Apart from the latter, all of those poll leads would deliver a comfortable Labour majority and some a huge one.

    80s polling is irrelevant. Polling methods were far less sophisticated and were a lot more prone to dodgy results than they are now.

    Labour is less behind on the economy than it has been since the general election. Indeed, we are about neck-and-neck. Compared to our position in 2010 that’s a massive improvement and suggests a trend of people coming over to our view. Not only that the economics of our position has been vindicated, even if the cut through to the public has been limited. Our position could well be further vindicated if, as some forecasters believe, we are heading for a triple-dip.

    • Matthew Blott

      Given the growth destroying path this government has taken the fact Labour is neck and neck is extraordinary. Economic downturns don’t last forever – even ones this bad – and if the green shoots start to appear we’re Donald Ducked.


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