Extraordinary first week of UK campaign polling

If Theresa May’s decision last Tuesday to call a UK General Election was a surprise, the eight days since have continued to shock in opinion polling terms. The already enormous leads enjoyed by the ruling Conservatives have somehow grown further, the UK Independence Party’s support has tumbled, and the Labour Party is under threat in its historic heartland of Wales.

An avalanche of polls has hit Britain, with 13 national surveys in just over a week, including from pollsters less familiar to British eyes such as Scandinavia’s Norstat and Kantar TNS. On top of that three Scottish polls and one Welsh survey have been published.

 

 

The average of the 13 polls (chart above) gives May’s Tories an astonishing 20.3 per cent lead, enough to deliver a huge majority of parliamentary seats under Britain’s first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all electoral system. Records continue to tumble. ComRes on 22 April reported its first ever 50 per cent vote share for a party. The following day ICM showed its biggest ever lead, at 22 percentage points. With every regular pollster, the Conservatives have improved their score since the campaign opened. Notably this includes Opinium, who reported just a nine-point Tory lead in The Observer on the Sunday before May’s announcement: a week later that gap had swollen to 19 points.

Conservative determination to put leadership issues at the core of their campaign is amply vindicated by continuing large deficits on personal ratings (whether satisfaction or competence) suffered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with every single polling organisation. Labour fares equally poorly on individual issue questions. Today’s Ipsos Mori tables give a crushing flavour:

  • Biggest Conservative lead since 1990 on economic policy (35 points)
  • Best Conservative ratings on immigration since 2005 (20 point lead)
  • Best Conservative ratings on education since 1983.

The Conservatives lead largely on the critical issue of handling Brexit negotiations and only on health does Labour command the most public backing.

 

UKIP in trouble

Additional Conservative support in the early days of the campaign appears to be coming directly from previous UKIP voters. Whereas in January to mid-April UKIP had generally been polling from 10 to 14 per cent, with only rare single figure scores, all but one campaign poll has now put them below 10 per cent. With Ipsos Mori they have hit their lowest for many years at 4 per cent, and received numbers of 5 per cent with YouGov and Panelbase. The party originally behind Brexit may struggle to achieve even these scores if it fails to stand enough candidates on 8 June.

The Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have solidified their polling between 10 and 12 per cent in the past week. That comes after a very mixed performance in the polls earlier this year, with widely varying scores between pollsters that reached down as low as 7 per cent.

 

Wales turns blue?

Finally YouGov’s extraordinary poll of 24 April carried out for ITV Wales must be mentioned. For the first time in modern polling history the Conservatives lead in Wales, a principality dominated by Labour for 100 years. At 40 per cent of voting intentions (+12 compared to January), they lead Labour by 10 points (30 per cent, -3 on January). Nationalists Plaid Cymru are unchanged on 13 per cent. On any reasonable seat projection, this would make the Conservatives the largest party in Wales in terms of MPs elected.

 

UK POLLING AVERAGE 18-26 April
Voting intentions in per cent:

  • Conservatives 46.4
  • Labour 26.1
  • Liberal Democrats 10.9
  • UKIP 7.3
  • Greens 3.1
  • SNP/PC 5.5
  • Others 0.7

Pollsters included: ComRes (22.04), ICM (18.04, 23.04, 24.04), Ipsos Mori (26.04), Kantar TNS (25.04), Norstat (23.04), Opinium (22.04), Panelbase (26.04), Survation (22.04), YouGov (20.04, 22.04, 26.04). All fieldwork carried out after announcement of General Election on 18.04.2017. All polls online except Ipsos Mori telephone poll (26.04).

 

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