The ability of political polling to predict major elections in the UK has been spectacularly poor. Nearly every poll suggested we would currently have a hung parliament, likely led by Ed Miliband. Nearly every poll suggested we would still be in the European Union, although most acknowledged it would be close. Even if polling had correctly predicted those two votes, we are still four years away from the next general election (unless Theresa May U-turns on serving a full term), and you'd be right to treat polls with a healthy degree of scepticism.
Nevertheless, there are some pretty interesting things that have emerged from the most recent round of polling that give you a sense of the direction that British politics is heading in.
UKIP are imploding, and their support is going to the Conservatives
UKIP had their best ever general election in 2015, receiving by far the biggest surge in support of any party, ending up with 12.5 percent of the vote. Any expectations of building on that success in the wake of the Brexit vote must surely now be dashed. According to YouGov's latest poll, only 66 percent of people who voted for them in 2015 are planning to vote for them at the next election. In fact, 30 percent say they will vote Conservative next time, while only four percent say they will vote Labour. And the poll was taken before Steven Woolfe quit the party saying they were "ungovernable and rotten".
Support for the Conservatives is rising and support for Labour is ebbing away to other parties
The headline figures from the YouGov poll suggest that the Tories are leading Labour by 42 to 28 percent – a 14-point lead.
One of the major reasons for that is that the Conservatives have retained nearly everyone who voted for them at the previous election – 90 percent of voters – but are also picking up that 30 percent of UKIP voters, 20 percent of Lib Dem Voters and six percent of Labour voters.
Labour, by contrast, are only retaining 76 percent of their voters from the last election, with votes going in every direction: the Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP and nationalists.
Conservatives are now more popular among all kinds of traditionally Labour groups
Public sector workers are traditionally a Labour heartland. But in the most recent Ipsos Mori poll, Conservatives had 36 per cent of the public sector vote compared to 33 percent for Labour. They are also beating them among people not in full-time work, by 43 percent to 33 percent. And in the north of England, Tories are narrowly beating Labour by 42 percent to 40 percent. If these groups are not lining up for Labour then it spells real trouble for them, not just electorally, but in terms of who they represent as a party. It feeds into claims that Corbyn's Labour only appeals to metropolitan Londoners, where the party are still doing well.
But Labour's big new constituency is the young
One of the few groups where Labour has overwhelming support is among the young. Labour has a 26-point lead over the Conservatives among the 18-24s, a six-point lead among 25-34s, and a 16-point lead among 34-44s. The problem, as ever, is getting those groups to come out and vote. If you only included the survey respondents who said they are certain to vote at the next election, Labour's lead among the young is greatly reduced.
More people believe that we should prioritise access to the single market over controlling immigration
Theresa May used the Tory party conference to create the narrative that the Brexit vote showed British people demanding controls on immigration and most talk of a "hard Brexit" follows this thinking.
But the Ipsos MORI poll found most people would rather we remain in the single market.
Interestingly, those numbers are almost reversed among Conservative voters: 45 percent believe we should prioritise immigration, compared to 38 percent who believe we should prioritise the single market. That suggests that May's moves are far more politically motivated, rather than reflecting the will of the country, as she has tried to claim.
Sympathy for refugees in Calais falls along the lines you'd expect it to
Finally, this week YouGov asked people whether it was "right" or "wrong" that Britain accepted 14 child refugees who already had family in Britain. 50 percent of people said it was right, 32 percent said it was wrong, 17 percent didn't know.
74 percent of Remain voters said it was right, compared to just 34 percent of Leave voters. 64 percent of Labour voters said it was right, compared to 46 percent of Conservative voters and just 16 percent of UKIP voters.
When it comes to compassion, there aren't many surprises, and Theresa May shouldn't worry about losing the "nasty party" mantle any time soon.
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