Is Cameron about to get a polling weightings boost?

Is Cameron about to get a polling weightings boost?

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    Why are more people “remembering” that they voted for the party?

With the brand new Tory logo now published for the first time I thought that this morning might be a good moment to report on a polling trend that could provide a small but significant boost to Cameron’s party.

This is a bit complicated to explain but basically in the last 2-3 months there has been a big increase in the proportion of those being interviewed by Populus and ICM telling the pollsters that they voted Conservative at the 2005 General Election. At the same time fewer people are saying they voted Labour.

    This has almost no impact on the recent headline figures produced by the firms but if this trend continues it should produce a 1-2% Tory benefit in the Tory-Labour poll margins

On May 5th last year the shares for the main parties were CON 33.2%: LAB 36.2%: LD 22.7%. – that’s the benchmark against which figures should be compared. But my analysis of all the published polls from ICM and Populus for which data is available shows that in the first year after the General Election those surveyed told the two pollsters that they “remembered” voting in the following proportions in the election: CON 28.1%: LAB 44.8%: LD 20.2%.

In the past 2-3 months these numbers have changed sharply with many more people saying that the voted Tory last time and fewer saying that they went with Labour. Thus ICM and Populus are between them now getting an average of about 32.9% for the Tories, 40.3% for Labour and 19% for the Lib Dems.

You have to be very careful about drawing any conclusion about a trend and I am only reporting this because the same effect is being seen from the two leading phone pollsters over the last four polls with only a little variation between them.

Now if this effect continues over more surveys it will have an impact on the weightings that the two firms use when they calculate their top-line figures and this will be beneficial to the Tories. Thus Populus adds the most recent poll data to its previous 10 most recent polls and calculates the past vote weighting from the average recalled past vote in this data. ICM has a similar process.

The recent change has been of such a magnitude that both firms had to scale back their Tory weightings in their most recent polls – something that I do not recall happening before. This is because the weightings are being “dragged” back by what’s happened over the past year not just the last couple of months.

Why does all this matter? Well the key monthly surveys from ICM and Populus play a key part in shaping the political environment. If the Tory position over Labour is getting a 1-2% boost just as the new PM takes office that could have an impact. This will reinforce Cameron’s position in his party.

Why is it happening? I am sure that everybody has got their own theory but in my view people tend to “remember” more that they voted for the party that is in the lead. This is the product of recent Tory poll progress.

Mike Smithson

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