John Curtice: The polls agree on one thing: Lib Dems are making progress

Share

Two very different pictures of this election are emerging. One is supplied by conventional pollsters, most of whom undertake their surveys by telephone. According to them, including NOP's polls for this paper, Labour is winning comfortably. Over the past week, they have, on average, put Labour six points ahead.

Two very different pictures of this election are emerging. One is supplied by conventional pollsters, most of whom undertake their surveys by telephone. According to them, including NOP's polls for this paper, Labour is winning comfortably. Over the past week, they have, on average, put Labour six points ahead.

The other picture is supplied by the internet pollsters, for whom this election is their first full outing. The pioneers of this technique, YouGov, have - on average - put Labour only two points ahead in recent polls. Other internet polling conducted by academics at Essex University also gives Labour only a two or three point lead - and even puts Labour behind among those certain to vote.

That divergence is not new. YouGov has been disagreeing with its rivals about the strength of Labour's position for more than a year. But if this pattern persists until 5 May then not only will this election make or break Tony Blair's hopes for a third term, it will also make or break the future of internet polling.

At this stage no one can be sure who is right. For example, YouGov feels people are more honest on the internet and that might help explain why it has more Tory voters. However, conventional polls report that it is Labour rather than Tory voters who seem to be the more reluctant to declare their affiliation.

Still, even if YouGov is right and Labour is only two points ahead, that would still be enough for a substantial Labour majority, albeit not a landslide. There is a large pro-Labour bias in the electoral system, a bias that will only be significantly reduced if the Conservatives record an above-average performance in marginal seats.

But two polls conducted in the past week by ICM in key Labour/Conservative battlegrounds give no hint of that happening. At present there is a pro-Tory swing since 2001 of just one point in those seats, little different from the 1.5 point swing implied by the average of the most recent national polls.

But for all their differences, the latest polls agree on one thing - the Liberal Democrats have made progress in the past week. Both YouGov and ICM reported that support for Charles Kennedy's party was up two points on last week. On all the key issues more people say the Liberal Democrats have the best policy than a week ago.

The party is beginning to profit from the greater media exposure that it always secures in election campaigns, even if last week's coverage was not always friendly. However, ICM's polls in marginals indicate the party has yet to squeeze the Labour vote in those places where it hopes to make gains from the Tories. How far it does so will be vital to its prospects.

Labour still has to worry about fallout, if any, from the collapse of Rover. About that little is known - most polling was done before Friday's announcement.

John Curtice is professor of politics, Strathclyde University

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing