Was Jeremy Corbyn ever ahead in the opinion polls?

Jeremy Corbyn - photo from Chatham House CC BY-NC-ND 2 0

Photo courtesy of Chatham House under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Versions of ‘Corbyn was ahead in the polls until nasty Labour plotters got to work’ crop up fairly frequently. Here’s what the evidence says:

  • From the May general election through to the end of February 2016 there were 54 polls, all of which put the Conservatives ahead.
  • In March and April there were 15 polls, 11 of which put the Conservatives ahead, three of which – all by YouGov – put Labour ahead (by 1-3 points) and one – by ICM – put the parties tied. The other five pollsters during that period all consistently put the Conservatives ahead.
  • Since then every poll has put the Tories ahead, save for one Survation poll in late June which had the parties tied.

So in short YouGov was out of line from all the other pollsters in briefly putting Labour ahead, but none of the other six pollsters has ever put Labour ahead under Corbyn’s leadership. The three YouGov polls were also, it is worth noting, back in March and April – i.e. before the local elections, European referendum or shadow cabinet resignations.

A┬áside note: yes, the polls are sometimes wrong. Every time they’ve been out by a lot in a general election (1970, 1992, 2015), however, they have exaggerated Labour’s true position. They also have often been out by a little, and again it’s Labour overall who has been falsely inflated by this. So if you’re going to worry about polls being wrong, that’s actually an extra reason to view Labour’s situation as poor.

All the voting intention data for both the Corbyn leadership and previous Labour leaders since polling began is here.

UPDATE: In September, a BMG poll carried out in late May was also published which put Labour ahead by 1%. All the other BMG polls before and after have put the Tories ahead.

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