The relevance of local elections and something Leavers and Remainers agree on: The Week in Polls #2

This week’s national polling intention polls are less interesting than usual with such big political news – the local election results – coming at the end of the week. But for the record, there were three polls with fieldwork in the last week, all painting a consistent picture of Conservatives on 33-35%, Labour on 40-41% and the Lib Dems on 9-12%.

Given that we have national polls, the question of how much attention should really be given to the local elections as a sign of the national mood popped up on Twitter in some thoughtful (yes, Twitter and thoughtful – it can still happen) exchanges.

For me, the value of using local election results to judge the national mood is three-fold. First, they’re a useful safety-check on how the polls are doing. If national polls and the national trends in local elections look very different, that’s a warning sign as we know that usually the picture is a consistent one. Indeed, one of the most famous examples of a general election polling miss being accurately predicted in advance was Matt Sigh in 2015 and local election results were one of the warning signs he used.

Second, local election results can show variations in political support that national polls do not have enough resolution to pick up:

Thirdly, local elections can show the potential for (and through coverages of success, help create) significant movement in the support for a party. A good example of this was with the Liberal Democrats in the early 1990s.

So local election results are worth paying attention to both for their own importance and for the national trends they show.

As for those national polls, this week Redfield & Wilton polling also told us that the economy tops the list of reasons given by 2019 Conservative voters who have switched away from that party. The NHS is in second place. Savanta ComRes found that less than a third of 2018 Conservative voters say having Boris Johnson as their leader makes them more like to vote Conservative (and under a fifth of voters in total).

Both Leavers and Remainers think Brexit has increased the cost of living, a rare outbreak of agreement on Brexit between both camps – although most likely the conclusion that each group draws from this is rather different.

YouGov polling showed that in both Scotland and in Wales a clear majority support a ban on trans conversion therapy.

New Ipsos-MORI polling shows that the public want police to prioritise sexual offences ahead even of violent crime in general, serious and organised crime, or terrorism.

NOW AVAILABLE: Polling Unpacked: the history, uses and abuses of political opinion polls which, according to the Sunday Times, is “Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand modern politics … comprehensive yet surprisingly fun”.

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