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Polling Observatory #7: do conferences make a difference?

This is the seventh of a series of posts that report on the state of the parties as measured by opinion polls. By pooling together all the available polling evidence we can reduce the impact of the random variation each individual survey inevitably produces. Most of the short term advances and setbacks in party polling fortunes are nothing more than noise; the underlying trends – in which we are interested and best assess the parties’ standings – are relatively stable and little influenced by day-to-day events. If there can ever be a definitive assessment of the parties’ standings, this is it. Further details of the method we use to build our estimates of public opinion can be found here.

Party conference season is upon us, a time when polling is traditionally volatile: parties often enjoy a brief sharp boost in their polling as a result of several days of continuous media attention. Our monthly update falls square in the middle of conference season, with the Lib Dem conference finished a week back, Labour’s just done and the Conservative conference just beginning. This means we have a fair amount of polling evidence for the Lib Dems post-conference, a little for Labour but none for the Conservatives as yet.

Our estimates suggest, at present, no evidence of a conference “bounce” for either the Lib Dems or Labour. We estimate support for Clegg’s party to be down 0.4 points from last month, to 8.6%, continuing the established LibDem trend of hovering between 8% and 10%.

Labour are up just 0.1% to 40.0%. The Conservatives, whose conference is still to come rise 0.2 points in our model to 35.6%. This confirms last month’s evidence that the damage done to Cameron’s party by “Hackgate” earlier in the summer has not lasted.

It is possible that the Conservatives will rally in the polls in the coming days after their Manchester conference, and close the gap with Labour, but at present it looks like this year’s conference season will do little to break the established stalemate in the polls.

For a time when economic instability is unprecedented it is striking that people’s political preferences – so far – remain constant.

Rob FordWill Jennings and Mark Pickup

Published inBritish PoliticsPolling Observatory

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