A record-breaking 469,047 registered online to vote yesterday before the midnight deadline

April 21st, 2015

On the face of it this is good news for LAB

On top of the online registrations a further 15,965 people registering by post. The total who signed themselves up was the equivalent of well over 750 people for each parliamentary constituency or roughly one percent of the electorate.

According to Wired of those who registered yesterday “152,000 were aged 25 to 34 with 137,000 aged 16-24. People aged 35 to 44 were third on the list with 89,500 registrations.”

These are big numbers and suggest a high level of interest in the election particularly from demographic groups who normally have the lowest turnout levels. They are also segments which tend to be more pro-LAB than those up the age scale.

I’m coming to the view that overall turnout could be around the 70% mark.

What I find odd is that pollsters don’t routinely ask whether those in their samples are registered. This, surely, is something they should be doing.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


These ICM sub-samples are very small but the detail of this breakdown is fascinating

April 21st, 2015

ICM Unlimited

Inevitably when you have a 1,000 sample poll and then adjust for turnout after taking out the don’t knows the numbers you are left with can get very small. But I love the way ICM, in its general election datasets, is now breaking down constituencies by specific types.

The group where there’s the biggest variation across the different seat types are those saying they’ll vote Lib Dem. Notice how in the final column, the CON-LAB marginals, we get the smallest figures. Clearly this voting group has been squeezed. In the LAB facing CON held seats the figure drops to just 2%.

Elsewhere in the data, on a table not shown, we see how turnout looks set to be significantly lower in LAB heartland seats than CON ones. This, of course, is one of the main reasons why the electoral system appears to be biased to the party.

Of course you would love to see this sort of split in a much bigger sample poll but what we’ve got does provide a few pointers to what might happen.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The main message from the Tories for the next fortnight

April 20th, 2015


Marf’s summation as the big day gets closer

April 20th, 2015


  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.

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    The Monday afternoon rolling polling blog

    April 20th, 2015

    Mondays are always a big day polling day. First off was Populus with a slight up-tick for LAB. This afternoon we’ll have ICM, which last week had a 6% CON lead, and Ashcroft. This evening there will be the daily YouGov.

    UPDATE Ashcroft national 4% CON lead + 2 new Scots polls

    CON lead down to 2% with ICM

    The chart that tells the story of the past five years – the churn between the parties

    Best party on the main issues from Ipsos


    Why this could be like 1992 when the polls were simply wrong

    April 20th, 2015

    Elections & polling expert Keiran Pedley examines whether the UK polling industry could be about to experience a crisis not seen since the polls got it so wrong in 1992.

     Those that follow polling closely will recall the famous situation in 1992 where the polls appeared to point to a Labour victory (of sorts) only for the Conservatives to prevail. Since that time, much work has gone into correcting those mistakes and subsequent election results have shown that the polling industry has been largely successful at achieving this.

    However, in an election so close, with so many different parties (and pollsters) involved, could we face the prospect of history repeating itself?  Here I examine some of the challenges pollsters face.

     It’s very close

    Aside from the occasional poll showing a 6 point lead for Labour or the Conservatives, most national polls show the two main parties neck and neck. In fact, the current UK Polling Report average has Labour and the Conservatives on 34 points each. Therefore, by understating either the Labour or Conservative vote slightly, the polls could point to a completely different result to the one we see on election day.  Indeed, some pollsters could easily call the election wrong (or right) by sheer accident of ‘margin of error’. What is clear is that the apparent closeness of the race exacerbates the potential for the polls to be ‘wrong’.

     Dealing with a ‘multi-party’ system

    In 1992, pollsters were mainly concerned with Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Now, each of the SNP, UKIP and the Greens are important too. These parties are not just important for their own sake. Polls that overstate UKIP’s support could also understate Conservative support and if Scottish polls overstate support for the SNP then Labour’s situation north of the border could be better than current polling suggests (though still very bad). Therefore, not only is this election close but pollsters are also having to contend with several new variables this time around which are all important.

     Return of the ‘shy Tories’?

    One of the major issues in 1992 was the so-called ‘Shy Tory’ phenomenon where voters told pollsters that they intended to vote Labour (or someone else) where in fact they actually intended to vote Conservative. If such a phenomenon repeats itself this could be crucial in such a close race. Former Conservative MP Rob Hayward has produced analysis (more here) showing that polls have regularly understated Conservative support this parliament when compared to the actual result in elections.

    Could this happen again? It’s possible. A key group to watch out for is the cohort of Labour supporters that consistently say that they would prefer David Cameron as Prime Minister. For example, the latest Ipsos Mori political monitor shows that some 28% of current Labour supporters say that they are dissatisfied with Ed Miliband’s performance as Labour leader. Miliband’s ratings are of course improving during the campaign and it is debatable how much impact leader ratings have anyway. However, if we are looking for evidence of ‘Shy Tories’ then current Labour supporters unconvinced by Miliband would be an obvious place to start. We should remember, not all party ‘supporters’ in opinion polls are committed activists – some are floating voters liable to change their minds.

     Emergence of ‘shy Labour Scots’?

    What about Scotland? A rarely considered factor in this election is whether there are actually a few ‘shy Labour Scots’ north of the border. I admit that this is largely speculation but, such is the frenzy that has gripped Scottish politics since the independence referendum, this is at least possible. This does not mean that Labour are suddenly going to beat the SNP in Scotland but that the scale of the defeat might not be as bad as expected – with significant implications regarding seats won by the SNP.

    Another issue in Scotland specifically will be turnout. Scottish voters regularly tell pollsters that they are more likely to turnout than those in the rest of the country. However, an interesting subset of data in the recent TNS Scotland poll here shows that 18% of current SNP voters did not vote last time. If a large proportion of this group stay at home then this could significantly impact how many seats the SNP take from Labour in May too.

    How much support does UKIP really have?

    Arguably the biggest challenge faced by pollsters is calling UKIP’s vote share correctly. Barring some significant polling convergence between now and voting day someone is going to be very wrong here. UKIP’s support in opinion polls ranges from anywhere between 17% (Survation) and 7% (ICM) at present. Clearly, these both cannot be right. Also, like the SNP, UKIP relies on a significant number of previous non-voters for its support. Again, as with the SNP vote, it will be interesting to see if this support turns up on the day.

    Returning to the differences in UKIP support between pollsters, it is interesting to compare levels of support achieved online compared to telephone polls. Below is a recent chart produced by Anthony Wells from YouGov that illustrates this point, consistent this parliament, that UKIP tend to achieve greater levels of support online. Perhaps online polls are correcting a ‘spiral of silence’ among UKIP voters or perhaps they are overstating UKIP support. We will know soon enough. The point is that they are different and both cannot be right.


    Source: UK Polling Report

    Impact of survey mode: telephone vs. online

    This brings us neatly onto the potentially critical comparison of online and telephone polling more generally. Recent analysis by Adam Ludlow at ComRes appears to show the Conservatives narrowly leading in telephone polls with Labour narrowly leading in online polls. Time will tell whether this phenomenon is real and continues but it is a potentially critical point. Survey mode is just one of many differences in how pollsters produce their voting intention figures of course but the prospect of one of the main survey modes being ‘discredited’ this election could have substantial ramifications for the UK polling industry in the not too distant future. Personally, I am yet to be convinced but I am certainly watching closely.

    Conclusion: A different kind of 1992?

    What is clear is that the election is close and pollsters face a number of challenges in correctly reflecting voting intention in national opinion polls. There appear to be some differences when considering survey mode, at least when considering UKIP and the sheer number of parties involved present real challenges. Any one of them being significantly out creates a potential problem. Finally, the age old problem of potential ‘shy Tory’ voters could rear its head again whilst turnout in Scotland could also have a significant impact in the eventual result too.

    You could be forgiven for asking whether or not this matters. Many will point out that in this new era of multi-party politics that national vote share only tells us so much about the eventual result. Such is the complicated, often bizarre, relationship between the number of votes cast and seats won. They would be right of course but national polls are still important. They show trends in public opinion and perhaps more importantly all of the forecasts out there right now are based in some way on what the national polls are saying. Bluntly, if the polls are wrong, then everything we think we know about the outcome of the election is wrong too.

    For what it is worth I think the polling industry faces a different kind of ‘1992 moment’. Post-election there are likely to be some’ winners’ and ‘losers’ in the polling industry in terms of individual companies. I am also expecting a fair bit of analysis on whether online or telephone polls are any different and which is more reliable and also on how accurately pollsters called UKIP’s support. In the longer term however, the key challenge for pollsters will be to stay relevant. National vote shares only tells us so much and so we should expect more and more regional / constituency level data to be produced in future. This can only help us better understand elections in years to come but also introduces more opportunity for error too. For example, Lord Ashcroft data is regularly used in election forecasting but rarely has competitor data to compare to.

    On ‘Shy Tories’, potentially the most important point, we just don’t know.  However, if the industry does experience another ‘Shy Tory’ 1992 moment then expect to hear a lot more from Lord Foulkes in the coming weeks and months and his plans to introduce a statutory body to regular the polling industry. Then things really will get interesting.

    Keiran Pedley is an Associate Director at GfK NOP and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about politics and polling at @keiranpedley.


    The polls have the battle broadly tied – the spread betting markets have a CON 19 seat lead

    April 19th, 2015

    Can we expect a proper cross-over in the final 17 days?


    Is 2015 the year the UK becomes Belgium?

    April 19th, 2015

    Is a Grand Coalition the only viable government after the election?

    Whilst fans of Poirot, TinTin, and the D’Hondt electoral voting system might seem some advantages of the UK becoming more like Belgium, I’m coming to the conclusion that we might not have a viable government possible, particularly if the SNP surge translates into the seat numbers the recent Scottish polling implies.

    In 2010, it took less than a week for the Con/Lib Dem coalition to be formed, in Belgium following no party obtaining a majority after their general election, it took 541 days  (five hundred and forty-one days) for a government to be formed, as the Belgians were left without an elected government, for in total, five hundred and eighty-nine days.

    As the fixed term parliament makes a second election very unlikely, and repealing it wouldn’t be easy, so we’d be stuck with the result we got on May the 7th for the foreseeable future.

    As Antifrank predicted last month, Her Majesty is trying not to get involved with the formation of the government, today’s Sunday Times reports

    OFFICIALS at Buckingham Palace are warning that the Queen must not be dragged into political wrangling after the general election amid fears that David Cameron or Ed Miliband might attempt to use her as a “prop” to “legitimise” a government that lacks a majority.

    Sources close to the royal household said last night that neither leader should approach the Queen to form a government until they are sure they can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

    With a hung parliament on the cards, courtiers are concerned that either leader could ambush the Queen with an attempt to rule as a minority government and “borrow her support” to cement their claims to power…..

    …Royal sources also said the Queen will not deliver a speech at the next state opening of parliament on May 27 if there is a hung parliament and there was a danger that it would not pass a parliamentary vote.

    The royal source said: “One of the concerns that might be there is if the Queen’s speech became a mechanism for testing a particular prime minister’s control of the House [of Commons], you wouldn’t want the Queen to be politicised by giving that speech.”

    Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, said: “There is general agreement on all sides that the Queen should be detached from the process of government formation.

    “She will receive information but will only be involved once the politicians have decided who the next government is going to be.”

    Who can blame her, prior to the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the constitutional convention on the circumstances a Monarch could refuse a request from the Prime Minister for a new election was based on an anonymous letter written to the Times in the 1950s.

    Just look at the above forecasts/nowcasts/predictions of the great and the good collated by May2015 or Peter Kellner’s latest forecast, a normal two party coalition might not be possible, and the more parties that join a coalition, I think that means a more unstable government. Or the worst of all worlds, a minority coalition government.

    Given that according to some polls, the Lib Dems have misplaced nearly 80% of their voters since joining the coalition, some of the smaller parties may also fancy not participating in a coalition, to avoid as Chancellor Merkel’s maxim to David Cameron about coalitions “The little party always gets smashed!”, some parties might be actively trying to avoid a coalition, especially if their leader has just lost his seat.

    Everyone says 326 is the magic number (or 323 allowing for Sinn Fein abstentions) But that assumes all the newly formed coalition MPs vote exactly with the government. History has shown all parties have their awkward squads who can almost certain be guaranteed to vote against their side, so a viable government might not be feasible on 326 seats or even 323.

    Particularly if it features the SNP and Labour, with the SNP demanding this government adopt a Scotland First approach, which English (and Welsh) Labour MPs will know might not go down well with their electorate, for which there may be a price to pay for at a future General Election, especially with the anticipated shellacking of Labour in Scotland, no one will ever feel they are in a safe seat again.

    On a more philosophical point, given their respective views of Scotland in the Union, a Lab/SNP coalition might not be possible as Labour don’t wish to put the Union at risk and the SNP’s demands are something that might put the Union at risk. If the SNP can’t and won’t go into coalition with either Labour or the Tories, then what?

    In the background, last night, there was increasing fears of a Greek euro exit after IMF meeting.

    In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it was said Belgium was the most offensive word in the universe, you get the feeling the electorate would view the UK having its own Belgium scenario as pretty offensive and disastrous, especially if we get Acropolis Now headlines and the economic disaster that is a Grexit and the UK didn’t have a government to deal with it. Some have said, a Grexit could see the UK’s GDP fall by up to 10%, to put that into context, the recession of 2008 saw the UK’s GDP fall by 7.2%.

    The pressure on the politicians would be immense, as none of them would wish to be cast as a latter day Emperor Honorius, as the economic Visigoths of a Grexit sacked our economy.

    The 2010 coalition worked because the numbers stacked up for the Tories and the Lib Dems, it may be in a little over two weeks, the only viable option is a Grand Coalition.

    Under normal circumstances, both the Tories and Labour would rule out a grand coalition, outside of a major war, as both know it would lead to mass defections/resignations from their their (parliamentary) parties, as UKIP, the SNP and the Greens would say it shows the Tories and Labour are indistinguishable from each other.

    But could these future events be describe as normal events?

    At the time of writing, you can get 40/1 on a Con/Lab Grand coalition.