YouGov’s IndyRef NO lead grows even though the firm’s tweaked its methodology to make it more favourable to YES

August 11th, 2014

Fieldwork straddled last Tuesday’s Darling-Salmond debate

There’s a new IndyRef poll out from YouGov – the firm which has generally been showing bigger NO leads and which has been critical of the way some other pollsters have been surveying this election. According to YouGov’s Anthony Wells on UKPR the firm has made adjustments to its approaches.

“There are two slight changes in YouGov’s Scottish methodology since the previous poll. The first is that the sample is extended to include 16 and 17 year olds – though this didn’t actually make any difference to the result.

The second is that YouGov have added an extra weighting variable, weighting according to people’s country of birth. For some reason raw samples seem to contain too many respondents who were born in England, and English born people are more likely to vote NO (Panelbase found the same, and also adopted place of birth as an extra weighting variable in their latest poll). This additional weight does makes a slight difference to final result, making the results slightly more “YES”. Under the old weighting scheme the results would have been YES 38%, NO 62%, a slight shift towards NO.

Including 16 and 17 year olds is clearly the right thing to do and it is a bit strange that it is only now, with five weeks to go, that they are being polled by YouGov.

Dealing with the issue if English born respondents seems sensible because the data has been showing that they have a very different view of the referendum and for some reason are being over-represented in samples.

This poll would have been much more useful if it had, like Survation for the Scottish Daily Mail, all been carried out after the debate. In fact just over half the fieldwork took place before.

I’m hoping that the coming week will see the latest ICM referendum polling.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Lifting the Margin of Error Safety Blanket

August 10th, 2014

The trend is still your friend

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“All changes are within the margin of error”.  It’s a frequently heard line, usually trotted out by those sympathetic to a party whose share has just declined, or by those keen to fence-sit.  While it may be true (and it usually is: only six of the 600 or so poll-to-poll changes across the four parties in this year’s YouGov series have been more than 3%, for example, and then only by a single point), its attraction is also dangerously deceptive.

In fact, it’s even easier to be comforted by the margin of error: even those 4% movements could easily be within it (for a 3% MoE poll), if they went from, say, 2% above the true position to 2% below it.  Add in that the various party scores are related variables – one party’s gain must be another’s loss – and it’s possible for one party’s lead over another to move by four times the quoted MoE yet not be rogue.

All of which makes it very easy to explain away disagreeable results as potentially simply down to sampling, because they usually might be.  However, the truth and the whole truth are very different beasts, which is what makes the explanation both attractive and misleading.

While the statement may of itself be true, it implies more than it actually says: that the changes are unreliable and should be largely ignored.  In fact, assuming consistent polling standards, even a 1% move one way or the other is more likely than not to represent a genuine shift (admittedly, not by very much), and probabilities matter.  More importantly, because in these days of frequent polling it’s rare for any one poll to register a large change – and when they do, they often are outliers that revert at the next poll – the cumulative effect becomes under-emphasised.

Yet it’s the cumulative trend which is important: the slow drift upwards or downwards over several weeks that can produce enough of a swing to make a real shift.  It’s something I noticed when looking at the polls from this time last parliament.  In August 2009, the Conservatives had a typical lead of around 16% over Labour; by March 2010, it was down to mid-single figures yet there was no step-change moment, just a gradual but steady drift all the way from landslide to hung parliament territory.

So how do we sift the statistical wheat from the chaff?  Real changes in VI don’t happen in isolation; they’re the reaction to events that should be known to an interested observer, so with the knowledge of the one, the other can be anticipated with good judgement.  Essentially, the headline figures are more corroboration than forward-looking; the diamonds are in the detail.  On the other hand, headline movements that don’t accord with underlying opinions and perceptions or with real-world events are usually at best soft or at worst just noise.

David Herdson

Update – on a similar theme, the changes in the Scottish referendum polling are significant.  Not only does the movement easily explained by a real event, but the figures down the survey suggest Yes will have great difficulty pulling things round.  While Alistair Darling’s performance had a rating of +32 in terms of knowledgeable/uninformed, Alex Salmond’s was -4.  Similarly, Darling’s rating on honest/dishonest was +4 against -7 for Salmond.  Once voters decide you don’t know what you’re talking about and are effectively just blustering, you’re in trouble.  With over three-quarters of voters expressing an opinion wanting to keep a link to Sterling in some form, expect No to keep pounding Salmond on the currency question, which will see it through.


Detailed data from the YouGov/ST polls finds that fewer current CON voters would back party if Boris was leader

August 10th, 2014

The mayor attracts votes as well as turning some off

Thanks to George Eaton at the New Statesman for picking this up. A Boris-led Tory party could lead to fewer current CON voters backing the party.

Looking at the detail in the table above we see that there’s a 5% drop amongst current CON supporters with the main beneficiary being the Lib Dems. The big figure, of course, is the 20% of UKIP voters who’d move to a Boris-led CON.

The Westminster Hour The Boris polling item that I was due to be part of has been dropped.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The polling that suggests that Boris could play a part in winning back CON voters from UKIP

August 10th, 2014

But he’s not seen as being up to job of being PM

But political gamblers are paying little attention to CON leadership

BBC Radio 4′s “The Westminster Hour”

I’ve been booked to take part in a discussion tonight on Boris polling on Radio 4′s “The Westminster Hour” which starts at 10pm.


Local By-Election Results: August 7th 2014

August 9th, 2014

Broadley Common, Epping Upland and Nazing on Epping Forest (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 155 (50% -34%), UKIP 122 (40%), Green 23 (7% -3%), Liberal Democrats 7 (2% -4%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 33 (10%) on a swing of 37% from Conservative to UKIP

Warboys and Bury on Huntingdonshire (Con Defence)
Result: Conservative 616 (47% +1%), UKIP 560 (42% +16%), Liberal Democrats 78 (6% -7%), Labour 72 (5% -10%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 56 (5%) on a swing of 7.5% from Conservative to UKIP

Wells on Malvern Hills (Con Defence)
Result: Conservative 317 (37%), Liberal Democrats 227 (27%), UKIP 158 (19%), Independent 76 (9%), Labour 71 (8%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 90 (10%)

Valley on Stroud (Green Defence)
Result: Green 291 (43% -4%), Labour 230 (34% +3%), UKIP 76 (11%), Conservative 67 (10% -11%), TUSC 16 (2%)
Green HOLD with a majority of 61 (9%) on a swing of 3.5% from Green to Labour

Castle on Worthing (Liberal Democrat defence)
Result: UKIP 568 (37% +21%), Conservative 485 (32% +3%), Liberal Democrat 242 (16% -24%), Labour 197 (13% -2%), Green 49 (3%)
UKIP GAIN from Liberal Democrat with a majority of 83 (5%) on a swing of 9% from Conservative to UKIP


Huge blow for Salmond and the Scottish Independence campaign in first full post TV debate referendum poll

August 9th, 2014

NO lead moves from 6% to 14% in less than a week

A new poll by Survation for the Scottish Daily Mail has just been published and sees a big post-TV debate reversal for YES. Fieldwork was carried out on Wednesday and Thursday.

Survation, it should be noted, has been one of the pollsters that has until now been recording the best figures for YES and in recent months has hardly been showing any movement. The key points:

  • If the referendum were held today, Scots would vote to remain in the UK – by a large margin: 57% would vote ‘No’, 43% would vote ‘Yes’
  • Lead for ‘No’ goes from 6 points to 14 points in less than a week, after months of very little change in independence referendum polls
  • This is the highest ‘No’ vote – and the biggest lead over ‘Yes’ – seen in a Survation poll since February.
  • Despite ‘Yes’ voters being more likely to have watched the debate (73% watched it compared to 66% of No voters), Darling still emerges as the clear winner - 53% of those who watched the debate thought Darling won, with 28% selecting Salmond as the winner
  • It really looks as though Tuesday night was a narrative changer and YES has a mountain to climb.

    I’m expecting other IndyRef polling during the weekend,

    Mike Smithson

    Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


    It looks as though Farage is going for South Thanet where the bookies give him a 44% chance

    August 8th, 2014

    Could Labour be the best bet?

    After the big news about Boris and GE2015 we now have further details about Nigel Farage’s intentions. It looks as though he is going for South Thanet – a seat that had been strongly tipped and where he has stood before. A selection meeting has been fixed for August 26th though it does look like a formality for the party leader.

    The seat was won by the Tories in May 2010 by Laura Sandys who has since announced her intention of not standing again. This means that the blues won’t have a first time incumbency bonus.

    The chart above shows the latest betting from PaddyPower and the findings of the latest Ashcroft poll on the seat.

    Even now this is the most polled seat in the country and has seen four different polls over the past nine months.

    The latest, from Lord Ashcroft, is featured in the chart and has UKIP ahead. It will be interesting to see how that changes with the Farage news.

    The danger for Farage is that he could see anti-UKIP tactical voting though quite whether Tories would vote Labour or vice versa remains to be seen. Whatever both the Tories and Labour would dearly like to see him beaten.

    This is a tight three way marginal which could be determined by how the 2010 LD vote splits. In 2010 the yellows got 15% and Ashcroft found that 27% would be voting LAB although more than a fifth have yet to make up their minds.

    Maybe Labour is the best bet.

    Mike Smithson

    Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


    We have cross-over with Populus online. CON 36% LAB 35%

    August 8th, 2014

    But Tories need bigger margin to ensure most seats

    And the fundamental problem for the blues remains:

    Populus following usual bad for LAB on Fridays