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The best guide to GE15 will come from single constituency polls NOT the national surveys and the seat calculators

October 21st, 2014

At what level majority will Lord A find the Tories holding on in the marginals?

In the past year we’ve seen a revolution in British political polling which is totally transforming the way wrong look at General Elections.

Rather than the focus being on national polls from which we can project seat numbers we are seeing an avalanche of constituency polls coming mostly from Lord Ashcroft and initiatives funded by wealthy UKIP donors.

These are serious polls of single constituencies with proper sized samples and should not be compared with the marginals polling of yesteryear. In the Ashcroft ones the standard sample is 1,000 and we get both the specific seat data and the overall aggregate whenever a new round is published

So far we’ve had polls in just under 90 Westminster seats from Lord A, Survation and ICM. and there are said to be new ranges of constituency in the pipeline. Lord A gave us a taster in a recent post:-

“…Labour would become the largest party if results in the seats I have already polled turned into results on election day – and there could well be more to come: while my polling has moved into seats with bigger Tory majorities I have not yet come to the “bite point” at which the potential losses end and Conservative seats consistently start to stay blue.

Research I currently have in the field is looking at some of these safer seats in search of the point at which the damage stops. If and when we find it, that should define the boundary of the real Conservative-Labour battleground.

But other unknowns remain. For example, are there vulnerable but hitherto unpolled Lib Dem seats in England and Wales? Could UKIP be making a significant impact in places we have not yet looked at> And what is happening in Scotland, where the big SNP gains some expect could change the equation significantly, especially if they are at the expense of Labour?..”

I wonder how that bite point will compare with national polling when fed into a seat calculator. Based on what we’ve seen so far there’s a bigger CON-LAB swing in the battleground. In LD held seats it is hard to draw any conclusions. In some areas seat polling is going with national polling – in other areas it isn’t

As I keep on saying general elections are not determined by national aggregate vote shares but by 650 separate votes in individual seats and I for one am hugely grateful to Lord A for helping us see what is happening where it matters.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble





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Marf’s afternoon cartoon – “Ukip’s Map of the World”

October 21st, 2014

mapofworld (1)

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.
  • The next PB gathering at Dirty Dicks (opposite Liverpool Station in London) will be on Friday November 21st – the day after Rochester. Starts 1830.



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    If the Tories get a good turnout in the Rochester all postal primary it’ll be a pointer to the by-election itself

    October 21st, 2014

    But what is good – this is a by-election first?

    On Thursday we’ll get the results of the unique all postal primary that the Tories have carried out to choose their Candidate for the November 20th Rochester & Strood by-election. This is the first time that any party has chosen a by-election candidate in this manner and for me the key number will be how many of the 70k+ electors in the constituency have actually participated.

    Only two such primaries have been carried out before. At the first at Totnes in Devon in 2009 ahead of the 2010 General Election 24.6% bothered to fill in the postal ballot forms and return them. A month or so later in Gosport the turnout was 17.8%. The big differences between Rochester and those two are that the process is taking place over such a shorter period and, of course, turnouts in by-elections themselves are almost always lower than at general elections.

      Taking everything into account if participation in Rochester is in the 15-20% region then the blues can be pleased.

    What the primary process has done is to increase awareness of the election and the two contenders. Whoever wins, of course, is fighting the incumbent, Mark Reckless, who has had huge media coverage following his defection to UKIP. There can be little doubt that the massive success that Douglas Carswell had in Clacton will have provided a boost to Reckless and his party. The momentum generally had been with UKIP since as we’ve seen from record Westminster polling shares for the party.

    Ladbrokes and SkyBet have been operating a markets on the primary and Kelly Torworth, the one on the right in the picture, is odds on favourite.

    All the counting and election processing had been carried out by the Electoral Reform Society. The turnout will be a pointer to how much interest the Tories have been able to generate in their campaign.

    One thing’s for sure – the turnout level will be higher than the South Yorkshire Police Commissioner election taking place next week.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    PB Nighthawks is now open

    October 20th, 2014

    Home of the web’s best political conversation

    Why not relax, and converse into the night on the day’s events in PB NightHawks.

    If you’re a lurker, why not delurk, It Only Takes A Minute to delurk, I’m sure you’ll Shine with your contributions. Never Forget, we were all lurkers once.

    The round up of recent events (click on the links below, and it will bring up the relevant link)

    1. Polls can shape reality, not just reflect it. The pollsters and the media have to make decisions based on public opinion – but those decisions can then shape us.
    2. England’s awkward answer to the West Lothian Question
    3. What does history suggest will happen in the polls? Encouragingly for Cameron, since 1979 the party in power has often won support in the year before the election.
    4. Have the Greens really overtaken the Lib Dems in the polls?
    5. You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job. Why our politics could be in chaos after the next election
    6. Scottish independence referendum: what we learned about bookies vs pollsters.
    7. The Tories lie about the NHS in Wales to distract us from what they’re doing in England
    8. Middle-class families hit by Labour’s mansion tax. Ed Miliband faces criticism over his plans for a ‘mansion tax’ from Labour MPs in London who say policy is ‘dysfunctional and misconceived’
    9. Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’ economic fairytale?Falling wages, savage cuts and sham employment expose the recovery as bogus. Without a new vision we’re heading for social conflict
    10. Tackling tax avoidance should be a top manifesto issue 
    11. Ukip does deal with far-right, racist Holocaust-denier to save EU funding. 
    12. Parliament has more important priorities than this spiffwaddle
    13. Blind defenders of ‘free movement’ sound like US gun nuts
    14. Turkey in Europe? Now there’s a migrant backlash waiting to happen
    15. France to use Britain’s ‘illegal’ plans to cut EU migrant numbers
    16. Prison whistleblowers being threatened with dismissal
    17. ITV News Called Ed Miliband The “Labour Party Lady”
    18. “UKIP Calypso” Might Be The Most Cringeworthy Political Anthem Ever
    19. Yesterday was the 2,216th anniversary of the Battle of Zama, when Hannibal despite outnumbering his opponent, was exposed as the inept and overrated military commander most people knew him to be.
    20. Today is the 41st anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre.
    21. Tomorrow is the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. 


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    The Lib Dems fall into 5th place in this week’s Ashcroft National phone poll

    October 20th, 2014

    Earlier the Populus had Lab 36 (+1), Con 34 (+1), LD 9 (-1), UKIP 13 (-1) GRN 5 (+1)

    This 3% jump in a single week is a remarkable move by the Greens who now seem to be taking support from across the board but most particularly LAB and the LDs which could conceivably help the Tories in the battlegrounds.

      Like all moves that are out of the ordinary we would have a lot more confidence if it was supported by other surveys and today’s Populus had them on 5% four full points behind the LDs.

    For some reason the Ashcroft poll generally reports the highest figures of all for the Greens.

    My reading is that none of the so-called “major parties” and their leaders are doing well at the moment and inevitably other forces are coming in to fill the vacuum.

    We are in uncharted territory and no one can really predict where this is going. The Lord A data shows that the Greens are now taking more 2010 LD support than UKIP.

    What will worry LAB is that the proportion of 2010 LDs voting LAB appears to have fallen as the GRN share has risen.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    Polling analysis: Rochester is a far far bigger challenge for UKIP than Clacton

    October 20th, 2014

    UKIP is not winning the 2010 Tory vote like it did in Clacton

    Reckless has nothing like the personal support as Carswell

    The outcome could be on a knife-edge

    I’ve become totally absorbed by the Rochester by-election the outcome of which, either way, will have a dramatic affect on the political environment in the six months to the May 7th general election.

    Over the weekend I’ve had a look again at the only poll so far which was from Survation. This had UKIP’s Mark Reckless with an 8.7% margin a large part of which was made up of non-voters from 2010 and a disproportionate number of those saying they voted for “others”.

      In fact if standard ICM methodology, rather than Survation’s, had been used with the same data then the main two protagonists could have been almost level pegging with Labour not far behind. This is because ICM discounts the views of non-voters from last time by 50% and also re-allocates part of the “will vote -won’t say” segment to the party they supported last. Also 2010 “others” would have been scaled down.

    UKIP, of course, gave Reckless a free ride in 2010 so there’s no 2010 data relating to the party to link back to.

    Lord Ashcroft, who hasn’t polled this yet, is much closer in his approach to ICM and when he does he’ll be naming the candidates in his survey.

    Survation was first off with a Clacton poll and followed that up a fortnight ago with its Rochester survey. Apart from the voting ones questions were almost identical allowing us to compare the two sets of data to identify the differences.

    The key ones to me are how much worse Reckless’s defection is viewed in Rochester compared with Carswell and how in Rochester the Tories are hanging on to much more of their 2010 vote. The comparisons are shown in the two charts and do not look good for UKIP.

    I still think that Reckless is favourite but nothing like the 78% chance that he’s being rated at on Betfair.

    Mike Smithson

    Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter




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    Andy Burnham rules out standing for the LAB leadership – get your money on Andy Burnham

    October 19th, 2014

    EdM’s successor? Could be

    In the closing seconds of his interview on the Marr show this morning the shadow health secretary and 2010 leadership contender, Andy Burnham, was asked if he’d rule out standing the the job “in due course”.

    His denial was, to me, less than convincing.

    He’s come on a lot since his first leadership bid and I was quite impressed with the way he handled the interview.

    Both Ladbrokes and PaddyPower have him at 6/1. If EdM does stumble on the the way to May 7th or in the aftermath Burnham looks a good bet.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    When ComRes tested impact of prompting for UKIP the views of women barely changed. Male support however jumped by 8%

    October 19th, 2014

    Two pollsters, three polls, and UKIP shares between 16% and 24%

    With all eyes on UKIP polling shares following their by election successes the online survey by ComRes for the Indy on Sunday and Sunday Mirror carried out a test to see whether, as many purple enthusiasts argue, their shares are understated by firms that don’t specifically prompt for the party.

    So the ComRes sample was split in two with the first using the conventional approach and the second including UKIP in its main party prompts.

    The problem with this is that the sample sizes became so small, down to 782 in one case, that the margin of error increases substantially especially when trying to analyse the UKIP voting subset.

    In fact the difference between the two approaches can almost all be explained as standard margin of error.

      With that caveat a big move was apparent between the two ComRes polls. The views of women barely changed when UKIP was prompted – men, however increased their support by 8%

    Read into that what you will! Maybe prompting says more about how men and women respond to online polling than it does about UKIP support.

    Another difference was that non-2010 voters amongst UKIP support amounted to 7% in normal poll, but 13% in the prompted one.

    Meanwhile the latest YouGov, with a later fieldwork period than ComRes, has UKIP down 3% from dizzy heights of last week to a more normal looking 16%.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble