CON voters give Dave a net 24% lead over Boris on whose EU statements/claims are trusted

April 16th, 2016

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Why LEAVE has to undermine the PM

It is said, though I have no independent verification, that the Lynton Crosby analysis of the referendum is that the outers have to totally undermine Cameron’s reputation if they are to have a chance.

With Corbyn now coming off the fence which should encourage the Labour IN vote current CON voters are a major battleground between IN and OUT. The polls vary but all have LEAVE ahead amongst this voting segment but the gap needs to be significantly larger than it is. The above chart is a good illustration of why the CON vote could be decisive.

As can be seen at the moment David Cameron enjoys a very significant net lead over Boris Johnson when it comes to who Conservative voters trust on comments and statements in relation to the referendum.

Now the Mayor has become the de facto head of LEAVE numbers like these look set to give us good pointers.

Mike Smithson


Time to bet against the Donald

April 16th, 2016


Trump’s amateur approach is costing him the election

Back in October, I tipped Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination as a trading bet. As always with such bets, the trick is trading out at the right time. So with Cruz now at less than 2/1 across the board, when is that time?

The simple answer is ‘not yet’. In a normal year, a candidate in Trump’s position would have the nomination near-enough sown up. Although he’ll probably fall short of the magic 1237, he’s still almost certain to arrive in Cleveland with very substantial leads in delegates, states won and votes cast, and that ought to be enough.

But this isn’t a normal year and Trump isn’t a normal candidate. The intensity of the desire among many to stop him, the potential for Trump to throw away the election in a single line and his national poll ratings in both favourability and head-to-heads provide the motivation and justification for denying him the nomination.

If not him then who? To start with, Cruz may be the only other one in the race. The infamous Rule 40b requires any candidate nominated at the convention to have the majority support of at least eight state delegations. Trump and Cruz both meet that criterion; no-one else comes close. Although that doesn’t necessarily rule other candidates out in later rounds of voting, once delegates become unbound, it gives the front-runners a mighty lead.

That rule, however, isn’t set in stone: it will need to be reconfirmed prior to the convention. If the Rules committee does dilute or delete the rule then it’s a clear sign that there’s a concerted effort to draft an alternative candidate to both Trump and Cruz. If not, while it won’t bar others from entering later on, the inference would have to be either that the mainstream are willing to throw their lot in with Cruz or that Cruz’s supporters have a firm grip of the levers of power

Should punters be looking to back Cruz then? The problem is that Cruz has two spanners rattling around his works, excluding his voting record, political beliefs, favourability ratings and other known knowns. There is the question of his eligibility and the allegations of extra-marital affairs. That latter question has gone relatively quiet and may well prove to be a Gennifer Flowers rather than Donna Rice. All the same, he’s probably on a yellow card with the public on that score.

The matter of his eligibility is of a different order though. The simple fact is that he was born in Canada, only one of his parents was an American at the time (his father didn’t become one until as late as 2005), and neither was serving the government. The question as to whether he is in fact a natural born citizen is yet to be categorically answered. However, if it’s not answered before July then it can’t stop him from becoming nominee and as far as the nomination betting goes, that’s all that matters.

Against all those risks to his candidacy have to be offset against his campaign strengths and Trump’s weaknesses. And one of those weaknesses is that Trump might be a fine entertainer but he really isn’t very good at politics; he either doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of the exercise of power or he can’t be bothered with them. That showed again in Colorado this week when Cruz almost swept the board at the state convention and Trump ended up with nothing.

In fact, the attention that the Cruz campaign has paid in general to delegate selection (and Trump’s campaign’s insouciance on the issue until recently) may well also pay handsome dividends for the Texan. It’s entirely possible that there will actually be more Cruzers than Trumpets in the hall come July. On the first ballot, of course, that won’t matter; on subsequent ones, it’s a different story. The intricacies of internal party manoeuvring don’t make headline news in America, never mind over here. All the same, the outcome of those contests could well ultimately be a critical factor and the data will be out there.

The key question is how does Trump get from the 1150 or so delegates he’s likely to end up with to 1237? Given the outright hostility to him from many quarters of the GOP, and his inability or unwillingness to play (or even understand) the game he’s in, far from gaining support as the convention progresses, it’s quite likely that he’ll go backwards.

Quite simply, he should not be odds-on at this stage. Because of the doubts over Cruz, I’d be wary of backing him too heavily, though it’s an option. The value bet though is to lay the Donald.

David Herdson


YouGov: Tory voters most ready to change EURef vote when asked what they’d do if BREXIT would cost them £100 a year

April 15th, 2016

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There’s a new YouGov poll out which has REMAIN back with in lead from the level pegging. Actual figures are 40% to 39% so all within margin of errot.

At the end of the survey YouGov posed this question.

“Imagine that if the UK left the European Union the standard of living would be lower and people would on average be £100 a year worse off. In those circumstances, how would you vote in the referendum: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

The chart shows the net change in the LEAVE position when the new information is added.

There was similar polling during the 2014 Scottish IndyRef which I recall had been prompted by Professor John Curtice of exit poll fame. In this case it would have been helpful to have the reverse question – what if REMAIN was ging to cost you £100 a year.

Mike Smithson


Why the Tories could be being complacent over Jeremy Corbyn

April 15th, 2016

Alastair Meeks says predicting GE2020 is harder than the blues think

Much comment has been passed this week on David Cameron’s falling ratings.  He now ranks behind Jeremy Corbyn on favourability ratings with YouGov.  “How low he has sunk” is the usual comment, and it is true.

But as the table above shows, this is not a problem confined to David Cameron.  He actually rates better head-to-head against Jeremy Corbyn on the question “who would make the best prime minister” than either Boris Johnson or George Osborne.  Indeed, George Osborne trails Jeremy Corbyn by a considerable distance.  Three clear conclusions can be drawn:

  1. The referendum is destroying the Conservatives’ image with the public.
  2. The Conservatives believe that taking on Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is like the Oxford rowing team racing a pedalo. But that is not particularly easy to justify on present polling: Labour is edging ahead in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn is looking competitive in the leadership ratings.
  3. The Conservatives cannot just choose anyone they like as Conservative leader and expect to romp to victory.

Right now the Conservative party is fixated on the EU referendum.  It has more than two months more to rip itself apart about this.  Does anyone think that its polling is going to improve in that period?  The damage to the Conservatives’ reputation might be very long-lasting indeed.

Far from being the unspeakable against the unelectable, we might be looking at a three-legged race where both main parties voluntarily hobble themselves with introspective policy programmes and deeply unattractive leaders.  Predicting a winner might be far harder than the Conservatives currently believe.

For betting purposes the conclusion is clear: for now at least, bet against the Conservatives in any market that depends on their long term prospects.  They, and too many of their followers, are far too complacent about how match fit they will be.  It’s best to relieve them of their money before they wake up.

Alastair Meeks


Is it now the left who bet with their hearts?

April 15th, 2016

Con Majority

It always used to be the received wisdom that rich over-optimistic Tories were responsible for keeping the Conservative price short and their seat spread high. Famously one such Tory lost over £100k in 1997, because of his faith that John Major would not do as badly as he did.

But there was little evidence of this effect this time last year; punters seemed to be guided more by opinion polls and by the various models driven by them. The bookmakers and Betfair Exchange were generally slightly more pro-Tory than most models, which could suggest a slight Conservative bias (or more likely a scepticism about the polling). Nevertheless the Conservative majority drifted and drifted, going off around 14/1 on the day itself: plenty of people prepared to risk thousands for a 7% [or less, with the bookies] return on the inevitability of a hung Parliament.

So the old rules no longer seem to apply, Alastair Meeks’ Sunday piece notwithstanding.

Indeed, looking at Betfair now, the two most stand-out “wrong” prices are to my mind those about the standard-bearers of the new Old Left: Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

Bernie Sanders is 15.0 (6.7%) to be Next President. He has already all but lost to Hillary. Even if we very generously give him a the 10% chance of winning the nomination that Betfair does (9.8), it requires a touching faith in hypothetical match-ups to give the aging Vermont socialist a 65%+ chance of winning the general, even with the Republicans in such a mess. If the FBI derail Hillary – which I reckon is the only way she can lose the nomination – Joe Biden might yet be better placed to snatch the prize. I wouldn’t touch the 15.0 with a bargepole.

Even more ludicrously, Jeremy Corbyn is trading around 7.4 (13.5%) to be Prime Minister After Cameron. This eventuality requires three things to happen, so can be thought of as a treble:

  • Cameron has to not step down before the election (generously: 20%, bearing in mind both the EU referendum but also the eclipse of his preferred successor)
  • Corbyn has to make it to the election (50-50 according to Paddy Power, but let’s be uber-kind and say 60%)
  • Labour have to win enough seats (not necessarily most seats) to make installing Corbyn realistic – let’s optimistically say that’s a 6/4 chance (40%).

20% * 60% * 40% = 4.8%†, which equates to about 21.0 on Betfair, and I was being generous at every turn. I wouldn’t touch the 7.4 with your bargepole.

Perhaps I’m being unkind in suggesting it’s the left generally betting with their hearts: this seems to be something that happens at the cult-like fringes of politics. We saw the same happen with Ron Paul in the USA, and plenty of UKIPpers were backing their party to win 50+ seats right at the close of the campaign last year, even while the party themselves were only seriously targeting half-a-dozen.

But when there’s irrationality in one part of the market, there’s value elsewhere. Sometimes it takes the shape of 1/2 shots like Hillary Clinton; sometimes 11/1 chances like Theresa May. Good luck, however you bet!

Tissue Price

† The latter two are positively correlated: Corbyn’s [arguably!] more likely to make it to the election if it looks like he might win. But they’re negatively correlated with #1: Cameron’s more likely to go in such circumstances. For the sake of argument I’ll assume they even out.


The final round of Local By-elections before the May 5th elections

April 14th, 2016

Menhendiot (Con defence) and Wadebridge West (Con defence) on Cornwall
Result of council at last election (2013): Independents 37, Liberal Democrats 36, Conservatives 31, Labour 8, UKIP 6, Mebyon Kernow 4, Green 1 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 25)
Result of wards at last election (2013):

Conservative 549 (38%), UKIP 450 (31%), Liberal Democrat 352 (24%), Green 93 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Charles Boney (Lib Dem), Martin Menear (Lab), Duncan Odgers (UKIP), Richard Sedgley (Green), Phil Seeva (Con)

Wadebridge West
Conservative 830 (66%), Liberal Democrat 308 (24%), Labour 129 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sally Dunn (Con), Helen Hyland (Ind), Adrian Jones (Lab), Karen McHugh (Lib Dem), Amanda Pennington (Green)

Halcon (Lib Dem defence) on Taunton Deane
Result of last election to council (2015): Conservatives 36, Liberal Democrats 14, Independents 3, Labour 2, UKIP 1 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 1,012, 1,001, 889 (40%)
Conservatives 891, 851 (36%)
Green Party 605 (24%)
Candidates duly nominated: Robert Bainbridge (UKIP), Chris Booth (Lib Dem), Kieran Canham (Lab), Livvi Grant (Con), Craig Rossiter (Green)

This is the last set of local by-elections ahead of the elections on May 5th, therefore for the next three Thursdays I will be doing profiles of the elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly looking at the prospects for each of the parties


Why LEAVE needs to neutralise PROJECT FEAR if it is to win

April 14th, 2016

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Worry about the unknown is a great vote driver

In the 2010-2015 period I repeatedly suggested that a good guide to the general election outcome was YouGov’s “who is responsible for the cuts” tracker. Throughout the entire five year period Labourwas blamed more than others and so it turned out to be.

For the referendum on June 23rd I have been looking around for another possible tracker and believe I have found one. It is featured in the chart above and is about the risk of leaving the EU.

As we get nearer to the day the IN campaign is going to focus on the risk of Britain taking such a step. We call it Project Fear which of course is what it is.

What’s striking in the subgroup splits in the chart above are the figures for Conservative voters. They split on voting intention to leave by a 3% margin yet on the risk/safe question
there is a 10% lead amongst those who think BREXIT will be risky.

No doubt the newly designated official body for the OUT campaign, Vote Leave, already has advanced plans on how it is going to deal with it. On this, I’d suggest, the referendum outcome will depend.

Mike Smithson


This week’s PB Polling Matters TV Show on BREXIT turnout, Trump and how to spread bet on politics

April 13th, 2016

This week Keiran Pedley is on holiday so I took the chair for the first time to host the programme which turned out to be quite lively.

Guests were Leo Barasi and Ed Fulton – the US specialist from Sporting Index. I was pleased with the outcome which is, I hope, a good watch.

There’s quite a focus on the betting angle with some interesting tips.

Thanks for all the position reactions to earlier episodes.

UPDATE: The audio podcast version is now available

Mike Smithson