Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category

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The Westminster Big Three: zen-like serenity or zombies in action?

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

How come poor CON/LAB/LD polls are being accepted so readily?

Time was when you could be reasonably sure that a party struggling in the polls would lead inevitably to speculation about its leader’s position.  The media would talk about it, backbench MPs would talk about it and cabinet or shadow cabinet members would let their friends talk about it.  What is remarkable about the last few years is that despite unprecedented combined unpopularity of both leaders and parties, there has been so little such talk never mind action.

Of course, the fact that all three main Westminster parties are so unpopular simultaneously may have something to do with that: it’s easy to console yourself that you stand a decent chance of recovery when your opponents are doing badly too.

Even so, this is very far from a zero-sum game.  All three parties face an existential threat.  UKIP has the potential to replace either the Tories or Labour (but not both) after the next election as the main party in their part of the spectrum if the cards fall well for it.  Neither has a right to exist, never mind to success, and both parties’ former core vote is disillusioned.  At the moment, Farage’s party’s mid- to upper-teens score would probably see them pick up only a handful of seats but were that to be upped to the mid-twenties that would do real damage.

The prospect of such a step-change in UKIP’s polling is far from inconceivable: they have polled up there on occasion, by-election victories between now and April would reinforce their current momentum and the debates – if they happen – provide a further opportunity to advance.

Strangely, a half-reasonable performance may be worse in the long run than a bad one as it’s far harder to fight off the threat while in government.  Clacton has already demonstrated the risks to the Conservatives and Rochester may reinforce that message.  Should Labour regain government, the danger may be even worse, polling as it is in the low thirties with the support of a great many 2010 Lib Dem defectors.  A majority Ed Miliband-led government could easily leak that support straight back on one wing while being assailed by UKIP on the other.  Gordon Brown’s Labour government bottomed out at 18% in the polls; an Ed Miliband one could go further still – and that might drop it to fourth place by vote share.

For the Lib Dems the threat is greater still and more immediate: their party has lost more than two-thirds of their 2010 vote, a level meaning it’s dicing with oblivion.  True, local strongholds appear firm for now but results from the constituency polls sit uneasily with the national ones: my guess is that it’s the national ones and we’ll see Lib Dem support edge up as May approaches and people think more about their local situation.  But it may not and didn’t in Scotland in 2011, where the Yellows lost all but two of their constituency seats (and Orkney & Shetland is just one seat for Westminster).

    With threats to their existence such as the parties have not faced in many decades, if ever, what’s remarkable is how calm the leaderships and parliamentary parties are. 

There is grumbling about Miliband but no serious threat this side of the election.  Cameron has suffered two defections – one reinforced by a by-election defeat – but despite their reputation for deposing leaders, Tory backbenchers have remained unusually quiet on the subject.  Even quieter have been Lib Dems, who are polling worst of all and perhaps have most opportunity for change (their leader has the worst ratings, plausible alternatives are available and one of the causes of their woes – being in government – could be resolved by a well-timed withdrawal).

Will one or more of the parties brake out of their zen-like calm – or zombie-like sleepwalking if you prefer – before the election?  I doubt it.  It’s almost too late now to change strategy or leader and will be by the New Year.  These things need pressure to build and that rarely happens quickly.  It also needs anger, focus and division, and such factors simply aren’t present in sufficient quantity, particularly when there’s the belief that the other side(s) might hand you victory by default.  It is somewhat ironic that the biggest upheaval in the political system since at least the early 1980s has produced so little reaction.  But then maybe that’s the point: the changes are so far outside their experience, they can’t reach for a stock response and like rabbits in Farage’s headlights, produce none.

David herdson



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Generally the oldies are the key group for UKIP yet in the ComRes Rochester poll they give Reckless a lead of just 1%

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Looking more closely at the numbers

Let there be no doubt – the UKIP donor funded ComRes Rochester poll was terrible news for the Tories coming as it has just before the party announces the result of its all-postal primary on who should be the candidate.

Looking closely at the ComRes data two demographic segments stand out. Firstly there are the oldies, those of 65 and above, who normally are the biggest supporters of all for Farage’s party. In this poll however, as the extract from the dataset above shows, it is nothing like as clear cut with Mark Reckless just 1% ahead.

As I’ve said many times on PB in a vast range of elections the oldies are crucial. They are most likely to be on the electoral register, most likely to actually vote and least likely to change their mind.

The second positive figure for the Tories from the demographic splits is how well the blues are doing with the AB groups showing a clear cut lead.

The big feature from the poll is how reliant in the ComRes poll UKIP are on non-voters from 2010. This is what the leading political scientist and UKIP expert, Rob Ford, Tweeted last night:-

I’m told that we should be getting the results from the CON Rochester postal primary this evening. The number to look out for is the turnout.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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On the eve of the CON primary result a UKIP donor funded ComRes Rochester poll has the purples 13% ahead

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

UKIP 43: CON 30: LAB 21: LD 3: GRN 2

Th big by-election news tonight which has already been anticipated by the betting markets is a new UKIP donor funded poll of Rochester & Strood in the Daily Express.

The news is not good for the Tories and very good for the purples. The poll has Farage’s party in a better position than it was in the Mail/Survation poll two weeks ago when UKIP had a 9% lead.

Amongst 2010 CON voters ComRes found 57% supporting the blues and 40% Reckless – almost exactly the same proportion as in the earlier Survation poll. Reckless is relying for his support on ex-LAB & LD voters. But the biggest source of new support for UKIP are those who didn’t vote at the last general election with 28% of the UKIP share coming from them.

Some other pollsters would mark the views of this group down sharply because non-voting support from the previous general election is the most flakey of all.

This is how the non-2010 voters split.

Clearly this puts the purples in a strong position just four weeks from polling day and there’ll be a huge amount of pressure on whoever wins the primary to claw some of this back.

With four weeks to go I’m expecting a lot of polling. Eagerly awaited is a survey from Lord Ashcroft.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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As UKIP surges Ipsos-MORI finds that support for wanting to stay in the EU is at a 23 year high

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Could the Kippers be giving the BOOers a bad name?

As I often say one of the great things about Ipsos-MORI is that it has been carrying out political polls in the UK for 40 years and is has a vast amount of historical data on which we can make comparisons.

Today the pollsters has issued its latest findings on whether we should leave/remain in the EU. The figures and trends in the chart above come as something as a shock given the current UKIP narrative.

Maybe there’s something of a reaction to the Scottish referendum outcome here. Fewer of us are attracted by the prospect of change. But I wonder whether the way UKIP is dominating the headlines is having an impact and is polarising opinion?

  • Date for your diary. There’ll be a post Rochester PB gathering at Dirty Dicks, near Liverpool Street in London, from 1830 on Friday November 21 – the day after the by-election.
  • Mike Smithson

    Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter




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

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

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

    Sunday, 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




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    Polling analysis: UKIP’s hurting CON even more in the marginals than it was 2 months ago

    Friday, October 17th, 2014

    Latest churn figures from main parties to Farage’s

    One of the great things about the Lord Ashcroft marginals polling is the sheer scale of it and the size of the overall samples. He tends to operate with samples of 1,000 meaning that the latest batch involved talking on the phone to a total of 11,002 people which is the equivalent to almost a year’s worth of ICM or Ipsos-MORI polls.

    The benefit is that the aggregate data from all the constituencies provides large enough sub-samples on which to do analysis and in this post I look at the breakdown of the UKIP vote. The data in the chart above is produced by taking the total number of UKIP voters and dividing that by the numbers who voted for CON, LAB and LD at GE10.

    I did a similar exercise with Lord A’s August round when he was polling CON held seats with smaller majorities.

    As can be seen far more 2010 CON voters in these battleground seats have switched to UKIP than 2010 LAB or LD ones.

    The comparison between the two two of polling is even more pronounced with the percentage of CON>UKIP switchers in the UKIP total up by more than eight points. The LAB switching is up by nothing like the same scale. LD switching, meanwhile, drops a bit.

    How’s this going to shake out on May 7th next year? We do see in this polling that when asked to think about their own seats some UKIP supporters switch to the main two parties but not that many. My reading is that the UKIP will decline because the high-octane campaigning by both the red and blue teams will present the fight as a choice between them.

    In other less marginal seats I expect that UKIP will hold up far more.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble