Archive for April, 2016


Next Thursday could start to restore our confidence in the polls

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Exit poll

Alastair Meeks on the importance of the London, Scottish & Welsh surveys

The 2015 general election was a disaster for the polling companies. On the eve of the election, all the pollsters were predicting a hung Parliament with the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck. In the event, the Conservatives were 6% ahead of Labour and got an overall majority.

Since then, the pollsters have flagellated themselves, put on hair shirts and sought to uncover what exactly went wrong. They have conducted investigations, issued reports and held symposia on the subject. They have put in place corrective measures. But we don’t yet know whether the time for remorse is over. There remains a gnawing anxiety that the pollsters might still be getting it wrong.

The general election was not an isolated failure. The Scottish independence referendum polling was fairly uniformly 3% off, the same margin as the standard general election error. This wasn’t much noted at the time but if the error had been 3% the other way from the published polls, Scotland would now be independent. In a close referendum, accuracy to plus or minus 3% is not much use.

The EU referendum betting reflects that. The betting markets are apparently moving independently of any polling. Opinion polls are being treated as having junk status. This seems excessive. We can at least expect them to be giving us a sense of which way opinion is moving, even if their absolute accuracy is suspect.

In any case, we have an upcoming opportunity to calibrate their accuracy. The 5 May round of elections will allow us to see the accuracy of polling in Scotland, Wales and London on those elections. There has been plenty of polling of all three of these elections. So watch them carefully: they will be invaluable in helping us determine how effectively the pollsters have got to grips with their problems.

If the polls perform reasonably well against the actual outcome, take note. So if Mayor Khan has won a comfortable victory, Labour are left running a minority government against a Plaid Cymru opposition and the SNP increase their overall majority, perhaps it’s time to start taking the polls a bit more seriously again when placing your bets. After all, it would be a shame to be completely discounting a potential source of information, wouldn’t it?

Alastair Meeks


This week’s TV show: The Obama EURef effect, the fight to be his replacement, & the battle to win Wales

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

ThePB/Polling Matters TV Show and Podcast

This week in the TV studio Keiran Pedley and I were joined by pollster Rob Vance and, via Skype, by the leading Welsh political expert, Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University. (apologies for one or two sound issues)

The latter was particularly interesting given the Tata Steel decision and the proximity of the Welsh Assembly elections on next week on May 5th.

Next week there’ll be no TV studio because of partners in this venture, Tip TV, are moving to a new purpose built studio. There will be a podcast.

Update- the audio podcast version of the show

Mike Smithson


Immigration looks set to be Leave’s last card

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Alastair Meeks looks at the outers

The Remain side has started the fight at a furious pace, leaving Leave gasping for air after two blows to its solar plexus.  First, it got hit by a Treasury report claiming that by 2030 each British household could be £4,300 worse off if it voted to leave the EU.  Then Barack Obama weighed in with his view that if Britain were to vote to leave the EU, it would join the back of the queue for new trade deals.

The Leave response to both has been dazed and confused.  In each case a multitude of Leave campaigners came out with a multitude of response lines, good and bad, and in each case the most ill-judged was pounced upon by Remain and pawed at for days on end.  As a result, the public could gather the impression that Leave think that £4,300 is a bargain basement price for getting out of the EU and that Barack Obama’s ancestry is pivotal to understanding why he is saying that the USA wouldn’t race to do a trade deal.  We are seeing Gresham’s law of political debate, where bad arguments are driving out the good ones.

Leave’s own campaign was mauled by Remain also.  Leave’s prospectus for Brexit is being portrayed by Remain as the Albanian option, drawing on an unwise Leave reference to a list of countries with similar deals (in different circumstances).  It is unlikely that floating voters’ hearts pulse to a Balkan beat.

Leave need to regroup and they need to get a grip.  It was always going to be hard running a tight campaign when so many big egos were at loggerheads as to who should be in charge but the effort has to be made.  Perhaps the first week’s failures will chasten some of those big egos.  Perhaps.

Leave need to get back to home territory for a while.  The public’s number one topic of concern in opinion polls is immigration and Leave need to try to tie getting that under control to a decision to leave the EU.  This connection is tautologous in the heads of many Leavers but it is nowhere near as secure in the public’s minds as those Leavers seem to believe.  Further work is needed here.  So it is no surprise to see Michael Gove take on this subject this week.

Immigration in the public’s mind comprises many different things: economic migrants from the EU; economic migrants from outside the EU; asylum seekers arriving in Britain; illegal immigrants to Britain; and disorderly migration to the EU (of both asylum seekers and economic migrants) from non-EU countries.  These in turn tie in with many different concerns: competition for jobs; pressure on public services; sense of community; law and order; and the EU’s response to social challenges.  Some of these have nothing to do with the EU, some of these are entirely the product of our membership of the EU and some of these are indirectly affected by our EU membership.  But they all get jumbled up together in the Leave campaign’s arguments.

Clearly Leave benefit from this jumbling to some extent.  In order to make an argument, however, they need to pick one or two attack lines out of this and run them hard. So, what to pick?

Leave need to avoid anything that could be construed as dogwhistling on race – dragging the US president’s parentage into the debate emphatically does not help in this regard.  The voters for whom such arguments are clinching are anyway almost certainly already in the Leave camp.  For that reason I would not recommend majoring on the security threats caused by some migrants.

Leave would do far better to focus on the economic impact of immigration, in particular the impact on wages.  The last notable contribution to the debate from Stuart Rose, the nominal leader of the Remain campaign, was to note that Brexit would lead to wage rises.  It is incomprehensible that Leave have not been exploiting this relentlessly ever since.  But they seem more intent on inhaling the fragrant air of freedom than on informing the public about any economic advantages of their position.

The clip at the top of the thread shows the editor of the Independent, from 2:36 to 3:02, fluently explain how immigration is perceived to be good for the rich and bad for the poor.  In fact, the evidence is quite nuanced on the point as this Bank of England report shows – “the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 percent reduction in pay”.   Nevertheless, no one is going to persuade the public in the next two months that wages aren’t held down by immigration.  So Leave should take full advantage.

The Treasury report in support of the government policy of Remain was founded on the assumption that there would be 3 million more migrants in Britain by 2030.  Leave should be hammering that home.  (Of course, Leave’s own economic projections are also built on the assumption of large numbers of migrants, but that doesn’t need to be mentioned.)  By playing on a sense that not only have the Remainers not done anything about immigration, they don’t want to, Leave can hope to lead a peasants’ revolt against the establishment.  They can also hope to attract working class Labour supporters without whom there is no plausible route to a victory for the Leave campaign.

Can Leave stick to a single message of this type?  That may be their biggest challenge.  With so many divas, it will be hard to get them singing in harmony.  Or even singing the same song.

Alastair Meeks


Sweeping victories across the board for Trump and a good night for Hillary wins in the Dem races

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016


The overnight results

Real Clear Politics

The Republican nomination

Winner 2016 White House Race


Tonight’s US primaries – “North East Tuesday”

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016


Pulpstar on the White House Race


On the Democrat side, expect Hillary to add to her total – the question for Sanders will be whether he can keep the damage to under 300 pledged delegates and perhaps scrape out a win in Rhode Island – which looks his best shot. The contest was over long ago anyways.

On the GOP side, the states run through as follows

Delaware A foregone conclusion, the only thing of interest will be whether Trump can beat his score of 60.5% he achieved in New York. Winner takes all, chalk up 16 delegates for Trump.

Connecticut All about Trump vs 50% here- both in the state and individual congressional districts. The rules are identical to New York where Trump passed 50% easily – but the polling is on a knife edge here for Trump vs 50%.

Rhode Island Trump will score around 50% again here, but it is proportional so he’ll take 9 – 10 of the delegates. Trump vs 50%, alot less critical here than in Connecticut.

Maryland Winner takes all by congressional district (And State)

Going by the map and polling:~  Trump 43, Kasich 27, Ted 24

Trump will win the state by a YUuuuuuuuuuge margin but watch out for wide geographic variability which may well hand some CDs to Kasich near DC (4, 5, 8) are the ones to watch I think.

Doubt Ted will get any delegates here(His vote is too weak and diluted at that)… and apparently Kasich hasn’t filed full slates in some CDs including 4 and 8… we shall see !


Trump will win by a wide margin, that isn’t in doubt I think. What is more interesting is which unbound delegates are elected to head off to Cleveland.

Here is the full list  (Pity the poor voters in CD10 where they will need to vote for up to 3 of those dels).

A lot of people I expect will not bother, and Cruz looked to be more organised on this front. However prominent  TV/Radio personality Sean Hannity has made a point of listing all the delegates on his site which might help Trump supporters if they are intelligent enough to help themselves…
Lord knows who you vote for if you want Kasich to be Pres though..

My own (Could be very inaccurate) calcs make out 46 delegates for Trump

Even though I expect Cruz voters to be more informed and organised than Trump voters, Trump has the numbers and Cruz can’t be as organised as he is in a caucus. Once we know the delegates we can work out expected UNBOUND numbers for the candidates. Unless they Welch on CD winner commitment…



The IN lead drops by 4% in the first published poll since the Obama intervention

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

The OUT team will be absolutely delighted with today’s ORB phone poll in the Telegraph which sees last week’s 9% IN lead drop to just five. Whether this is the start of a trend or no we don’t know. In March ORB produced numbers which were out of line with other surveys.

Writing in the paper Lynton Crosby observes:-

“I wouldn’t be hanging out the victory bunting just yet. The marathon has barely begun.

Some will ask how can Leave show a marginal improvement when so many commentators said the Remain campaign had a great week, boosted by the American president’s visit and his rallying cry for Remain. However, the effect of the president’s visit may not yet be felt in the numbers as sometimes it take a while for factors to wash through. Also, people may not take much notice of what an outsider has to say.

The latest ORB poll for The Telegraph shows that not much has changed over the past week, which is why consolidation is of such importance at this stage in the race..”

In the next couple of days we will see the latest ICM online poll as well as the start of a new phone polling series sponsored by spread bookies IGIndex.

Given the hopes that IN had with the Obama move this, for the moment, will take the wind out of their sails.

Mike Smithson


The Mayor, the pro-IN Mayor’s Dad and the LAB approach to EURef

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Boris Johnson announces he will back Brexit campaign YouTube

Donald Brind on how the campaign is unfolding


“It’s up to you in the Labour Party to save us.” I was too polite to reply: “From your son, you mean?”, for this was Stanley Johnson, the charming father of boorish Boris, the Brexiteer.

Boris is the black sheep of the Johnson clan. As is well known, his decision to join the Leave camp put him in opposition not just to his father but also to his brother Jo, the Higher education Minister and his sister Rachel Johnson senior and I were at the launch of a novel, Pax 1934-1941 which is set in a darker period for relations between Britain and Europe. Stanley Johnson describes himself as a lifelong “Europeanist”. He was a Tory MEP and also worked in the European Commission. He thinks his son may have made a “career ending” choice”. 

I agreed with Johnson senior that Labour voters were likely to play a decisive role in the referendum. I took the opportunity to explain the importance of Jeremy Corbyn’s “warts and all” support for the Remain campaign. It captures the mood of many workers who see the EU as wedded to austerity but vital for protecting rights in the workplace. The Labour’s leader’s pledge to seek to reform the Union from within could be vital in making sure Labour supporters turn out and vote.

I also recommended to Boris’ dad an article by one of Labour’s rising stars Seema Malhotra on the importance of tackling the generational divide. She pointed to a recent YouGov poll showing a three-to-one majority amongst under 30s in favour of staying in while among the over-60 the leavers outnumber the stayers by 63% to 37%.

“The generation born in the 1990s believe that walking away from the European Union will damage the British economy and endanger their chances to get on and do well. But that could happen if their parents and grandparents stick with their current intentions to vote to Leave.” Turnout would be crucial, she said. “The hopes of the Leave campaign are pinned on the support of older voters – and on a low turnout.”

This presents a double challenge for Labour which is overwhelmingly in support of Remain. She said the party has to mobilise and motivate Labour supporters of all ages to achieve a high turnout – and to appeal to those planning to vote Leave to “Think Again”.

They should focus on what walking away would mean for their children and their grandchildren.

“My appeal to older people is – “Listen to the young people of Britain. Take note of what they think is best for their future.” She called for a “conversation between the generations”, drawing inspiration from last year’s Irish referendum campaign when parents and grandparents were persuaded to support equal marriage.

There is expected to be a strong youth theme when Jeremy Corbyn steps up EU campaigning after the local elections. He met Barak Obama after the US president’s town inspirational town-hall style meeting with young people. The Obama visit has put the Leave campaign on the back foot.

Which, brings us back to Stanley Johnson’s lad. Boris Johnson’s biographer, Andrew Gimson, delivered a scathing account of his run-in with the president in the Mail . Game, set and match to the President” is Gimson’s verdict.

But why, asks the biographer, “did Boris ever get himself into a contest he was so likely to lose? The answer is that as well as being a politician, he is a journalist, and he needed to find an intro to his article which would grab the reader’s attention. “He was short of time, so he reached for the tired old Churchill anecdote and gave it a bit more edge by referring to ‘the part-Kenyan President’ – a phrase which would make people wonder whether Boris was being racist.”

“He was not being racist, but he was being inaccurate. For Boris has never set any store by the pedantic virtue of getting his facts right.”

Echoing Stanley’s Johnson’s view that joining Brexit was a “career ending move” for his son, the Mail headline asks “Has Obama busted Boris? … the President exposed the Brexit leader as a bogus… and unlikely PM.”

Maybe that’s right – maybe it isn’t.


Donald Brind


Why Cameron and his team are targeting parents with children

Monday, April 25th, 2016

The polling that shows that looking after kids more likely to be for IN

Datawrapper    tHA5r    Visualize

The more we learn about the Tory campaign at GE2015 the more we realise that micro-targeting specific demographic group on Facebook played a big part and looks set to be ever more significant in future election. You tailor a special message to those who fit the criteria and don’t waste money on those who don’t.

The polling above TNS highlights clearly the differing views of parents with kids at home and those who don’t. What IN needs is for them to actually turnout.

No doubt OUT is doing the same about other sub-groups.

Mike Smithson