Archive for October, 2019


With the former Brexit deadline ending at 11pm how the betting’s moved since Johnson came

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

So here we are and a third Brexit deadline is about to be missed in spite of Johnson firm assertions that we would be leaving tonight when he first became PM.

This has been a very active betting market with on Betfair alone £7.2m of bets being matched. The chart of Betfair prices really follows what has been happening.

My own view is that Johnson won’t suffer any real political damage from failing to get the UK out by the due date.

We now have the extension and I just wonder whether January 31st is going to see the UK actually leave the EU or will it be missed again.

A lot depends on the general election outcome.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn goes into the campaign with the worst Ipsos MORI opposition leader ratings it has ever recorded

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

And it’s hard to see what the party can do about it

Above are the latest satisfaction ratings from Ipsos-MORI which started polling in the late 1970s. As can be seen from the chart Johnson is now in positive territory, Swinson is a net minus 12, Farage a net minus 22 with the LAB leader on minus 60. There are equal the worst numbers for an opposition leader ever.

No doubt LAB optimists will be pointing to what happened at GE2017 when LAB saw a remarkable recovery though the party still lost the election. The hope for the red team is that this will get better as the six week campaign goes on.

As I keep on saying historically leader ratings have proved to be a better guide to electoral outcomes than voting intention polls which is why I highlight them.

As we move towards to the formal campaign period the opposition parties get a bigger slice of the cake from the broadcast media and Corbyn can expect more coverage with Johnson getting a bit less.

The real worry for Labour is that unlike two and a half years ago the LDs are polling at two and a half times the level of what they got then. They’ve also improved their parliamentary position with a by-election success and, of course, a CON and LAB defectors. Their campaign message is totally focused on Brexit and their activity so far appears to be aimed at getting LAB remainer switchers.

The voting intention figures from the poll  are:

Conservatives 41% (+8)
Labour 24% (nc)
Lib Dems 20% (-3)
Brexit Party 7% (-3)
Greens 3% (-1)
Other 5% (nc)

On Betfair a CON majority is now back up a more than 50%.

Mike Smithson


Latest polling round-up

Thursday, October 31st, 2019


New PB / Polling Matters podcast. And they’re off! General Election 2019 kicks off.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi look at the numbers as a December 12th election is announced. Who is best placed? What is the path to victory for each party and what should we look out for in the coming weeks?

Listen to the podcast below:

Follow this week’s guests


Things that nobody knows. What to watch out for in the coming election

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Nobody knows anything. The results of the last two general elections and the referendum result have all come as a major surprise to all the wiseacres (including me). So it is time for a little humility and to think about some of the things we don’t yet know about this election. Here are a few.

1) What are the people who voted in 2017 and who are now saying “don’t know/won’t vote” going to do?

In a recent YouGov poll, considered by Chris Curtis here, 23% of Labour voters in 2017 are now saying that they don’t know who they would vote for, or that they wouldn’t vote. 17% of Conservative voters in 2017 say likewise. Currently these people are excluded from the polls. In reality, most of them probably will vote. But for whom?

The single most likely outcome is that they will, despite current reservations, return to the party they supported in 2017. If so, Labour will automatically see a bump up in the polling.

It isn’t certain though. That’s a large chunk of the electorate who are proven voters and whose votes are up for grabs. They might easily decide the election.

2) Is the 2017 intake of MPs going to get an incumbency bonus?

95 MPs in the last Parliament did not hold their seats before the 2017 election.  Not all are seeking re-election, but it is normal to see first term MPs outperform uniform national swing, as they are rewarded for their individual talents by their local electorate. (MPs of longer standing do not benefit from this because the voter response to their talents is effectively already baked in after their first re-election.)

This Parliament has been both short and widely reviled – unjustly in my view, but I accept that’s the view of a tiny minority. Will this normal incumbency bonus continue to apply in these circumstances?

My guess it that it probably will, but that’s not certain. Anyway, check seats carefully and form your own views before betting on constituencies.

3) Was the 2017 realignment of seats along Leave/Remain lines a high water mark or the start of a trend?

In 2017, seats swung wildly. Some Leave-leaning seats like Bishop Auckland and Stoke-on-Trent South swung to the Conservatives while some Remain-leaning seats like Canterbury and Kensington fell to Labour. I looked at this in some detail last year here.

Will this sorting continue? There seems to be a default assumption that the Conservatives will find it easier to make progress in Leave areas and for Labour or the Lib Dems to work the Remain areas. The logic behind this thought process is not obvious.

For the same reason that second term MPs don’t get an incumbency bonus, this may already be baked into the last election result. Those voters whose votes will change over Brexit may already have changed them.

There are some suggestions that Remain areas are getting more Remainy and Leave areas are getting more Leavey. If so, we would see more sorting. Equally, it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the parties tailor their message based on what they think is most likely to work for their respective target groups. But if you want an uninformed guess, it’s that from this point, Leave and Remain seats will swing much more uniformly this time than last.

4) If the Lib Dem vote share rises, where is it going to rise?

The Lib Dems polled appallingly at both the last two elections. All the signs are that they will do far better this time round. How that translates into seats depends on how clumpy that increase in vote share is. This rise in Lib Dem vote share is thought to be a southern and metropolitan phenomenon.  

From a Lib Dem viewpoint, the more concentrated their increase in vote, the more additional seats they can hope to take. Their big problem is that their target list is very short of seats that are attainable. Moreover, quite a few of their nominally better targets are in areas where their anti-Brexit message is going to alienate voters rather than attract them.

The Lib Dems are in danger of getting lots of good second places. “Nearly winning here” is going to be a tricky sell. They have to think about how they capitalise on the undoubted alienation that is out there.

5) Is the Brexit party going to rise with increased attention in the election campaign, fade to irrelevance or stay roughly where it currently is?

The Brexit party is brand new. In May it topped the polls at the Euro elections.  Since then it has fallen back in the national opinion polls to roughly the levels achieved by UKIP before both the 2015 and 2017 elections. In the former, UKIP kept its vote share to polling day. In the latter, it collapsed like a purple soufflé, its voters scooped up by the Conservatives.

You can make a case from here for either of those outcomes. If the most militant Leavers decide that the priority is any Brexit, the Conservatives can hope to do the same this year as they did in 2017. If they decide that Boris Johnson’s deal disgracefully cuts Northern Ireland adrift or creates a transition trap, they will stay with Nigel Farage and hold out for a better Brexit. Indeed, if the deal falls apart under closer examination, the Brexit party could rise substantially in the polls.

I have no clear sense of what is going to happen with this group of voters. I’m not going to pretend that I do. So far Boris Johnson has successfully shrugged off the fact that he has neither done nor died.

6) What are the “Alien vs Predator” voters going to do?

To believe some commentary, you would think that Boris Johnson was an unprecedentedly popular Prime Minister. That is far from the truth. In the latest Ipsos-MORI polling on leader satisfaction ratings, 55% – an absolute majority – are dissatisfied with him. His government polls still worse: 81% are dissatisfied with it. Meanwhile, 76% are dissatisfied with Jeremy Corbyn.

There are huge numbers of voters, perhaps as many as 40% of the electorate, who regard both main choices with distaste. We have little sense as to what they regard as the lesser of two evils. Both main parties should think very carefully about calling for a mandate with so many voters in this mood: it is likely only to incite this group of voters to stop them from claiming one.

The party that most successfully keeps the dangers of the other party getting into power front and centre in this group of voters’ minds is likely to do best. 

7) What on earth is going to happen in Wales?

Recent Welsh polling is chaotic. Perhaps it will revert to the norm by the election date.  That doesn’t currently look particularly likely. Five parties will all fancy their chances in this bedlam. The outcome of that battle of five armies might yet have a critical impact on the wider UK election. As for a prediction how that will turn out, good luck.

Alastair Meeks


All three main party leaders are in negative ratings territory with Corbyn’s numbers the worst

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Latest YouGov favourability trackers (FW Oct 23/24)

If you had followed the 2017 General Election only through the prism of leader ratings then the actual outcome with the Labour recovery would have been less of a surprise. For these were showing that Theresa May’s numbers getting steadily worse and that Corbyn’s were improving very rapidly in the run up to election. Indeed by election day Corbyn had jumped out of negative territory.

The ratings format I like the most and the one that tends to be be universal in the US is over favorability because there can be no ambiguity. Thus many non-LAB voters could honestly say they approve or are satisfied with Corbyn’s performance as leader but would view him unfavourably.

About 4 years ago YouGov started doing regular favorability ratings as a result of suggestions from me and have continued doing them to this day.

The latest numbers based on fieldwork that took place last week are in the panel above and as can be seen that in net terms Johnson and Swinson are about level. The latter suffers from being much less known and fewer people have an opinion of her.

Corbyn’s unfavourables continue to be very high and should be a serious worry for the party as it prepares to go into the campaign. His party’s hope, of course, is that we’ll see a repetition of the recovery at GE2017

In the next seven weeks there’ll be many voting intention polls coming out but relatively few leader ratings. My emphasis will be on the latter.

Mike Smithson


How GE2019 is being treated on the front pages

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Here are some of today’s front pages and I don’t think there is anything as memorable as the Daily Mail at the same time in the process in 2017.  There is much less Tory triumphalism.  Its front page today is perhaps the most overtly political and highlights the twin worries for the Tories from the  Lib Dems and the Brexit party which both threaten Johnson’s party in different ways.

To the Sun and the  Daily Express this is all about finalising Brexit and no doubt that will be the theme of the coverage in the time 7 weeks. Their role will be in helping to be cheerleaders getting the vote out.

In many ways the weakest front page this morning is from the Daily Mirror which has the picture of Johnson as a turkey with the headline saying it’s time to stuff the turkey. There is no mention of Corbyn. This is anti the Tories and the PM and as yet not pro the current main opposition party.

The national newspapers, of course,  are nothing like as important as they were given the fact that their circulations are a fraction of what they were even at the 2010 General Election which brought the Tories into government for the first time since 1997.

But having said that they are influential in helping set the news agenda overall tone of the campaign for the broadcasters.

In the betting overnight a CON majority peaked at 54% chance and is now back at evens.

THe only poll we’ve seen is this constituency one for Cambridge.

Mike Smithson


With a December 12th election looking a near certainty punters rate Johnson’s majority chances at evens

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

Swing Bellwethers: 2010, 2015, 2017 general elections

So the waiting is almost over and Johnson has got his December 12th election date. The vote on the amendment to have it three days earlier was defeated and the government had a rare Commons victory. This is not the same proposal as the one defeated yesterday.

Given the polling it is easy to see why punters on Betfair are putting their money on a Tory majority but there is a long time to go and as we saw at GE17 anything can happen.

This is not a bet I’d make at this price.

The LDs are raring to go and are hoping that their clear Brexit position will help them make gains in seats where Remain did well. So much depends on how Brexits play in the election.

Anyway it looks as though we are off.

  • Chart of Betfair exchange from
  • Mike Smithson