There have been several new polls with voting intention figures since the weekend, though all so far have been conducted before the government’s defeat on their Brexit plan.

ComRes/Express (14th-15th) – CON 37%(nc), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 7%(+1)
YouGov/Times (13th-14th)- CON 39%(-2), LAB 34%(-1), LDEM 11%(nc), UKIP 6%(+2)
Kantar (10th-14th) – CON 35%(-3), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 6%(+2)

Looking across the polls as a whole Conservative support appears to be dropping a little, though polls are still ultimately showing Labour and Conservative very close together in terms of voting intention. As ever there are some differences between companies – YouGov are still showing a small but consistent Tory lead, the most recent polls from BMG, Opinium and MORI had a tie (though Opinium and MORI haven’t released any 2019 polls yet), Kantar, ComRes and Suration all showed a small Labour lead in their most last polls.

Several people have asked me about the reasons for the difference between polling companies figures. There isn’t an easy answer – there rarely is. The reality is that all polling companies want to be right and want to be accurate, so if there were easy explanations for the differences and it was easy to know what the right choices were, they would all rapidly come into line!

There are two real elements that are responsible for house effects between pollsters. The first is the things they do to the voting intention data after it is collected and weighted – primarily that is how do they account for turnout (to what extent do they weight down or filter out people who are unlikely to vote), and what to do they with people who say they don’t know how they’ll vote (do they ignore them, or use squeeze questions or inference to try and estimate how they might end up voting). The good thing about these sort of differences is that they are easily quantifiable – you can look up the polling tables, compare the figures with turnout weighting and without, and see exactly the impact they have.

At the time of the 2017 election these adjustments were responsible for a lot of the difference between polling companies. Some polls were using turnout models that really transformed their topline figures. However, those sort of models also largely turned out to be wrong in 2017, so polling companies are now using much lighter touch turnout models, and little in the way of reallocating don’t knows. There are a few unusual cases (for example, I think ComRes still reallocate don’t knows, which helps Labour at present, but most companies do not. BMG no longer do any weighting or filtering by likelihood to vote, an adjustment which for other companies tends to reduce Labour support by a point or two). These small differences are not, by themselves, enough to explain the differences between polls.

The other big differences between polls are their samples and the weights and quotas they use to make them representative. It is far, far more difficult to quantify the impact of these differences (indeed, without access to raw samples it’s pretty much impossible). Under BPC rules polling companies are supposed to be transparent about what they weight their samples by and to what targets, so we can tell what the differences are, but we can’t with any confidence tell what the impact is.

I believe all the polling companies weight by age, gender and region. Every company except for Ipsos MORI also votes by how people voted at the last election. After that polling companies differ – most vote by EU Ref vote, some companies weight by education (YouGov, Kantar, Survation), some by social class (YouGov, ComRes), income (BMG, Survation), working status (Kantar), level of interest in politics (YouGov), newspaper readership (Ipsos MORI) and so on.

Even if polling companies weight by the same variables, there can be differences. For example, while almost everyone weights by how people voted at the last election, there are differences in the proportion of non-voters they weight to. It makes a difference whether targets are interlocked or not. Companies may use different bands for things like age, education or income weighting. On top of all this, there are questions about when the weighting data is collected, for things like past general election vote and past referendum vote there is a well-known phenomenon of “false recall”, where people do not accurately report how they voted in an election a few years back. Hence weighting by past vote data collected at the time of the election when it was fresh in people’s minds can be very different to weighting by past vote data collected now, at the time of the survey when people may be less accurate.

Given there isn’t presently a huge impact from different approaches to turnout or don’t knows, the difference between polling companies is likely to be down some of these factors which are – fairly evidently – extremely difficult to quantify. All you can really conclude is that the difference is probably down to the different sampling and weighting of the different companies, and that, short of a general election, there is no easy way for either observers (nor pollsters themselves!) to be sure what the right answer is. All I would advise is to avoid the temptation of (a) assuming that the polls you want to be true are correct… that’s just wishful thinking, or (b) assuming that the majority are right. There are plenty of instances (ICM in 1997, or Survation and the YouGov MRP model in 2017), when the odd one out turned out to be the one that was right.


1,834 Responses to “Latest voting intention and the mystery of house effects”

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  1. Hireton

    I’m beginning to have the tiniest suspicion that all those MPs who voted to table A50 were ever so slightly ill-informed as to the complexities.

  2. @Oldnat

    “I can just see the wee soul with a label round her neck and a cardboard suitcase in her hand, waiting tearfully on a station platform to be evacuated to an unknown destination in a safe location.”

    My late mother in law was evacuated in this manner from Stepney. To Hayes. She didn’t like it and returned 2 days later.
    Perhaps the courtly JRM would accommodate her at Smog Towers?

  3. PETE B

    I suggest a better Belloc poem re Brexit would be George…. Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of considerable Dimensions:

    When George’s Grandmamma was told
    That George had been as good as Gold,
    She Promised in the Afternoon
    To buy him an Immense BALLOON.

    And so she did; but when it came,
    It got into the candle flame,
    And being of a dangerous sort
    Exploded with a loud report!

    The Lights went out! The Windows broke!
    The Room was filled with reeking smoke.
    And in the darkness shrieks and yells
    Were mingled with Electric Bells,
    And falling masonry and groans,
    And crunching, as of broken bones,
    And dreadful shrieks, when, worst of all,
    The House itself began to fall!
    It tottered, shuddering to and fro,
    Then crashed into the street below–
    Which happened to be Savile Row.

    When Help arrived, among the Dead
    Were Cousin Mary, Little Fred,
    The Footmen (both of them),
    The Groom,
    The man that cleaned the Billiard-Room,
    The Chaplain, and
    The Still-Room Maid.

    And I am dreadfully afraid
    That Monsieur Champignon, the Chef,
    Will now be permanently deaf–
    And both his Aides are much the same;

    While George, who was in part to blame,
    Received, you will regret to hear,
    A nasty lump behind the ear.

    MORAL
    The moral is that little Boys
    Should not be given dangerous Toys.

  4. Guymonde

    Unlikely. Smog Towers would be one of the earliest targets for the rioters.

    Moldova might be preferred.

  5. PETE B

    I suggest a more apposite Belloc poem would be George….

    Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of considerable Dimensions:

    When George’s Grandmamma was told
    That George had been as good as Gold,
    She Promised in the Afternoon
    To buy him an Immense BALLOON.

    And so she did; but when it came,
    It got into the candle flame,
    And being of a dangerous sort
    Exploded with a loud report!

    The Lights went out! The Windows broke!
    The Room was filled with reeking smoke.
    And in the darkness shrieks and yells
    Were mingled with Electric Bells,
    And falling masonry and groans,
    And crunching, as of broken bones,
    And dreadful shrieks, when, worst of all,
    The House itself began to fall!
    It tottered, shuddering to and fro,
    Then crashed into the street below–
    Which happened to be Savile Row.

    When Help arrived, among the Dead
    Were Cousin Mary, Little Fred,
    The Footmen (both of them),
    The Groom,
    The man that cleaned the Bill¡ard-Room,
    The Chaplain, and
    The Still-Room Maid.
    And I am dreadfully afraid
    That Monsieur Champignon, the Chef,
    Will now be permanently deaf–
    And both his Aides are much the same;
    While George, who was in part to blame,
    Received, you will regret to hear,
    A nasty lump behind the ear.

    MORAL
    The moral is that little Boys
    Should not be given dangerous Toys.

  6. Here is some consolation from Orbison

    Only the lonely
    Know the way you feel tonight?
    Surely the poorly
    Have some insight?
    Oddly, the godly
    Also might,
    And slowly the lowly
    Will learn to read you right.

    Simply the pimply
    Have some idea.
    Quaintly the saintly
    Have got quite near.
    Quickly the sickly
    Empathise
    And prob’ly the knobbly
    Look deep into your eyes.

    Rumly, the comely
    Will understand.
    Shortly the portly
    Will take your hand.
    Early the surly
    Dispraised and panned,
    But lately the stately
    Have joined your saraband.

    Only the lonely
    Know the way you feel tonight?
    Singly the tingly
    Conceive your plight,
    But doubly the bubbly
    Fly your kite…

    And lastly the ghastly
    Know the way you feel tonight.

    Kit Wright

  7. DAVWEL

    I have a link to a blog to which I pay regular attention.It is run by Professor John Robertson, formerly a Media Studies professor,now retired. He keeps an eye on the propensity of BBC Scotland to tell lies, particularly about health matters in Scotland.

    “With regard to deaths at the QEU Hospital in Glasgow, Lisa Summers said: ‘It became clear that two patients had died as a result of this particular infection.’ This is patently untrue. In one case, the patient absolutely did not die as ‘a result of’ the infection’ but because of ‘an unrelated cause’. In the other case it was as, Lisa put it later ‘contributory’. The infection was found in the blood stream of the second patient but clearly this death was also not ‘as a result of’ the infection. We know the actual facts from the BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-46953707

    https://thoughtcontrolscotland.com/page/2/

  8. BALDBLOKE

    I think our ruminations about the backstop may not come to anything.

    You know as well as me that what the Brady amendment seeks is already in the WA and that the WA was soundly defeated by votes of many of those now supporting the Brady amendment.

    I see too that the amendment that the HoC would not accept “no deal” was opposed by 301 votes. Should one suppose there are 301 MPs who support no deal?

    This is from the Irish Times today

    “The mood is hardening on the EU side, however, with several senior sources adamant that there is no prospect of concessions to the British in the immediate future. EU leaders await Mrs May’s proposals on alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border, but there is little expectation that they will go beyond suggestions that have been rejected in the past.”

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/varadkar-to-discuss-next-brexit-steps-with-juncker-and-tusk-1.3779238

  9. WB61

    “My mind’s distracted and diffused
    My thoughts are many miles away”

    Me too. I have been trying to deal with the aftermath of yesterday’s defeat. Hence the consolation of Orbison.I’m starting to feel a little better. I’m not completely over it – see here.

    A wonderful tribute to liquid bread!

    Ho! Ho! Yes! Yes! It’s very all well,
    You may drunk I am think, but I tell you I’m not,
    I’m as sound as a fiddle and fit as a bell,
    And stable quite ill to see what’s what.
    I under do stand you surprise a got
    When I headed my smear with gooseberry jam;
    And I’ve swallowed, I grant, a beer of lot –
    But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.

    Can I liquor my stand? Why, yes, like hell!
    I care not how many a tossed I’ve pot,
    I shall stralk quite weight and not yutter an ell,
    My feech will not spalter the least little jot:
    If you knownly had own! – well, I gave him a dot,
    And I said to him, ‘Sergeant, I’ll come like a lamb –
    The floor it seems like a storm in a yacht,
    But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.

    For example, to prove it I’ll tale you a tell –
    I once knew a fellow named Apricot –
    I’m sorry, I just chair over a fell –
    A trifle – this chap, on a very day hot –
    If I hadn’t consumed that last whisky of tot! –
    As I said now, this fellow, called Abraham –
    Ah? One more? Since it’s you! Just a do me will spot –
    But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.

    Envoi

    So, Prince, you suggest I’ve bolted my shot?
    Well, like what you say, and soul your damn!
    I’m an upple litset by the talk you rot –
    But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.

    Sir. J.C.Squire

  10. In regard to latest poll showing a 7% Tory lead over Labour, this might be a reflection on Corbyn being seen as both a remainer and Brexiteer. Some seem to think that Corbyn is trying to prevent Brexit and others think he is wanting a no deal Brexit, as he has always been a not very secret Leave supporter.

    I would suggest that Labour have been equally as poor as the Tories on Brexit. If Starmer were totally in charge of Labours Brexit policy, with Corbyn not getting involved, then I suspect we would see a much clearer policy position. But Corbyn has always been conflicted on Brexit and he cannot hide the fact that he does not support the UK’s current EU membership terms.

    If Labour stand any chance of building support for their policies including Brexit, then the leadership cannot hold a totally different vision than most of the current Westminster party. They cannot go into an election that might happen this year, with the party as divided as they are.

    The answer to Labours Brexit issue might be to fully support a delay to Brexit and to have a second referendum, with the choice being either no deal exit or remain. The EU are not going to change the backstop, because they see this as essential and there is nothing suggesting they will change their minds.

  11. @R Huckle

    Or just sweat it out and wait for the political agenda to move on to more productive issues?

    Once Brexit is concluded, I expect to see a sharp upturn in Labour fortune. And if some of the Blairites are daft enough to go off and form their own Ne0-L1b party, then happy days.

  12. @ Guymonde

    I know your reply to JIB was tongue in cheek but it does look from the tables like it is Lab remainers going Lib Dem and Green.

    I still find it a little bit odd that even though Labour have zero chance of forcing a 2nd referendum (subject to events of course) that they are getting blamed for not forcing one.

    It is amazing though that when we get an outlier everyone tends to agree it is an outlier and then bases their comments on it not being an outlier- in fact I virtually did that myself :-)

  13. Sounds like HM the Queen will be requesting a German passport, as part of ‘no deal’ Brexit arrangements. This is just in case her Government have not put in place agreements with foreign Goverments to allow her entry on her travels.

    Would be pretty embarrasing if Her Majesty is refused entry and forced onto a return commericial flight in cattle class. You can just imagine her sat with returning Hen and Stag parties on a return flight from Ibiza. :)

  14. @Oldnat – “Her late daughter in law referred to it as colonic irrigation.”

    My great uncle worked on water supply systems in Malaya.

    Is that what you mean?

  15. Fascinating day of sport yesterday. England cricketers crash to a second defeat by the Windies who have outplayed England in every department, even pre-planning. We thought the Windies pitches would take spin as they have done recently. Instead we have been presented with pitches ideally suited to the Windies quartet of fast bowlers, and why wouldn’t they. We tend to produce pitches ideally suited to our bowlers.

    Scotland performed well against Italy but then went to sleep and allowed several late Italian tries. Meanwhile England produced their best performance in many a year by totally dominating Ireland. I cannot remember when I saw Ireland out played in every department of the game and the score flattered Ireland. England must not get overconfident though. Yesterday’s performance should be set as the baseline and they should aim much higher.

    Interesting poll from Opinion a labour lead of 3 becomes a Tory lead of seven. Looks like one outlier to another. My own view is that the Tories are probably 3-4% ahead of Labour at the moment.
    Good to see 42% support for No deal IMO.

    Have a good day all, I must say my wife and I are feeling particularly chipper today and a 5 mile walk is planned.

  16. @Shevii

    I still find it a little bit odd that even though Labour have zero chance of forcing a 2nd referendum (subject to events of course) that they are getting blamed for not forcing one.

    There is a very simple and compelling explanation for this – there are people like me!

    I want another referendum. I think personally it is of critical importance to the nation that we have one.

    I know the whole Referendum debacle, start to finish is a Conservative issue. I know a second referendum is hard to bring about. However, what upsets me about Labour on this they haven’t really tried – and that is the crux of it for me.

    There are a number of issues close to my heart, PR and now a second referendum, and if a party is earn my vote it needs to fight for these and show willing. If it won’t try, I won’t vote for them.

    I’ve seen too much party political game playing over Brexit. I’ve seen too few actions based on core principles. (This is most MPs BTW, not just one party).

  17. CMJ

    Ta for your post – saved me writing in a similar vein.

    It’s the mixture of apathy and dishonesty that I hate and whilst I never saw Corbyn as a PM I am quite certain now that it will never happen.

  18. @Alec (@Oldnat)

    “My great uncle worked on water supply systems in Malaya. Is that what you mean?”

    I think it had colony status, so that might apply. In other news, it seems the UK objects to acquiring new colonies:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-47087439

    They could wash their hands of it all. It’s getting to be a bit of a pain in the backside for the UK. Colonic irritation, if you like. :D

  19. R Huckle: In regard to latest poll showing a 7% Tory lead over Labour, this might be a reflection on Corbyn being seen as both a remainer and Brexiteer. Some seem to think that Corbyn is trying to prevent Brexit and others think he is wanting a no deal Brexit, as he has always been a not very secret Leave supporter.

    It’s the danger of his position. Everyone thinks he’s on their side because he is on the fence. And now everyone can see he is on the fence, they count him as being on the other side. For Corbyn personally, I think there is no way back from this – even if he chooses a side, he will not be trusted by either side.

    shevii: I still find it a little bit odd that even though Labour have zero chance of forcing a 2nd referendum (subject to events of course) that they are getting blamed for not forcing one.

    It is not odd, they are being blamed for not trying.

  20. @R&D

    Thanks.

    Referring to what @TCO posted, it looks like the Labour plan is to not commit to too much and hover up the ABT (anyone but Tory) vote, think there is nowhere else for these voters to go.

    I’m not sure sure Labour can hold a broad tent like that anymore. The fragmentation across all political parties blown apart by Brexit is clear to see.

  21. CMJ , R Huckle, et al

    “I’ve seen too much party political game playing over Brexit”

    Yes. most potential labour voters I know perceive it something like this: Corbyn wants to leave the EU, but he wants the Conservatives to take the blame for it. Two-faced (the face of Starmer pointing one way, and Mc Cluskey the other). For a man whose virtually ONLY selling point is honesty and authenticity, this is disastrous. He has tried to ride two horses and fallen slap through the middle…

    On the other hand, it’s only one poll etc.

  22. Some mention upthread of a drop in Labour membership.

    Someone in SLab has leaked the details for every constituency in Scotland (SLab constituency parties reflect Holyrood constituencies).

    20% drop overall in the last year (in my constituency too) with 38% in Eastwood – rising to 52% if members in arrears don’t rejoin.

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17405325.blow-for-richard-leonard-as-leak-reveals-5000-labour-membership-slump-across-scotland/?ref=twtrec

    All leaks are done with a purpose, and one can guess the affiliation of the leaker from the suggested reasons s/he gives –

    Leonard supporters suggest “some of the Glasgow leavers appeared to have joined for the sole purpose of voting in the leadership contest and left after Sarwar lost.”

    The “insider” said “Every Labour MSP knows at least one long-serving activist who has quit in disgust at our ambivalence about Brexit or our toleration of racism.
    “The numbers are staggering, but what’s particularly worrying is the kind of people who are quitting – members who have grown up in the Labour family and devoted their entire lives to our cause and trying to get Labour into power.
    “In the rest of the UK they’re being replaced by Trotskyist entryists who are part of the Corbyn cult, but in Scotland we’re just in freefall. Over a year into his leadership, there’s deep frustration at Richard’s complete inability to build on the party’s recovery.”

    The SLab civil war seems to entering one of its many recurrent phases. Since the previous SLab leadership election was 15 months ago, a new one seems about due.

  23. Patrickbrian: On the other hand, it’s only one poll etc.

    I think there is a world of difference between a single poll which yields an unexpected result and a single poll which yields a result which everyone wonders why it hasn’t happened earlier ….

  24. @ Shevii

    “It is amazing though that when we get an outlier everyone tends to agree it is an outlier and then bases their comments on it not being an outlier- in fact I virtually did that myself :-)”

    While the swing almost certainly isn’t real and indicates this is a bit of an outlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘under the bonnet’ there is a smaller real swing. I think the past week or so have worked in May and the Tory’s favour in terms of publicity, so I had anticipated a small movement. It remains to be seen if that positive feeling lasts beyond next week. If ‘nothing has changed’ yet again by the time of the next big HoC vote, we’ll still have no idea where we’re heading, or what the public reaction will be.

  25. JONESINBANGOR
    “Once Brexit is concluded, I expect to see a sharp upturn in Labour fortune. And if some of the Blairites are daft enough to go off and form their own Ne0-L1b party, then happy days.”

    It will be happy days indeed, for the Conservatives. A handful of Labour moderates splitting off being good for Labour fortunes? Come off it. Check out the effect of the SDP on Labour.

  26. New Post

  27. I would very much agree with @CMJ and @R&D regarding the lack of honesty and principle amongst our politicians.

    Brexit illustrates the overriding weakness of the UK constitutional arrangements, compounded by the current crop of personalities. Most of the time it works reasonably well, with some notable points that are much admired abroad, along with some much less attractive features. In this, we are like virtually every other democracy – a basically good system, but with some weaknesses.

    Unfortunately, the UK’s weaknesses are at their most acute when we face a very big issue that does not fit neatly into a binary two party choice.

    Both May and Corbyn have been guilty of seeking party advantage over an honest review of the national interest. Corbyn, in my view, is greatly hampered by his visceral contempt for Conservatives. He really seems to struggle to reach out to moderates in his own party, let alone bring himself to work with those in the Conservative Party who share some of his views on Brexit. He wants Brexit to be a Conservative issue, so hangs back, happy for May to drive the country onto the rocks, instead of leading Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to seek to get the best outcome for the nation.

    May’s contempt for democracy is worse, mainly due to the fact that she is the Prime Minister, and so, under our constitution, is in control of the process entirely.

    The report this morning regarding her attempts to stifle debate and scrutiny of the WAIB is another staggering example of how little control parliament is taking back. May insists still that she will leave the EU on March 29th, whereas proper legal scrutiny of the WAIB should have been underway for months already, with a draft bill published for consultation.

    This is nothing to do with honouring the result of the referendum. May is making promises that (she says) _will_ bind the hands of future parliaments. This will almost certainly be of the greater upset to Brexiters, but all sides are likely to by unhappy with the details, yet our constitution apparently allows her to proceed without consultation or scrutiny.

    If our system of governance allowed a more open style of decision making, with less two party dominance, then a more cooperative model of functioning could have allowed a more consensual approach to Brexit.

    All our devolved administrations rely on such an approach, which isn’t an accident. When all of these were created in the modern era, everyone accepted that some form of proportional representation and the consequent alternative arrangements in the parliament/assemblies was simply a better way of doing things. It’s no surprise that some of the more controversial issues have been addressed outside Westminster.

    The Westminster way has been found severely wanting, with two leaders unable to adjust to counter the structural weaknesses of the constitution because of their own personal failings.

    I strongly suspect that history will judge this period of governance to be a failure, and the individuals concerned will struggle to get a worthy mention from the historians.

  28. New post!!!!

  29. NO! Not new post, New thread!!!!!! Eeejit am I!

  30. Jonesingangor,
    “a big hulk of a car unlikely to be economic in petrol or electric form”

    Big cars arent any more economic however you power them.

    “Money for old rope farming probably as had its day”
    I think the choice is either subsidise farmers to work as park keepers and maintain the countryside looking pretty, or pay them to be farmers and at least make some of the money needed for its upkeep.

    if you dont worry about continuing to produce our own food, about maintaining a workforce of people who have the skills to do that, i assume you have given up any pretensions the Uk will ever again engage in serious warfare. Or even worry whether the expanding world population might yet bring food production back to the top of the list of national priorities. This is an island dependant on imports to survive, which has not paid its way in decades.

    Oldnat,
    “I can just see the wee soul with a label round her neck and a cardboard suitcase in her hand, waiting tearfully on a station platform to be evacuated to an unknown destination in a safe location.”

    A nice castle in Germany maybe?

  31. R Huckle,
    “I would suggest that Labour have been equally as poor as the Tories on Brexit.”

    I maintain both sides are doing everything thay can not to take a position, because whatever that position is, it will offend someone. labour’s backstop position is to be the opposition, and allow blame for action to fall upon the government for taking that action.

    Labour most probably see the best outcome for them to be the conservatives halting Brexit. Whereas, conservatives see it as labour halting brexit.

    meanwhile voters are getting increasingly narked that neither side is doing anything about an oncoming diaster. The politicians will no doubt feel that once one or other side blinks and halts brexit, this ground can easily be made up.

    labour can sit back thinking that if the worst does happen, most of the blame will still fall on the government. but the government can take comfort that while most people might now oppose brexit, the most diehard supporters are on its side.

    Singular lack of anyone posting raw polling data, to see whether these reported rises in support might not in fact be falling number of supporters for both labour and conservative, but big rise for the dont knows.

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