I’ve been catching up on sleep after the election, but this is just to add a brief, post-election round up of how the polls performed. In 2015 and 2017 the equivalent posts were all about how the polls had got it wrong, and what might have caused it (even in 2010, when the polls got the gap between Labour and the Conservatives pretty much spot on, there were questions about the overstatement of the Liberal Democrats). It’s therefore rather a relief to be able to write up an election when the polls were pretty much correct.

The majority of the final polls had all the main parties within two points, with Ipsos MORI and Opinium almost spot on – well done both of them. The only companies that really missed the mark were ICM and ComRes, who understated the Tories and overstated Labour, meaning they had Conservative leads of only 6 and 5 points in their final polls.

My perception during the campaign was that much of the difference between polling companies showing small Conservative leads and those companies showing bigger leads was down to how and if they were accounting for false recall when weighting using past vote – I suspect this may well explain the spread in the final polls. Those companies that came closest were those who either do not weight by past vote (MORI & NCPolitics), adjusted for it (Kantar), or used data collected in 2017 (Opinium & YouGov). ComRes and ICM were, as far as I know, both just weighting recalled 2017 past vote to actual 2017 vote shares, something that would risk overstating Labour support if people disproportionately failed to recall voting Labour in 2017.

The YouGov MRP performed less well than in 2017. The final vote shares it produced were all within 2 points of the actual shares, but the seat predictions showed a smaller Tory majority than happened in reality. Ben Lauderdale who designed the model has already posted his thoughts on what happened here. Part of it is simply a function of vote share (a small difference in vote share makes a big difference to seat numbers), part of it was an overstatement of Brexit party support in the key Conservative target seats. Whether that was having too many Brexit supporters in the sample, or Brexit party supporters swinging back to the Tories in the last 48 hours will be clearer once we’ve got some recontact data.

Finally, the 2019 election saw a resurgence of individual constituency polling, primarily from Survation and Deltapoll. Constituency polling is difficult (and I understand has become even more so since the advent of GDPR, as it has reduced the availability of purchasable database of mobile phone numbers from specific areas), and with small sample sizes of 400 or 500 it will inevitably be imprecise. Overall, it performed well this time though – particularly given that many of the constituency polls were conducted in seats you would expect to be hard to poll: unusual seats, or places with independents or high profile defectors standing. David Gauke’s support was understated, for example, and in Putney constituency polling overstated Lib Dem support at the expense of Labour. However, in many places it performed well, particularly the Chelsea & Fulham, Wimbledon, Finchley and Esher & Walton polls.

And with that, I’m off for a nice Christmas break. Have a good Christmas and happy new year.

2,835 Responses to “General election polling – post mortem”

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  1. Alec

    Thanks for the link to that Ivan Rodgers lecture. It’s a very well argued piece.

    Mind you, in that final section where he speculates on a better world in which mutual benefit dominates over self-interest, I was reminded of the scene in the film (Alistair Sim version?) where Scrooge first falls into his grave and is “dead in a ditch”.

  2. @colin

    Wouldn’t a sector by sector agreement with the EU by definition not be a comprehensive FTA in WTO terms? In which case, any sector trade agreement with the EU will need set the terms for all WTO members.

    And do you have any information which suggests such an approach strenthe UK negotiating position?

  3. ALEC

    @”“The fact of “being aligned on day 1 after exit” does NOT make the negotiation of a trade deal easier.”

    Ah-now you have moved the goal posts.

    I didn’t say it would-I said that GIVEN alignment the day before we Exit, the negotiation ( and resulting Agreement if there is one) will have been about how much we diverge over time & how the parties manage that.


    @”Wouldn’t a sector by sector agreement with the EU by definition not be a comprehensive FTA in WTO terms?”

    It would be like CETA wouldn’t it?-or any other TA covering trading terms & mutual access in respect of specific but not the totality of sectors in the Economies of the two parties ………wouldn’t it ?

  5. Opinium poll

    Con 47% : Lab 30% : LD 9% : SNP 5% : Grn 4% : BxP 3%


  6. OLD NAT .
    Thank you for this poll.
    Do you think that the old Ms swing back will favour the Cons in 2024 as it did in 2019?

    I think the Lib Dem figure looks high; do you agree?

    Ms B. Wrong Daily as some comrades call her may be leader of a more socialist party than Jeremy was.

  7. @colin

    So by “sectoral deals” you mean a comprehensive trade agreement which covers the majority of goods, agriculture, services etc. Fair enough.

  8. ChrisLane

    Surely it will be Comrade Starmer won’t it ?

    Did you read Caroline Flint in today’s Times Mag. ? What a loss to your Party.


    Well I’m not sure about proportion & certainly unsure about “majority” -for 2 reasons..

    a) The Government are now talking about degrees of divergence. ie some sectors will not be covered.

    b) Wofgang Munchau wrote in FT this month that he thinks there is only time for a “narrow” TA

    May’s Customs Agreement for all Goods is dead now.

  10. Colin – someone who puts their own ego above all else is no loss even if they are highly capable.

  11. @Oldnat

    Looking at that CB data, it would be ironic if Slab split from UK Lab on the basis that they would less open to a coalition with the SNP. :D

  12. JIM JAM
    Colin – someone who puts their own ego above all else is no loss even if they are highly capable.

    But the talent pool in the labour party is so poor, this counts as a major loss.
    And whilst as someone leaning strongly to the Tories I can gleefully chuckle about the mess labour are in, its not healthy for democracy.
    I want to see a viable Opposition, not an immature university protest movement.

  13. @ Chris Lane

    Yes I do but don’t you think the AFC Bournemouth position in the Premier League looks a bit high too?

  14. @hal

    Re the regulatory impact of Brexit and third country status, you may like to glance at the UK Government’s advice to fish exporters in the flow chart in this tweet:


  15. Statgeek

    Not that one can rely on a poll of 40 SLab members to be very accurate(!), but the differences aren’t surprising.

    Most of the former SLab members (like me) who would have supported a coalition with the SNP are already SNP members!

  16. Hireton

    The alternative advice is to land your catch in Northern Ireland!

  17. @oldnat


  18. I see Gibraltar is looking at joining the Schengen area.


    I wonder if there is a polity that voted in the Brexit referendum that isn’t getting any special arrangements to suit their needs?

    Oh yes. There is one.

  19. @Colin – “Ah-now you have moved the goal posts.”

    Yes I did. Apologies. I didn’t make my original point very clearly, and we were talking about subtley different aspects of the same thing. Basically I was wary of your assertion that we would commence from a state of alignment, for the reasons stated, although I know what you were getting at.

  20. Jim Jam

    An interesting response.

    Your choice-your party

  21. Sunday Times reporting that Labour’s nominations for that ludicrous institution of the HoL.

    John Bercow, Tom Watson and Karie Murphy for peerages

    Others on list incl. ex-MPs, aides and trade union officials:

    – Katy Clark, former Corbyn aide
    – Prem Sikka, economist and McDonnell adviser
    – Sue Hayman, ousted MP for Workington
    – Bryn Davies, pensions expert and McDonnell adviser
    – Tony Woodley, ex-Unite gen sec

  22. Old Nat
    Thank you for the poll.

    On Labour leadership, I think it is telling that no leadership candidate from 2010, 2015 nor 2016 is even trying for the leadership. The electorate has changed radically.

    No brief and no tears for Corbyn but his biggest problem was that he did not have the best talent available for his frontbench. The strongest political campaigns have a team many in the public can name. I can still name more of Wilson and Blairs frontbench than those with shadow posts from Corbyn.

    In football terms, Jess Phillips is a goal scorer. Perhaps selfish on the ball but the top goal scorers are. There would be little passing, lots of shots that go very wide and into row z but also some spectacular goals. Thornberry can also score and so can Nandy. The latter would be more of a Tevez.
    I see Starmer as more a neat, tidy, safety first central defender. Few errors but no crowd pleasing sizzle.
    RLB would struggle at the top level to cope with the hard tackles without a few enforcers on the pitch. Will the team get behind her or will the talent such as Cooper, Kendal, Benn, Miliband, prefer to be on Select Committees or directors in companies/consultants?
    RLB could work with the likely Deputy Leader. Can the others?

  23. Old Nat
    With respect, put yourself in Tom Watson’s shoes.
    The HOL is ‘not ridiculous’.
    Free secure underground reserved car parking in London.

    Old Nat
    With respect, put yourself in Tom Watson’s shoes.
    The HOL is ‘not ridiculous’.
    Free secure underground reserved car parking in London.

    No argument here, makes perfect sense.

  25. J S_B


    Mind you, I didn’t realise the plebs have to pay to park their shoes in London.

  26. ON

    And why would Watson take his shoes anywhere near London these days?

  27. OLDNAT

    Thanks for the Opinium poll. Obviously Tories in good position at the moment as expected. I notice that 42% of those polled think Johnson is performing better than expected. Not surprised and cautiously optimistic about him myself.

    Reading T.M. Deviine’s Independance or Union at the moment. Will let you know what I think when I have finished it.

  28. Hireton,

    Thanks for that reference to the new fish export regime. It looks like one of the businesses that will be possible in theory but in practice the inspection regime will be too onerous to make it economically viable for many products.

    You may be interested in this view from The Lancet comparing EU and US food standards. It explains why US standards would be a step backwards on both safety and sustainability grounds.


  29. @Hal & @Hireton

    “Thanks for that reference to the new fish export regime. It looks like one of the businesses that will be possible in theory but in practice the inspection regime will be too onerous to make it economically viable for many products.”

    There was a very interesting item on BBC news a few months ago regrading fish exports and Brexit. A large chunk was devoted to an interview with a woman who ran a shellfish export business in Cornwall, running catches from 14 boats to Spain.

    She has voted remain but was now supporting leave and thought we just need to get on with it. She had prepared, and apparently had needed to invest in her own delivery vehicle (£40K cost – not quite sure why she couldn’t use her current Spanish shippers). She had also sorted out the declarations she would need at the port, and she felt comfortable that she was completely prepared.

    A couple of days later, I came across a separate article describing how there would be problems for fish exports because of the required veterinary checks. This item said that these checks need to be made at the point of loading, and that there were insufficient vets to do this.

    The woman in the first item had said nothing about these checks, and was solely concerned with how she transported her products. The second article was very clear in that the exporters had no control over the veterinary checking process, and so could not prepare for this. It simply depends on whether there is a local qualified person available at the hour you need to load, and if there isn’t, you’ve lost that days catch.

    This is not an area I am expert in, so I can’t vouch for any of the content of the articles, but I did wonder whether that woman’s investment has fully taken everything into consideration.

    My strong suspicion is that a great number of exporters are going to experience some significant shocks when the time comes.

  30. Alec
    It’s interesting that the lady you mention has had to invest £40k to keep her business operating outside the EU. Presumably she’ll get the market price for her product, just as she did when we were members. The result is the profitability of her business will vary by the difference between the capital and interest payments on her purchase, plus the depreciation and running costs and maybe a driver’s wages, compared to her previous arrangements. That could mean her profitability will reduce by a few £’000, whether there are vet issues at the port or not.

  31. Am I being too sensitive, or has Trumpism become established in the UK governments vocabulary and if so, why?

    One of the things that has always annoyed me has been his use of simplistic words and arcane phrases during his public utterances. It sounds to me as if his vocabulary just isn’t wide enough to accomodate more complicated and erudite speech. In truth it makes him sound like a simplistic idiot compared to his contemporaries.

    At first I thought it was maybe something he was affecting in order to connect with his political base and that he assumed that they could only cope with simple words and phrases. However as time has passed I’m beginning to think that he really can’t help it.

    But now we have UK politicians spring his patter, with one minister splattering a recent speech with comments about ‘our great country’s and our current Trade Secretary breathlessly talking about ‘signing exciting new trade agreements’. It’s the juvenistic use of ‘great’ and ‘exciting’ that grinds my fears. They’re used is a sort of sanctimonious way, almost as if they feel their supporters need such words to feed their jingoism.

    Please can we go back to normal UK governmental language and leave the kindergarten behind.

  32. Sorry not ‘spring’, should be ‘apeing’.

  33. test

  34. test

  35. Morning TOH-another human being !!!

    UKPR appears from its sleep at last.-hope all is well with you.

  36. Hi Colin,

    I am fine at the moment thank you. Hope you and yours are OK.

    It has been rather quiet without UKPR to drop into, but I really have enjoyed the cricket. Quite a turn round from the Ist Test in Centurion. Good to see some of the youngsters prospering, Olly Pope looked really good to me.

    Have agood day off to the dentist for a filling !

  37. Wasn’t it terrific?. A very promising young squad-bring on the Aussies.

  38. Thanks AW.

  39. Oh wow. Anthony put 50p in the meter.

  40. Interesting that the first to find out about the resurrection of the message board are two of those wanting to celebrate the 31st January event.

    I have only been checking here every other day, thinking that AW had wisely shut down the site until February, to prevent hostilities resulting from gloating.

    Also there has been a lull in UK political news while our leaders make important decisions. For us in North Britain, what Nicola Sturgeon decides to do while Labour gradually shifts its stance on allowing another Indy Ref, looms largest.

    But HS2 and the reaction in Northern England to its likely pruning is the most important UK issue.

    I`ll get back to my desk botanical work while the normal protagonists have reappeared here.

  41. UKPR back from winter hibernation.

    I wasn’t relishing having the very last word.

  42. I’ll start off with some non-partisan news. I’ve just noticed that our primroses are in flower. I can’t recall that ever happening in January before.

  43. As the UK Labour leadership candidates struggle with what to say about the party’s stance in Scotland, it seems from a YouGov poll that its membership does not share Thornberry’s hatred of the SNP:


  44. Is that 5% significant for the SNP? My memory suggests that they’normally’ get a rounded 4% in such polls?

  45. Nice to see the site back up and running.

    Much interesting stuff over the last week or so, but will drop by on occasion as ever.

  46. Interesting political situation with HS2.

    If they just make it London to Birmingham that won’t please the areas that have recently gone Tory. Strange that HS2’s greatest support comes from the north and it’s worst support from the south.

    The compromise solution would be to run it to Crewe as a sort of midway between full length and Brum only. But that’s not going to please the greater Manchester and Leeds areas.

  47. @sda

    It could be but indivdual sub-samples are not reliable. I think @oldnat keeps a running tally of them which over time may be a bteer guide.

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