This morning the Communication Workers’ Union released a Survation constituency poll of Hartlepool, the first one we’ve seen (earlier in the campaign figures were released from a Focaldata MRP of the North, but you can’t really use MRP for a by-election – it doesn’t pick up the unique circumstances). Topline figures with changes from the last election were are CON 49%(+20), LAB 42%(+4), NIP 2%(+2), GRN 1%(+1), LD 1%(-3), ReformUK 1%(-25).

I should start by saying that constituency polling is difficult. It is mostly done by telephone and often has small sample sizes (in this case, the sample was 500, but the actual voting figures are based only 302 who gave a response). Its track record has sometimes been patchy. Nevertheless, it’s the best evidence of where the race stands that we are going to get. What can we tell?

The Conservatives are ahead (though the two main parties are within the margin of error for a sample of 302). Compared to the general election the poll suggests an 8 point lead from Lab to Con, significantly better than how the Conservatives are doing in national polls.

It would be extremely unusual for a governing party to gain a seat in a by-election. There have been only two instances in the last fifty years (Copeland in 2017 and Mitcham & Morden in 1982). Few governments poll ahead of their last election performance mid-term anyway, and if anything they do worse than that in by-elections.

The reason the Tories are doing better in Hartlepool than nationwide appears fairly straightforward, and doesn’t offer any obviously transferrable lessons. In Britain as a whole the Brexit party got 2% at the 2019 election. In Hartlepool they got a very healthy 26%. That vote has almost completely vanished, presumably to the benefit of the Conservatives.

As ever, by-elections are extremely unusual beasts that do not necessarily tell much about national politics. Maybe if the actual by-election turns out like this it will be a steer on how other seats with a high level of Brexit party support in 2019 may go… but then, come the actual by-election we’ll have a glut of other data from the local, Scottish, Welsh, Mayoral and London elections due to be held on the same day, so hopefully we won’t be trying to desperately read too much into one single by-election.

Also worth noting that – given this poll was commissioned by the CWU – it also asked about some of the issues that they are concerned about like broadband, Royal Mail privatisation, nurses pay. The answers in Hartlepool were as you’d expect from national polling (people like free stuff & nurses. They don’t like privatisations). It doesn’t tell us anything particularly useful about why Labour aren’t doing better. Don’t assume because the CWU chose to ask about those issues that they are necessarily ones that are driving support in Hartlepool. Maybe people in Hartlepool care more about Corona, or crime, or Brexit, or economic regeneration, or taxes…

Finally, before this poll there was also significant social media buzz about the Northern Independence party having an impact, not least because their candidate is Thelma Walker, a former Labour MP who resigned over the party’s refusal to re-admit Jeremy Corbyn. Realistically a party that hasn’t even been registered yet may be very pleased indeed if they manage to get third place, but nevertheless, the poll suggests they are not significant players here.

UPDATE: The tables for the Survation poll have appeared, and worth adding a further caveat. At the last election the Brexit party got 26% of the vote. Among people who took part in the poll, only 3% recalled voting for the Brexit party. This does not *necessarily* mean its a duff sample – there will undoubtedly be issues of false recall, of people re-aligning their past vote to match with present circumstances (especially since the Brexit party has rebranded itself into ReformUK and no longer exists in its old form), but it should be an extra reason for caution.

Scotland

There were two Scottish Parliament voting intention over the weekend, one from Panelbase, one from Survation. Topline figures are that both show the SNP continuing to cruise towards victory and on the edge of winning a majority. Both show a tight race for second place between the Conservatives and Labour.

However, these were also the first two to measure support for Alex Salmond’s new list only party, Alba. The Panelbase poll showed them at 6%, the Survation poll showed them at 3%. To understand the significance of these we need to explore the nuances of the Scottish Parliament electoral system.

The Scottish Parliament elects members using an additional member system. 73 MSPs are elected in constituencies using first past the post, a further 56 are elected on a proportional regional list system. The regional list seats effectively operate as a “top-up” to the constituency seats already won, so that overall the seats won should be proportional to the list vote. For example, if party A won 6 constituency seats, but got 10% of the list vote, they’d be awarded another 7 list seats so they had 10% of the total seats. It’s more complicated than that because it’s done by region, meaning there is an effective threshold to get any seats at all, but we’ll come to that.

Crucially people cast two votes – you don’t have to cast your constituency vote in the same way as your list vote, you can vote for different parties.

The SNP did extremely well at winning constituencies at the last election (59 out of 73). This meant that that despite winning 42% of the list vote, they didn’t receive many list seats, because they had already won almost their fair share through constituency seats. Compare this to the Scottish Greens – they don’t win any constituency seats (they barely stand), so there is nothing to set against their list vote and their list vote of 7% translates into 6 seats.

Therefore, the Alba argument goes, SNP votes on the regional list are “wasted” votes, that are unlikely to return MSPs. If a significant chunk of SNP voters voted Alba instead, it would return more pro-independence MSPs.

So far, so good. However, because the Scottish system uses regional lists, there’s an effective threshold to get any seats at all (about 5-6%). There is also already a second pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens. That means in practice Alba could have a positive or negative impact on the number of pro-Independence MSPs elected. If they get over 5% in a substantial number of regions, and do so by taking SNP second preferences, rather than taking votes who would otherwise back the Greens, they will increase the next number of pro-independence MSPs. If they get under 6% in most regions, they are unlikely to win any MSPs at all. If they get under 6%, but in doing so, take votes from the Scottish Greens, they could even reduce the the number of pro-independence MSPs.

Hence, in judging the impact of Alba, the thing to look at is the level of Alba and the Scottish Greens in the list vote, and whether each is above or below that threshold of around 5-6%. The two polls so far paint contrasting pictures – in the Survation poll, Alba were at 3% and the Scottish Greens were unchanged at 11%. In the Panelbase poll Alba were at 6%, the Scottish Greens at 8%, again comparable to their showing in previous Panelbase polls.

So in neither case was there any evidence that Alba were cannibalising the pro-independence list vote by taking support from the Greens, but the evidence on whether they’ll actually win seats of their own is unclear. On the Panelbase figures they may well do (John Curtice tentatively projects 6 Alba seats, with a total of 79 pro-Independence MSPs). On the Survation figures they probably wouldn’t, but the SNP and Greens would get 77 pro-Independence MSPs between them anyway.

And that, in itself, maybe underlines the extent to which this matters. As things stand most polls show the SNP getting a majority or getting close to one. Taking the SNP & Scottish Greens together, there will very likely be a majority of pro-Independence MSPs anyway. Whether Alba manage to scramble over the threshold to win some seats or not doesn’t look likely to change that given their present level of support.


3,381 Responses to “Polling on Hartlepool and the impact of Alba”

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  1. UK Covid deaths 7-day average 16

    Germany 280

  2. @ PETE B – Brussel’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda must have sent out their daily update to operatives who are now busy ‘copy+pasting’ it onto polling forums for some reason ?!?

    Fortunately in UK we have the internet to check things like polling and historic data. Quite bizarre that on Planet Remain they seem to have ‘write-only’ access to the internet ;)

    Anyway, thankfully we also we have the scroll bar to be able to ignore the daily diatribe of defeatist drivel.

  3. France 280

    Italy 277

  4. @ TW

    Thanks for the Thresher piece. First time I’ve seen, however vague, numbers put on the good/average/bad thing- apart from you!

    Seems like no change would be an average result for both parties- obviously churn between 2016 and 2017 so gains and losses coming out to roughly zero.

    He mentions independents and increasingly these are having an impact in some of the Northern towns so these will skew results a bit. More of a problem for Labour I think.

  5. TW
    “Brussel’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda must have sent out their daily update to operatives who are now busy ‘copy+pasting’ it onto polling forums for some reason ?!?”

    Quite.

    Survation poll on Hartlepool tomorrow apparently.

  6. @Carfrew – UK numbers clearly better now, but overall, our deaths per million score puts us well down the European rankings.

    If we were still in the EU we would be 20th from 28, although Belgium count deaths differently, so we might be 21st. That’s not great, tbh.

    UK 1871 deaths per m, Germany 1000.

  7. @ Carthew

    Same old story, a few posters on here seem to thrive on UK bad news & on EU good news.

  8. “@Carfrew – UK numbers clearly better now, but overall, our deaths per million score puts us well down the European rankings.”

    ——

    That’s a different thing though. We know we had more deaths overall, early screw ups follorwd by hit hard by the new variant etc., (while warning others).

    But in terms of what you keep.posting about, EU catching up etc., the problem is that catching up later means more deaths, due to vaccinating the vulnerable later.

  9. @Bantams

    I think it’s ok if every now and then you post summat vaguely positive about the UK!

  10. Also, another rather frequent meme, that it’s not EU procurement, but individual countries delivery instead that’s the problem.

    That might be the case now, when plentiful vaccine availability means delivery is the limiting factor.

    But early on, when vaccine was barely available, national delivery mechanisms were a bit superfluous.

  11. @ JJ / SHEVII – Appreciate the polling discussion. Hopefully some more polling and predictions of what would be considered good/bad results before Thursday but JJ has nailed the ‘spin’ that we’ll see.

    Pretty sure ‘postal votes’ (LAB) and ‘bad Boris’ (CON) excuses have been drafted already ;)

    @ PETE B – hopefully survation Hartlepool poll will show ‘postal votes’, not many polling companies seem to ask that. I did spot it on YG’s Red Wall council seats but the fieldwork was very drawn out so not much help.

    I hear Boris was up in Hartlepool today, although that might do more harm than good!

  12. I don’t get the obsession with the EU. From what I can gather India is in a much worse position, and many folks here have close relatives over there. I know the government has sent aid, but why do posters here never mention it, but bang on and on about EU countries?

  13. @8.08 pm

    We aren`t sure from the TWs` loose style of writing whether it`s them or Pete B responsible for the genitive of Brussel.

    But I am quietly confident that our chess player would be more careful.

    It seems some people here scorn any relaying of good news from the EU.

  14. “It seems some people here scorn any relaying of good news from the EU.”

    ——-

    Yes, if it’s positive about the UK, it’s gloating. If it’s negative about the EU, it’s scorn.

    But if it’s positive about the EU, or negative about the UK, that might be Different!

  15. Following on from my 8:39
    I suppose it’s because they’re fighting battles from last decade. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Japanese soldiers holding out on remote islands long after the war was over.

  16. Any Labour canvassers among our number. How does reception compare w last Yr.?

  17. The latest London-based think tank attempting to influence voting in the Scotland GE is the Henry Jackson Society:

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/iran-interference-in-scottish-elections-causing-serious-concerns-l7d86gx3g

    Can they seriously think that some operatives in Iran are significantly adding to the nationalists` postings on social media?

    Maybe this is a neo-con effort at explaining why SCON will have a poor result on Thursday; also that Johnson`s unfitness to be a PM is not the cause, nor his failure to fulfil his promise of campaigning here.

  18. @ PETE B – I don’t see the point of ‘copy+pasting’ news on India. We can all access the internet. It’s absolutely horrific what is going on over there and very glad to see UK, US[1] and others pitching in to help where we can, should be doing more IMO

    For polling with some relevance to UK then

    “Majority of Britons want to give vaccines to India, but not if it leads to delays in the UK vaccine rollout”

    https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/majority-britons-want-give-vaccines-india-not-if-it-leads-delays-uk-vaccine-rollout

    PS Also commented on how great it is to see Greens doing so well in Germany (polling related) and I’ll add that is great to see Draghi (Italy) splashing the cash (although TBC if Brussels allow him to spend their money). So far Draghi is holding up in approval ratings but the vultures will be circling and if folks are worried about Le Pen in France then Meloni in Italy makes Le Pen look ‘woke’.

    [1] I did post some info on that the other day and even added ‘better late than never’ given the accusations that no Brexiteer ever says anything bad about US (it’s not that I don’t have bad things to say about US ‘hoarding’ of vaccines, it’s just that it’s not relevant to polling)

  19. https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/rallings-thrasher-labours-red-wall-and-tories-blue-shires-under-threat-18-03-2021/

    RALLING and THRASHER Good Article; they estmated that the 2016 Results were the equivalent that Corbyn Lab and Cameron Tories were on level Pegging.

    Used to be based in Plymouth, now at Nuffield Oxford.
    Evening all from a very wet Bournemoth, whose Conor Burns sent an excellent message on twitter about Northen Ireland’s birthday, coming from a Catholic who is a loyal Tory and Unionist.

  20. Pete B: India… I know the government has sent aid, but why do posters here never mention it, but bang on and on about EU countries?

    Simple. It’s because supporters of brexit have been desperate for any single area where the UK can be argued to have done better than the EU since brexit. Hence banging on and on about the UK vs EU vaccination figures. Bringing India, which has done far worse than the EU in vaccination, into the picture muddies the beautiful clarity of UK vs EU.

    You might also ask why the same people don’t “bang on and on” about UK vs US figures. The answers are (a) the UK comes out of that comparison badly and (b) for brexiteers the only battle that counts is with the EU.

  21. Chris Curtis from Opinium being a tease about their final Scottish and London polls.

    https://twitter.com/chriscurtis94/status/1389253535070576642

    One of the most interesting stats from the poll is 14%. £100 says literally nobody will guess what this is in reference to.

    I’ll guess – “the % of Londoners under the age of 18 who think Johnson might be their natural father”.

  22. Somerjohn
    ” (b) for brexiteers the only battle that counts is with the EU.”

    Not for me. That’s done and dusted. And though I have been pleased about the success of our vaccine rollout, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the EU rollout. I expect one of the obsessives will trawl back and prove me wrong. We really should get over the point-scoring between UK and EU. It’s over, further tweaks to agreements will happen over time, as they will with other relationships.

    I’m looking forward to the Survation poll, whatever it says. There are rumours that it might show Labour doing better than expected in Hartlepool.

  23. @Oldnat

    One of the most interesting stats from the poll is 14%. £100 says literally nobody will guess what this is in reference to.

    I’ll guess the Green’s list vote

    Alternatively, it could be the proportion of statements made by Boris Johnson which contain an element of the truth in them, but that seems to high…

  24. @ CL1945 – thank you for posting the Rallings & Thrasher piece as it covers many of the issues JJ, SHEVII and myself were discussing earlier regarding the complexity of being able to say which party(ies) did better/worse than expected even once we’ve seen the results!

  25. Old Nat

    “One of the most interesting stats from the poll is 14%. £100 says literally nobody will guess what this is in reference to. ”

    As they will have asked all participants to say how their second choice, I’m guessing that it’s something that comes out of that – maybe the proportion of Khan’s voters naming Count Binface as their second choice..

  26. @ OLDNAT – Is he referring to London or Scotland poll?

    Count Binface 14% in London? He’s the obvious choice for Remainers (see manifesto #10) ;)

    https://www.countbinface.com/london-2021-manifesto

  27. Pete B: We really should get over the point-scoring between UK and EU.

    It will be admirable if you can stick to that nostrum.

    But brexit has been the most divisive political issue in my lifetime, and it’s surely unrealistic to expect people who care deeply about politics to suddenly lose interest in it. Brexit was sold on the basis that we’d be better off out than in, and it seems to me inevitable and right that those who pushed that line will be held to account as the results roll in.

    The suspicion has to be that those who want to stop keeping tabs on the brexit scorecard are those who would rather not hear the bad news.

  28. Again, with corrected (hopefully) italics:

    Pete B: We really should get over the point-scoring between UK and EU.

    It will be admirable if you can stick to that nostrum.

    But brexit has been the most divisive political issue in my lifetime, and it’s surely unrealistic to expect people who care deeply about politics to suddenly lose interest in it. Brexit was sold on the basis that we’d be better off out than in, and it seems to me inevitable and right that those who pushed that line will be held to account as the results roll in.

    The suspicion has to be that those who want to stop keeping tabs on the brexit scorecard are those who would rather not hear the bad news.

  29. Prof, I have been canvassing

    FWIW, way fewer hostile voters and a big growth in the apathy party as far as I can tell.

    My experience may not be typical as it has been in a Council ward where there is a By-Election and the Labour Councillors (One who had to resign due to leaving the area for work) have done a good job since May 2019 at ward level.
    I have been cautioning colleagues not to extrapolate from what believe will be a good result in this ward across the borough.

  30. @Bardin1

    Yes, the Greens` list vote poll result was my immediate thought for the 14%.

    But then I was not switched on for London mayor candidates.

    If the SGreens reach 10% plus, they will have done well for minimum groundwork and postings. Just 1 leaflet for us, but they have had effective speakers on broadcasts.

  31. So it looks like there are more Tories than just D. Ross and company in Scotland wanting to bring Johnson down:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/05/03/exclusive-tory-staff-furious-flat-refurbishment-told-no-cash/

  32. Alba on 14%? :|]

  33. What’s the point of calling people propagandists and that sort of thing? No-one is ever going to reflect usefully on their degree of bias in response to that, they’ll just laugh it off as palpable nonsense.

  34. Bantams,
    “Same old story, a few posters on here seem to thrive on UK bad news & on EU good news.”

    Since the future of the Uk is inextricably tied to the EU, at least the latter is good news.

    Pete B,
    “I don’t get the obsession with the EU. From what I can gather India is in a much worse position, and many folks here have close relatives over there.”

    Reading through the posts I thought current deaths UK lowest, europe middling India highest. But total deaths per capita, India lowst, Europe middling, Uk highest?

    I presume everyone wishes the UK had the epidemic profile of India. I notice FT stats page has their cases slowing.

    The Trevs,
    “It’s absolutely horrific what is going on over there”

    but thats the thing trev…overall its so much better there than here. Rubbish hospitals and all.

  35. So nearly 1.5 years after the “levelling up” election Johnson hires a new adviser to try and define what it it means and how to do it:

    https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1389211813003341831?s=19

  36. Interesting take on whether or not the UK government is serious about it’s sustainable fishing promises – https://twitter.com/pmdfoster/status/1389168228547670021

  37. @EoR – “What’s the point of calling people propagandists and that sort of thing?”

    The point of it is very clear. It is done as an attempt to degrade those claimed to be the propagandists, and is all that’s left when you have no counter to the points being made.

    Let’s be honest about this – if those who regularly chuck this kind of thing at me were confident in their viewpoints and had reams of examples of good things flowing from their political choices, they would bury me with their factual posts.

    Personally, I find it rather funny to watch, and the longer it goes on the more obvious is becomes.

  38. @PETE B

    From what I can gather India is in a much worse position, and many folks here have close relatives over there. I know the government has sent aid, but why do posters here never mention it, but bang on and on about EU countries?

    It’s been discussed a bit – @STEVE and I have discussed a few times recently about the figures and they ways they are being interpreted for example.

    But it’s been one of the biggest news stories around the world for a couple of weeks now – definitely not something that in itself would require bringing to the attention of anyone on here interested in COVID discussion. And beyond that, hard evidence of how bad the situation really is is largely absent, so other than requoting either official stats or local anecdotes, there perhaps isn’t much to say that the interested people won’t already all have seen?

  39. “Alex Wickham
    @alexwickham
    ·
    17m

    Hell of a poll coming first thing tomorrow… read about it first in Playbook”

    ??

  40. @davwel

    This is a good analysis of the Times Iran story from a former Times Svotland night editor:

    https://twitter.com/kathy__odonnell/status/1389273261071011840?s=19

  41. @EoR and @Pete B – one of the features of the disaster in India is that in January, they were congratulating themselves on having beaten covid.

    There are lessons there for any nation that thinks they’ve cracked this.

  42. @Alec

    “There are lessons there for any nation that thinks they’ve cracked this.”

    Absolutely, which is why non-essential foreign travel should be stopped.

  43. @ALEC

    Let me rephrase the question then. What do people think it will achieve?

    Yes obviously it was some posts tonight that prompted me to write it down but I’ve been saying it on various subjects for a while – politicians painting their opponent (or people painting the people on the other side of a major argument) as extreme caricatures almost never actually works in changing anyone’s mind, and often seems to be counter-productive in that any legitimate criticism becomes much easier to dismiss.

  44. @JIB – agreed. We can do without non essential flights for a few more months.

  45. @PROFHOWARD. JJ
    I’ve been canvassing in London. It’s been suprisingly poor for labour despite what the polls seem to suggest. I haven’t met anyone who is enthusiastic for Sadiq and a number who single him out, in some cases vilification, in others quoting Tory propaganda, in others just underwhelmed. There is an element of racism at play I think, but the main factor is a shockingly poor campaign by Lab. Almost impossible to get any leaflets and I personally have had 3 Tory leaflets by Royal mail and not a thing from any other party.
    In the more Asian parts of the borough support for Lab seems to be holding up. from what the MPs say.

  46. @OLDNAT

    For the £100 I’d hazard it’s the % of Alba supporters who are opposed to Indy?

  47. If it were the percent in favour, that might be a bigger surprise…

  48. Somerjohn
    “The suspicion has to be that those who want to stop keeping tabs on the brexit scorecard are those who would rather not hear the bad news.”

    Or perhaps that as Brexit was decided 5 years ago, and that this is a polling site, and that the polls are showing a lead for the government that ‘Got Brexit Done’, then we should discuss more relevant subjects.

    If however you have some polling information about Brexit it is worth discussing. The one I remember is 52%-48% in 2016.

  49. Pete B: we should discuss more relevant subjects.

    If however you have some polling information about Brexit it is worth discussing.

    Your advice would carry more weight if I hadn’t been responding to your entirely non-polling related post about the EU at 8.39 and its provocative follow-up, viz:

    “I don’t get the obsession with the EU. From what I can gather India is in a much worse position, and many folks here have close relatives over there. I know the government has sent aid, but why do posters here never mention it, but bang on and on about EU countries?
    May 3rd, 2021 at 8:39 pm”

    and:

    “Following on from my 8:39
    I suppose it’s because they’re fighting battles from last decade. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Japanese soldiers holding out on remote islands long after the war was over.

    If you lob a grenade like that, maybe think a bit before offering pious advice on sticking to polling.

  50. Survation thread on their Scottish poll

    VI, approvals etc and link to tables

    https://twitter.com/Survation/status/1389353186134220801

    Read it yourselves. I’ve had my 2nd jag. Knackered and off to bed!

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