The Mail on Sunday has an ICM poll conducted in Crewe and Nantwich. Voting intention in the by-election is CON 43%, LAB 39%, LDEM 16%. This compares to the actual result at the last election of CON 33%, LAB 49%, LDEM 19%, and if repeated at the by-election would be a 10 point swing.

By-election polls in the past don’t have a particularly good track record. That may actually be because they have been done early in by-election campaigns, when actually voting intentions clearly do change decisively within the couple of weeks during a by-election. Either way, we shouldn’t expect this to be a very good prediction of what the final result of Crewe and Nantwich will be.

Does that mean the poll doesn’t matter? Not at all. As I’ve said before, in a by-election in a government held seat a lot of voters will be looking for the party that is best positioned to defeat Labour and punish the government. This poll suggests that party is the Conservatives and that they are alread in a very strong position to win it.

UPDATE: In Iain Dale’s report of the figures he says “I am told the by election figures were adjusted downwards to take account of large number of Labour don’t knows. If they stayed at home on polling day, the Tories would win by 13 points.” I assume that refers to ICM’s normal re-allocation of don’t knows to account for “a spiral of silence” amongst supporters of an unfashionable party, and the tendency for don’t knows who do vote to end up voting for their usual party. For it to change a lead of 13 points into one of 4 points though there must have been a vast proportion of Labour voters telling ICM they didn’t know.

28 Responses to “Tories ahead in Crewe and Nantwich”

  1. I’d guess that Labour would be slightly encouraged by these figures showing them only 4% behind since they’d argue that was close enough for them to make up the gap in the next 2 weeks, although Iain Dale’s unadjusted figures are obviously much more encouraging for the Tories. I don’t think I’ve heard of such a large difference between an adjusted and unadjusted poll before; I wonder what the sample size was.

  2. In the light of all the recent polls I do expect the Tories to take this seat. DC is playing the Tory chances down but with rwcent polls it will be shock if the Tories don’t win it.

  3. Anthony – are there to be any other C&N By-election polls to your knowledge?

  4. The headline figures are not as bad as they could be for Labour. All they have to do is keep and Booth out of the media and – who knows – they may have a chance.

    Time to check with SkyNews. Have they got the Sunday front-pages yet…?

  5. Bi-Elections are way too hard to forecast – the Liberal tactical vote door to door can have a profound effect – expecially in a strong Labour seat / but this seat in the general election will definately go Blue.

  6. Only ten percent? This is good news for Labour. A ten percent swing hardly suggests a meltdown, but it does suggest that voting patterns in local elections will differ from Parliamentary elections. A ten percent swing is tiny compared to the losses suffered by the Tories in the mid 1990s – they were more like twenty and thirty percent – and unlike Labour and the LibDems then, Tory support has flatlined since 1997.

  7. Isn’t there a growing problem, which is that all the pollsters make an adjustment designed to make their polls better. A perfectly good idea, except if you’re a statistical purist. Can I become the first person to say that the polling companiess should release their raw data?

  8. Oh, i say this could be a tight result, maybe a very tight result. A very good decision by Labour in their choice of MP by keeping it in the family. I’ll stick my neck out and say the weather will play a big part in how many Labour voters will come to vote. If it’s a rainy day, i’ll say Tory gain. Patchy/sunny day = Tight contest between Con and Lab.

  9. labour encouraged by a 10% swing.have a cold bath.
    that is like getting 35% in chemistry when you expected 25%,but still failed.
    i can only imagine the tories were this dillusional in 1995,so nothing new.

  10. Labour Hold

  11. As Anthony rightly says byelection polls are notoriously unreliable and the reason is clear in the details from this poll . Many former Labour voters are undecided .
    If ICM’s best estimate is right the Conservatives have a narrow lead , if they stay at home or vote Conservative or LibDem the Conservatives will win easily . If more than 50% stick with Labour they may still win .

  12. I agree that the opinion poll to watch will be the one taken within a few days of the election.

    I just hope that all those ‘undecided’ Labour voters take a long, hard look at what this government has been doing to it’s citizens, across the country…..before they vote!

  13. Matt –

    Depending on what you mean by “raw data” then either yes, you can, or no, you are several years out of date.

    What a lot of people call “raw data” colloquially – how respondents said they would vote without the data being weighting or adjusted – is already available on pollsers websites a day or two after publication.

    The actual “raw data” – the individual responses to each question by each individual respondent so a member of the public could, assuming they had the software, weight and process it is in their own way, is never made public.

  14. I probably have taken as many byelection and individual constituency polls as anyone, and I’d be the first to say that they are notoriously difficult and hence unreliable, even though their methodology certainly should have improved since my day in the late 80s and early 90s. It is harder to make sure that your sample is an accurate reflection of those who will actually vote, and as predictions they must fail to cope with the wild swings typical of byelections, when so much attention is on one place and the government of neither the country nor local councils is at stake.
    However, having said all that, polls do generate their own impetus, and this one undoubtedly helps the Conseravtives as they strive for their best byelection result for around 30 years, probably since Ashfield and Stechford in 1977 (I don’t count Mitcham and Morden, because of the odd circumstances, the only SDP defector to submit himself to seek a renewed mandate).
    The main reason is that it clearly shows the C, not the LD, to be the main conduit for the strong anti-Labour feeling at present.
    One point that I’ve not seen anyone bring up is whether the candidates’ names were included, or just the party labels. I suspect if the word ‘Dunwoody’ had appeared in the question, Labour would have benefited to some extent.
    Nevertheless, the poll certainly suggests a strong possibility of a C gain, perhaps by a more comfortable margin than suggested by the headline figures.
    This would add to Gordon Brown’ woes, given the likely over-estimation of its importance: of course byelections in mid-term mean even less than local elections about what might actually happen in two years’ time.

  15. I think the swing will be lower than in the local elections, and this is going to be quite close.
    The Nantwich area is strong for the Conservatives, in local elections at least.

    It seems likely that Gwyneth Dunwoody will leave a personal vote that – in these circumstances – does partly transfer to their new candidate, who is of course her daughter.

    The LDs seem to be being squeezed slightly – we are still 11 days from the election, but it’s fairly soon, so I’d say this will remain a tight fight between the other 2.

  16. I’m not sure I totally agree with Robert about Mitcham and Morden.
    There were some other by-elections at that time which more or less confirmed the 1979 and 1983 Tory shares of the vote – Beaconsfield was one.

    The Tories also experienced increases in their share of the vote in two by-elections in Paisley at the end of 1990 – Major’s honeymoon, but I agree all these are pretty small beer, as what we’re really looking for is when did the Tories last achieve a good by-election under a Labour government.

  17. I hope YouGov will carry out a poll here, given the accuracy of their prediction for the London mayoral race. It would be interesting to see what they have to say.

  18. I don’t think YouGov are set up for polls in constituencies, as they use the internet method …

    Joe, Bruce Douglas Mann must have split the Labour/SDP vote in M & M, letting Angela Rumbold in … was it not also around the time of the Falklands? Crewe and Nantwich would be a much greater triumph.

  19. As Robert says- can’t be done. Panel of 250,000, 650 constituencies, YouGov don’t have enough panellists in each constituency to do constituency polls.

  20. What is more, the ones they do have would not be representative of that constituency, even if they could tell where they are*. They can’t recruit a representative sample at short notice either. YouGov’s methods have their advantages, and seem to work for national polls and London, but they have shortcomings too.
    *wonder how they did that for London, and checked honesty of location …

  21. What a shame. Never mind, YouGov are still my favourites. :)

  22. I don’t think this is as bad a poll as Labour might have expected after a torrid few weeks. Definately all to play for I’d say. I still think the Tories are favourites to edge it but Labour will gain it back at the GE.

  23. I’d say that’s about right.

  24. It strikes me that we might be seeing the impact of Labour’s low down and nasty campaign. As we have seen at other by-elections (Bermondsey was a classic) running aggressive attack leaflets works. Labour are appealling to prejudice – in this case the ‘Tory Toff’ isn’t one of us – to shore up their vote. I think this campaign has depths yet to plunge as Labour desperately fight for their lives.

  25. The yougov poll seems out of line as often is the case with other opinion polls. Is there a reason for this? I know as former councillor and parliamentary candidate that “minor” factors such as weather can be crucial with uncommitted voters. What is the weather forecast ?