The Populus poll yesterday provoked rather a lot of comment on support for “others”. They are up to 13% in this month’s poll, from around about 9% last month. Most of the comments about it are pondering whether this is UKIP and the BNP (in fact, it’s provoked a bit of a barney over on LabourHome.)

Does it mean anything at all? Well, yes and no. The graph below has the support for other parties in Populus’s poll since Sept 2007 when they made a slight change to their methodology for measuring “other” support (the graph is based on the figures from Populus’s table before their topline adjustment, since they don’t always provide adjusted figures for “others”).

You’d have to be a better man than I to pick any obvious trends out of that (and to people who occassionally ask why I don’t do graphs for other parties – this is why). As you can see, support for “others” in polls bounces about from month to month (within their own tiny margins) and there are no obvious trends there. The BNP is one of the parties to have benefited this month, but not to an extent that it necessarily means anything at all, they were just as high last summer.

Separately, the levels of support for others don’t mean much at all. Things are slightly more interesting though if you view them together. From November 2007 to October 2007 Populus had the total support for other parties at between 11% and 13%. Then for three months from November 2008 to January 2009, roughly co-inciding with Gordon Brown’s bailout bounce, it fell to between 8% and 9%. Now the bounce has subsided the others are back up to 13%.

My guess is that that high others score contains lots of otherwise Labour voters who are annoyed with the government, went back to backing Labour after the bailout, and have now drifted off again.

45 Responses to “About those “others”…”

  1. Anthony. Does the SNP not have polls for Scotland? I am surprised we seem to have so little information, other than the small and inadequate sample from UK polls. Surely they are as keen to know what is going on, and any properly produced figures could be used in the UK projections, giving a more accurate share and seat projection.

  2. Loved “other, others” – they look the most fun!

  3. Collin – they certainly do. There are proper voting intention polls for Scotland, the Sunday Times do YouGov ones in Scotland sometimes, and the SNP commission and publish their own ones sometimes.

  4. Anthony. Thank you. Do you have no comment on the second half of my response- i.e the usefulness of the Scottish data in interpreting the UK polls? I have often seen responses here and on attempting to make sense out of figures that are clearly inadequate, and the conclusions highly suspect. Would it not be sensible to qualify those comments with data from reliable polls?

  5. Anthony.

    “My guess is that that high others score contains lots of otherwise Labour voters who are annoyed with the government, went back to backing Labour after the bailout, and have now drifted off again.”

    An insightful analysis Anthony , as it’s pretty much what I’ve been saying for the last year.


  6. Collin – I know what you mean and I’ve rather given up responding to comments like that. If you want to know how well the SNP are doing, then the best way is to be very patient and wait for the next Scottish poll, rather than try to eek findings out of the cross-breaks in GB polls.

    In the fullness of time I’m intending to adapt the projection and swing calculator here on UKPollingReport so you can factor in the latest Scottish polling too, but it’s not comething I’ve started on yet.

  7. Anthony. Thank you – I hope you did not take my response as critical. I merely felt there was a gap in our projections that could perhaps be filled.

  8. I did suggest in my last comment that the rise in the others might mean that the Conservatives are doing less than before Brown’s bounce. Thanks to Anthony Wells post I can see that the Populous poll does not suggest this.

    Before the Labour conference 12 and 13% for the others was very common, and not just from Populus but from all pollsters. It will be interesting to see whether this becomes a trend again.

  9. I meant to write less WELL. My brain is tired now.

  10. I’m not sure it’s quite right to include the SNP & PC on the same graph as the “others” above. They’re not potentially uk-wide parties. eg I doubt they will ever be putting up candidates where I live (South Bucks).

    The problem is, by looking at the graph as is, you might think if the Greens got about the same vote share as the SNP, they’d get the same number of seats. We all know this isn’t the case, because the nationalists get their voters automatically concentrated in the nations concerned.

  11. The BNP hate it when no-one is talking about them – which isn’t what’s happening on the political scene at the moment. Whether Griffin is elected in the North West Euro-election area probably depends on how many times the BNP is mentioned in the media between now and June, regardless of the tone of the coverage.

  12. The SNP vote is concentrated in only 10% of the seats, so in reality a UK wide rating of 4.5% is closer to 40%+ in the Scottish vote.

  13. I’d like to see a breakdown of the other others :-)

  14. Looks like a particularly tricky sequence of mountain ranges from The Lord of the Rings …

    The Greens seem to have to most marked trend of the Others – namely, a downward one since 200, with a partial recovery in late 2008/early2009 that now seems to have go into reverse again. Lots of possible reasons for this, I suppose – the major parties flashing their green bits, the economic downturn giving people other things to worry about and, so on.

    The BNP appears to be on the march again but they’ll have to do a good deal more marching than this before they really start looking threatening.

  15. “The SNP vote is concentrated in only 10% of the seats, so in reality a UK wide rating of 4.5% is closer to 40%+ in the Scottish vote.”


    I don’t know if they are 40+ personally, they aren’t even getting over 30% according to the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times Scotland on Jan29th-30th. It showed a headline voting intention of 37% labour, 27% SNP, Con 20%, and LibDem still lagging behind on 12% (i must say the lib dem record in Scotland is surprising me, anyone know why?)

    But this poll does perhaps demonstrate what others have been saying, its perhaps not really all that relevant having PC and SNP in UK wide polls. Especially since this leads to an underrepresentation in theory.

  16. I’m not sure how you could exclude PC and SNP in a UK wide poll – after all, being UK wide it will include results from those regions for the major parties, which would skew the results if smaller regional parties were excluded. The alternative would be to drop the idea of a UK wide poll altogether and have separate polls for England, Scotland and Wales.

  17. Point taken Michael, but i was not seeking to argue for an end to UK wide polling.

  18. As I have long forecast on this site the SNP have had to abandon their proposal to introduce a Local Income Tax in Scotland. However much Councillor Cairns defiantly claims that the SNP will make hay with the issue at the next Holyrood election everyone else will regard it as a humiliating climbdown on a key policy.
    The reasons I gave for the inevitability of this wise decision were the cooling ardour of the Lib Dems once they realised that their core middle class support might be losers in a switch to LIT and the refusal of Gordon Brown and the Inland Revenue to play ball. I was much mocked for this prediction but I got it smack on!!
    Given that the Lib Dems may well -in the light of the polls-be in danger of losing a good deal of their Scottish support in 2011 then the chances of cobbling together a majority thereafter will be even less than is the case now.
    LIT is a dead duck. Remember I said so first.

  19. “The BNP appears to be on the march again but they’ll have to do a good deal more marching than this before they really start looking threatening.”

    I imagine they will be marching somewhere about the Wilders ban.

    Another own goal by the very people who will later criticise those who will be further encouraged to vote BNP.

  20. The threat posed from the BNP is negligable, firslty because I have a great deal more trust in our fine electorate than the cynics out there. Secondly, they aren’t being viewed as credible anywhere except in labour dominated areas- this is not a long term problem as labour is bound to recover, somepoint in the comming decade.

  21. Nick,by the next Holyrood election, we will have Tory government in Westminster and you will hard pressed to find a LibDem in Scotland outside of Orkney and Shetland. You can count on LIT returning as an election issue and Labour will be decimated by those who are still paying the hated Council Tax. You have heard this here first.

  22. Doonhamer
    Wishful thinking does not a polling forcast make
    The Lib Dems are past masters at hanging onto their seats not to mention the fact which you have missed that the list system means that they will continue to have a presence whether you like it or not. So to suggest that they might go down to one seat is just silly.
    The Glenrothes by election proved that Labour is still a resiliant force in Scotland and although they might not overtake the SNP in terms of seats come 2011 I doubt that they will be more than a handful behind. That is my clear practical assessment of what will happen based on simple arithmetic and the polls which is what this site is about after all and I don’t support any of the parties mentioned above.

  23. I’m not convinced that the BNP itself is in fact the “threat”. The danger comes not from the BNP as such but from the government and major parties failing to heed public opinion on things like immigration levels or some of the more extreme ways in which multiculturalist policies manifest (the banning of Geert Wilders being the most recent example). In my view, the BNP is only able to reap what the mainstream parties sow. Or, to put it another way, the BNP is a symptom, not a cause, of something awry in our society.

  24. The Geert Wilders thing is a ‘final straw’ for me as far as my view of our government was concerned.

    I suspect it’s more of a thinking mans issue for those that understand the importance of democracy and view freedom of speech as of utmost importance.

    That group probably doesn’t include the more ‘disenfranchised’ voter who may be tempted by the BNP, so their polling doubtless won’t rise as a result, but I can see many liberal-minded folk finally turning their backs on New Labour.

    This issue, more than any credit crunch, will drive away some of the middle class left to the greens/Lib dems I am sure.

  25. Interesting what you say, Ivan the Terrible and my sentiments exactly. Today I feel like I have been, finally, woken up by the Wilders example to what is actually happening in the UK.

    Sorry, to the rest of the contributors to this excellent website if this is not really the place to express such feelings…

    … but, we really, really do have a serious problem in the country and nobody in the political class seems to want to address it.

  26. Over the last few years there have been a series of people who the majority in the Uk would see as holding offensive views have been banned from the UK.

    I have been a bit uncomfortable about some, but I have agreed with most, particularly extreme Islamists and a few of the “it’s okay to thump women and shoot people rappers”.

    For me Wilder is one that I don’t want her as he is a right wing rabble rouser and we shouldn’t allow in people who will encourage racial tension.

    At the heart of the strategy of Islamists is the attempt to convince British Muslims that they are an under class who’s beliefs and religion are unwelcome and under attack.

    The best way to defeat that is to convince them that they are not, so not to allow in a politician who fits the extremist model of the evil anti Islamic west is a sound thing to do.


  27. “At the heart of the strategy of Islamists is the attempt to convince British Muslims that they are an under class who’s beliefs and religion are unwelcome and under attack. ”

    This is their tactic Peter-not their strategy.

    Their core message is quite different in my view.

    It is that “Western” culture is corrupt and Godless-that Qran provides the rules , and the ONLY rules by which to live, whatever country a Muslim lives in-that Sharia Law will ensure “Islamic values” are implemented,and the Caliphate is restored.

    I accept that “victimhood” features in their approach of persuasion.

    How should we deal with a film which highlights the link between extreme & perverted Islamic thinking, and global acts of violence in it’s name?

    Banning it because it might add to the feeling of victimhood in British Muslems denies those very people the opportunity to disown & condemn the people who corrupt their religion.

    They should have the opportunity to do so, and we all should have the opprtunity to hear & question Wilders on his beliefs & ideas too.

  28. Peter, unlike the other examples you cite, Wilders is an EU citizen with the right of free movement within the EU. He is also an MP in one of our EU partners. His film isn’t banned here so why should he be?

    And this is also a classic case of Labour’s repressive instincts ensuring that many more people have now heard of Wilders and watched his film than would ever have done so had they just let him come here, give his talk, and go home.

    We’re not children. We don’t need Nanny to tell us what to think.

  29. Colin started this discussion off with an important issue. I have pointed out in discussion before that it is statistically inappropriate to combine English voting intentions with those in Scotland (and Wales) because the two statistical populations from wich polling samples are drawn are not “homogeneous”. The presence of a fourth major party is one reason, and there are others too, such as the presence of regional elected bodies and consequentially different implications for electors when they vote for Westminster MPs.

    Anthony is right in replying that if you want to know about Scottish voting intentions you should wait for a Scottish poll. But what if you want to know about ENGLISH voting intentions? I don’t know of any pollng reports that don’t contaminate their reports of national English voting intentions with responses from Scotland and Wales. True, one might dig into published regional breakdowns of polling figures, but this has problems where the raw data is inaccessible, and anyway few if any of us would have the time to do this on a regular basis.

    Nobody would dream of including Northern Ireland, with its different parties, in a United Kingdom opinion poll. We just add on the Northern Irish MPs to our seat predictions at the end. And that is what we should do for all four nations in the United Kingdom. We should take 4 separate polls for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to predict for each nation how many MPs will be returned to Westminster. Then we should simply add up the results of our four predictions to get our estimate of the composition of the next House of Commons.

    Anthony is right that the figures for individual parties don’t mean much. Given that polls are usually suject to a possible error of 3% , the most we can really say is that none of the minor parties is at present getting much more than 5% of the vote.

    Perhaps a more important issue than what may happen to existing parties is the quite high possibility, given the general unpopularity of existing parties and politicians with the people and the drastic effects on ordinary people of the economy, that a new party will suddenly emerge (like the SDP in the 1980s) before the next election and make all our current three (in England) major party predictions irrelevant.

    P.S. I agree with previous comments that the banning of a Dutch parliamentarian, however obnoxious, from entering the UK is a disgraceful violation of human rights to speech, amongst other violations such as that of the right of legislative bodies to conduct their affairs without executive control. Arguably, in international terms it is the Home Secretary who is the extremist. However, I am not sure this action will have many psephological implications. Labour has already lost its middle class voters who are disgusted with the Government’s human rights record, in particular because of Iraq.
    P.P.S. We now have a better indication than the polls that Labour are going to lose the next election. Brown would not be proposing to reduce pensions provisions for MPs, presumably with regulations to come into force after the next election, if Labour did not recognise at the highest levels that large numbers of Labour MPs are now doomed to lose their seats.

  30. I think that the sub samples of UK polls tell us SOMETHING about the fortunes of the SNP.

    For example they show very clearly an SNP surge (and Labour collapse) last Summer, a Labour recovery (and an SNP fall back) in the late Autumn and now a new Labour collapse (and SNP surge).

    Sure the individual sub samples will vary widely but over the run of a few polls will give a good idea what is going on on a much more regular basis than the Scotland wide polls.

    Finally, strategically, the last two weeks has been the MOST successful for the SNP Government. They got their Budget through and Salmond pulled off a very smart, rather successful and completely unexpected reshuffle.

    Sure they will take some snaz over LIT but nothing compared to what they would have faced if they had let it run on to inevitable defeat later this year. The most impressive thing about this lot is their boldness – when they decide something they do get on with it.

    This is a pleasant change for the better in Scottish politics.

  31. Forfar Loon

    Glad I am not the only spotting the end of the Brown Bounce in Scotland. Long may it continue……

    I agree that the last fortnight, aside from the sad passing of our own Bashir Ahmad MSP, has been good and well handled by the SNP. LIT was the right decision – proposed Barnett consequential impacts for the Budget in Scotland were not good. Beter to fight that fight at the 2011 election.

    Alex Salmond has also returned some big hitters to the Scottish ministerial team and we now have a very capable minister with responsibility for the promotion of the Bill for an Independence referendum (Mike Russell). TNS also picked up rising support for Independence to 38% (opposed just 40% now). Looking far better than two months back!

  32. Frederic,

    Although it would be a bit of work, it wouldn’t be that difficult to extract the Scottish sub sample from the UK totals and then get an England ( and Wales) figure, that because of it’s size might well be statistically valid.

    Maybe it’s something Anthony could have a go at in a future thread during one of those lulls between polls. something along the lines of;

    “If it wasn’t for those bloody Jocks”.


  33. Despite it all, I’m still having trouble locating the populus poll on their website. Is anybody else facing similar difficulties?

    On the Wilders issue: all good points well taken. I was against the ban because, unlike hate preachers, Wilders has not, as far as I can tell, ever preached or incited violence against any person or group.

  34. Bertie – it doesn’t appear to be on their website yet. I got the tables by dropping Andrew Cooper an email.

  35. Anthony,

    Would inserting a “best fit” line to the others graph help at all. If there is a trend that might show it.

    I suppose it is an argument for the mega poll as although the sample size wouldn’t increase accuracy that much it would enable us to be clearer about smaller parties and regional variations.


  36. I am an “other other” – I am a member of the Socialist Party, who stand as Socialist Alternative in elections.

    I think some parties who may be included in the “other other” category are Socialist Labour, Respect, Monster Raving Loony Party, English Democrats, Solidarity, SSP, perhaps even Mebyon Kernow or Veritas, if it still exists. Small parties should be included in polls, as “others” is meaningless.

    I also support the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, which has 4,000 signatories. We think that New Labour have completely sold out and we need a new party to represent ordinary people. The trade unions should also stop funding Labour and support independent candidates who stand up for the working class.

  37. The Scottish sub sample of populus february poll showed the following

    SNP 42
    Lab 19
    Tory 20
    Lib 15

    Is it exact – no, too small a sample
    Does it tell us something – yes

    It tells us that Labour are somewhere between struggling and collapsing , SNP are doing OK to well , Tories static to marginal gain and Liberals fourth and not bouncing.

  38. Forfar,

    Populus may well show;

    SNP 42%, Lab 19%, Tory 20%, LibDem 15%

    But Comres shows;

    SNP 24%, Lab 38%, Tory 9%, LibDem 17%

    and Yougov shows;

    SNP 25%, Lab 40%, Tory 17%, LibDem 13%.

    If I had to make sense of that I’d say the SNP is mid to high twenties, labour about 10% ahead on the Mid thirties and the tories probably just below 20%. The Libdems are on about 15%.

    Sort of 25%, 35%, 20%, 15%, 5%.


  39. Peter

    Or alternatively you could take an average of the three

    which would suggest

    SNP 30 LAB 32 TORY 15 LIB 15

    In fact Comres is too variable to count. The average of You Gov and Populus is SNP 33 LAB 30 TORY 19 LIB 14.

    OR just take my hunch Lab on the way down, SNP doing pretty well, Tories OK and Liberals still to move in Scotland.

  40. Forfar,

    Apart from reluctantly seeing Labour ahead of the SNP ( but still declining) I’d go along with that.


  41. One aspect of the 1997 landslide that is often overlooked is the sharp rise in votes for Others, a rise which has persisted through the last two elections. and now stands at 10%. The last decade has seen the consolidation of the Greens, UKIP and the BNP as significant national parties; They represent strands of opinion that cannot be easily accommodated by the 3 main parties and there’s no reason to suppose that they are just going to go away..

  42. If the trends in Scotland are accurate, there must now be a real possibility that Tories could pip Labour into second place in the Euro elections in June. If Lib Dems manage to hang onto enough votes to claim a seat (and that is no longer certain), we could then see the six Scottish seats distributed:

    SNP 2; Con 2; Lab 1; LD 1

    While this may sound fanciful, it is worth noting that in both 1999 and 2004 the Tories topped the Euro poll in quite a number of Scottish seats which were nonetheless retained by others at the subsequent general election.

  43. Paul,

    I’d see that as a very outside bet, but what could be a factor is how many Labour supporters sit at home. On a low turn out the Tories could do well.


  44. Peter,

    Yes, an outside bet, but no longer impossible.

    In my view, the six Scottish seats will be allocated in the following order:
    1 – SNP
    2 – Lab or Con
    3 – Con or Lab
    4 – SNP
    5 – Toss-up between LD / Lab / Con
    6 – Toss-up between SNP or LD / Lab / Con depending on who got #5 and ratios of remaining votes.

    Put another way, my forecast range for each party is:

    SNP – 2, possibly 3 if they get more than 3 x LD share
    Lab – 2, possibly only 1 if they get fewer votes than Con and LDs get 1.
    Con – 1, possibly 2 if they either get more votes than Lab or more than twice LDs.
    LD – 1 – but only if they get at least 11%

    That is based on vote share ranges of:
    SNP: High 20s to low 30s
    Lab: 20-24%
    Con: 19-22%
    LD: 10-13%

    Note that if one or both Lab and Con have more than twice LDs, and/or SNP get to mid 30s, then LDs could find themselves eliminated.

    I’m sure that the system used in Scottish Council elections has amply demonstrated what can happen when you have four “main” parties chasing 6 seats in a multi-member ward.