Wednesday Round Up

D minus 29
Tonight’s polls:
Angus Reid/Political Betting (6th Apr-7th Apr) CON 37%(-1), LAB 26%(-1), LDEM 22%(+2)
YouGov/Sun (6th Apr-7th Apr) CON 37%(-3), LAB 32%(nc), LDEM 19%(+2)
Populus/Times (6th Apr-7th Apr) CON 39%(-1), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 21%(+1)

Three polls tonight. YouGov and Angus Reid polls can be compared with their polling from just before the campaign started, and both show a boost in Lib Dem support, though not really enough to distinguish a trend from random variation.

With YouGov’s Tory score dropping below 40 again those pollsters who have reported in the last week or so are now reporting pretty similar figures for the Conservatives, all in the range of 37%-39%. There is rather more variation in the other parties – the more established pollsters (YouGov, ICM and Populus) have Labour between 32%-33%, Opinium and Angus Reid have them on 29% and 26%. For the Liberal Democrats Opinium tend to give them very low figures and are at 17%, the other companies vary between 19% and 22%.

Considering National Insurance has dominated the political debate over the past few days there is a surprising lack of polling on it. YouGov asked about it for the Sun last week and found the public evenly split 43% in favour of the Conservative policy, 43% against, but that was before the business leaders came out in support, and before a lot of debate on the topic. Populus may have asked about it, but their report only quotes the results amongst those people who wanted a change but not to the Tories – it is unclear whether the whole sample was asked.

Two other articles on polling today worth a read – Mark Pack here and John Curtice in the Indy here. the most important thing to take away from them (and something that really can’t be mentioned often enough) is the volatily you should expect to see from normal sample error. Party support from a single pollster should randomly vary a couple of points in either direction from poll to poll (the lead will be even more volatile, since you’ve got random variation on two numbers). While I get sick of typing it, there is a reason why I end up stating in almost every post that the movement since the last poll is not in itself significant! It’s the trends across many polls that count.

249 Responses to “Wednesday Round Up”

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  1. Frankly I’m amazed that you have to explain this so often Anthony. I wasn’t great at maths at school but I think it’s fairly easy to work out that pollsters need to find just two people out of one hundred expressing a different view – e.g. LD instead of Con – to end up with a very different figure from one day to the next.

    Why anyone should think 1/ That opinions should remain static and 2/ That pollsters will then pick up and report this static figure, day after day, despite asking different groups of people each time, is beyond me.

    In fact I don’t think they should be allowed to vote now I think about it.

  2. Spot on with your last comment.It really must get tedious stating that the changes in a single poll are not significant, then have to see dozens of comments stating how this poll represents some sort of breakthrough.If you discount AR, which I do, then virtually ever poll is showing a steady Tory lead of around 6 to 8% ,allowing for margin of error.

  3. As I have just posted on another thread (Populus thread for today) the fact is that it seems to be ‘steady as she goes’ with regard to the polls at the moment.

    Anthony – if I may ask what may be a strange question concerning polling generally please. When the pollsters get together following an event like a GE, where they have all polled on the subject, do pollsters generally freely share information between themselves so as to identify errors or methods of improvement generally between them or is it a case that they jealously guard their individual methods and formulae?

  4. ????? Well, a YouGov 5 seems pretty different to me! Populus on 7 is quite a shift too, so all in all, seems a bit more favourable to Labour than last week.

  5. Bill Roy – wouldn’t know, I wasn’t a pollster just after the last election!

    More seriously, when things went wrong in 1992 I understand pollsters were very open in sharing data with each other to try and investigate what went wrong.

  6. Sue, even with a 5 point lead you will not find me panicking or even worrying. :)

    But the worrying thing for labour is they are stuck in the low 30%’s at best. Perhaps that is why all those ministers looked so glum yesterday? ;) (Just joking – I know they would have been told to look ‘sincere’ – things all politicians do.)

  7. i’m sure this has been said before by someone who
    knows more about all this, but here goes. I think
    any movement over about 4 in a single poll should have some special reason attached (ie, government gives away free money, invades China, gets shiny new leader, etc) otherwise it should be viewed with some sceptism. Polls don’t change that much that quickly – there are trends, but they can’t be detected in a single poll for obvious reasons. Having daily polls doesn’t change this even considering that we are in an election campaign. I’ve been watching election campaigns since 1983 and most of them don’t seem to have any wild fluctuations, apart from 1992. To a considerable extent the variations are just random samples around the real figure that doesn’t change that much.

  8. Thanks Anthony, it just struck me, being a total outsider, that of course there would be mutual benefits but would that be worth exchanging for hard earned information, costing as it does huge amounts of time and money.

    Thanks for the quick reply though, much appreciated.

  9. “though not really enough to distinguish a trend from random variation”.

    Not so statistically.

    Whilst the error in one individual poll is about +/-3%, take three polls together and the error drops to +/-1.7%.

    Hence, taking all 3 polls together, there is a clear statistical indication of a small drop in Conservative support and a clear small rise in Lib Dem support, both of about 1.5%, with Labour unaffected. The confidence level for this is around 90%.

  10. I must admit I am shocked at how many polls are coming out at the moment. The key information is the sampling quantity. Apparently some polls depend on only 1000 results to project – therefore there is bound to be some variation from day to day based purely on natural fluctuations linked to who has been polled.

  11. “????? Well, a YouGov 5 seems pretty different to me! Populus on 7 is quite a shift too, so all in all, seems a bit more favourable to Labour than last week.”

    Yeah, the latest polls do seem more encouraging for Labour. If the last week’s polls are anything to go by, I’d say the Tory lead is probably now in the region of 7%/8%, and not the 10% of the previous few YouGov polls.

  12. Yes Sue and Matt are right. I know my mood is a lot less pessmistic than 2 days ago, and the figures provide a real reason for that. But I will not get overexcited either. Tomorrow’s polls could easily paint a different picture.

  13. @MATT – well done for stating the bleeding obvious regarding the lead – I saw that somewhere else……. oh yes on the front page rolling average (top right in case you missed it)

  14. @Tony Fisher – so only a 10% var for your information – although I agree the potential for variance is lower due to agreeing polls I would only agree in this case if the timeperiod between the polls hadn’t been so great. So statistically you can’t show that one is a narrowing and not indeed a bounce from the period not polled

  15. @Paul Croft

    Two people out of 100 isn’t many, but don’t forget it has to be 2 out of EACH 100 – for sample size 1000 you’d need the same pattern (on average) to be repeated ten times. For a sample size of 10,000 you’d have to get the same average anomaly 100 times – pretty unlikely. So it might be better explained in terms of the 20/1000 people who’d have to change in a single poll, rather than 2/100.

  16. @MATT – well done for stating the bleeding obvious regarding the lead – I saw that somewhere else……. oh yes on the front page rolling average (top right in case you missed it)

    The front page rolling average identifies medium/longer-term trends, as I understand it. My prediction of their being a 7%/8% lead is specifically to polls in the last 3 or 4 days.

  17. Further to my last post Keir, medium/longer term polls are of less interest now, especially as the election campaign has started and we are getting closer to election day. Public opinion changes with every story, political debate etc. Therefore, averaging polls out that were conducted 2 or 3 (or more) weeks ago will probably become less relevant in the time ahead.

  18. They say good things come in threes.

    Yesterday “The Toon” were promoted back to the Premiership

    Earlier today I spent a great 7 hours walking in the beautiful Cheviot hills, hills designed by God to keep out those heathen hordes from over the Scottish border (only joking Amber and any other /scottish readers).

    Back home tonight I see that the Lib Dems have increased share in all three polls.

    What more could a man wish for – more of point 3!!!

  19. When I said averaging out polls that were conducted 2 or 3 (or more) weeks ago, I obviously meant that recent polls are still taken into consideration as well. Just thought I’d clear that up in case of any confusion in my phrasing.

  20. I do not wish to bore people but it appears evident to me that the inevitable is happening.

    An incumbent party is benefittting from two things. Sadly, for the oppostition, things which they cannot avoid.

    Things aint that bad, you can get angry for a long time about an awful lot of things, but the truth is, things aint that bad.

    Secondly, the opposition have never been given a proper chance to show show that they can change “not that bad” into something great.

    Unless the can, voters will not in sufficient numbers think they are worth backing.

    1992 politics repeats itself.

    Seee you all in 2014 :) ……. even for the Blairites leaning Labs, Brown will have gone by then

  21. Eoin Clarke


    An odd set of assumptions!

    1. Labour win and actually implement 4 year fixed terms for Westmidden.

    2. The 4 year English cycle will begin in 2010, with the rest of us always having the important elections a year later.

    etc etc

  22. @Oldnat,

    regarding independance, you are right to query.

    In Belfast, I will be honest we query it every day.

    I sequnce needs to occur in thsi order for it ever to be possible…..

    You lot need to go first….
    Then Ireland,
    Then in a million years cornwall,
    then, maybe , just maybe, wales………

    You will get about 33% this time round. I can understand you lot fraternising with the Tories being in. That might push it close to forty. But the ecnomic crunch and the collapse of the Free State’s ad Icelands economy means that your whole arc thing is scuppered….

    Cameron is not Thatcher… few wil hate him, I am not sure if it is possible to hate him. the verbs are endless but hate is not one of them. thus, thinking that Cameron increases the chances of a yes vote is silly…….

    A popular labour westminster, will accelerate split ticket voting, drive tactical voting locally to SNP… If Sturgeon and co. continue to do a good job in Scotland, th evote will build that way… not through hatred, unpopularity or failure of Britain.

    When you lot do abandon ship, we will soon follow…. :) :)

  23. My impression, particularly from the subsidiary results of the Populus poll, is that the electorate is getting the following narratives:

    Con: Things are terrible, we will make them better and protect business
    Lab: We are nurturing the economy towards recovery – it’s going to be tough but we’ll protect the most vulnerable
    LD: We are neither of the above and can have an influence in a hung parliament
    UKIP: 75% of our laws are passed in Europe and we’ll stop immigration
    BNP: Britain for the British
    Greens: Didn’t know they existed

    Take your pick

    pace nationalist/NI parties who don’t really count for much as far as Westminster is concerned, even to their own nationals

    My impression without the benefit of polls is that for most voters billions or trillions or the markets mean nothing

  24. Eoin Clarke

    For once I wasn’t talking about Independence (or even fiscal autonomy which amounts to the same thing).

    Simply that the new (where the hell did that come from?) Brown idea of 4 year fixed terms for the English/UK Parliament is as ill thought out as asymmetrical devolution was in the first place.

    A recipe for conflict. While that might speed up Scots Independence, I’d much prefer it to happen without rancour (well, at least until the English learn that we’re selling off 9% of Whitehall, and the contents of the “National” Gallery, and the Tates, and the British Museum and ……….) :-)

  25. @oldnat

    i’ll give you one thing, your method of achieving it is a lot more nuanced, and dare i say it patient, than any nationalist that i have ever met……………

    its those two adjectives that turned me off the whole endeavour……..

  26. @Eoin

    “Things aint that bad”

    The only possible Conservative counter-argument to that is “yes they are, actually”.

    It all depends on who you are and what you value.

    I’m glad to hear that things aren’t that bad for YOU, but don’t expect that to be reflected in the polls!

  27. Eoin Clarke

    We’re a pretty nuanced lot!

    btw, What will you guys do with your share of the extensive UK resources in London? That Olympics site looks like a good bit of real estate.

    We will, of course, cut you a reasonable deal on the oil reserves in the Rockall basin.

  28. @oldnat,

    Rockall Rackall, you will never fall…. to ……. greedy hands… you will meet the same resisitance that you did in many lands… may the seagulls rise to pluck your eyes… as the waters crush your fall…. may the natural gas brun your ass and blow you all to (you know the place)

  29. Eoin Clarke

    What? You want it all? :-)

  30. @yariv,
    You approach the comment in the wrong spirit….

    Unfortunately for you, it strikes me, I was only being objective…. certainly I can assure you it was not partisan….

  31. @oldnat

    Well we’ll give iceland a bit… that way they can recompense your southern cousins for the recent troubles….

    and maybe we’ll throw in a bit for fairpack

    how is that?

  32. @OldNat

    “at least until the English learn that we’re selling off 9% of Whitehall, and the contents of the “National” Gallery, and the Tates, and the British Museum and ……….”

    You’ll have to if you’re going to fund:
    a Scottish
    Passport Office
    Diplomatic Service
    Revenue and Customs
    Armed Forces? or will Scotland follow the Costa Rica model?

    New Forth bridge
    Repatriate RBS and HBOS – price tag £60bn (or find another use for Gogarburn)

    and last but not least…
    The next stage of Edinburgh trams (and pay off the first stage) :-)

  33. @Eoin

    Sorry, I have a habit of approaching things in the wrong spirit ;)

    I didn’t think it was partisan (certainly not deliberately so) but an assessment of good/bad can never be objective, by definition!

  34. An alternative way of looking at things is:-

    If people don’t dislike/hate Labour, and still see the Tories as the ‘nasty’ party, then why is it that the Tories have been consistently higher in the polls?

    Of course, there is only one alternative explanation – a growing number of people now perceive the Tory party as not being ‘nasty’.

    I wonder which it is – dissatisfaction with Labour which has turned them towards the ‘nasty’ Tories, or the softening of the Tory image?

  35. Oh, and while we’re in Scotland, for anyone tempted by recent Edinburgh promotion attempts on this site, see

    Haste ye awa’

  36. The Budget report inevitably knocked Labour off their minor recovery in the polls and they are no regaining that lost ground. I expect the gap to close a little more to and Cameron will fail to get a majority which given the circumstances would be a very poor outcome.

  37. @MATT,

    excellent post…………….. a bit of both

    but still, yet, surprsingly, just not quite enough…

    lets be clear the conservative party will get more votes than the labour party…….

    personally, I think it is a shocking advert for democracy that Labour could form a gov with less votes

  38. Greengrass

    Ah the irony of posters who don’t understand!

    On independence, we take our share of the debts and assets of the UK.

    You didn’t really think you got to keep everything that the UK owns did you?

    As to your list –

    Edinburgh trams were an idea of the Brits. The first stage is already paid for.

    “Revenue and Customs” ? – where have you been? The UK has an integrated HMRC Department, which seems a perfectly reasonable model to follow. The infrastructure already exists in Centre 1 in East Kilbride, and we no longer need to pay for your bit, so that’s fine.

    DVLA/Diplomatic Service etc etc. Good God, I never thought of all these things !!!! We’d better ask the Danes, Norwegians, Swiss, Slovakians, Irish and all these other nations who do these things quite easily how on earth they manage it!

  39. I personally suspect it’s a bit of both. I take Eoin’s point that Labour is not really massively unpopular for an incumbent that has been in power for 13 years (i.e. most parties that have clung onto power for that long are unpopular with the electorate to some degree). However, I do think Labour has undoubtedly lost a lot of popularity over the past 2 or 3 years. Also, I do think the Tory image has softened under DC, as the Conservatives have shifted to centre ground.

  40. “but still, yet, surprsingly, just not quite enough…

    lets be clear the conservative party will get more votes than the labour party…….

    personally, I think it is a shocking advert for democracy that Labour could form a gov with less votes”

    The latest polls would indicate that a hung parliament is still the most likely outcome, agreed.

  41. @greengrass,

    having had an intimate relationship with the british army whilst they very kindly frequented the green shores of ireland, i could not help butnotice that they were mostly scottish

    thus, if i may, sugget that scotland would never struggle to form its own army. Hell if they had struggled, Ireland would be free by now.

  42. Eoin Clarke


    I’m sure the English could have found someone else!

    Joanna Lumley would have helped them out. After all, she defeated the UK Government.

  43. @oldnat,

    Alas my friend the damage is done…..

    One day, sometime, somewhere, I have no doubt it will all be repaired. :) :)

  44. Eoin Clarke

    Yes I know.

    Between the Bruces, the Plantation, and the Troubles, there are rifts to be mended.

    Celts have history – but dreams of the future too!

  45. I completely agree with Anthony.

    @Tony: I’m afraid you are mistaken. Assume for simplcity that the MoE for 3 polls averaged is indeed 1.7%. Even if the underlying vote shares are constant there will be a random variation, and the probability that in (say) 5 days there will be one pair of days when the share changes by 1.5% is very high.

  46. Just for fun I worked out last night polls in seats.
    This is what I got:
    Cons 297 Lab 267 Lib.D 55 Others 31 Cons short 29seats.
    I felt DM came across well on Question Time. Ming usual good performance, TM fair show no clangers but looked stressed.

  47. Naughty, naughty Celts winding up the Brits.

    But come to think of it there are a few Americans who might take a bit or two of the Tates and the British Museum off your hands. And I hear that there just MIGHT be something there that actually belong to Greece you could give back while you’re at it.

  48. @JR Tomlin

    Some Celts ARE Brits.

    If the Americans want their treasures back, I demand they return London Bridge first. And Cadbury’s. (Tony Blair they can keep.)

  49. Some simple analysis. Post-boundary changes, the Conservatives have pro forma 214 seats. They need 326 seats for an overall majority. Looking at their list of top 200 target seats, with a swing in these target seats of just 6.1% they get the requisite 112 additions. With a swing of 11% they get ALL their 200 target seats (and more) for a majority of 89+. Right now the polls are somewhere inbetween, say 7-11%. Thus, mathematially based on current polling results, the Tories should win by an overall majority of somewhere between slim and a landslide. So why all the talk of a hung parliament?

  50. Every time the almost daily polls go up and down , do we have to have the same drivel from the usual suspects about how their chosen party is now doing better/worse.
    Why not just post your comments three weeks in advance or do a bit of cut and pasting . These threads are becoming very , very predictable in their content.

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