We now have results from every constituency but Thirsk and Malton, where the election was delayed because of the death of a candidate. The final results in Great Britain are CON 37%, LAB 30%, LDEM 24%, Others 10%. Seats are Conservatives 306, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57, Others 28. The MORI/NOP exit poll, despite initial scepticism when it showed the almost total disappearence of the Lib Dem surge, turned out to be pretty much spot on. However, this means the final polls tended to call the Lib Dems wrongly.

CON LAB LDEM Other Av. Error
ICM 36 28 26 10
-1 -2 +2 0 1.25
Populus 37 28 27 8
0 -2 +3 -2 1.75
Harris 35 29 27 9
-2 -1 +3 -1 1.75
Ipsos MORI 36 29 27 8
-1 -1 +3 -2 1.75
YouGov 35 28 28 9
-2 -2 +4 -1 2.25
ComRes 37 28 28 7
0 -2 +4 -3 2.25
Opinium 35 27 26 12
-2 -3 +2 +2 2.25
Angus Reid 36 24 29 11
-1 -6 +5 +1 3.25
TNS BMRB 33 27 29 11
-4 -3 +5 +1 3.25
RESULT 37 30 24 10

(UPDATE – This table includes only those companies who polled in the final 48 hours before the election – genuine eve of election polls. Three companies polled during the campaign, but did not produce eve-of-election polls. RNB, BPIX and OnePoll all carried out their final polls on or over the final weekend of the campaign, meaning that strictly speaking they cannot be compared to the final result. For the record however RNB did very well indeed with figures of CON 37%, LAB 28%, LDEM 26%, BPIX had CON 34%, LAB 27%, LDEM 30%, OnePoll produced a horrific CON 30%, LAB 21%, LDEM 32%. These three pollsters were also the only ones in the campaign not to fully disclose methodology and data tables, so we can draw little in the way of conclusions on what they got wrong or right)

ICM was the closest to the final result, and was within 2 points for every party. Almost all the pollsters were within the margin of error for the Conservatives and Labour (the exceptions being TNS and Angus Reid) and for the first time in decades pollsters were underestimating Labour support! The average error of all but two of the pollsters was within the margin of error. However, this disguises the issue of the Liberal Democrats: every single pollster over estimated their support, by between 2 points and 5 points. Something was wrong here (interestingly enough, the closest poll of all was the penultimate YouGov poll that showed the Lib Dems down at 24, which at the time looked like a rogue to me when Wednesday’s poll showed them bouncing straight back. Perhaps it was indicating something after all).

Before the election most of the comments here expressing scepticism about the polls were people saying they were underestimating the Conservatives (on average they did slightly, but not by much. ComRes and Populus got the level of Tory support spot on), or that the polls couldn’t cope with the huge surge of new support for the Liberal Democrats from new voters and were underestimating it. Reality turned out to be the opposite – the Lib Dem surge was an illusion, that vanished when people arrived at the ballot box. We’ll get a better idea over the next few weeks as pollsters look at their data and recontact people they interviewed before the election to see how they actually voted – the basic question though will be whether the Lib Dem boost was a genuine surge of support that reversed at the last minute – after all, a lot of respondents were saying they might change their mind – or whether it was never really there to begin with and the pre-election polls were wrong.

Ben Page and Martin Boon have both already commented to Research Live – Ben says “On our final poll for the Evening Standard on Wednesday, we had 40% of Lib Dems saying they might change their mind. We’ll all want to look and see what we can do about soft support for the Lib Dems, we’ll have to find a rational and reasonable way of dealing with it rather than just saying Lib Dems tend to overstate. We will all be looking at certainty of vote, voting history – the surge was partly younger people – and late switching, things like that. The Lib Dems were most likely to say they would vote tactically. So the support was there but it didn’t actually manifest itself in votes on the day – Lib Dem support was slowly deflating after initial Clegstacy and on the day fell further.”

Martin said “There are some sizeable average errors out there and we all do need to take a look at our methods. Clearly all polling companies have overstated the Lib Dems, so there has to be something consistent going on. It would be a little bit premature to consider the reasons for this but it’s up to the opinion pollsters to see why it might have been the case. We’re always testing our methods and this is the best time to be looking at methodologies, assumptions and techniques in order to improve them in the future.”

The first part of the post mortem really needs to be for pollsters to re-contact people they interviewed in their final polls – did people who said they’d vote Lib Dem change their minds at the last minute (in which case it’s late swing), or did they not vote at all (in which case, perhaps pollsters need to work on more sensitive methods of predicting likelihood to vote) or will they claim they did go ahead and vote Lib Dem, meaning there was a sampling problem – if so perhaps it’s down to the Lib Dem support being the least well correlated with past vote or party ID. Did don’t knows split disproportionately against the Liberal Democrats? One possiblity that strikes me is whether it could essentially be the opposite to the spiral of silence, a spiral of enthusiasm perhaps! Political pollsters are used to worrying about people being embarrassed to admit voting for unpopular parties, and have come up with ways of dealing with it, but having it suddenly become hugely fashionable to support a party is a new problem. At least it’s one that is unlikely to re-occur too often ;)

Once I get a nice spreadsheet of results I’ll also be interesting to see how accurate the marginals polling was too. Right now, however, I’m going to catch up on some sleep. I expect there will be some polls in the Sunday papers asking exactly who the public think should be the new Prime Minister – so until then…

726 Responses to “An early post-mortem”

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  1. @Jack Jackson. All suggests coalition; and ignores the fact that it’s not NC but the LD triple lock system that has to agree that [as Marcus Antonius reminds us]. Seems unlikely they will unless serious ER reform on the table.

  2. @Colin

    I do realise that we have a huge structural deficit which needs to be tackled.

    Where are the markets going to move their money to?
    2 things I thank Brown for.
    He kept us out of the Euro.
    He nationalised Northern Rock in the face of Tory opposition.

  3. I think it was Thursday that the BBC ran a story involving Robert Peston and some city contributors who ‘confirmed’ that a hung parliament had been factored into the markets over the last several weeks and therefore such an outcome should not create significant volatility.

    Now either that was right or wrong. I think the instability in the markets was more to do with EU and contagion (one of Peston’s favourite words).

    However, this Clegg/Cameron thing sems to be set to run until Tuesday at least – they might be accused of ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’ – but what do they care?

    I think (@Howard) that Clegg will eventually be knocking on Gordon’s door.

  4. @ HOWARD,

    I guess you are looking for analysis as opposed to number crunches. The political why, rather than the numerical what?

  5. Yes, I’ve gone over with it to the new thread

  6. @ Greengrass

    Farewell :-)

    See you again some place.

    I’m looking out for an elephant now ;-)

  7. Howard

    Agreed but that’s the word.

    This whole thing is in GB’s hand. Cameron can’t deliver the 4 Clegg conditions.

    The Lib Dems have 2 good but unpalatable deals on the table.

    The one from the Tories without the guarantee on electoral reform

    The other which leaves GB in No 10 without the “moral” authority.

    One could argue that if TB had remained as Leader the result would have been somewhat better for Labour.

    Note the 4 strands of Clegg’s demands.

  8. CB

    “This business with the markets is an over reaction, it is the Tories worrying people with the plight of the top 1% again.”

    Stop playing the populist tune – it’s dangerous.

    People don’t like big business or financial sector in general at the moment – fair enough, but this is tinged with ignorance. Anyway, do people really want to cut of their nose to spite their face.

    Let me assure you that i am a long way from being in the top 1% of earners, yet I (and you, if only you’d believe it) are, eventually, at the mercy of the markets.

    Our debt problems become much worse with a weak pound etc., leading to higher taxation or drastic cuts or both.

    Furthermore, some of us buy imported goods and any weakening of our currency is straight off the bottom line. Businesses everywhere, great and small , are under threat with a weak or paralysed government.

    There is some degree of support for manufacturers with a weak currency, but firstly this benefit could be offset by other factors associated with a weak economy and, secondly, manufacturing is a long way off being the backbone of our economy anymore – about 12% of GDP I believe.

  9. @Valerie

    You said “…I think the LibDems would be crazy to support the Cons without a cast iron guarantee of at least a referendum on PR…If Clegg doesnt get it, then he should get into bed with Brown and accept his offer. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Lib Dems to get electoral reform and be more than a bunch of wall flowers…”

    This is what’s worrying me. I’ve just been over on the ConHome blog, and it does seem to be full of “how we can fool the LibDems” posts. Serious question: are CON dealing honestly?

  10. @Martyn
    My worry is that the Lib Dem Hi Command might be dazzled by the thought of Cabinet posts and chauffeur driven Limousines

  11. @Valerie

    As the financial markets’ views are the only ones’ that count, maybe we should become an oligarcy and leave the choice of Govt to them.
    What do the voter’s know? Why bother to have a democracy?

    This is a somewhat childish position. The ‘markets’ dont want to choose our government for us. They are just investors looking for a home for their money. They weigh risk and reward. If their risk goes up, then so must their reward. And if their reward goes up then we have less money to spend on the things we want to (like schools and hospitals). We are free to ignore the markets. But if we do, we can’t complain about the consequences.

  12. @Valerie

    You wrote “…My worry is that the Lib Dem Hi Command might be dazzled by the thought of Cabinet posts and chauffeur driven Limousines…”

    Oh [rudeword], not again…after being [rudeworded] by LAB in the ’70s and ’90s, it now looks as if LIB are going to be [rudeworded] by CON in the ’10s.

    Although there is a lot of evidence to support the supposition that the LIBs are naive, there *are* limits and I can’t help thinking that “Hey! Pretty girl! I have sweeties! Look, shiny limo! Cabinet posts! Now come ride in my car, MWW-HAH-HAH” may just test those limits to destruction.

    The grassroots aren’t shouting “Fair votes now!” for fun and giggles.

    Gotta go; work beckons…

  13. Howard asked if GB could stand down as PM but remain party leader until they choose a new leader. Surely you meant the other way round. As John Major did. He remained as PM and resigned as party leader until his position was confirmed in the party leadership contest.
    However on a broader issue, I cannot see that Nick Clegg will get anywhere with the Conservatives.
    It was Professor John Curtice well-known political scientist who pointed out that the Conservatives were more isolated in terms of coalition partners.

    Who have the Conservatives got? A couple of Ulster Unionists maybe. The DUP is uncertain. Then you find all the others side with Labour Lib Dem policies. Greens, Nationalists, SDLP, Alliance etc.
    However perhaps Nick Clegg thinks, How can I face the voters if I support Labour a defeated party?
    Look, Nick, your Lib Dem vote went up. You are going to change the voting system by referendum, and then you can tell your critics to get lost.
    This is a rare opportunity to reform the voting system. Don’t let the voters down. You are surely wasting your time with the Conservatives.

  14. Re top 1% earner – the limit according to ifs.org.uk is (for a single earner paying no council tax) 54200 after tax per year.

    Surprised? I was.

  15. The Conservatives are indeed isolated. There are no ‘couple of unionists’ available as the only ones left are DUPs and one independent unionist who hates the Tories. The DUP is socially conservative and economically less free market orinetated than the Tories. It doesn’t make for a comfortable marriage.

    I think Clegg’s best option is a centre-left alliance, but Brown MUST go. Brown’s failure to depart is blocking any possible deal. I suspect that Brown will receive some angry phone calls tomorrow from several of his MPs, demanding that he steps down.

  16. @RUNE I’m not surprised. That’s around £100k a year gross, is it not?

  17. “My worry is that the Lib Dem Hi Command might be dazzled by the thought of Cabinet posts and chauffeur driven Limousines”

    Nick Clegg is probably dazzled but most of his party won’t be. And his hands are tied without their support.

  18. “This is a somewhat childish position. The ‘markets’ dont want to choose our government for us. They are just investors looking for a home for their money. They weigh risk and reward. If their risk goes up, then so must their reward. And if their reward goes up then we have less money to spend on the things we want to (like schools and hospitals). We are free to ignore the markets. But if we do, we can’t complain about the consequences.”

    You sound like a banker or financier. Sure the markets have their importance, but it’s not as if the universe will swallow us up if we don’t have a new government by Monday morning at 9am. The markets survived WW1 and WW2, and they can survive a short term political stalemate just as well if not better.

  19. Talking of alternative electoral systems I once heard about a French local electoral system (I think it was during the Third or Fourth Republique?) where the election was fought on pure PR, and then the largest party had the right to elect in addition sufficient “Aldermen” to give them an overall majority of one. Has anyone else heard of this? Perhaps a variety of this might appeal the Lib-Cons as it would give the Libs a fair share of seats, but give the Tories their “right” to absolute majorities? But seriously though, can anyone enlighten me as to whether this system ever really existed, and if so what did the French call it?

  20. Realistically, the best merhod would be a mix of AV and STV. Say half of MPs elected by AV or FPTP and the other half by STV. I think Labour would accept this formula and so would the LIb Dems.

  21. As a lib dem, I have been thinking about this a great deal today.

    Ironically I think PR, although on principal fair, may not actually benefit the Lib Dems.

    In my patch for example the rough split of vote in FPTP is 45% Con, 35% Lib, 15% Lab 5% UKIP/Green.

    Under PR a good guess would be 40% Con, 25% Lab, 15% Lib, 10%Green, 10% UKIP

    In other words, the Lib Dems are much more influential as a core group of 50-75 top quality MPs in a FPTP parliament, with the glue of a perceived unfair voting system to bring in whatever coalition of green/lab/con/other voters as they can to challenge the incumbent in any given constituency.

    True PR would give us the current scenario after every election, and we would lose the connection with our local MP.

    I would prefer FPTP with a voting system in the house of commons that is weighted in some way towards the parties national share of the vote.


    What you say makes no sense to me. Under FPTP the Lib Dems only have influence if there is a hung parliament – otherwise they count for nothing. I would prefer larger constituencies – say 325 – with both the winner and the runner-up being elected. In this way you would at least retain the constituency element but have a more fairly distributed voting system.

  23. If Clegg gets into bed in any way shape or form with Cameron then the Lib Dems are finished,

    There is not a cat in hell’s chance of the Conservatives giving a referendum on PR, they couldn’t risk it

    You can imagine whoever the next Labour leader is saying in the campaign at the next election, a vote for Nick Clegg IS a vote for David Cameron.

    It would split the party down the middle and it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if many of the party resigned the Lib Dem whip as a result of it. You may also get some of the Conservative’s resigning the party whip as a result also.

    If there is a Lib Dem / Con marriage I’d say we’ll all be discussing the next set of Election Polls before Christmas.

    Clegg’s dilemma though, if the Lib Dems get into bed with Labour then at the next Election the Tories would say, see we told you vote for the Lib Dems you get Gordon Brown. The upside to that would be that the next Election would in all probability be fought under PR so the Tories could say pretty much what they wanted to as it wouldn’t really make much difference

    Decisions, decisions!!

  24. I read John Mann’s comments and agree with them. Probably best for Labour to let LD/Con sort out a presumably fairly temporary government, change leader, as long as they pick someone with some charisma and not a leftie it will do.

    When the next election comes – and it won’t be anywhere near 5 years hence, stand on a basically centrist/slightly left platform as the situation demands – might still be in 2nd dip of recession. Labour need a swing of about 4% to get a majority, that’s probably asking too much, but only about 1% to be largest party and form a stable alliance with Libdems, who I reckon next time will lose more seats (15-20?)

    This is all possible the libdems fell flat this time instead of Labour being completely demolished.

    Conservatives are in a 1979 position but very much more awkward situation than Thatcher. At least she didn’t have to worry about alliances and another election within 18 months, she could just get stuck in.
    I don’t envy Cameron at all. Apparently the Conservatives were surprised at how resilient the Labour vote was. So was I.

    Or else Argentina will try it on down in the Falklands again.

  25. I’d like to see DC form a minority govt and then dare any of the others to vote down their Queens speech, force another election within months and then gain a healthy majority next time which I think he would.

    I wouldn’t go within 10 miles of NC if I were him…

  26. @Polly Ticks

    The problem for DC is that going it alone as a minority government and then doing all the dirty work to sort out the economy risks the possibility of a vote of no confidence in 12 months time when the electorate is thoroughly unhappy.

    If that happens, it’s bye bye to the Conservatives for the foreseeable future,

    No I think a proper strong coalition is the best option for the Tories and the LD’s.

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