Lord Ashcorft has published some new polling of marginal seats, full details here. As with the ComRes marginal poll in the week the seats polled were mostly ultra-marginal seats – in this case, the 12 most marginal Con-Lab seats, the 12 most marginal Lab-Con seats, but whereas the ComRes poll was a single sample representing the most marginal 40, these were 24 individual samples, one from each seat. Ashcroft also added two seats that are less marginal, but thought to be good for UKIP: Thanet South and Great Yarmouth.

The fieldwork for Ashcroft polls was done between the 31st March and the 18th May. During that period the average Labour lead in the national polls was about 3.5 points: that’s the equivalent of a uniform swing of 5.25%. The average swing in the twelve CONSERVATIVE ultra-marginals seats was 5.5%, The average swing in the twelve LABOUR ultra-marginals was 6.5%.

That means that in contrast to the the ComRes poll in the week, the swing from Con-to-Lab in Conservative ultra-marginals is pretty much in line with the national swing, a fraction of a percentage point better for Labour compared to the national figure. In Labour-held ultra-marginals the swing is a little larger, which is what we’d expect to find (parties do a little better in seats they hold due to the incumbency effect of the local MP).

It’s not a very exciting finding – swing in Conservative marginals not vastly different to other seats – but it’s one that gives me some confidence in the poll. The reality is that come general elections marginals as a group are not usually vastly different to other seats. The swing is sometimes a little bigger or smaller, new incumbents normally do a little better, but the contrast isn’t normally vast.

While I excluded them from the sums above (as they were selected because they were unusual, so would have skewed the sample) I should comment on those two extra seats polled – Thanet South and Great Yarmouth. Both were chosen because there was an expectation that UKIP would be doing well, and in both cases it proved to be true – both had them in a very strong third place, with 28% in Great Yarmouth and 27% in Thanet South. Their strongest performance though came in a seat that was part of the normal sample of ultra marginals – Thurrock, where Ashcroft found them at 29% and in second place behind Labour. Thurrock was also one of the seats where UKIP did extremely well in Thursday’s local elections.

UPDATE: Actually I’ve just spotted that the fieldwork in the Tory held seats was done earlier than the fieldwork in the Labour held seats. So comparing the swing in Con-Lab seats to the swing in national polls at the time the polls were done shows no difference at all (both show swing of 5.5%). Comparing the swing in Lab-Con seats to the swing in national polls at the time those polls were done shows Lab doing about 1.5 points better in seats they already hold.


241 Responses to “Ashcroft poll of marginal seats”

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  1. NICKP

    @”If UKIP fall back Lab gain too, ”

    Why would a Lab-UKIP defector decide to return to Labour because DC persuades some Con-UKIP defectors to return to Cons?

    And anyway-if there were no Lab or Con 2010 voters with UKIP VI in this morning’s YouGov , the Headline VI would be 38/37/9, which the UKPR mixer says is Hung-Lab 6 short.

    And are LDs really going to get only 9% ?
    38/37/12 is 8 short.

    You need Lab defectors to return & Con defectors to stay where they are to compensate for the greater proportion of the latter.

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  2. Roger Mexico,

    Yes, NI21 has imploded in quite a dramatic way just as they approached the finishing line. Redesignating just before an election is a bit a bit like UKIP choosing to turn pro-European on Wednesday.

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  3. @ Old Nat

    “Yet, given the degree of personal attack by parties on the leaders of other parties, presumably they believe that diminishing favourable views of their leaders will lead to electoral success.
    Meanwhile the perceptions of their own boss apparently doesn’t matter.”

    Well, that makes me wonder. Are there ever leaders of parties who are liked by people who vote for other parties?

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  4. “Why would a Lab-UKIP defector decide to return to Labour because DC persuades some Con-UKIP defectors to return to Cons?”

    If Con play the anti-immigration/anti-EU card (as they are doing) watch Lab’s polling improve in disgust.

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  5. @ Number Cruncher

    I was thinking about your prediction from yesterday based on the Ashcroft Poll. Like I said I didn’t really understand how you had done it but I could see on two examples I tried you were spot on with the calculations.

    I was wondering about weighting though- ie that the responses from party supporters to particular questions were not weighted (why weight other than to get the overall %age accurate for the nation as a whole). I realised your theory could be checked by taking a different Ashcroft Poll where he has done a similar thing.

    As I said, I didn’t fully understand what you were doing so I could be wrong but when I tried it on one of his other polls I could not get the percentages to work (taking percentages of an individual question and getting to the weighted top line voting intention).

    I’m as likely to be wrong as right but was wondering if you could run that through with one of Ashcroft’s other polls to check the principle?

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  6. NICKP
    Ask not for whom the Euros tole.

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  7. @RAF – “He’s an ultra Blairite”

    In the way that Christopher Grayling (comtemporary at Cambridge) and other ex-SDP of that vintage like Danny Finkelstine are ultra-Blairites?

    Rawnsley was the first to find a chink in the armour of New Labour (Blair vs Brown), and was so successful that no one in the media or indeed the Labour party was ever able to see politics through any other lens. He also singlehandedly created perception that Brown was a bully in time for the 2010 election.

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  8. I thought Rawnsley was correct to mention a shadowy shadow cabinet [well, I made that term up but he did make the point that they weren't seen a lot and I have made the point before that I doubt most people could name any except Ed Balls.]

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  9. @ Colin

    “And are LDs really going to get only 9% ?”

    I don’t see why not. Obviously not set in stone but based on Thursday’s elections I believe the narrative is that LD’s generally do worse at a GE than they do in the locals so 9% would fit in with that.

    The other question is where they would get an increase in vote from? Certainly Lab tactical voters in LD-Con marginals and if the polls are looking close I think more Lab voters will “hold their nose” and vote LD. But those marginals are restricted to 20-30 seats out of 650 and seems to be largely factored in anyway.

    The only other obvious one would be Con voters voting tactically for LD anyway to keep Labour out in a LD-Lab marginal. But again restricted to 20-30 seats. The number of seats depends on how many the LD’s fight hard and pressure for the tactical vote- I’m guessing this will pretty much be the ones they currently hold.

    Of course doesn’t mean they don’t get 57 seats again but they can still do that from 9% of the national vote.

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  10. @Shevii

    Tactical Lab-Lib switching may be further reduced by expectations of LibDem loss – a further impact of being seen to do poorly at these elections. If you think that the LibDem MP is going to be booted out anyway, why vote for them rather than Labour (assuming you support Labour)?

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  11. “For three days now I haven’t eaten at all

    my my I must be getting so thin

    soon my cap won’t be large enough

    to stick a half-a-crown in

    ‘cos I’m a one-man-band nobody cares or understands

    Is there anybody out there who could lend me a hand

    with my one man band???”

    Leo Sayer

    [now he SHOULD have been banned]

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  12. @ Nick P,

    If Con play the anti-immigration/anti-EU card (as they are doing) watch Lab’s polling improve in disgust.

    They’ve been playing that card for a year (remember the “Go Home” vans), and Labour’s polling has not been improving.

    Also it seems unlikely Lab -> Ukip defectors are going to be terribly distressed by Tory anti-immigrant rhetoric. It might, in theory, win back some Green defectors or drive away some moderate Tories, but so far it’s done neither.

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  13. It’s quite possible I am deluding myself, but ever since that mass switch of anti-Tories to Lab in late 2010 it has seemed to me that the mathematics of FPTP prevent anything but a Lab win, and UKIP actually makes that more rather thanes so.

    Only the actual election will prove one way or another.

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  14. The latest YouGov shows a 1% Labour lead which is exactly in line with the Rallings & Thrasher national equivalent share of the recent council elections Con 30, Lab 31 (plus 1 since 2010) UKIP 18 (down 4 since last year), LD 11.
    Looking at the detail Government approval is steady on -23 which is not good news for the Coalition.
    David Cameron is on -9 slightly worse than a week ago
    Ed Miliband is on -41, one point better than a week ago
    Nick Clegg is on -56 slightly worse.
    Nigel Farage is on +18 almost doubling his approval in a week. No great surprise here, he has shown he has the “common touch”.
    Other questions generally show a slightly worse performance score for the Government.
    Finally If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after
    the next election, a Conservative government led by
    David Cameron or a Labour government led by Ed
    Miliband? Cons 41 Labour 37 a 4 point lead for the Tories 1 point better than it was in February.
    Based on history the Tories should be the happiest 11 months before an election, but I think we all agree (whatever our politics that 2015 is unlikely to follow a historic pattern. It looks like the economy and who fights the nest campaign will settle the issue.

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  15. “Of course doesn’t mean they don’t get 57 seats again but they can still do that from 9% of the national vote.”

    On the ole swingometer Lib Dems get 32 seats even if nobody votes for them.

    Its the incumbency effect.

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  16. “It looks like the economy and who fights the nest campaign will settle the issue.”

    You’re mixing up politics with your bird-watching Howard.

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  17. Has there been a YG today ??

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  18. Yes labour lead of one
    Cons 34
    Lab 35
    Lib dems 9
    Ukip 13

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  19. ROSIEANDDAISIE

    Touché

    I was actually commenting on today’s YouGov and of course it should have read “best campaign”.

    Hope you are in less pain now.

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  20. @TOH

    Generally agree, except that I think it’s too late for the economy to make much difference. 1) the importance of the economy is overstated in what makes people vote. 2) much of the change will be too late to meaningfully impact peoples lives – macro economic change takes a long time to work through to people.

    There will be other political things that will make a difference, but I don’t know what they will be.

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  21. A bit of LD muck throwing this morning but I’m not sure it amounts to a great deal. We’ve known since 2010 that some councillors don’t like the coalition but most, and almost all MPs, realise that there is no point to the LDs without taking coalition when the opportunity comes.

    I can’t see Clegg being thrown out before the GE, though it will be interesting to see what happens afterwards – if they perform badly but are still are coalition he might then be chucked out as they look to learn from this cycle.

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  22. THESHEEP

    To some extent I agree that it takes time to work through but we do have an Autumn statement and a budget before the election. Lots of good news on the economy would also have an effect on the feel good factor. Of course if there is a string of bad economic news then the effect will be negative. There may also be an interest rate rise which would please some but upset a lot of others. The economy will definitely have an effect, probably positive for the Government parties.

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  23. I recall property rising in London by £1000per week back in 1988 until joint tax relief was removed.

    Then things went a bit pear shaped.

    It would be a shame if the staged pre-election boom led to a horrific bust that might damage the incoming Government but it will damage the UK (i.e. all of us) more.

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  24. OLDNAT

    Allan Christie

    Yet, given the degree of personal attack by parties on the leaders of other parties, presumably they believe that diminishing favourable views of their leaders will lead to electoral success.

    Meanwhile the perceptions of their own boss apparently doesn’t matter
    ____________

    Absolutely.

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  25. Watching the Marr show and Iain Dale (The blog father) read out an article in one of the papers saying Labour voters polled say dump Ed and get Chooka to win the election.

    Well he’ll certainly get the Latino vote.

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  26. @Jack Sheldon

    I can’t see Clegg being thrown out before the GE, though it will be interesting to see what happens afterwards – if they perform badly but are still are coalition he might then be chucked out as they look to learn from this cycle.

    I agree he will stay until the election, but can’t see the circumstance in which he will continue afterwards.

    This period has been very traumatic for the Lib Dems, and for Nick’s sake, I think he needs to go.

    The party has a load of rebuilding and reconnecting to do, and the only way the public will begin to accept them again is:

    a) Kick them them in their ‘electorals’ until the public are satisfied

    b) Clear out the top of the party and start again.

    There is simply too much negative baggage that follows Nick and his colleagues in the cabinet for them to be the future.

    I suspect the next Leader who can heal the wounds will need to be someone distant from the Coalition, and closer to the grassroots. I think Tim Farron fits the bill. He has be critical at times of the Conservatives, seems to be liked by the party membership, comes across a plain speaker and is clearly not from the same mould as Cameron/Miliband and Clegg.

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  27. Lord Ashcroft is a man of many sterling qualities, but he seems to have as much difficulty with the concept of repeatedly polling the same marginals so we can understand how things are changing over time as he does with the concept of paying his taxes.

    Nevertheless, the Labour targets he polled this time are a subset of the Labour targets he’s polled in the past (with the exception of Great Yarmouth and Thanet South), and by throwing out the two additions and sorting the remaining constituencies into his weird brackets (who lumps Cardiff and East Anglia together??) I’ve managed to make a quasi-meaningful comparison.

    Unfortunately I had to throw out the big marginal poll from last March because a) it was done by a different pollster and b) it covered seats much further down Labour’s target list, so the brackets really aren’t comparable. But I put in the 2011 and September 2013 marginal polls, which covered similar seats but twice as many of them.

    Here’s the table:

    http://i.imgur.com/1XVonLN.png

    Since September of last year, Labour has dropped about a point in the marginals, in line with the drop in the national vote share. The Tories are also increasing roughly in line with the increase in their national vote share, maybe even outperforming it a little. That would be excellent news for them, except that they’re about 9 points behind in these constituencies when they’re at parity with Labour in the national polls, as they were back in 2011. In a neutral year these constituencies now lean red (good work, Agent Clegg!) and the Tories will need a big lead to hold them.

    The really striking thing is how little difference Ukip seems to make. They’ve shot up from 3% in 2011 to 15% now, but only 5% of that increase seems to be coming from the main parties, and the gap between them is still the national Labour lead + 9%. The Tories can be reassured that Ukip aren’t splitting their vote, but it’s not clear that returning Kippers would help them catch up to Labour, since the gap seems independent of the level of Ukip support.

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  28. SHEVII

    @”Of course doesn’t mean they don’t get 57 seats again but they can still do that from 9% of the national vote.”

    Exactly. I was probably using vote share as a proxy for seats-because UKPR’s swingometer gives them a lot less seats for 9%.

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  29. CATMANJEFF

    They will keep Clegg up until the election because to dump him beforehand would probably lead to the coalition splitting which aint in both parties interests.
    …..
    “There is simply too much negative baggage that follows Nick and his colleagues in the cabinet for them to be the future”
    ____

    I agree but I wouldn’t look towards any big names who aren’t in the cabinet.

    Blair and Cameron were relatively unknowns and quickly became leaders and ultimately the PM.
    I think they will change their leader after the GE but don’t expect him/her to be a household name.

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  30. COLIN.
    Good morning to you from sunny beach.

    I think the LD Party will not reach 9%.

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  31. CHRIS

    Good morning to you too-from the sunny Weald.

    You think they will get less I expect.

    But as has been pointed out their votes to seats relationship can be confusing.

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  32. The media are ignoring the reality of the results of the local elections in portraying Lab as having failed, despite gaining well over 300 seats. UKIP have only scored limited successes in a few areas. I expect UKIP to come well behind Lab in the Euro elections too, but this will also be mis-reported as a Lab failure and UKIP triumph.

    Based on the latest YG poll (Lab 35, Con 34, UKIP 13, LD 9), which is not especially favourable to Lab, Electoral Calculus estimate that they would still have an overall majority of 6. The only risk to Lab would be a YES vote on 18/9/14, as the number of seats for rUK would be approximately Lab 271, Con 277, LD 13, PC 2, NI 18, with no possible 2 party coalition commanding an OM other than Lab-Con!

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  33. I don’t think Clegg will be ousted before the GE.

    I think LD’s final trauma will come afterwards when Lab , with most seats but no OM reluctantly approach them for a coalition deal.

    The few LD MPs left-probably orange rather than red-will find themselves at odds with their Party activists, and the LD party will finally tear itself apart.

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  34. And so the final-year swing to the incumbent begins.

    Cameron must be secretly very satisfied with the LE results. As Matthew Parris wrote in the Times yesterday, the clear conclusion from them is that Miliband will not be prime minister after the next GE. To win in a year, he ought to be at least 6 or 7 points clear by now. Instead it’s a virtual dead heat.

    Tories to win an overall majority of around 30.

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  35. Spearmint
    Good work,
    like I said back in the mists of time (last week) “Steady the Buffs” must be Labour’s watchword until the dust settles on these results, and the Euros.
    Alan Johnson gave a master class in playing a straight bat on Radio 4 this morning.
    Pressman, if you have any influence at NI , then the Subbie who came up with the ‘ Artful Todger ‘ headline in today’s Sun deserves a Tenner !

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  36. @ shevii

    Which Ashcroft poll did you look at? The two national ones he’s done recently have an extra column for swing voters… Since the proportion of swingers is different within each party’s support, the analysis won’t work in those cases.

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  37. @Chris

    I don’t think the old maths works given the existence of the coalition. The Conservatives should pick up support going into 2015, but it’s unclear that the LDs will.

    “If you don’t like me, vote Labour” Nick Clegg – Sept 2012.

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  38. COLIN

    I’m still not convinced Labour will be the largest party after the election however I do agree the Libs will tear apart.

    In fact I think we are looking at the SDLP scenario and they will disappear into oblivion.

    New thread out BTW and some interesting polls out.

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  39. @ Roger Mexico and Billy Bob

    Today, I attended the local League of Women Voters candidate forum for the Congressional candidates in California’s 33rd. I figured that this would be as good a time as any to give you an update on your favorite HBO reality tv series: District 33.

    This forum, like many of the previous ones, featured nearly all the candidates (there are 19 on the ballot but 2 have dropped out). With 14 candidates present today, they were divided up into 3 groups of 4 and 1 group of 2. It was quite a trainwreck as you might imagine.

    I don’t spin here though when I say quite honestly that the winner of the forum was Democrat David Kanuth, a public defender (criminal defense attorney) who’s never run for office before. He was articulate, poised, and seemed to have an idea of what he’d do in Congress. A principled liberal who would at least attempt to be a leader in Congress. And yet he doesn’t take himself too seriously, even joked about being a leader from the first day of his life, having chosen to have been born on Independence Day.

    Of course it doesn’t matter since he’s already banked my vote. He still has much to learn but all freshmen really will. Plus, here’s my opportunity to send a public defender to office. I figure if there’s any district anywhere that will elect someone who’s both a left wing public defender AND a member of several exclusive country clubs and yacht clubs, it’s the 33rd.

    Here was the interesting part of this forum though. Although licensed joyologist and independent candidate Marianne Williamson is quite clearly a “wacko” (to quote my mother), she’s not actually the craziest candidate in the race (just the one with the best chance to win and a band of devoted, cult-like supporters).

    If this race couldn’t get any stranger, just a few weeks ago, a 27 year old by the name of Theo Menonopolous entered the race and is running as a write-in candidate and an independent. He used to be a House Page sponsored by Waxman at one point. He apparently dropped out of his Ph.D program in political science at Columbia University to run for this seat. I think he might be crazier than Williamson.

    And this is where Mr. Kanuth had a distinct advantage today over other leading contenders, of the three people he drew against him in the debate, all three were crazier than Williamson. You had Republican Kevin Mottus who believes that cell phone companies are part of a conspiracy to cause cancer and that we’re all being manipulated by attempts to create a Smart Grid system. Then there was the aforementioned Decline to State Menonopolous who’s foreign policy views are repugnant btw (yes, I actually listen and want to give the guy a chance). And then, winning the race to crazytown was Democrat Vince Flaherty who sputtered out angry rants at society and got into an argument with the moderators over the debate rules. Next to them, Kanuth looked like a frickin’ Kennedy. But he still did the best overall.

    Another leading candidate, radio host Matt Miller (who seems preoccupied with having people read his book) had a plane flying today for four hours up and down the coast of Los Angeles County with a large banner reading “Matt Miller for Congress – Endorsed by the LA Times.”

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  40. DAODAO
    The only risk to Lab would be a YES vote on 18/9/14, as the number of seats for rUK would be approximately Lab 271, Con 277, LD 13, PC 2, NI 18, with no possible 2 party coalition commanding an OM other than Lab-Con!

    You may be right in the rest of what you say, but aren’t you forgetting that the Scottish Government is not planning to declare independence until March 2016? Even that is criticised by the No campaign as being too short.

    In the meantime, there will be 59 MPs for Scotland in Westminster, and they’re much more likely to receive votes in Holyrood-like proportions than in any current polling. My guesstimate is something like Con 0, Lab 10, LD 1, SNP 48.

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  41. One outcome of the 2015 local election rewsults apears to be that the next General Election may be very patchy, with Labour doing better in London and in a select range of targeted marginals than elsewhere. In particular Labour may do badly in suburban/rural areas including Essex and much of Kent.

    This is perhaps going back to the 1980s where Labour managed to remain a credible force inn the seats they had and perhaps 100 – 150 “target” seats held by the Conservative whilst becoming almost irrelevant in a wide sweep of seats across Southern and Eastern England.

    Election results are one matter, but such political polarisation has wider implications and is deeply unhealthy for dmeocracy. For how long will a dispossessed class in places like Thames-estuary Essex stand being written off, and indeed being persistently denigrated by some distinctly intolerant sections of Labour,,before taking to direct action outside the parliamentary process?,

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