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. @ NumberCruncher

    Did the first two lines and although I didn’t fully understand the principle it worked!

    Think they will need to run the whole Euro election again now :-)

  2. COLIN

    “As the good Lord notes

    The research also found that most voters in these seats are optimistic about the economy, and only three in ten would rather see Mr Miliband as Prime Minister than David Cameron. As I have found in the Ashcroft National Poll, half of voters say they may change their mind before the election – and there is still a year to go.”
    ______

    Yes there is a lot in the small print some people may have missed. It will come down to the economy, it will come down to who prefers who to be the next PM and indeed one year to go.

    The future aint red.

  3. Ozwald

    @Allan Christie
    “After yesterdays council results it’s very clear the south is staying blue and the North’s going purple.”
    —————–
    Crumbs! Fascinating! I must have nodded off when that was announced. Please put a link up or something so we can all see the evidence and benefit from your wisdom and foresight
    __________

    Okay I’ll give it a bash. I reckon UKIP swooped at least 90 council seats from Labour. Now if the average council seat is 2 square miles that’s 180 square miles of Labour territory gone purple.

    Now that’s almost the size of the Isle of Arran gone purple.

  4. For the third time in two days I’ve had to refocus people’s attention on real polls- not the phoney ones we had on Thursday:

    Toby Helm [email protected] · 57m
    Labour has 1pt lead in latest Opinium/Observer national poll. Labour 33 (n/c), Tories 32 (+3), Ukip 19 (-1), Lib Dems 7 (-2).

  5. @ Colin @ Arnric :Welcome (and thanks!), I’m just curious about the real results like everyone else!

    @ Muddy Waters: Thanks, the equations don’t solve *exactly* due to the rounding, so what I did was to minimise the total squared errors.

    @ Phil: Mathematically speaking no it doesn’t, but if you’re trying to infer voting intention then it could do, depending on whether the table is weighted to VI or not. It’s a valid concern and hence my caution…

    @RAF: Agree with your thoughts on the numbers. Re London, I guess the regional weighting will have been done by electorate size rather than actual turnout (probably higher in London due to the locals). So yes, there could be an impact from that.

  6. @ Shevii: Well they already had to, because the Dutch national broadcaster NOS released a Dutch exit poll on Thursday :)

  7. ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “The future aint red”. You forgot to add “IN MY OPINION”! No one knows result of the 2015 GE election any more than anyone else.

    Perhaps Antony could clarify, but isn’t the Ashcroft marginal poll EU section an “OPINION” rather than an “EXIT” poll? IE people asked their voting preference rather than asked as to how they had actually voted as they left polling places on Thursday 22nd May?

  8. @Number Cruncher

    Thanks. Despite your caution, that 1/6 on bet still on offer from Ladbrokes for Ukip to top the poll tomorrow is now looking very attractive.

  9. By way of a coincidence I’ve looked in a totally unscientific way at Hastings & Rye (31st Lab target/34th Con defence).

    Labour and Conservative vote share in Hastings BC 2014 (75% of voters in 2010) + Brede Valley & Marsham and Rye & Eastern Rother in the CC 2013 (25%):

    Swing to Labour of 5.5% giving Lab 40%, Con 33%.
    (Lab 35% + 5%, Con 23% + 10%… Hastings + Rye etc.)

    Questions arise about the extent of a Ukip swing-back to Con in 2015, and whether Con still enjoys the higher likelihood-to-vote (or the extent to which Labour’s gotv is already maximising turnout in local elections).

  10. Nick P,
    Do not take any notice.I love your enthusiasm and commitment.

  11. @Allan Christie

    If elections were calculated based on land area rather than population, I think the motto about the Conservatives being the party of government would actually be accurate.

  12. COUPER2802

    Thanks for the “Wings over Scotland” reference, fascinating.

  13. “Ashcorft’s poll of marginal seats is all very well but it doesn’t take in the EM unelectability factor.”

    People know he is the leader of the Labour party and has been for 4 years.

    I really think this is just wishful thinking on the part of right-of-centre voters who don’t want to believe the polling is genuine, that somehow it must be wrong.

    To think that people vote primarily because of the individual appeal of one person, rather than what the party represents, is an incredibly patronising view to take.

    I don’t doubt that some people vote according to how smooth a party leader is, or how nice their suit, but the majority do not and polling has shown this to be true time and time again. Thatcher won in 1979. She wouldn’t have done if it was a leader popularity contest.

  14. Good summary IIMSSO AW.

    It is a pity, as with Comres, that so many Lab-held were chosen, but the results are so consistent across the piece, that these polls carry high credibility value.

    We owe a debt of gratitude to Ashcroft for doing this. I just wish we could have a few more per year (one always wants more).

  15. ANN IN WALES
    Nick P,
    Do not take any notice.I love your enthusiasm and commitment.
    Report comment

    But this is what is completely unbalanced about this site now. Highly partisan and emotive comments for Lab are indulged. Same sort of comments for Cons and all the site regulars gang up on the poster and harass them until they go. This I have seen happen time and again over the last year, hence why I rarely post now (And for the record my comments are balanced of course!)

    :-)

  16. Allan Christie

    Since much of the forestation on Arran has reached maturity and has been felled, so that you can see the heather, a lot of Arran is indeed purple at some times in the year!

  17. NumberCruncher’s algorithm basically gets a ‘best fit’ by ‘automated’ trial & error, rather than solving it as a simultaneous equation.

    The main problem is, we have whole %s in the tables. And they completely mess up any chance of accurately solving this as an equation or using an algorithm.

    By messing about with the roundings of the answer %s, I can get a reasonable result using:
    CON 22%
    LAB 31%
    UKIP 27%
    LD 6%
    OTH 14%

    I chose C22, L31 & UKIP 27 because that was my prediction (I doubt it matches Ashcroft’s polling result!) but by changing the roundings of the answer %s in the table which NumberCruncher used, I can ‘force’ an outcome that’s almost as good a ‘fit’ as NumberCruncher’s despite using significantly different figures.

  18. SHEVII

    Thanks for that, interesting Opinium poll, significant improvement for the Tories since the last one I think.

  19. @ALLAN CHRISTIE: “It will come down to the economy, it will come down to who prefers who to be the next PM”

    Will it, though? It’s not hard to find examples where it didn’t.

    “only three in ten would rather see Mr Miliband as Prime Minister than David Cameron”

    Yet only three in ten of them say they’ll vote for Cameron against four in ten for Miliband. It hardly looks like the PM preference is a deciding factor.

  20. origimbo

    @Allan Christie

    If elections were calculated based on land area rather than population, I think the motto about the Conservatives being the party of government would actually be accurate
    ________

    Well I’ll give you that on the premises you’re talking about the electoral map of England.

  21. @ AMBER STAR

    Your point is taken, but until all is revealed tomorrow we have to make do with what we have got!

    Doesn’t look encouraging for the Lib Dems, whatever else happens.

  22. Dimbles

    “People know he is the leader of the Labour party and has been for 4 years”

    “I really think this is just wishful thinking on the part of right-of-centre voters who don’t want to believe the polling is genuine, that somehow it must be wrong”
    __________

    I take it you’re referring to pollsters in that statement? Poll after poll show EM is a liability. I know it shouldn’t be about looks and personal appearance but that’s the British public for you and polls reflect this.

  23. Rich,
    Please.Do not get so excited.I only post rarely so how I can be part of a gang is beyond me.In the past I have been supportive of your posts but perhaps you
    Have forgotten that.if you have reported my post I think that is rather silly.I like
    Nicks enthusiasm,whatever is wrong with that?

  24. OLDNAT

    Allan Christie

    Since much of the forestation on Arran has reached maturity and has been felled, so that you can see the heather, a lot of Arran is indeed purple at some times in the year
    ___

    Lets hope it isn’t too purple yet and the sixth seat goes yellow. ;-)

  25. RICH

    You’re missing the point.. Labour are above criticism.

  26. “I take it you’re referring to pollsters in that statement? Poll after poll show EM is a liability.”

    No, they show that EM underperforms his party when you compare his personal ratings with party ratings.

    But these are of course very different things. People don’t necessarily support Labour because of EM, but because of basic decisions about values and how the party aligns to them.

    To suggest that people will abandon all principle just because they think EM is a bit weird is both incredibly patronising and has no basis in polling evidence. When people are prompted to think about party leader in their vote, it doesn’t change.

  27. Allan Christie: “I take it you’re referring to pollsters in that statement? Poll after poll show EM is a liability. I know it shouldn’t be about looks and personal appearance but that’s the British public for you and polls reflect this.”

    But that’s the point isn’t it? People are telling the pollsters that they’re not especially impressed with EM; yet a plurality of them also say that they intend to vote Labour anyway. I don’t see any reason to accept the first part of this conjunction but not the second.

    If EM is an electoral liability, then the VI headlines already reflect it. There’s no reason to suppose from the polls there that there’s some extra leadership factor in people’s current perceptions which isn’t already reflected in the VI data but will somehow come into play nearer the election.

    Of course it’s possible that relative perceptions of the party leaders will change, and VI with them, – but that’s not something that can be discerned from the current polling.

  28. Thanks Number Cruncher! :-)

  29. @ALLAN CHRISTIE: “Poll after poll show EM is a liability.”

    What, all those polls that put Labour in the lead, including Ashcroft’s? What they show is that dislike of or doubts about Miliband don’t prevent people saying they’ll vote Labour. And nor did it prevent Thatcher getting elected in 1979.

  30. Ann in Wales

    Nothing wrong with enthusiasm and I agree Nick has lots of it. So do I, although mine is against a party rather than in support of one.

  31. No posts reported Anne. :-)

  32. @ARNRIC

    I’m glad that NumberCruncher did the algorithm thing & he didn’t claim it was anything other than it is – a best fit for the data as presented by Lord A.

    I certainly don’t want anybody to think that NumberCruncher has got it wrong, I just wanted to point out that he’s working from data which inherently permits a fairly wide range of outcomes.

    If it turns out that he’s exactly correct then it’ll be partly due to luck – i.e. the rounding errors cancelled each other out but – until we have the Ashcroft poll outcome – we just don’t know whether they do or not.

    And I agree with you about the LDs, I think that they’ll not be celebrating on Sunday night.

  33. Well I have been wondering for some time when the Lib Dems would crack and finally it looks like they might be :

    @rosschawkins: EXCL: Two Lib Dem PPCs say Clegg must go. Lib Dem MP John Pugh compares Lib Dem high command to generals at Somme

  34. It just doesn’t get any better for the LibDems. Dissent in the ranks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27561917

  35. The threshold is 75 Constituency Liberal Parties. Doubt those in Manchester, Liverpool or London will be best pleased…

  36. Stan J

    UKIP have lost 12 of 139 from last year’s intake, while their councillors have the best attendance record of any party. I’m not sure how that compares to other parties but it feels disproportionately high.

    It’s the usual problem with small samples. Six of the ones they lost were because of a split in the UKIP group on Lincolnshire County Council:

    http://thelincolnite.co.uk/2013/09/timeline-the-rise-and-troubles-of-lincolnshire-ukip/

    I suspect that UKIP might attract the sort of people who see themselves as putting principle before party in any case and so more likely to leave if they don’t like the way things are going. And people without the long roots in a party will not have the social and emotional connections that might make them think hard before leaving.

  37. and Real score…

  38. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/24/ukip-hitlist-20-seats-commons
    Interesting article from UKIP which gives a list of potential UKIP target seats for 2015.

  39. The Other Howard and Rich,
    Then we all support enthusiasm which is good.Glad to see that the courtesy and good manners of this site are more important than our political affiliations.

  40. Interestingly, one of the signatories to the LibDems4Change petition is Councillor Colin Ross of the Dore and Totley ward on Sheffield City Council. Which is one of the wards which make up Sheffield Hallam. Oh dear.

  41. I can remember Harold Wilson himself saying in 1970 that an opposition had never won when the Leader of the Opposition’s personal rating was lower than that of the Prime Minister. Despite Wilson having a big advantage Ted Heath did win the election.

    I have no doubt that if Labour now had a leader with the personal popularity of Tony Blair in 1997 they would win a lot more seats than they will with EM. On the other hand I would rather have EM as PM than a crypto-Conservative like Blair.

  42. KILLARY45
    I can remember Harold Wilson himself saying in 1970 that an opposition had never won when the Leader of the Opposition’s personal rating was lower than that of the Prime Minister. Despite Wilson having a big advantage Ted Heath did win the election.
    I have no doubt that if Labour now had a leader with the personal popularity of Tony Blair in 1997 they would win a lot more seats than they will with EM. On the other hand I would rather have EM as PM than a crypto-Conservative like Blair.

    This is spot on. Right now, with EM, as I have predicted for a couple of years, I feel they will limp over the line with a tiny majority. With David Miliband I think they would have a comfortable working majority, but too many of the Labour members didn’t like the move to the centre and very conservative politics of the Blairites, so it seems they would rather have a tight election and no guarantee of actually winning, over a comfortable win from a more center or popular position. This is the long and short of it for me. Maybe it’s principled.

  43. Rich,

    There is a common view in the Labour Party (I won’t say whether or not it’s my view) that a small to moderate majority under a leader who has big ambitions is a much preferable situation to a landslide under a leader who they perceive as having no ideas.

    Presumably such a view is also common in the Conservative party. I still dispute the idea that David Miliband would have done any better but that’s all academic now.

  44. @ Gray, (or fifty shades of truth)

    “The BBC doesn’t list UKIP as having had councilors in Barking, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow, Merton or Richmond. . . . But at least from the 2010 elections, UKIP didn’t have any seats in any of those boroughs…”

    Um. Well they are all there in the Guardian “results”!
    All defectors from 2010? I also checked some of the candidates’ lists for these boroughs & there are plenty of UKIP candidates, tho far from 3 per ward.

    But I do admire your prodigious research (not yr spelling): makes a change from the IMO stuff. As you say the UKIP element complicates greatly the definition of seats as X/Y marginals (I think that was your point)

  45. Rich

    But Athletico were FPTP. Shouldn’t they have won, instead of this very non-British system of allowing teams to sneak in by the back door? :-)

  46. I am afraid one simply must take notice of the polling where all this about who is best PM is concerned. My subjective view is that EM has a poor impact, but the polls say that it is not preventing a Labour lead and this highly important marginals poll from Ashcroft underlines this. What should be perhaps considered is that Labour supporters are perhaps less loyal to leaders (as a personality quality they enjoy) and thus that ‘disloyal’ polled third of Lab supporters may just feel that EM is not bold enough in a leftward direction, rather than worried about whether he is geeky. After all 100% of Labour-polled supporters will vote Labour, come what may.

  47. Various respondents.

    Okay EM is wonderful and beyond criticism. I should had read the rule book.

  48. OLDNAT

    Rich

    But Athletico were FPTP. Shouldn’t they have won, instead of this very non-British system of allowing teams to sneak in by the back door? :-)
    ______

    LOL

  49. I was thinking about FPTP and PR and all the liberals who used to call for this. Presumably the rise of UKIP has changed their less than principled position???!

  50. Allan Christie,

    Want to watch your straw supplies, stuffing all those men must be getting through a heck of a lot.

    Rich,

    Nope. Still think it’s right! Not about stopping or helping any one party, that job is for policymakers and campaigners to do.

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