Time for a post-mortem of the European election polling. I’m not a fan of the sort of horse-race approach to these things – just because they are the final poll of the race, they still have normal margins of error, so if one pollster is a fraction more accurate than another it is often just the luck of the draw. Realistically the best a pollster can ever hope to do is get all the results within the margin of error. Better than that is luck. However away from the public “who won” stuff, comparing poll predictions to actual election results is an absolutely critical tool for pollsters – it’s our chance to compare our figures with reality, to improve and finesse our methods.

The final polls from each company are here. Note that I haven’t included Populus – they did conduct one European poll, but it was a fortnight before the election when just a week is a long time in politics! While I’ve included it in the comparison, one should allow some leeway for ICM for the same reason; their poll’s fieldwork finished a week before the actual election.

CON LAB LD UKIP GRN Average Error
ACTUAL RESULT 23.9 25.4 6.9 27.5 7.9
YouGov 22 26 9 27 10 1.4
(-1.9) (+0.6) (+2.1) (-0.5) (+2.1)
ICM 26 29 7 25 6 2.0
(+2.1) (+3.6) (+0.1) (-2.5) (-1.9)
Opinium 21 25 6 32 6 2.1
(-2.9) (-0.4) (-0.9) (+4.5) (-1.9)
TNS 21 28 7 31 6 2.2
(-2.9) (+2.4) (+0.1) (+3.5) (-1.9)
ComRes 20 27 7 33 6 2.6
(-3.9) (+1.4) (+0.1) (+5.5) (-1.9)
Survation 23 27 9 32 4 2.6
(-0.9) (+1.4) (+2.1) (+4.5) (-3.9)

The most obvious current difference between Westminster polls is the reported levels of UKIP – there is a big gulf between the levels of UKIP support report recorded by companies like ICM, MORI, YouGov and ComRes’s phone polls and polls from newer companies like Opinium, Survation and ComRes’s online polls. We don’t know what the reasons for this are – there are a couple of things like prompting and re-allocating don’t knows that we can account for, but mostly the difference is not easily explained. It may be something to do with interviewer effect, or the representativeness of different companies samples. We can’t tell.

The European elections were obviously an opportunity to check figures against reality. I half expected the polls to all converge together in the run up to the election, as they have a tendency to do before general elections, but in reality we got the same sort of contrast as we do in Westminster polls. Higher figures for UKIP amongst newer online companies, lower figures from YouGov, lowest from ICM… and when the votes were counted the YouGov figure was the closest.

Of course, European elections aren’t general elections. On the issue of prompting, for example, every company prompted for UKIP in their European polling, whereas only Survation do it for general elections. There were no telephone polls for the European election, so it can tell us nothing of them. European elections are low turnout elections, so some of the errors may have been down to too strict turnout filters (ComRes used a very strict turnout filter for Euros and would probably have been better if they’d used the method they use for general election polling. There was the issue of the Independence from Europe spoiler party on the ballot paper and so on. At a purely personal level though, getting UKIP right at the next election is the biggest challenge currently facing pollsters, so I’m relieved that in the first real proper national test we got it right. Phew!


440 Responses to “European polling post-mortem”

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  1. Virgilio

    I wonder if the German AfD might join up with the EFD group. They’re usually reported as being anti-EU, but they’re more anti the Euro as far as I can see. Alternatively they might be a good fit for the Conservatives.

    Ireland (N & S) and Malta are still counting as STV wends its weary way through numerous counts. In Malta it isn’t helped by the way in which Maltese elections also act as Party primaries. So of the two main Parties the Nationalists (EPP) have 11 candidates and the Labour Party (SED) 12. For six seats.

    Normally it’s very difficult to see it going any way except 3-3 but there’s a chance that PL might get 4-2 (the current situation for reasons incredibly complicated to explain). No other Party has a chance to get near the duopoly, though the Greenish ADs and the hyper-Right Imperium Europa both got around 3%.

  2. @ PETE B

    Really interesting. UKIP could be at 5% at next year’s GE, or 15%, or more. We really don’t have a clue, which makes it all the more intriguing. I suppose a lot will depend on the manifesto when it is released at the autumn conference. Expect enormous scrutiny to be focused on that. I imagine Farage will actually take the time to read this one and it hopefully won’t be “rubbish” ;)

    Reading that link re Wales it appears that the other parties there were very much caught off-guard by the extent of support for UKIP, which came within 4,400 votes of topping the poll. In the three previous Euro elections, Wales had been the second- or third-worst ‘region’ for Farage’s lot. Only in the East Midlands did its vote share increase by more since 2009 (+16.45%) than in Wales (+14.76%).

  3. Thsnks

    EU has been cquite positive for workers with the social chapter, working time directive, H and S and for thr environmental witj laws on for example ccar omissions etc Plus more recently transaction tax and cap on bankers bonuses. Also there are other good things for example compensation if your flight is delayed.

    Although there are worrying things i.e the new trade deal with the US and problems with re-nationalising.

    In general the EU would have been fine without the crash and Austerity and also it probably expanded too quickly given the economic circumstances. Yhe rise of the far right and anti-EU parties is a consequence.

    Maybe if the pro-EU parties talked about all the positives that Europe has done things we now take for granted and if the EU did more of the good things – for examlple enshrine trade union rights – then folk would be more disposed to vote and vote positively.

  4. On ukip isn’t it true that the predominantly white working class voters who voted for the bnp have gone to ukip now the bnp has collapsed? Plus the many working class voters who have traditionally voted tory as well.
    Its too simplistic to say if you are a white working class voter of ukip you must have been a labour voter before.
    A third source of ukip support will be people who have not voted for many elections

  5. Neilvw
    UKIP will have to be very careful with their GE manifesto, as I’m sure they know. It will be difficult to produce something that will satisfy both the golf-club colonels and the disillusioned working class supporters, and of course the media will be all over whatever they come up with to try to find contentious items. yet they need to be bold. If they produce something anodyne, they risk being seen as no better than the rest. Rather them than me, but as you say it will be very intriguing.

  6. I just came across this on Twitter:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bol-m8CCMAA90hv.jpg:large

    “Farage: I’ll fight Salmond to save Britain”

    So in September, Farage can say “It was UKIP wot dunnit”, or if the other things happens, he’s looking at a more UKIP-friendly rUK.

    Interesting times.

  7. Yep still counting in NI although they seem to have given up for the night and will resume tommorow. In Ireland itself, 6 of the 11 seats have been won, 4 of them by parties that have never held power in national government there, whereas the usual suspects (in power now or recently) aren’t doing so well. Not an uncommon picture over much of Europe at the moment.

    Would it not be a good idea for the EU to insist these countries choose a slightly quicker version of PR? Just imagine if everyone used these versions.

    Those competing manifestos in the UK are going to make very interesting reading. Some people and/or voters for each party are going to be quite disappointed. Pinning down where these extra UKIP voters came from will be hard, also determining whether they are temporary (“protest”) voters or new converts. Watch the polls and find out, I suppose.

  8. @ROGER MEXICO
    I believe that ECR is much more suitable for AFD than the EFD, that after all might very well dissolve with the departure of Lega Nord. As far as Malta is concerned, the final result in number of seats is Labour 4 PNL 2.

  9. KeithP

    “Would it not be a good idea for the EU to insist these countries choose a slightly quicker version of PR? Just imagine if everyone used these versions.”

    Since the new MEP term doesn’t start till 1 July 2014, what possible difference does taking a couple of days longer to use a preferential system make?

  10. Virgilio

    You’re probably right about AfD, there will be so many waifs and strays arriving at the EP though that I suspect all sort of new Parties will be created to enable new groupings.

    Malta is still to close to call – they’re now on the 28th continuing hour of counting and still only on count 15 with only one MEP elected and 16 candidates remaining. We may have a clearer idea when the remaining two non-PL/PN candidates have been eliminated.

  11. Good Morning All.

    All to play for in the next 11 months or so.

  12. VIRGI:LIO

    @”(I don’t like the term Euro-skeptical, we never say homo-skeptical or xeno-skeptical!)”

    The term Euro-sceptical is necessary, because it indicates a difference in degree with Euro-phobic.

    A Phobia, from its Greek root, implies aversion or even fear. Sceptical means having doubts or reservations.

    You need these two words to distinguish -for example-between the Europhobia of Farage & the Euroscepticism of Cameron. There will be many other examples of this difference of degree amongst politicians ,& lumping them all into one would be misleading.

    Of course one doesn’t talk of homo-scepticism. It would be a meaningless concept.

    With regard to xeno-scepticism, , whilst the term is never heard, it is necessary to find a word/words which distinguish between fear /dislike of foreigners as individuals ( xenophobia) ; and concern about the social & economic effects of immigration in a particular place , which involves no specific attitude to foreigners in general.

    If you do not allow for the expression of these gradations of meaning & intent, ,you run the risk of pushing everything into extreme categories, and turning rational concerns into irrational political movements.

  13. This report from BBC is very interesting:-

    “French President Francois Hollande has said the EU must reform and scale back its power, amid a surge in support for Eurosceptic and far-right parties.

    Mr Hollande, whose party was beaten by the far right in last week’s European Parliament election, said the EU had become too complex and remote.

    In response, he will tell EU leaders at a meeting in Brussels later that they must focus on boosting the economy.”

    So the battered French President moves onto Cameron’s ground & Euroscepticism becomes a necessity !

    There is no doubt that these Euro elections have added weight to DC’s reform & repatriation agenda.
    Whether the national leaders , and the Commission can bring themselves to change the Federalist Juggernaut remains to be seen.

    And even if they can, it will clearly not be enough for Farage & his ilk.

    But last thursday’s votes definitely moved things in Cameron’s direction.We will see if he , Merkel & Hollande can agree on something which addresses the wave of discontent with the current EU.

  14. Before I retired/worked for myself I used to work for a multinational company, the last 7 vacancies were filled by Polish people.

    That is what people dislike, when I went down to the shop floor people asked me why those positions could not be filled by a Englishmen, I did not really have an answer.

    The management said it was because they were the ‘Best candidates’ they also paid them £8000 less per year.

  15. You mean…Cameron and Hollande will be allies against Merkel?

    That’ll be fun. Colin will not know who to support.

  16. @ Colin

    What happens if DC gets what he wants in Europe before the GE though ?, will that weaken his position in 2017.

  17. One thought I had when i saw a headline saying that London growth was outstripping the rest of UK was…and who are they voting for in London?

    It’s possible Chris Lane was right, economic good times help Lab as much as Con. So when wages to outstrip inflation, that might see people go red, not blue.

  18. ‘You mean…Cameron and Hollande will be allies against Merkel?
    That’ll be fun. Colin will not know who to support.’

    You don’t need to know a huge about European politics over the last few decades to know that this simply isn’t going to happen. The French will do nothing that could be seen as threatening in any fundamental way EU institutions; that is how Cameron’s agenda will be viewed, probably rightly.

  19. Nick P

    “You mean…Cameron and Hollande will be allies against Merkel?”

    No, I don’t think Colin means that at all. Merkel has some sympathy with Cameron’s desire for change already. If Hollande starts to agree as well then change becomes much more possible. Holland’s position has changed because of the rise of Le Pen’s party.

  20. ‘One thought I had when i saw a headline saying that London growth was outstripping the rest of UK was…and who are they voting for in London?
    It’s possible Chris Lane was right, economic good times help Lab as much as Con. So when wages to outstrip inflation, that might see people go red, not blue.’

    Is it growth in London or growth in the South-East? If the former, are they counting only the people who live there or the money spent there/ goods and services produced there? I would be highly sceptical of the notion that Labour did well in London due to an improving economy! Poverty rates in the capital, after all, are still some of the highest in the country.

  21. @ My previous post – ‘Is it growth in London or growth in the South-East? If the former, are they counting only the people who live there or the money spent there/ goods and services produced there?’

    That’s not very well expressed I am afraid – my main point is whether London growth necessarily benefits in any straightforward way the people who live there.

  22. It’s too easy to pigeonhole Labour’s success in both the council and EP elections in London to migrants/descendants of migrants. While that may explain Croydon and Lewisham, it doesn’t explain Merton and Redbridge. Nor does it explain how close Labour came in Barnet, or the significant improvements made by Labour in Bromley and Bexley.

    What the council elections may be showing is Labour starting to tap into the Tory working class vote in some of the outer London boroughs. These are people who voted Labour in the councils and UKIP in the Euros.

    It will be interesting to note whether in the months ahead Labour can export this trend to other areas of the UK – particularly the Midlands, where there are large numbers of similar voters.

  23. NEWFORESTRADICAL

    Despite what i posted to Nick I tend to agree with you. Hollande and the French will never agree to any fundamental change to the EU for all sorts of reasons mainly motivated by fear.

  24. I agree with Nick.

    Nick agrees with Chris.

    Concerning the fact that rising living standards are not always bad for Labour.

  25. @RAF,

    I don’t know Merton at all, but I used to work in Redbridge, and live about a mile away. Large parts of Redbridge (Ilford, Gants Hill etc) have been transformed from white/Jewish areas to Asian areas over the past 30 years. Even the “whiter” parts like Woodford Green are now a preferred destination for wealthy East African Asians and other middle-class minority groups.

    If you check out a map, you’ll see that Redbridge is a little bit different to its neighbour Havering. Havering stretches out into what is basically Essex countryside. But Redbridge, although it borders Essex, sits at an unusually “thin” part of London. The southern border of Redbridge nudges against what is basically inner city (Leytonstone, Walthamstow, Stratford). The leafy areas to the North are still part of Essex and so are not reflected in the voting stats. The long term direction of travel for Redbridge is towards Labour, so long as they continue to be the party of choice for minorities.

  26. (that should be lived about a mile away).

  27. We may get some analysis of who lent their vote to UKIP.

    Anecdote is not evidence I know but FWIW my 76 year old mother has voted Labour mosot of her life and voted the UKIP in the Euro-Poll as did a number of her friends.

    She says it is purely about Europe and that she will be back to Labour at the GE.

    (Please to say my Dad did not by the way – he said they are just taking the protest votes that used to go LD which we know is true in part)

    So – 3 groups voting the UKIP.

    Extreme Rightwingers – ex BNP etc

    Euro-phobes/strong sceptics

    Protest voters.

  28. @Neil A

    I take your point.

    Also lumping Barnet into a working class argument was a bit of a stretch on my part!

  29. @Jim Jam

    It will also be really interesting if we could have an analysis of those who voted differently in the council and EP elections and why they did so.

  30. TOH

    Thanks for your reply to NickP on my behalf-which I agree with.

    I have some agreement with your post to NFR though.
    DC & Merkel are on the same page. DC has called for completion of the Single Market & supply side reform. Merkel’s response to the vote was to call for “competitiveness, growth & jobs”.

    I fear that Hollande’s version would be “Protectionism, growth & jobs”. Indeed the French national instinct for protectionism is to be found in Le Pen’s own anti-globalisation agenda.

    The new EU Parliament is going to be very chaotic too.

    I see that the CBI has warned all new UK MEPs to work “hard” for UK job interests. That is a not very coded message to Farage’s proud stance of Anti-EU inactivity in the EP.

  31. If anyone doubts the sheer speed and scale of London’s transformation to a “non white” city, this is a useful little document I’ve found.

    http://sprc.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/BME-communities-statistical-profile1.pdf

  32. i think Hollande and Cameron are unlikely to agree about what needs changing about the EU.

    Cameron would probably want to scrap the social chapter and human rights. Hollande would probably want to print lot of Euros to support jobs. Merkel? Might agree to some minor adjustment to labour rights, tweaks to human rights but he win;t gonna like central bank support of weaker economies (without which there is no Euro, by the way).

  33. BLUEBOB

    I don’t know-there are so many variables with this political kaleidoscope in Europe , & in UK, that we need to see how things begin to settle before options & possibilities emerge.

  34. JIM JAM

    The Times’ Rachel Sylvester claims that a third of UKIP voters last week did not vote at the last GE-and a fifth had not voted for 20 years!

    What is it about NF which overcomes that sort of apathy?

  35. NICKP

    @”i think Hollande and Cameron are unlikely to agree about what needs changing about the EU”

    I tend to agree.

    But Hollande is on the back foot domestically, and in the EU world of backroom deals & compromises, a power base is everything. So Merkel emerges as top dog in that respect , from the EP elections.And I think her instincts will be more aligned to DC than to Hollande.

  36. I think it says a lot about the sensationalist British medias coverage of the Euro elections when an American article on it seems to be the most level headed I’ve read so far!

    http://bloom.bg/1kFJ390

  37. It would appear that the rather simple reason that labour won in Hammersmith and Fulham is that the electorate felt that the incumbent council there was no good and needed kicking out. It could well be that this is what went on in other places as well.

    Sometimes we overanalyse things.

  38. I haven’t read the whole string so this may have been mentioned before. All 3 main parties are following a key seat strategy and focussing money and resources on target seats where the election will be decided in 2015. This policy, according to the marginals polling released by Lord Ashcroft, is paying off for Labour. It is not, therefore, surprising that the main parties did not do well in a national election based on regional PR, with a very low turnout. Quite simply, the work has not been done in areas that are either considered safe or unwinnable. Neither would there have been party machines to get out the vote on the day.
    One of the reasons that Labour did so much better in London was that there were also highly contested local elections and a number of key seats that went to the polls. This bodes well for Labour in 2015. The strategy looks as if if is working.

  39. I haven’t read the whole string so this may have been mentioned before. All 3 main parties are following a key seat strategy and focussing money and resources on target seats where the election will be decided in 2015. This policy, according to the marginals polling released by Lord Ashcroft, is paying off for Labour. It is not, therefore, surprising that the main parties did not do well in a national election based on regional PR, with a very low turnout. Quite simply, the work has not been done in areas that are either considered safe or unwinnable. Neither would there have been party machines to get out the vote on the day.
    One of the reasons that Labour did so much better in London was that there were also highly contested local elections and a number of key seats that went to the polls. This bodes well for Labour in 2015. The strategy looks as if if is working.

  40. @Colin – “What is it about NF which overcomes that sort of apathy?”

    I think it’s a straightforward matter – he has his own thoughts, not those of focus groups, and he says what he thinks. This is easy to do for a single issue party. At the GE it will be more difficult, as he will have to have a response across a range of issues, but essentially he is talking about things he personally believes in, in a manner that is open and transparent.

    To me, this was illustrated when Mrs A made a valid observation of NF’s recent performance regarding a minor side show during the campaign, when all the leaders were being asked about Prince Charles’ comments on Putin.

    Clegg, Milliband and Cameron all made some vague and meaningless utterances. The point was abundantly clear to everyone – that the heir to the throne really should not speak publicly about a foreign leader being akin to Hitler – it was an error – but these three chumps simply could not bring themselves to critique HRH, as all the focus groups tell them the royal family is untouchable.

    What does Farage do? He tells the interviewer very openly and succinctly that while he is a big fan of the royal family and is loathe to criticise them, obviously Prince C shouldn’t have said those things. Short, punchy and utterly honest.

    When we listened to this on the news, Mrs A observed that any of the main party leaders could have said what Farage said, and would have been respected by voters for being honest. That they didn’t, shows how far up their own @rses they are (her words) and how politicians are so terrified of ‘making a gaff’ that they speak in anodyne and meaningless platitudes that turn everyone off.

    I must point out, for the sake of clarity, that Mrs A is in no conceivable way a UKIP supporter.

  41. I suspect the UKIP manifesto will be artfully vague appearing to be all things to all people.

    They go on Marr or DP to be questioned about it….

    ‘I think what people want to talk about Jeremy/Andrew/Other is immigration.’ And they’re off…

  42. While waiting for the new Ashcroft poll, unless I missed it, I had another look at his marginal poll. The VI when asked about ‘your constituency’ showed a couple of points higher lead than the standard question, so Lab are still benefitting from ABT tactical voters in these marginals.

  43. COLIN

    The Times’ Rachel Sylvester claims that a third of UKIP voters last week did not vote at the last GE-and a fifth had not voted for 20 years!

    That seems very unlikely. When Peter Kellner analysed a month’s worth of YouGov polls:

    http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/02/24/where-ukip-gets-its-support/

    he found that at most 12% of UKIP supporters were 2010 non-voters. And those who vote in local and EU elections (under 35%) are going to be the sort of people who vote all the time, so you would expect the proportion to be even less.

    There are always some people who are energised by a new political movement (and some new voters), but the vast majority will be those with some interest in politics anyway – especially for a group attractive to an older age profile such as UKIP.

    As with a lot of political ‘reporting’ this is at best based on anecdote – she probably talked to/knows three people who voted UKIP. Tabs or it didn’t happen.

  44. ALEC

    Thanks

    Yes-that is certainly part of it , I am sure.

    But there is more , I think.

    That all of these “protests” have appeared across EU at the same election is significant too . I expect you & I would agree on the reasons for that ( and since the protest is from Left & Right it shows that Euro-scepticism is cross party ) . But I wonder if NF & his counterparts have in part at least been fortunate receptacles of a wave of disaffection looking for a vehicle of expression.
    ie they were in the right place at the right time-after all UKIP has existed for 21 years.

  45. Roger

    Thanks.

    I don’t know if she is correct or not.

    But since she was referring to UKIP voters in the EP election, PK’s statistic probably isn’t equivalent.

    Actually one hears NF quote stats like Sylvesters about his voters-so the source would be interesting to establish.

  46. @Chris Riley

    “It would appear that the rather simple reason that labour won in Hammersmith and Fulham is that the electorate felt that the incumbent council there was no good and needed kicking out. It could well be that this is what went on in other places as well.”

    But it wouldn’t explain why neighbouring councils such as Hounslow and Ealing, already Lab controlled, got a substantial Lab boost across the boroughs. In Hounslow, my stamping ground, this is partly explained by the tories imploding/kippering themselves which was a factor in them losing all their seats in the west of the borough. But even in leafy and very prosperous Chiswick, strongly Tory, Lab vote share increased substantially despite the perceived misdemeanours of the council (shutting and selling off the local day centre, for example)
    I actually think this is the ‘cost of living crisis’ (though I hate the term) in action. People can get jobs, but they are precarious and they have trouble making ends meet. House prices are through the roof, no social housing available, rents rising fast and no security of tenure. I could go on….

  47. @Chatterclass: “One of the reasons that Labour did so much better in London was that there were also highly contested local elections…”

    Another factor to consider is that in London all seats were contested whereas elsewhere just four authorities had every seat up for election against over 100 with only a third, a handful with just half contested and many other places with none at all.

    A possible scenario is that UKIP turnout was consistently high nationwide because of the Euro vote but non-UKIP turnout varied depending on the proportion of local wards being contested – high in London but suppressed outside where fewer council seats were being fought.

    Any thoughts? Did turnout vary significantly between places with and without locals?

  48. A lot of sense from Blair with respect to EU and in particular the LDs. [on BBC politicis]

  49. The demographics of London are certainly seem to be helping Labour – it seems that Tory voters are moving out of London conceding more seats to Labour there whilst moving into the suburbs where all they are doing is increasing the Tory majorities.

    If London does gradually moves into the list of places that the Tories seem to be more or less giving up on (Scotland, North East, North West, South Wales, most large cities) then it becomes increasingly difficult to see where a Tory seat majority is going to come from in the future.

  50. Colin

    Agree with your comments about the French response, it’s what I meant when I used the word fear. Protectionism is exactly what Holland will seek as a counter to Le Pen.

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