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. @Guy Monde
    I am well aware the left does not like this kind of comment, the fact that it is true makes absolutely no difference. But, Labour did very well in London as a whole because London is full of immigrants and they vote for the immigrants party. A couple of years ago, Labour supporters on this site begged AW to ban me for making this point. To his credit he did not and indeed produced figures regarding ethnic voting intentions to support my case.
    I was more than delighted in Milton Keynes during the Unitary’s and Euro’s that we,(Tories) had by far the most ethnic candidates, however, it will be a years more before all Indians realise that they are the worlds natural Conservatives. Family, Wealth Creation, Private Education, Professional Qualifications and a Mercedes Benz on the drive of your own 5 bedroom house.

  2. Roland Haines

    I certainly agree with your view of Indian immigrants asirations and yes that does make them natural Conservatives.

  3. @ Neil A
    “If anyone doubts the sheer speed and scale of London’s transformation to a “non white” city.”

    Not sure why anyone would doubt it? That’s what most big, prosperous western cities are like these days! Mixed.

    Manchester is a sort of mini-London. The city experienced fastest rate of urban growth outside London 2001-2011 & is now 33% non-white. It has some v. poor areas indeed but also is economically expanding with, eg., house prices rising >20% last year.
    It votes Lab & even in the Euros UKIP’s vote = half the national average.

    Cf, eg., nearby Stoke. Overwhelmingly white, economically & demographically declining, v. poor indeed.
    In Euros: extremely low turn out & big win for UKIP.

  4. OllyT, I very much agree. However, this will merely motivate the Tories to move closer to the centre, perhaps into ‘New Labour’ territory, of prioritising greater social justice alongside their core mantra of fiscal responsibility. They badly need to lose their ‘nasty party’ label and, to placate the Tory Right, they could balance introducing a more generous welfare system with harsher penalties for abusers, such as demanding they refund the taxpayer all ill-gotten gains instead of being given a slapped wrist as they are now.

    TBH, I do find it strange that they haven’t done so already.

  5. @ROLAND HAINES

    Let’s assume your theory is true. Why is Labour regarded as “the immigrants’ party”? Why are even second and third generation ethnic populations disproportionately Labour? The sort of people who migrate should be a natural constituency for the Tories. That they aren’t demonstrates how limited is the attraction of the Conservative Party.

  6. When will we get the first post Euro opinion polls?

  7. @Robbiealive
    Exactly so. Stoke on Trent is a classic example of the worm turning as it did in Rotherham and elsewhere. As I have already posted, Ed Miliband needs to be very careful that the white working class don’t desert entirely, They now have a home that is not the scumbag Tories, or the silly Liberals.

  8. “They now have a home that is not the scumbag Tories, or the silly Liberals.”

    It’ll just be an overnight stay for most of them.

  9. Rogerh
    Yes Roge, very limited appeal. About 1% behind Labour.

  10. @ROLAND HAINES

    And answer came there none.

  11. @Rosieanddaisie
    Tony Blair is very skilled at making sensible statements in response to questions that he does not answer and the interviewer does not pursue.

  12. Rogerh

    You hope !

  13. Tables for the ICM poll of four Lib Dem held seats have been released -http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/2014_libdems_4polls.pdf

    It is a very detailed polls that seems to have been commissioned by an anti-Clegg figure from within the LDs. It shows that, despite the LDs doing quite well in the council elections in the region, Clegg would narrowly lose his seat (in fact, Sheff Hallam would become a 3-way marginal). In reality I think Clegg should be able to survive as the anti-Nick vote is likely to be split.

    I’d always thought Sheff Hallam might not be as safe as the 2010 result suggests because of the large population of students from Sheff Hallam uni that vote in that constituency (LD vote has totally collapsed among this demographic). However, on this data and the council results I think he’ll be OK.

    Various questions about whether people would change their vote if Cable/Alexander/Davey were leader are also asked with quite minimal differences, though enough to edge the LDs into the lead in Sheff Hallam.

    The others selected here seem a bit random to me: Redcar, which should easily go back to LAB, Cambridge where there is a large student pop who voted Huppert in last time but won’t vote LD any more and Wells where the CONs should easily get back in.

  14. Cloud spotter

    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 benefiting from ABT tactical voters in these marginals

    I presume the Ashcroft poll will be out 4pm today pushed on 24 hours by the Bank Holiday. The interviewing for the last one was done Friday to Sunday for release 4pm Monday, presumably after being analysed that day. In advance it has to be warned that polls over Bank Holidays weekends can be a bit odd sometimes.

    We know that asking a question similar to Ashcroft’s Thinking specifically about your own constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election? always makes a difference to people’s responses[1]. But there may be more reasons than a simple ABT effect. For example there may be an incumbency effect from a popular (or unpopular) MP. There may be other local effects possibly even cancelling each other out.

    For example in Hampsted and Kilburn the biggest change from that question was an increase in the Lib Dem vote as it was a three way marginal in 2010[2]. The Labour vote goes down – is that possibly because Glenda Jackson is retiring?

    [1] This is one reason (of many) why the ComRes marginals poll was dubious because they didn’t ask this. The fact they used mostly the same seats and came up with a very different figure from Ashcroft’s much bigger poll suggests we were right to ignore it.

    [2] The UKIP vote was only 3%, by far the lowest in the poll and half that of the Greens. Nobody picked BNP. Sometimes stereotypes are there for a reason.

  15. Jack Sheldon,

    Minor correction – Clegg’s seat has a high proportion of students from the University of Sheffield. Perversely, Sheffield Hallam is in the city centre and much nearer Sheffield Heeley constituency.

    Hallam’s an odd seat. Labour’s vote went up against the national trend in both 2005 and 2010. While they won it in the council elections many people I’ve spoken to there will not be voting for Clegg even if they normally vote Lib Dem.

  16. @MRNAMELESS

    The problem with anecdotes is that they depend so strongly on who’s being talked to. I remember seeing in 2010 a number of of people claiming that the Tories were bound to win Hammersmith because everyone they knew there was voting Conservative, but Andy Slaughter still got in.

    Of course polling has the same problem, but isn’t that what models are for?

  17. For those whose concerns about the increase in UK net immigration was a reason for voting UKIP, Tony Blair is unlikely to be a source of persuasive argument on the topic :-

    http://www.economicshelp.org/wp-content/uploads/blog-uploads/2012/12/net-migration2.png

  18. “It is a very detailed polls that seems to have been commissioned by an anti-Clegg figure from within the LDs.”

    Doesn’t that make it a voodoo poll?

  19. @Origimbo,

    Of course Clegg still has loyal supporters, especially in the richer parts of the constituency, and anecdotes are not hard evidence. I was merely illustrating that such people do exist who will vote LD locally and Labour nationally.

  20. 12% of Sheffield Hallam voters think Oliver Coppard is doing a good job as Labour PPC, despite 96% of them not knowing his name. Oh tribal voters, you so crazy.

  21. Roger

    I agree there may be specifics in a constituency, in fact, only half the 12 Con marginals showed an increase. The mean is skewed a bit by one or two big differences.

    Jack

    There are some ridiculous questions in that poll…
    Along the lines of Do you think your prospective Labour candidate is doing a good job? 37% had an opinion (Redcar)

  22. Yes, I agree. Ridiculous poll with slanted questions and small samples. Questions about PPCs don’t work until, say, a week before the election itself.

  23. NB: My guess is that it is Lord Oakeshott that has commissioned the poll. I may be wrong.

  24. I’ve been hearing anecdotal accounts of there being a student campaign to vote UKIP in order to “Punish Clegg”. If it occurred in large numbers, it seems like a replay of the disaster of the AV referendum where significant amounts of people were “voting to punish the Lib Dems” rather than on the issue.

    My personal advice would be to stop trying to engage with “The UKIP Voter”. Just stop. It was that behaviour that has cast the party as “legitimate” and a focus for protest votes. There is no policy short of a full on isolationist withdraw and ‘national identity by legislation’ that appeases UKIPs core votes. And all engaging with them did in the way that has been done was make them out as the anti-establishment protest vote.

    Why are people insisting that the parties should all go fight on the ground UKIP wants them to fight. It’s insanity. Immigration isn’t an issue, it’s a distraction. Stop telling people who are wrong that they are right, show some background and actually be leadership. Yes it’s scary that UKIP got votes, but remember it was a protest vote in a very small turnout election few in this country treat seriously. I don’t see how this has altered the political and economic realities.

    Someone needs to say “Actually, no, we don’t need to listen to Farage, we heard what he had to say and it’s rubbish. UKIP’s declared policies are inane, and they were shown to be totally wrong about how much immigration was going to increase from Romania! I’m appalled that so many people voted for idiots. They should be ashamed.” Sometimes you really do have to tell some of the voters that they are wrong.

    Chasing popularisim is a fools errand, because Farage set out his stall there first and you’re only going to make him look like he was right. The mistake was ever taking him seriously in the first place, and allowing him to frame debates the way he wanted.

  25. ICM Poll of Sheffield Hallam for local elections (difference from result):

    Lib Dem: 32% (-5)
    Labour: 26% (+3)
    Conservative: 18% (+8)
    Green: 12% (N/A)

    If we apply that difference to the constituency poll, we get:

    Clegg (LD) 28%
    Coppard (Lab) 30%
    Bates (Con) 16%
    Giant (Green) 8%

    Looks more likely with the tactical voting factor. Can’t find the constituency local result for UKIP so left them out.

    Interesting to note that the turnout filter helps Labour here. That’s surely Labour-voting students wanting to give Clegg a kicking. Also, 8% for the Greens looks too high. Labour might squeeze a few of them back.

  26. OLLYT

    Yes that’s a problem for the Tories – I know Tories who have moved out of marginals and headed for more rural areas where you are just piling on the Tory majority.

    []

  27. JAYBLANC

    I think your wrong. I don’t think that the huge increase in the UKIP vote was just a general protest vote. I think immigration is a big issue for many voters. Neither of us may like it but I think is is clearly an issue.

    Personally I think there should be some limitation on immigration especially those who have no skills. I am all for immigrants who bring wealth or skills which we need

  28. Apparently Cameron is trying to block Juncker’s appointment as President. Bit rich considering the ECR didn’t bother putting up a candidate.

  29. Based on the current polling, if the UK had a directly elected head of government, it seems we’d have David Cameron attempting to lead a Labour government. I’m not sure how crazy that actually seems.

  30. @The Other Howard

    I think perceived high immigration levels acts for many UKIP voters as empirical evidence for their beliefs that ‘it was better back in the day’. An homogeneous population is very much mart of the ‘idyll’ that they (falsely) imagine the Britain of past generations as being. Of course, in reality immigration has been a current issue for centuries, if not millennia, but that is not the point for UKIP types. In this sense immigration is in many ways as a shortcut for their backward looking ideology.

    This partly explains why UKIP do well in ‘left-behind’ areas such as Norfolk and Essex. Their voters imagine (largely falsely) a thriving, white and more rural community in their localities prior to the last 40 years which contrasts to the somewhat more diverse, run down towns that they live in.

  31. @ CLOUD SPOTTER

    Labour is far ahead of the Tories in appointing PPCs and having them take an active role in the constituencies particularly in the marginals. It is of course easier to build the reputation of a PPC when they already have a history in local politics.

  32. Origimbo,

    The USA has a Democratic president attempting to lead a Republican government. You can see how well that’s working by all the legislation they’re managing to pass.

  33. JACK SHELDON

    It is that sort of sniffy patronising , “metropolitan” dismissal which is garnering votes in droves for Nigel Farage.

    He just loves people like you.

  34. LizH
    Beat me to it.
    Not sounding quite so up beat all of a sudden Pressman ?
    Labour just need to keep their nerve.

    Roly H and Colin, London is so much NICER to be in than it was 30 years ago. Multicultural , friendly , prosperous. Would to God the rest of the country was like it.

  35. @Pressman

    Surely the answer to your scream of horror (12.34 p.m.) is for Tories to move into marginal constituencies where their vote will really count for something! I’ve no sympathy for people who choose the soft option and move to where they are comfortable, surrounded only by people who think as they do. It must be so boring, for a start!

  36. JACK SHELDON – You must know that the immigration since 2000 is far in excess of previous immigration levels throughout history when integration was generally quite successful. 20% increases in population across much of London due to immigration in 10 years are unprecedented.

    If you havn’t suffered the effects then you’re fortunate. Many of the poorest have and have had quality of life suffer as school class sizes have risen, medical waits (GP, A&E etc) increased, housing has shot up for buyers and renters, and transport of all forms is more overcrowded and prices have gone up in part to ‘manage demand’. Immigration is not the cause of problems in these fields but a contributing factor on top of existing issues.

    As for UKIP yes some votes come from now fractured individuals and communities feeling lost and abandoned. Having seen this first hand and worked in this area I don’t blame them. There is no doubt many areas have become run down – its not a myth.

  37. @COLIN

    Certainly not a dismissal. They are a significant group and need re-engaging by the main parties. How to go about it is the million dollar question.

  38. Liz

    We think Cameron will be PM after the election, but you have to consider something like a Tory 35-32 vote win but with Miliaband becoming PM with Clegg alongside.

    In such a sitaution, upwards of 50% could have voted for Right wing parties but we end up with Labour/Lib Dems – one wouldn’t like to speculate on the potential for civil disorder.

  39. EWEN LIGHTFOOT – what parts of London are nicer? For all the improvements in zones 1-3 you can go to zones 3-6 and see huge declines.

  40. John B

    You know full well that people won’t do that – I know families who have moved out of Crawley to the sanctity of Mid Sussex. Everyone knows someone like that in the SE.

  41. Good Afternoon All.
    In the 1964 GE, which is the first one I remember, the myth of the Tory Depression cost them votes.
    From 1979-92 the Winter of Discontent myths hurt Labour.
    From 1997 to 2005 the Boom and Bust myths hurt Tories.

    I think a similar set of myths affect the Tories now, with regard to racism. Tories have been damaged by:
    The Campaign against the race relation legislation, the Smethwick Slogan, the Conservatives in Oxford who wore those T shirts about Mandela and the Rivers of Blood Speech.
    It will take a long time to forgive and forget.

  42. Interesting mortgage data for April. Net lending up, but the number of mortgage approvals fell by 5% – the third monthly drop.

    This clearly points to large price rises, but might also herald the commencement of a slow down in activity. Very difficult at this point to know if this means a hard or soft landing.

  43. “@ Pressman

    In such a sitaution, upwards of 50% could have voted for Right wing parties but we end up with Labour/Lib Dems – one wouldn’t like to speculate on the potential for civil disorder.”

    My memory is that most riots have happened while the Tories were in power.

    Labour have got an unfair advantage at the moment under current boundaries. But this will have to change at some point, as the boundary commission changes cannot be put on hold forever. In 2020, I would think that the Tories would have a much fairer position.

    Personally I would like to see an end to FPTP, with some form of PR system instead. If UKIP achieved a higher number of votes than the Lib Dems, but only ended up with a few MP’s, that would not be fair. The Lib Dems through their fortress strategy might hold onto say 30-40 seats, even though their vote had collapsed compared to 2010.

  44. Any data on personal borrowing levels?

    Last months credit card borrowing was up 8% according to the British Bankers Association.

  45. @JAYBLANC

    Brilliant post (on the need to avoid taking Farage seriously and fighting him on his own ground). I’m in the Greens, officially we are explicitly pro-immigration but I really don’t want to spend much time talking about that to voters (unless they ask). Would much rather talk about areas in which we are strong such as the NHS, education, public transport. If people do ask I will most likely say that jobs going to immigrants is a symptom rather than a root cause of our problems (cf. the poster here who described Polish workers being paid £8K less by greedy management).

    “Someone needs to say ‘Actually, no, we don’t need to listen to Farage, we heard what he had to say and it’s rubbish.'”

    Yes and to be fair that’s what mainstream politicians were generally saying until the big UKIP donors persuaded certain newspapers to take the party seriously. Once they are dominating the media agenda then what are mainstream politicians supposed to do? – they just look out of touch if they ignore them. For me the BBC is a big problem, why are they following the right-wing papers in taking UKIP so seriously? Let’s hope the donors haven’t got to the people who run their political coverage, but you never know I suppose.

  46. JACK SHELDON

    I’m well aware that immigration has been a continuous process throughout history. Indeed it is why we are the nation we are. That is not what I suspect people are worried about. It’s the significant increase in immigration that took place over the period of the last Labour government, as shown in the graph that Colin kindly posted for us. They are worried about immigrants taking jobs, they are worried about immigrants living on benefits.

    You also imply that UKIP is a party of old people. It may have been true once but I don’t think it is now. I would love to see a poll the views of young working class people on immigration.

  47. So, if my maths aren’t failing me and using the figures provided, if you had 100 eligible voters in a room, 8 would vote conservative, 9 Labour, 2 Liberal, 10 UKip, 3 Green, 3 others and 65 wouldn’t bother to vote.

    The “winning party” had the support of only one in ten.

    The whole thing is a bloody farce.

  48. @Jack Shelton

    I would love to see a poll the views of young working class people on immigration.

    You may love to see it my friend, but you would hate the answer from the old Labour heartland. The young from the Tory shires would be far more likely comply with your view of paradise.

  49. @Alec

    Possibly also increasingly tight restrictions on lending (including re-mortgaging).

  50. ‘Pressman – “In such a sitaution, upwards of 50% could have voted for Right wing parties but we end up with Labour/Lib Dems – one wouldn’t like to speculate on the potential for civil disorder.”

    I would.

    It won’t happen.

    The reason will be that there is no logical reason for any disquiet over such a result. The main right wing party, ably supported by it’s many friends in the press (presumably you were central to this) actively and virulently campaigned against a change to the voting system, and actively rejected the chance to reform the constituency boundaries.

    Such a result would be your fault, entirely, and the only civil disorder there would be would be the sound of very loud laughter coming from the rest of us.

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