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. THEOTHERHOWARD – “They are worried about immigrants taking jobs, they are worried about immigrants living on benefits.”

    Many think these are mutually exclusive. However one of the most expensive benefit bills is in work benefits – tax credits. It pays out far more than unemployment benefit if someone has children. Many immigrant groups have high birthrates (most African & Asian nations are on average 3-4 currently according to the ONS) and if working will still be receiving much more in state money than paid in taxes due to the very generous payments of tax credits to parents.

    Many think tax credits are a kind of contributory benefit or reimbursement of taxes. This is not the case – the name is somewhat misleading. It is simply a benefit to those with children working more than 16 hours if single or 24 with 2 parents at home, and is very generous. And where jobseekers pays £280 a month, tax credits to someone with 3 children will pay 1k a month, if they work a 16 hour part time job.

  2. @Jayblanc – can’t agree with your post re UKIP. I accept that there is an overreaction, but it would be a mistake to think either that the UKIP effect is only about immigration or that this is ‘wrong’.

    @Colin asked earlier about why the pan European discontent, and I would have thought the answer is abundantly clear. There has been a global shift in the relative benefit derived from the economy, occurring over the last forty years or so. Economic migration is part of that set of issues – a symptom, rather than the cause, but the most visible effect for people to latch on to.

    The EU is likewise an easy target, as it’s many structural flaws make people feel remote and ignored. These issues link together in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, but the central problem is more to do with Thomas Piketty and the differential earnings from labour and capital.

    The system is broken, but political establishments don’t yet realise this. UKIP is benefiting, with a simplistic offer to voters, but one that isn’t ‘wrong’ as such. It needs to be dealt with, but in much broader political and structural terms, where the full causes and complexities can be addressed.

  3. Sorry, jobseekers recieve a paltry £280 a month whereas tax credit payments with 3 children can easily reach (or exceed) 1k a month. With a part time job of 10k a year the person won’t pay tax on that, then gets 1k + tax credits ( equivalent of about 1.2k if worked full time).

    All info for verification is on HMRC website.

    This drives down wages and harms people without children who cannot live on low wages but gets no large state top up. It also acts as an incentive for parents to work part time and big employers like supermarkets oblige, and that makes it harder for non-parents to gain full time jobs in that sector.

  4. Alec

    We campaigned strongly for boundary changes and blasted Clegg when he had them blocked.

  5. Just looking at Ladbrokes, “Nick Clegg to be replaced as Liberal Democrat Leader before the Next General Election” has an “S” in the odds column… I guess that means they stopped taking bets? Last time I looked it was at 3.5 and the money taken was fairly even…

  6. @ The Other Howard

    ‘they are worried about immigrants living on benefits.’

    If they really are worried about this, it is because the right-wing papers claim that this is the case almost everyday.Actually, in relation to the overall benefit bill, the cost of benefits to migrants is absolutely tiny! I am very sympathetic to the idea of addressing genuine concerns about housing and the like, but not to pandering to the falsehoods of the right-wing media!

  7. Ed
    Only Harrow and Crouch End where my daughters live are within my personal subjective experience.
    Pressman

    Re riots etc, do you remember the black and Asian British heroes and heroines of the 2011,riots? The ones who faced down mobs and strove to protect their communities, in the absence of the police in many cases.

  8. @Pressman – er, no – they were blocked because your boy broke his word on the AV campaign.

    You want FPTP, you accept the result. Tough.

  9. “@ Alec

    @Pressman – er, no – they were blocked because your boy broke his word on the AV campaign.

    You want FPTP, you accept the result. Tough.”

    I thought that there was a difference of opinion about what the deal was with the AV referendum. The Tories thought that the deal related to boundary changes and equalisation of seats to around 100,000. But then the Lib Dems also wanted the House of Lords reform, which Tory backbenchers blocked, so Lib Dems blocked the boundary changes.

  10. Some amazingly humourous person has made this: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BopRATFCQAEmQGv.png:large

  11. Nameless
    Was it you ?
    Not hiding your light under a bushel are you ?

  12. Well, it can’t be both that UKIP won because they focused on Immigration, and that UKIP won because there’s a lot more to it than Immigration.

    In reality I think it’s clear, UKIP campaigned solely on “Being the only alternative party that’s willing to be tough on Immigration”, and *that’s it*. That was the entire one note campaign.

    And really, we all know that it was merely scapegoating one particular area of policy as being the cause of all our woes.

    And yes, I’m going to say it again, UKIP said things that were demonstrably wrong. They said Romanian immigration would turn into a flood after EU entry restrictions were lifted. It didn’t, it actually dropped! I can clearly, and objectively, say they were wrong to state Romanian immigrant numbers would dramatically increase. It’s not even partisan to say so, those are the numbers. They got it wrong.

    But for some reason, having less than 30% share of a less than 35% turn out election, means that people are now saying they might have been right? I think we have had a fundamental failure to understand what democracy is. If a hundred people vote on what colour the sky it, and the majority are split evenly between saying with 24% “It’s blue”, “It’s grey” and “It’s black because it’s midnight” each; if 28% of people said “The sky is neon pink with green spots and space aliens writing ‘Zodoz was here'” it’s not time to question the colour of the sky.

    And we know from the local elections, that people voted for UKIP in the regions that actually have the least immigration! It’s not about immigration, it’s clearly all about scapegoating immigration as the blame for austerity and economic issues.

  13. mrnameless

    Some amazingly humourous person has made this:
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BopRATFCQAEmQGv.png:large

    It must be a fake. The columns are actually in proportion

  14. Lots of straw man and ad hominem posts in the last 36 hours or so…

    Also non-sequitur, slippery slope, begging the question, argument from the vacuum, etc.

    What has happened?

  15. @Roger M

    “at most 12% of UKIP supporters were 2010 non-voters”

    with the caveat that this is *of those who are members of the YouGov panel*. Isn’t it rather likely that those who are politically disaffected are less likely to enroll in YouGov?

    @MrNameless

    Hallam Univ has a large campus on Broomgrove Rd not far from the edge of Ecclesall ward (I’m not sure where the new boundaries are). Although you’re right that most live in Central/Heeley, there are nevertheless a lot of Hallam students in Ecclesall and Crookes

  16. Marvo 1.38 pm

    What a succinct and telling summary. Thank you sir / madam (I get into trouble on genders, I used to think it was only Ian Botham had that issue).

  17. R Huckle

    I thought that there was a difference of opinion about what the deal was with the AV referendum. The Tories thought that the deal related to boundary changes and equalisation of seats to around 100,000. But then the Lib Dems also wanted the House of Lords reform, which Tory backbenchers blocked, so Lib Dems blocked the boundary changes.

    I think you and Alec are both right. The ostensible reason was HoL reform being ditched by Cameron, but there’s no doubt the Lib Dems had been looking for an excuse ever since they were stabbed in the back over AV.

    Of course NI and most of the rest of the press were also opposed to HoL reform. Or rather, because the public backed it, they claimed that there ‘wasn’t time’ for it and it wasn’t important enough. So if Pressman wants to blame anyone for the failure of the boundaries to go through he has only to look to his colleagues with their eyes on the ermine and £300 a day as supplied to so many good friends of Dave and Nick.

  18. Just something relating to the non-voting / now voting UKIP voters. Going through the marked sheets for the EP in my area some years ago (probably post 2004) I did indeed notice that voters who I had down as non-voting were now voting. They were mainly rural farming related families, one or two had expressed rather right wing views to me in the pub. Somewhat anecdotal perhaps, but it did strike me at the time.

    There is an irony there if you consider who are the main beneficiaries of the CAP handouts, but hypocrisy is a universal quality so I am not getting at them for that. I too am a hypocrite.

  19. ‘whom I had down’

  20. @Pressman

    “Miliaband”

    Did you learn your skills at the Grauniad?

  21. robin

    @Roger M “at most 12% of UKIP supporters were 2010 non-voters”

    with the caveat that this is *of those who are members of the YouGov panel*. Isn’t it rather likely that those who are politically disaffected are less likely to enroll in YouGov?

    That’s true but you’ve got to set that against past non-voters being even less likely to vote in an Euro election that a Westminster one (which is what the polls are about). It’s getting from that 33% to ‘a third’ that’s the problem.

    This backed up by the turnout figures. If a third of those who voted UKIP on Thursday didn’t vote in 2010, that’s about 9% of those who voted. As it’s unlikely such voted in 2009 either, then you would expect turnout to go up about 10% all other things being equal. Instead turnout actually went down slightly from 34.4% to 34.2%. What is more, the Regions with the biggest increase in turnout – London up 4.1 points, Scotland up 5 points – were those areas where UKIP did worst.

  22. NickP
    Like I and a few others said last week , before the sky supposedly fell in,
    “Steady the Buffs !” ( Reds)

  23. R Huckle

    @Pressman
    “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”
    ___________

    Excellent point and (although not a kipper myself) how ironic would it be if UKIP were to achieve 17% at the next GE and win 1 or two MP’s and the Lib/dems achieve 7% and hold onto 30 seats? especially when the Lib’s themselves are the great advocacy for political reform on FPTP when clearly they are using it to their own advantage!!

  24. That really made even less sense than usual: “getting from that 12% to ‘a third’ that’s the problem.” was what I meant.

  25. It’s funny how the press weren’t up in arms when the Lib Dems only got 57 seats with 22% of the vote.

    All of sudden the system becomes unfair because there will be no more Government for the party you support.

  26. Interesting election forecast on the PB site for those interested in statistical forecasting. Using history of course and based on the latest Railings and Thrasher NEV leads. Regression analysis indicates that labour will lose in 2015 by 8.4%.

    As I have posted before these forecast are interesting, but because of the UKIP factor the next election will probably be different. Certainly encouraging for the Tories.

  27. I’ve completely blanked on who asked about the Sheffield local election results but Britain Elects just posted this…

    “We take issue with the ICM poll, a sample size of 500, compared to the real votes of the local elections: 32,000.”

    Sheffield Hallam (Local Elections 2014) constituency: LDEM – 37.7%
    LAB – 23.0%
    UKIP – 14.1%
    GRN – 12.2%
    CON – 10.4%
    OTH – 2.4%
    Turnout: 32K

    Sheffield Hallam (ICM) constituency poll:
    LAB – 31%
    CON – 26%
    LDEM – 23%
    UKIP – 11%
    GRN – 8%
    Sample size: 500

  28. It think if you look at the graphs you can see that polls bear no relation to what happens in election year.

    Perhaps nationwide polls have no value whatsoever for predicting election results?

  29. @ Roger Mexico,

    Tabs or it didn’t happen.

    Lol. This should be the forum motto.

    @ R Huckle,

    In 2020, I would think that the Tories would have a much fairer position.

    The boundaries only make a difference on the order of ten or twenty seats. In a tight election that could make all the difference, but even if the changes had gone through it wouldn’t help the Tories all that much. Their big problem is the constituency system and FPTP and their tendency to pile up votes in safe seats.

    Then again, going by the local election results in London and Manchester Labour is coming down with a case of the ole vote stacking themselves.

  30. Stan J,

    The ICM poll showed that the LDs would win the locals in Hallam. Point is that they’re different elections with different factors at play.

  31. Incidentally the Regional variation in the turnout figures are interesting in showing the effect of what set of local elections are on the same day.

    Region / 2009 Turnout / 2014 Turnout

    East Midlands 37.1 / 32.6 / -4.5

    East of England 37.7 / 35.3 / -2.4

    London 33.3 / 37.4 / +4.1

    North East 30.4 / 30.8 / +0.4

    North West 31.7 / 32.5 / +0.8

    South East 37.5 / 34.5 / -2.1

    South West 38.8 / 36.9 / -1.9

    West Midlands 34.8 / 33.1 / -1.7

    Yorks & Humber 32.3 / 33.2 / +0.9

    Scotland 28.5 / 33.5 / +5.0

    Wales 30.4 / 31.5 / +1.1

    The 2009 elections were the County ones which are almost a negative of the one that took place this year – only those District Councils that have elections by thirds would be in both. Those Regions where most people live in Unitary or Met Boroughs show the biggest rise while those which are more rural and have more in smaller towns show the biggest drop. London, where there were no locals in 2009 and everywhere in 2014 has the biggest increase.

    Except for Scotland that is (neither Scotland or Wales had anything except the odd by-election). I can only assume the difference there was down to the increased politicisation in the run up to the Referendum.

  32. @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.”

    One key difference between London and the rest of the UK was that London had had no local elections since 2010.

    In the met districts, most went red in 2011 or 2012 which then left Labour councils with coping with an unprecedented withdrawal of funding from local authorities in general, made worse by being targeted particularly at urban areas. No wonder disillusionment set in amongst some traditional Labour supporters as a consequence.

    In many London boroughs, by contrast, there was still a Conservative council (e.g. for 8 years in H&F), a Conservative London mayor, and cuts in funding from a Conservative government. If you were concerned at what was going on, it must have been very easy to point the finger of blame and to vote accordingly.

  33. @Robin

    “Isn’t it rather likely that those who are politically disaffected are less likely to enroll in YouGov?”

    I think so. I enrolled and then cancelled, as I was getting spammed with consumer polling. Not a political poll in a month of 20+ polls. Perhaps I’m atypical, in that I’m after the politics, and in that sense, I’m probably not part of the ‘general section of society’ for polling purposes.

  34. @TOH

    I fully expect a tight race in 2015, but I think the regression analysis on PB is flawed, as 2015 will be first GE in the period analysed where the Tory vote will be split by UKIP.

    Yes, UKIP will take Labour votes too, but I see the Tories as losing more seats because of UKIP than Labour.

  35. Incidentally the ICM Sheffield Hallam figures for the locals were:

    Lib Dem 32% (37.7)

    Labour 26% (23.0)

    Conservatives 18% (10.4)

    Green 12% (12.2)

    UKIP 11% (14.1)

    Independent 1% (2.4)

    http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/2014_libdems_4polls.pdf#page=140

    Not that different from the actual result in brackets, especially given that it was only based on a sample of 280, polled 29 Apr – 4 May. It does suggest that in the three weeks up to polling the Lib Dems seem to have been able to squeeze the Tory vote to some extent, but whether that would be as flexible to save Clegg is another matter.

  36. @ NickP

    ‘It will take a political upheaval of seismic proportions to stop Ed getting home comfortably.’

    How I would like to believe this, but I fear the evidence for it is almost entirely non-existent!

  37. Ashcroft National Poll: Con 29%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 8%, UKIP 17%
    May 27, 2014 03:55 pm

  38. Ashcroft National Poll: Con 29%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 8%, UKIP 17%

    http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2014/05/ashcroft-national-poll-con-29-lab-31-lib-dem-8-ukip-17/

    Oddly enough not much different from the allegedly unrelated PNS (though how long it will stay like that is another matter).

  39. @ The Other Howard
    ‘they are worried about immigrants living on benefits.’

    If they really are worried about this, it is because certain papers claim that this is the case almost everyday. Actually, in relation to the overall benefit bill, the cost of benefits paid to migrants is very small.! I am very sympathetic to the idea of addressing genuine concerns about housing and the like, but not to making policy on the basis of ‘problems’ constructed by sections of the media.

  40. Ashcroft National Poll, 23-25 May: Con 29%, Lab 31%, LD 8%, UKIP 17%.

  41. @Mr Nameless
    “The ICM poll showed that the LDs would win the locals in Hallam. Point is that they’re different elections with different factors at play.”

    Indeed, a point that ICM are at pains to make. They had the LDs polling 6% more than Labour in the Sheffield local elections, but Clegg losing by 8% to Labour using the same poll respondents. Whatever the actual local elections were in Hallam, the poll implies that you should take 14% off the LDs local election margin over Labour if predicting a GE result based on local election data.

  42. CATMANJEFF

    I don;t thinks it’s floored, but as I pointed out history in my original post the UKIP factor is unknown. You may be correct in your view we just don’t know. It’s why having looked at polls and models when it comes to making my own forecasts I inject a good deal of “gut feel”. I accept that since I really don’t want a Government of a particular persuasion my gut is probably a little biased.

  43. NEWFORESTRADICAL

    I’m not arguing with you just saying what I think a lot of people are worried about.

  44. The shocker from Ashcroft is the ‘big two’, or as I call them ‘the smaller than they were big two’ is 60% of VI.

    Neither the Conservatives or Labour can take comfort from the alarmingly low polls for them of recent times.

  45. Ashcroft poll – England only

    Lab 30% : Con 30% : UKIP 19% : LD 8% : Green 8% BNP 2%

  46. @Roger Mexico

    Sorry, I didn’t read you comment before posting mine. So basically, there was a 14.7% LD lead in the Hallam local election results. And the ICM poll suggests that a local election lead for the LDs over Labour would reduce by 14% in Hallam. So, basically, it’s a dead heat and Clegg might just scrape back in.

  47. A shockingly low level of support for the parties formerly known as the “Two Main Parties” but a suspiciously high level of support for the Greens – I suspect they’ll fall back to the benefit of Labour at GE2015 – while UKIP a little high and LIB Dem support about right.

    We need to wait a bit longer for the Euro Election effect to dissipate to make any firm conclusions.

  48. It would be quite a crisis for FPTP if Labour win a majority in 2015 with the same % of the vote they got in 2010.

  49. First time posting on here so sorry if it seems a bit “basic”. I think the whole media narrative over UKIP has been bizarre, before the election they seemed intent on labeling UKIP “Racist”. I think without doubt their are Racists in the party but the party itself doesn’t look racist to me.

    I think UKIP have done well because of peoples total satisfaction with westminster politicians, I think this is the main reason. People are fed up with these career politicians coming out the the same old nonsense, failing to answer questions and just looking so out of touch.

    20 years ago politicians both labour and conservative could still to a certain extent “connect” with the electorate. I remember driving home listening to John Smith on the radio being bowled over by him.

    They just look like robots now, speaking in a formulaic way. I just feel the three main parties are going round in ever decreasing circles.

    Labour are coasting with little momentum, the Tories look to be struggling to pick up enough votes in certain places. It’s going to be a mess in 2015 at this rate, especially with the 3rd party diminished.

    To assume ukip will go away is wrong. Ithink they could make things very complicated.

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