1) Labour’s lead continued to fall

For the main horse race – who is in the position to win the next general election – the key point is always the lead in the polls, and throughout 2014 Labour’s lead over the Conservatives continued to fade away. In 2013 it fell from around ten points to around six points. This year the trend continued, with Labour’s lead fading from six points to just under two points. Given the complexities of the Lib Dem collapse, the rise of UKIP, a large number of new incumbents and the separate race in Scotland it is dangerous to rely upon on uniform national swing, but include all those factors and I think we are now into hung Parliament territory.


Labour’s lead has almost wholly been down to falling Labour support rather than increasing Tory support. The Conservative share of the vote started the year at around 32% and ended the year in roughly the same place, Labour supported started the year at around about 38% and finished the year at around 34%. While there is always some churn between different political parties and there will be some people who have moved from Labour to Conservative, it’s certainly not the main factor – rather what we’re seeing is an anti-government vote that had previously been going to the Labour party by default is now finding many homes and showing itself in rise of the Green party, the SNP and UKIP. The public’s lack of confidence in Ed Miliband and Labour isn’t manifesting itself in them running back to the Conservative party for safety… it’s manifesting itself in them going off to find more attractive oppositions to vote for.

This has in many ways been the pattern of the 2010-2015 Parliament. The Conservative party’s vote fell to around 32% early in the Parliament and has stayed there, seemingly immune to events, announcements, people or policies. Labour inherited a substantial lead early on thanks to the Liberal Democrat collapse and have watched it be nibbled away by rivals.

2) The Greens finally woke up

So to those rivals. The rise of UKIP has been covered by everyone, the most remarkable story of the Parliament. The increase in support for the Greens is a newer development. Earlier on this Parliament I was frankly surprised that the Greens were not doing better. They had elected their first MP, the government were implementing unpopular austerity policies and Labour were constrained in their opposition to cuts by a desire to establish their own economic credibility. Elsewhere in Europe radical left-wing parties were benefiting from an anti-austerity vote, yet here it wasn’t happening. The Greens were marooned on around 2%.


This year it finally did, and looking at the charts it appears to be the European elections – with the coverage and campaigning that it implies – that sparked the Greens into life. The European elections pushed them up to 4% or so, and since them other polls have shown them building on that, in many cases getting their highest levels of support since their first breakthrough back in the late 80s. What impact that will have at the election beyond providing a home for some people who might otherwise have voted Labour or Liberal Democrat is a different question – in 2010 the Greens managed to breakthrough and win a seat despite having a derisory national share of the vote. There has been an Ashcroft poll in one of their most viable targets (Norwich South), but it showed Labour well ahead, so it is possible that the increase in Green support may not translate into any extra seats.

UKIP meanwhile have managed to keep the bandwagon rolling onwards through 2014. There was an expectation that their support would peak after the European elections and then go into decline, but things were thrown off course by the defections and by-elections of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless which kept the party at the forefront of politics through the autumn and allowed them to finish the year with higher support than in January. I would still expect their support to be squeezed as we get closer to the election, as the race focuses more upon the binary choice between a Conservative and Labour led government but events, such as further defections now a by-election is no longer unavoidable, could easily push that off course.

3) Economic confidence began to stall

We started 2014 with people being increasingly positive about the state of the economy, but still pessimistic about their own finances, and pondered whether the improving economy would filter through to people feeling more positive about their own finances. What actually happened in 2014 was that perceptions of the improvement in the economy peaked over the summer and have now started to falter – the economic statistics, GDP growth and unemployment, may have remained strong, but public perceptions have started to go back down again. In August YouGov found 50% of people thought the economy was showing signs of recovery or on it’s way to recovery, by December that had fallen to 40%.


The impact of this is difficult to call as the economy is something of a two edged sword. Improving perceptions of the economy have gone hand in hand with a growing Conservative lead on the economy and that has remained steady… so far. If falling perceptions of the economy eat into the Conservatives lead on economic competence it will damage them. On the other hand, as the economy has improved it has fallen down the list of issues people consider important and become a less salient issue; if people worry more about the economy and it dominates their thinking more it may help the Conservatives…

4) Concern over immigration overtook the economy

Between 2007 and 2013 polls were consistent in showing that the public thought the economy was the number one problem facing the country. This year we saw it overtaken by immigration, and in the most recent few MORI polls it has been fighting with health for second place.


These top three issues are each strongly associated with a party – the public invariably trust Labour more on the issue of the NHS, over the course of last couple of years the Conservatives have built up a solid lead on managing the economy and UKIP generally lead the other parties on the issue of immigration. It is in the clear electoral interests of the Conservatives to have an election dominated by the economy, for Labour to have an election dominated by the NHS, for UKIP to have an election dominated by the issue of immigration. Over the last year things the issue agenda has clearly been moving in UKIP’s favour.

5) We found out where the Lib Dems were doing well and badly

In previous round ups like this I’ve always ended up saying how Lib Dem national support is in a dire state, but their MPs may or may not survive due to their personal votes and tactical voting. Through 2014 though we have got a lot more data on where the Lib Dems are doing well and badly and where they may be able to withstand the tide against them. At the last election the Liberal Democrats won 57 seats. Thirty-three of these are English and Welsh seats with the Conservatives in second place, and twenty-six of those we have Ashcroft polls for. Twelve are English and Welsh seats with Labour in second place, and we have Ashcroft polls for eleven of those (all but Bristol West). A further eleven are in Scotland, where the impact of surging SNP support remains to be seen and where we will hopefully have some Ashcroft polling later this year. Finally there is the unique Lib Dem vs Plaid seat of Ceredigion.

The average swing in the LD-v-Con seats is a modest 2.2 points from LD to Con, enough for the Conservatives to take seven seats. However, because the majorities and the swings aren’t evenly distributed there were actually ten seats where Ashcroft found the Conservatives ahead and three more (St Ives, North Cornwall and Torbay) where it’s too close to call). The line on the chart below is the swing needed for each Lib Dem seat to fall, the bars the swings recorded in the Ashcroft polling (when Ashcroft has done more than one poll in the same seat I’ve averaged them)


In the LD-v-Lab seats it is a different story, the average swing is a towering 12 points from LD to Lab, enough to win all the seats at a trot. Again, there is some variation from seat to seat, but this is only enough to save two of these seats – the once unassailable Old Southwark and Bermondsey, and Birmingham Yardley where John Hemming seems to be bucking the trend.


While national polls are never going to tell us too much about Lib Dem seat numbers, based on the Ashcroft polling The Lib Dems look set to loose around twenty seats in England and Wales, plus however many in Scotland (and given their dire performance in Scottish polls and the 2011 Holyrood elections that’s unlikely to be pretty). I think a fair assessment is that the Lib Dems start 2015 looking set to loose about half their seats at the election.

6) The SNP lost the war, but are winning the peace

Which brings us to Scotland. The aftermath of the referendum has been stark in terms of Westminster voting intention, with all polls since mid-October showing substantial SNP leads, ranging between 16 and 29 points. Thanks to the electoral system, if anything even nearly approaching this happens at the general election it will have a huge effect on seat numbers.


For the last thirty years the electoral system in Scotland has worked heavily in Labour’s favour – they have enjoyed around 40% of the vote in Scotland, the rest being split between the SNP, Lib Dems and Conservatives, who have all struggled to get more than a quarter of the vote. That has translated into a consistent block of forty-plus seats for Labour. If that flips round in other direction, with a large lead for the SNP, we can expect the electoral system to deliver a similar boon for the SNP. There are still many unknowns about the Scottish vote – the post-referendum SNP is a new development, we don’t know if it will last, nor do we really know how the vote will be distributed and how the SNP surge in support is distributed. The Ashcroft Scottish polling will at least tell us more on that front, at present we can only say that things looks very good for the SNP in Scotland, and very worrying for Labour.

279 Responses to “Six opinion poll findings from 2014”

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  1. @Statgeek

    I like your prediction from the Green perspective :-)

    Assuming Caroline Lucas keeps her seat (a very good chance I think), which other seat do you give them?

    Norwich South and Bristol West?

  2. @ Statgeek

    “With 18 seat for NI, that prediction is 3 seats short of 650 (I always count the speaker and others in the 650).”

    I didn’t list their projections for two Plaid Cymru and one ‘other’. I have no 2014 polling data beyond the main parties and so I can’ trade any predictions for PC, Respect etc. For this reason I didn’t bother to copy the full table from the Electionforecast site.

    Your predictions seem broadly similar to those for ‘Continuing trends’. The main difference is that you expect the LDs to claw back s bit of support and Ukip to fade a little. You may be right. No statistical sign of the former yet. But the other day I posted evidence that the Ukip VI seems to have topped out a bit.

  3. @CMJ / Unicorn

    I completely forgot about Plaid Cymru when I did that. That changes things.

    Con 275
    Lab 275
    SNP 50
    Lib 22
    NI 18
    PC 3
    UKIP 3
    Green 3
    Respect 1

    Took them from the Libs total. No science in my prediction. Rather, a general inclination to see the little parties do well and not squeeze each other. Don’t take any of it seriously.

    Greens – Brighton Pavillion, Norwich South and Cambridge

    Happy New Year to you and yours.
    “In the light of what you say i think that Labour should go as far towards doing an implicit deal with the Greens, Plaid and SNP before the election as it possibly can ”
    My experience of previous campaigning suggests that rather than do deals with other parties they will emphasise policies which they share with others, notably Greens and LDs in areas of NHS, energy, income distribution, a living wage, employment. devolution and remaining in the EU. These are areas in which there is a solid body of support, regardless of party affiliation.
    Watch this space!

  5. @John Pilgrim Happy New Year! I agree.

  6. @Reggieside

    ‘I dont think mathematical forecasts/formulas based on previous voting behviour can tell us anything at all this time around.”

    It is not quite clear what you are sceptical about. Presumably you accept that polling figures can be informative. If you didn’t believe that there wouldn’t be much point in frequenting a polling site.

    If the polls are currently saying Labour is on 34%, Tories on 31% how do you form any view on the likely balance in the next parliament? What most people do is quantify the change since the last general election (= ‘previous voting behaviour’) and form a judgement about whether this change would be likely to shift (marginal) seats from one party to another. If we were prevented from using data about the prior election results no-one could make predictions about what is likely to happen.

    Take an example. The polling data suggest that Ukip support has gone up from about 3% at the last GE to around 15% in recent weeks.

    Question: How many seats is Ukip likely to get next May? (No formulae or calculations allowed!)

    Without calculations of some kind it is impossible to hazard even the wildest of guesses. It could be zero if the support is evenly distributed across all constituencies. It could be hundreds of seats if the support is concentrated in some area or in some type of constituency. Consider what would happen if their support were concentrated in in a quarter of all constituencies (with zero support outside these areas). In this case their 15% national vote would show up as 60% in these areas of influence: giving them 650/4 = 167 seats overall.

    No one is talking about outcomes like this precisely because everyone buys into the broad mathematical calculations to point to much more modest Ukip gains.

    So, I put it to you that unless you have visited all the constituencies to take soundings if you have any hunches at all about electoral outcomes you must be relying Implicitly on the mathematical calculations that underpin all such projections. If,you don’t believe that they can “tell us anything at all” then you may as well turn to shamanistic rituals.

  7. @Anthony

    “The Conservative party’s vote fell to around 32% early in the Parliament and has stayed there, seemingly immune to events, announcements, people or policies”

    Very true and the significance of that inertia in the Tory vote becomes more salient the longer it goes on, especially when you consider that most of those “events, announcements, people and policies” in 2014 were broadly propitious for the governing party. Increasing employment, some real wage growth at long last, low inflation, an economic recovery well into its second year, continuing problems for the Opposition Leader and some headline victories in Europe. OK, nothing very triumphant and spectacular, but by no means a bad year in terms of events, certainly not mid-term blues territory, and yet not an upward twitch in the Tory vote throughout the whole 12 months.

    Interestingly, although you make no reference to it in your commentary, there was some evidence in the latter half of December that the Tory VI was dipping southwards again and the Labour lead edging upwards. For evidence I rest my case with your rolling poll average (Labour lead of 3%) and the last 18 polls of the year (Dec 11-22). These polls, conducted by 7 different pollsters and containing the Ipsos/Mori rogue, give 14 Labour leads, 3 ties and 1 Tory lead (Ipsos/Mori) and an average Labour lead of 2.6%. If you took the last 9 polls of the year, then these figures look even better for Labour.

    It’s very possible that this quite clear trend that established itself at the end of the year, quickly goes into reverse or stalls, but politics is a swiftly moving and fluid science and I’m not sure how useful it is to linger too long over year long averages when something much more interesting might be happening, right now, in front of our very eyes.

    I think we bored ourselves to death not long ago over the rather arcane subject of swingback, but I’m very much in the camp that thinks that a reducing Opposition lead shouldn’t be confused with traditional notions of swingback, certainly if it hasn’t been caused by a recovery of the governing party at the expense of the opposition.

    And it clearly hasn’t. The many and varied reasons for the shrinking Labour lead, as you rightly point out, owe nothing to any recovering Tory popularity.

    P.S.Happy New Year to all UKPR posters, even the ones who irritate me to utter distraction. They know who they are!! However, particular fond good wishes to the other 98% whose posts are nearly always informative and entertaining to read, and I think they know who they are too!


  8. CB – I think the steady 32% for cons over the last 3 years or so disguises some churn.

    The initial drop was to the UKIP in the main as the latter VI moved to around 10%.

    The UKIP’s more recent increase in VI to 15% ish has been more evenly split but still 2-3% has come from 2010 Tory voters.

    So the Cons have taken 2-3% from others – some LDs, some 2010 DKs/WVs coming back and a little directly from Labour.

    It tells me that 35% is a fairly easy jump for the Tories (as I think it is for Labour due to Green and UKIP returnees) and which main Uk party gets most over that and how concentrated that rise is seat wise decides who gets most MPs.

    I have got to start the new year with consistency at least :-)

  9. I’d go for Norwich South as a 2nd green seat.

    But I think it more likely to happen in a scenario where Labour support was falling after a spell in office and things not really going very well for them. It might be so after 2015: those centre-left votes have to go somewhere, so being disappointed by LDs and than Labour, green is the next option.

    UKIP seats? The only remotely worthwhile comparison is the SDP at the 1983 election – they won 6 seats from 11.5% of the vote, contesting about half the possible constituencies. I can’t see UKIP doing better.

  10. @JimJam

    “I have got to start the new year with consistency at least :-)”

    You know I always commend you for your consistency!

    As for the complex and non-linear churn that’s gone on underneath the relatively static VI headline figures in the polls, the evidence for who’s gone where is a bit thin and contradictory depending on which pollster you delve into. You talk about Labour to Tory switchers, but there could well have been some Tory to Labour movement too, albeit disguised by other shifting and swirling currents. However, what is screamingly obvious to me is that the old political pendulum no longer swings in the way it once did and I can’t foresee it reverting to type in the four months remaining between now and the General Election.

    Labour is pretty close to the 35% you refer too now, and that’s with the recent loss of voters to the SNP in Scotland. It seems to me that the mountain they need to scale over the next 120 days or so is a much smaller one than the Tories have to conquer, languishing as they are in the polls, according to the current UKPR average, on 31%. What they were doing in January last year is pretty much yesterday’s fish and chip wrappings in terms of its relevance to the political situation today, and I just can’t see how they can win in May unless they start taking great big chunks out of the current Labour vote, thereby precipitating that magic pincer movement; them up, Labour down simultaneously. They can’t rely on Labour just sinking below them by continuously sloughing off votes to the Greens, SNP and UKIP, especially when the last 18 polls of 2014 have suggested that things may have stabilised, or even gone into reverse, in terms of that voter migration.

    This takes me back to Anthony’s point about the chronically inert Tory vote. Unless something very last minute dot com takes place to lift them to victory, they’ve been occupying a losing position in the polls for the virtual entire length of this Parliament.

  11. My 22 yr old has just told me all his friends are voting Green. (North London)

  12. This is his analysis (copied text):
    I’m not voting green but labours campaign isn’t saying anything to anyone if it even exists; it’s failing to portray any cultural relevance or nous. Younger people have given up on British politics as the last campaign to actually revolve around them was lib dem s and they fuked it. And most of all its just super super boring the main parties are about as inspiring as cement which Is why more people will vote green or ukip because they have a vibe

  13. @Chatterclass

    “This is his analysis (copied text):
    I’m not voting green but labours campaign isn’t saying anything to anyone if it even exists; it’s failing to portray any cultural relevance or nous. Younger people have given up on British politics as the last campaign to actually revolve around them was lib dem s and they fuked it. And most of all its just super super boring the main parties are about as inspiring as cement which Is why more people will vote green or ukip because they have a vibe”

    An interesting view, and I respect what your son says and feels, but I’m not sure it’s entirely supported by the findings of that recent poll of newly registered voters conducted by Opinium.


    Anthony hasn’t mentioned this poll at all yet, and it got rather lost over the holiday period, as well as being eclipsed by seemingly endless discussion on a recent uninteresting ICM Scottish Westminster VI poll, but there is some data here that runs a little against your son’s observations, particularly vis-a-vis UKIP’s appeal and the feeling that young people have “given up” on British politics. Au contraire, in fact, and mildly reassuring too.

  14. @Lefty,

    I meant my question rather literally. Who exactly would pay for higher salaries for Greeks? The Greek government haven’t got the money, and are systematically incapable of raising taxes from their wealthier citizens. So the money would have to be from lenders. Who won’t lend it without the austerity policies that led to the salary reductions in the first place.

    Even if you believe that austerity is self-defeating (which I don’t particularly), then there has to be a mechanism by which the money is obtained to finance non-austere spending policies.

    For the UK, I absolutely accept the contention that in large part austerity is self-imposed, as we could clearly borrow substantially more at low interest rates to increase spending if we wished to do so (I don’t think it would be the right course in the long term, but we could).

    The Greeks, unless I have completely misunderstood the situation, simply can’t.

  15. cb 11

    I’ve seen nothing that makes me believe, or worry, that the Tory vote will improve on 2010, ergo I discounted a Tory OM a long time ago.

    My view is that the multiplicity of parties, the decades long period of poor VI for the Tories, the rejection of Clegg and the disenchantment with EM have all conflated to confuse.

    I feel that the majority of OPs now mainly serve as ways for voters to send messages but do not necessarily give a complete picture. For example the Scots teased us a bit towards the final days of the referendum but I never felt for a moment that they would go, as a majority, for yes. They just pretended.

    Similarly the consistent message I get from the polls is the very simple and central one: the Tories can’t go beyond low to mid-thirties.

    Whether Labour then get an OM will be very much down to the campaign itself but I am quite certain they will play a part in forming the next government.

  16. On “Swing”.

    Considering this is a polling website, people have suddenly come over very literal in their definition of “swing” and “swing back”. In polling terms, a swing from one party to another doesn’t remotely mean that there has to be an actual direct gain of votes from one to the other, or even that the “beneficiary” increases it’s vote share at all. Swing simply means the change in the respective positions of the two parties in the polls.

    Had Labour stayed on 30% after the 2010 GE and the Tories gone from 37% to 33% due entirely to leeching of votes to UKIP, this would have been a “swing” from Tory to Labour. If by 2015 the Tories were still on 33% but Labour had dropped from 30% to 26%, this would be a “swing” from Labour to the Tories. (ie a Swing Back) without either party having traded a single vote.

    The point of “swingback theory” is basically about “not counting your chickens”. Opposition parties that look at their handsome double-digit mid-term leads should never be complacent, and people who argued that “this time is different” have, on the evidence so far (and as advanced by Unicorn) been proved wrong. To nitpick about the words “swing back” is silly.

  17. NEIL A.
    Thank you very much for your definition of the Swing concept.
    I tried to say this, less elegantly than you have, a couple of days ago.
    None of us know how much there will be a swing between the parties in the next four months.

    As Peter Hennessey has said in a recent lecture (November 18) the next GE will be much more than the old three party or two and a quarter party fight.

  18. Neil A,

    I agree that to argue about the definition of swing-back is nitpicking in a narrow context.

    However, if historical swing-back (even from pre-97 when methodology was flawed) data is drawn on to postulate that furher swing-back is certain it is valid to ask if the different dynamics this time including the nature of the initial swing being different casts doubt on that certainty.

    I have been very clear (not least in my previous post) that I think the cons will increase their vote share to over 35% from their current VI.
    However, as they have lost little if any net to Labour (other than for a few months after the omni-shables which has already left Labour) the double impact (Cons up Lab down) is to say the least not as likely as looking at past reversions suggests.

  19. @Chatterclass

    If I were under 25, I would very likely think that that politicians has thrown me to the wolves, while ring fencing the grey vote.

    Young people are told their qualifications are not worth the paper they are written on, and the qualifications their parents took were harder and better.

    If they want to go to University, unlike their parents who got it free/very cheap, they will have massive debts for years and years.

    If they want a job they find it much harder than previous generations did.

    The benefits system has been increasingly tightened up for them, pushing them home, even if they don’t want it.

    If they want to buy a house, they can’t afford to, while earlier generations sit on huge accumulated assets with the financial draw bridge pulled up.

    If they want a pension they will pay more for less than their parents enjoyed.

    Is it any surprise young people feel totally shafted, let down and disenfranchised from mainstream politics?

    I’d be amazed if they were not.

  20. Neil A
    ‘ Swing simply means the change in the respective positions of the two parties in the polls.’

    Agree with that.This used to be seen very commonly back in the 1950s and 1950s when hundreds of constituencies were simply straight fights between Tory and Labour. At a subsequent election the intervention of a Liberal -typically polling 10 to 15% – would cause support for both the major parties to fall back.Whichever party suffered the smallest drop was said by psephologists to have enjoyed a ‘swing’ from the other.Thus, if the Liberal manages12% causing Labour to drop 8% whilst the Tories dropped 4%, there was said to be a swing from Labour to the Tories of 2%.

  21. @CMJ

    I wouldn’t mind, but I’m in neither category (young or grey). The odds are that the grey ones of today will avoid the backlash they caused too, and my generation will face the music when we are pensioners.

    Hopefully something slightly less drastic than Logan’s Run. :))

  22. @catmanjeff
    I agree. In one of my last seminars as an academic before my change of path, one of my better students passionately and angrily contended that they were considered a burden or a problem, something they themselves became liable for before they had the means. He argued that unlike in my day, no one was investing in them.

    I don’t think young people are switched off. Quite the opposite. It’s just thst their enetgy and support is going more to fringe groups than it used to, which is the traditional parties’ fault.

    The haemorrhage from the main parties is a protest against austerity, not a disconnection from politics. As anyone who reads the figures can see, there’s plenty of money sloshing around. It’s the choices about how to spend it that has turned so many off.

  23. @Charles
    For the record I agree pretty wholeheartedly with what you said about both immigration and Trident.

    I would only differ to the extent that I do think immigration has caused pressure on services in some areas and I believe it behoves Labour to acknowledge that, then set out its policies for dealing with these pressures rather than self-defeating and impractical policies for limiting immigration.

    I think the perceived (whether real or not) denial by Labour that immigration was anything other than a good thing has fuelled its salience as an issue, and the rise of UKIP.

  24. Swingback is the new oil, it seems.

    I’m with the ill defined swingbackers on this one. The concept merely means a swing from opposition party to governing party in the latter period of a parliament. This could be from one side falling, one side rising, each side falling and rising together, or I suppose both sides rising and falling in tandem but at different rates.

    Swing is not selective in it’s mechanism, so neither should swingback be. In common understanding, it’s simply the fact that an oppositions lead narrows or disappears. Back in more two party days, this presumably tended to be via the mechanism of direct shifting of votes between Lab and Con, but I really don’t think that is a required element of swingback.

  25. Ed Balls article in tomorrows Guardian claiming the centre ground on deficit reduction may suggest that their private polling has the labour lead growing in line with the last three yougovs.

    Just a guess mind,find out next week.

  26. @Guymonde Yes – I agree about the pressures immigration causes in some areas, and yes, i agree that Labour should acknowledge that.

    I wish, however, they would emphasize the positive side of what they are doing. Yes, it is true that immigration can drive down wages for some groups, but we need these immigrants and the right way forward is to have a decent national minimum wage and enforce it’ rather than attempt to headline the fact that Labour will be tough on immigration’ (which I don’t think anyone believes).

    I agree that for the sake of political expediency and social cohesion Labour needs to have some controls on immigration but the way forward is to build more houses (partly with Belgian bricklayers), staff hospitals better (partly with Spanish nurses) and above all have a proactive policy that ensures that we get British brick layers and nurses in the areas where we need them.

  27. @Neil A

    “The point of “swingback theory” is basically about “not counting your chickens”. Opposition parties that look at their handsome double-digit mid-term leads should never be complacent, and people who argued that “this time is different” have, on the evidence so far (and as advanced by Unicorn) been proved wrong. To nitpick about the words “swing back” is silly.”

    Silly? in the first sentence of the paragraph I’ve quoted above, you’ve offered your own rather esoteric definition of “swing back” theory. You state it as if it was some generally recognised description of swing back when in fact, as far as I can discern, it’s an utterly unique one. Swing back theory is “not counting your chickens”? I better get my psephologist’s thesaurus out for that piece of theory!! And who on earth, anywhere, has talked of oppositions getting complacent with mid term double digit leads in the context of our recent discussion on whether swing back is taking place or not? I haven’t seen anybody anywhere suggest that mid term opinion polls are remotely representative of what might happen two or three years later at a general election. We’re talking here about the movement of voting intentions in the immediate run up period to a general election.

    I’m just fascinated by a definition of swing back that allows for the continuing stagnation, or even decline, in the VI of the governing party. What the hell Jeremy Vine chooses to call the relative position of the two parties vis a vis each other on his swingometer on election night is a bit academic to me. The debate generated by Robin Hood was about the anticipated start of the process whereby the Labour vote would decline and the Tory vote would recover. We’ve had one and not the other and for the Tories to win May, both have to occur.

  28. I liked the “swing away” that somebody used either in this topic, or one earlier. Sorry, on a b. mobile it’s not so easy to find it, especially as I haven’t got a clue where the “find on this page” of the Linux world is in this operating system.

  29. CB11
    “Labour is pretty close to the 35% you refer too now, and that’s with the recent loss of voters to the SNP in Scotland.”

    This surely must mean that Labour are polling better in England & Wales than expected, if the numbers are to be believed.

    Jim Murphy may yet have a positive impact on Scottish voters to materially affect the final outcome.

    Exciting times will soon be upon us.

  30. @ Unicorn

    The much I like your analyses, you need to be careful with the level of aggregation. If your level of analysis is the VI, using the polling data is fine (as long as you know that a lot is lost). If your level of analysis is a party, the polling is a bit more suspect ( the whole discussion about swing back: what do we actually aggregate). If it’s about a constituency, then almost certainly the level of analysis and the level of data are in conflict. Basically, VI is simple, the individuals are complex …

    The whole discussion about swing back and Anthony’s discussion on various churns is nice because these are about dis aggregations (with all the flaws).

    In a way these could inform your methodology.

    End of the note on the epistemological problem of polling of which we are all aware of, but time to time it’s easy to forget.

  31. Pointless to repeat I know but swingBACK is a word used to describe votes swinging BACK to where they swung from. [The clue is in the use of the word BACK if that helps.]

    As I said before it hasn’t happened.

    A reduced lead is another thing altogether: in order to make some attempt to figure out what may happen in the next few weeks, I think it is sensible to understand just WHY there has been no concurrent upsurge in the Tory VI and what the possible implications of that absence might be.

    If that doesn’t suit some people’s hopes that’s fine by me.

  32. Happy New Year to All

    I would put your question the other way around – why have previous elections shown a recovery for the governing party?

    Obviously lots of answers to that question are available, but one answer would be this: because the governing party planned it that way. That is, governments in the past have played with the economy in years 3 to 4, and then chosen the election date that looked best around about the 4 year mark.

    A typical result of this manoeuvre was “Boom and Bust” in which the government lowered interest rates to create an artificial boom, called the election when voters were enjoying their inflated house prices and spurious wealth, then slammed on the anchors when the election was won.

    Gordon Brown made it more difficult for governments to pull the “Boom and Bust” trick when he handed interest rate decisions to the “independent” BoE. Cameron and Clegg made it more difficult again by introducing fixed term parliaments. If both innovations persist governments need new ruses to achieve effective swingback (like “Help to Buy” ) but it’s hard to see how it can ever be as simple as it was.

  33. CB11

    An initial (and massive) problem with the Opinium poll of 17-22 year olds is it’s weighting of the 503 respondents to ” nationally representative criteria on age and gender” – and apparently no other factors

    A poll of 18-25 year olds for Demos was conducted by someone (and presumably weighted somehow – though how isn’t clear).


    I’d be wary of extrapolating anything from polls that don’t seem to meet even basic standards.

  34. LASZ;O
    “I liked the “swing away” that somebody used either in this topic, or one earlier”.

    This means, I suppose, in the swing away from the back and forth of VI for the two main parties (memories of one’s sister pushing one jerkily away from the steady back and forth and into the path of the neighbouring playground swing, resulting in nauseous churn or giddy involvement with its little blue eyed occupant.)
    In the here and now, what we may see is churn back to one or other of the bipolar swingers, especially, I think, from UKIP, and that may, as @ Colin has remarked, be evidenced in the polling figures as they come out in coming polls rather than surmise.

  35. “Who exactly would pay for higher salaries for Greeks?”

    Greece was loaned far more than they could ever possibly repay aka loan sharking so they need to come out of the Euro and default (and put any politicians who colluded with the loan sharks in jail). That way they’d have some slack. Unfortunately for them the majority still see the Euro as a comfort blanket instead of a trap.

    (A southern European Euro could work and a northern European Euro could work but both together is never going to work.)

  36. I feel a bit upset that having voted Labour in 1997, I am now described by some in that party as one of a group of ” wrong people voting Labour” .

    Shan’t bother then :-)


    If Tsipras wins the election it surely is the best opportunity yet for a Leftist administration to put into action the economic views aired on UKPR by posters like Syzygy.

    What would follow goes like this :-
    Leave EZ.
    Declare all Greek Sovereign Debt meaningless & void.
    Dismantle the apparatus for issuing future Greek Bonds.
    Commandeer the Greek Central Bank.
    Government prints Drachmas to fund unlimited State spending.

    I wait with no expectation though, as it seems that even Tsipras himself is anxious to scotch any impression that he will order default.

    Extend ( maturity dates) and Pretend is in the air-though this itself will test the resolve of IMF & ECB-now the major holders of Greek Debt via the Bailouts.


    @” bipolar swingers, ”

    Ah-those were the days :-)

  38. who said that Colin?

  39. Firstly, very best wishes to everyone in 2015. (Tempered of course by my political leanings…)

    I recall repeatedly mentioning in 2014 and also I think in 2013, the strange ‘stickiness’ of the Con VI at about 32%.

    I’m still open minded whether this ‘feature’ of Con VI is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The Con VI seems to have fallen to its floor, but yet is seemingly unable to get off it despite apparently good news during 2014 (eg on the economy).

    The real issue for the GE is the extent to which Con and Lab can in the election campaign regain voters from UKIP,SNP and the Greens.

    Although the OPs indicate no OM following the GE, I think everything will rest on the campaigning.

  40. Chairman of Compass Jim Jam-one Neal Lawson.

    Roundly jumped on by various other Labourites for saying it.

    All part of Labour’s strange ambivalence about who they are pitching to.

    Actually-looking through the quote in more detail, which was an attempt on his part to re-write Blair as a failure -he also said ” “What meaningful project includes everyone ” !!.

    Squeezed Middle-Squeezed Bottom ( if you’ll excuse the phrase)

    Which one is it Jim Jam ?

    Happy New Year by the way :-)

  41. Neil

    The point (I thought it was obvious but I’m clearly not explaining myself very well) is that there is no point in this salary reduction. Greece has no hope of anything like a rapid recovery with the current policy. Wages and living standards are ground down, but to what end? What’s the purpose of this? Whilst ever Greece is monetarily tied to a Germany that is steadfastly keeping its own inflation and wages screwed down, Greece and the other periphery countries have no option but to continue in this depression.

    Had they left the Euro 2 years ago, floated a currency and defaulted, they would have had similar (perhaps worse) acute pain, but they would have had a path to some form of economic recovery.

    What’s the point of the pain? Is it a moral lesson or a means to an economic end? If it’s the former then I agree that the way Greece is doing it is necessary pour encourager les autres. If it’s the latter, please explain what the economic end is.

  42. Neil

    PS. I forgot to add the following.

    I do not for a moment question that the salary reductions were inevitable. The issue is, what is the purpose of them?

  43. What’s the point of the pain? Is it a moral lesson or a means to an economic end? If it’s the former then I agree that the way Greece is doing it is necessary pour encourager les autres. If it’s the latter, please explain what the economic end is.

    Surely the point is to protect the system, not the people.

  44. @Colin


    ‘… the economic views aired on UKPR by posters like Syzygy…’

    Actually, not the economic views aired on UKPR by posters like Syzygy… and not at all sure that your remark conforms with UKPR house rules.

  45. Mike N (et al)

    “The real issue for the GE is the extent to which Con and Lab can in the election campaign regain voters from UKIP,SNP and the Greens.”

    It would seem more appropriate to concentrate on the VI pattern in England (or E&W) – UKIP and Greens – rather than trying to construct a GB pattern, which may have little more existence in reality than a UK pattern.

    We need EPEV (English polls for English voters)!

  46. PI

    Agreed. Confusing cause and effect has been mentioned by two or three posters to date – including myself a few months back.

    syz @colin

    “Actually, not the economic views aired on UKPR by posters like Syzygy… and not at all sure that your remark conforms with UKPR house rules.”

    Which is a bit of a shock.

  47. Lefty lampoon,

    “Had they left the Euro 2 years ago, floated a currency and defaulted, they would have had similar (perhaps worse) acute pain, but they would have had a path to some form of economic recovery.”

    What recovery. The default option is effectively the Argentinian model and that’s been a great success.

    A new Greek currency would have made Greek goods cheaper but all imports would have shot up in value including most basic commodities.

    The idea that Greece could have rebuilt on an export lead recovery misses the fact that Greece has few export Industries, new ones would take years to build, they would struggle even then to compete with China or indeed Turkey next door and no one would lend them the money to build new Industries if they defaulted.

    The people advocating default ominously seem to be the same bankers and neo liberals who made a mint helping them to get in this mess in the first place!


  48. Please excuse this SAfrican immigrant (now British citizen) butting in with my two cents’ worth.

    In addition to the “six opinion poll findings” listed by AW, I’d add two other things we have learned, but not actually in the polls:

    1) FPTP is no longer fit for purpose – if it ever was. There may have been value in a two or two and a half post structure, but its value in the present 5/6 party structure has evaporated. (More on that, later).

    2) In the words of oldnat above,

    “We need EPEV (English polls for English voters)!”.

    We’ve already seen the value of Scotland only polls, from which several observers have noted that the Scottish decline of Labour VI, coupled with a relatively stable share in the overall GB headline numbers, must imply some improvement in their English vote.

  49. 2015 to be a pollsters’ paradise (and other assorted bits and bobs)…times / ST account required for full articles.


  50. The Army will step in if Greece tries to default.Then there will be a war.

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