In the first week back there have been seven polls. The regular weekly Ashcroft poll hasn’t fired up yet, and none of the phone pollsters did fieldwork over the first weekend of the year, but the daily YouGov and twice-weekly Populus polls are off:

Opinium/Observer (2/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%, GRN 4%
Populus (4/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (5/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (6/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (7/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%
Populus (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

All the polls so far are showing a tight race, with the Labour party averaging a very small lead – the current UKPollingReport average has CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. YouGov started the year by changing their methodology to include UKIP in the main prompt, but it doesn’t appear to have had any impact on their level of support (if anything they are marginally down – last month YouGov had them averaging at 15%).

Start of the Campaign

The political parties started the campaign, the Conservatives largely on the economy and spending, Labour on the NHS. In terms of believability at least Labour’s claims went down better – by 48% to 32% people thought the claim that the NHS could not survive five more years of David Cameron was true, and by 42% to 27% that the claim the Tories wanted to cut spending back to 1930s levels was true. For the Conservatives, by 33% to 22% people believed that Labour had made £20 bn of unfunded spending commitments, but their claim that they had reduced the deficit by half was disbelieved by 49% to 24%.

Those, of course, are responses when respondents are prodded and forced to consider some party political claims and have an opinion. Whether anyone actually noticed or cared and whether anything made any difference is a different matter. I doubt we will see much change in the positions at the start of the week when the Conservatives led Labour on the economy by 15 percentage points, and Labour led the Conservatives by 12 points on the NHS, little different from other issue polls over recent months. Where there has been a significant change in the salience of issues. Presumably on the back of headlines about A&E waiting times and crisis in the NHS the proportion of people saying that health is one of the main issues facing the country has risen to 46%, in third place behind the economy and immigration and up 13 points since December. If health remains high on the agenda it will be good for Labour.

OfCom major parties

As I wrote about yesterday, Ofcom released their draft guidance on which parties should be treated as major parties in terms of election coverage. It’s open for consultation so may yet change, but as things stand UKIP will be treated as a major party (meaning broadcasters will have to give due weight to reporting them in editorial coverage), the Green party will not.


Latest projections from Election Forecast (Chris Henretty et al’s project), Election Etc (Steve Fisher’s project) and the New Statesman’s May2015 site are below. All are predicting a hung Parliament, all with Labour and Conservative within 10 seats of each other. Note that Steve Fisher’s method doesn’t have anyway of factoring in the SNP yet, so will change very soon. I think we should also be getting a regular seat projection from the Polling Observatory team in the next week or two.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 284, LAB 281, LD 26, SNP 34, UKIP 3
Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 294, LAB 297, LD 29, OTH 30
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273, LAB 281, LD 24, SNP 46, UKIP 3

197 Responses to “Seventeen weeks to go”

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  1. @Couper, Candy

    What we really really need is a new National Scottish Party – NSP! – with a manifesto promoting all things Scottish – vis, cake, salmon (without the D!), wee drams, tweed, William Dunbar, blood-feuds and so on. – without the tedious nationalism.

    Leave out the (yawn) golf and you might even get my vote.

  2. @Peter Cairns I am sorry about your car. At least you’ll be glad to hear that the storm is being reported quite extensively down South.

  3. An FN win in France would be a very bad thing indeed for European stability. The worst case (and entirely possible) scenario in a few years in terms of international relations would be an FN presidency in France, with Miliband as PM and a Republican US President. I cannot imagine any Republican getting along with Miliband.

  4. picking this up a bit late, so not sure if it has been mentioned. Does anybody have any idea why election forcast has Labour with a higher range than Con, but a slightly lower predicted seat value? I would have expected Con 281, Lab 284 as Labour is 3 higher on range. An error? AW?

    Party Lo Seats Hi Swing
    Conservatives 239 284 323 -22
    Labour 242 281 326 23

  5. If FN goes up against Hollande , Le Pen will win easily. But the French system is set up to avoid this. Most likely (at this stage) we will see a UMP/FN final stage with the UMP just clinching it.

    But at this rate, I could see the FN being in a position to beat the UMP….

  6. peter cairns–it may be no consolation to you but at least you weren’t in the car when it was demolished.
    on Friday morning I was driving to work after a days absence through a vomiting bug that lasted all Tuesday night .
    I live adjacent to the south coast and a flash flood suddenly swept across the road with no warning .
    my first thought as I was swept off the road was ”s–t this is going to cost redoing the paintwork”.
    then I saw the tree !!
    stopping instantly at 40MPH is painful and I am pleased to say that Brighton’s A and E department were incredible as usual.
    I had ten people initially testing me for trauma and it is ironic that 5 years ago they saved my wife’s life when she was infected with necrotising fasciitis.
    it we could sort the drunks out we wouldn’t have the problem we apparently do even though I saw no sign of it.
    it seems when you really need them they are there and ever cheerful and friendly.


    As my father would have said ‘Some are unhampered by the facts’ :)


    That sounds terrifying. Where were you – on the A27? Glad that you’re OK and that you didn’t have a 6 hour wait to be seen at the RSCH.

  9. I cite Andrew Rawnsley in today’s Observer to back up my assertion on the debates.

  10. I’m not sore, I just like accuracy and relevance.

    Don’t even know how many millions you need to be called a MULTI-millionaire …… two?? twenty?? Is Alec Salmond a millionaire or just extremely well-off?

    Does it matter?

  11. Noam Chomsky talks of those in power narrowing acceptable opinion but allowing lively debate within those bounds. So we will see a lively debate within the boundaries of Austerity, anti-Trade Union, pro-Nuclear Deterrence and so on.

    No one with an anti-Austerity, pro-TU, anti-Trident agenda is allowed in the debate, Despite the fact that support for parties putting forward this agenda will be probably around the level of UKIP support by the time of the debate and certainly far more than LibDems.

    Don’t you think it is democratic that the voters get to hear another side of the argument?

  12. Crikey, if the criteria for determining truth to a, usually, partisan source, our newspapers & courts would have little time to report on anything else.

    Personally I don’t care how much a party leader is worth, financially. I am much more concerned with how fairly they intend running the country !

  13. @COUPER2802

    Not at all sore, merely puzzled by the assertion. It’s a bit like the story that EM was a public school boy. I had assumed that both were bits of spin generated by the coalition parties to negate their own leaders’ circumstances and histories. Attack is the best form of defence etc.

  14. @ Couper

    ‘Don’t you think it is democratic that the voters get to hear another side of the argument?’

    Yes, as I posted earlier on the thread.

  15. @Jay Blanc

    “I’m reluctant to hand over the full formula..”

    It is disappointing that you have elected not to offer a more detailed description of your model.

    As you describe it, a central innovation in your model is the use of momentum to influence the pattern and rate of future VI change. Other models (e.g., Electionsetc and Electionforecast) base the projection trajectory on just the current VI without taking account of recent changes made to reach this point.

    To my mind, it seems a good idea to use this information in model designed to predict VI trends and ultimately VI values and seat projections on a given future date.

    I note that the most recent run of your model projects a 19-seat lead for Labour – an outcome that is much more favourable to this party than that generated by any of the public models mentioned by Anthony at the top of this page. Intuitively I would have expected a momentum model to have the opposite effect. As you wrote: “…when Labour are trending downwards, reversion to mean for their vote-share is going to be re-enforced.” Given that Labour *are* trending downwards at the moment (and have been doing so for many months), one would expect to see a higher proportional reversion to mean than would have been evident in a model in which momentum modulation is ‘switched off’. Based on this, I would have expected to see your model projecting comfortable Tory leads rather than the opposite.

    We all know that informal reasoning can be embarrassingly flawed and sometimes models can be used to pinpoint reasoning errors. But if you are not prepared to divulge the working details of your model then it becomes well nigh impossible to use it in this way.

    As it stands, I don’t really understand why your model produces the output you report in your blog and because of this I am unable to tell whether I should be changing the way I think about these matters.

  16. @Alan

    Just a quick note to say that I owe you a response to your thorough post at 5.26 pm yesterday. Too late to deal with it now!

  17. After much Googling got to the bottom of the whole Ed Miliband “millionaire” thing.

    Ralph Miliband died in 1994 leaving his house to his wife.

    She then changed the ownership of the house to 60% for her, 20% for DavidM and 20% for EdM.

    David Miliband then bought out his mother and brother in 2004, when the house was independently valued at £800,000 according to people who have checked the land registry.

    20% of £800,000 = £160,000 which was Ed Miliband’s share. Ed Miliband then had to pay capital gains tax on this, as it was’t his primary residence and he paid £0 for it (as it was a gift from his mum). Capital gains tax in 2004 was 40%

    So he got £96,000 – which apparently tax makes you a millionaire in some circles!

    Also not sure how the tax avoidance thing comes into it – because the whole arrangement made the sons subject to capital gains tax when they sold, which cancels out any inheritance tax saved.

    I think the “millionaire” thing is down to the DM doing their “he lives in a house worth £1 million” – which belongs to his wife who bought it before she met him.

  18. Candy ,

    More than a few gaps there and nothing about the preceding 13 years !

  19. Diane Abbot to her credit doesn’t pretend that ownership of London property doesn’t make you rich.

  20. WOLF
    “Diane Abbot to her credit doesn’t pretend that ownership of London property doesn’t make you rich.”

    If you live in London, it doesn’t. Unless you want to sell it and move to Oldham or Dalkeith, which I am reliably informed Diane does not want to do, as she wants to be Mayor of London.

  21. This is fab. I can read UKPR and save the cost of my Daily Mail

  22. @Crossbat (21:58, 10 Jan)

    “There was a UKIP PPC on Any Questions last night who blamed multiculturalism for the events in France.”

    Exactly. If there weren’t any non-assimilated Muslims and Jews in France, none of the events of last week would have happened (no Al Qaeda fanatics, no kosher supermarket, etc.). France did not have any such people pre-1789 (except for Jews in the recently conquered province of Alsatz).

    Non-assimilated minorities of any size undermine the national ethos of a country and potentially lead to internecine strife – look at the artificial states of the Levant, created following the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour declaration of nearly 100 years ago.

  23. @ Candy (from last night)

    You write of national leaders, but the UK PM is the leader of a multinational state. The First Minister of the Scottish Parliament is the national leader of Scotland.

  24. This is fab. I can read UKPR and save the cost of my Daily Mail

    …but you can’t then use UKPR to line a cat litter tray.

    (Of course placing a paper in such a way as get your cats to ‘hit’ a certain person or story would not be recommended)


  25. Ashcroft poll tweeted as being out at 4 pm today – seems a bit unusual to release on a Sunday.

  26. Oooh! I must ask my newsagents if they’ve got any back-issues of the DM. It would be ideal for the limiter tray of my house rabbits! :-))

  27. I don’t care about how much personal wealth (or not) political leaders have, only whether or not they are prepared to put into place measures that tackle excesses of personal wealth and the extreme inequality of wealth we now see.

    Attacking Miliband on the grounds that he is (given rocketing London property prices quite plausibly) a property millionaire when his party’s flagship policy is to tax excess property-based wealth seems a bit, well, silly. By contrast, the likes of Peter (“filthy rich”) Mandelson are what get up my nose, because they seem to take pleasure in excess wealth and fail to acknowledge that it’s a problem, or at least that was Mandelson’s position a few years back.

  28. This mornings YouGov yet another tie. Detailed questions of interest as always. On the whole favorable to the Tories, except on the NHS where the winner is neither Labour or Tories.

    Best recent Chancellor’s Ken Clarek and then Osborne, no surprises there. Interesting that the voters expect the Tories to get most seats at the election.

  29. @Phil Haines:

    The mansion tax on Miliband’s property in London would be covered by parliamentary expenses – he wouldn’t have to pay it.

  30. CANDY

    In your last response to me as per usual your post went off course and started the preverbal Nat attack.

    However what I find very interesting is why Labour are more keen than the Tories to have UKIP on the debates than the but appear to be chicken when it comes to the SNP.

    As you and others have stated, the SNP are irrelevant to you but come May you might l be eating some humble pie when EM could be looking for a minor irrelevant party to put him into number 10.

    I’m still holding out for a Tory minority gov introducing EVEL and doing some sort of deal with the SNP for maximum devolution.

  31. “…seems a bit, well, silly”

    It seems an awful lot like the tedious partisan nonsense that the comment policy is intended to avoid as well.

  32. I know two people quite well who are London property millionaires. One is a wartime refugee, a widow and former primary school teacher. She makes ends meet by doing bed and breakfast and cannot afford to get her car properly repaired. The other is a consultant doctor married to a senior civil servant and should be as rich as Croesus. Unfortunately their way of life imposes very heavy child care costs and she is the only person I have ever been to a supermarket with and paid for their groceries because their card was refused. And yet according to Zoopla one has made about 300,000k in the past year and the other 450,000k. This is a ridiculous situation which runs the risk of being unfair on absolutely everyone including those who seem to be coining it.

    To link to VI, the mansion tax is certainly affecting the political attitudes of one of the three people involved. It has not, however, made her want to vote conservative and I doubt there are very many in her position.

  33. @ Daodao

    Pre-1789 the majority of the population of France didn’t speak French (as first language) – so your point is pretty baseless. The fourth estate (the vast majority of the population weren’t considered as part of the nation, or the humankind really).

    The notion of the one and indivisible France appears first with the Jacobin dictatorship of 1793 (and then dropped for almost a 100 years). Re-emerged with the radicals, and the anti-Church laws towards the end of the 19th century.

    Also I would like to know what is considered assimilated in England. Are the inhabitants of the oldest Chinatown (Liverpool) assimilated. According to academic research their values are different from the first generation Chinese population. But the same is true for the Pakistani population of Bradford.

  34. @Charles

    I’m not convinced by the mansion tax

    1. Raise money from foreign owners only, I,e, not registered for UK tax. This would raise cash and bring down high end prices.
    2. What about people whose property has rocketted in value but can’t afford to pay? What do we do about them? Shouldn’t that be better handled via inheritance tax or some variation of capital gains tax so only paid when house sold. Will we get to the bedroom tax situation with people committing suicide?
    3. Why is the money going to the NHS? Shouldn’t it be spent on affordable housing?

    Members of my team live in London and a couple can only afford to rent despite being professionals and well paid – anywhere else they would be well off.

  35. @Charles

    Given where I live, I know quite a few property millionaires. Indeed before my divorce I was (with my wife) in that bracket myself, having bought a semi-detached house at the end of the 1980s. My ex wife now lives in a nice terraced house in a ‘good’ area and I in a nice modern flat in an unglamorous area, both of us mortgage free. We would not have been in the mansion tax bracket but despite the eye-watering expense of a divorce we have successfully rehoused ourselves very comfortably. That possibility is available to anyone who lives in a ‘mansion’.
    The same options are not available to those subject to the bedroom tax.

  36. @Guymonde

    I take your point but it is important that people are able to stay in their communities that is something I particularly hate about the bedroom tax people being forced out of communities they have lived in for years.

    I can see big politcal trouble for Labour if people are forced to sell up or end up having their home repossessed because they can’t pay.

    Tax no-UK tax payers but not UK tax payers that would catch the speculators and maybe bring in a stamp duty type tax paid by the seller – my goodness I could think up better policies than politicians

  37. @TOH

    “Interesting that the voters expect the Tories to get most seats at the election.”

    So their expectations are aligned with the projections of one of the three models mentioned in Anthony’s post at the top of the page.

    If their views are a little more Tory-favouring than those of many UKPR posters, then that could well be because their polling news is carefully filtered for them by news outlets that are not known for their sympathy and enthusiasm for the Labour party. You know … some polls headlined, others buried. That kind of thing.

    On balance, I don’t think we learn very much from figures on voters, expectations.

  38. @AW

    I had assumed that, since you are apparently content with people to post here attacking Miliband on the heinous grounds of being a property millionaire following the appreciation of London property prices, it was reasonable to say something in defence of him.

    [Not happy with either. I think I’ve been extremely clear on many occasions that I consider the people who respond to rebut partisan comments as being as bad or worse as the original person, as it continues the partisan argument. It takes two people to take over a thread with idiot political argument. Please just IGNORE partisan comments and they’ll either get bored, I’ll ban them (or I’ll decide they are only partisan in the eyes of those completely blinkered in the other direction and do nothing) – AW]

  39. “2. What about people whose property has rocketted in value but can’t afford to pay? What do we do about them? Shouldn’t that be better handled via inheritance tax or some variation of capital gains tax so only paid when house sold. Will we get to the bedroom tax situation with people committing suicide?”

    What you propose is precisely Labour policy for property-rich, cash-poor people.

  40. Labour needs to make this clear as even labour mayoral hopefuls not forgetting dear marlene klass seem ignorant of the deferred tax payment when the old granny is left with no cash.

    As an aside I see marlene has bought a new garage worth allegedly 3 mill.She doesnt seem to have complained about the stamp duty tho.

  41. New thread

  42. @ Alan (re: your comment at 5.26 pm yesterday)

    For purposes of forecasting I totally agree that it is better to use data driven models than to rely upon any kind of gut feeling.

    Much of your comment is about how we should proceed when the models are not doing too well. Our current situation can be likened to trying to reach a destination aided only by half a dozen faulty SatNavs (which are after all just computational devices furnished with a database and updated on a regular basis with new [GPS = polling] information.)

    How best to struggle on when they are all telling us we are in different locations and moving in different directions?

    In that situation I’d be inclined to switch off (or at least pay less attention to) the devices currently offering the most aberrant information and then keep fingers crossed that the rest can help me muddle through.

    In polling and forecasting terms that means placing most confidence in models that are doing well when benchmarked against currently available evidence. That means switching off electionsetc (at least until Scotland is fixed). It also means temporarily setting to one side the forecasting component of Electionforecast (on the grounds that it keeps giving faulty readings in stating that the Greens should have been dipping for some time now; LibDems should be on the rise, Ukip should be plummeting and so on.). It is a bit early to assess May2015 but just before the next set of Ashcroft constituency polls I’ll try to take a copy of its projections and see how it fares.

    At present I still can’t see anything better than borrowing the Electionforecast current snapshot and bolting on an alternative set of projection calculations.

  43. Unicorn

    Don’t worry, as long as it was read.

    It’s refreshing to get into detailed discussions about trying to apply data science to polling data.

    I like the concept of a “drift plus diffusion” model. The question is what are appropriate ways to estimate these terms? It would be preferable to measure the standard errors of these terms also. Even making the assumption that these measures are normally distributed is a major assumption (which can have an effect when predicting probabilities of tails)

    I do have ideas that I would include in a model like this, although there is an issue of making a model so complicated that you can tweak all the various parameters in such a way it fits all the historical data available but is rubbish at predicting due to over fitting.

    Electionforecast’s simple model seems to give reasonable predictions, even though we can both see the limitations of the model, I’d be very loathe to replace the “drift proportionate to current swing” until data comes along that breaks down the model completely.

    I accede that a better model might well be “fractional drift is some nonlinear concave function of current fractional swing” which would reduce the swingback of minor parties that have experienced large swings significantly. However, any speculation of this function seems to be highly arbitrary as we don’t know how bad the linear fit will be at predicting UKIP/SNP/Green/LD. I suspect it will be wrong and slightly underpredict the first 3 and over predict LD but I doubt it’ll be that far out, for a very simple model.

    I wouldn’t be happy proposing a replacement function on the basis of “my gut tells me it’ll look a bit like this” as at that point predictions are controlled more by gut than by data. Covering a simple prediction in disclaimers about your suspicions of where it might not hold seems to be better than creating a fudge an pretending all is now well.

    Another issue is the question of momentum. I’d certainly want to test whether a level of autocorrelation has been historically present. Anecdotally people seem to think it exists. If I was generation a prediction model I’d certainly want to fit a term to see if it exists, and how powerful it really is.

    I’d probably also want to include some sort of autocorrelation term for the diffusion factor, on the basis that more stable (in terms of vote share, not internal politics) parties remain stable. This might justifiably reduce the range of values predicted

    The problems with all of these options is they give a huge amount of power to fit a small amount of data, it’s like drawing a horribly complex curve that nails six points exactly when a straight line gives a pretty good fit. Once more data is added and the straight line gets worse and worse reevaluting the model is appropriate. Furthermore there will be many ways to draw a complex function that fits all the points exactly, and there will be as many opinions as to how to fit the data as there as people to give an opinion, at least!

  44. Unicorn

    That is certainly one way to proceed, to simplify the models further, although the nowcast gives very tight bounds on the seats, I’d be interested to see what the model predicted if we could turn off the drift term but allow projected polls to diffuse.

    I think looking at the mean of the prediction and expecting a heavy reversion to that is more than the model has been saying. The random walk part of the poll certainly allows for the greens to climb, and now they have (due to their messages being taken better than one might have expected) their expected value has risen with their polls. Their nowcast mean does lie within the confidence levels of the predicted result, so if the finish there the result will have still been a good one.

    Conversely, if Labour finish on less than 296 seats or Tories on more than 258, using the now cast would have been a bad predictor for 5 months out from an election. These numbers will converge as the date draws closer, one of the measures of a predictor is “how far out did it make a reliable prediction”

    It’s for this reason I’d love to see a table of combinations of lab/con seats with their associated probabilities. Right now it’s predicting and has been for a while a 90%+ chance of a hung parliament (326 seats) for me that is a definite strong prediction that is far away from bookmaker odds for example so isn’t a foregone conclusion in public opinion. Currently the seat numbers predicted are pretty wide although you will get a few predicting numbers outside of these limits.

    It’ll be interesting to note whether the predictions or the nowcast are closer to the final lab/con seat numbers, although to be fair to both, I’d wait until after today’s batch of Ashcroft polls come out. They tend to move predictions around quite a bit, particularly if these are Scottish ones as anticipated by many.

  45. @Peter

    “(100mph winds blow down a section of forest across the road from my house and one tree fell, blocking the road to my house taking out the phone, Internet and power for 36hrs and very inconveniently flattening the new car I bought in November!)”

    I know your pain. Both our cars were badly damaged by roof tiles in the Jan ’12 storms. My car had been bought in Nov ’11.

    These things happen. Cars can be replaced, so count one’s blessing etc. Chin up! :))

  46. @Couper

    RE: UKIP (“I expect them to be in single figures by March.”)

    Not sure. The addition of prompting might mitigate that somewhat. We haven’t seen a rise due to prompting, but nor, have we seen their support falling away.

    So if prompting doesn’t make a big difference in the very short term, does it keep a party from losing VI in the ‘fade away’ sense?


    National leaders? So why have Scottish leaders? You see the problem? You can’t assign a regional label to a party and a national one to its opponents if said party attends a national parliament.

  47. Just testing to see if my name that appears above messages has changed, after I have gone through a new signing-in process.

    And I am sorry to hear of Peter`s car and yet more storm damage to Scotland`s woodlands. This is the third winter in a row when substantial damage has been done, and though there was an earlier comment about the storms being well reported, there has been negligible reporting on the big cost to the forest industry and woodland owners.

    A major Scottish asset is being dissipated on the quiet, unlike the much-in-the-news North Sea problems.

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