This morning’s Mail on Sunday had a new poll of South Thanet which they built up into a UKIP “covering up” an unfavourable poll showing them headed for defeat. ComRes have subsequently released the tables for the poll here, revealing it was actually commissioned by ChartwellPolitical, an agency founded by two former UKIP staffers.

First let’s cut away the Mail’s hyperbole – it’s really not a “LOSER POLL!” and doesn’t show Farage heading for a humiliating defeat. UKIP are one point behind the Conservatives, with Labour one point behind them – CON 31%, UKIP 30%, LAB 29%, LDEM 5%. Given the margin of error, one couldn’t confidently say which of the three parties are ahead. What it actually shows is an extremely tight race. However it’s significantly less positive for UKIP than the previous polling in Thanet South – a Survation poll back in February that showed UKIP ten points ahead, and it resulted in UKIP attempts to rubbish the poll and its methodology last night.

In terms of methodology, the poll is mostly done using the same methods ComRes use in their national telephone polls – same turnout weighting and filtering, same squeeze question, same treatment of don’t knows. There are two important differences between the way ComRes do their national and constituency polls though. First respondents were prompted with the individual candidate names, secondly the poll was NOT politically weighted (if it had been, it would probably have been better for the Tories to some degree, depending on how much false recall ComRes allowed for in setting targets).

Most of the criticism of the poll last night (including some from UKIP themselves) was frankly complete nonsense. I can only assume a lot of it was sourced from “what some bloke on Twitter reckoned”. To sum up, the difference isn’t because candidates weren’t named – they were. It isn’t because 2010 political or turnout weights were used – they weren’t. It wasn’t because people who are unlikely to vote were included – they weren’t. It wasn’t because ComRes reallocated people by 2010 vote – they don’t. The idea that the question wording mentioning “your local MP” favoured Laura Sandys seems somewhat stretched, given the question included candidate names and Laura Sandys wasn’t one of those candidates.

To look at the more substantive things people have asked though, the initial voting intention question in the poll found Nigel Farage ahead. What put him behind in the final figures was weighting by turnout and squeezing the don’t knows. Neither of these are strange and unusual, they are ComRes’s normal method and are perfectly justifiable.

Looking at turnout first, ComRes found that Labour and Conservative voters said they were more likely to vote than UKIP voters. In Survation’s poll in February they actually found just the same thing, and their approach to weighting by likelihood to vote is very similar to ComRes’s (there is a difference in how they treat people who are very unlikely to vote – Survation weight them down very heavily, ComRes exclude them. In practice this difference has minimal effect). The difference between the Survation poll showing a ten point UKIP lead and the ComRes one showing a one point Tory lead is NOT turnout weighting.

The other difference is don’t knows. In the Survation poll people who said they didn’t know how they would vote were ignored. In ComRes, they were asked a follow up “squeeze” question – how would they vote if they legally HAD to. For people who still didn’t give an answer, ComRes asked if they identified with any party, and took that as their most likely vote. In practice these squeeze questions helped Labour and the Conservatives, but didn’t squeeze out much in the way of extra UKIP support.

There is nothing at all methodologically “wrong” with this poll… but then, there wasn’t anything “wrong” with the Survation poll in February either. There are different methodological approaches, and there are good arguments to be made for and against them, but we don’t have the evidence to say which is right. More importantly, a lot of the difference here isn’t because of methodology… it’s just because ComRes found fewer Ukippers and more Labour and Conservative voters than Survation did. Perhaps that’s because UKIP have lost support since February. Perhaps that’s just normal sample variation. We can’t tell, we can only say that South Thanet may still be a tight race after all.


748 Responses to “ComRes poll of Thanet South”

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  1. @Jasper

    STV (via STV player online).

  2. MBRUNO.
    Hello to you.
    I think there is a possibility that the Lib Dems would split if there was a decision to join a formal coalition with the DUP and Tories.

    I do agree with you that the Conservatives will end up being the largest party, and therefore having first go at forming a Government.

  3. Any polls today?

  4. Graham: that would be correct if Labour and the SNP agreed to bring down the government on a motion of no confidence. I’m just not sure they will. In any case, if there is a motion of no confidence and a second motion of confidence is not passed within 14 days, the end result is a snap election and not the opposition taking over immediately. Again, I’m not sure that would be in Labour’s or the SNP’s best interest.

    My gut feeling is that, whoever is the largest party in the House will form a minority government, i.e Cameron will resign if Labour has more seats than the Tories and there is no alternative in the form of a majority Tory + LD coalition. That minority government, be it Tory or Labour, will probably linger for a while before a new election is held.

  5. Now then Chris Lane.

    A Bournemouth promotion and a Labour Govt or Bournemouth remaining in the Championship but a Con Govt. You have to select one of the two. Which is it to be?

  6. Tony Blair has entered the debate, small swing to Cons then..

    Seriously, can anybody tell me how I can watch the debate tonight!

  7. MAY2015 changed their forecast today, view MAY2015 and other forecasts here:

    https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=698F47EA25B48A7A!432827&authkey=!AFxT0-0e9Y0GC1w&ithint=file%2cpdf

  8. I found a good impartial (I hope) guide to what happens when there is no clear winner

    http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/10970/we-need-clarity-about-the-2015-election/

    They refer to the cabinet manual and have a link in there that states it quite clearly

    Parliaments with no overall majority in the House of Commons
    2.12 Where an election does not result in an overall majority for a single party, the incumbent government remains in office unless and until the Prime Minister tenders his or her resignation and the Government’s resignation to the Sovereign. An incumbent government is entitled to wait until the new Parliament has met to see if it can command the confidence of the House of Commons, but is expected to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command that confidence and there is a clear alternative.

    and
    “If there is a hung parliament, one significant misunderstanding that may arise concerns who gets to become Prime Minister. Despite likely claims to the contrary, the leader of the largest party has no automatic claim to the keys of Number Ten… The UK has a so-called ‘unordered’ government formation process, meaning any party can speak to any other, all at the same time if they choose to.

    The test is who can best command the support of the House of Commons (parliamentary confidence). That could be the leader of the second party, if smaller parties choose to support him”

    So to summarise that
    – Cameron will stay in power in the immediate aftermath
    – All parties try and cobble something together to see if they can get enough votes to command the confidence of the house
    – if they succeed, that group takes power. Presumably Cameron just accepts that and resigns like Brown if he is not part of that group, or they table the motion of confidence as per the FTPA if he refuses to.
    – if they fail then that is where it becomes more interesting

    – does Cameron try to run a minority government? He can do that until someone tables the motion of no confidence (who can table that – only the main opposition, or can the small parties also table that, and does the speaker have to accept that motion and put it to the floor?). I’m not clear on whether only Labour could table that as the main opposition, or if UKIP or SNP or indeed George Galloway could spring that at any time?

    And if he is a minority, will he be able to pass anything, in particular his budget?

    Or does he just accept that no party can support the confidence of the house and go to fresh elections?

  9. @Rich

    Log in to STV player. It’s free.

  10. @Richard

    My understanding is that a no confidence motion would be tabled on an ‘opposition day’. The main opposition get 17 a session, the next biggest get 3. Some are usually also given to smaller parties though the govt. don’t have to do this. Alternatively the govt. might choose to bring forward a vote on the motion that ‘This House has confidence in Her Majesty’s govt’ which could be amended to ‘no confidence’.

    In practice the vote on the Loyal Address – effectively agreeing to the Queen’s Speech would act as a confidence vote. It is not a confidence vote under the FTP Act and so the election in 14 days if no govt. can overturn it rule would not apply but having lost the govt. would almost certainly resign

  11. MBruno
    There is no way that Labour would fail to table a No Confidence Vote – should it be necessary – and the SNP have made it clear that they would support such a vote together with probably 8 MPs from the smaller parties. Cameron would then be obliged to resign at which point Milliband would have to win a Confidence Vote. Only if that failed within 14 days would a second election be called.

  12. @ Mbruno,

    that would be correct if Labour and the SNP agreed to bring down the government on a motion of no confidence. I’m just not sure they will.

    That would require a non-aggression pact between them, because as soon as someone tables the motion everyone has to vote for it or face annihilation in Scotland in 2016.

    While it might be in the Labour Party’s interest to make such a deal, it is decidedly not in the interest of the two Eds, who would have to resign. So I’m not convinced the party leadership would go for it. Plus the PLP as a whole is so tribal that this is a bit of a scorpion-and-frog situation- Dennis Skinner tries to destroy Tory governments because that’s his nature. No one is going to be able to stop him doing it for some theoretical electoral advantage.

    It’s definitely in the SNP’s interest to make such a deal, but I don’t know that they could afford to. Their new base is politically engaged and a bit rabid, and I’m not sure even their spin operation would be good enough to disguise the fact they were propping up Cameron.

  13. @Richard

    As I understand it he SNP would be able to table a no confidence motion but only when it is one of their days to table motions. This depends on the parliamentary timetable, so might not be very soon after the GE. May also depend on Bercow. Others will tell us the full gen, I’m sure, but the last minute plot against Mr Speaker was not merely vindictiveness, I think.

  14. @Graham

    Unless, of course, they judge that they couldn’t form a stable govt. themselves. In that case they might think themselves better off forcing an election in a couple of years once the govt. has had time to make themselves unpopular and once they might have reined back the SNP surge in Scotland.

  15. @Richard

    Thanks for the link, I have been looking for that information for ages.

  16. @Jack Sheldon

    However propping up a Conservative government by refusing to vote it down wouldn’t help Labour “rein back the SNP surge”. Quite the opposite!

  17. Question for anyone who could answer it please.

    If the Conservatives formed a minority government/coalition and lost a vote of confidence, or even looked like they may lose a vote of confidence, could the Prime Minister then go to the Queen and again dissolve Parliament so that another election was almost immediately called?

    Would this be possible under the constitution?

    If this scenario were to follow through then I think it likely that we would end up following the subsequent election with either a majority Conservative or Labour Government. But that is just my opinion.

  18. Jack Sheldon @Graham

    “Unless, of course, they judge that they couldn’t form a stable govt. themselves.”

    In that context, it’s worth looking at what happened in a Parliament set up by the UK, under provisions for a change of FM / extraordinary general election which are not dissimilar that it subsequently imposed on itself under the FTPA.

    In 2007, the SNP was the largest party (47). the former coalition members Lab (46) & LD (16) could have combined to form a government which was a bit less minority – but chose not to do so.

    Should Labour repeat that exercise in Westminster, when they could form a minority government (with SNP/SLD/PC/Green) support, then it might have no adverse consequences in England, but in Scotland would likely finish them as a party here.

  19. @Bill

    No. Under FTPA the other parties would then have 14 days to form a government that could command the confidence of the House.

  20. Does the queen no longer have the power to call elections?

  21. @James – Thank you.

    That will possibly play a major role the nearer we come to election day by the two major parties in trying to get voters to vote for them.

  22. @Jack Sheldon
    I am sure that under such circumstances Labour would for a minority Government and essentially dare the SNP and minor parties to bring it down. I think it highly unlikely that they would do so.

  23. Going back to the polling….

    I have noticed something funny about Populus polls. In this link,
    http://may2015.com/category/drilldown/

    you can see that Populus have found the Big 2 *declining* or static over the past couple of months. That’s exactly the opposite trend detected by other polling companies such as YouGov

    Yes they’re less frequent but still, twice weekly, it’s frequent enough

  24. Interesting thing tonight will be to see how Murphy does.

    The other three do this all the time, but it will be the first time he has had to operate at this level.

  25. Debate kicking off on STV player. Registering ought to get access.

  26. @Omni

    Remember Populus changed their methodology in Feb, and you can see it on their UKIP score on that graph. The inverse of higher UKIP is lower Conservative and Labour.

    http://www.populus.co.uk/Our-Methodology/Polling/

  27. @richard

    Right, thanks, that might be it. Although I note they say this regarding UKIP

    “In practice the change is unlikely to have much impact on the party’s poll rating as our periodic trials have found little variance in UKIP’s level of support whether they are included in the primary list of parties or among other parties. ”

    Perhaps it did

  28. Nicolas in red ,ruths in orange .Jims in a dark suit.

    Women politicians have to think about the consequences of these things.

  29. 07052015

    Jim’s wearing red shoes, though! :-)

  30. Good evening all from Giffnock.

    Watching the STV leaders debate. Poor Willie making a hash of it

    #cringe………..no pun intended.

  31. JM as predicted spends more time attacking the SNP than the Tories.

  32. CB11
    Looking ahead, you could influence matters by attending your team on April 18th when they play Barnet. Possibly the only chance for the Pirates to overtake Barnet. I think Norbold is a Barnet supporter.

    I am following your main love on the net. ‘Must win, I’d say.

    I am going to expect Con having a larger percentage tonight (if there is a poll) due to BH factor and school holidays.

  33. Well Nicola and Jim would certainly get [snipped] by Anthony with all their largest party / 1924 chat…

  34. Dame Edna!

  35. Old nat So is nicola ,jim has a red tie tho.

  36. NORTHUMBRIANSCOT

    LOL :-)

  37. Is tonight’s debate for the Scottish 2016 election?

  38. 07052015

    There was an old music hall poem derisive of a man who turned up at a funeral inappropriately dressed

    Brown boots?
    And all the rest
    Were dressed
    in sober black.

  39. The G have NS narrowly ahead of JM on points after Round 1.

  40. Allan Christie,

    It’s as if Jim Murphy isn’t an SNP member…

  41. New Fred.

  42. At least the audience member with the fake moustache & fedora is generating interest.

  43. Oldnat

    He looks like Guido!

  44. @ Old Nat,

    The funeral’s not til May 7th.

  45. So it was clear in the debate the SNP will work with Lab

  46. Post debate results

    Nicola Sturgeon 55
    Jim Murphy 36
    Ruth Davidson 8
    Willie Ronnie 1

    This was from the audience equal SNP, Lab and Undecided. And half as many Con and LibDem as SNP or Lab

  47. I haven’t seen the debate but that’s a disappointing score for Davidson given her party polls 15%. From what I’ve seen of her she normally comes across pretty well – although obviously the debate was going to be dominated by Sturgeon vs. Murphy.

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