Lord Ashcroft released a new batch of constituency polls this afternoon, this time returning to ten Conservative -vs- Labour seats where he found a tight battle last time round. Full details are here.

I normally look at the average swing across the groups of seats that Lord Ashcroft polls, but I’d be wary of reading too much into that this time. Because Lord Ashcroft has gone back to the tight races, these are seats that were showing a smaller than average swing before (an average of 2 points from Con to Lab). They still show a lower than average swing of about 2 points…but that’s probably because it’s a sample made up of seats that were showing a lower swing anyway, rather than a sign of a wider pattern.

Most of the seats don’t show much change in the Lab-Con race since Ashcroft previously polled them last year. The biggest differences are in Harrow East, where Labour are now ahead, and in Loughborough and Kingswood, previously tight races but now with healthier Tory leads. Most of the polls showed a drop in UKIP support, but none of these are UKIP target seats and the previous wave of polling in most of these seats was Sep-Oct when UKIP were on a Carswell related high, so this is to be expected. A positive finding for Labour in these seats is that they are ahead in the ground war – on average 71% of people recall being contacted by Labour over the last few weeks, compared to 59% who recall being contacted by the Tories.

Elsewhere, last night’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5% (tabs). Nothing particularly unusual, but note that YouGov are now on their election footing, meaning they weight by likelihood to vote in a similar way to ICM and Ashcroft polls (so people who say they are 10/10 certain to vote get a weight of 1.0, people who say they are 9/10 likely to vote get a weight of 0.9 and so on). In past elections this has tended to slightly favour the Conservatives, but this time round it isn’t actually making any substantial difference at all. YouGov have also changed their sampling slightly – taking samples from people who polled in January and February (a period when Labour had a very slight lead in the polls) and weighting them using Jan/Feb vote, rather than party ID from back in 2010.

It also means they are now seven days a week, so we’ll be getting a fresh YouGov poll every night up until the election.

539 Responses to “Lord Ashcroft re-visits some Con-Lab marginals”

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  1. @bristolianhoward

    Yeah I would have assumed a strong Conservative bias in the postal votes but surely you would have historical information on postal votes, so you might get some indication of how things are going by how much the Tories led the postal vote

  2. @ Omnishambles and @ Roger Mexico

    I can’t divulge more, but a friend of mine knew that the postal votes of 20% sample were in line with the overall prediction on the doorstep predictions. He told me it after the officer announced the result. He would not tell me a tall tale ( there was no reason for it. There are also different ways of counting methods (also used at the final counting), which help.

  3. @ Richard

    my thoughts are the same!

  4. last night’s I meant

  5. Additions: counting methods used by agents and candidates.

  6. Perhaps Fallon is positioning himself for the next Tory leadership election.

  7. @Mikey

    It’s a question of balance. Campaigns are always part positive (“we are the best choice”) and negative (“we are better than them. If they win, this is what they will do…”). The trick is reach a happy equilibrium where even your negative campaigning is viewed positively because the electorate believe it to be true.

    Now…I don’t think any party at this election (save maybe the SNP) is sufficiently popular for the electorate to believe their negative campaigning is a statement of truth rather than merely an attack on their opponents. For all the other parties therefore a balance is essential.

  8. I worked for 25 years or so in local govt and was often involved in the election process and opening and verifying postal votes….this often took place a day or so before polling day,,, when opening we were required to obviously verify each ballot paper by ensuring the appropriate declaration and signature in a separate envelope was correct but the ballot paper itself had to be placed face down…party hacks would be sitting opposite us to desperately trying to see the votes.. The votes were then placed in separate boxes and were not counted until election night…it was much easier for us (the verifiers) to see how the voter had voted..I vividly remember the 1997 election…I was employed by the London Borough of Harrow in those days…opening the postal votes 2 days before, there was a substantial majority of Conservative voters amongst the postal voters…a day or so later, both Harrow West and Harrow East went Labour!

  9. Today, on a trip back home for a meal with friends, I passed through Dronfield, Chesterfield, Belper, Derby, Ashby De La Zouch and Swadlincote. At least four of those places contain or are in marginal seats, and the only election poster I’ve seen all day is the one I just put up in my window at home.

    For most people this isn’t as exciting as we find it!

  10. WOLF

    “Perhaps Fallon is positioning himself for the next Tory leadership election.”


    I don’t think so. It seems Crosby-driven and coordinated:

    1. Get George Osborne to say how powerful the (anti-Trident) Nicola Sturgeon is in the debates
    2. Get people to attack Ed Miliband’s personal qualities, posters with Ed M dancing to the SNP’s tune.
    3. Get Fallon to emphasise Trident as a key issue, an issue on which SNP and Labour differ.

    It has Crosby’s WEDGE written all over it!!

  11. It appears that English voters have heard the Tory party scaremongering about the perils of the SNP in government and resolved to give Labour an overall majority.

  12. Mikey

    Surely anyone who is knowledgeable enough to post here has to take account of which constituency they live in, even if they decide nevertheless to vote on principle only, for the sake of what I think our colleague CMJ explained?

    I know that many voters do not take this constituency knowledge into account and indeed many (60% IIRC) in marginals do not even know (or care presumably) whether they live in a marginal one or not.

    Doorstep canvassing has taught me (I haven’t done that for a decade admittedly) that people are almost totally ignorant of politics (but know what they think). It always struck me that most voters thought that they were taking part in a PR election even though they were voting in a FPTP one (a local one thus). I have tried to explain these things politely, but was often met with either incredulity or outright worried or accusing expressions. I came to the conclusion that they thought that by some osmotic means, their vote really would count towards their favourite party, even if they lived in a no-hoper constituency for that party.

  13. Omni

    If the election is going to be very close, I can see the Con & Lab HQs glued to the BBC Ulster TV programme around 2:00 am for the Belfast South result.

  14. MS – A ComRes/Daily Mail poll tonight. But the DM encouraging its readers to ignore the polls and instead follow the money.

  15. @prof howard

    I agree – it serves to remind people how pro-trident labour are – maybe then boosting green and SNP numbers. I dont think it will work though.
    It might have had more traction if they hadn’t gone for the ‘back-stabbing’ line. Its too far away from the common perception of Ed M (weak – ineffective – but earnest and honest) to chime with the voter – instead it jars and looks like a low blow.

  16. Bristolian Howard

    I live in the Cotswolds so its fair to say my vote won’t make one jot of difference to the outcome.

  17. As ever, probably a bit too much excitement in some quarters from a run of polls tilting to the reds. As with last week’s tilt to the blues, it’s too early and too little to really get excited about, and we do seem to witness these little nudges up and down in both sides support over time.

  18. RAF there are lots of Techniques for persuasion, many of them dating back to Ancient Greece. Linking issues, using three-part lists, pathos and so on. We’re great, they are rubbish is so lazy! I remember hearing Tony Benn praising Robert Maxwell’s maiden speech for its apparent lack of rhetoric. “He just told his story of a young Czech refugee and it was so moving” Classic use of ethos & pathos but subtle enough to kid Benn that was not oratory in the derogatory sense of the word

  19. @MrNameless

    ‘the only election poster I have seen all day is the one I just put up in my window’.

    I have been driving around the Devon East constituency for the past couple of days. I have seen posters/boards for only one candidate, and there have been at least fifty on display.

    They are for the Independent candidate Claire Wright in what is normally a safe Tory seat.

    Something is up – she is 11/2 to win the seat

  20. @RAF MS – A ComRes/Daily Mail poll tonight. But the DM encouraging its readers to ignore the polls and instead follow the money.

    And if that doesn’t work, perhaps they’ll get a psychic? Or a clever pig/octopus/tortoise. Whichever gives the answer they want.

  21. The raw tables of the com res poll of 1960 Christians on their website if anyone wants to give us a read.

    I need the headline numbers!

  22. @RAF MS – A ComRes/Daily Mail poll tonight. But the DM encouraging its readers to ignore the polls and instead follow the money.

    That’s not a big Tory lead then.

    Perhaps the Daily Mail would care to explain why it pays for polls that it then urges its readers to ignore.

  23. @matt m

    That octopus did a good job during the world cup

  24. All the talk about not dancing to the snp tune ignores the catastrophic consequences of not involving a party which is likely to end up with an overwhelming majority of mps, I can’t see realistically how even the the Tories with a majority could do that without facing a constitutional crisis.

  25. The Tories need to get a grip.

  26. Before this thread becomes defunct, I just wanted to share a thought about the Ashcroft poll of Loughborough. I was speaking to a Labour canvasser in the Dog and Duck last night who has been out and about in Loughborough for the last few days.
    When I told him about the Ashcroft poll he seemed a bit crestfallen, but he pointed out there are 11000 students at Loughborough University, the majority of who won’t be there at the moment. Obviously many won’t be registered or registered at the parents address, but many will be voting in this key marginal. It is one Labour should win if they expect to be the largest party.

  27. Mr Nameless @ 7.40 pm.

    This lack of posters is quite surprising, since in our marginal of West Aberdeenshire & Kinc the poster ratio between LibDem and Tory parties would help guide how to vote to keep out the SNP.

    But driving 40 miles across Aberdeenshire yesterday, I did not see a single poster.

    Whereas four weeks before the referendum there were many posters, and their ratio foretold our NO victory.

  28. Mr N


    I noted last week that having driven the length on the Sheffield Hallam constituency, I hadn’t seen a single Tory poster. In fairness, I also saw precious few Lab or LD posters, which is rather surprising given that the seat could be the scene of the biggest upset since WWII. I’d really expected it to be a seething hotbed of activity. But on reflection, the words “seething” and “hotbed” don’t really suit Dore, Fulwood and Lodge Moor…

  29. @OBERTA 1960 Christians? Was that the last year they could find any?

  30. The most road-side posters I’ve seen were for Tim Farron when I was on holiday in the Lakes last week.

  31. @Fareham

    Don’t shoot the messenger!

  32. Cloudspotter

    I was a student at Loughborough a generation ago. Unless it’s changed a lot, there won’t be a great deal of political engagement on campus. And certainly not much of that will be Labour-leaning.

    We rarely had more than a slack handful of folk turn out at Student Union debates. Until we tried to fire up a bit of aggro by re-naming the Union Building the Nelson Mandela Building.

    Boy, did THAT poke the hornets’ nest. We had them standing in the aisles for the emergency meeting that a group of Conservative Students moved to rescind the decision.

  33. @Wolf

    I very much doubt it though I suppose its conceivable the Tory right could see Fallon as a more viable candidate with the mainstream of the party than Liam Fox or Owen Paterson who get talked about for that role. This isn’t the first time he’s been loose tongued though. I expect he decided – perhaps on orders from CCHQ – to go for EdM and then chose his words without thinking. I mean, not only was it overly personal but it didn’t tally very well with the idea that EdM’s weak.

    If Fallon did have outside leadership hopes then they’ve probably all but disappeared now anyway, barring a Fallon-bounce propelling them into a 10-point lead tomorrow (see how I got on topic there!)

  34. Lefty
    True, Loughborough has never been a hotbed of revolutionary politics, but I get the impression students and young people in general are more engaged this time after a couple apolitical decades.

  35. Millie

    Claire Wright (Ind) East Devon

    Just watched her video on her blog. Her manifesto points were mainly Red Lib Dem / Lab with an element of CPRE in it.

    Could she be a new Martin Bell? There were elements of her manifesto that would also appeal to rural UKIPers but surely Swire is rock solid? I would have thought she would just split the votes of ABT voters.

    Are there any other Independent real prospects does anyone know?

  36. What will tomorrow’s mini-news cycle be? If nothing comes up could be polls/ the state of the Tory campaign. But surely they have something lined up to put Labour under some pressure.

  37. New thread

  38. @ Amber 11:53 8th April

    “The SNP vote is not entrenched. It is a relatively new thing – just since October of last year”

    As far as I can see nobody has picked up on this, but while the first half of your statement could just about be justified, the second half just doesn’t hold water.

    If we look back at the opportunities the Scottish electorate have had to cast their votes for SNP (or it’s flagship policy) in real elections since 2005 we have:

    2005 GE 17.7%
    2007 Holyrood 32.9% [1]
    2009 Euro 29.1%
    2010 GE 19.9%
    2011 Holyrood 45.4% [1]
    2014 Euro 29.0%
    2014 Indy Ref Yes Vote 44.7% [2]

    Contrast this with the Lab vote

    2005 GE 39.5%
    2007 Holyrood 32.2% [1]
    2009 Euro 20.8%
    2010 GE 42.0%
    2011 Holyrood 31.7% [1]
    2014 Euro 25.9%

    There is a lot of to and fro, but if we look at the ratio of SNP:Lab vote ratio it gets a bit clearer.

    2005 GE 0.45
    2007 Holyrood 1.02
    2009 Euro 1.4
    2010 GE 0.47
    2011 Holyrood 1.67
    2014 Euro 1.12

    Now I fully accept that people behave differently in different elections, partly because of the context and partly because of the voting systems. However, the SNP vote increase didn’t suddenly appear last October. it has been there since at least 2011, and a significant part of the current 45% or thereabouts have voted for SNP several times since 2005. To view these as recent converts is IMO a flawed analysis. At the very least they are shared voters between SNP and Lab, or perhaps even a bit more SNP than Lab.

    This next bit is conjecture. The 2010 result may have been no more than a throwback where the Scottish ABT vote played safe and voted Lab in the 41 Lab seats (and voted LD in large numbers in the 11 LD seats). Since then the Scottish electorate have seen via the 2011 Holyrood election that collectively voting SNP wins seats for SNP. There is a lot of disenchantment with both Lab and LD in Scotland post 2010 GE and post Indy Ref. All the polling evidences affirms they can be on the winning side in almost all Scottish seats by voting SNP. With this backdrop how likely is it than many of them will drift back to Lab?

    [1] Constituency result
    [2] Not all SNP supporters voted yes and not all yes votes were from SNP supporters.

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