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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    They sit in a pile and certainly we never know about them until election night.

  2. @ RMJ1

    It appears bizarre to me as well. Particularly the constant attacks on EdM.


    The postals are quite many these days as they are popular. People can start polling about now. So its not just important to peak on polling day, to affect the postal voters.

    (I wonder if Lynton Crosby has been told about this .)

  4. @ Chris Lane

    Panelbase Lab 37 Con 31 is genuine – but Panelbase are new to UK polling so maybe best to take it with a pinch of salt.

  5. @ Omnishambles

    Postal votes are counted before the vote count (logical as they have to be verified).

  6. @CL45

    No. Just a wacky outlier by a fairly new entrant in UK wide polling. Their Indyref pilling was very good.

  7. Dave. I’m a non partisan voter who knows whatever happens I’ll be OK. If I base my vote on my perception of integrity, drive and pragmatism, how does it help me if I only hear negative ad hominem output? Like everyone I think I’m the sort of voter whom they should be targeting. Rather than people who are already supporters. If there really are up to 24% late deciders out there, all this negative stuff is as likely to drive them towards other activities on May 7 rather than the polling booth.
    Let’s hope we get something more positive when the manifestos come out

  8. @LRR

    I suggested there might be an ICM poll but I was mistaken – I was thinking of Ipsos Mori.

    It would be ironic if Scotland fails to get the government it votes for because it votes against Labour.

    Given that few here expect anything but LiS+SNP total seats to be at least the 47 seats achieved in 2010, even should the LDs not collapse the only way it can fail to get a Lab Westminster government is if Lab fail to improve their position in England.

    Should that come to pass, it will be merely business as usual for Westminster. Ironic in terms of the “Better Together” narrative, perhaps but hardly in any other way.

  10. I may have miscounted but is that the last 6 National Opinion polls that Labour has come top in. One even suggesting Ed (I can’t even eat a bacon sandwich) Miliband coming above Cameron.
    I always suspected the talk of cross over was a little over hyped but I did not expect what has happened over the last few days.
    Not sure what to attribute it to, a good Labour campaign or poor conrvative one or a mixture of the two, but the polls do finally seem to be moving.
    Of course it could all change in the next 4 weeks but I am pretty sure which campaign HQ will be happier tonight.

  11. CL
    Sad to hear of Ritchie Benaud”s admission to a hospice. I seem to recall some good joshing with CMJ, including Benaud’s correcting him on the meaning of “knee trembler”.
    Great man and has my best wishes and thoughts of long well-spent idle days.

  12. RAF:
    Thanks, must go out now and meet people- too many polls.

    Lib Dem numbers seem rather high still, strange.

  13. Without sucking up to the boss I will believe the labour surge when yougov shows it -will anyone tell ex labour in scotland who I suspect are still in labour trait a itir/em useless mode.

    Th anything like snp 39 lab 30 would be interesting.

  14. @chrislane1945

    Panelbase state that:

    “Panelbase is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules”

  15. @NeilJ

    “Of course it could all change in the next 4 weeks ”

    or in the next 4 hours when we get the other 2 polls!

  16. SNP at 50% would mean more than the referendum Yes percentage. How could this be possible?

  17. @laszlo

    They’re counted *before* the proper vote count? So have there ever been leaks, or little hints that x is doing well in the postal vote?

  18. I’m not sure about the reliability of any polls this week, due to Easter.

    We’re always told that ‘thousands of people’ travel away on holiday for Easter so they will not be included in any polling (especially phone-based polls). I’m not suggesting that these people support any particular party but their exclusion inevitably means that the polls cannot be representative of the electorate (specifically they exclude people who go on holiday at Easter with whatever inherent biases that group may have).

    Having said all this I’m not sure how you could test this statistically because any difference between (say) this week’s polls and last/next week’s may be due to election events rather than any Easter sampling problem.

  19. For All: the postal ballot papers are counted before day of the count of the votes.

  20. @CHRISLANE1945

    Pabelbase newish to election polling but a 1000ish person online poll. Tables here: http://www.panelbase.com/media/polls/W6836w3tablesv2.pdf

  21. How long before?

  22. @ALBERT SNP at 50% would mean more than the referendum Yes percentage. How could this be possible?

    If Scottish Labour voters believe the SNP will be at least as left wing as Labour, will generally support Labour (and oppose the Tories), but will also vote as a block in Scotland’s interest, then it’s not unreasonable to think they might vote SNP even if they voted No in the referendum.

    I remember Richie Benaud’s Good Morning All; No Need to chase that one; Bowled Him.
    And in a discussion about team building exercises he told fellow commentators that batting, bowling and fielding practice was ‘enough to be getting on with’
    In his last Channel 4 Coomentary his fellow commentator talked the whole time.

  24. @ Omnishambles

    Yes, leaks can happen, but probably they don’t. It would be an offence under the act of People’s Representation.

    The returning officer has to verify 20% of the ballot papers. The votes are counted, the sealed and opened at the time of the counting of the votes.

    Right now it’s a frightening perspective for the Conservatives as they would have to turn around by about Wednesday when a lot of people send their postal votes.

  25. The last time I got this excited Wolves got promoted to the premiership :-)

  26. It would be ironic if Labour win *despite* Scotland instead of *because* of it!

  27. ALBERT
    SNP at 50% would mean more than the referendum Yes percentage. How could this be possible?

    First, SNP have always attracted a significant number of voters wanting good governance and perhaps more devolution but not independence. Whether they get that or not is clearly a matter of opinion.

    Second, most recent “full Scottish” polls have included either the referendum question or some approximation to it. The support has grown, albeit not quite to 50%.

  28. @laszlo

    Thanks. That is interesting.

    Are postal votes counted in the same place that constituency’s votes would be counted after polling day? Or are they sent to a different location with fewer people doing the counting.

  29. Panelbase highlighted detail

    Only 17% of likely voters believe that Nicola Sturgeon wants the Conservatives to lead the next UK government – 50% think Labour. The rest either don’t know or think she doesn’t mind.
    86% say that they either watched or have heard about last week’s leaders debate We asked them the same series of questions about the seven party leaders as we asked last week’s respondents (results below with changes from the pre-debate poll – excluding Don’t Know, full results in the tables. )
    Which one of the seven leaders taking part do you think…
    …is likely to win/ won the debate – Sturgeon 31% (+24%), Cameron 26% (-12%), Miliband 22% (-3%), Farage 12% (-13%)
    …is the most charismatic leader – Farage 27% (-11%) Cameron 27% (-5%), Sturgeon 21% (+13%), Miliband 14% (+3%)
    …is the strongest leader – Cameron 44% (-9%), Sturgeon 23% (+13%), Miliband 18% (+2%), Farage 12% (-4%)
    …is the most annoying – Farage 29% (+1%), Miliband 23% (-4%), Cameron 18% (-1%)
    …has the best sense of humour – Farage 53% (-2%), Miliband 14% (-1%), Cameron 13% (-1%)
    …is most in favour of a more equal society – Miliband 35% (-1%), Cameron 17% (-2%), Clegg 13% (-3%)

  30. Postal votes are not counted before the rest are counted. The total number is counted, but not the votes for each party. The postal votes are added to the votes from the polling stations and counted at the count.

  31. John Pilgrim,
    Is it not marvellous that you can always find something in Shakespear to suit
    every occasion.

  32. @Amber

    “Consider yourself modded – just for disagreeing with me. ;-)”

    That definitely came over all wrong…like the Cadburys Caramel voice…oo’er!

    When this third debate then?

  33. Re: Richie Benauad


    2nd Ashes Test, Edgbaston 2005.

    One if the truly great TV commentators (and a very successful legspin bowler and Aussie captain in his playing days).

  34. @ChrisL1945

    “For the first time in our series, Ed Miliband ahead of David Cameron in NET leader approval ratings”

    If reflected in other polls, and sustained thereafter, this could be a game-changer. My estimate, albeit crude, was that Miliband had been a 2-3 point drag on the Labour vote up to now. If he neutralises the leadership issue, I think it could boost Labour sufficiently to get them into overall majority territory.

    Of course, there is the little issue of Scotland too!

  35. @ Norbold

    Yes, but unless the difference is very small, the voting ratio is comfortably predicted.

  36. I am supposing the panelbase Labour 37% is no more strange than the YouGov 37% for the Conservative – consistent with top-end fluctuation of 2-3% around a mid thirties. what is notable is there for the moment are a string of Labour leads of varying scale.

    It could be the Conservative strategy for today makes more sense in light of their own private polling showing the same thing. If that is the case then, however slight the reality, the Non Dom business perhaps wrong-footed the sure footed Lynton Crosby. No doubt it will all become clear in a retrospection from next month. i can recall the famous wobble in the 1987 election which turned out not to be a wobble at all – party election campaigns are often a series of false starts predicated on a series of false hopes…..

  37. Laszlo

    How do you know what each party’s ratio is before the full vote is counted?

  38. @ Norbold

    Wasn’t there a case where someone released postal voting figures. I could be wrong and it is also possible that I’m right, but the person’s figures were guess works.

  39. Ratios for the postal votes.

  40. @norbold

    Yeah. I’ve just done some more googling on this, found a pdf from the electoral commission


    So some are opened and verified in the “opening sessions”, during which time people can see how the ballots were marked, but the votes aren’t officially tallied.

    Still, 20% is enough of a sample, I suppose you could anonymously leak that information quite easily and people would pay a lot of money for it

  41. @ Omnishambles

    The some is at least 20%. As postal votes approach 20% in some parts of the UK, so you have a good guess of 4% of the total actual votes. It’s very valuable. But I don’t think it’s used.

    The canvassers figures are probably better (in three wards in Liverpool in 1991 in the local elections they had the accuracy of 91%).

  42. Laszlo

    Oh, right, sorry, you meant ratio of the 20%. My mistake. Yes, you probably could extrapolate from that.

  43. According to C4 News, Lynton Crosby is focused on the idea of scaring voters with the Miliband/SNP fear. And so this logic goes that is why today they are committing to both emphasizing they will spend a lot on Trident, and making attacks on Ed Miliands personality. This in turn, because the SNP so against Trident, feeds into their hope to frighten people a “nightmare” of Miliband getting defence policy from Sturgeon.

  44. Laszlo

    Postal votes are counted before the vote count (logical as they have to be verified).

    Not quite right. Postal votes may indeed be verified before other votes are but they are not counted – except as a total number received and checked. The verification consists of checking that the signature etc checks with the records that are held on file as described here:


    if that all matches the actual ballot papers are counted face down, so it should not be possible to see who is voted for. However candidates are entitled to have agents present at all postal ballot openings and a skilled ‘talleyman’ can get a good idea of how things are going by glimpsing papers and the impressions made by voting marks on the back of papers.

  45. If you’re right ProfHoward, we might soon move into Labour overall majority territory!

  46. @roger mexico

    “However candidates are entitled to have agents present at all postal ballot openings and a skilled ‘talleyman’ can get a good idea of how things are going by glimpsing papers and the impressions made by voting marks on the back of papers.”

    No bloody way

  47. The last time I got this excited about a bunch of polls all seeming to show movement, the Yougov came out at 10:30 with a result in the opposite direction and then all the subsequent polls started showing everyone was equal again.

  48. POstal counts

    “people would pay a lot of money for it”

    They’d be wasting their money. Most will give a landslide Conservative victory, just ask any party agent which party has the most postal votes issued and he /she will tell you.

  49. The polls appear to have influenced the betting markets:

    Tories to win most seats has drifted from 4/9 to 4/7.

    Almost all bookmakers have cut their odds on a Labour outright majority but you can still get 25/1 which seems a very good bet. So good in fact that I may double it with McCoy for the National.

    As one would expect the odds on a Conservative majority are drifting.

    Meanwhile the Scottish odds have remained exactly the same for about ten days.

  50. @ ProfH

    Also a suggestion by Gary Gibbon that they were panicked into this because of tonight’s YouGov poll on non-doms (to stop that issues getting any more coverage).

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