Lord Ashcroft has a new batch of constituency polls out, this time looking at ten Conservative held seats with majorities of around 9% to 12% – seats that would need a Con>Lab swing of around about 5% to fall to Labour. Full details are here.

National opinion polls are currently showing a swing of around 4 percent from Conservative to Labour, so on a pure uniform swing you’d expect these seats to stay Conservative. The average swing in these polls was 3.5%, so very much in line with that. In practice though there is variation between seats, so Ashcorft did find three seats in the sample where Labour were ahead – Crewe and Nantwich, Finchley and Golders Green and Milton Keynes South. This sort of variation is inevitable, and in terms of the overall impact on seats will be counteracted by seats that Labour should be winning on a uniform swing, but where Ashcroft has found the Conservatives ahead, such as Kingswood and Blackpool North.

It is difficult to analyse the variation between seats too much – in some cases they will be genuine, and we can come up with plausible reasons to explain them (are Labour getting a bigger swing in London, for example, or is Crewe and Nantwich seeing a gradual unwind from the by-election?), but remember each constituency poll is just one poll with the normal margin of error. The fact that a poll in one seat is showing a swing that’s three percent bigger than a poll in another seat may just be normal sample variation between polls, and nothing to do with the situation on the ground.

330 Responses to “Latest Lord Ashcroft constituency polls”

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    I did assume given many of the posts that many people had not read much about the policy before. Obviously that doesn’t apply to everyone and I certainly didn’t want to imply it did.

    In truth I want to comment on the policy at length but don’t feel that this is the forum to discuss it or to engage with any of the points raised.

    I was actually trying to be helpful and just pointing out that if people did want to see in depth analysis of the legal and other issues on both sides it is available.

    Sorry if I offended you.


    That’s why I gave it up. Anyone wishing to succeed in politics must never underestimate the gullibility of the public.

  3. JAMES

    If Comres think that the phone polls are more accurate, then what about the phone-based Ashcroft polls corroborating the GB swings shown by YouGov?

  4. I am referring to Ashcroft constituency polls of course.

  5. @RMJ1

    Thank goodness even HM Government isn’t above the law, that’s what makes us a democracy.

    Parliament makes the law and the laws it makes have to be consistent with one and other, international and treaty obligations: that’s where legal challenge comes in.

    Only Royal Prerogative and certain other exceptions apply.

    Self-evidently RTB for housing associations could be introduced if a government was insistent on doing so and they commanded the support of parliament,.

    I make no judgement of the wisdom of the policy, I simply question whether it is a vote winner and whether the inevitable fracas involved with its introduction would be worthwhile for any government pursuing it.

    Given that YouGov’s snap response posted by @Bramley above suggests its less popular than the ‘Snoopers charter’, I would suggest you have your answer to at least part of that question.

  6. Hawthorn I bow to your superior knowledge :)

  7. RMJ1

    You might want to take up your allegations of yougov voodoo polling with the company & it’s employees but I rather doubt this reputable firm would employ such tactics.

  8. @Catoswyn

    No offence taken.

    Apologies if I was a little strident in my own response.

    Trying to steer a course that discusses the RTB announcement as politics affecting VI rather than policy.

  9. Out of interest I have adjusted my ‘incumbency bonus’ (bodge factor) to make my constituency spreadsheet approx match Lord A new polls.
    Previously it was + 3.7
    Now +3.1
    Although I have ignored the Somerset seat as it was so far out of kilter.

    I had only one of these seats down as a Labour gain, NE somerset again, the rest I think are above the threshold for Lab to be the largest party.

  10. @Graham

    But that does rather make the assumption that the Ashcroft polls are more reliable than the YouGov nowcast! Is that necessarily the case?

    I think it must be – Ashcroft polls have been tested against by elections and come pretty close, and the sample sizes are higher, and weighted properly to the constituency.

    I believe the Nowcast is a model rather than a poll, that uses Yougov responses from within that constituency. I don’t know much about what weighting it uses, but the sample sizes I have seen are less than what we see in Ashcroft polls.

    Perhaps AW can describe some of the differences better than me, but I don’t believe the Nowcast is supposed to be a constituency level poll.

  11. CS – Is that 3.1% extra votes so 1.55% swing worth around 18 seats to the Tories v Labour.

    FWIW, I think some incumbency bonus can’t be identified in advance in particular differential turnout.

  12. RIVERS.
    Yes, when seats are calculated, the last GE numbers are taken as the base line. So the four Tory losses return to Tories for the calculations.

  13. JJ
    No not extra, I had to reduce it a bit in comparison to the last Lord A polls.

  14. CS – maybe me being dim but what is the 3.1% then?

  15. Much more interesting is the comment from Sadiq Khan that Labour might move to compulsory voter registration as the present system is distorting, the unvoiced assumption being all unregistered electors at present would be Labour voters.

  16. I think the swing in the previous poll was particularly beneficial to Cons as they were marginals that were selected because Labour hadn’t got a large lead in them. They were in the range that Labour need to be the largest party.

    The constituency polls are giving quite a messy picture, Lab not gaining some they really should, but capturing some way down the list. I think we may need to beware of early predictions on election night.

  17. @assiduosity


  18. wolf

    He is right but might prove unpopular with their voter base.

    Back in 1992, large number were not on the registrar, due to pol tax. We have a similar situation this time around, not too sure to what degree.

  19. Jim Jam

    To make the previous batch of polls match I had to add 3.7% to the Con predicted vote share. On this poll, I only needed to add 3.1% to make them match.
    Suggesting that Cons aren’t quite doing as well in these as the last batch, but are still doing better than the average swing.

  20. I’ve been gardening today so have missed the feel of the coverage of the Conservative Manifesto altogether so far. I see the Mail is covering the TNS poll showing a Tory lead.


  21. TNS

    Conservative 34 (plus 4)
    Labour 32 (minus 1)
    UKIP 14 (minus 5)
    Lib Dem 9 (plus one)
    Green 5 (plus one)

  22. The Labour manifesto seems like a distant memory, with this RTB business the Tories have come out with.

  23. Listening to Pritti Patels interview with Eddie Mair this evening with her constant refusal to say how several of the Tory announcements will be funded
    other than by following the plan and record in Government, it seems that Labours more funded manifesto may have been a better idea.Certainly this
    refusal to say where the money is going to come from will be ruthlessly exploited in the next three weeks.

  24. @ Ann in Wales

    Heard the same chat, disappointed with Eddie for once. Pritti Patel was surefooted IMO, handled the interview very well.

  25. I thought you lot would find this graph interesting. It shows the Conservative lead over Labour since 2010, in online and phone polls



  26. An interesting polling question might be “have you read any party’s manifesto?” I think most people don’t, and get their “summary” of it from media, with inevitable bias.

    Also there might be some responders wondering what is a manifesto.

  27. Bantams,
    Well if you call refusing to shut up for a second sure footed I suppose she was.

  28. Rivers10
    Just to add to our conversation earlier here’s the top 5 Housing Association takeup constituencies (according to our old friend Chris Hanretty):

    Hackney South & Shoreditch
    Liverpool West Derby;
    Poplar & Limehouse
    Liverpool Walton
    Liverpool Riverside


    All pretty safely Labour.

  29. @ Ann in Wales

    Keeping talking is a trick some do use to reduce the questioning time, there are talented exponents of the art on all sides. That’s why Eddie disappointed me, he was outboxed.

  30. Okay I’ve scanned the manifesto and news coverage briefly. Despite the criticisms it seems an upbeat affair to me. Lots of good stuff to attract voters across the spectrum: minimum wage and tax, 30hrs childcare, rtb, rasing upper tax threshold etc etc. Crammed with goodies. Things voters can actually get their head around as relating to their own lives and circumstances ie apply to themselves.

    I know that in real life many of these policies may be unaffordable or unravel in their detail. However many voters don’t follow detail that much.

    In contrast to the Green Party coverage of rabbit hutches and the like the Conservatives sounded positively sensible.

    I do think this stuff will boost Conservatives in the polls. I think Labour, in their effort to look like a prudent fiscal party, may have overdone the common sense and come across as a little complicated with their ‘fiscal locks’ etc compared to the manifesto today.

  31. @ Funtypippin

    Walton surprises me, unless they took over some council housing stock.

  32. I think people are missing the point somewhat about the average Con-Lab swing in Con seats where Lab needs a 5% swing to win. Labour does not need a 5% swing. It probably needs an overage of around 4%. As a result many of the seats polled by Lord A are not Labour targets.

    Lord A should have set the bar lower – at around 4%. That would have been a better guide.

  33. @Catoswyn

    In contrast to the Green Party coverage of rabbit hutches and the like the Conservatives sounded positively sensible.

    Come now, that is a silly comment.

  34. @RAF
    That’s what he did last week

  35. Last week was a good week for Lab in the polls. This week looks like being good for Con.

    Lab have work to do and really need to challenge where Con are going to fund these manifesto pledges.

  36. @Laszlo

    Many councils handed over control of the housing stock to HAs several years ago.

    Our council (Adur) sent out letters asking for residents opinions before taking the plunge more years ago than I can remember.

  37. @Alan

    Re: Margin MoEs again

    Useful that you have check distributional assumptions. I can’t help wondering whether your simulation used the right level of VI correlation. That,s why I would like to triangulate by computing an empirical estimate of MoE. If your correlation assumptions are about right then this estimate should be similar to yours.

  38. I’m with @Catsowyn so far. I think Tories ‘won’ the battle of the manifestos, but I am also with @Anne in Wales in thinking that they may not win the war.

    Again, it seems tactics against strategy. Labour were really rather successful in introducing the idea of ‘where will the money come from’, which I genuinely think very few people anticipated. Certainly no one on here, or anywhere in the press that I could see, expected the Labour manifesto to be based on such a message.

    Cons, by contrast, have racked up the pledges. Individually they are mixed. The IT threshold didn’t seem to be popular, the income tax thresholds much more so, and particularly the way it has been framed. The childcare announcement is probably the big one, and the RtB sounds excellent, but may well unravel if the message gets out that a few win and many lose. Overall though, very positive.

    They will now be dogged by the accountants, and cannot answer a single question on how the money stacks up. In an age where people are increasingly cynical, this may well not prove to be the best way to fire up the electorate.

  39. Comres / ITV – Conservatives still the “nasty party”, running the dirtier campaign.

    “Following the Conservative attacks on Ed Miliband last week led by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, a new poll by ComRes for ITV shows that around half (46%) of Britons think the Conservatives have shown themselves to be the nasty party. Indeed, the message doesn’t seem to be cutting through with half (51%) of Britons disagreeing that Ed Miliband beating his brother to be leader of the Labour Party shows he has a bad moral character, just one in four (23%) agree.

    On the campaigns more generally, the Conservative campaign is more likely to be described as “dirty” than the Labour campaign (30% and 20% respectively), while both the Conservative and Labour campaigns are described as boring and negative by a third of Britons.”


  40. Pretty obvious what Ed Ms main line of attack in the debate on Thursday will be -every other party making unfunded promises .We can be trusted the others cant
    Presumably that is what their focus groups are telling them will make the difference to undecideds.

    Not very sexy but I am not undecided.

  41. Conservative manifesto causing major waves north of the border where the restrictions on Scotland MP’s voting rights has proven controversial.

  42. @alec
    “They will now be dogged by the accountants, and cannot answer a single question on how the money stacks up. In an age where people are increasingly cynical, this may well not prove to be the best way to fire up the electorate.”

    They are trying to win voters over from a party that thinks leaving the EU is a financially sound move.

    Think about that.

    If UKIP voters cared about what “the accountants” think, they wouldn’t be UKIP voters in the first place.

  43. I have been struggling through the Labour manifesto. A promise of note is “We will guarantee people a GP appointment within 48 hours” (page 33), this sounds appealing, but also like the type of infeasible promise that the Coalition made regarding immigration. The reduction of tuition fees to £6000 (page 24) also sounds like a vote-winner, until the consequences for the funding of higher education are considered. No replacement funds for universities are identified, so this means a significant funding cut for higher education.

  44. @Matthew G
    That’s what he did last week.”

    My understanding is that last week he looked at some atypical seats that had previously registered a smaller than average swing to see if anything had changed. He found that nothing had changed.

  45. @ Saffer

    ….while both the Conservative and Labour campaigns are described as boring and negative by a third of Britons.

    I don’t think any of the other Parties have exciting or positive manifestos either.

    And it amazes me that only a third of Britons find political manifestos boring and negative.

  46. Saffer

    What an odd poll to run in GB.

    When asked about trust in rious parties, the only options were Con/Lab/LD/UKIP or Don’t Know,

  47. Miliband has a golden opportunity on Thursday night to challenge the Tory manifesto and hit home on what he sees as unfunded pledges. Its bizarre Cameron is not taking part. He will not be there to fight his corner. A big mistake in my view.

  48. An alarmingly sunburned Gove on C4…

  49. Absolutely dire ukip ppb tonight -farage talking head ,trust me I am an ordinary bloke who has a laugh and drinks beer .Must have cost all of £10 to make .

    Still dave nellist on friday and the english democats next monday -they might be less fun as I think they have got rid of the eccentrics and been taken over by the ex bnp party.

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