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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  1. Mikey

    Does anyone know if the Conservatives will be given a right to reply segment after the Thursday debate? Otherwise I don’t understand how the debate is consistent with broadcasting rules.

  2. Unicorn

    The trouble with using empirical data to measure correlations is that the polls do move. We saw some very strange correlations in the polls since Jan in which Con and Lab were positively correlated as they both had upwards trends.

    I suppose you could for each data point do a “drawing” of 1000 balls from a predetermined population and see that the variances and correlations are as the theory suggests. 10 million drawings shouldn’t be that computationally expensive.

  3. Intents rather than intense.

  4. @ProfHoward

    Strictly speaking given the Tories and LDs were given the opportunity to attend but declined I don’t think any issues of undue prominance/weight arise.

    However, I did hear that the BBC would give DC a one-man interview show to ameliorate any perceived bias.

  5. RTB is a real death or glory offering. This could be a game changer.

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

    Unsurprising, surely, and it would apply to Wales & NI too. There would [or should] be no quibble over matters not involving funds but And we will give English MPs a veto over English-only matters, including on Income Tax on p69 is potential dynamite.

    Can’t see the DUP being happy to go with that if they’re are needed to provide C&S.

  7. @Roland

    Is not a comprehensive UK constitutional convention the best way to tackle the distortive effects of piecemeal devolution?

  8. Profhoward

    I heard something about Conservatives and LD getting some sort of program to make up for not being invited to the opposition debate.

    Details weren’t fully fledged at the time as everyone was more anxious about getting an agreement in place.

    No idea if it’ll come to fruition or not.

  9. @Omni – “They will now be dogged by the accountants…..”

    Really sorry about that one.

    No sooner had I posted the phrase, I started wondering what it must like to be dogged by an accountant.

    I now have a dreadful image I cannot expunge from my thoughts. Terrifying.

  10. @Rich
    “RTB is a real death or glory offering. This could be a game changer.”

    I think its scale is too small to be either. At most, it will effect 1.3M homes out of over 30M.

  11. @Rich – “RTB is a real death or glory offering. This could be a game changer.”

    I actually think the pitch on childcare has much wider resonance, but the RtB carries way more risk.

    It can’t be great news for them that the Daily Mail is running a somewhat negative headline on this.

  12. BARBAZENZERO

    You are right, DUP are opposed to EVEL, on the grounds that all major spending decisions have a Barnet consequential effect.

    Only a majority Conservative government could pass this.

  13. To prof Howard

    NO. Don’t think so. The debate is between opposition parties – hence no Clegg.

    It is what Cameron and Clegg agreed, based on the assumption one assumes, that Milli wld be a total fool…

  14. RAF
    Is not a comprehensive UK constitutional convention the best way to tackle the distortive effects of piecemeal devolution?

    I’d suggest it may be the only hope for those who feel having a multi-national UK is important.

  15. Apologies – following the debate will be a 30 min session with Con Party etc

  16. RAF/Prof Howard – in terms of debates it’s not really a stopwatch exercise unless people make it one. The parties all signed up and agreed rather than make a further fuss, so that is that.

    I think the logic of the BBC part of the debates becomes clearer if you look at it as originally proposed. Miliband, Clegg and Cameron were to take part in the Question TIme event, the other four leaders in the “challengers” debate. Hence all seven leaders took part in one of the BBC leader specials – all fair.

    Labour then requested that Ed Miliband should be able to take part in the challengers debate too – and since it has gone ahead, the other leaders presumably signed up to that deal.

    We can’t really know for sure what their respective motivations were – but the bottom line is that it’s acceptable because everyone agreed to it.

  17. MS has some interesting thoughts on the phone/online poll issue. He points out that most phone pollsters gather their data at weekends (largely I suppose out of necessity) whereas most online pollsters do not (or at least do not exclusively do so).

  18. RAF

    “Is not a comprehensive UK constitutional convention the best way to tackle the distortive effects of piecemeal devolution?”

    That is an interesting question. But were I to answer it, I would be doing violence to the comments policy.

  19. Prof H.

    I hope Cameron is not offered a right of reply. He was given the opportunity to take part in the debate and declined. That was his choice and his decision.

  20. Thanks for the clarity Anthony. I didn’t realise that was the scenario in which case Cameron should be allowed a right of reply.

  21. Mikey
    Yes, it seems rather unfair that Cameron should be allowed to refuse to take part in a debate and then be given his own programme.

  22. PROFHOWARD
    Only a majority Conservative government could pass this.

    I think you’re right. Surprising that they’re so convinced they’ll get an overall majority that they’ve burned their boats wrt any potential C&S supporters so early in the campaign. I find it hard to imagine that even Clegg would go along with it.

  23. I agree the childcare policy has much more appeal – certainly don’t see it or anything in the last 2 days as a game changer

  24. Red Sparrow
    “Apologies – following the debate will be a 30 min session with Con Party etc”

    Is there ? TV listings show a 30-min slot for post-debate reaction followed by News then QT at it’s usual time.

    Evan Davis has a 30-min slot entitled The Leader Interviews. Clegg’s was on Monday, Cameron’s is tomorrow & Miliband’s is next Monday.

    There is then the QT ‘debate’ in which the trio named above will appear in the studio but not at the same time !

  25. Yes the English votes for English laws idea as proposed opens a further inequity in so far as the other Devolved institutions have PR in one form or another whereas the English MP’s will be elected by FPTP creating an representational inequity between and within the various parliaments….dear oh dear legal appeals to the Supreme Court and the European court…which will make for very unhappy Conservative bunnies…

  26. @BARBAZENZERO
    I think you’re right. Surprising that they’re so convinced they’ll get an overall majority that they’ve burned their boats wrt any potential C&S supporters so early in the campaign.

    I’m actually feeling quite surprised by the behaviour of the Conservatives. They seem to be very buoyant. Maybe they’re going on the premise that if you look confident you are going to do well then that inspires others to go along with you.

    Either that or they are all a little punch drunk… throwing out promises left, right and centre because they know without a shift in the polls it’ll all be pretty irrelevant soon enough and no one will be expecting them to implement anything.

  27. The 30mins is advertised as a reaction to the debate featuring interviews with leading figures from the Conservatives and Oiberal Democats.

  28. Mikey

    I feel sorry for Miliband, focusing on the Conservative. whilst every one else will be attacking him, left right and centre. Is going to look very silly.

    Also he is going to look needy, Cameron or Clegg are not going to be their. He will be fighting also-rans, apart from Sturgeon.

    He has one last opportunity to deal with Sturgeon, he does not take that up, he is signing the death warrant of the Scottish Labour Party. He needs to make sure that he has, 15 to 20 seats in Scotland, that will give him power.
    He wastes this opportunity, he is going to get blasted in the Media, you do not want this, not at this stage of the election

  29. @RAF

    Is not a comprehensive UK constitutional convention the best way to tackle the distortive effects of piecemeal devolution?

    I agree, several more years where the Scottish MPs can potentially determine English laws on areas such as University Tuition fees and Prescription charges over which rUK MPs have no say over Scottish policy should be enough to secure independence for sure.

  30. I’d be very interested in a post by Anthony on phone vs online, unless he’s already done one which I missed. It’s looking like there is a real divide between the two approaches.

  31. Micky
    Sorry, my response was to 7pm

  32. @alec

    My innocent mind didn’t even go there. Gosh. Terrifying indeed.

  33. @James and @Omnishambles

    Thanks for posting the link for the ComRes piece. and attention. It is an interesting argument that the Tories have actually been ahead since the beginning of the year. But I find myself wondering about one or two details.

    In a critical paragraph they write:

    By polling day, telephone polls were most accurate in the 2010 General Election, the AV referendum in 2011 and at the Scottish referendum last year.

    I’m intrigued by that proposed phrase at the beginning of the sentence. Does this mean that there were points at which telephone polls were not more accurate? Also, I can’t help wondering what measure(s) of accuracy they were using. (Different measures would be appropriate for a yes/no referendum and a GE.). Another point is that the real result could have fallen almost (but not quite) half-way between the two: just a touch closer to the telephone-based projection. That would allow them to make those statements, whilst still being compatible with the claim that the two parties have been neck and neck for the last several weeks.

    Is it possible that this piece comes from the ComRes marketing department: “Our (expensive) methods are more accurate than the corner-cutting methods used to excess by some of our competitors”.

    I would like to have a lot more information before taking this seriously.

  34. Tark
    Maybe Gove is getting campaigning advice from Mitt Romney and is tanning up to court the Latino vote? There must be some in Britain surely….

  35. Catoswyn,

    I think that the Tories are bullish because while they don’t think they can win next month, they don’t think Labour can either, and that leaves the door open to a return to government fairly soon. That may be right or may be wrong, but it’s something I can see happening. In particular, if Cameron only loses a handful of seats net, I see him staying on as leader, because even his opponents in the Tory party accept that he’s an asset and more popular than the party.

    Or they may just be delusional about their chances. We won’t know for 5-30 years when they publish they autobiographies.

  36. (At least most of his opponents!)

  37. CATOSWYN
    Either that or they are all a little punch drunk… throwing out promises left, right and centre because they know without a shift in the polls it’ll all be pretty irrelevant soon enough and no one will be expecting them to implement anything.

    That’s certainly possible, in which case the old marry in haste, repent at leisure adage may apply soon enough. That said, if it turns out to be what England wants then that’s what it will get. The question will then become: How long before Westminster reverts to being the English Parliament?

  38. @Alan and Unicorn. The formula I have for the confidence interval of the difference between two proportions in a sample is:

    CI(p1 ? p2) = 1.96 sqrt(((p1 + p2) ? (p1 ? p2)(p1=p2))/(n-1)).

    and the variance is:

    Var(p1 ? p2) = ((p1 + p2) ? (p1 ? p2)(p1=p2))/(n-1).

    Allegedly this works when one compares any two proportions out of a set (i.e. it would be as good for the difference of green v ukip as for labour v conservative and is not affected by the number of parties involved) Is this same as the variance you are discussing? As far as I know it is respectable. (Google Charles H Franklin ‘The Margin of Error for Differences in Polls’)

  39. Correction to auto-correct:

    ‘Preposed’ NOT ‘proposed’…

    Bean of my life, that facility…

  40. So… just finished reading the Conservative Manifesto.

    I’m not sure if it’s all this talk of ‘The Good Life’, but if yesterday’s frugal Labour offering was the sort of repast one could imagine Tom and Barbara settling down to after a day of earnest self-sufficiency, then this bulging Conservative document is much more the kind of copious rolling buffet that Margo and Jerry might have presented to ‘Sir’ on one of his visits.

    There’s something for everyone – not least a veritable feast of capital letters: ‘Growth Deals’ ‘Great Revival’ ‘Five Year Forward View’ and one of my favourites, ‘Day One Work Requirements’ – this is obviously, like Margo’s buffets, the work of many hands.

    The retro feel doesn’t end there as there is much of the air of an old-fashioned manifesto, promises galore and opposition bashing in bundles (it wouldn’t surprise me if the word Labour appears more than Conservative).

    What’s on offer is slightly 70s in feel too: security, making Britain great again, clamping down on terror, getting a good deal in Europe, ambitious infrastructure and road building projects galore.

    In fact this is a tempting smorgasbord of a fairly familiar sort set out for voters everything including ‘a new world class concert hall for London’, a ‘Great Exhibition in the North’ and even support for ‘essential roof repairs to cathedrals and churches’. You get the picture.

    Is there anything that could affect VI beyond the big ticket items that have grabbed the headlines? I doubt it.

    The Big Society bubbles up again with a whole section devoted to volunteering and citizenship, the Human Rights Act is definitely for the chop the Beeb is almost certainly not.

    I doubt there will be many people who will ever read this through – it is (apologies Anthony this is an aesthetic not political judgement) painfully badly written – but if they do they will find a curates egg, sniping at the last government an awful lot but then following up with the promise of prawn vol au vents and sausage rolls galore to come.

    Totally irrelevant to most people other than there are some headlines and an awful lot of promises that look pricey. That said it will probably be a huge hit and see the Conservatives soar.

  41. @Alan and Unicorn – for some reason submitting my post seems to change minus to question mark!

  42. @Unicorn

    Well there’s the 2012 London mayoral election for a start, but most polls considerably overstated Boris’s winning winning margin in that one.
    https://twitter.com/MSmithsonPB/status/588033274972340224

  43. @Charles

    Now you are having s tug-of-war with HTML. What are the question marks supposed to be?

  44. Quick point on childcare being a game changer, I’m not sure of the specifics but haven’t Labour made a big announcement on childcare as well (albeit a while ago) if so its hard to imagine said policy being a game changer if the opposition can claim they’re going to do pretty much the same thing.

  45. ASHMAN
    I feel sorry for Miliband, focusing on the Conservative. whilst every one else will be attacking him, left right and centre. Is going to look very silly.

    The Con manifesto may just have handed him a lifeline as all the others will be looking to put the boot in on it too.

    Unlikely, but its just possible that each will put over his/her main selling points and then attack the Cons collegiately.

  46. @ RAF

    Is a comprehensive UK constitutional convention the best way to tackle the distortive effects of piecemeal devolution?

    And the second part of that question is ‘Who were the more schismatic, the Northumbiran bishops or the Cumbrian abbots?’.

    You may now turn over your exam papers…

  47. @ Charles

    The formula is fine (I think one too many (, but it could be my eyes).

    Why does everyone want 0.95? ….

  48. Regarding phone and online polls I suspect the former are generally slightly more accurate, and that like many here the final score will see the tories around 2 point ahead. But that isn’t enough, and it is hard to see them getting any further ahead than that unless virtually every poll is wrong, or there is some unlikely late shift.

  49. There have been a number of comments to the effect that despite the general trend of polls that the Tories are surprisingly upbeat. Well I would offer this as a possible interpretation of why that might be the case.

    1)There is a strong correlation between Con and UKIP VI in national polls

    2) The UKIP VI in national polls is very volatile.Too volatile IMO to be genuine at a national level

    3) The Ashcroft polls suggest UKIP are getting squeezed in marginals.

    Now given the above, and I wanted to believe the Tories were doing alright(or persuade my campaign they we

  50. @ Charles

    You will see that the formula give different MoE for different parties, which is jolly nice and really should be Statgeek’s territory. In theory, the party with the highest MoE determines the MoE of the poll (it is epistemologically false claim, but universal, so OK).

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