The static campaign

The defining feature of voting intention in this election is how little it has moved. The graph below shows the UK Polling Report polling average for each week so far of 2015.


Things haven’t been completely static – at the beginning of 2015 Labour did still have a consistent tiny lead that faded towards a real tie over the first couple of months. There has been a genuine drop in support for UKIP and the Green party, albeit one that is no more than a point or two, rather than a really tight squeeze on their votes.

The broad picture though, especially over the short campaign, is one of no movement. This is not necessarily unusual – the huge ups and downs of “Cleggmania” in the 2010 election were not typical. Most historical election campaigns don’t show lots of movement (and I suspect some of that we did see is just the legacy of campaigns when there were far fewer polls, so a couple of outliers could more easily create the impression of movement when there was none).

Is there still time for a change, or are we doomed to have election result around about where we are, with the Conservatives and Labour pretty much neck-and-neck? Somewhere between one-in-six and in one-in-five people have postal votes, and many will already have voted, so they cannot change their mind any longer. Between 10% and 20% of people depending on the poll say they don’t know how they will vote, though some of this will be people who won’t actually end up voting but don’t want to say, and some of it will be people who don’t want to give their voting intention to an interviewer (“shy voters”). While it varies greatly depending on how you ask the question a further chunk of people who do give a voting intention say they may yet change their mind before they vote.

There are definitely plenty of people who say they may change their mind between now and May 7th… but I suspect this overestimates the volatility of the electorate and that most respondents who say they still might change their minds won’t do so, they just like to think of themselves as fair minded people who will consider all the evidence before making their mind up to vote for the party they were probably going to vote for to begin with.

Polls are, as ever, just snapshots of opinion now. They can only quantify what respondents themselves know – they can’t tell how respondents might react to, say, the party leaders Question Time Special next week, any as yet unknown and unexpected events in the final eleven days, or people genuinely recoiling one-way or the other at the very last minute. Realistically though, nothing has done anything to substantially change the polls in the last seventeen weeks and the parties are starting to run out of time for anything else to come along.

1,017 Responses to “The static campaign”

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  1. Omnishambles re Clegg

    With respect, it’s the legitimacy thing with Clegg that has been criticised.

    If by some volte-face the SNP did a deal with DC you can be sure EM would say that they had double-sixed the Scottish voters etc. I very much doubt he would say the country should question the new govts “birthright” and “legitimacy”

  2. It’s MOE for a 33-33 VI split between the Tories and Labour. Neither a breakthrough (in itself) for the Tories, nor something that can be ignored (even if you find that the Midlands and Wales crossbreak has a suspiciously high Green vote among the over 65’s).

  3. erm, the Ashcroft national poll is just the usual 33-33 plus or minus 3 for each side.

  4. @Geoff why ?
    Crikey,two Tory leads today by a decent margin and the polling should all go in the toilet,a bit of red bias here per chance ;-)

  5. Ashcroft also showed a 6 point Tory lead on a poll in the middle of January 34-28.

    It may be correct of course but seems a tad too blue

  6. Further to my last post:

    Another great reason for using a median rather than a mean to average polls is that whopping great outliers don’t make a whopping great mess of your results.

  7. Never ignore any poll. ICM and Ashcroft are entirely consistent – they could be right. I think the big question has to be why Ashcroft shows good swings to Lab in many English marginals, yet virtually none in the national poll.

    I think the confidence of some reds on here (and yellows, in terms of ‘locking out Tories’) is misplaced. It’s very, very tight, and the blues aren’t done yet.

  8. MIBRI,

    What about rumours that the UKIP vote among elderly Hispanic women in the South West is implausibly high in Ashcroft’s poll? Seems like a rogue poll to me.

  9. PS – it’s Monday.

    Remember that?

  10. I think many commentators here correctly identified the menace that we are faced with with these numbers coming from hung parliament that also fills the newspaper pages instead of the correct things that ennobles ones morals, like the gender of the next child of a happy family.

    It is called democracy.

    It’s not enough that people vote out of the expected behaviour (especially North of the border), let alone ignoring what our leaders tell them to do, but here we will have more than 600 people, pretending to be legislators, and many of them have their own mind and conscience, that may upset calculations even further. It really should stop, and stop now.

    Hungary, as so many times in its long history, shows the light (after adopting illiberal democracy). The voting happens by pressing a button that is under the desk of the MP. The current government put forward its last constitutional law just before losing the qualified majority due to a by-election. It failed, because one of their MPs accidentally pressed the wrong button. He was fined by the chief whip for about £300. Considering the relative wealth of the incoming MPs here, the penalty should be a lot higher, so they don’t vote out order.

    It would be less of a problem, if we could nominate which MP could vote on which issue. Like, I don’t know, English MPs on 80% of the issues?

  11. Ashcroft’s Scottish focus groups –

    And so to the bigger question, namely who would play whom in Nicola Sturgeon: The Movie. The starring role, by common consent, would go to Dame Helen Mirren or, if the producers insisted on a Scot, Elaine C. Smith. Jim Murphy would be played by Peter Capaldi from The Thick Of It, or Jim Carrey, or (more encouragingly) Ewan McGregor. Sue Perkins or Rhona Cameron would play Ruth Davidson, and Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie would be portrayed by “a gentlemanly quiet person” like Geoffrey Palmer or Ashley from Emmerdale. David Cameron would be Hugh Grant or Colin Firth. What about Ed Miliband? “Woody Allen”. Ooft.

  12. If the result is indeed a “very hung” parliament such that another election is necessary either immediately or within a short space of time, it strikes me that a lot of results in terms of popular vote will suddenly become more important. Many results are in danger of being written off as irrelevant if they will lead to no seat change in the House of Commons.

    What level will the Conservatives poll in Scotland? What will the Scottish vote shares be for SNP/Labour? In how many seats will UKIP fall just short in the East of England? In how many Northern English seats will they emerge as the primary challengers? How will the Greens do in national vote share? How far will the Liberal Democrats national vote share be matched by their number of seats? How precipitously will their vote drop off in seats that they don’t hold onto?

    I would have thought that even if the makeup of the House of Commons seems unlikely to vary much beyond the current predictions, these secondary questions become more important for the future narrative (including coalition negotiations) if we end up towards the “very hung indeed” end of the spectrum.

  13. Remember – we had a different company putting Labour on 29% a few days ago. That was meant to be nonsense as well.

  14. Oldnat,

    I can’t think of what Sue Perkins and Ruth Davidson would have in common, except the short hair.

    Rhona Cameron would be a good fit physically. I’ve seen her on stage and she has a very good sense of live comic timing.

  15. Alec

    I don’t think many of the ‘reds’ are confident. Too many bad memories from ’92 and before for that.

    I don’t ignore any poll although I tend to follow AW’s advice and not get too excited either way when we see a sudden change.

    More often than not it’s not borne out in further polls but occasionally it signals a shift in opinion.

    Like most polls this one just leaves us craving more polls.

  16. Three polls today. Any chance we could discuss them in a no partisan way?

    Populus: 3 point Labour lead
    ICM : 3 point Tory lead
    Ashcroft: 6 point Tory lead.

    Populus teand to be Laboury and the Scottish cross breaks looked a bit odd, perhaps overstated Labour a bit.

    The E&W cross breaks on ICM seemed to favour the Tories a bit as recent ICM polls all have.

    So we kind of know what’s going on there.

    Now Ashcroft. He gave the Tories a four point lead last time I think. But we then saw a few polls giving Labour the lead so that doesn’t mean much on its own.

    But 6%. That’s a 1% swing to the Tories since his last poll. That might indicate something.

  17. Agree 100% Alec, I still think the Blues will win the most seats and might even sneak a majority but Ashcroft’s marginal polls are way out of sync with his National one

    6.5% swing in Cannock Chase
    4% swing in Great Yarmouth
    8% swing in Great Grimsby

    compare that to pretty much no swing in his national poll


  18. I’m no Labour supporter, but seriously – what the hell is up with Ashcroft polls? Labour have an easier job getting the vote out if polls like this receive publicity.

  19. Tories 6% ahead of Labour in latest Ashcroft poll. YouGov will be interesting tonight. If Populus is way off beam due to its methodology, as some have claimed, and Ashcroft and ICM are picking up some genuine movement out there, then YouGov should corroborate this.

  20. @rayfromthenorth

    Firstly it’s not just legitimacy where he’s been criticised. That’s clear from reading posts on here. Moving on,

    Legitimacy means different things to different people. I can see why those comments would annoy, but that’s because you and all of us who use UKPR focus on the most constituency correct interpretation of what a “legitimate” government is.

    The BBC had a good article on this a while back, they looked at several different ways the public can see a government as legitimate, e.g. vote share and various others.

    We just have to accept that the largest party thing is Clegg’s own take on legitimacy, and as I’ve said before it makes sense given his potential kingmaker rule. If he didn’t have this rule he’d get more blame for going with the Tories/Labour (depending on which a LD voter likes least). This way he can say he made it clear he views going with the larger party is more legitimate, so depending on what the public gives him to work with, that’s what he’ll try first.

  21. “focus on the most constituency correct interpretation”

    Should read: constitutionally

  22. Alec

    Thanks for posting some sensible comments on the recent polls. None of them should be ignored, but it does seem to be clear that there really are two groups of polls showing very different outcomes. Probably none of them are correct but some will be closer than others to the actual result. We could be in for a fascinating period of pollster “angst” after the election.

  23. If the Ashcroft poll is to be believed the Tories need to put more effort in in places like Cannock Chase if they are going to have any realistic chance of being the largest party.

  24. Well if the current wild divisions in polls continue till election Day some polling companies will look quite silly.

  25. I find it amazing that otherwise sensible people on forums like this start discrediting polls as soon as they don’t show people what they want to see.

    Fact is something rather odd is happening. Phone pollsters (ICM, Ashcroft*, ComRes) have shown a shift towards CON over the last couple of weeks. No doubt about that. Whilst online pollsters (YouGov and Populus primarily but also others) have if anything shown a small shift towards LAB over the campaign.

    This is especially odd because there hasn’t been such a difference between online pollsters as a whole and phone pollsters as a whole over the past couple of years up to the campaign even if individual pollsters have had house effects.

    As for for the marginal polls they have a bit in them for both CON and LAB. UKIP are doing worse (and CON better) than might have been imagined in Great Yarmouth and Castle Point (a seat they seem to have put a lot of resources into of late). But Cannock Chase and Great Grimsby now look like sure-fire LAB wins. I expect Aidan Burley’s antics and swift exit haven’t helped in Cannock whilst there was a big swing there in 2010.

    * Ashcroft does, of course, make use of another pollster – which may well be one showing CON doing well (if he is this isn’t a conspiracy though – its not at all in Lord A’s interests to inflate the Tory position)

  26. @shelts
    the 8 % swing in Grimsby is UKIP to Labour,this is sort of reflected in the 11% national poll
    Cannock is interesting as you would like to know how much of the UKIP 23% is say tory or not voted etc.

  27. @ Alec

    “Remember – we had a different company putting Labour on 29% a few days ago. That was meant to be nonsense as well.”

    How do you know it was a different company?

  28. My latest round of constituency polling covers four seats in which I have previously found UKIP to be doing well. These include two seats where I found the party in second place to the Tories (Castle Point and Great Yarmouth), and two where I found them second to Labour (Cannock Chase and Great Grimsby).

    In all cases I have found the UKIP share down, and in two of the four they have fallen from second to third. Labour are now six points ahead of the Tories in Cannock Chase, and 17 points ahead of UKIP in Great Grimsby, where there was only a single point between the parties last December.

    In Castle Point, the Conservatives have extended their lead over UKIP from one to five points since February, and now lead Labour by two points in Great Yarmouth, where UKIP have fallen well behind.

  29. Interesting Scottish turnout info, care of @bunty on Twitter:

  30. ALEC

    “I think the big question has to be why Ashcroft shows good swings to Lab in many English marginals, yet virtually none in the national poll”

    Large Lab fall in south/east England (except the cities) not so much in the Midland/North? Just thinking out loud

  31. Those marginals provide further evidence to that which is seen a national level of UKIP slipping back. It certainly doesnt suggest that they’ll get many seats. Not sure how much you can read into the Con/Lab swings in these though given the third party pollution….

  32. If you put the Ashcroft poll data into the electoral calculus calculator it comes up with a 2 seat majority for the blues and 326 seats. They lose only 8 seats on 2010 but gain 27.

  33. The UKIP data is getting very confusing. Survation and ICM implied a swing towards them, even a mini-surge. Ashcroft’s constituency polling shows quite the opposite in target seats. No coherent picture emerging.

  34. So ICM has the C+ with L32 and mid-range UKIP, and Ashcroft once again has C+ with L30 and low-range UKIP: both phone polls.


    “Remember – we had a different company putting Labour on 29% a few days ago. That was meant to be nonsense as well.”

    That’s still a grand total of two polling groups reporting L < 32 over the past six weeks: Survation and Ashcroft. Either they're ahead of the others in identifying something in terms of the Labour topline, or they're out on a limb.

  35. We could do with some of the other big and reputable pollsters publishing a poll soon because it’s all a bit Opinium/Populus/Ashcroft and YouGov dominated to me at the moment. An Ipsos/Mori, TNS or ComRes might be helpful to clear the smog.

    We’ve got the daily (YouGov) and twice weekly (Populus) polls giving a pretty clear and consistent picture and then, less regularly, come Survation, ICM, Ashcroft and Opinium, all giving us something very different.

    They’re all meant to be thermometers dipping into the same bucket of water, but why are they giving such different temperatures? It’s the same water after all.

  36. @Jack Sheldon very good post
    Castle Point,yes I can confirm “becks” has thrown the sink at this now,she out leafleted UKIP big time in recent weeks,the UKIP candidate and his running mate have been getting quite unpleasant lately.

  37. It would be easier to analyse the Ashcroft National if we knew polling company, because we have no way of knowing the house effects.

    We should be a bit suspicious because the gap is larger than other pollsters are finding.

  38. Is it possible that Lord A uses one company for national polls and one for constituency polls ?

    Wouldnt think so but strange otherwise.

    Great Yarmouth looks like fun

  39. @Alec @Rayfromthenorth

    Different polls for a start. And he may be using different companies to carry out fieldwork. Generally speaking his constituency polls have had an average swing approximately the same as the poll of polls national swing. Of course there isn’t ever and hasn’t ever been a uniform swing – CON will do better than average is some, LAB in others.

  40. Online > Phone polls as are more realistic

  41. @Sunreada

    Not at all impossible. Only two companies are currently set up to do constituency polls as I understand it – Survation and Populus.


    Presume you mean the national poll. One of the constituency polls he’s published at the same time already has a Lab gain outside those 8 seats.

    Also – based on recent polling we expect London to see a bigger Lab swing. Unless that’s changed but we’ll have to wait until the next poll to find out.

  43. Good Afternoon All.

    Those constituency polls show pro Labour swings from 2010, so I cannot see how the National Poll of plus 6 tory lead is consistent with them.

    Can someone explain this please?

  44. So maybe Scotland is going to send a huge group of SNP MP’s to London only to see them twiddle their thumbs while the Conservatives get on with it.

    I suppose they’ll get some select committees if this happens so not totally wasted but still…….

  45. Has anyone seen the cross breaks on Ashcroft’s national poll and the fieldwork dates?

  46. CHRISLANE1945

    The explanation is that the national poll is a dud. Don’t worry about it.

  47. The Ashcroft constituency polls may, I think, show the difficulty UKIP currently has in a FPTP election versus the list system of EuroParl elections. Candidates still matter.

  48. @Omni

    It would be easier to analyse the Ashcroft National if we knew polling company, because we have no way of knowing the house effects.

    I’m pretty sure it is Populus

    If you go back to the tables of 8 March, and you click document properties on the tables, the author is RNye, as is the author of most of his marginal polls that I have looked at. And if you google him, he works for Populus.

    More recently the author of the Ashcroft National polls is AMoss. I can’t see who he/she works for on google, but the file naming conventions, etc look the same, so I am guessing it is still Populus, unless anyone knows differently.

    All of which tells us that knowing the pollster doesn’t help with house effects, because like Comres Phone vs Comres online, this ‘Populus phone’ vs Populus online show very different results, and if you look at the tables they have a very different methodology for party weighting vs 2010 vote weighting.

  49. Ashcroft has the Conservatives on 23% in Scotland to Labour’s 14%.

    Call me sceptical…

  50. @ LLR

    The blurb says 24-26 of April

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