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. Gentle rises for the WM parties. Gentle drop for UKIP. No mention of ‘Other’?

  2. Does the static rating of the Lib Dems have implications for their hope that they can concentrate their support in the seats they currently hold, and save more of them than uniform swing would suggest?

    The hope is largely based on the Ashcroft finding that in those seats their rating is better when people are urged to think about local factors than for the standard voting intention question. But shouldn’t those two ratings be converging as we get closer to polling day, and people think about how they will actually vote?

    Can the Lib Dems really hold 20-30 seats if their vote on election day is still only 8% or so? It would be their lowest percentage vote since 1970, when they polled 7.5% and won only 6 seats.

  3. ANTHONY; Thanks very much. It is looking very close, maybe the Blues making up ground, a kind of mini swing away from red/purple Labour.

    CHRIS: I think your mention of 7.5% and therefore 6 seats is quite accurate, possibly a little high. I think.

  4. For me the biggest surprise of the campaign is that greater exposure doesn’t seem to have helped the minor parties, and most notably UKIP. The Lib Dems seemed to tend to benefit in the past. I suppose we don’t all gain in popularity due to greater exposure?

  5. lescunningham (fpt)

    I like the “nuclear” option of a grand coalition that isn’t going to happen, offering a deal that they wouldn’t agree on presenting the SNP with independence on a plate.

    Can I just add a little to your scenario. The SNP turn the offer down saying they have no mandate for independence having lost the 2014 IndyRef.


  6. Assume the only poll out today is YG this evening?

  7. Interesting tweet from a Tory candidate from a rock solid Conservative seat about a grand coalition. I don’t see any political advantage for her in this tweet.

    It seems that under these unmoving (or barely moving VI) or partly because of them, some people want to turn the wheels. Or a fake tweeter account?

    For me the biggest surprise of the campaign is that greater exposure doesn’t seem to have helped the minor parties, and most notably UKIP. The Lib Dems seemed to tend to benefit in the past. I suppose we don’t all gain in popularity due to greater exposure?

    I thought it would be beneficial too, both from the party point of view, and because it would be good to hear a greater range of political ideas and policies than normal. The Greens and UKIP certainly seem to have raised their profile due to exposure generally and are both looking to greatly increased numbers from 2010.

    However someone made a good point yesterday (I think it was Heather Cato) that maybe smaller parties should not publish a full manifesto as they have done this time around. They are usually very strong on their core objectives but less strong on other policies and ideas. Thus some of the smaller parties have actually revealed details that may have alienated potential supporters (such as the Greens wiping out support among the creative community altogether with their idea to reduce copyright to 14 years).

    So I suppose extra exposure is only beneficial if people like what they hear.

  9. Labour candidate suspended by party.

    Following conviction for drunk-driving (44 mgr in breath) and a vehicle with no MOT, Sumon Hoque was suspended yesterday from being Labour candidate for Banff & Buchan.

    The seat is almost certainly an SNP hold, but in 2010 the 14% for Labour plus the 31% for Tory would have exceeded SNP`s 41%.

    So if the LibDems also don`t actively contest, there is just a chance of the anti-SNP coalescence squeezing home.

    The LibDems could do with all their B & B workers to help save neighbouring Gordon.

    But compared to 2010 there seems a general decline in LibDem support across the NE. Driving from Deeside to Nairn yesterday, I saw very few posters except for Tory and SNP candidates. And on square footage, the Tories had a slight lead.


    Actually I also think UKIP have not neccesarily benefited from the election campaign model in that their voice is drown out by all the other voices also being heard ie. they are one among many. Normally Nigel gets a lot of coverage as the person the media go to for comments on what is happening at Westminster. That normally gives him a controlled and clear space. The election campaign is more hurly burly and harder to get points across.

  11. Peter Kellner sums it up

    “When voters are presented with a list of adjectives, both positive and negative, their responses tell a clear story. Cameron, Miliband and Nick Clegg all share the same top attribute: “uninspiring”

    The voters look like they are voting for something unworkable, and the politicians seem to agree with them, ruling out any possible coalition or confidence and supply arrangement that could ever work.

    Lets get new leadership all round and have a re-run in the summer. “Reopen nominations” looks like the winner of this election.

  12. I congratulate Anthony wells for saying more or less the same things every day for an entire five years and still making them sound interesting.

  13. There is no way the BBC is unbiased. For about 10 days in a row, every leading article on their election homepage is about a Labour policy. Hardly anything on Conservative announcements. This is what happens when a supposed state broadcaster becomes political and becomes the ridiculously over broad entity it is now.

  14. I think AW analysis is spot on.
    I for one find it hard to see how anything realistcally can influence the polls now that have failed o influence in the past couple of months

  15. Cato Swyn,

    Interesting point. I’d add that there has been some fairly adept anti-UKIP campaigning from other parties, who were nervous about doing so through mosto of the parliament. By ‘adept’, I mean putting across a point while not giving UKIP much if any actual exposure.

    Of course, a lot of apparent political material is mobilisational rather than persuasive. In the circles I move in, there are literally no open UKIP or Tory supporters, but an unending stream of criticisms of both. (It’s much easier to put forward criticisms of groups if there apparently aren’t any of them around.) This sort of campaigning material is tedious, stupid, and superficially pointless, but its actual function seems to be to get people out to vote, especially among groups who might be inclined to be too cool to vote etc.

  16. And I can’t stress ‘tedious’ enough without taking over the comments section, but you hopefully get the idea!

  17. @ Richard

    Do you think that there are mothers specially selected for giving birth to girls and boys with leadership qualities (whatever that means)?

  18. When Murdoch tweets that there is no real job creation,it would seem that is
    hardly an endorsement of the present state of the economy.

  19. From the previous thread…


    Just on France’s reovery – while weak their recession was not as bad as ours either (because of our austerity?) – their GDP per capita 2014 vs 2008 is down 2.4%, ours is still down 5.6%.

    (figures from the Trading Economics website)

    So laugh at France if you want, but in a way they have done better than us…

    That said they are stuck in the Euro with huge structural headaches – I am just pointing out that there are other ways of considering the numbers.

  20. @Bill Patrick – “For me the biggest surprise of the campaign is that greater exposure doesn’t seem to have helped the minor parties, and most notably UKIP. The Lib Dems seemed to tend to benefit in the past. I suppose we don’t all gain in popularity due to greater exposure?”


    1) We’ve seen far more from Lib Dems since 2010 as they have been in government, so there isn’t such an issue about exposure uplift during the campaign.

    2) UKIP are benefiting from greater exposure – it’s just that it’s partially counter balancing the anticipated squeeze. This would fit with Tory analyses, with insiders suggesting they have been surprised with the stubborn resilience of UKIP support.

    @Rich – don’t go there – it’s nonsense. Perhaps the Tories have just been very poor at their news management when it comes to new policy announcements? It’s also worth mentioning that Labour were very miffed that their bit speech on defence and foreign affairs was buried under a BBC avalanche of SNP stories, pumped by Cons.

  21. The BBC being biased is an old and rather well rehearsed argument. My Labour friends think it is biased against the Labour Party.
    My Conservative friends think it is biased against the Conservative party.
    My liberal friends think it is about right.
    My UKIP friends think Clarkson should be brought back:-)

  22. NeilJ- Thank you for a sensible reply. Can we not get into a BBC bias debate, past experience suggests it is not a topic that is compatible with non-partisan discussion. Let us just assume that all people think it is either (a) fair or (b) biased against the party they support.

  23. [snip]

    On recent movement (or lack)…it’s the Greens, they’ve shrunk back to their entirely normal ~4% level. Are pollsters* likely to drop them from headlines after election….or with (at least) 4 bigger parties, have they been shifted to listing all notable national parties permenantly?

    *those that’ve started doing it, ofc.

  24. I think Anthony is right about the BBC bias. Its been done to death.
    Posts on here are becoming markedly more partisan.Let’s try and keep within the boundaries that Anthony sets folks. Otherwise it just descends into my party is better than yours etc etc

  25. The national voting% really does not tell you very much historically about Lib Dem seat numbers, or indeed today. We do not have a proportional system so it really a function of how well the Lib Dems have succeeded in beating the electoral system which would be giving them zero seats if votes were evenly spread. There is no comparison at all between now and 1970. That was the end of a period when the Liberals had only beaten 10% once since 1929. The few MP’s they had were exceptional characters like Jo Grimond and Richard Wainwright who had nurtured their seats for years, often with the help of a by-election along the way… Now we have a large number of incumbents, who won their seats in easier times, but many of whom have developed a stranglehold on local elections in their constituency. Of course they will do better than 1970 in terms of seats… Remember that in any other country in western Europe they would be looking at 52 seats with 8% of the votes, so they will still be harshly treated by the system whatever they get this time (as will UKIP and the Greens, who do not have these advantages of localised support nurtured over many years)

    Regarding trends in Lib Dem support, the Ashcroft polling shows that in LAB-CON marginals their support has been steadily driven down since last summer, whereas in many seats they hold it has gone up (including Sheffield Hallam). We don’t have a time series in any safe Tory or Labour seats, but there are quite a number of Labour seats where the Lib Dems got 30% last time and the expectation is of <8% this time…The net effect is a fairly static 8% (although it appears to have gone up by 0.5% or so since the start of the year, which is probably significant given the huge number of polls).

    This still tells us nothing about how many seats the Lib Dems will win, only that they have a chance where they have a popular incumbent and are well organised…. The Ashcroft polling is untested and may be well out…

  26. Mikey,

    My party has cake and games, so in my case that’s right.

  27. Bill

    Can’t argue with that!

  28. ANDREW 111.
    I think that the Labour Party will be hoping that the LD vote will hold up, as most seats that LD’s could lose are where Tories are natural competitors owing to the socio-economic status and history of these seats, while I think Labour look to be in a strong position in winning from the LD’s some formerly ‘Laboury seats.

  29. Rich

    Isn’t the problem that the only Tory policy in that period has been to keep saying ‘SNP scary’? I can’t actually remember much else they’ve said and the same headline every day does get boring after a while.

    (OK, I know I’m getting a bit partisan there, I’ll try to tone that down…)

  30. One question I would be interested in knowing the answer to is why the campaign has failed to have almost any effect.

    Is it because people’s minds were already made up and therefore can’t be swayed? Or maybe the message just isn’t reaching people this time? What are the viewing figures of the debates in comparison to the previous election? Are people watching them less?

    Are there any political billboards anywhere? I live in an area without any billboard advertising, so I never see any adverts let alone political adverts. Any suggestions why things are so static?

  31. So -boring leaders ( except one) in a boring campaign producing boring VI trends( except one).

    It’s their own fault-they are scared to meet real people in front of tv cameras. Their campaign events are tightly controlled meetings with party faithful .The whole thing is defensive & risk averse.

    Politics as Catenaccio , & just as boring.

    The last chance for someone to shine is the QT programme next Thursday. EM looked more self confident on Marr this morning than I have ever seen him .He knows that despite all dismissal of any formal deals with SNP’ those Scottish MP votes will never be used to help Cons at Westminster-and he doesn’t need any deals with SNP.

    DC has a job to do on Thursday, after funking the campaign. If he fails he can watch Miliband undo many of the reforms he spent five tough years implementing.

  32. Ok – I obviously wasn’t clear enough. When I said let’s not get into a BBC bias debate, I meant don’t get into a BBC bias debate or I’ll moderate you.

  33. Looks like the voting undecideds will decide this election.

    So who are they and what will they decide ?

    Evidence based analysis only

  34. BBC Bias

    I suggest you read the post by AW at 3.38 before hitting “submit comment”

  35. There is little change in the polls because the same sample of ‘voters’ are getting asked over and over again by the lazy pollsters. Can’t believe how they’re getting away with churning out back to back ‘no changes’ with no legwork. Money for old rope & people are buying it!?

  36. Sorry, I have strayed a bit lately, apologies.

    I keep recutting numbers, and I think there is a strong chance that Lab+SNP and Con+Lib won’t break 325, which means I might go place a bet on a second election this year.

  37. @ Sorrel

    Any suggestions why things are so static?

    Everything is a watered down rerun of elections which have happened before.

    SNP makes it about Scotland (we did that September 2014);
    UKIP makes it about Europe (we did that April 2014);
    LDs make it about coalition (we’ve had 5 years of that);
    Tories make it about the economy & Ed Miliband’s character (2010 was the economy & Gordon Brown’s character);
    Labour defend against the agendas of all the other Parties (like they did in 2010, Apr 2014 & September 2014) but don’t mount many?/any? positive attacks.

    So, over-all, the general public feel there is nothing new to get them interested in the election.

  38. ” why the campaign has failed to have almost any effect.”
    Perhaps none of the parties are believed any longer.
    I await the turnout figures with interest.

  39. AW

    Automod software required to block posts that include the words BBC / Beeb / bias?

    Personally I prefer to watch Fox News for totally unbiased reporting. ;-)

    (that last remark was a joke! in case that wasn’t clear enough)

  40. andrew111

    Yes, I agree that – even if they poll only 8% – the Lib Dems are likely to win more seats than the Liberals did in 1970, because their votes are probably more efficiently distributed (though on the other hand their national vote would have dropped by two thirds, and if that happened in every seat I don’t think they’d win any at all!).

    But that’s a very long way from saying they’d hold – say – half the seats they won in 2010. The uniform swing calculation on this site suggests 19 seats. And in a sense, uniform swing already incorporates a substantial incumbency effect, because in seats where the party is strong it represents a much smaller decrease as a proportion of the previous vote.

  41. @Colin

    ” If he fails he can watch Miliband undo many of the reforms he spent five tough years implementing.”

    I think they call that a change of government don’t they? If a government is chucked out by the voters, then we must presume that the voters didn’t much like what they’d been doing. That, presumably, included many “of the reforms they’d been implementing”. Ipso facto, the incoming government will have a mandate to “undo” them. I think that’s how it works, anyway. I presume Brown has spent the last five years “watching Cameron undo many of the reforms he spent five tough years implementing.”

    This democracy thing can be damned annoying at times, I accept!


  42. I think, could be wrong, and I don’t know if it matters, but G. may come out with supporting Labour.

  43. @AW

    Since you are around can you answer:

    Statistically the YouGov cross breaks could be compared with the full Scottish polls. If the cross breaks do not show any fall in the Labour vote since January but the full Scottish polls do show a drop, then it is possible that the technique of re-polling people from January is missing real change and YouGov are over-estimating Labour. If we take YouGov out of the polling averages then the Tories are slightly ahead.

    Have YouGov tried this technique before? Does it work?

  44. Interesting point about the lack of billboard advertising which I’ve also noticed driving around all day as I do – being saved for the last week perhaps?

    Labour party boards outnumbering others 2-1 in my local area which just goes to show it means nothing – if the blues don’t win here the moon will fall in the sea with surprise.

  45. On a pathway to a Tory government

    I am wondering if the Yes voters now voting SNP are that bothered about a Labour government, yes they will choose Labour over Tory, but their main motivation for their vote is independence not who governs the UK.

    I wonder if this is the point of the Conservative campaign: the demonising and delegitimising the democratic choice of Scots has hardened the Yes\SNP vote. The fact that Miliband is not standing up for Scottish democracy but rather is joining in with the demonisation and also the hypocrisy of EM being happy to sit with the SDLP, means that SNP voters will have less desire to help EM to be PM.

    So, if the Conservatives make a good offer it might enable the SNP to abstain in the confidence vote. Could the SNP sell that to their voters & members?

  46. @crossbath,

    Yes, apart from Labour never really undid any of Thatcher’s main reforms, despite the criticism!


  47. David Welch

    Labour candidate suspended by party.

    Following conviction for drunk-driving (44 mgr in breath) and a vehicle with no MOT, Sumon Hoque was suspended yesterday from being Labour candidate for Banff & Buchan.

    The seat is almost certainly an SNP hold, but in 2010 the 14% for Labour plus the 31% for Tory would have exceeded SNP`s 41%.

    It probably will make very little difference. He will still be on the ballot paper as Labour – indeed many people will already have voted.

    There was a similar case in Scotland with the Conservative Party at the last election:

    and the suspended candidate only lost a couple of points from the previous Tory total, which might have happened anyway.

    Tactical unionist voting just isn’t happening to a large extent in Scotland and it was never likely to. Other things influence voters than the future of the UK – especially when you consider that another referendum is probably not going to happen for at least a decade[1]. So unionist voters will prioritise other things.

    [1] It will only happen sooner if there is some other significant constitutional change and there is at least 60% in the polls for Yes (it’s currently stuck at just under 50%)

  48. @Chrislane

    If I was Labour I would be going all out for Pudsey and forgetting Leeds NW… Pudsey is worth 2 in the Lab-Con battle, and Leeds NW only 1…

    If Labour were going all-out for Pudsey I would expect to have been canvassed by now… And I would expect to see as many Labour posters as I see in Leeds NW. Of course there is no competition in posters in Pudsey, since apart from 3 in a farmer’s field I have seen none for the Tories… They are campaigning in other ways as usual… But given that Labour are putting up some posters why are they allowing people in the local council estate to say “there used to be so many more Labour posters in the past… looks like they are not trying very hard…”

  49. Laszlo
    You mentioned the Winter War and the British elite. We had a European Energy Cities conference in Aberdeen last week and one of the Finnish delegates was called Kuusinen..and yes she was his great grand daughter. Another Finnish delegate volunteered that K had been the most influential Finn in history.
    I was able to tell them that in an atmosphere of some embarrassment and secrecy, the UK government delivered from Aberdeen a contingent of Blenheim bombers Finland had earlier paid for. Aberdonians must have been a bit surprised to see bombers with swasticas taking off in 1940!

  50. In Kellner’s most recent prediction he has vote shares (now / May) as follows

    Con 32% 34% (+2%)
    Lab 34% 33% (-1%)
    UKIP 14% 12% (-2%)
    LD 9% 11% (+2%)
    Green 6% 4% (-2%)
    SNP 5% 5% (nc)
    Other 1% 1% (nc)

    The arguments for Con swingback, and UKIP squeeze are well rehearsed and without endorsing them, I can see the logic.

    However, I find it difficult to see why 1/3rd of Greens would slip away to one of the other parties (presumably LDs being the main beneficiary in Kellner’s opinion) at this late stage. I can see it happening in some of the seats LDs are defending, but the Green vote is spread thinly so even mass defection in 60 or so seats couldn’t dent their national vote by this much.

    Is anything in the polls that support this scale of defection as being likely?

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