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.

staticgraph

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. @ Adam B

    int rate will go up do to weak government, question marks over Lab’s ability and willingness to get the deficit and debt down, particularly given the SNP want materially higher spending and will hold power

    It’s the Bank of England (BoE) monetary policy committee which sets the interest rate. There’s been arguments already between the current government & the BoE because the BoE wants to increase the rate & the government doesn’t. If the rate “shoots up”, it will be because the current government has held it down beyond the point when a rise was needed because of the election.

  2. @ ProfHoward

    How about calling a Constitutional Assembly. Or is it too far fetching culturally (it’s a genuine question)?

  3. @Prof Howard

    That’s what Gordon Brown’s intervention in the last week of the referendum campaign did very effectively

    However it’s not a strategy which lends itself to repetition, and also it would be difficult to square with the statements made to date re the Smith Commission on devolution of powers as both main parties are adamant that this has done its job effectively

  4. “It’s the Bank of England (BoE) monetary policy committee which sets the interest rate. ”

    Not quite true. the Bank sets the Bank Rate, or what used to be called the Bank rate or base rate.

    The rate at which the government borrows is set in the international market place.

    I think AdamB’s scenario is plausible. given the snp’s pronouncements about the need to abandon so-called “austerity”, a government propped up by the snp won’t be the most attractive prospect for government bond investors.

  5. Amber Star

    I suspect AdamB was referring to the bond yield rates, which unfortunately the BOE doesn’t set. If those rose it’d put pressure on interest rates (why would a bank lend to an individual at a lower rate they could lend to the country?)

  6. Lazlo

    I think it will take some time to figure this out, we need a UK wide conversation.

  7. @ Peter Crawford

    Not so much. UK bonds are over-subscribed. For all practical purposes, the BoE (not the market) is currently setting the rate. External changes, not internal UK politics, will move the rate.

    Refer also to Laszlo’s comment on this.

  8. I don’t believe bond yields will automatically rise. Why?

    For example France elected a left wing government who were questioning austerity.
    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/france/government-bond-yield

    Belgium has had difficulties forming a government at all
    http://ieconomics.com/government-bond-10y-belgium

    We are not Greece.

  9. @ Alan

    Please see my comment to Peter Crawford.

  10. We should remember – indeed those attracted to anti austerity should remember – that the UK was in 2010 *and is still) quite seriously in deficit and if we are not careful with the deficit then that makes it hard to borrow at low rates as a default risk is added to the rate you can borrow at. The current govt has certainly taken decisions that avoided this problem. That’s not to say that a less austere approach would not have worked. The markets are a little unpredictable as to when they start to price in risks.

  11. Alan

    Yes bond yields as I was talking about gov’t debt. When the bond mkt questions chances of capital repayment, its moves fast

  12. AMBER STAR
    External changes, not internal UK politics, will move the rate.

    Absolutely.

  13. @peter crawford

    Yes the forecasts are only as good as the polls upon which they are based.

  14. Heather Peto

    Just a point on strategy and its unpredicted effects on elections.

    IMO the LDs started off equi-distant in preference for the two main parties. Clegg appear to have moved far closer to the Conservatives in recent days repeating their attacks on Labour.

    Now presumably Clegg is doing that for a reason. Internal polls/ canvas returns etc. But it is interesting what effect that will have (albeit marginal).

    I suspect the real reason may simply be that Clegg is desperate to hang on in Sheffield Hallam and realises the only way to be this is to persuade Conservative voters to back him.

    Whether that applies in many other seats is a different matter. In most cases it will be Labour and Green voters they are hoping to persuade and Clegg will be doing them no favours Everyone else in the Lib Dems is now just hoping he will go away and are keeping their heads down, which why no one seems to be supporting him.

    I’m not disagreeing with the possible side-effects of this in non-Lib Dem seats, though that does imply that many voters are as interested in all this pre-election positioning as politicians are. I suspect a lot of people find it all pointless and alienating.

  15. ADAMB
    Yes bond yields as I was talking about gov’t debt. When the bond mkt questions chances of capital repayment, its moves fast

    It would but I doubt we are really looking at such an apocalyptic vision. The changes within the British political system, though they seem major to us, is not significant really. All future governments will be dealing with debt as we have done as a country for over a hundred years whoever is in power. The bond market looks at fundamentals and we are hardly Greece just about to default on a loan now or in the future so far as I can tell.

  16. The Panelbase Full Scottish had some interesting questions on Full Fiscal autonomy (FFA) which are worth a look.

    1. Would you tend to favour or oppose proposals for Scotland to have full fiscal autonomy in which a Scottish government would be fully responsible for raising and spending all taxation in Scotland?
    2. Do you believe full fiscal autonomy for Scotland would make you personally better off, worse off, or make little difference
    3. Do you believe full fiscal autonomy for Scotland would make Scotland as a whole better off, worse off, or make little difference

    The results are given conventionally (and perfectly reasonably) by aggregating Strongly and Somewhat Favour/Oppose. By party, the responses to the first question [1] are –
    SNP – 88% Favour : 7% Oppose
    Lab – 36% Favour : 47% Oppose
    Con – 11% Favour : 76% Oppose
    LD – 23% Favour : 69% Oppose
    Oth – 40% Favour : 58% Oppose
    DK – 36% Favour : 23% Oppose

    However, the proposal (including what it might actually be as a result of negotiations with the Treasury) is still lacking in clarity, so it’s also worth looking simply at those who are strongly in favour or opposed. Their opinions are likely fixed, but the remainder may be swayed, one way or another, by more detail.

    All – 34% Strongly Favour : 19% Strongly Oppose
    SNP – 64% Strongly Favour : 2% Strongly Oppose
    Lab – 7% Strongly Favour : 26% Strongly Oppose
    Con – 1% Strongly Favour : 52% Strongly Oppose
    LD – 6% Strongly Favour : 36% Strongly Oppose
    Oth – 12% Strongly Favour : 21% Strongly Oppose
    DK – 12% Strongly Favour : 15% Strongly Oppose

    Things aren’t quite as simple as partisans on any side might wish them to be.

    [1] The answers to Qs 2 and 3 are broadly similar.

  17. @AdamB

    “Yes bond yields as I was talking about gov’t debt. When the bond mkt questions chances of capital repayment, its moves fast”

    Ah, well no worries there. Britain borrows in its own currency so it can’t default on its debts unless it chose to do so. Hence why our interest rates are so low – we’re seen as a very safe option for that reason (nothing to do with austerity).

  18. Greek default currently diarised for may 12 -that might get the markets attention.

  19. @ Roger M

    Your theory that Clegg may be crabbing right to save his own seat is intriguing.

    The same tactic might aid the more Orange Book-ish of his colleagues save their seats, which would help him in the event of a leadership challenge.

    Or it might just be his inclination (to favour the right)

  20. There is an awful lot of money out there (partly from QE) seeking investment. You may not want to invest in Greece, but Basel 3 encourages sovereign debt purchase.

    There has been quite a bit of debt swap during the coalition government (and quite successful). The spreads are quite high for medium term debt, so there’s uncertainty, but it is actually stable, and the spread is high because of short term speculation (it is normal for election times).

    I expect that the short term borrowing cost for less than 360 days will be negative in the next 4 months (at least).

  21. LITTLE RED ROCK
    @ Roger M
    Your theory that Clegg may be crabbing right to save his own seat is intriguing. Or it might just be his inclination (to favour the right)

    Oh, I don’t doubt his personal preference is to favour the right. Over the last five years he has been pretty clear on his disdain for the left.

  22. @Amber Star

    “It’s the Bank of England (BoE) monetary policy committee which sets the interest rate. There’s been arguments already between the current government & the BoE because the BoE wants to increase the rate & the government doesn’t.”

    I am not sure this is factually correct. The reduction in inflation rate to historic lows has extinguished any risk of overheating in the economy which is the normal precursor to a rise in interest rates. I’ve checked the voting record which is available online and they seems unaminous in keeping the rate where it is. They us absolutely no pressure to increase rates

  23. ANARCHIST UNITE

    “Britain borrows in its own currency so it can’t default on its debts unless it chose to do so. Hence why our interest rates are so low – we’re seen as a very safe option for that reason (nothing to do with austerity).”

    This approach does lead to higher rates, because you have to offset the currency devaluation that is implicit.

  24. At the last GE I recall there was an issue of polling stations closing with folk still queuing to cast their votes and I recall Sheff Hallam was one such area. At the time the considered opinion was that it disadvantaged Lab. The rules have changed now so votes can be cast by all those present prior to 10pm whether it takes until after that time to cast.

    The general ‘melt-down’ of LibDem support will vary in some places but as Ashcroft’s polling has discovered, it does look very bleak for LibDem and one can only hope this trickles, nay floods, down into the current leader’s constituency and delivers the totally deserved ‘bloody nose’ as a result of a gross contempt towards voters.

  25. @ Barney

    I don’t know if it’s still the case, but Geman SDP candidates use to have to signa resignation letter that would have become valid if they voted against the party line (PR I suppose).

    Democratic centralism is different by the way. Militant was a Trotskyist organisation, and Trotsky was against democratic centralism. Militant was against democratic centralism inLiverpool in 1991. However, this is only pedantry of my dream of becoming a historian when I was 17.

  26. Barney Crokett

    “It is hard to understand them in a UK context. In my view they are most like a combination of Sinn Fein (the discipline) and Fianna Fail (infinite flexibility)”

    It is an interesting comparison. Sinn Féin was able to make quite remarkable changes to its position, and to sell these changes to supporters, as part of a narrative of taking steps. Many changes in its position that were completely unimaginable were brought about. A political party that has very passionate support can do a lot with that support if it is careful how it is presented.

  27. NORBOLD
    Are there any opinion polls on how Susan Anne White is doing in West Tyrone?

    Surely not well at all?

  28. I am new to this – this website not GEs) so forgive me if I am wrong but I do detect a significantly more partisan tone in comments today. Up to now what has (generally) impressed me is the balanced, evidence based tone of most comments

  29. We seem to have an increase in “seagull posting” – an offshoot of “seagull management” [1] – well known in Scottish coastal towns.

    [1] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Seagull%20Management

  30. Barney Crokett

    There is case to think of SNP as the FF of Scotland. FF were able to unite people of very different social classes. Vaguely left when it needed to be but pro business too and hard to pin down. If you went looking for its positions all you got (on its website) was a statement saying that FF represented the “mainstream” of Irish political life.

  31. @ RAF

    Upon seeing the three women in the tv debate he says he realized how far Labour had strayed form the values that Atlee espoused after WW II.

    I agree I was signed up into British politics by Winston Churchill as a young Conservative in the early 1960s and specifically remember Churchill, Macmillan and others talking about building a Britain in which their would be a social safety net below which no one would be allowed to fall.

    I cannot relate to either modern conservatives or modern social democrats, who have both cut taxes and run up huge deficits and government debt.

  32. DCON. I think people are excited as the date approaches so they cannot help themselves.

  33. I suppose the polldrums (and inevitably, speculation on seat counts) encourages off-topic partisan drift, but it’s not really a welcome addition.

    Any thoughts on turnout %age forecasts and 2010 non-voters voting in 2015?

  34. OLDNAT

    I was struck by the FFA question too and thank you for posting those fascinating figures. As to how people can have such strong views on it I am uncleear. Roughly speaking FFA seems the opposite of the idea of “fiscal union”. I was interested that such a lot of Scottish people don’t believe in the idea of fiscal union.

  35. Laszlo
    Unsurprisingly, Schroder had lots of rebellions in getting his welfare reform passed. I could debate the ins and outs of democratic centralism but better not!

  36. (Further to my 8.33 a lot of experts think that monetary union does not work well without a fiscal union to accompany it).

  37. Ok postal votes the Dundee East and West constituencies have 25000 postal vote applications between them. There you go non-partisan.

    People are already voting.

  38. Good evening all from a chilly but still sunny East Ren.

    The graphs might point to a static campaign but travel north and it’s……………..erm still static. The SNP still command a massive lead.

    I know politics in Scotland might be boring to some but I really don’t think people understand the thrashing Scottish Labour MP’s are about to face. I wouldn’t say any of them are household names to the general public but to the Labour party in Scotland they are set to lose most of their big names who have been around for decades.

    To those who don’t support Westminster Labour in Scotland then the election is all about refurbishing politics in Scotland. Like houses sometimes we just need a right good clear out unwanted junk.

  39. ANDY SHADRACK

    Very interesting.

  40. Barney the notion of FF as at any time vaguely left intrigues me. To me they were the respectable nationalist party, embraced by the church, but at their core supporters of establishment and big business
    If correct I would be very worried by what SNP candidates had to sign up to. This is from someone sympathetic to nationalist views though scared of rampant nationalism

  41. I too was struck by the three women Andy.

    As I am not Welsh I don’t think it could be interpreted as partisan for me to say that Leanne Wood has come across as a very natural and likable person.

  42. Thanks COVER DRIVE

  43. Has somebody calculated/estimated or would somebody like to try to calculate/estimate by how many points Con must lead Lab in E&W to be the largest party.

    I think it is about 2%, but I have worked that out on the back of an envelope.

  44. ALLAN CHRISTIE
    ‘I know politics in Scotland might be boring to some but I really don’t think people understand the thrashing Scottish Labour MP’s are about to face.’

    I think we do. Its just that the polls aren’t moving on the issue so people have pretty much accepted that LiS/Lib Dems are going to be wiped and SNP return all/nearly all the MP’s.

    Its exciting now in England so far as it affects a post election settlement or not. The election itself in Scotland seems to be effectively over.

  45. I’m not a great fan of postal votes in Scotland. As a voter I’m concerned about voter fraud.

    Also if thousands of people have already voted for the party which appealed to them and for that party to change policy later on then some voters may have voted differently.

  46. DCON

    “Barney the notion of FF as at any time vaguely left intrigues me. To me they were the respectable nationalist party, embraced by the church, but at their core supporters of establishment and big business
    If correct I would be very worried by what SNP candidates had to sign up to. This is from someone sympathetic to nationalist views though scared of rampant nationalism”

    Not sure how respectable FF were. They had a whiff of cordite. Wasn’t FG the respectable one?

    The parallels are not going to be literal and the Church connections are not relevant for today’s Scotland: the SNP seem to have a wide range of people of different religions and none.

    But the other parallels of SNP adopting a position in the mainstream of Scottish life, seem similar to FF.

    Thinking of the next decade, I find it hard to see how an alternative govt to SNP could emerge. You would need Labour to win more seats in Hollyrood. Seems a generation off.

    In Ireland FG were never (or hardly ever) able to win against FF without Labour support. Sometimes I think that FG is a bit like how the Scottish Tories would be if they were to separate from London again.

  47. Prof
    “mainstream” That sums it up.
    Norbold
    West tyrone? Nearly all Northern Ireland seats are completely safe in the view of polsters. Sinn Fein have a huge lead in this one. It is true that as in Scotland, the socially conservative Catholic feels deprived of choice but this woman is not going to trouble the scorers.

  48. When was the last time that the Liberals formally worked with the Conservatives since World War 1? Were they part of Churchill’s coalition with Labour during WWII.

    In Canada after WWI the Liberals split with one faction going to a new party called the Progressives and the other eventually building itself back into the Liberal Party.

    There is an asumption on this list that that the LDs will stay united as one party, but is that absolutely likely given the split between Asquith and Loydd George in 1923?

  49. LADIDAH

    I am not a LibDem supporter but I find your remarks totally unacceptable on this site.

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