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. Allan

    In my view this general election is all about what is happening in Scotland. Its astonishing stuff. Scotland may yet save Cameron and that is the irony in all of this.

  2. CATOSWYN

    Fair point and I would agree the election as a contest in Scotland is over and does add an extra dimension to the election in rUK.

    I’m just thinking some in Scottish Labour still have their backs to the wall regarding the thrashing (according to the polls) they are facing in under two weeks time.

    Lets face it, they keep coming out with the same old stuff despite the polls telling them to shut it.

  3. BARNEY CROCKETT.
    I agree with you about seats in North of Ireland. Tyrone is more and more Nationalist or Republican, demographically.
    As the late, great, Benaud used to say: ‘No need to chase that one’.

  4. @Andy S

    The Lib Dems are incredibly disciplined I don’t understand why they faithfully voted for all the Tory stuff (apart from boundary reform) when they got nothing in return and did it for five years despite the electoral annihilation at the end of the road being obvious from about six months in.

  5. MIKEY
    Allan
    In my view this general election is all about what is happening in Scotland. Its astonishing stuff. Scotland may yet save Cameron and that is the irony in all of this.
    ________

    I think the irony of it all is that a lot of former Labour voters in Scotland don’t see much difference between Labour and the Tories.

  6. Conservatives going back to the economy this week, wish they had stayed with if you had asked me.

    Will it change that much? I doubt it, but its always a good thing to keep it fresh in the voters minds as we move ever closer to polling day.

    I still believe the big move comes on the day, voters not in love with the Tories but cannot bring themselves to vote for the other guy.

    But then again as I am a Tory I would say and think that wouldn’t I :)

    P.S where are Colin and Howard? the closer we have got to polling day the less they have posted, There is only 3 of us here to balance the comments.

  7. While we are talking about Tyrone. (The largest of NI’s Six Counties.) There is a very interesting intra-nationalist battle. (Perhaps Scotland needs intra-nationalist battles?)

    In the West Tyrone constituency the SDLP have a young candidate called Dan McCrossan who is very bright and articulate and presentable. For me it will be interesting to see if they claw back support from Sinn Féin’s veteran (and Scottish born) Pat Doherty. For a long time SDLP has been in decline but they hope to turn the corner this time and win back some voter share, and this is one of the constituencies in which they want to do better. Not to win the seat but to put down a base for the Assembly Elections.

  8. Alan
    “I think the irony of it all is that a lot of former Labour voters in Scotland don’t see much difference between Labour and the Tories.”

    There’s a lot of English voters who think the same way. By and large they’ve gone to UKIP.

  9. @ Barney

    I happened to be a member of a party that espoused democratic centralism (even if it didn’t follow it). Hence my comment.

    My SDP note is rather serious though.

  10. Every time I look at Scottish polling data and associated seat projections I go through a cycle of thoughts which go something like:

    * This confirms the last poll that we are looking at an event for which the word landslide is an understatement.

    * Things this big just don’t happen it can’t be true

    * I’ll check the last umpteen polls – they say the pretty much the same thing.

    * It’s not that far from Indy Ref and last Holyrood election outcomes so it hasn’t happened overnight.

    * I remind myself of the last 40 years of Scottish political history to map out the path that has brought about this situation.

    * Ok, fine all the data lines up to say this really is where we are. Its absolutely solid give or take MOE something huge is about to happen.

    Then the next poll comes along and I do this same thing all over again.

    I know it is real, but I still can’t quite believe what we are witnessing.

  11. @oldnat

    I think we can safely conclude that Barney is not one of the shy Labour voters which LiS are pinning their hopes increasingly it seems.

  12. PETEB

    ““I think the irony of it all is that a lot of former Labour voters in Scotland don’t see much difference between Labour and the Tories.””

    This may be something to do with them being both establishment and middle class rather than them both having similar policies. I know that Cameron tried to reposition Tories, but I don’t think on economics he did. With the Labour party focusing so much on economic inequality, e.g. wealth taxes and top rates of tax, I see a much wider difference now between Labour and Tories than back in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

  13. Allan

    I think those former Labour voters have a point although I do believe Labour are edging leftwards

  14. @ Bluebob

    There is only 3 of us here to balance the comments.

    It’s a (quite a) bit of an exaggeration, and also against the comments rules. But I understand what you are saying.

  15. No TND ‘interesting’ tweet – I’m going lab 36, con 33, UKIP 14, LD 9

  16. @Catoswyn As a non-economist I found your arguments about interest rates completely convincing. I very much doubt, however that many will be convinced by them,

  17. ANDY SHADRACK
    Were they part of Churchill’s coalition with Labour during WWII.

    William Beveridge was a Liberal in Churchill’s wartime government. As his Wiki entry says:
    He is best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services (known as the Beveridge Report) which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945.

  18. @Andy
    “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?”

    That assumption is not shared by all on this site, I can assure you! A number of us have been saying for a while that the Orange Book LDs could well go the way of the National Liberals and ultimately end up in the Conservative Party.

  19. At the risk to enraging those who are trying to find a path for the SNP to support the Conservatives, let me offer a simple answer…NO!

    The SNP is facing a May 2016 Scottish election which includes election to the Holyrood parliament and council elections simultaneously.

    Currently the polls show a massive defeat for Labour and most importantly, a massive hollowing out of the Labour electoral machine (such that it is) in Scotland. If the SNP wins 45-55 seats across Scotland, they are going to have majorities in both Holyrood and the Scottish Westminster seats, as well as the largest block of council members. Both Labour and LibDems are going to lose 90% of their Westminster seat and the money that goes along with that for constituency services, polling, leaflets etc. Conversely the SNP are going to see a massive influx of political staff and resources.

    This change in resources will give the SNP another leg up going into the 2016 election. The last thing they would want to do is open the door for a Labour resurgence in Scotland. Any deal with the Conservatives would allow Labour back in the fight.

    But for argument’ sake, let us look at the proposal for Cameron to offer the SNP full DEVO MAX or FFA in exchange for support.

    Assuming Cameron can sell this to his party and English supporters, he has then legitimized the concepts as acceptable to the UK. The SNP would be celebrating Christmas in May.

    The conclusion that this may be enough to win SNP support forgets one basic option.

    All Nicola Sturgeon has to do is then approach Milliband and ask Labour to match the Conservative offer. With Cameron having legitimized the offer, Milliband could match the offer and leave Cameron and Tories swinging in the wind. How could they attack Milliband for agreeing when they made the initial offer?

    As one who supports the SNP (surprise ;-) ) I sincerely hope that Cameron makes the offer.

  20. PETE B
    Alan
    “I think the irony of it all is that a lot of former Labour voters in Scotland don’t see much difference between Labour and the Tories.”
    There’s a lot of English voters who think the same way. By and large they’ve gone to UKI
    ______

    Absolutely, they turned purple with rage. ;-)

  21. @AC

    There’s more difference between Lab and Con now then there has been for some time. That’s why many people like me are voting Labour in a GE for the first time since 1997.

    Remember there is a Con-Lab swing in England and Wales of at least 4%.

  22. MIKEY
    Allan
    I think those former Labour voters have a point although I do believe Labour are edging leftwards
    _______

    They are edging leftwards but it’s too little too late for many voters. I hate to agree with George Galloway but he summed it up in 2011 when he said the SNP are acting more like Labour than Labour.

    It’s still happening.

  23. PROFHOWARD
    “Not sure how respectable FF were. They had a whiff of cordite. Wasn’t FG the respectable one”
    FF became the establishment party. The problem in Ireland was FG chased the same votes but overall FF had the better nationalist back story.
    I don’t agree with the parallels with SMP.
    It seems to me at present SMP are clearly the overwhelming choice of the Scottish people. They now appear to be a left wing party. I just hope they are not going down the road of centralized authoritarian model.
    As to the GE I am very taken aback by the language of all other mainstream parties who seem to be questioning their legitimacy.
    That’s scary for any democrat. To me with UKIP the response was to move to the right backed by personal attracts instead of saying hey we think our policies are better than yours. Lets debate policy. With SMP the response is this a disaster and wrong instead of saying if that is the scots democratic wish we have to properly deal with it.

  24. CHARLES
    As a non-economist I found your arguments about interest rates completely convincing. I very much doubt, however that many will be convinced by them,

    You’re completely right. Elections are about what narrative can be created and people generally do think a certain way about national debt, interest rates and the like. I doubt there’s time for any in depth discussions of economics on any side really.

  25. @AC

    In Scotland the situation is different because the difference between Con and Lab is not as great as between Con and SNP.

    The SNP is essentially saying they can be Labour+ and also be the only party to speak exclusively to Scottish interests.

  26. Some of the post election hung parliament speculation is very funny. (because a lot of is implausible and often involves all party members voting loyally against their long standing principles and ideals)

    One thing seems certain – we won’t get a European Referendum. There just won’t be a majority in parliament to get it through.

  27. @ Cooper2802

    GroupThink could become a problem for SNP. They will need routines against it..

  28. RAF

    The problem Labour have in Scotland is that they spent the last 40 years bashing the Tories and telling voters a vote for the SNP will let the Tories in and not to mention that ole prop Thatcher who often made a cameo appearance on behalf of Scottish Labour at each election, only for Labour to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories for a No vote and also vote with them for austerity.

    The problem Labour have in Scotland is deep rooted and many traditional working class Scots want them stuffed. I personally don’t care who gets into number 10 but I do think Scots need a change from the same old decrepit faces sitting in the Commons decade after decade taking voters for granted.

    The SNP wont have it all their own way for ever, every party has it’s ups and downs.

  29. @ProfHoward
    ” I see a much wider difference now between Labour and Tories than back in the late 1990s or early 2000s.”

    I wouldn’t like to get bogged down in detail about the difference between now and then, but –

    They are both Unionist
    They both want to stay in the EU
    They both want to get rid of the deficit, albeit at slightly different rates
    They both want to spend billions more on the NHS
    They both want to protect the Overseas aid budget
    They both want to run down defences, but keep Trident
    Neither of them want to restore the death penalty

    I could go on. I know that there are differences, but they seem to be of the “we’d do the same but slightly slower/faster/spend more on x/spend less on y” variety.

  30. Couper2802

    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.

    Actually I don’t think that’s what most SNP voters want at all. They actually see independence as a means, not an end, for the better things they want for themselves, their families, communities and country. Many would be perfectly happy if these things could be delivered within a loose UK federal structure for example – to some extent the SNP’s offer in the referendum was designed to replicate that – shared monarchy, currency and so on.

    But most of the people currently supporting the SNP at the moment simply don’t see such an option possible and probably don’t trust the UK political system to provide or maintain it. In addition they see the SNP to be best at protecting their current interests. There was an interesting set of questions in the YouGov Scottish poll earlier this month[1]

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8erf64vigv/Times_Scotland_Results_150409_Formatted_readyforwebsite_secondset.pdf#page=3

    They asked Thinking about the MPs elected from Scotland at the next general election, which political party in Scotland do you think would be most effective at…

    The SNP led for “Giving Scotland an influential voice at Westminster” (65%), “Securing increased powers for the Scottish Parliament” (69%), “Protecting the NHS in Scotland” (48%) and even “Preventing another Conservative government” by 45% to 38% for Labour[2].

    [1] Not the most recent one, but the regular monthly one f/w 8-9 April. The same questions weren’t asked in the latest but had been a month before. Some people may have missed them as they weren’t in the first dataset published.

    [2] It’s an astonishing comment on the sheer ineptness of Labour’s “Vote SNP, Get Tory” campaign that they had actually led the SNP on this 37-36 the previous month. To convince undecided voters of the exact opposite of your main line of attack is some sort of achievement. Even their 38% may not be an unmixed blessing, one of the groups they have Convinced (42-31) is Conservative voters. Who may be less inclined to vote tactically to help another Party keep out their own.

  31. PROFHOWARD
    If the SMP perform on a similar level in 2016 then I presume you will see, in the fullness of time, the left right spilt in the SMP and an opposition emerge.

  32. Gary O

    That’s OK, not many people put having a EU referendum high on the agenda anyway. No doubt some will feign outrage that it isn’t happening but that’s about the status quo.

  33. Brian Nicholson

    Completely agree, and well expressed. A Con/SNP deal is highly unlikely on every level.

  34. Bluebob
    “P.S where are Colin and Howard? the closer we have got to polling day the less they have posted, There is only 3 of us here to balance the comments.”

    4 – don’t forget me! Although I would refer to us as right of centre, as I don’t think that Tory fits us all, although that might be the most effective place for us to vote. Still expecting a very late swing Cameron’s way in 90th minute. Very interesting article by Vince Cable in the MoS.

  35. I wonder if the Tories can remain united on Europe after the election, especially if they win.

  36. LRR
    If I can interrupt the posts describing what a kicking Labour will get in Scotland and how they deserve it – I think I missed the satire at the top of the thread – to reply to your polling question.
    If you believe the Ashcroft CVI polling, I think Cons don’t need to be ahead to gain most seats. A dead heat in votes will probably give about equal seat numbers. I will check this though and get back to you.

  37. Yougov have been very consistent for a few weeks now showing slight Labour leads, I seem to remember there was a slight change in their methodology around the same time time.

    Does the change in methodology explain these Labour leads?

  38. @Roger Mexico

    “But most of the people currently supporting the SNP at the moment simply don’t see such an option possible and probably don’t trust the UK political system to provide or maintain”

    The recent rhetoric from all the unionist parties is hardly likely to convince any of these Yes voters that anything can be achieved within the WM system.

  39. @Allan Christie
    ‘The problem Labour have in Scotland is deep rooted and many traditional working class Scots want them stuffed. I personally don’t care who gets into number 10 but I do think Scots need a change from the same old decrepit faces sitting in the Commons decade after decade taking voters for granted.”

    Yes, I can see that. Part of that problem is huge majorities for a single party.

  40. COUPER280
    The Lib Dems are incredibly disciplined I don’t understand why they faithfully voted for all the Tory stuff (apart from boundary reform) when they got nothing in return and did it for five years despite the electoral annihilation at the end of the road being obvious from about six months in.

    Even during the time when they were setting up the coalition there were howls of outrage from many of their voters and warnings of the consequences. Lib Dem headquarters were innundated with calls, letters etc. On line, including on Liberal Voice, there were warnings from inside and outside the party. Left leaning activists and supporters left the party in droves.

    However this had been expected by the orange bookers. They had a different vision. They would enter coalition, have a real impact on policy, get AV, reform the Lords etc. They did not see their co-operation as not receiving some reward. This fell apart when AV was rejected of course. They also wanted to prove that they were to be trusted with government. They had a narrative for themselves. MP’s and remaining party members listened to Clegg and Laws when they said ‘we will be rewarded when the economy recovers’. They were used to being unpopular in polls between elections and Clegg even managed to explain away the first lot of council losses. After that I think they just kept on keeping on because they were so far in by then they could do little else but pray that Clegg was right.

    For the orange bookers themselves they seem to have wanted to move to the right and maybe even expurge the left altogether from the party. I think they thought other supporters would arrive, though I’ve never understood where they thought these were coming from? Soft Tories?

    Towards the end of the parliament we saw an attempt by them to woo back the red libs a little. They blocked some legislation, disagreed with Conservatives more and Clegg tried apologising. I think that they didn’t see any returns from this so they are tacking again to see if they can get anything from the other side.

    Anyway, here they are in the position many people predicted they would be in at the time.

  41. Laszlo @ Couper2802

    “GroupThink could become a problem for SNP. They will need routines against it.”

    I agree – but I don’t think it will happen. At the moment the SNP is both a political party and a “movement”. It’s hard for the latter to engage in such debate when it’s embedded in a single party. The dynamics don’t really allow it.

    However, I don’t think it’s much of a problem at Westminster, where the SNP MPs can easily operate as a single bloc.

    At Holyrood, the movement can happily splinter – to the extent that the SNP can’t simply set the agenda, but need to keep Green and Socialist allies on board.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the a pattern of SNP MPs, but a much wider variety of pro-autonomy MSPs develops over the next few elections.

  42. Twitter chat about a “massive” Labour housing announcement at midnight. Assume it’s not the rent control one from last night!

  43. Bluebob
    There is only 3 of us here to balance the comments.

    3 Bobs? Ah, I see. And a Robert. :)

  44. BRIAN NICHOLSON

    Excellent post and if I’m being honest I was one of the guilty ones up until a few months back who thought a deal between the SNP and Tories could be possible but that was purely on the basis of max devo for Edinburgh in return for EVEL.

    But NS and DC have put out the markers and to be honest with all the guff coming from the Tories regarding a Labour/SNP stitch up, how ironic would it be if DC was to offer some sort of deal to the SNP in event of the Tories becoming the largest party.

  45. LRR

    The Nowcast gives Lab 271 Seats and Con 268 in E&W on a Labour lead of 2%. Hence my comment the other night about the BBC News 24 ‘expert’ telling the viewers about Labour’s in built electoral advantage.

  46. EXILEINYORKS

    I love that internal conversation. I have similar ones with myself daily!

  47. **LABOUR TO SCRAP STAMP DUTY FOR FIRST TIME BUYERS**

    I think this is pretty big. (As a potential first time buyer).

  48. Hireton

    “Twitter chat about a “massive” Labour housing announcement at midnight.”

    Presumably the FT story about scrapping Stamp Duty for 1st time buyers (in the benighted parts of the Empire where that still applies)?

  49. EXILEINYORKS

    The main model I draw upon for what’s happening in Scotland is Canadian, but the SNP doesn’t map easily to the Bloc Quebecois: in many ways, it’s an amalgam of the Bloc and the NDP. (Not just Quebec: Alberta’s having a provincial election on May 5th, where the long-time governing Progressive Conservatives are being challenged to their right and left by Wildrose and NDP respectively.)

    One of the more interesting things about the SNP in 2015 is that most of its candidates have experience either from IndyRef, past campaigns or local govt positions. This is different from, say, the NDP in Canada which had a lot of local activists elected in 2011 to their own surprise, in seats that weren’t considered competitive based on historic voting patterns.

  50. Robert Newark

    I had a look at the Vince Cable piece you mentioned. Not a huge amount of real content, but in many ways the most interesting thing is that it is there at all. Vince making pro Tory noises in the Mail is very much in line with NC’s mood music of favouring Con over Lab.

    However, as others have speculated how much is this a genuine preference, and how much is tactical campaigning for right of centre votes to save their seats is unclear. Perhaps we will find out in the post election negotiations what they were really up to.

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