ICM have released a new constituency poll of Sheffield Hallam, conducted for the Guardian. It shows Nick Clegg holding on to his seat by a margin of seven points over Labour when respondents are asked a voting intention question that includes the names of the candidates standing. Full details are here. As regular readers will recall, previous polling of the seat has shown a much tighter race with Lord Ashcroft’s last poll in Hallam showing Labour ahead by one.

So which poll is correct? Is Nick Clegg likely to hold his seat? The bottom line is while that this piece of evidence does make it look a little more likely that Clegg might hold on, we can’t really be confident what the true position is. The ICM poll had a sample size of 500, the Ashcroft poll had a sample size of 1000. Hence it could well be that there isn’t any difference at all between the polls, that it’s just normal sample variation around a small Lib Dem lead. Its also possible that there has been movement towards Clegg in the days between the two polls as the election looms and people consider a tactical vote.

However a lot has been made of the fact that while both polls had an effort to take account of people’s personal and tactical voting behaviour in their own constituency, they did so in different ways – Ashcroft asks a two stage question, asking people their national preference and then how they will vote thinking about the candidates and parties in their own constituency; ICM asked people the voting intention question including the names of the candidates standing in Sheffield Hallam. Both methods seem to have given a boost to the Lib Dems compared to a generic question, given sample variation and timing we can’t even be certain one did had more impact than the other, let alone which one is more accurate.

One can very easily make a case for one or the other method (Chris Hanretty has a good go here) but really that’s only theorising, we can’t know which way is better unless you test it against some actual elections, and at previous elections constituency polling has been a rare commodity.

In the meantime, Sheffield Hallam remains an interesting race. Normally the idea of party leaders losing seats is regularly drummed up but incredibly unlikely to happen. This time, while my personal expectation is that Clegg will hold on and this poll will probably end up about right, there is a least a non-zero possibility of him being ousted. We shall see.

880 Responses to “ICM poll of Sheffield Hallam”

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  1. Interesting link Matt thanks

    Does anybody know what the spread was at the bookmakers (as opposed to the betting exchanges which often differ quite wildly as their max bets are much lower)

  2. Good Afternoon All.
    It is a beautiful, windy day Bournemouth Premier League land, neighbouring a Lib Dem seat in Poole, which is about to revert to the Tories, one of 20 Tory gains from their allies, who will also lose 10 seats to SNP and 10 to Labour.

    These accurate guesses will mean that Lib Dems have a net loss of 40, and thus 17 MP’s, although there may be one or two more or fewer.

    Labour look as though swing back is happening in Scotland, so the race tomorrow will be tight; I see DC was in Hendon today, which is a tight race.

  3. Just as a foretaste of Thursday night, the various models make the following predictions about the swing to be expected in constituency expected to be declared first – namely Houghton and Sunderland South: EF Nowcast – 4.6% (Tory -> Labour); EF Forecast – 4.0%; YouGov – 1.7%; ElectoralCalculus – 1.8% and May 2015 – 4.4%.

    The actual swing at the time of the declaration (about 11pm apparently) will not tell us a great deal about the amount of swing across distant constituencies. But if it turns out to be closer to 2% than 4%, this may be a hint that YG and EC are closer to target than the other two models are. By repeating this exercise with the first dozen or so declarations and using appropriate accuracy metrics, I hope to emerge with an indication of which model is shaping up best and therefore which set of final seat projections to take more seriously.

    Of course the Lab/Con swing is not the only swing on the block and so I plan to extend this exercise to three further orthogonal swings: LD -> Lab+Con, Lab+Con+LD -> UKIP and Lab+Con+LD+UKIP -> Greens. That should keep my busy until about 1am at which point real results will start flooding in fast enough to start bathing in them.

  4. @Geoff

    I’ll be here. I shall be gracious in defeat if my predictions turn out to be wildly wrong. Will you?

  5. MATT M

    I did get the earlier one :)

  6. Unicorn

    Do you know when the various models are casting their ‘final’ say

  7. MIKEY,

    I am afraid a PR referendum would be lost, just as the AV one was, as the vested interests pour money into a no vote..

    The irony is that AV would probably give Cameron an overall majority at this election, assuming UKIP votes would split slightly his way…

    If I were the Lib Dems I would be pressing for STV in local elections, as they have in Scotland, but on 6 member wards (two 3 member wards put together). That would not need a referendum, and people would see the benefits of actually having power over their local councillors…

    In due course PR may come nationally. It is too soon for another referendum

  8. Lord Ashcroft has announced his last poll will be published Thursday morning.

  9. @mikey

    I agree that would be ideal but it’s difficult because of the poorly-judged AV referendum – the results of which can now be used as an endorsement for FPTP. Moreover it will be difficult to get a PR referendum the attention it needs because in a Tory coalition you’ll have the EU referendum as well. I think it has more of a chance of happening in a Labour coalition.

  10. Talking of bets I am currently looking at a 20 seat accumulator of seats labour will gain. If that comes off it should be a decent return!

  11. Sometimes I despair of the BBC interviewers!

    Nick Clegg being interviewed warned about the SNP tail wagging the Labour Dog, if they entered into coalition, and that they would be introducing their own policies, yet they then didn’t ask him about his own time in coalition and whether the Lib Dem tail wasn’t wagging the Tory dog !

    Such an obvious question begging to be asked yet it wasn’t


    I concur. Thursday is a huge day with regard to actually getting the vote out. The Labour team know what time myself my wife and daughter will all be voting and various others I have spoken to have confirmed the same thing. Far more contact and far better organised than any electn I remember, even 1992 which was the last time I know that up to 5 canvassing teams have been on the ground at one time. In a tight contest, this is exactly what could make all the difference

  13. I thought we had our very first LD election communication in the mail today.

    “It’s a two horse race” it proclaimed, with an appropriate block colour image of two horses racing for the line.

    Turned out to be a non constituency specific one from LiS.

  14. Ashcroft will have ANOTHER poll on Thursday morning

    You haven’t seen the last of the ANP. My final 3,000-sample pre-election phone poll will be published on Thursday morning on @ConHome

  15. @Davem
    Can I ask where? my bookie of choice won’t allow accumulators on seats – i suppose to stop me betting £100 on the safest 50 Labour seats….

  16. DAVEM

    Are you sure the bookies will let you place an accumulator on individual seats?

    You mind find if you try that they don’t allow that as they will consider them not mutually exclusive (for similar reasons that they won’t allow you to do an accumulator on a white christmas in Bolton, Sheffield and York for example)

  17. Rich, Geoff,

    Re: Betting odds

    Surely the point here is that we have a recent example (2010) of the bookies being considerably too optimistic on the Tory total. So we can conjecture that either:

    1) That was a one-off (in which case why did it happen that time)
    2) There is a tendency for this happen (in which case it makes sense to speculate as to why).

    Someone upthread mentioned that smart punters can get good odds on occasions like Murray playing at Wimbledon, where sentiment outweighs common sense, so a more clinical gambler can get decent odds by going against the stream.

    The interesting question is whether this sometimes happens in the betting markets. My theory is that Tories are more likely to gamble (Labour voters have a puritan tendency, Tories are more likely to be city types, or wheelers and dealers of various sorts). On that basis I think there might occasionally be a bias caused by more bets going on ‘our team’ from Tories in the closing stages of a campaign.

    That could be balls of course, but if so the supplementary question is ‘what went wrong last time’?

  18. Regarding AW’s impartiality, I was rather disappointed in him last year when he announced he was “off to conference” for a certain party – when running such a committedly impartial site it’s probably best not to make your own political leanings so clear. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue.

  19. Local bookie in in Washington has said he will but not as many as I wanted. I think it is because I am only looking at gains hence there is a better chance to lay it off.

  20. CHRISLANE1945

    If the Tories take 20 seats of the Liberals and the Tories say loose 25 to Labour,they will be down five seats 302 ,who will they go into coalition with, surely the liberals won’t wish to get burn again.

  21. @VIONN

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long time and have absolutely no idea what AW’s own political preferences are. Seems pretty impartial to me.

  22. Six forecasts have changed today, just two more days to go and nothing much has changed since the 5th April. on the 5th April the average was showing the Conservatives five seats ahead of Labour. Today the Conservatives are still five seats ahead!

    Tables and graphs are here:


  23. Unicorn

    I have set up a spreadsheet which I’m going to enter only the marginal results (I’ve selected the 100 seats which uniform swing – separate for Wales, London, Scotland and RoE – and categorised them depending on which are expected to be the top 2 parties).

    As I enter them it will give a mean difference between the actual and predicted result. I have then applied that swing onto the rest of the marginals of the same type.

    I decided only to look at marginals for 2 reasons:
    1. swings in safe seats won’t effect the outcome
    2. I’ll never keep up with entering the results.

    BTW Nuneaton should be the first marginal up at around 1.00am

  24. Other than yougov anymore polls today? Thought ICM was due today?

  25. Vionn,

    “when running such a committedly impartial site it’s probably best not to make your own political leanings so clear.”

    I’d say that it’s arguably better, for impartiality, to have one’s own affiliation out in the open.

    Speaking of which, I miss all of the colour around this board…

  26. Smithy ICM is tomorrow.

  27. Im still getting a lot of undecided voters on the doorsteps even now….hmm


    I quite agree, apart from that comment he has always been admirably non-partisan, which is exactly why I thought that particular statement was so out of character.

  29. Vionn

    To be honest I think AW’s admission of his own polticial leanings makes his impartiality in the way he runs this seat only more impressive.

    We all have political views (how else does one get interesed in political polling in the first place) but some of us are better than others at not letting them intrude too violently, and he sets a very good example on that front.

  30. *I’ve selected the 100 seats which uniform swing…. predict should be the closest *

  31. Omni & Andrew

    Yes agreed the chances of negotiating a PR referendum are stronger with Labour.

    Andrew. Do you know what I reckon a PR referendum would have traction because the AV referendum went so badly!!!! It passed most people by and was seen as a bit of a mess. The smaller parties like UKIP any Greens are not so small now which added to the Lib Dems gives a sizable chunk of electoral support backing PR.
    The Lib Dems need to be brave and insist on it.

  32. Sorry to be pedantic but as others have said comments such as the bookies got it wrong etc are inaccurate.

    It is the aggregate of the money placed on bets over a period of time, usually increasing as the event gets closer, that can be wrong.

    In 2010 too much money was placed on a Tory OM (and too much on winning certain seats in those micro-markets) hence as the chances of a hung parliament became a bigger possibility the odds did not alter much (if at all) while the Bookies balanced their exposure.

    So the betting was wrong in aggregate not the bookies.

    Now, they may get it right this time but too rely on them (punters bets in aggregate) for a forecast is a tad simplistic.

  33. David Cameron gives interview on West Country news. There was definitely not such an emphasis by the Conservatives last time. We seem to be a big, big target this time.


    I suppose there’s an argument for that, but I can’t help thinking that having one’s affiliation out in the open would encourage rather unhelpful debate on just how reliable one’s analyses are – unhelpful given how impartial that analysis has proved to be over time.

    I rather miss the colours too, but I suppose they did rather make a mockery of the supposed rules…

  35. @MAGPIE To be honest I think AW’s admission of his own polticial leanings makes his impartiality in the way he runs this seat only more impressive.

    More of this would be a good thing.

    Maybe our newspapers could make it clear that they are mostly owned by people who live abroad/don’t pay full UK taxes. Might cast a little light on the way such topics are discussed in the media.

    Although I think Nigel Farage might be a little disappointed to find out just how many of the main political commentators at the BBC aren’t quite as left wing as he imagines :)

  36. MATT M

    “Maybe our newspapers could make it clear that they are mostly owned by people who live abroad/don’t pay full UK taxes. Might cast a little light on the way such topics are discussed in the media.”

    Ha! If only…

  37. So what time is the next poll?, and who will it be from.

  38. Matt M

    I meant site rather than seat of course.

    But yes, I think the pretence of impartiality combined with partisan reporting is much worse than the other way around. Apart from anything else the impartial front tends to collapse a bit around elections anyway (I’d start naming BBC journos here, but I might start descending into the partisan realms myself…)

  39. Bluebob

    I think Survation at 7pm.

  40. It seems that the LibDem leaks continue. If it remains/gets on the news tomorrow it “could” be a gamechanger.

  41. This from the BBC
    “The bingo betters of Broadstairs will be disappointed tonight – Nigel Farage has cancelled a visit to the Mecca bingo hall in what’s been a slightly disorganised end to the penultimate day of campaigning.

    There’s no four-town 48-hour tour for the UKIP leader. He’s focused very much on the local push in Thanet South and winning here on Thursday.”

    So Thanet South remains very tight

  42. Comment on Survation poll

    This poll like others add to an emerging picture where both parties are neck-and-neck.

    No sign whatsoever of swingback in any polls.

  43. Britain Elects [email protected] · 1m1 minute ago
    Latest Survation poll:
    LAB – 34% (-)
    CON – 33% (+2)
    UKIP – 16% (-1)
    LDEM – 9% (+1)
    GRN – 4% (-)

  44. (Survation Mirror poll with changes on previous survey for paper LAB 34% (NC); CON 33% (NC); UKIP 16% (NC); LD 9% (NC); GRE 4% (+1))

  45. @Omni

    He’s hardly got out of Thanet S for the last two weeks it seems. Understandable but its a bit surprising he’s hardly laid foot in Thurrock or Rochester this campaign.

  46. JOHNMO.
    Hello to you.
    I think Labour will gain 30 seats from Tories and 10 from Labour.
    Tory gains of 20 from Lib Dems, based on GE 2010, take them to 297, but they may lose two of GE 2010 to UKIP in Clacton and in Thanet, hence 295 but with the boys of UKIP and DUP in support when crunch votes come.

  47. ‘In an editorial, the Independent newspaper says it is backing a continuation of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’ – from the beeb

    I’m quite surprised actually.
    Has the Graudian decided yet?

  48. DAVEM
    Talking of bets I am currently looking at a 20 seat accumulator of seats labour will gain. If that comes off it should be a decent return!
    May 5th, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Which seats do you think?

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