Opinion polls are a little light at the moment, and probably will be for the next few weeks. Even at the best of times there is little polling in the weeks immediately following a general election – we’ve just had an actual general election to judge people’s voting behaviour, attention is elsewhere and newspapers will generally have blown their polling budgets in the campaign. I’d expect even less polling over the next few weeks because of the errors in the polls at the general election. Some of the long running trackers like the ICM/Guardian series and MORI political monitor will likely continue just to avoid a gap in the data series, but generally speaking most of the regular polls will probably pause for a bit while they work out what went wrong and sort out solutions to it.

As it is, the next political events we have too look forward to aren’t about Great Britain anyway, but the Scottish, Welsh and London elections next year – I’m sure polling on them will start firing up in the next few months. The other, more immediate, race is the Labour leadership election.

We have had a little polling on that already – the YouGov/Sunday Times poll at the weekend (results here) asked the general public their preferences for Labour leader. Chuka Umunna came first on 17% (fieldwork was conducted before he withdrew), followed by Andy Burnham on 14%, Yvette Cooper on 8%, Tristram Hunt on 3%, Liz Kendall on 2% and Mary Creagh on 1%. Amongst Labour’s own voters Andy Burnham was ahead on 22%, with Chuka Umunna on 19%.

Obviously the key conclusion here isn’t really who is ahead… it’s how low anyone’s figures are. 55% of the general public said don’t know, 40% of Labour voters said don’t know. YouGov also asked separately about if people thought each of the contenders would make a good or bad leader, and in each case a clear majority of respondents said they didn’t know or didn’t know enough about the person to say. This is a race where the public simply aren’t familiar with the personalities of the candidates to have any clear opinion yet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the next Labour leader – the public having no clear image of you is better than having negative baggage – it just means they need to be pretty careful to make sure people’s first impressions are good ones, as they are difficult to shift once the public have formed an impression.

On the other outstanding issue – what caused the polling error – I’m beavering away at looking at what caused the errors and how to put them right, as I am sure are the other companies. I’m not planning on giving a running commentary, though I gave some thoughts at the end of last week on Keiran Pedley’s Polling Matter’s podcast here.


463 Responses to “Polling in the coming weeks”

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  1. @AndyJS

    I genuinely like the work you’re doing, but in a few days we won’t be able to find them! Unless you start recording all this in some central blog it’s useless. Can somebody (Statgeek? Mike Smithson?) host links to your excellent data?

  2. “But in a few days we won’t be able to find them!”

    ———

    Some of the polling companies might be longing for such a thing to happen to them at the mo’…

  3. I know some of you may not have been 100% satisfied with the leaders’ debates, but don’tchu worry, help is at hand!!

    From the Beeb…

    “Britain’s Got Talent boss Simon Cowell has offered his services for the next leaders’ debates, saying he would “love” to produce them.

    “I’d do it in a heartbeat! 100% I’d have walk-ons, music, fire… and a trap door if people didn’t like what they said,” he said.

    “And I’d definitely have a clap-o-meter. I am deadly serious. I really would love a chance to do that!”

  4. Carfrew
    ” and a trap door if people didn’t like what they said,” he said.”

    I think Grahame Norton has the patent on that one. Good idea although they would be very short debates.

    Personally I hope the leaders debates get dropped. They were so anodyne and told us nothing. The leaders facing a live audience one by one is the best format as they really get grilled on that and by ordinary people who want answers to their questions and not avoidance of the question.

  5. The new Statesman says that the fight between D Skinner and the SNP may become the bloodiest parliamentary fight in modern times. Certainly Labour MPs are going to have to digest the comment from one SNP MP that “it is going to be a long five years”. D Skinner seemed most upset that the SNP MPs were obeying orders. Well I’m afraid he will have to get used to that.
    Conservatives will have cause for some delight that Labour are going to have to spend a lot of their time battling the SNP rather than the government.

  6. @Laszlo
    “In the case of one candidate (Burnham) it would be a very positive one as he acted on it …”
    Tell that to people living in Stafford at the time. I was one.
    Or look at the last three paragraphs of
    http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2015/05/18/according-to-westminster-groupthink-andy-burnham-is-favourite-for-leader-yet-again-its-wrong/

  7. I thought the SNP Westminster leader’s speech was an interesting contrast to those given by DC & HH.

    The tone & content was triumphalist, & mocking. A sign of things to come perhaps from a group that looked & sounded as though they mean to upset as many applecarts & disrupt as many conventions as possible at Westminster.

    The swagger of every new gang on the estate.

  8. I may have misheard, but there was an interesting throwaway by Burnham on Marr at the weekend.

    At the end of the prog. AB was sat next to Nicky Morgan talking about Free Schools. They seemed to genuinely like each other & it was a very amicable closing chat.

    I thought I heard Burnham say that he would like to “look again at Comprehensives”.

    Back to Bog Standard ?

  9. I may be wrong but I suspect Dennis Skinner is quite well thought of in many parts of Scotland. Not sure how the Scottish voting public would view the rather childish shenanigans to try and preventing him sitting in a seat. They also may have thought the SNP were going to try and oppose the Conservatives not try and displace an 83 year old warrior of the left.
    I think the seating behind Harriet Harman was a batter target for them in terms of PR
    During a visit to the Houses of Parliament two years ago I was introduced to Dennis Skinner (he was sitting with Kevin Maguire at the time), despite his ‘beast of bolsover’ tag he came across as a nice chap. It is a pity there are not more conviction politicians (of whatever party) about.

  10. NEILJ
    I may be wrong but I suspect Dennis Skinner is quite well thought of in many parts of Scotland.

    Are you unaware that he was one of the Lab rebels who introduced the “votes for the dead rule” in the 1979 devolution referendum with support from the Cons and one of the bs blamed by Callaghan himself for the early demise of his government?

  11. @Colin – “The tone & content was triumphalist, & mocking.”

    I picked that up too. There is a tradition that the first day back is one of attempted decency, and I saw no reason for the SNP to break that. It isn’t about anything other than showing politicians can be pleasant human beings, but the SNP failed at the first hurdle.

    I posted on the previous thread about my view in supporting @Barney that @Oldnat and @Peter cairns are in denial about significant issues with the tone and style of Scots politics at present, and that this is in large part the responsibility of the SNP, but I know they won’t have this.

    In other news;

    Very interested in the Lord Bamford comments on the EU. I suspect this might start to resemble the Indy ref, with attempts on both sides to harness sympathetic businesses to each side.

    For the EU ref, this really could be significantly troubling for the In group, as the pretty much the sole reason for staying is the economy.

    The DT makes the point that big multi nationals are very keen on UK staying, while smaller firms are much less bothered, although with significant exceptions.

    I have a feeling that, once the negotiations are completed and Farage gets to work, the result could be far closer than most people assume.

    Cameron’s legacy could yet be the framing of two referenda that result in wide ranging and long term impacts on the UK.

  12. Robert Newark

    “The leaders facing a live audience one by one is the best format as they really get grilled on that and by ordinary people who want answers to their questions and not avoidance of the question.”

    Absolutely right Robert, and the BBC managed to get a good audience balance for once, The only TV presentation i watched most of during the election, Leadership debates are a no no for me for the reasons you give.

  13. Neilj
    Read BBZ carefully. To the SNP he is a marked enemy. He is a Red Tory. I don’t think D Skinner has any right to special consideration but making him a target so early is a signal.
    Unlike the Scottish Parliament, the UK Parliament relies heavily on recognition of convention to operate. It looks as if you can forget that in terms at least of the operation of an opposition. I suspect the Conservatives will be able to look on and enjoy.

  14. @NeilJ @Colin

    The scramble over benches was all a bit of fun, that’s all. Apparently Dennis Skinner got on famously in the end with Chris Law, the 6ft 6+ tweed-suit wearing and ponytailed SNP maverick who we will probably hear a lot more about over the coming years. Going forward I expect they’ll let Skinner take his seat but try and make sure they hold the rest of the bench (usually occupied by the other hard left Labour MPs).

    What we did see was one of the challenges of being the third party… they may have 56 MPs but together LAB, CON and the LDs have 570… so whenever Angus Robertson speaks he won’t be able to get the same loud ‘hear hearing’ and support that the PM and Leader of the Oppo get… in fact the vast majority of the chamber will probably be jeering him whenever he asks a question at PMQs. We saw yesterday that his joke about the Scottish Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties being small parties the Speaker would need to look after went down like a lead balloon.

  15. @Andy S

    I responded to your comment at the end of the last thread.

  16. To be honest I think people are reading too much into the SNP leader’s speech; yes he talked about smaller parties but it was just intended as fun I think. All the stuff about Dennis Skinner’s seat is also just people in the House, a little excitable perhaps, but nothing to worry about. Indeed some of the SNP seem to have a refreshing attitude. That 20 year old MP Mairi Black said that in the canteen she decided to sit with the cleaning staff rather than the MPs to show that she did not believe in class divisions of this kind.

    As Nigel Dodds on the Democratic Unionist benchespointed out, each country in the UK has sent a different party to represent it, and he hopes the speaker will recognise that.

    I liked the Lib Dem’s speech: A Carmichael who referred to his much reduced group of MPs as the elite cadre of Lib Dem politicians :).

  17. The comment made repeatedly by the SNP in the election was;

    “We’re not going to Westminster to settle down, we’re going to settle up,”

    If it comes to a conflict between doing what we were elected to do and the public is paying for us to do and Parliamentary convention then convention is in trouble.

    Westminster is sometimes described as “The Best Club in London”; That’s what’s wrong with it.

    Tut tutting about the tone of a speech that some sort up the mood of many who voted in Scotland because that’s not how we do things here chaps really says it all about just how far removed Westminster has become from the public.

    Far too cosy for far too long for far too many.

    Peter.

  18. Re. Leaders debates:

    Personally, I thought the final one, where they were individually interviwed, was the best. There was something I could take away from that debate.The worst by far was the 7-way debate which was complete chaos.

    The scottish debate was not too bad, I liked the variety of questioning. I’m not Scottish but I watched it because I wanted to hear RD and NS; both of who I think are very good speakers.

  19. I was impressed by all the Scottish leaders. I often think that Scottish people do not appreciate how good all their leaders are.

  20. ALEC

    I was just reading about some of the SNP MP’s reaction to Westminster conventions & history-like Black Rod etc.

    I detect a positive dislike on their part for Westminster procedure. It seems just part of their general dislike for everything that the place ,which they are so pleased to be elected to , stands for.

    …so unlike the the prosaic order of proceedings in their own Shining Social Democrat Convocation.

  21. I am not so sure about the SNP hating Westminster, they have been there many decades remember and Alex Salmond is said to love Westminster.

  22. BARNEY CROCKETT
    I don’t think D Skinner has any right to special consideration but making him a target so early is a signal.

    Skinner’s “seat” dates only from 2010, when it was vacated by Clegg as leader of the 3rd party. The BBC neatly sums up the situation with:

    The SNP is due to formally appoint its Westminster group leader following a meeting of its MPs on Tuesday, with Moray MP Angus Robertson expected to continue in the post he held during the previous parliament.

    The role will take on a new prominence with an appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions every week after the SNP was officially given third party status in the House of Commons.

    As the third largest party in Parliament, the SNP is also expected to take up a front bench on the opposition side of the Commons, which had been occupied by the Liberal Democrats before 2010.

    Not a great deal of controversy there, I’d have thought.

    See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-scotland-32684659

  23. PS to my previous post.

    I’m surprised Dodds and the DUP didn’t claim it in 2010.

  24. I wonder why the DUP didn’t take the front row when they were the second largest opposition party in 2010?

  25. Hawthorn I think [Labour Uncut] is about to be sectioned

    http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2015/05/18/according-to-westminster-groupthink-andy-burnham-is-favourite-for-leader-yet-again-its-wrong/

    He is so angwy with [Chuka Umunna]

  26. BARBAZENZERO: snap!

    Perhaps the DUP are not so worried about where they sit? Seems a bit of a minor issue?

  27. PROFHOWARD

    Snap!

  28. PROFHOWARD
    Perhaps the DUP are not so worried about where they sit? Seems a bit of a minor issue?

    Agreed, although a group of 8 is somewhat different to 56. But I don’t recall Dodds getting 2 goes weekly at PMQs.

  29. Re the snp

    They deserve to be treated with respect as the third largest group in the commons .The people have spoken end off.

    If however their attendance is a too much wind up to inflame english sentiment then we will quickly tire of their freshness -and in truth so will they -five years imprisonment in westminster away from home .Tough gig.

  30. So far the SNP seem more like a breath of fresh air in a rather stuffy place.

    I heard a lot of people criticise the tone of Angus McNeill’s speech but when I listened to it I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

  31. My understanding is that Dennis Skinner has sat on that bench for the last thirty five years when Labour have been in opposition. Either way it seemed a childish act to me.

    He is a man of principle, he voted against the Iraq war in 2003 (together with others, including the SNP) and had rebelled against Labour on many issues, including the 1979 devolution vote, he is not a ‘sheeple’. Would have thought the SNP would have far better targets for their games.

    None of this should be taken to mean I am a supporter of Dennis Skinner, I just like to see M.P.’S standing up for what they believe in rather than always slavishly following the party line. I would make the same case for Zac Goldsmith and even Peter Bone.

  32. PROFHOWARD

    I think you meant Robertson not McNeill in your 9:54 post, but otherwise I concur.

  33. PROFHOWARD

    @”So far the SNP seem more like a breath of fresh air in a rather stuffy place.”

    To whom ?

  34. Barbazenzero

    Yes I got Angus mixed up with the other Angus.

  35. No SNP member has been “named” by the speaker since the 1980s for breaking the rules of conduct. Since that time Dennis Skinner has been “named” several times.

    So, Skinner cannot really complain about inappropriate behaviour.

  36. I note from Wiki on Denis Skinner – “He gained the sobriquet “the Beast of Bolsover” for falling foul of the procedures of Parliament, many of which are in his view archaic and contemptible”.

    He must be amused by conservative folk in the Labour Party rushing to defend archaic and contemptible conventions in a chamber that is physically, as well as procedurally, unfit for function.

  37. Anyone interested in a certain trial being conducted in Scotland at the moment, can get regular Twitter updates by following @BBCPhilipSim , who is attending the perjury trial.

    (Anthony – I hope that reference is suitably obscure!)

  38. Seriously Folks ‘The SNP are sitting in someone’s seat’? Those benches are reserved for the third largest party that is where they are meant to sit. You would think with 5 more years of Tory government the MSM and Labour would have better things to talk about.

    Dennis Skinner voted for the 40% rule amendment so he isn’t particularily well thought off in Scotland. And in any case it’s not his seat but funnily enough he was sitting in it.

    It is going to be a very long 5 years if this is the standard of debate – but with any luck Scotland will be independent at the end of it.

  39. A potential problem for the SNP is that quite a lot of their MPs will have been selected without any expectation of winning.

    Some of the SNP MPs will be from their political D list of stars. Their more experienced operators may have to deal with quite a lot of gaffes from their more junior colleagues.

  40. Hawthorn

    That’s possible, but it might work the other way too: the established parties have such a set of hurdles that often the job of MP goes to people who are filtered through a long process and ends up rewarding a narrow group of what often look like professional politicians, such as SPADs and the like. The SNP MPs may be popular because they aren’t like that, and they may seem more representative as a result?

  41. Morning everyone. Thanks AW for linking to that podcast. I haven’t yet got through all of it, having just listening so far to John Curtice and George Foulkes (to whom I refuse to give his title, which is in my (partisan!) view entirely unearned). Foulkes’ contribution adds, as usual, bugger all to the genuine debate regarding polling. It is fair, of course, to offer criticism, but to lay blame on the “right-wing media moguls” and Lord Ashcroft, and accusing the pollsters of unscientific work and essentially prostituting themselves for financial gain is a bit rich coming from him.

    I’m not defending the pollsters by any means here, nor do I think that a purely internal BPC investigation is necessarily sufficient, but I’d rather the criticisms of opinion polls to be based on genuine methodological or statistical concerns. Contributions from people with even a modicum of mathematical literacy is infinitely more beneficial than the unscientific pish that emanates from media and the political class, most of whom wouldn’t know a t-test if it (insert epithet here). There may well be issues regarding the reporting and commissioning of opinion polls, but to me that is a PCC/Ofcom issue, and in terms of the specific accuracy of the opinion polls, it is largely irrelevant. I’ve already given my tuppence worth regarding why the polls may have been systematically inaccurate, and I expect that when the BPC and the individual pollsters come back with the conclusions from their investigation, that it will be largely along those lines.

  42. Hawthorn

    The SNP delayed its selection of Westminster MPs. In my own constituency, the adoption meeting (and ceilidh0 was held on 21st March.

    If you look at Scottish opinion polling in the early part of this year, you will see that there were few seats in which the local parties thought there was little chance of winning.

    Your comment is, therefore flawed from its basic concept onwards!

  43. ‘JACK SHELDON
    @NeilJ @Colin
    The scramble over benches was all a bit of fun, that’s all. Apparently Dennis Skinner got on famously in the end with Chris Law, the 6ft 6+ tweed-suit wearing and ponytailed SNP maverick who we will probably hear a lot more about over the coming years.
    May 19th, 2015 at 9:13 am’

    On reflection I suspect you are right :-)

  44. @Hawthorn

    The SNP were very clever and they invited the leading lights of the independence movement ti stand for the SNP. So many of their intake are independence campaigner who have spoke at hundreds of town-hall meetings and debates and were under intense scrutiny.
    Mhairi Black – Radical Independence Campaign
    Chris Law – Spirit Of Independence
    Natalie McGarry – Women For Independence
    Joanna Cherry – Lawyers for Yes
    Michele Thomson – Business For Scotland

    and so on……………

    Many of the other MPs were councillors

    So they are mostly battle hardened from the independence campaign or the council chambers.

  45. ProfHoward

    You may be right, although there are plenty of non-SPAD type MPs in all parties. There are also loose cannons who still got through the filters (e.g. Eric Joyce, Mike Hancock, Louise Mensch).

    The SNP have already dodged one bullet with the Edinburgh South candidate (unveiled as a particularly stereotypical cybernat). By the law of averages, there are bound to be loose cannons amongst the SNP MPs.

  46. OLDNAT

    I find it hard to believe that the SNP selected a 20-year old student against Jim Murphy because they expected to win his seat. She might end up doing well, but there is no way to really know.

    We shall just have to see.

  47. @ LOUISWALSHVOTESGREEN

    “most of whom wouldn’t know a t-test”

    This is probably true, although it would be great if many of those who use it read Gosset (aka Student) what he actually meant and how he got to it.

    Gosset had to develop his sophisticated methods because the field experiments (to get the right barley for Guiness) was terribly expensive. It is perhaps relevant for polling?

  48. Hawthorn

    I certainly hope there are some loose cannons among the 56 – preferably 56 of them!

    As to Neil Hay, your faith in the accuracy of the stereotypes created by the MSM is truly touching.

  49. Howthorn

    You do make an interesting point and it will soon be tested when SNP MPs start to do their job.

    For me I think the greater question for the SNP is whether and if not for how long what is quite a broad coalition can remain united.

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