A brief election post-mortem before I get some rest – hopefully we will have an actual London result by the time I finish writing! It is almost exactly a year since the polling error at the last general election. Yesterday’s elections were the first real test of the polls since then (there was accurate polling for the Labour leadership election, but polling party members really is a completely different exercise).

Scotland

Taking Scotland first, all the polls obviously had the SNP winning, but that was hardly a challenge. Perhaps the bigger challenge was second place. In the event Labour narrowly held onto second place in the constituency vote but were pushed into third in the regional vote – the polls conducted in the last few days of the campaign did get this right, but all the Scottish polls did underestimate the level of Conservative support, and apart from YouGov’s final poll there was an overestimate of SNP support in the regional vote (though many of the polls finished some time before the election – the TNS face-to-face poll in particular – so it may be that SNP regional support dropped in the final week.)

Constituency . Regional
Pollster CON LAB LD SNP CON LAB LD SNP GRN
FINAL RESULT (5th May) 22 23 8 47 23 19 5 42 7
YouGov (2nd-4th May) 19 22 7 48 20 19 6 41 9
Survation (1st-2nd May) 19 21 7 49 20 19 6 44 7
Panelbase (23rd-28th Apr) 17 23 6 49 19 22 4 44 6
Ipsos MORI (18th-25th Apr) 18 19 6 51 19 17 7 45 10
TNS (1st-24th Apr) 17 22 7 52 18 22 5 45 8

Wales

YouGov was the only company to poll in Wales, and thei final poll held up very well, with Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Plaid all well within the margin of error. The only fault was an overstatement of UKIP support.

London

As I write, the mayoral results STILL haven’t been announced, and given how late they were in 2012 I’m not waiting up to write about them. Based on the live count of the first 90% of ballots the polls seem to be roughly in line with the expected result, and projections of the second round score suggest the polls are going to be close to it. You’ll apparently find out around midnight so you can compare to the polls below… but I intend to be asleep.

First round . Second Round
Pollster Goldsmith Khan Pidgeon Whittle Berry Others Goldsmith Khan
YouGov (2nd-4th May) 32 43 6 7 7 5 43 57
ComRes (28th Apr-3rd May) 36 45 6 4 6 3 44 56
TNS (26th Apr-3rd May) 33 45 7 5 4 5 43 57
Opinium (26th Apr-1st May) 35 48 4 5 5 3 43 57
Survation (21st-25th Apr) 34 49 3 5 3 6 40 60

All in all, the performance of the polls was far more credible than last year, though it looks like there may still have been some issues with the Tories in Scotland (and to be fair, most of the polling companies have been very explicit in saying they are still addressing their issues and developing their methods – the problems of last year are not going to be addressed overnight).

On a personal note – I’m most relieved the broad narrative was right. After the general election there were plenty of people saying how they knew the Tories would win, their instincts told them they would, how could those silly pollsters not spot it? Well, many of us silly pollsters thought the Tories would end ahead of Labour too: questions on leadership and the economy favoured them, we expected the polls to move towards the Tories… but the data just kept on showing the parties neck-and-neck, and ultimately a pollster’s job is to measure the answers the public give us, not report what we think they should say. We trusted the data, but it turned out to be wrong.

This time round it was the other way round. I never quite believed that the Conservatives could come second in Scotland. Yes, Scottish Labour was a mess, but Scotland would surely never vote for the hated Tories. My instincts said it wouldn’t happen in the end. A few months ago when YouGov were the only company showing Labour and the Tories neck and neck in Scotland I worried whether we’d get egg on our faces, but the data said it was happening, and I had to have confidence in the methodology corrections we’d made and in what the data was telling me… and this time, the data was telling the right story and the Tories really did come in second. Phew!


741 Responses to “Election polling post-mortem”

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  1. “Michael Crick on Channel 4 last night suggested that senior figures at Tory Central Office are seriously worried re-the Expenses affair and that the guy who gave the Green light to the Battlebuses and the recording of related costs has been off sick for some time.Not sure what to read into that.”

    The capital letter in G… you’re not suggesting it was “Michael Green”??? ;-)

  2. Alun009

    “The circumstance itself will crystallise the proportions, and post-Brexit, should it happen, we’ll all start to get a flavour of how things have changed, if at all. I hope you’d agree that such a curcumstance is very fluid at this stage, especially as many do not believe the circumstances will actually happen. It’ll certainly be interesting to find out, but I hope we don’t get to.”

    I’m with you on that last sentence – though I suspect that countries will operate in their self-interest, and not much will change (except possibly for the UK’s volatile resource of financial services).

    As to the fluidity of opinion in the event of Brexit, again I agree.

    What we do know from polling is that only around 20% of Scots want to be out of both Unions, while perhaps around 40% reckon that remaining in both is currently the safest position.

    Having fought an election largely on the single issue of preventing the SNP from doing something that they had no plan to do (without a “material change” the “Ruth Davidson Party” got 22-23% of the vote.

    Partisans (on any side) who claim that they “know” why all people voted the way they did in Sept 2014, or “know” how folk will vote in June are rather deluded.

    Anyone confidently predicting how the majority would respond to one constitutional question, when the other constitutional position has changed is a deluded idiot.

    Which, of course, is why both the SNP and SGP have said that they will take no position on indyref2 until the views of most Scots are clearer.

    As with all political divides, there are those whose views are fixed (nothing wrong with that) and won’t alter. They really don’t matter much!

    It’s the 10%(?) without a fixed view currently who will decide.

  3. Barbazenzero – “What I do know is that I trust and accept the collective will of the people more than I would ever trust any politician.”

    Well just 18 months ago, Scottish voters on a huge turnout of 85% voted to stay in the UK, by a margin of 10%. That is collective will expressed on a decisive scale.

    They knew perfectly well what staying in the UK would entail – the possibility of Conservative govts, that at the very next election there might be an EU ref if the Conservatives won. That the UK has an unwritten constitution that continually evolves. Nothing that has happened since 2014 will have come as a surprise to a No voter.

    The problem seems to be that the Yes voters can’t accept the result.

    So you had the “revenge” election of 2015 when they sought to punish the Lab people for the mere crime of fighting for a No vote (since when is it a crime to express your opinions?)

    Then following that the revenge lawsuit towards that Carmichael chap. Maybe they thought that sort of behaviour would win them votes – for a laugh, here is the FT on 1st May 2016 saying “Lib Dems fortress Shetland in danger of falling to nationalists”

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6dfcbd8-0f97-11e6-bb40-c30e3bfcf63b.html

    The people of Orkney and Shetland showed what they thought about that when they made a point of massively supporting the LibDems by over 60% of the vote.

    And then there is Sturgeon’s tactic of saying everything triggers a new referendum, giving the impression that she wants referendums every two years – it is as though she thinks that if she can’t have what she wants, she’s going to take revenge and needle the No voters and destroy their peace. And the result of that was people beginning to line up behind the Tories. If the “revenge” behaviour of the SNP continues, I expect the No voters to come out en masse in 2021 behind Davidson just to shut the SNP up.

  4. David

    Haven’t seen today’s Daily Politics (and unless the comment was from an authoritative constitutional lawyer, I wouldn’t rely on a journalist’s assessment”. Such sources confidently stated that Alistair Carmichael would never face an Election Court!

    I suspect that the critical aspect of the investigations will relate to whether any alleged overspend occurred “as part of a concerted plan of action”, involving the candidate and/or agent.as in RPA cap 75

    “expenses shall be regarded as incurred by a person “as part of a concerted plan of action” if they are incurred by that person in pursuance of any plan or other arrangement whereby that person and one or more other persons are to incur, with a view to promoting or procuring the election of the same candidate”

  5. DAVID

    According to the Daily Politics show today, a candidate has to ‘knowingly’ do something wrong in order to be prosecuted. The bar seems to be impossibly high.’

    The Law Professor who appeared on the programme suggested that the bar was lower than the Tories might care to believe!

  6. Graham

    Was the Law Prof referring to RPA c75 (5) (11) –

    “a candidate shall not be liable, nor shall his election be avoided, for a corrupt or illegal practice under this subsection committed by an agent without his consent or connivance.”

    The document trail would (or wouldn’t) demonstrate such “consent or connivance”.

  7. BZ
    “One Sunday each quarter is set aside for voting on federal, cantonal and communal referendums, which doesn’t seem to disrupt anything and it is not compulsory to vote.
    I have no idea what you or anyone else posting here thinks, but I would be most interested to know what they believe the trigger for any referendum should be and why.”

    If we can broaden this out a little from the possible future Scottish referendum, I agree with your description of the Swiss approach. Obviously in the UK the number to trigger a referendum would need to be much higher than the Swiss version, but the mechanism is already there. There is a site (can’t be a*sed to look it up but I expect most posters here are aware of it) where petitions can be signed and if they reach a certain threshold the government has to reply, and a further threshold guarantees a debate. We just need a higher threshold still to trigger a referendum.
    Like you, I trust the people much more than politicians, and would be only too happy to vote every Sunday if necessary.
    We could have referenda on whether to have the death penalty, sharia law, immigration, ‘gay’ marriage etc. Loads of fun!

  8. @ FREDERIC HEATH-RENN

    I suspect it is Cameron’s tennis partner, Lord Feldman:

    ‘When Shapps presented his plan to his colleagues on the Executive Senior Management Team, he faced a tricky task. His co-chairman, Lord Feldman, had been instrumental in putting the party back onto a sound financial footing, and had developed a reputation for being careful with the Party’s cash. Team2015 would need around £300,000 during the 18 month run-up to polling day, a fair bit of it to be spent on buses, train tickets, hotel rooms and curries to get and keep people where they were needed.
    Not everyone thought that this would be a good use of funds. Crosby was concerned that the proposed model of campaigning would prove “messy”, and potentially disruptive to the national message (indeed, during the campaign a couple of Team2015 activists were door-stepped by broadcasters trying to find out where they were from). Feldman, though, decided to back it and agreed the financial request.’

    http://archive.is/WH7ZH#selection-237.0-237.130

  9. @Mark W – “King coal is gone.
    No electricity is being generated by coal at present, and for a time yesterday.”

    It’s a bit more complicated than it looks.

    Coal output went to zero due to plant failures, which resulted in an urgent NISM (Notification of Inadequate System Margin), which led to a mad scramble for power. Prices shot up to £1250/MWh at one point.

    If you think about that, it’s a price paid to producers of £1.25 per unit (kWh) , which is staggering.

    Over the last seven days, coal has still supplied 3% of total power and about 18% over the last year, but it is certainly on a downward path.

    However, we could still do with a little coal power for a while yet, preferably from plants that don’t keep breaking down.

  10. On the expenses, surely the more pertinent issue isn’t whether MP’s are guilty of any offence, but rather whether the election needs to be re-run.

    It’s also interesting at this point to recall that Cameron was once a big fan of recall, in the days when he was all for more electors power.

  11. Alec

    “On the expenses, surely the more pertinent issue isn’t whether MP’s are guilty of any offence, but rather whether the election needs to be re-run.

    As I understand the RPA (and I don’t claim to be a constitutional lawyer), if the alleged offences took place, and the MP was unaware of the plotting behind his/her back, then they have committed no offence.

    If they were part of the “plot” then they could be found guilty of an offence and their election voided.

    If they were just mugs, who had no idea of what was going on, then they are innocent dupes – but probably not fit to run the proverbial English whelk stall.

  12. Alec
    “It’s also interesting at this point to recall that Cameron was once a big fan of recall, in the days when he was all for more electors power.”

    Cameron’s as trustworthy as a demonically-possessed snake. He has no shame whatsoever, and has no qualms about blithely making a speech taking a position completely opposite to that of a week before. I’m just amazed that we’ve finally got an EU Referendum. It’s one of the very few things that he’s promised and delivered. Mind you, he was pretty much forced into it by UKIP.

  13. Pete B

    “Cameron’s as trustworthy as a demonically-possessed snake”

    Did he urge you to eat an apple?

  14. Yes and I now have the knowledge of good and evil. Get thee behind me, Oldnat!

  15. Pete B

    Great riposte! :-)

  16. :-) G’night

  17. Oldnat
    ‘Was the Law Prof referring to RPA c75 (5) (11) –

    “a candidate shall not be liable, nor shall his election be avoided, for a corrupt or illegal practice under this subsection committed by an agent without his consent or connivance.”’

    It was his final comment and he did not elaborate beyond saying that the law had been clarified and tightened following the Fiona Jones affair re-Newark.

  18. @Sorbus

    Apols for not spotting your post earlier. Was busy dealing with heinous charges concerning indecipherability while in the real world, someone tried to ovecharge me for my coffee!! They try and get you when you’re down, don’t they.

    First up, thanks for the info. on Eigg, which I wasn’t aware of of. I’m a bit of a latecomer to the energy thing, but I shall check it out. I think making it work for small communities is an important test. On the hydro thing, yes, traditional hydro is vulnerable as you describe, but not so much barrages trapping tidal water. Offshore wind might have higher costs but you can build more efficient turbines of course…

    Demand management I’m still out to lunch on, but took a look at storage tech a little while back. There are some interesting ideas, like compressed air, but dunno that much is proven, esp. In terms of being scaled up.

  19. @Peter Bell

    “@Pete B

    Coincidence that my post followed immediately after yours, but he has been frustrating me for some time.”

    ————

    That’s weird!! Moments before you were saying how you skip my posts. How can my posts frustrate you all this time if you don’t actually read them? Still, on the plus side, this might suggest that if you read them, you might be less frustrated…

  20. “It’s the same reason I don’t like some of TS Eliot’s pretentious twaddle where he puts lines in lots of different languages to show off.”

    ———–

    Entschuldigung, aber le singe est dans l’arbre…

  21. I disagree, with most of what Carfrew says and on occasions his posts could be a little clearer, but can normally understand his posts without too much difficulty.
    Some of the comments about his posting style I think are a little below the belt and they tend to say more about the people making the comments than Carfrew. If people are really having problems with his posts just ignore them, there is no need to tell everyone you are ignoring them, that is all a bit Primary Schoolish
    Still enjoying the wider discussions on here

  22. Colin
    Thanks, very interesting analysis. It seems to confirm the pattern that Labour is losing the white working class, and now appeals primarily to different demographics.

  23. ” It seems to confirm the pattern that Labour is losing the white working class, and now appeals primarily to different demographics.”

    It’s an excellent, balanced article, but that’s not really an accurate summary.

    Labour’s worst results were specifically in Midland working class towns. However, there were surprisingly good results in the more working class Southern towns, such as Swindon, Reading, Crawley and Milton Keynes.

  24. Agree James E
    Very interesting read but very difficult to find a pattern in it
    Perhaps it is that the old classifications-white working class etc- are simply no longer a useful way at looking at results and a new type of classification is needed
    What I am not sure as it needs more thought that I have given it!!

  25. PETEB

    Yep-Cloth Cap & Fish & Chips Out-Arty Scarf & Fair Trade Coffee In .

  26. @Pete B

    “Thanks, very interesting analysis. It seems to confirm the pattern that Labour is losing the white working class, and now appeals primarily to different demographics.”

    Some parts of the WWC have moved over to Ukip, but how transient this is remains to be seen. For example, many of those that have switched hark back to the days of Old Labour and would never vote Tory.

    Also to call WWC a demographic, when it is far and away the largest single group in the country is highly misleading.

    Indeed,at the last GE, pollsters and commentators told us Labour last because they failed to convince the upper elementary of the working class/loser middle class in places like the Midlands. These are not the people traditionally considered to be working class.

    Finally, while Lab has leaked real WWC votes to Ukip in Northern England; how much of that is real leaking of Labour votes, and how much is it Ukip cannibalising the Labour opposition vote in those areas?

  27. @Pete B

    Penultimate paragraph freed from Autocorrect errors:

    “Indeed,at the last GE, pollsters and commentators told us Labour lost because they failed to convince the upper elements of the working class/lower middle class in places like the Midlands. These are not the people traditionally considered to be working class.”

  28. Colin

    Having linked the article, it’s a pity that you’re putting forward a view which doesn’t reflect its content.

    As well as the Towns I’ve mentioned above, the figures show that Labour performed well in Walsall North, Wakefield, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Warrington South, Amber Valley and Hastings.

    All rather more ‘fish & chips’ than ‘arty’ places.

  29. In contrast – poor Labour performances in Birmingham Northfield, Bolton, Bury North, and Pudsey.

    The differing swings don’t appear to conform to social class, but it is at least clear that this was one occasion where Labour has performed better in the South than the Midlands or North.

  30. CANTDY
    “the revenge lawsuit towards that Carmichael”

    You seem to know less about this than you suspect. Who brought the lawsuit?

    “Sturgeon’s tactic of saying everything triggers a new referendum”

    You seem to know less about this than you suspect. As far as I’m aware she has not said any one thing will trigger a new referendum. She has talked about one particular thing (which is almost as far away from “everything” as you could hope to get) triggering the *desire* for a new referendum. But folk wanting a referendum isn’t the same as folk getting one, is it? After all, they first have to get past the anti-democrats standing in their way. Here, the likes of you, it would seem.

    “Yes voters can’t accept the result.”
    And if you’re referring to me, once again, you’re talking claptrap. I appear to be yet another subject of which you know less about than you suspect.

    I detect a pattern.

  31. To those questioning my mention of the white working class, here are some quotes from the summary of the article, though I have read the whole thing.

    “• Turnout in most Labour wards remained poor, often declining since 2012 in the safest areas. There is no sign that the party is mobilising poor and working class electors any better than it has for years.
    • Labour’s best results were in metropolitan areas, university cities and in some high-growth towns in the south such as Swindon and Milton Keynes which have started to be affected by the political changes that have transformed London.
    • Labour’s worst results relative to 2012 were mostly in the Midlands, particularly smaller working class towns which have become increasingly car-owning, home-owning and aspirational, like Nuneaton and Rugby. The results in suburban areas of northern cities such as Bury North and Pudsey were also disappointing.”

  32. @James E
    ‘In contrast – poor Labour performances in Birmingham Northfield, Bolton, Bury North, and Pudsey.’

    Labour has tended over the years to underperform in Birmingham at local elections as compared with Parliamentary elections. Not sure why!
    Bury North had one ward with a massive 22% swing against Labour. Apparently it is a very Jewish area and so may have been influenced by the Livingstone affair. Perhaps it has distorted the real picture there.

  33. Yes, all well chosen points.

    But to take the last of those as an example, he is saying that Labour did badly in Midland towns with growing affluence and some suburban areas of Northern cities. And he says that the turnout in the strongest Labour wards was again low – that’s not really the same as ‘losing the white working class’.

  34. James E
    We’ll have to agree to differ on the interpretation, but this section struck me as odd

    “working class towns which have become increasingly car-owning, home-owning and aspirational”

    If the author thinks the working class don’t own cars and aren’t aspirational, no wonder Labour are losing them. Ok, it’s true that fewer will be homeowners than the middle class, but to me it almost reads as though the author doesn’t think homeowners are Labour voters. Very strange.

  35. @Pete B

    “Turnout in most Labour wards remained poor, often declining since 2012 in the safest areas. There is no sign that the party is mobilising poor and working class electors any better than it has for years.”

    That remains to be seem. Using turnout compared to 2012 as the only data point seems a bit weak to me. Also turnout in safe wards is usually weak. Why should people vote if they are happy with who is already there or already know the outcome?

    • “Labour’s best results were in metropolitan areas, university cities and in some high-growth towns in the south such as Swindon and Milton Keynes which have started to be affected by the political changes that have transformed London.”

    I’m not sure what this means? Corbyn making Labour a more social democratic party appeals to social democrats? Also it’s a lazy point that MK and Swindon are increasingly like London. They are radically different to London. That they are more urban than they were doesn’t make them like London.

    • “Labour’s worst results relative to 2012 were mostly in the Midlands, particularly smaller working class towns which have become increasingly car-owning, home-owning and aspirational, like Nuneaton and Rugby. The results in suburban areas of northern cities such as Bury North and Pudsey were also disappointing.”

    So towns that are now more ” politically” Tory are more inclined to vote Tory (and note the Tories failed to win Nuneaton despite it being one of their top targets). Note also the first sentence suggests that Nuneaton and Rugby are no longer working class towns.

  36. RAF
    Those were quotes from the Fabian Society article, not from me.

    But you say “Note also the first sentence suggests that Nuneaton and Rugby are no longer working class towns.”

    I refer the honourable member to my previous answer – if owning a car and being aspirational means that you are not working class, then Labour are chasing a shrinking section of the population (assuming they still want they call working class voters).

  37. ‘Labour’s performance in 2016 is therefore squarely in line with what one
    might expect a year in to a parliament where the opposition is not going to
    win the general election.’

    A point that perhaps needs to be made is that the end of Year 1 is now a year further away from a General Election polling day than was usually the case in the past , given that elections tended to be called after approximately 4 years. Past results,therefore, fall short of being directly comparable on a like for like basis.

  38. @Sorbus

    Apols for not spotting your post earlier. Was busy dealing with heinous charges concerning indecipherability while in the real world, someone tried to ovecharge me for my coffee!! They try and get you when you’re down, don’t they.

    First up, thanks for the info. on With, I wasn’t aware of of. I’m a bit of a latecomer to the energy thing, but I shall check it out. I think making it work for small communities is an important test. On the hydro thing, yes, traditional hydro is vulnerable as you describe, but not so much barrages trapping tidal water. Offshore wind might have higher costs but you can build more efficient turbines to offset.

    Demand management I’m still out to lunch on, but took a look at storage tech a little while back. There are some interesting ideas, like compressed air, but dunno that much is proven, esp. In terms of being scaled up.

  39. @Alun

    My but that last reply is all over the shop…

    “Yes. Not oild prices, Clydeside jobs. Brexit. Welcome back.”

    That’s a complete non sequitur. In the bit you quoted I wasn’t talking about oil, I was explaining how you were wrong to accuse of a straw man, because I hadn’t in fact started talking about the indyref in response to SNP but because others were discussing it because of polling and EU stuff. And now suddenly you’re needlessly making it about oil again.

    Also, bit hilarious for someone to complain of “whataboutery” whilst themselves indulging in whataboutery, making claims about having another referendum based on something that hasn’t even happened yet: i.e. Brexit.

    Also, I haven’t expressed any outrage. It’s quite hard to be outraged about summat that hasn’t happened yet. As it happens I wouldn’t be outraged by either Brexit or Independence, for eggers. But I do pour over peeps words somewhat, that’s true, and can’t help noting a lack of concern over inflicting instability, or going against the majority vote so soon, or about what indy peeps said about oil prices, or the not in this generation thing, and we haven’t even gotten to the possibility there might be other convenient circumstances to trigger a referendum besides EU, etc. etc., which isn’t stuff one can sweep under the carpet since most of these things will remain an issue even if we don’t vote for Brexit. (Taking fragments of my posts out of context to make non sequiturs won’t change that!!)

    Anyways, have a good weekend, etc.

  40. @Barbazen

    “So what? Both Yes and No campaigns spent much time on the EU, with Yes stressing the possibilities and No doing their utmost to convince Scots that they would be out without caveat to continued UK membership of the EU.”

    ————-

    So what??? You were critical of my lack of EU knowledge. I was simply pointing out that this is a bit much when yours isn’t exactly perfect either. It’s a really straightforward point. But for some peeps apparently, one’s posts suddenly become much more complicated the minute one points out issues with their posts.

    Posts slavishly supportive of their view, however, seem to be a model of clarity. No one knows why. Also, peeps are overcomplicating things for themselves by jumping to conclusions, e.g. that I might be Anti-EU when not, etc. etc.

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