The British Election Study have released their data from the election campaign waves today – one large wave straight after the election was called, a wave of daily rolling polls from throughout the campaign itself and a third large wave conducted straight after the campaign. All three of these datasets were collected online by YouGov (the face-to-face element of the BES is still to come). If you’re au fait with stats software like SPSS, Stata or R the raw data is available for download on the British Election Study site here.

There’s already some analysis of the data by the BES team here (a longer version of the article you may have seen on BBC this morning), focusing on how people changed their votes between 2015 and 2017, and between the beginning and end of the election campaign.

The article breaks down 2015 vote by Remainers and Leavers. Looking at how 2015 voters who backed Leave ended up voting in 2017, the Conservatives kept the vast majority of their 2015 leave voters and picked up over half of the 2015 UKIP vote (as well as a chunk of Labour Leavers). The collapse of UKIP wasn’t all to the Conservatives’ favour though, 18% of UKIP Leavers ended up moving to Labour.

Turning to the Remain vote, Labour were the clear victor: around a third of 2015 Tories who voted remain drifted away from the party, either to Labour or to the Lib Dems, but Labour also picked up a chunk of the 2015 Lib Dem vote and most of the 2015 Green vote. Of course, while this is easy to view through the prism of Brexit, that doesn’t necessarily mean Brexit was the main driver (to give an obvious example, yes – a large proportion of Green Remain voters moved to Labour… but a large proportion of the 2015 Green vote had already moved to Labour before the referendum, presumably as a result of the direction Jeremy Corbyn had taken the party).

More interesting is the movement during the campaign itself. 19% of people changed how they would vote between the start and the end of the campaign. This is not in itself unusual – in 2015 the figure was 17%, and according to the BES team it was higher in 2010 and 2005. The difference in 2017 is that this movement was overwhelmingly in favour of the Labour party, whereas at previous elections the churn largely cancelled itself out. Hence during the campaign we can see significant numbers of Tory votes, Lib Dem voters and, most of all, don’t knows moving towards Labour, but very little movement away from Labour.

In terms of explanations for the movement – while the voters Labour attracted during the campaign were those you’d expect to be the most receptive (that is, tending to be opposed to a hard-Brexit and left-leaning), the most obvious movement was on leadership ratings, that sharp collapse in Theresa May’s ratings and the steady increase in Jeremy Corbyn’s, and those people who moved to Labour during the campaign were also those who displayed the biggest increase in their perceptions of Jeremy Corbyn.

Ed and Chris’s full article is here.


372 Responses to “British Election Study release their campaign data”

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  1. Ok!

  2. Couldn’t resist, off back to lurking now.

  3. I think this shows that modest change could have big impacts

  4. Lots of groovy charts over at the BES link and even a word cloud.

  5. I think the argument must be that Brexit stopped the Tories winning a majority and if Brexit had not been an issue at all, the Tories would have won the election by a large percentage.

    Theresa May and her campaign team made a mistake with their Brexit stance, trying to obtain UKIP votes. But they failed to realise that many leave supporters voted Labour and Jeremy Corbyn did not put them off voting Labour.

    I can see it getting to the point during 2018, that Brexit is proving very difficult to negotiate and the country changes its mind. Parliament might therefore decide to again delegate a decision to the UK public in a second referendum. But this time around it might be a choice between a hard Brexit with no EU deal or remaining in the EU.

  6. Thank the gods for a new thread!
    —————————————————–
    @R Huckle
    “Parliament might therefore decide to again delegate a decision to the UK public in a second referendum. ”

    There will be trouble if they do.
    —————————————————-

    Though Corbyn’s Labour did far better than anyone expected, let’s not forget that despite the terrible campaign and May’s poor performance the Tories added 20% to their 2015 vote, and got more votes than at any time since 1992. This did not translate into seat gains, but they are far from finished.

  7. “I think the argument must be that Brexit stopped the Tories winning a majority and if Brexit had not been an issue at all, the Tories would have won the election by a large percentage.”

    ———-

    Well that’s the nuLab hope, that It’s Brexit, not Corbyn.

    But before the campaign Labour were doing rather worse despite their Brexit stance. Was Labour’s improvement really down to Brexit, or the increase in Corbyn’s ratings once people got to see more of him, plus positive response to the manifesto?

  8. Brexit cost the Tories votes imo but if Labour and Corbyn had not morphed in to viability/credibility then the Tories would have won a comfortable OM.

  9. “Though Corbyn’s Labour did far better than anyone expected, let’s not forget that despite the terrible campaign and May’s poor performance the Tories added 20% to their 2015 vote, and got more votes than at any time since 1992. This did not translate into seat gains, but they are far from finished.”

    ———

    Some people keep saying this which is weird because no one disputes it.

    What people do note, is how Labour eventually overtook Tories post election, how the demographics suggest that things may continue to move Labour’s way, they wonder how much of the Tory gains were a one-off Brexit thing, how the Overton window may have shifted leftwards a bit, and how if Blairites had put resources into marginals rather than safe Blairite seats etc. etc.

  10. “Brexit cost the Tories votes imo”

    ——–

    Given how many ukippers moved over to Tories and as Pete says they added 20% to their 2015 vote?

  11. I worded badly Carfew.

    The focus on Brexit to attract UKIP voters cost the Tories other votes as Labour not only gained some remainers but benefited by having a proper GE manifesto and of course a better leaders performance.

  12. The worst Tory campaign in living memory. One that made 1987 look thoroughly professional. Ally that with Labour’s equivocation over Brexit to suck in Remainers and Labour Leavers and some of their fiscally interesting promises or perceived promises and that’s the heart of the matter and why there was not a big Tory win IMO

  13. “those people who moved to Labour during the campaign were also those who displayed the biggest increase in their perceptions of Jeremy Corbyn.”

    Exactly what I said would happen over a month before the election.

    Corbyn has been utterly pilloried since day one by much of the mainstream media.

    The election gave him plenty of opportunity for the public at large to see him unfiltered by the tainted lens of the media. This meant that public perception of him was bound to rise.

  14. A dig around in the detail is in order, but on first review I think the one hypothesis the data struggle most to support is that the May Brexit position was the dominant driver of the increase in the Labour vote.

    The unusual feature by historic standards is the exceptional movement, both in party VI and in leader approval, over the campaign. That needs an explanation based on something that resonated progressively over the campaign, either because of the raised level of awareness that the scrutiny produced of an established policy/ position, or because it was a newly raised policy/ position.

    Even allowing for the caveat we must always apply that very few normal people have the awareness level that would be shown here of party policies outwith election time, surely the May Brexit pholisophy can’t cut it.

    Such as it is, it has been the same brief and blunt message throughout her premiership. It has defined her premiership. It was front and centre from the start. It can’t have come as a shock to the electorate, so as to be an issue that wore away at her support when they finally got an inkling of what it was over the campaign.

    If there is a Brexit aspect, maybe increased awareness of the labour position could fit the bill. The party’s characterisation as being more pro-remain than it really was by the mainstream media was perhaps gradually chipped away at by campaign scrutiny. Were Labour leavers tempted back by realising Labour was pledged to honour the referendum after all, Labour remainers attracted by the less fundamentally Brexity underlying philosophy, and by ultimately having nowhere else to go that had any electoral hope?

    But primarily I’d at issues that arose in the campaign as my first source of explanations for change that occurred in the course of the campaign. At the ill-judged remainder of the Conservative manifesto, and at a labour leader and manifesto that resonated better than the pre-campaign caricature. These were things that changed as the VI changed.

    Coincidence in time is not a proof of causation, but it is surely a necessary condition of it. To argue that May’s Brexit strategy caused the most dramatic poll movement in years is to argue that the most unchanging and least unanticipated aspect of the campaign caused the change. That doesn’t work for me in general principle, and I see nothing in the specific data to make an exception to that.

  15. @JimJam

    “I worded badly Carfew.
    The focus on Brexit to attract UKIP voters cost the Tories other votes as Labour not only gained some remainers but benefited by having a proper GE manifesto and of course a better leaders performance.”

    ———–

    But the Tories made a net gain of 20% according to Pete, and furthermore it’s a stretch to say Remainers suddenly came over to Labour due to Brexit, when in the campaign you clearly saw a rise associated with Corbyn’s ratings etc. Not to mention Labour made some gains from UKip too.

    You have to some how dismiss gains due to other factors AND explain how Brexit suddenly became a key card for Labour in the campaign where just before they were struggling despite Brexit.

    The Brexit thing is a claim sans evidence, flying in the face of what evidence we have.

  16. “The worst Tory campaign in living memory. One that made 1987 look thoroughly professional. Ally that with Labour’s equivocation over Brexit to suck in Remainers and Labour Leavers and some of their fiscally interesting promises or perceived promises and that’s the heart of the matter and why there was not a big Tory win IMO”

    ———–

    Although Tories didn’t lose much and Brexit was not a key focus of Labour’s campaign.

    It’s almost like some people don’t want to accept the rise in Corbyn’s electability and popularity of his policies, as evidenced by polling and stuff.

  17. Carfrew is broadly right. Thus corresponds with my experience campaigning for Labour in Wales. A rapid growth in positive reactions both to Jeremy Corbyn and the principled Labour manifesto. Labour have more opportunity to get a fair hearing when it matters most i.e. during a GE. The MSM and the continuing BBC Blairocracy won’t recognise this of course (eg see Newsnight and BBC1News already tonight) but many thanks Anthony because your summary was fair and factual.
    A factor not mentioned in the BES article (or by BBC tonight) is surely that the extra Labour votes came from two main sources – young electors and professionals, who dominate social media. Polarisation between newspaper reading older Tory voters and younger Labour voters/ IPhoners is now extreme. However the socio-economic profile of the two main parties’ voters has probably never been so similar.

  18. On Brexit, the Tories spent their time with “better no deal than a bad deal” – a slogan which is obviously true but emphasises the words “no deal” and “bad deal”, as if these are the only options. Which has the same flaw as “you’re never alone with a Strand” from a marketing perspective.

    Meanwhile, Labour pitched at a vague optimism not too far removed from Boris’s “cake and eat it”. The leave campaign treated “no deal” as not being an option, and Labour followed suit, albeit coming from a very different place.

    But most of all – and as a Leaver, I regret this – the lesson taught by general elections is all about what is important enough to people to change their vote, or get people to turn out.

    Brexit just was not important enough to get significant defections from Labour to the Conservatives. It is true – and Paul Mason admitted it – that sitting on the fence helped keep the Labour-Brexit vote away from the Tories. But are we too assume such voters too stupid to appreciate that Labour was a little shaky on the issue, to say the least? If Remainers were willing to bet on Labour being a step in their direction, were Labour-Brexit unable to look past headline statements about “free movement” and “accepting Brexit”?

    Even though the ultimate conclusion appears to be that the votes swung on Corbyn vs May – that still means that large numbers of Brexit voters were unwilling to prioritise that issue.

    Better to know this now then late in 2018.

  19. Carfew – you are missing the point and/or only partially reading so let me try again.

    The Tories had President May and Brexit means Brexit plus no deal is better than a bad deal.

    It worked in that it shored up their Brexit supporting vote and attracted the lions share of the UKIP.

    The narrow focus cost it both in terms of losing some of the their remain vote (1/3 of their 2015 ‘remain vote) but more importantly that it left space for what Mark refers to namely the growing respect for JC and therefore Labour. Without Labour being able to offer a credible popular manifesto well presented by Corbyn the Tories would have got away with their narrow May plus Brexit means Brexit focus.

    This meant that Labour attracted not only much of that 1/3 of the Tory remain vote but many previous DNVs without much competition.

    You may argue that that 1/3 would have left the Tories anyhow but neither of us have any conclusive evidence.

    Scotland different of course before ON interjects.

  20. @Welsh Borderer “A rapid growth in positive reactions both to Jeremy Corbyn and the principled Labour manifesto.”

    Principled? Well, that’s clearly a partisan position. Others might point out the shady tactics over student debt, the wildly optimistic tax take projections and saying one thing on Brexit in the North & Midlands and another in London & SE.

  21. @JimJam

    The idea that the Tories stance on Brexit was the reason people warmed to Corbyn and his policies is unsupported and a bit odd frankly.

    Especially because it didn’t happen before the campaign.

  22. I think we can see that the polling in April for labour was close to it’s core vote. One of the charts shows hardly any of the April voters defecting to other parties. Core vote for labour seems to be a few points under 30

  23. @Sea Change

    What shady tactics on student debt?

  24. “I think we can see that the polling in April for labour was close to it’s core vote.”

    ——-

    Yep and before the campaign Tories were riding high too. Respective stances on Brexit was not great news for Labour. What changed in the campaign was not stances on Brexit but an unfiltered Corbyn plus policies that polled well.

  25. @ Jim Jam

    ‘Scotland different of course’ ….. yes it was for Labour and the SNP (of obvious reasons) but the Scottish LD vote followed the same trajectory as in E&W. A fall in numbers between 2010 and 2015, followed by a lack of recovery in most Scottish constituencies. I can only suppose that they were completely squeezed between the Unionist leave Conservatives and the separatist Remain SNP. However, it does make me wonder about the core support for the LDems…. the results do suggest that a great deal of their past support has been from tactical voters or ABTorL.

    The Scottish Labour vote either declined further or flatlined from the 2015 low (apart from Edinburgh S) and its wins were not because of any great rally in support but merely that the SNP vote fell so markedly, that Slab fortuitously became the largest party.

    In contrast, the Conservative vote rose gently but consistently across all the Scottish constituencies….. and are probably the only party in Scotland that had reason to be pleased with the results.

  26. @ PETERW

    ‘Coincidence in time is not a proof of causation, but it is surely a necessary condition of it. To argue that May’s Brexit strategy caused the most dramatic poll movement in years is to argue that the most unchanging and least unanticipated aspect of the campaign caused the change. That doesn’t work for me in general principle, and I see nothing in the specific data to make an exception to that.’

    Well argued and IMO correct.

  27. I think the Conservatives poor performance in the GE is not down to their Brexit stance. That was well known immediately before the election was called, and when they enjoyed a towering lead over Corbyn’s Labour.

    No its largely down to by far the worst Conservative campaign in living memory, which is why the movement of support was almost entirely away from them. It was only that that made Labour and Corbyn look more electable than previously ever thought possible, and even then they still lost.

    Whatever happens next time, the Conservatives wont be making those same mistakes again.

  28. It is easier to understand how a poor campaign might depress the Tory vote*, than to have it explain why Corbyn suddenly became more popular and his policies popular too.

    It’s difficult to explain why issues over the so-called dementia tax would suddenly make people approve of Corbyn’s stance on tuition fees.

    *And it didn’t even depress it that much.

  29. @Carfrew

    People have pointed out that Labour MPs were openly campaigning on the canceling of historic student debt (videos available) and Corbyn’s statement that he would “deal with it”.

  30. Baldbloke
    “…the worst Conservative campaign in living memory, which is why the movement of support was almost entirely away from them.”

    I agree with the comment about the campaign, but as I pointed out earlier, the Tory vote went up by 20% compared to 2015. The problem from their point of view was that the Labour vote rose by over 37%. The turnout only rose a couple of percentage points, so the gains by both were largely at the expense of ‘Others’ (which in my records is everyone except Lib/Lab/Con).

    So there was not a movement of support away from the Conservatives at all. There was a movement towards the two main parties which was stronger towards Labour. This was not mainly from previous non-voters but from ‘Others’. G’night all.

  31. @Sea Change

    As we have seen from the transcript, Corbyn made clear what he meant by deal with it and it clearly didn’t mean cancelling all past debt. He gave examples showing just a lessening of the burden.

    And we have been shown ONE video so far where someone may have been in error, but with so many politicians involved someone is bound to mess up.

    Rachel gave several examples of similar Tory snafus. The IDS one especially good.

    Polling also shows the majority haven’t fallen for this stress-energy anyway. They don’t think Corbyn meant to cancel all the debt.

    Nice try, but waaaasy off base unfortunately.

  32. The debate in recent posts about whether it was Brexit or Corbyn which improved Lab’s position in the electionis forced. As JimJam said, the Tory position on Brexit gained it some votes, but lost it many remainers: notably, however, its “narrow” campaign allowed Lab to to dominate the campaign with a populist manifesto & a leader who impressed. As AW says “viewing things thru the prism of Brexit does not make it the main driver”: no-one is denying Corbyn’s contribution, so surely we can dispense with the usual junk mail about the wicked Blairites, etc..

  33. stress-energy = straw man

    So Einstein does auto-correct. Who knew?

  34. “As JimJam said, the Tory position on Brexit gained it some votes, but lost it many remainers: notably”

    ———-

    Yes but that was priced in before the campaign.

    There is no evidence that either Brexit or the Tory campaign was the reason people like Corbyn’s policy on tuition fees.

    Brexit nor the Tory campaign didn’t make Corbyn personable either. That was clear before the campaign, given membership rise, but the media kept him out the spotlight do a lot of peopleforeign get to see it. The campaign allowed more people to see it.

  35. “so surely we can dispense with the usual junk mail about the wicked Blairites, etc..”

    ———–

    Utter straw man, playing the victim, no one’s claiming wickedness. (Overly-invested might be summat else however…)

  36. (…media kept him out the spotlight so a lot of people didn’t get to see it.)

  37. An additional issue with the increasingly comical claim that Tories made Corbyn personable and gave him good policies, is that the Tory campaign clearly wasn’t that bad. It’s not like they lost.

    But presumably given recent arguments Nulabbers would now revise their past claims and say that Blair only won in ’97 because of Tories. Which would have more merit in that Tory VI was already in the toilet before Blair.

    Nulabbers have reinvented cause and effect. They credit Blair when clearly shouldn’t, and try to deny credit to Corbyn when he is due some.

    (Not that this means wickedness etc. Just, you know, too much koolaid etc.)

  38. Or due more, I should say…

  39. @ Carfrew

    I think the BES report shows how Brexit and Lab’s/Corbyn’s excellent & unanticiptaed performance were blended in the campaign, thus precluding an either/or explanation of what happened. Eg., it argues that Tory remainers, seeing a Corbyn in new light, concluded that Lab could handle the biggest issue of the campaign better than May, something which they doubted before the campaign began.

  40. A well-known twitter profile in the British election sphere tweeted this earlier. This sums up my views on the matter:

    ‘ “I voted Remain, then I voted Labour”. They’re independent events which people are lazily connecting.’

    If Labour’s Brexit stance brought voters to them, explain why they gained 15 points during the campaign. Especially since it seemed like their Brexit stance hardened over the campaign – from appearing like they supported soft Brexit at the start, with Corbyn saying ‘FoM will end’ etc. towards the end. If anything, during the campaign it was probably leave voters Labour managed to get on-side due to their Brexit stance – people who were previous Labour voters and voted leave, but weren’t too sure on the Tories, and needed the seal of approval from the labour leader.

    Bear in mind the proportion of leave voters supporting lab practically doubled (from 10-15% to about 20-30% – can’t recall precise numbers) during the campaign.

    So I very much doubt this explains it.

  41. @Robbiealive

    “Eg., it argues that Tory remainers, seeing a Corbyn in new light, concluded that Lab could handle the biggest issue of the campaign better than May, something which they doubted before the campaign began.”

    ———

    There is no evidence in that which shows Tory Remainers switched due to Brexit, as opposed to seeing Corbyn unfiltered, or liking policies on tuition etc.

  42. No-one has mentioned the other half of Theresa May’s campaign. It was two pronged…. one was a red white and blue Brexit and the other was ‘strong and stable’ gov’t instead of the Corbyn coalition of chaos. The anti-Corbyn tack didn’t seem to be overly successful….. although that was an aspect which seemed to motivate a lot of commentators on Conservative Home to vote Conservative, in spite of their dislike of the Tory manifesto.

  43. @ Carfrew

    There is no evidence in that which shows Tory Remainers switched due to Brexit, as opposed to seeing Corbyn unfiltered, or liking policies on tuition etc.”

    Obviously: there is never any unvarnished evidence of why people make decisions, as I learned whern I read V Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders in ca.1965. The report was merely advancing a plausible view of why Tory remainers switched, in the campaign itself, to Lab. If you can provide “evidence” that Brexit had nothing to do with it, fine. Do so.

    As for Blair, it’s impossible to have a discussion in the confines of this site, which is why I find the dribble anti-Blair sloganising a bit pointless. I have no idea what “nulabbers” think.

  44. @ Analyst
    “If Labour’s Brexit stance brought voters to them, explain why they gained 15 points during the campaign”

    I think re the report this is a non-sequitur. The report is not saying, despite media reports, that Brexit explains 15 points. It is merely hypothesising how Brexit affected different segments of voters.

    It concludes in any case!
    “According to our data, the main reason that Labour gained so much in the campaign at the expense of the other parties is the strong performance of Jeremy Corbyn, especially relative to Theresa May.”

  45. @Robbiealive

    You seem to be claiming the report supports your contention, without providing the actual evidence that this is so.

    I don’t need to provide evidence concerning Brexit, that is more incumbent upon you. There is evidence for a more sensible alternative, that people actually liked Corbyn once they saw him, and liked his policies. Backed up by polling evidence.

    As for your empty pro-Blair stuff, you dismiss reasoned argument as slipoganising, and ignore the actual sloganising, the unsubstantiated lionising of Blair. I just pointed to polling evidence to counter it.

  46. @Syzygy

    “No-one has mentioned the other half of Theresa May’s campaign. It was two pronged…. one was a red white and blue Brexit and the other was ‘strong and stable’ gov’t instead of the Corbyn coalition of chaos. The anti-Corbyn tack didn’t seem to be overly successful….. although that was an aspect which seemed to motivate a lot of commentators on Conservative Home to vote Conservative, in spite of their dislike of the Tory manifesto.”

    ———

    Yes, the U-turn undermined the strong and stable argument.

    It also probably helped ensure it WASN’T so much about Brexit. Because the potential loss of the family home to care costs probably rather eclipses whether we can return to Imperial measures.

    As Rich asked us at the time “anyone else preparing to shift assets?”

    My theory on this is that it may have ultimately bolstered Theresa, once she u-turned. Because Tories might then have worried Corbyn more likely to do it.

  47. @ Carfrew
    I have no contention about Brexit’s effects on Lab’s vote: I was trying to discuss the report’s evidence on why Tory voters switched to Lab: quite a leap. .
    I am not pro-Blair either. I can’t see the point of off-the-cuff comments on him or say Thatcher. I would however, other things being equal, have either of them, or indeed Major or Brown, in charge of the Brexit negotiations: a subject which bores me rigid.

  48. Just been watching Colbert, as yet another of Trump’s team says goodbye after little more than a week. “According to White House sources, Kelly let the Mooch go because ‘he wanted more structure, less of Game of Thrones'”.

  49. @Robbiealive

    Well you say now that you have no contention about the effects of Brexit on the Labour vote, but you originally began with this:

    “I think the BES report shows how Brexit and Lab’s/Corbyn’s excellent & unanticiptaed performance were blended in the campaign”

    I don’t make off-the-cuff comments about Blair. There are two aspects that recur: the issue of over-stating Blair’s importance, and Roger Mexico’s contention that some Nulabbers might be reluctant to see Corbyn succeed because it indicates there was an alternative after all. Which grows more credible with each passing day…

    Both impact polling and hence are of interest, though clearly unpalatable to some. But then so are many things, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be discussed.

  50. Colbert on the latest resignation

    https://youtu.be/vr_o1y47icc

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