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.

Another busy day for polling. We have only one GB voting intention poll today, but from a brand new pollster (later on we’ll have the regular daily poll from YouGov and the ComRes/Mail/ITV poll). However we also have a new Scottish poll from Ipsos MORI, three new constituency polls from Lord Ashcroft and a new poll of Con-Lab marginals from ComRes.

The new GB voting intention poll is from BMG Research for May 2015. It’s an online poll, using the sort of weightings and adjustments ICM use – so weighted by past vote, weighted by likelihood to vote with people who didn’t vote weighted down, and with 50% of people who say don’t know assumed to vote for the party they did last time. This has produced topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 32%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 14%, GRN 3% – full tabs are here.

MORI’s Scottish poll shows, as ever, a huge SNP lead. Topline figures are CON 17%, LAB 20%, LDEM 5%, SNP 54% (tabs). This would be enough for the SNP to win just about everywhere. A measure of just how vast the change has been in Scotland is that we are no longer surprised by polls showing the SNP with huge landslide leads in Scotland – we should be. A thirty-four point lead for the SNP in an area that Labour has consistently won since the 1960s is astounding and appears to be a true realignment in Scottish politics. We end up paying to the rest of the country because England and Wales are on a knife-edge while the outcome of Scotland appears settled, it’s just a question of how colossal the SNP landslide is, but it’s good to sit back occasionally and gawp at the scale of the turnaround in Scottish politics since a year ago.

Lord Ashcroft released three new constituency polls. The first was of South Swindon – a typical Con-Lab marginal seat, but not of any great importance beyond that. At the last election Robert Buckland had a majority of 7.5%, so with the national polls level we’d expect to find Conservative and Labour pretty much neck-and-neck here. That’s what Ashcroft found in his last two polls of the seat, it’s still the case now – a Conservative lead of just one point.

The other two seats are far more unusual affairs. The first is Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg’s own constituency. Ashcroft’s previous polling of the constituency has consistently found a very tight race between Labour and the Liberal Democrats (despite the fact that it used to the Tories who were main alternative to the Liberals here). Ashcroft’s poll today shows a Labour lead of one point, so far too close to call. Interestingly comparing the standard voting intention question and the constituency question a quarter of Conservative voters say they will actually vote Lib Dem in Hallam, suggesting significant Tory tactical voting propping up Nick Clegg.

The last of Ashcroft’s polls was in Thanet South, the seat being contested by Nigel Farage. There has been substantial polling in this seat, with recent Survation polls commissioned by UKIP donor Alan Bown showing a solid lead for Nigel Farage and other polling by ComRes showing a tight three way race between Conservative, Labour and UKIP. Ashcroft found a tight race between Conservative and UKIP, with the Tories just three points ahead, but Labour now clearly back in third place – CON 34%, UKIP 32%, LAB 26%. Tables for all three polls are here.

Finally there was a new ComRes poll of battleground Con-Lab marginals. As I’ve written before, the key to understanding marginal polls is to look at how those seats voted last time, what they change is, and how that compares to the national picture. This poll isn’t the 40 closest Lab-Con marginals that ComRes usually poll in their marginals omnibus, but a different bespoke sample of the fifty most marginal Con held marginals with Labour in second place. In 2010 there was an average Conservative lead of 4 points across these seats, while in today’s poll ComRes found a 3 point Labour lead. This is a 3.5 swing from Conservative to Labour, or the equivalent of a national poll showing Labour and Conservative neck-and-neck. Full tables are here

The 3.5 swing is in line with the national swing across all the polls (though a little bigger than the swing in ComRes’s telephone polls). However, I’m not sure that national polls are the right comparison – almost all Lab-Con marginals are in England, and because Labour have collapsed in Scotland the swing to Labour is actually bigger in England & Wales than the national polls imply. I’m going to try write at more length about the different battlegrounds at the weekend, but at first glance it looks to me as if the Conservatives may be doing a little better in the key marginals than across England and Wales as a whole… but Labour are doing a little better in England and Wales as a whole than in GB, so the two factors cancel each other out and the marginals swing is about the same as the national GB swing.

UPDATE: The voting intention figures for ComRes and YouGov are now both out. ComRes’s telephone poll for the Mail & ITV has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 35%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 6%. YouGov for the Sun have topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%, GRN 4%.


Ten days to go to the election and we’ve had interesting day of polls – four new GB polls, some new constituency polling and a new Scottish poll. The four GB polls today are the weekly Ashcroft and ICM telephone polls, the twice weekly Populus poll and, to come later on tonight, the daily YouGov poll for the Sun:

  • Populus had figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5% (tabs). They continue to produce figures that are more favourable to Labour than many of the other pollsters – you have to go all the way back to August to find a Populus poll with a Conservative lead.
  • In contrast ICM have tended to produce some of the better polls for the Conservatives – their last four polls showed Conservative leads and today’s has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5% (tabs)
  • Lord Ashcroft’s weekly poll had topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 30%, LDEM 9%, KIP 11%, GRN 7% (tabs) – this is obviously a particularly good poll for the Conservative party, but all the usual caveats apply. No other poll is showing such positive figures for them.

Lord Ashcroft also released four new constituency polls, this time covering four UKIP target seats (or at least, four where he had previously found them doing well, I’m not sure whether Cannock Chase was ever a seat they were targetting – certainly Ashcroft’s poll found respondents reporting a lower level of UKIP activity there). When Ashcroft previously polled these seats he found UKIP in an extremely close second place, this time he found them falling back and seemingly out of serious contention in three of them:

  • Cannock Chase is a seat the Conservatives won on a vast swing last time, but where the new MP has stood down after various gaffes. In October 2014 Ashcroft found UKIP two points behind Labour, 30% to Labour’s 32%. The latest poll still shows Labour ahead, but UKIP now trail in third place on 21%.
  • Great Grimsby is widely regarded as the best opportunity for a UKIP gain from Labour at this election – a Lincolnshire fishing port where the veteran MP Austin Mitchell is standing down. In December Ashcroft found UKIP just a point behind Labour, but they’ve fallen back considerably since then and today’s poll has them 17 points behind Labour
  • Great Yarmouth fits the pattern for a typical UKIP target seat, a seaside town and marginal seat out on England’s east coast. Last July Ashcroft found a tight three way fight – Con 33%, UKIP 31%, Lab 28%. Today’s poll has UKIP falling back to 24%, but Conservative and Labour still in a close battle – Con 36%, Lab 34%
  • Castle Point is the only one of the three where UKIP still seems to be in the race. It’s an unusual seat – the former Conservative MP Bob Spink sort of defected to UKIP in 2008 and contested the seat as an Independent in 2010, coming second with 27%. In February Ashcroft found UKIP just one point behind the Tories, in today’s poll the Conservatives have widened their lead to 5 points.

Finally a new TNS poll of Scotland shows the SNP moving into an even stronger lead. Their topline figures with changes from their last Scottish poll are CON 13%(nc), LAB 22%(-2), LDEM 6%(nc), SNP 54%(+2), UKIP 2%(+1), GRN 2%(-1). Tabs are here.

Lord Ashcroft has released a good selection of new constituency polls, covering some interesting constituencies. Full details are here.

The least intersting is probably High Peak – a largely run of the mill Con -v- Lab marginal. Ashcroft previously polled it in February, finding a wafer thin one point Labour lead. In the second survey the Tories are now ahead by 2 points, but the changes are within the margin of error – it still looks like a seat on a knife edge.

He then looked at two seats that were effectively three-way marginals in 2010 – Colne Valley and Bristol North West – both seats the Conservatives won with the Lib Dems in second place, but Labour an extremely close third. In both seats the Lib Dems have collapsed completely and they are now Con -v- Lab marginals, in Bristol North West the Conservatives have a healthy nine point lead, in Colne Valley it is again on a knife-edge, with the Tories just two points ahead.

Moving on Lord Ashcroft polled Bristol West. This is one of the few Lib Dem seats we haven’t had a constituency poll of yet, but more interestingly it is one of the Green party’s main target seats for the election. The poll suggests they will fall well short – while it shows the Greens moving up to second place with 25% of the vote, they are far behind Labour on 38%.

Finally Lord Ashcroft polled two UKIP targets. One was Thurrock, an ultra-marginal between Labour and the Conservatives at the last election that appears to be one of UKIP’s best hopes for a gain – here Ashcroft found a four point UKIP lead over Labour in second place, the Tories just a point behind. The other was Rochester and Strood, UKIP’s by-election victory last year. Today’s Ashcroft poll gives the Conservatives the advantage in trying to retake it – CON 36%, LAB 24%, LDEM 3%, UKIP 33%.

As well as today’s GB voting intention polls Survation have released a new poll of Thanet South commissioned by the UKIP donor Alan Bown. The poll shows Nigel Farage with a nine point lead over the Conservatives in second place, full topline figures are CON 30%, LAB 26%, LDEM 2%, UKIP 39%, GRN 2% (tabs).

The poll is broadly in line with Survation’s previous poll in Thanet South, which was conducted back in February and showed Farage with an eleven point lead. However, it contrasts with the ComRes poll of the same constituency earlier this month which showed the Conservatives, UKIP and Labour all neck-and-neck.

I wrote about the differences between the ComRes and Survation polling in Thanet South earlier this month here. In short there are some obvious contrasts between the two companies approaches – how they deal with don’t knows, for example – but neither are obviously doing anything wrong, so there is no particularly reason to think one or the other is right. I guess in two weeks we will know who is ahead in Thanet South and how tight the race really is (though even then, we’ll never know for sure how tight the race is right now, or how tight it was in early April, or back in February.)