Some interesting non-GB polls today. First up Lord Ashcroft has released four constituency polls in Conservative held seats targeted by UKIP. The four seats are Boston and Skegness, Castle Point, South Basildon and East Thurrock and North East Cambridgeshire.

  • North East Cambridgeshire seems like a rather odd choice to begin with, it doesn’t look like an obvious place for UKIP success and while Ashcroft doesid find UKIP in second place, the poll gives the Conservatives a very solid 21 point lead. (detailled tabs)The polls in the other three seats were much closer though…
  • In South Basildon and East Thurrock Ashcroft found a clear, but not entirely comfortable, Tory lead of 6 points – Conservatives 35%, UKIP 29%. Labour were in an extremely close third place on 28%, so it’s a fairly even split between the three parties with plenty of potential for tactical voting to change the result (detailled tabs)
  • In Boston and Skegness Ashcroft found a close race, with the Conservatives just ahead. Topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 17%, LDEM 5%, UKIP 35%. (detailled tabs) Note that this was one of the seats that Survation had previously polled for Alan Bown, the UKIP donor, back in September. Ashcroft’s three point Tory lead is in complete contrast to the Survation poll which showed a twenty point UKIP lead.
  • Castle Point was closest of all, essentially neck and neck between the Conservatives and UKIP. Topline figures there were CON 37%, LAB 16%, LDEM 3%, UKIP 36% (detailled tabs)

Meanwhile the latest Survation poll of Scotland was in this morning’s Daily Record. Topline figures for Westminster voting intention are CON 15%(+1), LAB 28%(+2), LDEM 5%(-2), SNP 45%(-1), UKIP 3%(-1), GRN 3%(nc) (tabs here). Compared to Survation’s other post-referendum polls it suggests a slight narrowing in the SNP lead (their previous three polls had SNP leads of 22, 24 and 20 points) Looking across Scottish polls from other companies though there’s no obvious consensus on whether the lead is narrowing or not… and even if it is narrowing a bit, a seventeen point lead is still firmly in landslide territory.


For the run up to the election Opinium have moved from fortnightly to weekly polls for the Observer, and tonight’s figures are CON 32%(nc), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 7%(+2), UKIP 15%(-3), GRN 8%(+2).

A couple of other updates. First, I have updated how the Uniform Swing Projection over on the sidebar is calculated. Up until now it has been a straight Uniform Swing across the whole of Great Britain. This was deliberately crude, a simple and uncontroversial uniform swing for reference, despite its know limitations. With the surge in SNP support through it had really become quite absurd – Scotland has often shown a different swing to the rest of Great Britain, but this is something in a new league. Hence from today I’ve switching to showing a figure based on a combination of a uniform swing across Scotland and a uniform swing across the rest of Great Britain. The Scottish UNS is based on an average of Scottish polls, the rest of GB UNS is based on an average of GB polls, adjusted to account for the absence of Scotland.

Second, I posted earlier in the week about the contrasting Survation/Unite and Ashcroft polls in Sheffield Hallam. One of the things I mentioned was that there was actually a slight error in the Ashcroft poll that had shown the Liberal Democrats ahead. Lord Ashcroft has now corrected the error (which was also repeated in his Thanet South and Doncaster North polls) and put up corrected tables on his website here. On the revised figures Lord Ashcroft’s Sheffield poll would also have shown Labour ahead of the Liberal Democrats, though by only 3 points. In Thanet South he would have shown a one point Tory lead, rather than the five points reported at the time. Ed Miliband would have been as safe as houses in Doncaster North with a thirty percent lead.

Lord Ashcroft doesn’t officially confirm who carries out the polls he commissions, but the reality is that most of his constituency polls are carried out by Populus – not that there are many companies who do constituency polling anyway (it can only be done on the telephone, and Ipsos MORI don’t do it, so that leaves very few options). In this case Populus did NOT carry out the poll, so the errors here shouldn’t be taken as a reflect on Populus or on Ashcroft’s other polls. In Lord Ashcroft’s own commentary he writes “I have not been in the habit of naming the polling companies I use, all of which are members of the British Polling Council, and I will not be naming this one. But I cannot allow this episode to cast doubt on the reliability of my polling more generally. So I must disclose that these three surveys last November are the first and only I have commissioned from a well-known but relatively new polling firm. And no, I won’t be using them again”.

The only other poll I know of in Sunday’s papers is the regular YouGov/Sunday Times polls.

UPDATE: Opinium have also made some changes to their methodology, detailled on their website here. There is a minor change to their age bands in their weighting to make sure they have enough under 25s, but the main change is to switch over to political weighting. Up until now Opinium and Ipsos MORI have been the only companies not to use some form of political weighting in their GB polls, Opinium are now introducing weighting by “Party propensity”, which seems to be similar in principle to the party ID weighting used by Populus and YouGov. Opinium’s weighting targets are based upon a rolling average of their recent polls and the European election result, which in practice means it should make figures less volatile and, according to Opinium, decrease their reported level of UKIP support.

Interestingly YouGov, Populus, ComRes and Lord Ashcroft have all made methodology changes in the last few months to get onto an election footing, and all started prompting for UKIP. Opinium are bucking the trend and look as if they are keeping UKIP in a second question for people who pick “other”.


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Survation have a new poll out in Sheffield Hallam which gives a ten point lead to Labour. Naturally this has produced a lot of crowing from people who don’t much like Nick Clegg and some possibly unwise comments from Nick Clegg about the poll being “bilge”, commissioned by the Labour affiliated Unite (which is was, but it shouldn’t make any difference to the voting intention figures). Tabs are here.

The poll has been compared to Lord Ashcroft’s one last year which showed Nick Clegg ahead in his seat, albeit, only narrowly. The reason for the difference is nothing at all to do with who commissioned the polls though, and everything to do with differences between the methodology Ashcroft uses and the methodology Survation use for all their clients (Unite, and anyone else).

One difference that people commented on yesteday is that Lord Ashcroft uses political weighting in his constituency polls, but Survation do not. This has the potential to make a sizeable difference in the results, but I don’t think it is the case here – looking at the recalled vote in Survation’s poll it looks fairly close to what actually happened, weighting by past vote would probably have bumped up the Lib Dems a little, but the reason the Lib Dems are so far behind is not because of the weighting, it’s because more than half of the people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 aren’t currently planning on doing so again.

However, there are other methodology differences that probably do explain the gap between the Ashcroft poll and the Survation one. If we start off with the basic figures each company found we get this:

In Survation’s poll the basic figures, weighted by likelihood to vote, were CON 22, LAB 33, LD 23, UKIP 9
In Ashcroft’s poll the basic figures, weighted for likelihood to vote, were CON 23, LAB 33, LD 17, UKIP 14

Both had a chunky Labour lead, in fact, Ashcroft’s was slightly bigger than Survation’s. Ashcroft however did two things that Survation did not do. He asked a two stage question, asking people their general voting intention and then their constituency question, and he reallocated don’t knows.

When Lord Ashcroft does constituency polls he asks a standard voting intention question, then asks people to think about their own constituency. This makes a minimal difference in most seats, where people’s “real” support is normally the same as how they actually vote. In seats with Lib Dem MPs it often makes a massive difference, presumably because tactical voting and incumbency are so much more important for Lib Dem MPs than those from any other party.

This is a large part of the difference between Survation and Ashcroft. In Ashcroft’s second question, asking people to think about their own constituency, he found figures of CON 18%, LAB 32%, LD 26%, UKIP 14% – so the two-stage-constituency-question added 9 percentage points to the Lib Dems. Survation actually asked people to think about their constiuency in their question, probably explaining why they had the Lib Dems 6 points higher than Ashcroft in their first question, but I think the constituency prompt has more effect when it is asked as a second question, and respondents are given a chance to register their “national choice” first.

The other significant methodological difference is how Survation and Ashcroft treat people who say don’t know. In their local constituency polls Survation just ignore don’t knows, while Ashcroft reallocates them based on how they voted at the previous election, reallocating a proportion of them back to the party they previously voted for. Currently this helps the Liberal Democrats (something we also see in ICM’s national polls), as there a lot of former Lib Dems out there telling pollsters they don’t know how they will vote.

In this particular case the reallocation of don’t knows changed Ashcroft’s final figures to CON 19, LAB 28, LD 31, UKIP 11, pushing the Lib Dems up into a narrow first place. Technically I think there was an error in Ashcroft’s table – they seem to have reallocated all don’t knows, rather than the proportion they normally do. Done correctly the Lib Dems and Labour would probably have been closer together, or Labour a smidgin ahead, but the fact remains that Ashcroft’s method produces a tight race, Survation’s a healthy looking Labour lead.

So which one is right?

The short answer is we don’t know for sure.

Personally I have confidence in the two-stage constituency question. It’s something I originally used in marginal polling for PoliticsHome back in 2008 and 2009, to address the problem that any polling of Lib Dem seats always seems to show a big jump for Labour and a collapse for the Lib Dems. This would look completely normal these days of course, but you used to find the same thing in polls when Labour were doing badly nationally and the Lib Dems well. My theory was that when people were asked about their voting intention they did not factor in any tactical decisions they might actually make – that is, if you were a Labour supporter in a LD-v-Con seat you might tell a pollster you’d vote Labour because they were the party you really supported, but actually vote Lib Dem as a tactical anti-Tory vote. The way that it only has a significant effect in Lib Dem seats has always given me some confidence it is working, and people aren’t just feeling obliged to give as different answer – the overwhelming majority of people answer the same to both questions.

However the fact is the two-stage-constituency question is only theoretical – it hasn’t been well tested. Going back to it’s original use for the PoliticsHome marginal poll back in 2009, polling in Lib Dem seats using the normal question found vote shares of CON 41, LAB 17, LDEM 28. Using the locally prompted second question the figures became CON 37, LAB 12, LDEM 38. In really those seats ended up voting CON 39, LAB 9, LDEM 45. Clearly in that sense the prompted question gave a better steer to how well the Lib Dems were doing in their marginals… but the caveats are very heavy (it was 9 months before the election, so people could just have change their minds, and it’s only one data point anyway.) I trust the constituency prompted figures more, but that’s a personal opinion, the evidence isn’t there for us to be sure.

As to the reallocation of don’t knows, I’ve always said it is more a philosophical decision that a right or wrong one. Should pollsters only report how respondents say they would vote in an election tomorrow, or should they try and measure how they think people actually would vote in an election tomorrow? Is it better to only include those people who give an opinion, even if you know that those undecideds you’re ignoring appear more likely to favour one party than other, or is it better to make some educated guesses about how those don’t knows might split based on past behaviour?

Bottom line, if you ask people in Sheffield Hallam how they would vote in a general election tomorrow, Labour have a lead, varying in size depending on how you ask. However, there are lots of people who voted for Nick Clegg in 2010 who currently tell pollsters they don’t know how they would vote, and if a decent proportion of those people in fact end up backing Nick Clegg (as Ashcroft’s polling assumes they will) the race would be much closer.


Today we’ve the final Ipsos MORI monthly poll of 2014 and the last 2014 batch of Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polling (the keenly awaited Scottish marginals polling is taking place next year).

MORI’s monthly poll has topline figures of CON 32%(nc), LAB 29%(nc), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 13%(-1), GRN 9%(+2). The Conservatives are three points ahead, but as ever it’s the trend that counts and there is no difference from last month for the main parties here. Note the Greens though – nine points is another new record high for them. Full tabs are here.

Meanwhile Lord Ashcroft’s final batch of 2014 constituencies polls covers three groups of seats. One is another swathe of Con-held Labour targets, another is a group of those Labour seats who the Fabians have identified as the most vulnerable to UKIP, the final one is the unusual seat of Brighton Pavilion. Full details of all the polls are here.

This batch of Con/Lab seats covers those with Conservative majorities between 7.1% and 8.1% – in other words these are seats that would need a swing of between 3.5% and 4% to fall to Labour, the equivalent of national polls showing a Labour lead between zero and one point. This is in the region of current national polls, and as the swing in individual seats varies from one to the next, Ashcroft found Labour ahead in some of these seats, the Conservatives ahead in others. Across all eight seats polled Ashcroft found an average swing of 3 points in these seats, the equivalent of national polls showing a one point Conservative lead – so in this batch of seats, Labour are actually doing slightly worse than they are in the country as a whole. These might just so-happen to be eight seats where the Tories are doing a bit better of course, so don’t run off with the idea that the Conservatives are out-performing in the marginals just yet. The broader finding in Ashcroft’s Con-v-Lab battleground polls so far is that the marginal swing is pretty similar to the national swing.

The Lab-UKIP part of the polling covered four Labour-held seats (Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View and Rother Valley) that the Fabian Society’s paper Revolt on the Left identified as being at critical or high risk from UKIP. The polling found Labour ahead in all four seats, but with UKIP in a close second place in all four of them. Labour have a 1 point lead in Grimsby, 3 points in Dudley North, 5 points in Plymouth Moor View and 6 points in Rother Valley. This appears to confirm the research by Rob Ford and Ian Warren that these would be seats where, based on demographics, UKIP would pose a strong challenge – and suggests that Labour cannot afford to take them for granted. It’s also worth pointing out that using standard “how would you vote tomorrow” UKIP were ahead in three of the seats, Labour only moved ahead on the question asking people to think about their own constituency and candidates.

Finally in Brighton Pavilion, very much a unique seat given its Green incumbency, Ashcroft found latest voting intention figures of CON 21%, LAB 28%, LDEM 5%, UKIP 8%, GRN 38%.


Lord Ashcroft has published a new batch of constituency polling. I hesitate to call it marginals polling, since we’ve moving up into some less marginal territory with today’s polls. Ashcroft has polled four different groups of seats in this set (all the tabs are here.)

The first is the next cohort of Lib Dem -v- Conservative marginals, this group are those seats with a Lib Dem majority of between 9% and 15% over the Conservatives, so we are no longer looking at ultra-marginals. The average swing from the Liberal Democrats to Conservatives in these seats is 2%, nowhere near enough to win seats like these. However, as we’ve seen in previous Lord Ashcroft polls of Lib Dem marginals there is an awful lot of variation between individual constituencies – some seats (Carshalton & Wallington and Thornbury & Yate) are actually showing swings from Con to LD. At the other end of the scale two seats are showing large enough swings for the Conservatives to win the seat (North Devon and Portsmouth South, which has a chunky 9 point swing from LD to Con, presumably at least partially connected to the scandal around Mike Hancock).

The second group of seats consists of two more Lib Dem seats with Labour in second place. Lord Ashcroft’s previous polling in LD v Lab seats essentially showed a complete Lib Dem collapse, raising the possibility of an almost complete wipeout for Liberal Democrat MPs where Labour was the main opponent. One of the seats here – Burnley – follows that pattern, with a ten point swing from LD to Lab. The other, Birmingham Yardley, represented by John Hemming, bucks the trend. There is still a 2.5% swing from LD to Lab, but it is smaller than we’ve seen in other LD -v- Lab seats and would be small enough for Hemming to hold on.

The third group of seats is two unusual seats – the close three-way marginal of Watford, and Wyre Forest, an Independent seat between 2001 and 2010. Neither of these really fit into any broader category, but looking at them as individual seats Watford shows little relative movement for the three main parties – all are down a little, UKIP are up a lot but still in fourth place, meaning the Conservatives retain a narrow lead. Wyre Forest was held by Dr Richard Taylor between 2001 and 2010. He’ll be standing again come the next general election for the National Health Action party, but I think under the same Kidderminster Health Concern label that he won on in 2001 and 2005. Ashcroft’s poll currently has the Conservatives holding the seat on 32% with UKIP in second on 27%, Labour 16%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 5%, Other 13%. The others aren’t identified in the poll, but is presumably largely Dr Taylor’s supporters.

Finally Ashcroft polled three of the four seats that will be contested by the main party leaders come the election – Sheffield Hallam, Doncaster North and Thanet South (presumably he didn’t do Witney because he thought it would be too boring… it would seem there comes a point when even Lord Ashcroft saves his money!). Party leaders normally do pretty well in their own seats. It is extremely rare for them to lose their own constituency and they very often outperform their party nationally. Such is the collapse of Liberal Democrat support however people have seriously raised the possiblity of Clegg losing his own seat – Ashcroft’s poll has it very close. Clegg is on 31%, Labour on 28%, just three behind (and this is on the question prompting people to think about their own constituency, the standard voting intention question had Labour a point ahead). Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat is traditionally a very safe Labour seat that should pose no concerns for him, but there was some speculation about how well UKIP might do. The BNP have held their deposit there at the last two elections and their was some significant support for the English Democrats too, with the far-right parties now collapsing and UKIP hoovering up that right-wing protest vote it looked as if there could be some potential. In fact Ashcroft’s poll did find UKIP in second place in Doncaster North, but 12 points behind Ed Miliband. Finally Thanet South, the seat where Nigel Farage plans to stand at the general election. Current figures there are CON 34%, LAB 26%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 29% – so UKIP in a strong second place, but not currently quite enough to send Farage to Westminster.