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.)


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Lord Ashcroft has released a new batch of Scottish constituency polling. Full details are here. As regular readers will know, national polls in Scotland suggest an SNP landslide with no sign of the SNP lead narrowing as the election approaches. In fact the most recent Scottish polls from YouGov and TNS showed the SNP lead growing. Lord Ashcroft has previously carried out two waves of Scottish polling, both showing the SNP winning in seats that were previously thought very safe.

Across the two previous waves Ashcroft polled nineteen Labour seats, finding the SNP ahead in all except East Renfrewshire and Glasgow North East. He has also polled four Lib Dem held seats (finding solid SNP leads in three and a narrow SNP lead in Ross, Skye and Lochaber) and the one Tory seat in Scotland where he found a tie.

In this latest wave Ashcroft has returned to the five of the tighter races he polled earlier, and polled three more Lib Dem held Scottish seats for the first time. Most of the close races are no longer close – in Glasgow South West (where Labour have a 46% majority) Ashcroft found the SNP 21% ahead. In Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Douglas Alexander’s seat, he found an SNP lead of 11%. In East Renfewshire he found a 9% SNP lead – this is the seat of Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy and one of the two seats where he previously found a Labour lead.

People commenting on the Scottish election seem to fall into two groups – those who expect an almost complete SNP walkover, and those who expect them to merely do extremely well, to take “only” thirty or forty seats. I think the logic of most people in that second group is simply down to the scale of the SNP landslide looking unrealistic – the belief that they can’t be doing that well. I am often the first to advise caution towards polls showing huge shifts, so it’s fair to be sceptical – with a landslide of this scale perhaps the polls could be overestimating the swing… but they are consistent across national and constituency polling, online and telephone, and if they are correct the SNP are headed for an overwhelming victory and Scottish Labour towards something close to wipeout.

The polling in the sole Tory seat in Scotland remains extremely close. In his last poll Ashcroft found a dead heat between the Conservatives and the SNP, this time he found an SNP lead of two points.

Turning to the Lib Dem held seats, last time round Ashcroft found only a five point SNP lead in Charlie Kennedy’s seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber, that has now grown to fifteen points. He has now additionally polled North East Fife (Menzies Campbell’s seat) where he found a 13% SNP lead and East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson’s seat) where he found an 11% SNP lead. Finally he polled Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk – here he found a 20 point boost for the SNP, which is enough to make it into a three way marginal but not to put the SNP ahead – the poll found the Conservatives ahead on 30%, SNP 29%, LDEM 28%.

Note that the East Dunbartonshire is one of the seat where the Lib Dems have recently released their own private polling (which may or may not be a co-incidence!). Their own polling showed figures of CON 13%, LAB 16%, LDEM 35%, SNP 32%. The SNP are 8 points lower than in Ashcroft’s poll, the Lib Dems 6 points higher. I wrote about the Lib Dem’s own polling at more length here. The primary differences are that the Lib Dems prompt using candidate name, which is fair enough, and ask about how favourably people see their local MP before they ask that voting intention question, a more questionable approach. We shall see which is the better guide. The Lib Dems have not released any of their private polling for the other three Lib Dem seats Lord Ashcroft released polls for today, from which one must draw one’s own conclusions.


ComRes have published a new poll of voting intentions in LD-Con seats in the South West for ITV. Full details are here. The topline figures are CON 44%, LAB 13%, LDEM 26%, UKIP 10%. Given these are all seats that the Liberal Democrats won in 2010 this is a huge turnaround – in 2010 the Lib Dems had an overall lead of 8.5% over the Tories in these seats, now they are 18 points behind, a whopping great swing of 13 points. If there was a uniform swing of this scale across these seats the Lib Dems would lose the lot.

Depressing for the Lib Dems, but wholly at odds with previous polling evidence in these seats. Lord Ashcroft has polled Lib Dem held seats pretty comprehensively, so we actually have constituency polls in 12 of the 14 seats included in this sample, and they paint a very different picture. Compared to the 13 point LD>Con swing in the ComRes poll Lord Ashcroft found an average LD>Con swing of about 4 points.

The difference between these two sets of polling is much larger than can explained by margin of error – they paint a genuinely contradictory picture. If ComRes are right the Lib Dems have collapsed in their heartland and face wipeout, if Ashcroft are right they are holding up against the tide and should retain around half those seats.

Explaining the difference is a little harder. It could, of course, simply be that public opinion has changed – some of Ashcroft’s polling was done late last year… but most of the Lib Dem collapse in support came early this Parliament, so this doesn’t ring true to me. Looking at the rest of the methodology both polls were conducted by telephone, the political weighting was much the same, the turnout weighting not vastly different.

My guess is the difference is actually a quite a subtle one – but obviously with a large impact! Both Ashcroft and ComRes asked a voting intention question that prompted people to think about their own constituency, candidates and MP to try and get at the personal and tactical voting that Lib Dem MPs are so reliant upon. However, looking at the tables it looks as though ComRes asked that as the only voting intention question, while Ashcroft asked it as a two stage question, asking people their national preference then their local voting intention. The results that ComRes got in their constituency question are actually extremely similar to the ones that Ashcroft got in his initial, national question.

This sounds weird, but it’s actually what I’d expect. When I first wrote the two stage voting intention question back in 2008 my thinking was that when people answer opinion polls they want to register their support for the party they really support, not a tactical vote or a vote for their local MP… and even if you ask the question slightly differently, that’s the answer you are going to get. If you really wanted to get people’s local voting intentions, you needed to first give them the opportunity to express their national support and then ask them their local support.

That though, is just the theory. As I’ve written before when writing about constituency polls of Lib Dem seats and marginal polls of Lib Dem battlegrounds, we don’t really have the evidence from past elections to judge what the most accurate methods are. Hopefully we’ll get enough different constituency and marginal polls over the next three weeks to give us the evidence to judge in the future.

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%


Lord Ashcroft has a new batch of constituency polls out, this time looking at ten Conservative held seats with majorities of around 9% to 12% – seats that would need a Con>Lab swing of around about 5% to fall to Labour. Full details are here.

National opinion polls are currently showing a swing of around 4 percent from Conservative to Labour, so on a pure uniform swing you’d expect these seats to stay Conservative. The average swing in these polls was 3.5%, so very much in line with that. In practice though there is variation between seats, so Ashcorft did find three seats in the sample where Labour were ahead – Crewe and Nantwich, Finchley and Golders Green and Milton Keynes South. This sort of variation is inevitable, and in terms of the overall impact on seats will be counteracted by seats that Labour should be winning on a uniform swing, but where Ashcroft has found the Conservatives ahead, such as Kingswood and Blackpool North.

It is difficult to analyse the variation between seats too much – in some cases they will be genuine, and we can come up with plausible reasons to explain them (are Labour getting a bigger swing in London, for example, or is Crewe and Nantwich seeing a gradual unwind from the by-election?), but remember each constituency poll is just one poll with the normal margin of error. The fact that a poll in one seat is showing a swing that’s three percent bigger than a poll in another seat may just be normal sample variation between polls, and nothing to do with the situation on the ground.