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.)


ComRes have a new battleground poll out, results here, this time looking at 10 Conservative held UKIP target seats. The poll covered some seats that UKIP announced as targets last year but taking out some that no longer seem realistic, like Aylesbury, and adding some obvious ommissions like Castle Point. The overall shares of the vote with changes since 2010 were CON 39%(-7), LAB 28%(+2), UKIP 21%(+15), LDEM 5%(-10), GRN 4%(+4). UKIP have obviously advanced strongly since 2010, but remain in quite a distant third place.

It’s quite hard to know what to make of this poll. For a start, with UKIP coming from a very low base it’s quite hard to accurately predict what their best chances of a gain are – so some seats here like East Worthing and Shoreham probably aren’t in the top rank of UKIP targets. More importantly, with a poll of a group of marginal seats like this we can’t tell what the distribution of the vote is between these different seats. Most estimates are for UKIP to pick up only a couple of seats beyond their two by-election gains (which are not included in this sample), so from this poll we can’t tell whether UKIP have about 21% in all these seats (and hence wouldn’t win any of them), or are doing much better in the more promising seats like South Thanet and Thurrock and less well in the others, meaning they could win some.

I suppose all we can reasonably conclude is that UKIP don’t look like they are about to sweep the board across these seats, it’s impossible to tell from this poll whether or not they are in a stronger position in a minority of them.


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This morning’s Mail on Sunday had a new poll of South Thanet which they built up into a UKIP “covering up” an unfavourable poll showing them headed for defeat. ComRes have subsequently released the tables for the poll here, revealing it was actually commissioned by ChartwellPolitical, an agency founded by two former UKIP staffers.

First let’s cut away the Mail’s hyperbole – it’s really not a “LOSER POLL!” and doesn’t show Farage heading for a humiliating defeat. UKIP are one point behind the Conservatives, with Labour one point behind them – CON 31%, UKIP 30%, LAB 29%, LDEM 5%. Given the margin of error, one couldn’t confidently say which of the three parties are ahead. What it actually shows is an extremely tight race. However it’s significantly less positive for UKIP than the previous polling in Thanet South – a Survation poll back in February that showed UKIP ten points ahead, and it resulted in UKIP attempts to rubbish the poll and its methodology last night.

In terms of methodology, the poll is mostly done using the same methods ComRes use in their national telephone polls – same turnout weighting and filtering, same squeeze question, same treatment of don’t knows. There are two important differences between the way ComRes do their national and constituency polls though. First respondents were prompted with the individual candidate names, secondly the poll was NOT politically weighted (if it had been, it would probably have been better for the Tories to some degree, depending on how much false recall ComRes allowed for in setting targets).

Most of the criticism of the poll last night (including some from UKIP themselves) was frankly complete nonsense. I can only assume a lot of it was sourced from “what some bloke on Twitter reckoned”. To sum up, the difference isn’t because candidates weren’t named – they were. It isn’t because 2010 political or turnout weights were used – they weren’t. It wasn’t because people who are unlikely to vote were included – they weren’t. It wasn’t because ComRes reallocated people by 2010 vote – they don’t. The idea that the question wording mentioning “your local MP” favoured Laura Sandys seems somewhat stretched, given the question included candidate names and Laura Sandys wasn’t one of those candidates.

To look at the more substantive things people have asked though, the initial voting intention question in the poll found Nigel Farage ahead. What put him behind in the final figures was weighting by turnout and squeezing the don’t knows. Neither of these are strange and unusual, they are ComRes’s normal method and are perfectly justifiable.

Looking at turnout first, ComRes found that Labour and Conservative voters said they were more likely to vote than UKIP voters. In Survation’s poll in February they actually found just the same thing, and their approach to weighting by likelihood to vote is very similar to ComRes’s (there is a difference in how they treat people who are very unlikely to vote – Survation weight them down very heavily, ComRes exclude them. In practice this difference has minimal effect). The difference between the Survation poll showing a ten point UKIP lead and the ComRes one showing a one point Tory lead is NOT turnout weighting.

The other difference is don’t knows. In the Survation poll people who said they didn’t know how they would vote were ignored. In ComRes, they were asked a follow up “squeeze” question – how would they vote if they legally HAD to. For people who still didn’t give an answer, ComRes asked if they identified with any party, and took that as their most likely vote. In practice these squeeze questions helped Labour and the Conservatives, but didn’t squeeze out much in the way of extra UKIP support.

There is nothing at all methodologically “wrong” with this poll… but then, there wasn’t anything “wrong” with the Survation poll in February either. There are different methodological approaches, and there are good arguments to be made for and against them, but we don’t have the evidence to say which is right. More importantly, a lot of the difference here isn’t because of methodology… it’s just because ComRes found fewer Ukippers and more Labour and Conservative voters than Survation did. Perhaps that’s because UKIP have lost support since February. Perhaps that’s just normal sample variation. We can’t tell, we can only say that South Thanet may still be a tight race after all.


There have been several polls this week showing both the Conservatives and Labour up at 35%, and given it’s a zero sum game that suggests the other parties are getting squeezed. There is a general expectation of this sort of squeeze as the election approaches – the nature of First Past the Post is that votes for smaller parties don’t stand much chance of being translated into MPs unless they are geographically concentrated and as the election approaches the media coverage almost inevitably focuses ever more upon the main contenders (though more on that later).

The graph below shows the average poll scores for the Greens and UKIP across the nine regular pollsters (for those pollsters who do several polls a month, I’ve taken their average across the month).

greenandukip

UKIP have been on a slow but steady downwards trend since their support peaked after Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless’s defections. This last month the decline may have flattened out a bit, but that is largely due to MORI having an unusually low score for them last month that jumped back up this month – without that the line would show a smoother downwards trend. The Green party’s advance seems to have halted last month and started to fade a little this month.

Of course, just because they might be getting squeezed shouldn’t distract from the fact that UKIP and the Greens are still doing incredibly well compared to the last election. In 2010 UKIP got 3%, the Greens 1% – both parties could suffer a bit more squeezing and still end up quadrupling the vote they got last time. For UKIP, there is also good news on the horizon, next week the campaign broadcasting restrictions kick in, guaranteeing them coverage as a major party. For most of the last few months UKIP’s media coverage has largely consisted of the latest row or resignation for inappropriate comments. Next week the broadcasters will have to start giving them more neutral coverage alongside the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.

In other news, we had the monthly Survation poll for the Daily Mirror out today. Their topline figures were CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 18%, GRN 4% (tabs.


Monday’s polls

We have three GB polls today, from Populus, Ashcroft and YouGov.

  • The twice-weekly Populus poll has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5% (tabs).
  • The weekly Lord Ashcroft poll has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 31%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7% (tabs). Labour have dropped five points since Ashcroft’s previous poll, but this will be largely a reversion to the mean after they jumped up five points a week ago.
  • Finally the daily YouGov for the Sun has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%. The three point Tory lead is the largest that YouGov have shown since back in January 2012.

Two three point Tory leads on the same day. All the usual caveats apply – it is only two polls and Populus showed a two point Labour lead. It wouldn’t be the first time that two polls have popped out on the same day showing something unusual, only for it to turn out to be pure co-incidence when polls in the following days showing everything back to normal. Keep an eye on it though…