YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph is now out. The topline figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, are CON 39%(-2), LAB 29%(+2), LDEM 19%(+1).
A two point change in Conservative and Labour support is, of course, within the margin of error, but it fits into a wider pattern. While I think the change in MORI’s poll at the weekend was mostly down to a more Labour sample, there were signs of genuine movement to Labour as well. We also saw a shift towards Labour in ICM’s poll taken at the same time.
On a uniform swing this would leave the Conservatives just short of an overall majority, and being a far more plausible figures than the extreme swing in MORI’s poll, I’d expect this to further fuel the media speculation about a hung Parliament. While this is a much less comfortable position for the Conservatives, in reality I expect that a 10 point lead would still deliver the Conservatives a reasonable majority.
Polling results are projected into election results using a uniform national swing, but it’s quite possible that the Conservatives could out perform UNS. It seems implausible for the Conservatives to be doing well in the inner-city North and we know for sure from polling there that they are doing much worse in Scotland. These places have few Conservative targets so it matters little, but if they do worse in one place, they must be doing better elsewhere to arrive at the topline figures and we have polling evidence to suggest they are doing better in Con vs Lab marginals.
On the subject of which, YouGov also carried out a parallel poll of Lab-Con marginals in the north (as far as I can tell, this was the 32 Labour seats in the North-West, North-East and Yorkshire and Humberside that the Conservatives would need to win to get a majority of 1 on a uniform swing). YouGov found voting intention in those seats to be CON 42%(+8), LAB 36%(-8), LDEM 12%(-5). Changes are from the 2005 notional election results, and suggest a swing of 8 percent. This compares to a national swing of 6.5% in today’s nationwide YouGov poll – if marginals elsewhere behave like those in the North, this would deliver a healthy Conservative majority.
YouGov also asked a question intended to see how tactical voting would impact this, and here I am less confident. YouGov told respondents their seat was the type of Conservative/Labour marginal that would decide the election and asked again how they would vote. Not surprisingly, the effect was to further increase the Conservative lead to 43% to 35%, the equivalent of a 9% swing, and if echoed in other marginals enough for a large Conservative victory.
My worry over that approach is that a fair chunk of people don’t know whether or not their seat is a marginal. In the 2008 PoliticsHome marginal poll 20% of people didn’t know which parties were in a position to win their seat. Only 34% of people in Con v Lab marginals correctly identified their seat as such, 45% of people in Con vs LD seats did, 29% of people in Lab vs LD seats. A fair chunk of Lib Dem campaigning especially consists of positioning themselves as the party best placed to defeat the incumbent, so saying in the question itself that the Conservatives are best placed to beat Labour risks overestimating the level of anti-Labour tactical voting. The 2009 PoliticsHome poll of marginals showed no obvious sign of tactical voting harming Labour in Lab v Con seats.
Anyway, that’s something of an aside. Even leaving out the tactical voting question, the main findings of the poll are that the overall share of the vote doesn’t appear to be enough to guarantee the Conservatives a majority, but in at least one group of marginals, they are outdoing the national swing by enough to get a majority.