Today the British Election Study published its face-to-face data for the 2017 election. The BES has two main elements: one is a large online panel element, using the same respondents in multiple waves so that they can track change at an individual level. The other part is a smaller face-to-face element, using a genuine random sample to try and get the best sample possible. The face-to-face element is also cross-referenced with the marked electoral register (that is, the copy of the register in polling stations where people’s names are crossed off as they vote) so that they can verify after the election whether people genuinely did or did not vote.

This means the face-to-face data is by far the best data we have on actual turnout levels and on turnout levels among different demographic groups. When discussing turnout I’m often asked about the official figures for turnout among men and women, young and old, and have to explain that these figures do not exist. While there are official figures of the numbers of votes cast in each constituency and the number of people on the electoral register (a different figure, note, to the number of people who are actually eligible to vote, where there is an absence of official data), there are no actual figures for turnout among demographic sub-groups of the population. We know how many people voted, but not details of their age, gender, class or other demographics.

Up until now there has been a widespread narrative that in 2018 Labour managed to engage young people who do not normally vote and substantially increase youth turnout at the general election (referred to by the rather irriating neologism “youthquake”). This was never based on particularly strong evidence. The narrative had begun to take hold during the campaign itself because of the difference between polls (a simple explanation of the polls during the 2017 campaign was that companies showing a large Tory lead were doing so because they weighting down younger respondents based on their past unlikelihood to vote and companies showing smaller Tory leads were basing turnout more on self-reporting and, therefore, often showing higher youth turnout). A common and not unreasonable assumption before the general election was, therefore, that if youth turnout did increase those polls showing a smaller Tory lead would be right, if youth turnout stayed low the Tories would win comfortably. Another common discussion during the campaign were the enthusiastic crowds of young people that were attracted to Jeremy Corbyn’s events. People sensibly cautioned that what mattered was whether those crowds actually suggested normally uninterested young people would vote, or just represented the more politically engaged young people.

By election day, there was a narrative that if all those enthusiastic young people actually came out to vote Labour would do well, and if it was just a mirage the Tories would win. Therefore when the Conservatives did do less well than most people expected the most easily available explanation to reach for was that young people had indeed been enthused to go out and vote Labour. In the immediate aftermath of the election an implausible claim that youth turnout was 72% was widely reported, without any apparent source. Shortly after that polling evidence from various companies emerged that did support a higher level of youth turnout. Given that the problem with polling accuracy in 2015 was that poll samples had too many of the sort of people who vote, particularly among young people, this evidence was rather dicey. It could have been that youth turnout had risen… or it could have been that polls still contained too many of the sort of young people who vote. The final bit of evidence was that seats that contained a larger proportion of young people did see their turnout rise more at the election… though as Chris Prosser and the rest of the BES team ably explain in their paper, this is not necessarily the strong evidence you might think: seats with more young people tend to be urban and more diverse, so it’s equally possible that urban areas in general saw a larger increase in turnout.

In fact the BES data released today – using a random sample and checked against the electoral register – does not find evidence of any increase in turnout among under 25s, thought does find some evidence of an increase in turnout among those between 25 and 44. The boost in youth turnout that people have been using to explain the 2017 election may not actually exist at all (or if it does, it was among relatively young voters, rather than the youngest voters). That’s not to say that young voters were not still important in explaining the election result – age was still an important divide on how people voted, young people did still heavily vote for Labour so it is still fair to say Labour managed to enthuse young people more, it’s just that the level of turnout among under 25s does not appear to have risen; Labour just took a greater share of support among younger voters.

This does raise some other questions about the polls at the 2017 election. Until now the most obvious explanation for why some polls got the figures very wrong and others got them right is that, by basing turnout patterns on what happened in 2015 some polls missed out on a genuine surge in youth turnout, therefore understating Labour support, and that polls showing higher youth turnout were closer to the actual result. However, if youth turnout didn’t actually rise then this explanation seems far less convincing. My own view is that the way turnout models were done was probably still a major factor in the error, but it may be more a case of how they were done rather than the principle (besides, there were some approaches, like the YouGov MRP model, that used demographics in their turnout modelling and did well). More on that issue another time.

In the meantime, there’s a summary of the BES findings on youth turnout here and their full paper is here.

ICM and Ipsos MORI both published their latest voting intention figures last week. Topline voting intentions were

Ipsos MORI/Standard – CON 39%(+2), LAB 42%(+3), LDEM 9%(nc)
ICM/Guardian – CON 41%, LAB 41%, LDEM 7%

Fieldwork for MORI was over last weekend, changes are from November. The ICM poll was part of a larger than usual sample of 5000, conducted between the 10th and 19th of January. I have not included changes since the previous ICM poll, as this one was actually partially conducted before ICM’s last poll. Full tabs are here for MORI, and here for ICM.

ICM also asked some questions about a second EU referendum. Asked how people would vote in a second referendum 45% said they would vote to Remain, 43% to Leave. These figures are broadly typical of most recent polls asking about a second referendum, which tend to show a very small lead for Remain. As in most other cases this is not really due to people changing their minds (the number of Leave voters switching to Remain is pretty much cancelled out by Remain voters switching to Leave), but down to people who did not vote in 2016 disproportionately claiming they would now vote Remain. The referendum question in this poll was not weighted or filtered by likelihood to vote.

ICM found 47% of people agreeing with a a statement that “I think the public should have the chance to take a final decision on whether or not to leave the EU in another referendum when the outcome of the negotiation is known?”. The Guardian have strangely written this up as a rise in Labour support for a second referendum, when ICM don’t appear to have ever asked this question before to compare it to. As all regular readers will know, how you ask a question can produce very different results and questions on a second referendum seem to show particular variation depending on how the question was asked (see an example here from Lord Ashcroft, asking the question in four different ways). In this case the question was asked as an agree/disagree structure (a question format that tends to produce a skew in favour of the statement), and characterised it in terms of “giving the public the chance to take a final decision”. My guess is that the higher support for a second referendum here may well be down to wording rather than a change in support, though as ever, we’ll only really know when we see repeats of questions that have been asked in the past.

Turning to other questions in the MORI poll, they asked a question on whether Donald Trump should be invited to Prince Harry’s wedding. Asked straight, 23% of people thought that he should, 69% that he should not. Half the sample saw an alternate question asking about inviting both Donald Trump *and* Barack Obama – this produced a slightly less negative response with 39% in favour, but still 54% against.


YouGov’s regular voting intention poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 41%(+1), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 7%(-2). Fieldwork was Tuesday to Wednesday and changs are from early January.

The regular tracking question on “Bregret” finds 45% of respondents saying Britain was right to vote for Brexit, 44% think it was wrong. This is the first time YouGov have found more people saying right than wrong since last August, though I would caution against reading much into that. On average this question has been showing about 2% more people thinking it was the wrong decision than the right decision, but normal sample variation from poll to poll (the “margin of error”) means that with figures that close random chance alone should produce the occassional poll with “right” ahead, even if public opinion is actually unchanged. As ever, don’t get too excited over one poll, and wait to see if it is reflected in other polls.

Full tabs are here.

There was a new YouGov Scottish poll in this morning’s Times. Topline voting intention figures with changes from their last poll in October are:

Westminster: CON 23%(nc), LAB 28%(-2), LD 6%(+1), SNP 36%(-4), GRN 3%(+2)
Holyrood Constituency: CON 26%(+1), LAB 23%(-2), LD 7%(+2), SNP 38%(-4), GRN 3%(+1)
Holyrood Regional: CON 25%(+2), LAB 22%(-2), LD 7%(+1), SNP 32%(-3), GRN 10%(+4)

Since October the October poll the SNP appear to be down a little (though as ever, it is just one poll). Two things of note: in Westminster Labour are in a clear second place, in Holyrood the Conservatives are second, perhaps the difference between voting for Theresa May and voting for Ruth Davison, or perhaps a reflection of the different political realities in the two places (in Holyrood one might vote for the Tories as an effective opposition to the SNP, whereas in Westminster it is a choice of Tory or Labour led government). Secondly, note the 10% score for the Greens in the Holyrood list, a level of support that would likely lead to a significant boost in seats.

The poll also had the regular independence questions (37% YES and 50% NO, with 36% support for holding a second indyref in the next five years), and the leader ratings. Interestingly there was a substantial drop in Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings on doing a good job – down from 53% on October to 40% now. I can’t think of an obvious reason for this – it may just be last October people were answering in relation to Corbyn’s strong performance at the general election and that is now registering less in responses.

Full tabs are here.

There is a new poll by Opinium in this morning’s Observer. Topline voting intention figures are CON 40%(+1), LAB 40%(-1), LDEM 6%(-1). Changes are since December, and fieldwork was on Thursday and Friday (so after the reshuffle, though reshuffles are not the type of event that typically has any impact on voting intention).

Full tables are here.