Sunday, May 28, 2017
Liberal Democrats 4%
The percentage changes that are being reported in some quarters are from the actual 2015 general election result and not from any previous SurveyMonkey poll. We don't know whether SurveyMonkey's methodology is SNP-friendly, Tory-friendly, Labour-friendly or essentially neutral, so it's impossible to say for sure whether 39% is 'bad' for the SNP or whether 29% is 'good' for the Tories. The Sun are attributing epic significance to the fact that the SNP are below 40%, but in reality 39% is within the standard margin of error of the 41-42% recorded by the SNP in the two YouGov polls in the campaign so far. A 10% gap between SNP and Tory is the lowest reported by any firm during the campaign, but not by much - Panelbase had the gap at 11%, and nobody (with the arguable exception of Google surveys) has had it higher than 15%. So we'd be jumping to enormous conclusions if we assume that this single poll is proof that the SNP's position has worsened over the course of the campaign - it's perfectly possible that SurveyMonkey's methodology would have produced similar results (at least in respect of the SNP-Tory battle) a month ago.
Nevertheless, there are a few possible causes for concern here -
* The poll reinforces the impression that there has been a Labour recovery, and opens up the possibility that the extra votes are coming more from the SNP than the Tories. If that is indeed what's happening, it's a tragedy twice over. Voters moving from SNP to Labour are just making it more likely that the Tories will win several seats in Scotland, and thus potentially boosting Theresa May's overall majority. In the vast majority of the Tories' target seats in Scotland, the SNP are the only party that can stop them.
* For what it's worth, SurveyMonkey's numbers are eerily similar to today's Scottish subsample from YouGov, which says : SNP 40%, Conservatives 30%, Labour 25%, Liberal Democrats 4%. As far as I know, YouGov are the only firm who claim to weight their Scottish subsamples properly (although admittedly the margin of error on such a small sample will still be enormous).
* There's a distinct lack of evidence in any of this that the Tory slump south of the border has been replicated in Scotland. Perhaps that evidence will never arrive - perhaps it simply didn't happen.
* If the SNP's lead over Labour has slipped to 15% or below, we have to accept that some seats may be lost to Labour (although it should be only a handful, unless the situation deteriorates).
My own interpretation is that the SNP are simply suffering from their traditional handicap in Westminster elections - this is an away fixture for them, and they are being largely ignored by the London broadcast media which unfortunately still enjoys such huge influence in Scotland. (2015 was a freakish exception because of the paranoia in London over the Jocks actually having some say within government.) However, the good news is that the SNP are still comfortably in first place, and if they can get their voters out (a vitally important 'if') the first-past-the-post system should convert that into a handsome victory. Even The Sun acknowledge that the SurveyMonkey poll would see the SNP winning more than two-thirds of seats in Scotland. And there are some advantages to this election being increasingly framed as a traditional Tory v Labour battle - it means that in some battleground seats, the SNP will be able to turn the tables on the unionists' favourite tactic by targeting Labour and Lib Dem supporters with the message : "only the SNP can stop the Tories here".
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Tyrannical Theresa finds it too close for comfort as average of tonight's five polls gives the Tories a lead of less than 10%
Labour 36% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-1)
UKIP 4 (n/c)
Labour 35% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
SNP 5% (n/c)
UKIP 5% (n/c)
Greens 2% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)
Labour 34% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-2)
UKIP 5% (n/c)
SNP 4% (n/c)
Greens 2% (-1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)
Labour 38% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)
UKIP 5% (-2)
* * *
GB-wide voting intentions (ICM) :
Conervatives 46% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-1)
UKIP 5% (+1)
SNP 4% (n/c)
Greens 2% (n/c)
In a strange way I think Labour will be most disappointed with the Opinium findings. Given that the previous YouGov poll was almost too good to be true, they would have been fully expecting some kind of reversion to the mean in the next poll from the same firm, and will take heart from the fact that their apparent gains have only been partly reversed. As far as the larger Tory leads with ComRes and ICM are concerned, that's not unexpected due to those firms' Tory-friendly methodology, which automatically gives greater weight to certain demographic groups due to the tendency to vote they've demonstrated in previous elections. Bearing in mind that Corbyn's whole electoral strategy depends upon mobilising people who haven't bothered to vote in the past, you'd think that a polling company's brief would be to test whether he's succeeding in that endeavour, rather than starting from the assumption that he's bound to fail and working backwards. In a sense all that the young and dispossessed have to do to prove ComRes and ICM wrong is to turn out to vote in sufficient numbers. The two firms would point out that the pattern of differential turnout has tended to be very stable from one election to the next, which is true - but then again, it's been several decades since one of the two largest parties has put forward such a radical left-of-centre manifesto, so there's an obvious reason for at least wondering if the pattern might be broken.
It's a testament to how far and how quickly expectations have been adjusted that Tory supporters are able to squint at five polls giving their party an average lead of less than 10%, and conclude that it's not so bad really. It's only been a matter of days since they went into blind panic because a single poll put their lead as low as 9%.
I'm not able to update the Scottish subsample average any further, because as far as I can see ICM, YouGov and ORB haven't published their datasets yet. We'll hopefully know more by the morning, but there's certainly no obvious sign of any slippage for the SNP in the headline results.
UPDATE : Just out of curiosity, I had a look at the raw numbers in the Opinium datasets, and it turns out that the Tories have been flattered by the effect of rounding - their true lead is closer to 9% than to 10%, meaning that Opinium's findings aren't so radically different from ORB's or YouGov's.
"And one fairly surprising finding: in this survey, 54% of Scottish voters say they would support independence..."
Now, of course, that result is merely taken from the Scottish subsample of a GB-wide poll, but it's an unusually large subsample. The GB sample was around 6000, so presumably around 500 were in Scotland - roughly the sort of figure required to make a poll credible. The snag is that the subsample probably wasn't correctly weighted, but it's an interesting straw in the wind all the same. It arguably reinforces the message from recent full-scale Scottish polls, which is that support for independence is either holding steady or perhaps creeping up a little.
* * *
A number of people have written to me in recent days, asking about 'constituency polling' that YouGov appear to be conducting in several Scottish seats. It's actually not at all what it seems - people responding to standard GB-wide polls are just automatically being asked a supplementary question about how they will vote in their own constituency. I'm not an obsessive follower of the articles on YouGov's website, so I'm not sure if there's been a public explanation yet, but I can think of a few possibilities -
1) It might be for internal testing purposes, ie. to see after the election is over whether the headline or constituency question was more accurate. (Famously, and to the surprise of many, the constituency question proved the less accurate of the two in Ashcroft's polling for the 2015 election, especially in Lib Dem-held seats.)
2) It might be to help reassign respondents who initially say they will vote UKIP or Green in constituencies where those parties aren't standing.
3) It might be an attempt to build up constituency samples over the course of several weeks that are large enough to make a stab at predicting the election seat-by-seat.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Fresh blow for Tyrannical Theresa as up-to-date SurveyMonkey poll shows another single-digit Tory lead
Liberal Democrats 6%
Someone working with the media asked for an update of the Scottish subsample average, so as I did the calculation anyway, I may as well share it here...
SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
SNP 45.0% (-1.6)
Conservatives 24.0% (-6.1)
Labour 22.2% (+7.3)
Liberal Democrats 7.4% (+3.1)
Before anyone gets too excited, this average is based on just five subsamples, and is heavily skewed by the Kantar/TNS results, which are wildly out of line with everything else. Without Kantar, the SNP would be lower and the Tories would be higher. Nevertheless, it does look very much like Labour have genuinely made a modest recovery - their vote share is pretty consistent across the subsamples. That opens up some intriguing possibilities - if, for example, the GB-wide swing from Tory to Labour has been replicated in Scotland without the SNP taking a significant hit, it might help the SNP in several constituencies (although obviously if Labour recover too much, the SNP might start losing seats in former Labour heartland areas).
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Labour 38% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+1)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 5% (n/c)
UKIP 4% (+1)
Greens 1% (-1)
To answer the question a lot of people are asking : yes, if there's a uniform swing between Tory and Labour, and if the Lib Dems and SNP are resilient in seats they're defending, this poll takes us firmly into hung parliament territory. The trouble is that the Brexit factor means there almost certainly isn't going to be anything even close to a uniform swing, meaning it's impossible to know for sure whether a 5% Tory lead would translate into a hung parliament or a small overall Tory majority. But at the very least it would put the Tory majority at severe risk.
Of course the million dollar question is whether the polls are even accurate. It would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that the polls must be underestimating the Tory lead by roughly as much as they did last time, because methodology has been changed since then in the hope of avoiding any repeat. Nevertheless, Matt Singh is gaining a lot of publicity for his prediction that the Tories will once again significantly out-perform the polls. I must say I was a little underwhelmed by his reasoning - he's certainly on solid ground in suggesting that leadership ratings are predictive of election results, but I fear he may be placing too much emphasis on the sharp difference between the outcomes of May local elections and June general elections in 1983 and 1987. It's possible there were 'era-specific' explanations for that phenomenon (such as the existence of the SDP-Liberal Alliance). There's no reason to automatically assume that because something has happened twice in the relatively distant past, it's bound to happen a third time.
And a comforting thought to finish with - if this poll is close to being right, it reflects the state of public opinion at a time when the election was already underway. A great many postal votes have already been cast.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
There are a few possible counter-arguments to that reading of the situation -
1) A tragedy like the one we've seen this week may bring about an increase in civic-mindedness, and thus boost the turnout. Although the surprise socialist victory in the Spanish election just after the 2004 Madrid bombings was attributed to Aznar's dishonesty in blaming Basque terrorists for the atrocity, it may have had just as much to do with the simple effect of a boost in turnout automatically favouring the parties of the left (ie. because the demographic groups most likely to vote for right-wing parties generally turn out anyway).
2) There may now be a modest UKIP recovery. I've been astonished and dismayed by the number of otherwise sensible people I've seen on Facebook over the last 36 hours calling for mass deportations. UKIP's campaign message may not go quite that far, but it's certainly the closest fit. If UKIP do win some lapsed voters back (and remember they're only standing in roughly half the constituencies this time), it's not clear which party would suffer the most, but it's possible it might be the Tories.
3) Power is somewhat more dispersed in the UK than it used to be, so the politicians in leadership roles who have been making high-profile statements on the Manchester bombing and its implications haven't been confined to the Conservative party. The new directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester is of course Andy Burnham, very well known to be a Labour politician. Nicola Sturgeon's statements have been well-publicised in Scotland, and presumably the same is true of Carwyn Jones' statements in Wales. The "clinging to the party of power in a moment of crisis" effect is therefore not quite as clear-cut as it might otherwise be.
4) The longer the campaign is suspended, the less time the Tories have to implement their planned "shock and awe" campaign to destroy the credibility of Jeremy Corbyn.
All of those factors should be taken seriously, but even in combination I don't think they outweigh the advantages that the Conservatives are now gaining. When the next Britain-wide polls are published, I expect to see an increase in the Tory lead.
Monday, May 22, 2017
The promised firecracker of a Welsh poll from YouGov certainly didn't disappoint - it shows a complete transformation in the fortunes of the parties, with Labour not merely regaining the lead, but opening up a commanding advantage.
Wales-only YouGov poll :
Labour 44% (+9)
Conservatives 34% (-7)
Plaid Cymru 9% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
UKIP 5% (+1)
Greens 1% (n/c)
The fieldwork dates were from Thursday (the day of the disastrous Tory manifesto launch) through to yesterday. Taken in conjunction with the GB-wide YouGov and Survation polls we saw at the weekend, plus a new GB-wide ICM poll released today showing the Tory lead dropping six points, I think we can safely say there is now ample evidence that the manifesto cost the Tories a shed-load of voters. What we don't know yet is whether the partial and vague U-turn today will be enough to reassure those voters and bring them back into the fold. (There's also a possibility that they'll be reassured on the specific policy but have new doubts about Theresa May's credibility as a leader.) I have absolutely no idea what the effect will be, so all bets are off until we see at least one poll that includes fieldwork from today onwards.
Incidentally, in spite of the ICM poll showing a hefty swing away from the Tories, it still puts them 14% ahead, which is a bigger lead than in the YouGov and Survation polls. But the difference might be partly explained by the fact that ICM appear to have too many Leave voters in their sample - 49% of respondents recalled voting Leave, and only 40% recalled voting Remain. The poll is correctly weighted to recalled voting from the 2015 general election, but I'd have thought EU referendum vote is just as important a predictor of how people might act now.
* * *
For some unknown reason, I'm on the Tory mailing list, and today I received an email from Theresa May informing me (as a presumed Tory supporter) that if she loses just six seats, Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister. That is absolute and complete rubbish - she's knowingly lying to her own supporters. It's true that Corbyn could theoretically become Prime Minister without Labour becoming the largest party, but at an absolute minimum he would need the combined forces of Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the SDLP to outnumber the Tories (and in reality it would probably take more than that, because I doubt if the Lib Dems would back him). That would require the Tories to lose significantly more than six seats.
* * *
LAST CALL TO REGISTER TO VOTE : Please check your broom cupboards and attics for anyone who may not have registered to vote - they now have only a few hours left to do so. It's really quick and easy to do it, but if they miss the deadline they'll be powerless to stop the Tories in June. The estimates for the number of people who still haven't registered are absolutely terrifying, and they are disproportionately people who would be likely to vote against a Tory government. If you find someone who needs to register, send them to this link, and they'll be sorted in a matter of minutes.
Tyrannical Theresa's wobbly weekend concludes with another sensational poll showing the Tory lead collapsing
*puts on Canadian accent*
It's another terrrrr-ible night for the Conservatives.
Survation telephone poll of GB-wide voting intentions :
Conservatives 43% (-5)
Labour 34% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (n/c)
UKIP 4% (n/c)
SNP 3% (-1)
Greens 2% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)
The SNP's 3% share is a little better than it looks - they were very close to being rounded up to 4% rather than rounded down to 3%. In the Scottish subsample, they have a decent-enough lead over the Tories of 41% to 26%. In terms of the gap, that's actually pretty similar to last week's subsample, which had the SNP ahead by 47% to 31%. Remember that Survation's subsamples are particularly tiny (only 65 respondents in this case after the turnout filter was applied), so we can expect huge variations from week to week which will often be completely random and meaningless.
So we now have three GB-wide polls conducted since the public had a chance to digest the controversial pledges in the Tory manifesto. The message from two of the three is absolutely unambiguous - there has been a telling swing from Tory to Labour which has brought the Tory lead down to its lowest level of the campaign. The fact that one of those two polls was conducted online and the other by telephone makes it seem even more likely that a genuine shift in opinion has been detected. The picture is admittedly complicated by the fact that the third poll (the online Survation poll) technically showed an increase in the Tory lead from 11 points to 12. However, the previous 11 point lead was several weeks ago, and even at the time stuck out like a sort thumb as a potential rogue poll. In truth, a 12 point lead is on the low side for this campaign, and is well within the margin of error of the 9 points leads. It's therefore perfectly consistent with the notion that the gap has probably narrowed significantly in recent days.
The big question is whether it will stay narrowed. What's happening at the moment reminds me very much of the period in the independence referendum when the No-friendly pollsters (TNS, YouGov and Ipsos-Mori) very suddenly showed the No lead dropping sharply. We reached a crossroads where one of two things was about to happen - either the momentum would prove irresistible and carry Yes to victory (or to a very narrow defeat), or people would for the first time consider the possibility that Yes might win, get very scared, and draw back from the brink. As we all know, it turned out to be the latter, helped along by an unprecedented 'shock and awe' campaign from the London-based broadcast media. I do wonder if the same thing might happen now. Even though the chances of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister in a hung parliament are still extremely modest, people may start taking them a little more seriously, which will make all the old scare stories somewhat more potent once again. If so, this weekend may actually help the Tories rather than harm them. Let's hope not.
We know we'll get at least one more poll tomorrow (Monday), and that'll be a Wales-only poll from YouGov. Professor Roger Scully has already revealed that it's going to show something pretty remarkable, and I don't think he's the sort to lead us up the garden path. As the previous two polls in the series have shown Conservative leads, I think to qualify as remarkable the new poll would have to show either a big swing back to Labour, or an absolutely enormous Tory lead. As the latter would be totally against the prevailing GB-wide trend, my strong guess is that we'll see more evidence of a Tory collapse, and Labour reclaiming their familiar position of dominance in Wales. But I may be completely wrong - time will tell.
LAST CALL TO REGISTER TO VOTE : Please check your broom cupboards and attics for anyone who may not have registered to vote - they now have less than 24 hours to do so. It's really quick and easy to do it, but if they miss the deadline they'll be powerless to stop the Tories in June. The estimates for the number of people who still haven't registered are absolutely terrifying, and they are disproportionately people who would be likely to vote against a Tory government. If you find someone who needs to register, send them to this link, and they'll be sorted in a matter of minutes.