Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are we even closer to the UKIP nightmare scenario than we realise?

If you thought that the days were over when the chances of predicting our political future hinged on judging the merits of different polling methodologies, think again.  Just look at the huge difference between the results of two simultaneous Britain-wide ComRes polls which have just been released - the first of which "prompts" for UKIP (ie. it reminds respondents of the party's existence in exactly the same way that it reminds them of the existence of the other 'main' parties), and the second of which does not.

Britain-wide voting intentions for the May 2015 general election (UKIP prompted for) :

Labour 31%
Conservatives 29%
UKIP 24%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 5%
SNP 4%
Others 1%

Britain-wide voting intentions for the May 2015 general election (UKIP not prompted for) :

Labour 34%
Conservatives 31%
UKIP 19%
Liberal Democrats 7%
SNP 4%
Greens 4%
Others 1%

Incredibly, the bizarre methodology used for the second poll is the "norm" for ComRes, as indeed it is for many other pollsters, and this calls into question whether even the unprecedented numbers UKIP have been enjoying recently may be a significant underestimate of their true support.  If they really are in the mid-20s and just seven points behind the first-placed party as the "fairer" poll above suggests, then we are well and truly into an "all bets are off" scenario, because there are still plenty of opportunities for Farage to build further momentum before the general election - most obviously there's the Rochester and Strood by-election next month, but there's also the lingering possibility of further defections from both the Tories and Labour.

Earlier this evening, I had a brief Twitter exchange on the "prompting" issue with Keiran Pedley of NOP, which used to be a big name in UK voting intention polling, although they haven't been active in recent times.

Keiran Pedley : @Nigel_Farage thinks UKIP should be prompted but where is the evidence that prompting UKIP gives a more accurate poll rating?

Me : To be fair, there seems very little chance that it would give a less accurate rating.

Keiran Pedley : we don't know yet - thats the reality

Me : Is there any reason why it wouldn't be a sensible precaution to prompt for UKIP?

Keiran Pedley : historically only prompt on 'main' parties, thing to remember is pollsters job not to be 'fair' but to be 'right'

Keiran Pedley : but given uniqueness of situation - v difficult to judge whats right approach re UKIP. Big challenge for pollsters

Me : But if you prompt for the fourth most popular party but not the third...surely that's bonkers?

Keiran Pedley : probably - get where you are coming from but then what if pollsters overstate UKIP as did LDs in 2010...its tricky

Keiran Pedley : thing about polling is it is literally both art and science

The comment about the "uniqueness of the situation" will perhaps remind you of the problem we faced before the independence referendum - in spite of the complacent boasts that certain pollsters (naming no names, but Peter Kellner) were making about the accuracy of their results, we knew that they were all fumbling around in the dark to some extent because they didn't have any previous independence referendum to "work backwards from" to ensure that their methodology worked in practice as well as in theory, ie. the "art not science" part of the process. Hence the gulf between the Yes-friendly and the No-friendly pollsters, and we're now seeing a similar gulf between polls that prompt for UKIP and polls that don't.

On reflection, I would concede the point that it is theoretically perfectly possible that the surveys which do not prompt for UKIP will turn out to be the most accurate, but if polling firms are depending for their accuracy on seemingly random decisions about which parties they remind respondents about the existence of, then I'm not sure that merits the billing of either "art" or "science". It's more like the method by which a broken clock occasionally manages to be more accurate than a clock that is consistently two minutes slow.

The reality is that when voters are faced with a ballot paper next May, they will be "prompted" for all parties, so pollsters should surely be doing their level best to replicate the voting experience as closely as possible. Perhaps the objection would be that voters are "frivolously" telling pollsters that they will vote UKIP, even though they will not actually do so when the government is being chosen. But there is simply no realistic way of controlling for that possibility, and pollsters shouldn't even try. Discouraging people from remembering that UKIP even exists seems like a particularly insane way of trying to control for it.


  1. Many predicted this UKIP rise. I personally believed they would (and still will) get squeezed in a FPTP system, but they certainly are polling well. They've if anything, played a blinder in keeping the media on them!
    The Carswell defection followed by his re-election this time as a UKIP MP, followed by Mark Reckless defecting at their conference - and looking odds on to win the Stroud By Election next month.

    Again, it keeps their bandwagon rolling on! Their main achievement isn't Reckless or Carswell getting into WM, but that they were only 600 votes from winning in the other election in a Labour ''heartland''.

    That's enough about them, encouraging to see the SNP continue their lead in Scotland albeit on a small sample

    SNP 39%
    Labour 26%
    Tories 14%
    UKIP 4%
    Libs 3%
    Greens 2%


    For table numbers, etc.

  3. Obviously all parties are equally 'prompted' on the ballot paper, but doesn't the practice of only prompting main parties serve to replicate the state of media coverage in the run-up to an election: when main parties get the lion's share, which, as you have noted, depresses the results of others?

  4. As picked up by Oldnat on UKPR:

    Comres party ID (not vote):

    “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as…?”
    SNP 37%
    Lab 25%
    Con 12%
    LD 4%
    UKIP 2%
    Grn 1%
    Other 2%

    Averages from the two approaches for 'all respondents'.

    Very interesting. He's right; this is new and potentially very important if it's the case. Labour no longer the dominant party ID in Scotland - wow.

  5. Labour down a tad more than the Tories when UKIP are included in the prompt.

  6. Would I be correct in saying then, that UKIPs unprompted numbers reflect their hardcore support? And promoted reflects their attainable support?

    If so, then its pretty worrying. Also worth noting that they will take support off labour and tories in scotland,should the bbc coverage continue to favour them

  7. Also worth noting that they will take support off labour and tories in scotland,should the bbc coverage continue to favour them

    Crying shame that eh.

  8. If the SNP are on 4% in a UK poll, and Scotland makes up around 8% of the UK, does that mean that the SNP are on 50% for Scotland?

  9. Juteman : No, it's 43% in one poll and 42% in the other.

  10. Surely any ukip candidate in Scotland will simply take most votes away from the Tory candidate.
    I read that ukip will definitely field a candidate in Dumfries and Galloway.

  11. "Also worth noting that they will take support off labour and tories in scotland,should the bbc coverage continue to favour them

    Crying shame that eh. "

    Indeed. :-)

    It is most assuredly a unionist media and unionist party nightmare entirely of their own making. Watching tory scum sneering at the disabled while battling it out with a bunch of racist kippers is somewhat unlikely to reassure the scottish public just how "Better Together" we are. Nor are little Ed's pitiful attempts going down particularly well as he struggles with a 'popularity' ratings approaching calamity Clegg levels.

  12. Anon, like in the north of england?LOL

    Nice try, that you jim?

  13. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale activist here. We are PRAYING for UKIP to field a candidate and have a crack at this seat. It's probably the one thing that could dent Mundell's majority enough to make him vulnerable to whatever Yes surge we can scare up.

  14. BTW James I've found the closest thing to a 'defence' that the unionist BBC has mustered for their ludicrously unfair westminster bubble debate proposals.

    Here it is on iPlayer catch up. (so those who are no longer paying the unfair BBC TV Tax need have no worries about viewing it.) :-)

    Needless to say the excuses are laughably spurious and feeble but it is still informative in that we at least see how desperate the unionist BBC have become in their attempts to justify the unjustifiable.

    It is also useful in that we now know that the unionist BBC are acting on the say so of the infamous westminster bubble BBC chief political adviser Ric Bailey.

    It would appear that any and all points of discussion and complaints about the risible westminster bubble media stitch-up at least now have a focus and a name in Ric Bailey. It would certainly seem to be he who is primarily responsible for the debate proposals on the part of the BBC.

    So I hope Ric Bailey becomes far, FAR surer of the ground he is on because I fear he may well become a rather large part of the story himself should the BBC continue on their idiotic path.

    There is no way on earth these debates go ahead as they are without a massive backlash and equally large activist action against them in scotland. They will in fact become a rallying cry and campaigning tool as we WILL hold them up and use them again and again as absolute proof of just how biased and out of touch the westminster bubble media and parties are with ordinary scottish voters.

  15. it does get even worse - much worse...

    I made the mistake of signing a UKIP petition to boost the vote for Evel and Nigel Farage sent me this:
    Help UKIP Get To Number One!

    Our celebrity member Mike Read, the former Radio 1 DJ, has written a brand new single especially for UKIP and we need your help to get it to the top of the pop charts.

    First performed to great acclaim at our Party Conference in Doncaster, UKIP Calypso by The Independents needs to sell just 22,000 downloads to make it into the Top 30, or 28,000 to get into the Top 10.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could get this song into the charts and played on radio stations around Britain?

    With more than 40,000 members and thousands more supporters we’re sure we can do this! It costs just 79p to download, 20p of which will go to UKIP.

    Mike Read - Calypso - FFS!

  16. In both polls, the combined % of UKIP and Tory voter intent is 50% to 53%. A moot, loosely formed deduction is as follows: If the Tories win the May 2015 General Election outright (slim chance), or form a Coalition with any new UKIP MPs, and, going by these polls, there will be a good few UKIP MPs, even with FPTP, either way, an EU Referendum will follow. Based on these percentages, of 50-53%, the UK will definitely vote to leave the EU. Scotland will, undoubtedly, (using your recent Scotland only polls), vote to stay in the EU. Everything the YES parties warned against, (being everything SLAB poo-poo-ed), is coming true, in all its nightmare hues for Scotland. Another Independence Referendum could then be on the cards, as Scots protest having their EU citizenship taken away from them undemocratically. Further food for thought; under such circumstances, the EU would certainly act more favourably to Scotland, than it did (or, more accurately, as the the UK MSM filtered it to be), during the First Scots Independence Referendum.

  17. I wouldn't be so sure that Scotland would vote to remain in the EU.

    This TTIP thing is a bit of a fkn nightmare.

  18. Given a great many of the arguments put forward during the independence campaign (remote government, not elected by the people, overly centralised, uncaring of normal issues, corrupt and self-aggrandising, smaller is better, keep your govt close to home etc etc etc) would seem to count many times over in the case of Brussels, I would assume that many SNP supporters are in favour of leaving.

    It seems pretty inconsistent to be pro-Union and anti-Europe (UKIP), or vice versa.

  19. @bystander I think moderation is key here, extremes of integration or separation, whether applied to UK or EU, are not in anyones best interests. Its a 3-way tug of war and if you dont like way the ropes moving, youd better be pulling the other way. As far as im concerned we are seeing over-centralisation on both fronts. But adding my weight to Snp and Ukip doesnt mean i agree with everything they stand for, far from it. Its about power, not policies.

  20. Polls show Scotland is slightly more pro-EU than the UK average, though not massively.

    The only way I could see the overall outcomes in the UK and Scotland being different is if the final vote is knife-edge.

    Even if Scotland does vote to stay in while the UK votes to stay out, appetite for another referendum only 3 years after the first one, over an issue that doesn't matter much for ordinary people, won't be very high, I imagine.

  21. Anon, but you are forgetting that one of the main issues surrounding a no vote was the EU issue and the ramifications of Scotland not being in it.

    When taken into context with the rUK DEFINITELY not being in, then you'd find Scotland in an extremely strong position with regard to being a trade hub or 'middle-man' with the non eu member rUK.

    Not to mention I doubt the banks would be so vociferous in their threats if the alternative was jumping out of the eu.

    There is also the other issue of course, could we have a currency union with the rUK if we were in the EU and they were out?

  22. Other scenario is rUK narrowly votes to leave but Scottish votes keep UK in EU....

    Follow-on from that would be fun to watch....

    Bystander - your position is oft stated, but is in fact complete mince.

    With respect to the Union Westminster is 100% sovereign and directly controls 93% of Scotland's revenue.

    With respect to the EU the UK can leave at any time (ie Westminster is 100% sovereign) and UK contributes only around 2% of its budget to the EU (less Net).

    Its like the difference being your company being 100% taken over by a large corporation (you lose all control of decision making and finances) or making a decision to join a Trade Associated (you make a small contribution and agree to abide by the rules while you are a member).

  23. All of my best mates live in Havant and Cosham down in the Portsmouth area. I'll tell you UKIP are going to take those seats as well - there was a massive Lib Dem vote down there which will surge to UKIP.

    If you think run-down seaside towns are bad for faded senses of lost British glory (usually centred around an all white population) and being full of older, prejudiced white flight, Portsmouth may not be a former resort but by god it ticks all the boxes.

    Take a look at the election results from 2010 and compare it to the polls, I'm telling you - you'll see potential UKIP gains there, mark my words. Everyone I know, even my mates (I'm sorry to say) are voting UKIP.