Posts Tagged ‘polling’

The price of credibility for the Left is accepting welfare and immigration are real concerns

18/10/2013, 03:34:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

One of the more depressing aspects of the Labour’s 2010 general election campaign was the party’s pledge to bring in an “Australian points-based system” to curb illegal immigration.

This was the party’s “line-to-take” on the doorstep – a subterfuge to be deployed when asked what Labour would do to as a fig-leaf for actually having a working immigration policy in the first place.

It was, of course, disingenuous tosh. Having presided over a decade of mass immigration, with net three million migrants coming to live here during the noughties, the real, unspun view of most people on the left is pretty clear: immigration simply doesn’t matter.

Worse, it’s a solely a hobby-horse of the angry and ignorant. It’s a view that was perfectly encapsulated in Gordon Brown’s unguarded dismissal of Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy as “that bigoted woman” when she posed an entirely reasonable question to him about the effects of high levels of migration during that same election campaign. One, if we remember, Labour didn’t win.

Others on the left believe people like Mrs. Duffy, and the million like her, are victims of black propaganda peddled by the Tory press. Strip away the right-wing “scaremongering” about immigration reveals there to be no problem whatsoever. Instantly, the first-person experiences of those at the sharp end of competing with newcomers for jobs and houses are rendered invalid. They’ve simply got it wrong. Unless they really are bigots, of course.

And yet the public doesn’t see it that way. Poll after poll tells us that the British public are concerned about the stresses mass immigration it can have on jobs, public services and community relations.

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With Labour’s lead narrowing, the next election is now too close to call

16/10/2013, 07:00:02 AM

by Rob Marchant

Setting aside for the moment the fact that the Westminster lobby seems to be yet to clock the political turmoil in store for Labour over the next six months as it approaches its special conference, there is another issue to which Labour must pay attention if it is serious about winning: its polling.

As we start to edge towards the home strait of the electoral cycle, new polling tells us some interesting things.

The conventional wisdom has become, owing to its consistent poll lead since early 2012, that “Labour is on course to win”. Meaning that, even if it means winning as part of a coalition, it would be hard for it to lose the election from here.

This is rather dangerous thinking, for two reasons.

The first is that it overlooks a statistical fallacy, in extrapolating a poll lead in a hypothetical election tomorrow directly out to an equal poll lead in eighteen months’ time. A lead now is patently not the same as a lead then.

If you ask someone the question “if there were an election tomorrow, who would you vote for”, this is not the same as calculating the expected value of their future answer in 2015, for the simple reason that there is not an election tomorrow, nor will there be, barring the “political lightning” of an unexpected no-confidence vote.

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Is Labour doing well enough?

29/05/2013, 03:52:42 PM

by Rob Marchant

Having had a couple of months which have not, frankly, been pretty for Labour, this is the question its leaders must surely be asking themselves in the wake of the local elections.

The question is, will they ask it of robust friends who might level with them? Or others who might well-meaningly equivocate, in the name of keeping them motivated?

First, it is easy to base our hopes of success on this or that transitory effect, but that seems rather like building one’s house on sand. There may be a UKIP effect come the election, but history has shown that such things are not usually that big. Yes, there may just have been a fundamental realignment, but things may just as easily go against Labour (Tory voters returning and narrowing the gap) as for Labour (remaining UKIP voters splitting the right-wing vote and letting Labour in). And, in any event, it is a fool who bases his strategy on the failure of others. Stop it. If there is a boost from UKIP, that’s a bonus.

Second, Labour’s poll lead is anyway soft and has been for some time, as Atul Hatwal has shown here at Uncut. Most exasperatingly, many seem to be still extrapolating that poll lead out to 2015 at the same level, when history has shown, time and again, that polls will narrow, as I wrote here, based on the fine time-series research of Leo Barasi. You cannot, and should not, judge polling on week-to-week changes, which are meaningless, but over long periods you can see trends and these are worth looking at.

Although many have compared its current situation with 1992 – when, of course, Labour lost – even that seems rather an optimistic reading; its current polling gap is also comparable with that of Labour’s in 1981, which is not exactly encouraging news, when you think how Labour was destroyed in 1983. By the way, Tory hegemony was by no means consolidated in 1981, many viewed Thatcher’s leadership as shaky and Labour maintained a respectable poll lead all through that year.

Third, the softness of the party’s positive polling in historical context becomes more deeply worrying when we look at our leadership polling in historical context. And no, before you start, this is not an agitation for a challenge to Miliband, which would be of no help whatsoever to Labour. But the worryingly low polling he is experiencing is not a help either and we should not pretend otherwise.

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Warnings from the prophet Ashcroft

12/03/2013, 07:00:36 AM

by David Talbot

Does the Labour party still have a polling department? The party may not have the funds to do private polling on anything like the scale they have done in previous years, but frankly it may not need to. If Labour’s nice new offices on Brewers Green do indeed still contain a polling unit, no one could criticise them for doing almost exactly what the entire political establishment do, and wait for Lord Ashcroft to upload his latest PDFs.

His latest study is an authoritative account of what the British political landscape. It contains the hearty news that a majority of 84 is seemingly within the party’s grasp. But, alas, the good Lord’s work does not contain all good news for Labour– he is a Conservative, after all.

Ashcroft’s continued estrangement from the Conservative party has ironically served his greatest foe. The Daily Mail ran the curious tale of the peer meeting with Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election co-ordinator from the 2010 campaign. Seemingly, both sides have conveniently forgotten they spent years openly trying to destroy each other – indeed; many defeated Labour MPs owe their redundancy in large part to his finance. And yet again, many newly elected Labour MPs in 2015 may well owe a debt of gratitude.

The polling shows Labour advancing deep into Conservative held territory, with the very un-Labour sounding seats of Dorset South, Somerset North East and Chatham & Aylesford all returning to the Labour fold. Furthermore, a paltry 24% of respondents identified themselves as approving of the government’s record to date, whilst the same again said a Conservative government was their preferred outcome at the next general election.

Labour’s predicament is not as bad as that of the Conservatives in 1997 – for one thing, the party holds 258 seats, 93 more than the Tories’ apocalyptic total. But it does not follow that Labour will bounce straight back. From Jim Murphy’s warning of the rise of “Lazy Labour” – or the Toynbee tendency, depending on your rhetorical flourish – the party’s future depends on accepting why it lost, learning the right lessons, and making the necessary changes. From the research, the evidence shows any signs of doing so are at best mixed.

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A polling question to which the answer is yes (or at least probably)

06/06/2012, 07:08:08 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Earlier today Anthony Wells posted a response at UK Polling Report to a post of mine, “Is Labour’s lead actually 3% not 10%?

Anthony makes a series of reasonable points defending the accuracy of YouGov’s 10 point Labour lead. He cites the high level of precision of YouGov’s final poll in the London election and the greater robustness of polls today compared to twenty years ago. Fair enough. But this misunderstands the purpose of my piece.

Polls measure how people feel at a point in time. There are adjustments and various psephological tricks to ensure respondents reveal their true preference, but the emphasis is on measuring how voters are actually feeling when the poll is conducted.

In mid-term, with an election some way off, many people might feel thoroughly hacked off with the government and be convinced they want rid of them. But when faced with the real choice, when it is days before polling and they engage with the arguments, a significant minority will change their minds.

By definition, this cannot be picked up by polling several weeks out from an election because voters haven’t switched yet.

The point of my piece was not to contest the accuracy of current polls, but to try measure this effect: to attempt to quantity the proportion of respondents who are relatively convinced Labour backers in mid-term but will then switch when the campaign ramps up and the polling booth beckons.

In fact, it is only because modern polling is so much more effective that we can be confident that a shortfall between mid-term polls and actual election results reflects voters who changed their mind rather than those who simply lied to the pollster in the first place.

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Is Labour’s poll lead actually 3% not 10%?

06/06/2012, 07:00:07 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So what is the real Labour lead? Sure, we’ve all seen the polls, and they tell a consistent tale across different pollsters. Looking at YouGov, the latest results from the weekend have Labour 10 points up over the Tories, 42% to 32%.

It’s a commanding lead but for those who remember the 1980s and 1990s, there remain nagging doubts.

At the end of 1980 Labour was registering week after week of double digit leads, peaking at 24% for Gallup in mid-December. But we all know what happened in the 1983 election.

Almost a decade later, it was déjà vu.

In 1990, Labour was once again posting massive poll leads. Between the end of February and end of April, Labour averaged a 22% lead across nearly 20 different polls. Impressive. Except, once again, we all know the result of the 1992 election.

The purpose of this trip down a rather painful stretch of memory lane isn’t to be a Cassandra. The future is not written and any form of poll lead is better than a deficit.

But caution is needed. Taking these leads at face value can breed complacency and for Labour, the experience of the past thirty years is clear: as the actual general election draws near, the poll leads have regularly evaporated.

Since those heady days of Dave and Nick in the rose garden, there has been a fundamental shift in how the public regards the government; and David Cameron in particular. The question is how would this translate in the polling booth? Would voters turn away from the Tories, and more pertinently, would they choose Labour?

The problem with attempting this judgement has been the absence of polling data that can be compared to an actual election, outside of the general election.

While there is a regular cycle of local council elections punctuated with by-elections, the pollsters rarely poll these specific areas, and even on those rare occasions when they do, only after the campaign is underway. So it’s almost impossible to compare like with like.

But regional elections offer a new opportunity. London has been polled by YouGov regularly since 2010 and recently voted.

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The trend beneath the Barnsley triumph is that Labour’s poll lead is soft

04/03/2011, 07:00:40 AM

by Atul Hatwal

What a result in Barnsley. To increase the numerical majority in an already safe seat as the turnout halves, this is the stuff of psephological fantasy. For the Libs to come sixth, losing their deposit, is the dark matter of disreputable dreams.

So, what does it tell us about the national picture? About voting intentions in the next general election? About how we’re doing?

To be honest, sadly, it tells us nothing.

By-elections are almost entirely beyond interpretation at the best of times. A by-election in a highly atypical constituency, caused by extraordinary circumstances, fought by asymmetrically effective candidates and teams is entirely so.

The polls, by contrast, are just starting to have tracked long enough since Miliband took over to show trends. The latest YouGov tracker poll posted a Labour lead of 5% and it was as high as 9% earlier in the week. On Wednesday, Anthony Wells, YouGov’s resident polling guru, assured us that Labour’s lead is “still going strong”.

So perhaps Barnsley really is a sign of things to come?

No.

Progress is being made, but nagging doubts remain about a Labour poll lead that feels very 1980s. Something doesn’t quite sit right.

Systematic polling evidence to back-up these doubts has been patchy. Underneath the headlines there have been individual questions that cast doubt on its solidity, but not enough to build a narrative that describes where voters really are.

This changed last month.

In the mass of polling conducted by YouGov for the Sunday Times and the Sun, some of those questions that are asked infrequently, but which shine a light on voters’ core motivations, were finally repeated. It means a consistent pattern of questions can now be tracked back over the past few months.

These questions fall into three areas: the impact of cuts on voters’ wallets; support for the Tories’ approach to the deficit now it is being implemented, and voters’ views on whom they prefer for PM.

The results are unequivocal and give some hard numbers to quantify that intuitive doubt.

The top line on the graph shows that for all the angst and outrage on cuts as covered in the media, at a time of global downturn, most people are pretty sanguine about their personal prospects. (more…)

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Polls apart – don’t believe the hype, Labour isn’t surging ahead

04/02/2011, 07:00:25 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour’s lead has “surged” to 8 points. So says Anthony Wells at YouGov after the latest Sun tracker had Labour on 44% and the Tories on 36%. Time for champagne?

Not quite.

As Wells points out, given the margin of error, it’s no more meaningful than the narrow 2 point lead posted earlier in the week.   Lurking in the detail of YouGov’s latest weekly poll for the Sunday Times were some interesting figures that give a bit of insight behind why an 8 point tracker lead doesn’t signal lift-off.

One of the standard questions asked in this survey over the past seven months has been “how do you think the financial situation of your household will change in the next twelve months”?

It’s an important question in gauging people’s perceptions of how the cuts will impact them personally. (more…)

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