Posts Tagged ‘polls’

How long before the Tories overtake Labour in the polls?

28/10/2013, 07:00:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Conservative Home recently highlighted an analysis by YouGov that shows a shortening of Labour’s lead over the Conservatives.

In parallel, the economy has continued its improvement. It grew by 0.8% in the third quarter of this year, building upon 0.7% in the second quarter and 0.4% in the first quarter.

Are the two connected? Logic would suggest so.

The trend identified by YouGov reminded me of one that I have spotted myself in one of the trackers that they run.

Roughly once a week YouGov ask voters whether they think the British economy is doing good, bad or neither. Until 25 July, never more than 10% of the electorate answered good in 2013. Since then, never less than 10% have done.

I resolved to bring some econometrics to Uncut to look more deeply into this.

I put together two time series over 2013: one on the Conservatives lead over Labour, which was my dependent variable, and another on the proportion of the electorate who think the economy is doing well, which was my independent variable. When the dependent was regressed on the independent, the co-efficient on the independent variable was just under 0.6. The p-test indicated that the regression was accurate with more than 99% certainty.

This is telling us that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate that think the economy is doing well, there should be a 0.6% increase in the Conservatives lead over Labour.


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The reverberations from April 1992 still ring out

05/04/2013, 01:44:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Next week sees a grim anniversary for Labour people of my generation. Losing the general election on 9 April 1992 was a gut-wrenching experience and the memory is seared into our collective minds. A government long in the tooth and mired in a recession of its own making couldn’t win a general election, we confidently told ourselves. Only it did.

The argument about how Labour “snatched defeat from the jaws of history” in 1992 is well rehearsed. Neil Kinnock wasn’t trusted. The Sun and the right-wing press were unrelentingly hostile to Labour; and John Major was a newish face who was worthy of a second chance, voters felt.

But a loss is a loss and Major’s unexpected victory had as big a psychological effect on the Labour party as Ramsey McDonald’s ‘betrayal’ for establishing the National Government had on earlier generations.

It seems another age given the three election victories the party would go on to win, but there was serious talk Labour was completely finished after its record fourth defeat. As Tony Blair put it in his autobiography, ‘A Journey’: “The party had almost come to believe it couldn’t win, that for some divine or satanic reason, Labour wasn’t allowed an election victory no matter what it did.”

This defeat and the self-loathing which followed, paved for the way for New Labour’s decade of iconoclasm. Dumb before the shearer, the party more or less acquiesced as reform after reform to party structures and policy were pushed through. As the late Tony Banks succinctly put it, “my constituents will eat shit to get a Labour government.”

But 1992 represented a triumph for Conservative politics too. A party that held its nerve in the face of massive odds prevailed. Just two years previously the poll tax riots were in full swing and 18 months earlier they had dethroned Margaret Thatcher. However their instinct to fight to the bitter end was rewarded with victory. The Tories’ iron nerves triumphed yet again.

So is history going to repeat itself? Will the Tories’ 2015 campaign plan simply re-run 1992?


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The polling facts about Labour’s mid-term lead

09/01/2013, 12:02:49 PM

by Rob Marchant

Much has been made during 2012 of Labour’s solid poll lead, which has been of the order of 10% ever since the government’s disastrous Budget. For some it seems difficult to refrain from mentally converting this into a line on Peter Snow’s election night model of the House of Commons, showing a majority for Labour.

What this fails to account for, quite apart from the changed circumstances which may prevail in two years’ time (and which may be much more attractive for the Tories, as Peter Kellner cheekily points out here), is that incumbents tend to have a dip at mid-term anyway. Quantifying this effect would obviously help us to make more accurate forecasts, to the extent that this is possible.

Last week at Uncut, Atul Hatwal showed the numerical arguments against a win for any party which failed to establish a poll lead on the economy. In a complementary way, we can try and allow for this mid-term effect, to try and get a better idea of where things might end up, all other things being equal.

There are various ways of trying to gauge it*. A year ago, an excellent piece of analysis was carried out by Leo Barasi (and for which I am indebted to John Rentoul for pointing out) on post-war polls both eighteen months into a parliament and two years out from the next, which concluded, rightly, that Labour’s prospects were numerically better than many seemed to think.

Interestingly, this conclusion now looks a little less secure, not because Barasi’s model has changed or become less applicable, but because the polls have actually improved for Labour in the last year and therefore many commentators, who were very negative at the end of last year, have gravitated towards a much warmer view of Labour’s prospects.

To revisit the second part of that analysis – that of two years out from the next election – is now both timely and illustrative, which we do now in this graph:

It is interesting to look at the regression line but the data points, too, tell a story. It is also useful to apply a little political history to the figures.

First, the most striking thing to note is that over four-fifths of postwar oppositions have had a lead in the polls at this point, two years out from an election. Irrespective of whether they go on to win or lose. So having a lead in itself is hardly remarkable: in fact, allowing for outliers**, they almost all do. It is the size of the lead that counts. Conclusion: don’t get excited about being ahead in the polls at this point. It seems to be a necessary, not a sufficient condition. Not being ahead, now that would be something.


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It’s still the economy, stupid, which is why the two Eds should be worried about 2013

31/12/2012, 08:00:15 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Christmas break will have been a time for some self-congratulation in Labour leadership circles. A solid poll lead, a divided coalition and high hopes for the coming year.

Ed Miliband had a passage in his stump speech on the circuit of pre-Christmas Westminster receptions where he talked about the unprecedented position of strength Labour is in for a new opposition, with such a lead at this stage in the parliament. He is factually right, but then the competition for most effective new opposition is not terrific. In the past 33 years, there’s a choice of two: either William Hague’s Tories or Michael Foot’s Labour party.

And at this point in Mrs.Thatcher’s first term, two and a half years after the election, even Michael Foot managed an average lead over the Tories of 3% (averaging the four polls in November 1981 – h/t Mark Pack and his magnificent polling spreadsheet).

When considering unprecedented political phenomena, Ed Miliband, and indeed Ed Balls, might want think more carefully about where the party stands with voters on economic competence.

Decades of polling gives a very clear message: no opposition has won an election without a commanding lead on the economy.

In 1979, voters preferred Jim Callaghan to Margaret Thatcher as PM by 50% to 31%, but still elected the Tories who led on economic issues by an average margin of 10%. In 1997, Labour led by 10% on the economy at the election, while in 2010 the Tories led by 8%.

Currently. Labour is 11% behind on economic competence and no opposition has gone on to win the next election when trailing the government on the economy, after two and half years.

Typically, there just isn’t the time left in the parliament to overhaul the government lead and build a sufficient cushion prior to the inevitable narrowing of the polls as election day draws near. Based on the polling facts, a Labour victory in 2015, from this position, would truly be unprecedented.


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The Lib Dems are down, but they’re not out

24/09/2012, 07:00:48 AM

by Kevin Meagher

As the Lib Dems try to put their best foot forward during their annual conference next week they grapple with two pretty fixed opinions about them nowadays.

The first is, of course, that they are a dead duck electorally. An analysis of 28 opinion polls taken last month from the venerable UK Polling Report website shows an average level of support of just 9.5%. In comparison 10 opinion polls taken in August 2007 (again, two years into the 2005 parliament) shows a figure of 15.6%.

A biggish 6-point gap then, hence the commentary of the Lib Dems’ perpetual, irredeemable decline. But the same analysis of just ICM polls gives pause for thought. As Mike Smithson from UK Polling Report explains: “ICM…make an educated guess as to how the don’t knows would vote, assuming that 50% of them will vote for the party they voted for in 2010.

This normally gives the Liberal Democrats a significant boost.” Between June and August 2007 the Lib Dems averaged 18.3% in ICM’s polls. June to August this year shows them averaging 14.3%. Now take out the usual margin of error of plus/minus 3% and that leaves a potential 1% gap from where they were at the same stage in the last parliament. (more…)

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Wanted: a Labour government with a Tory PM

21/09/2012, 07:00:16 AM

by David Talbot

“Poll gives Labour lead of 15 points over Tories” thundered the front page of the Times. The only reliability about polls is that they are inherently unreliable. But here was tangible evidence, at the first glance, that the voters are seriously thinking about putting Ed Miliband in Downing Street – and with a thumping majority at that.

But dig a little deeper and the poll unearths some visibly disheartening results for the Labour leader. The Labour party might be a full fifteen points ahead of those dastardly Tories, but its leader remains a detriment to the ticket.

The poll, and subsequent polls at that, finds a clear and rising majority of the great British people who would prefer David Cameron in Downing Street over the Labour leader. When forced to choose between the two leaders, 31 per cent want Miliband to replace Cameron. However, a rather eye-watering 60 per cent want Cameron to stay in Downing Street and, particularly painfully for Miliband, the other 37 per cent say they are dissatisfied with the job the prime minister is doing, but still prefer him to Miliband.

Miliband’s personal ratings are dire. There truly is no way to skirt round this issue any longer.

The top five “qualities” listed for Ed Miliband were given as: “out of his depth”, then “weak”, “out of touch” and “indecisive”. The fifth most chosen attribute was “weird”. If those are his qualities, the list of his weaknesses must be frightful. It will be interesting to see how the much-fabled, and oft quoted, “party strategists” smooth out this manifest concerns.

The ironic conclusion is that, as John Rentoul pointed out from his eagle-eyed perch, the British public want a Labour government, but with a Conservative prime minister. It’s easy to see why. British politics has a sweet spot. It is found by combining fiscal conservatism with a tough stance on law and order and a programme of public service reform. It’s Labour compassion with Tory toughness.

Election after election, though with notable anomalies, the electorate seeks out the party that comes closest to a combination of Conservative stolidity and Labour compassion. In 1997 and 2001, Labour got it right. In 2010 neither party convinced the people they were in the right place, so the electorate conceived a coalition as if to remind the political classes just who is in charge.


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What will it take for voters to choose Labour over the Tories on the economy?

27/07/2012, 07:00:25 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s the question on which the next election will turn.

David Cameron and George Osborne have been at the helm for just over two years and in that time the economy has been shrinking for five out of eight quarters.

While other countries that were also in the eye of the financial storm, such as the USA, have recouped their lost output since 2008 and are growing, our economy is still 4.5% smaller than when the banks collapsed.

Even in the nightmare of the Eurozone, only Italy is in a double dip recession like Britain.

The situation could hardly be worse, but still, almost beyond logic and certainly beyond the comprehension of most of the Labour movement, the public believe Cameron and Osborne to be more economically competent than Ed Miliband and Ed Balls by a double digit margin.

July’s ICM poll had the Tory incumbents in an 11% lead over Labour’s challengers. This lead actually grew between June and July by 2% from 9% to 11%.

So what would it take for the two Ed’s to take the lead or at least wipe out the deficit?

ICM has regularly asked voters which of the competing political duos they would prefer to be running the economy in their monthly polls for the Guardian, over the past nine months.

Mapping the Cameron/Osborne lead over Miliband/Balls against the actual movements in growth over these three quarters gives us a sense of whether there is a link between growth and the public’s preference, and if so, how bad the economic situation would need to become for Labour to be preferred.

Based on the last three quarters, it is clear there is a correlation between growth and the Cameron/Osborne lead.

The minor easing in the rate of economic contraction at the start of 2012 was mirrored in a slight increase in the Tory lead while the steep acceleration in decline in the second quarter this year was reflected in a sharp fall in the Cameron/Osborne lead from 17.5% to 10%.

Electorally for Labour, that’s the good news. Cameron and Osborne are definitely paying a price for their economic incompetence.

But then comes the very bad news.


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The twelve rules of opposition: day 12

05/01/2012, 01:30:48 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Rule 12 Understand how a mirror works

And so as the twelve days of Christmas finally end, we come to the last rule of opposition. Unlike the others, this is not about the presentation of policy, improving the leader’s image, tactics against the government or party management.

It’s not about any of the conventional areas of political action.

Instead, it’s to do with honesty. Specifically the leader being honest about what they see when they look in the mirror.

A stroll down the high street of any British town after eight in the evening on a Saturday night reveals a strange phenomenon.

Most men and women out and about at this time don’t understand how a mirror works. (more…)

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The right posture can really help a squeezed middle

14/03/2011, 07:00:37 AM

by Michael Dugher

There were some interesting polls this weekend. The latest YouGov one on voting intentions for the Sunday Times put Labour on 44 per cent, the Tories on 33 per cent and the Lib Dems clinging onto double figures on just ten per cent.  In fairness to the Lib Dems, the survey of voting intentions was conducted prior to their spring conference held in Sheffield this weekend.  They may receive a post-conference boost – and pigs might fly. ComRes also had a poll on voting intentions for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror. That put Labour’s lead at three points, not eleven. But at this stage of the electoral cycle, polls on voting intentions don’t really count for much. It’s a bit like deciding who is going to win the premier league by looking at the table after the first six matches have been played.

Far more interesting was the ComRes data about attitudes to the economy, which suggests that public opinion is going against the Tory-led coalition. Only 23 per cent agree that George Osborne is “on my side” in dealing with the country’s economic problems. By contrast, nearly half of our respondents think that, when Ed Miliband talks about the “squeezed middle”, he is talking about “people like me and my family”.

As the Independent on Sunday’s John Rentoul wrote at the weekend: “the Labour leader seems to have struck a chord with his warning of a ‘cost of living’ crisis”.  But Rentoul is no fan of Ed Miliband and he likes Ed Balls even less. In fact, he may just have a problem with people called Ed. When Ed Balls wrote an article in the Sun, siding with hard-pressed motorists and arguing against the VAT rise – something Balls has done more consistently perhaps than almost anyone else – Rentoul denounced the move on Twitter as “opportunism”.  If Tony Blair had written a similar piece for the Sun, Rentoul would undoubtedly have said how “in touch” the former prime minister was. (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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