Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Why the Tory lead might be even larger than the polling implies

Friday, April 28th, 2017


The Labour and Lib Dem vote is substantially softer than the Tory vote

In this month’s Ipsos MORI poll it found that the Labour and Lib Dem vote is softer than the Tory party vote, this came as a surprise to me. 

One of the reasons I’ve had doubts that the Tory lead is quite as huge as the polling implies is that some of the switchers to the Tories might bottle it on voting day, but look at that chart above, 78% of Tory voters have definitely decided to vote Tory, compared to just 56% of Labour voters and just 40% of Lib Dem voters.

So this makes me think if you’re betting on the spreads, or evaluating your position(s) Labour and the Lib Dems should be sells, and if you bought the Tories at say 378 and  they are currently 392 on Spreadex, you might want to cash out, but as ever, do your own risk, with spread betting the losses can be very large.

The question is can Labour and the Lib Dems find an electoral Viagra that will harden their support or will the Tory vote flop for some of the reasons I listed last week?



With six weeks to go today’s Commons seats spreads

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

CON 384-390
LAB 158-164
LD 25-28
UKIP 0.25-1.25
SNP 46-49

Sporting Index
CON 384-390
LAB 162-168
LD 26-29
UKIP 0.25-1.25
SNP 47-50

As regular PBers will know my favourite form of election betting is that featured above – the Commons seats spreads where you buy and sell seats like shares.

Two levels are quoted. The higher one is the buy price and the one is the sell one. This is a form of betting where the more you are right/wrong the more you will win/lose.

Alastair Meeks in his weekend piece set out his spread bets including a sell of LD seats.

Not all firms offer the same prices and it is noticeable above that if you want to bet on LAB than SpreadEx is the want to go for if and if you want to sell LAB seats then Sporting Index has the higher price.

This form of betting is high risk high reward and is only really for those ready to take such a gamble and feel able to do so. Thus if you sold labour at the current 162 sea level at, say, £10 a seat and they ended up with 140 then you would make 162 (the sell level) minus 140 (what happened) multiplied by your stake level.

The same works the other way round if you get it wrong.

At the moment I’m not betting. Next Thursday’s locals will give us some good pointers and we have to factor in what happens in the CON GE2015 expenses probe where the CPS will have to decide before polling day.

Mike Smithson


We have cross-over in YouGov’s BREXIT tracker: More now think it was wrong than right

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

How important will Brexit be on June 8th?

The latest YouGov BREXIT tracker was published in the Times over-night and shows a move to people now saying that the referendum decision was wrong rather than right.

This is a regular polling question that has been asked by YouGov in exactly the same manner since Theresa May became prime minister.

Then, as the chart above shows, 4% more people thought Brexit was right than wrong. Now the “wrong” segment in leading by 2%. This is from the Times report:

“.. This is the first time that more people have said the referendum came out with the wrong result, and suggests that the issue still divides the country.

Some 85 per cent of people who voted to leave still thought it was the right decision, while 89 per cent of people who voted to remain thought the result was the wrong decision… “

Each change is within the statistical margin of error although there is a trend when you look at the longer term.

My view is that views of BREXIT is more important in constituencies that voted remain than those that went for leave. Thus LAB was able to hang on in the Stoke central by-election but in Richmond Park the Liberal Democrats were able to overturn Zac’s 23,000 General Election majority even though UKIP stood aside and gave him a free run.

Extraordinarily, relating to the latter, in another development overnight Mr Goldsmith has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park. This raises all sorts of questions about his original decision to “quit” the Conservatives at the end of last year to fight the by-election because of Heathrow expansion.

But the general election on June 8th is more than just about BREXIT but choosing what people perceive to be a competent government and here I think that Theresa May and the Tories continue to have a very strong edge.

A lot of things can still happen in this election. Six weeks is an awful long time in politics.

Mike Smithson


PB/Polling Matters podcast: Is a Tory landslide inevitable? And Vive le pollsters!

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017


On this week’s podcast Keiran returns and is joined by Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia.

Keiran and Chris celebrate the excellent performance of French pollsters last weekend and discuss the implications of Macron and Le Pen making the second round. Is a Macron victory now inevitable? What happens next and would a British version of ‘En Marche’ be successful? Keiran and Chris also discuss the seeming inevitability of a Conservative landslide in June and what might happen to the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

To finish the show, Keiran unveils some new Polling Matters / Opinium polling that asks how engaged the public are in the campaign, what issues matter most to them and who is best placed to deal with them.

Listen here

Follow this week’s guests




We’ve moved sharply on from when class was the best pointer to voting intention

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Now age, education and gender give a better guide

This afternoon YouGov has published a series of charts to give us an idea about the electorate who will vote on June 8th.

This will be the first election since analysis became possible when class was far less important. Age education and to an extent gender now the key measures as the charts demonstrate.

Labour’s problem is that under Mr. Corbyn the working classes have ceased to support the party that was set up to represent the interests of the workers.

Mrs May might be considering ending the triple lock that underpins the level of state pensions which you would think would be a negative amongst the old.

Mike Smithson


The first phone poll of the campaign has UKIP down to 4% and the Tories at 49%

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Another indicator of a CON landslide

This morning, in the London Evening Standard, we have the first telephone poll of the general election campaign. The figures are very much in line with the other polls that we’ve seen in the last week.

The striking number in this latest is the UKIP share down to just 4% which I think the lowest share that the party has had in years.

Clearly the main feature of this campaign has been Labour’s inability to break out of the mid-20s and the huge move from the collapsing UKIP to CON

Ipsos Mori is the longest established political pollster in the country and has been surveying political opinions since the mid 1970s. The pollster does it differently. It, unlike just about all the others, does not weight by past vote or political ID. The figures we see have no political weighting.

That the firm is painting a similar to picture of the campaign to other pollsters is significant and supports what the other pollsters using different approaches have been reporting.

The declining LAB share has led to a greater proportion of the remaining party support base to be satisfied with Mr. Corbyn’s leadership – 53% said they were with 36% saying they weren’t.

Things can happen of course but it is very difficult to envisage a June 8th result which is not a Tory landslide.

Mike Smithson


Why we are all going to be able to get to bed earlier this election night

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

No simultaneous elections on June 8th means speedier counts

One of the features of the June 8th General Election it is that no other elections are being held on the same day. This is in sharp comparison to all the general elections since 1992 when John Major went to the country in April four weeks before that year’s locals.

This is important because it should have a big impact on the time it takes for the counts to proceed. If you have more than one election in a constituency then all the votes for those as well as the general election votes have to be verified before counting can start. This adds a considerable time to the process.

The table above, prepared by the former head of political research at the BBC David Cowling, sets out how many declarations there were in the different time slots. The contrast with 1992 is very striking and that year is the model that we should be looking at.

Thus by 1am in 1992 there had been 156 declarations compared with just 5 at GE2015.

Tony Blair, when he was in a position to choose the date, always liked to have other elections taking place on the same day because of his hope that this would ensure that more LAB voters would turnout.

Mrs Thatcher, meanwhile, is said to have preferred June because she liked the assurance of seeing the local election results before making the final decision to commit to a specific date. So the 1983 and 1987 elections both took place on June.

I think it is possible to load too many elections onto voters on the same day. On General Election day in 2015 Bedford where I live there were five separate votes taking place creating much confusion at polling stations. Every voter had to be issued with five ballot forms which each had to be individually processed. This inevitably led to longer queues and a prolonged count.

Mike Smithson



Riding the surge. Betting on a Conservative landslide

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

If the polls are to be believed, the Conservatives are in for a spectacular night on 8 June.  ICM, YouGov and ComRes are all reporting national leads of more than 20% for the Conservatives – YouGov and ICM three times in the last week.  Labour seem in disarray, with the gaffes and questionable decisions coming in fast and thick.  Their morale is on the floor, with Labour MPs openly refusing to endorse Jeremy Corbyn for next Prime Minister.  There is a palpable sense of worse to come.

The betting markets have priced in a catastrophe for Labour, with William Hill offering 5/6 on Labour getting either more or less than 164.5 seats – other bookies’ prices are similar or even less generous.  This implies a baseline of Labour losing 67 seats, which would require an adverse swing of just less than 7% (a 20% Conservative lead would entail a swing of 7%).

Now I am a seller of Labour at this price, but it’s always worth stopping and pausing to consider the other side of the case.  First, “the trend is your friend” is a very dangerous motto.  What if this is as bad as it gets?  It might be.  Despite the large poll leads that the Conservatives have racked up, Labour have not dropped vote share in any opinion poll in the last few days (and if anything have risen a point or two).  Their support base might yet crumble but it hasn’t yet.  There are other opinion polls from Survation and new pollster Norstat that show smaller, though still very sizeable, Conservative leads, and there is no particular reason why Survation should be wrong and ComRes should be right.  And the Conservatives may falter or the public may decide that the size of the overall majority needs to be kept in check.  This is not a one way bet.

With all those cautionary notes, I am still a seller of Labour at 164.5.  Labour’s apparent lack of organisation does not inspire confidence that they will mount a sturdy rearguard defence, which itself suggests that Labour will underperform uniform national swing.  Martin Boon of ICM has hinted that Labour might well be flattered by polling adjustments, tweeting after the first 20+% lead for the Conservatives that “It could get worse for Labour. The were a wafer away from 24% AND our adjustment lifted them +2 and took -2 off the Tories.”

In the third of the ICM polls with a 20+% lead, a cross-tab showed the Conservatives leading by 17% in Labour-held seats with a majority of less than 15%.  This represents a swing of roughly 12 or 13% in these Labour-held seats, suggesting the Conservatives could take 100 seats or more.  While this cross-tab involved a fairly small sample, it showed exactly the same pattern that Chris Hanretty had uncovered in December of disproportionate swing in Labour-held marginal seats.

There are also tell-tale signs bubbling up.  Teresa Pearce announced at the beginning of the month that she would be resigning from the shadow Cabinet to focus on her constituency.  That constituency is Erith & Thamesmead, Labour’s 108th most marginal seat.  I trust MPs to know what they’re doing when it comes to such matters, so since she clearly believes that her seat is seriously in play (Conservatives 7/2 with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook), so do I. 

So I do expect Labour to underperform even the bookies’ current modest expectations.  The obvious question is: by how much? 

Even the most exuberant Conservative bull is going to need to give this question careful consideration.  Will the Conservatives take Chorley?  How about Exeter?  Tynemouth?  Huddersfield?  Pontypridd?  Stockport?  By this point, the swings are becoming mammoth.  The truly adventurous can back the Conservatives in Wallasey at 16/1, counting on just the 19% swing from Labour to the Conservatives.  I’m not especially tempted by that, I have to say.  But there is a 16/1 bet on the Conservatives I do like the look of.

I suggest we consider the type of swing expected and then look at the odds in specific constituencies.  Betfair Sportsbook’s odds show wild variance, presumably reflecting the beliefs of bettors.  The Conservatives are ranked 1/4 to take Great Grimsby, 2/1 to take Bristol South and 5/6 to take Birmingham Erdington.  On a uniform swing of 6.7% from Labour to the Conservatives, Labour would hold all three.  On a uniform swing of 7.4%, Labour would lose all three.  Obviously the betting public regard these three seats as very different and it appears that they are using Leavability as a litmus test.

Are they right to do so?  A seat that voted 51:49 to Leave should not swing very differently from one that voted 51:49 to Remain.  My take is that attributes about seats where Leave dominated mean that their voters are differently affected by polling dynamics from voters in Remain-dominated seats.  The priorities of younger urban professional voters are likely to be radically different from older rural and post-industrial voters.  That seems to be reflected in the polling – for example, the latest ICM poll shows the Conservatives leading Labour 37:36 among Remainers and 62:16 among Leavers.  Incidentally, that degree of identification of Leavers with the Conservatives also suggests that those Lib Dems dreaming of retaking the south west are doomed to disappointment.

So yes, I do think Leavability is the right litmus test, if not for the reasons usually given.  I expect the Conservatives to take all three of the seats listed above – making the 2/1 on Bristol South, which was a lot less Remainy than you might expect, just 52:48, good value – and perhaps to take seats that on the face of it look very unlikely indeed.  (Meanwhile, some other constituencies that look much easier for the blue team may well stay Labour.)  Might Ed Miliband be in trouble in Doncaster North?  It sounds ridiculous given that the Conservatives start in third and need a 17% swing, but his constituency voted over 70% Leave and we have no reason to assume that Doncastrian Leavers are reacting all that differently from Leavers elsewhere.  The maths look worrying for the erstwhile Labour leader.  At 16/1 with Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power, the Conservatives must be worth a flutter.  I’m on.

Alastair Meeks