Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category


The stark reality of the challenge facing Boris Johnson if he wants to win Labour held seats that backed Leave

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Looking through the information released so far it shows that for Boris Johnson to win over Labour voting Leavers will rival the twelve labours of Hercules.

Whilst they may voted Leave that’s all they may have in common. Will the Old Etonian Prime Minister and say fellow Old Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg, the millionaire Investment Management firm owner, to be the right type of people to win over Labour’s Leave voters that they are on their side?

In the early part of 2017 in the opinion polls Theresa May was winning over Labour supporters in much larger number Boris Johnson is today so when the reality of voting for the Tories presents itself those Labour voters didn’t.

Paula Surridge writes

Given the concentration of the 2017 vote among strong leave identifiers a more potent threat to the Conservative vote is likely to come in the shape of the Brexit Party. In total over half of the ‘very strong leave’ group give their likelihood of voting for the Brexit Party as 6/10 or higher. Given this also represents almost half of the total 2017 Conservative vote it leaves open the possibility of up to a quarter of 2017 Conservative voters moving to the Brexit Party (polling immediately after the EU Parliament election detected this). Initial polling suggested the change of leadership in the Conservative party could be enough to stem this flow but the danger remains present should the government (be seen as) failing to deliver on its Brexit commitment.

If Boris Johnson’s strategy does work he will deserve his victory but many of us have huge doubts about it.




If Boris Johnson hopes to win Labour seats at the general election then he needs to improve his approval ratings with GE2017 Labour voters

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

The Cummings and Johnson strategy has been clear for a while, sacrifice Tory seats in Scotland and Remain leaning seats elsewhere whilst winning a lot of Labour held seats that vote Leave.

It is an interesting strategy that may work but looking at those numbers from the latest Opinium poll will make for sober reading for Cummings and Johnson. My own belief is that Labour voters are tribal and loyal and the jump to the Tories will not happen in volume that Cummings and Johnson need.

As a bona fide Northerner I still see and hear references from Labour voters to what they see as the evil perpetrated by Lady Thatcher. The miners’ strike is still mentioned more than 35 years after the event, usually as a reason not to vote Tory. This might explain despite all the criticisms Corbyn receives he still ‘leads’ Johnson by 40 points and we’re all aware that leader ratings are usually a better predictor of election outcomes than standard voting intention polls.

The Northern strategy might just work for all the wrong reasons, just look at how positively Jo Swinson is rated! Perhaps she can take enough votes from Labour to hand sufficient seats to the Tories by default.

I do hope some pollsters start polling these types of seats like regional polls we see, it might help give us a better indication of the situation. Labour voters in Islington and Labour voters in Barnsley might not be homogenous.



Fewer than half of Leave voters would consider a No Deal Brexit a success

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Leavers have played the expectations game over a deal very badly

One of my assumptions has been that after a period of sustained No Deal support for No Deal and Brexit would crater like a failed NASA mission to Mars and this poll seems show happiness for a No Deal Brexit starts from a lowish base.

Professionally speaking one of the earliest mantras I was always taught was ‘under promise and over deliver because success equals performance minus anticipation’ which is something Leavers have failed to do.

Vote Leave and the politicians that were a part of Vote Leave said during the referendum campaign, inter alia, after we vote to Leave the following would happen ‘We [would] have a new UK-EU Treaty based on free trade and friendly cooperation. There is a European free trade zone from Iceland to the Russian border and we will be part of it’.  

Bullet point four on this leaflet from Vote Leave is pretty clear as well that voters should expect a deal.

Then there’s the Leavers that that said Brexit deal  “should be one of the easiest in human history” or the one that said ‘The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want’ or the time our current Prime Minister said ‘There is no plan for no deal, because we’re going to get a great deal.’ but there really isn’t the bandwidth to list all the times Leavers said we’d get a deal and it would be easy because the EU needed us more than we needed them, that anyone who said otherwise was engaging in Project Fear.

All this expectation and promises made a deal seem inevitable no wonder voters see No Deal as a failure.


PS – This video is how I imagine Brexiteers, played by Tom Hiddleston meeting the reality of No Deal, played by The Incredible Hulk




Your regular reminder that the wording and format of polling questions can influence the outcome

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Perhaps this explains why Yes did so well in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum. In any future Independence referendum the Unionists should ensure the question on the ballot paper is ‘Should Scotland remain a member of the United Kingdom?’ Yes or No.



What will next set of polls show? I have no idea

Friday, September 6th, 2019

This afternoon a friend asked me what I thought the next set polls, which I’m expecting this weekend, would show. My honest answer is I don’t have a clue. As Ed Miliband’s pollster points out above calling David Cameron a chicken in 2014 and 2015 didn’t have any negative impact for David Cameron.

As we can see the Tories are going for the Corbyn is a coward meme, which they think could work I suspect it could given Corbyn’s many requests for a general election but at the back of my mind the fact Boris Johnson has flopped at getting an election it might make him look impotent.

Coupled with the other sub optimal stories that have happened to Boris Johnson this week where he’s looked like Gordon Brown without the people skills, the resignation of his brother is one of those things that do seep into the mind of the voters because it’s a bit of drama that they can enjoy.

But I can see some switchers from the Brexit Party moving to the Tories because the expulsion of pro EU MPs like Ken Clarke will show to them that Boris Johnson really will deliver Brexit on Halloween.

I can also see the Brexit Party surging if they think the Benn bill is going to see the referendum overturned.

Finally I can also see Labour gaining from pro EU voters who have liked Corbyn effectively halting a No Deal Brexit.

These competing forces makes calling the next set of polls difficult, so my official prediction is that I do not know what the next polls will show, all I can say is people will spin them and over interpret them.

So I’ve made my prediction for the next set of polls, time for PBers to make their predictions in the comments below.


Update – We have the first poll of the weekend


The Remainers of the Day. Why are pollsters consistently finding more Remainers than you would expect?

Friday, September 6th, 2019

I don’t take opinion polls very seriously and nor should you. For all that, they tell us something and some of the time we have no better clue as to what is going on than what they tell us. Right now, they seem to be telling us something rather interesting.

For many months, pollsters have consistently found appreciably more respondents in their sample who said they voted Remain in 2016 than said they voted Leave. Since Leave won 52:48, this is not what you would expect. For example, the most recent YouGov, Survation and Ipsos MORI polls have all shown this effect. The Ipsos MORI poll was conducted on a sample that on an unweighted basis would have voted 57:43 Remain.

Pollsters can deal with this of course in the weighting of the sample, but there comes a point where such a consistent finding needs to be considered further. Just why are pollsters’ samples so consistently askew in this regard?

There are quite a few possible explanations, and several of them may contribute to the effect. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Some people who said they voted Remain have forgotten that they voted Leave

As you would expect, the pollsters are well ahead of me when looking at such anomalies. Anthony Wells of YouGov looked at this a while back so far as concerned recollections of voting in 2017.

What he found was that memory is a slippery, plastic thing.  If you compare what YouGov respondents say they did in the 2017 now with what they said a couple of years ago, an appreciable chunk of respondents have retrospectively edited their vote from Labour to elsewhere.

We might easily be seeing a similar effect when voters are being asked how they voted in the referendum, deciding with the benefit of hindsight that rather than voting for Leave they came out for Remain.

If they have indeed forgotten, it seems tolerably safe to assume that they now identify with the Remain cause. If so, it would be wrong to downweight.

Some people who said they voted Remain are lying about the fact they voted Leave 

Some of those people who have retrospectively changed their votes might not be doing so innocently. Some might be deliberately lying. Why would they do a thing like that?

There are two possible reasons pointing in opposite directions. Some people might be embarrassed about the choice that they made. We can take it that they now identify with Remain and should not be downweighted. Others, however, may regard it as socially unacceptable to be identified as a Leave supporter. If so, pollsters do need to downweight to reflect their concealed preferences.

Some people who said they voted Remain did not in fact vote at all

You know the type. They tweet #FBPE, they sign petitions, they might even go on marches. Voting in the referendum, however, was a step too far. Not that they would admit that, of course.

If the Remain figure includes such people, the pollsters are right to downweight their contribution. There is no reason to assume that they will behave differently next time.

Some people who voted Leave are reluctant to take part in opinion polls

Allied to the shy Leavers who claim to have voted Remain are those Leavers who do not want to take part in opinion poll surveys. There will be some Remain voters who are similarly unenthused, but if the refusals skew in the Leave direction pollsters need to unskew by upweighting their presumed allegiances.   

Some people who voted Leave are harder for pollsters to find

The people who respond to opinion polls are going to be unrepresentative in one way or another. The hope of pollsters is that the ways in which they are unrepresentative don’t matter for the matters being polled about.

One big risk – relevant to any political poll but it seems particularly relevant in relation to the EU referendum – is that the respondents to an opinion poll may be disproportionately enthralled by politics. If those who find politics tedious but still troop out to vote react differently from the political wonks, the poll results will be awry.

This seems entirely possible. If it is correct, Leave respondents will need to be upweighted (and Remain respondents correspondingly downweighted). But even this won’t work reliably because engaged Leavers and disengaged Leavers might well be reacting differently.

The electorate has changed since 2016

This is not so much a hypothesis as a fact. It may be distasteful to say so but we can be confident that older Leave-leaning voters have been replaced by debutant Remain-leaning voters. Over a period of three years that might already have wiped out the original Leave lead, all other things being equal.

Moreover, there will have been an influx of naturalising immigrants over the last three years (in part so that they can regularise their legal right to stay in Britain). We can expect this group also to lean heavily Remain.

For this reason it seems wrong to reweight the sample back to 48:52 as par.  That was then but this is now. Since most pollsters seem to do this, it appears that the downweighting does indeed seem to be at least a bit overdone.


The only sensible conclusion is that it’s all a bit odd.  It does look as though Remain supporters’ views are being a bit underrepresented in polls (suggesting that the Conservatives in particular might be a bit overstated and that scepticism about the wisdom of leaving the EU is being understated). But I do have this gnawing doubt that the samples being obtained are potentially unrepresentative in ways that might matter quite a bit. You should always be sceptical of opinion polls’ finding. Right now, the scepticism should be turned up to 11.

Alastair Meeks


Jo Johnson’s resignation will only reinforce the doubts that Boris Johnson is only interested in himself and not the national interest

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

In a move more reminiscent of Game of Thrones meets the Milibands Jo Johnson’s resignation as both a minister and an MP has the potential to be the most damaging event in Boris Johnson’s disastrous week. If things pan out as expected, then he either has to deliver an extension to Article 50, break the law, or resign and break the record of George Canning as the United Kingdom’s shortest serving Prime Minister.

The strategy to have an election before the 31st of October looks like failing as the Commons last night left Boris Johnson looking like an impotent porn star, unable perform and becoming a figure of fun.

Back to Jo Johnson’s resignation, Boris Johnson is launching the de facto Tory general election campaign in Yorkshire today. and I’d expect it to be dominated by questions about Jo Johnson’s resignation. As we saw with the Milibands this sort of stuff can be repeatedly used to confirm to the public Boris Johnson’s unsuitably for the top job.

‘His brother doesn’t trust him on Brexit, why should you?’ is the sort of the attack line you can expect to be used, and I think it will work, just look at the polling from YouGov conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Twice as many voters think Boris Johnson puts his own interests of the national interest, that’s a very bad place to be in. His performances in the Commons this last week also hint that he will perform very poorly in a general election campaign.

Also from the same poll Boris Johnson’s strategy to try and go for a No Deal might not be the vote winner his strategist think it will be.

One thing we’ve learned from recent polling failures is that it is not wise to look solely at the headline voting intentions but to look at the supplementaries as well.Boris Johnson trying to sell a No Deal Brexit to the voters might turn out sub optimal for the Conservative party.



This is not a government with any real support for its approach and main policy

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Today sees some polling about Boris Johnson turning the United Kingdom in to a prorogue nation, it’s not particularly pleasant reading for the mandateless Prime Minister whose government has not won a single vote in Parliament.

55% of the public do not trust Boris Johnson to make the right decision on Brexit. Only 13% of the public believe the Prime Minister’s reasons for prorogation, 70% think prorogation was done to limit the opportunities to stop No Deal which the Defence Secretary admitted to yesterday, then Boris Johnson effectively did the same today.

Further polling backs other recent polls that show significantly more people are opposed to No Deal than support it.

I wonder if this is these polling results are an artefact of the partisan times we live in after the 2016 referendum coupled with Boris Johnson lacking a mandate from the country, after all Boris Johnson receiving 100,000 fewer votes in winning the Tory leadership this year than Owen Smith received when he lost to Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

But yet despite all these supplementaries being sub optimal for Boris Johnson the Tories have an 11% lead with YouGov and the Prime Minister has a 53% lead over Corbyn in leader ratings and Ipsos MORI has a similar result.

As a strong believer that leader ratings are a much better predictor of general election results than voting intention I suspect Boris Johnson will win an autumn general election based on the leadership polling. Oh Jeremy Corbyn, why do you have to be so dire?

My other expectation is that like 1992 the Tories will get absolutely hammered in the following general election as sustained No Deal will be like the winter of discontent meets Black Wednesday and will keep the Tories out of power for a significant period.


PS – For an excellent in depth analysis of the Ipsos MORI polling see this twitter thread by Keiran Pedley by clicking here.