Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category


Ex-YouGov President, Peter Kellner, raises doubts about the “No GE17 Youthquake” claims

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

For those who have been following the BES report that concludes that there was no “youthquake” at GE17 the former President of YouGov, Peter Kellner, makes some controversial observations in Prospect casting doubt on the core conclusion that has made the headlines.

He writes:

“…their (BES) latest pronouncement goes way beyond what their data can support. They base their analysis on two post-election, face-to-face surveys after the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Their sample size in 2015 was 2,987; in 2017 it was 2,194. These are larger samples than in most individual polls conducted for the media—though some research reported by the media involved far more people (such as the 50,000 polled weekly by YouGov, which formed the basis of their prediction of a hung parliament, and their indication that the Conservatives were in trouble in Canterbury and Kensington).

Where the BES team skate on thin ice is when they seek to draw precise conclusions from small sub-groups. They derive their main conclusion from the 1,400 respondents that they have crossed-checked against the electoral register, to confirm whether those who say they voted actually did so. This is a valuable exercise which, by definition, campaign polls cannot do, because people have not yet voted (or abstained). Even doing so after the election is expensive and time-consuming. So, congratulations BES, for doing this.

It is the figures for the under 25s that have caused such a stir. The figures for all the other age groups are broadly in line with what pollsters reported months ago.

Here’s the problem. BES interviewers questioned, and confirmed the turnout answers, of only 157 under 25s in 2015 and 109 in 2017.

Data obtained from such small subsamples are subject to large margins of error. The normal formula indicates that the reported turnout for this group could have been eight points adrift of reality in 2015 and almost ten points adrift in 2017. Applying those figures to the BES data, we may deduce that the correct figure for the turnout of the under 25s was 41-57 per cent in 2015 and 34-53 per cent in 2017. (Technically, we would expect the true figure in each election to be within those wide ranges 19 times of out 20; but one time in twenty, a perfectly well conducted survey would be beyond even these limits.)

On those figures, we can say nothing sure about the change in turnout among under 25s in these two elections. (By the by, I am amazed that the BES report data with a near-10 point margin of error to a decimal place. This purported precision is utterly spurious.)

In fact, the true margins of error are greater than that—though how much greater is impossible to calculate. The formula used above assumes a perfectly designed sample with a 100 per cent response rate. BES’s sample design was fine; but its response rate was below 50 per cent. Nobody can be sure whether the voters they did not reach behaved like the voters they did manage to interview…”

The full Kellner article is well worth reading. I think he is right to raise these questions before the “no GE17 youthquake” narrative takes hold.

Mike Smithson


ICM finds the biggest backing yet for a referendum on the final deal

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Meanwhile Ipsos-MORI has CON 3% behind

YouGov has 4% remain lead


Reviewing 2017: The polling that made me think 53% of the electorate should be denied the vote

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

The UK seems divided on the major issues.

Reviewing the polling of 2017 I thought I’d focus on the polling that shocked me the most in 2017.

Forget Mrs May’s collapsing ratings during the election campaign, a dash for the cliff that would have left lemmings panting for breath, it was the polling by YouGov in February that showed 53% of the public like pineapple on pizza.

The polling was commissioned after ‘Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the president of Iceland (the country, not the supermarket) made international news…..when it emerged that he wanted to ban pineapple as a topping on pizza.’

As someone who finds pineapple on pizza as appealing as being stuck in a lift with Piers Morgan I wholeheartedly support the views and policies of the President of Iceland, this poll was a bit of a shock. It made me doubt the competencies & tastes of my fellow citizens and research about emigrating to Iceland.

If the public can make such a bad decision on such an important matter like pineapple on pizza, they may make similar misjudgements in the future on other important matters.

The public did redeem themselves earlier on this month when they said that Die Hard, a film released in July 1988, is not a Christmas movie, so I have hope for this country.

Merry Christmas everybody.



Brexit-backing Sun & Mail seen as having the most negative impact on society – remain supporting Times & Guardian the most positive

Monday, December 18th, 2017

New YouGov poll ranks the main national papers

I can’t recall any similar polling – looking at how the main national papers are perceived in terms of the impact they are having on society.

At a time when the nation is so divided by Brexit it is striking that the papers that have been most strident in their backing of Brexit and opposition to those who oppose it should be seen in the negative way set out in these numbers.

Full data from the poll can be found here.

Mike Smithson


It is time to salute the brilliance of the visionary that is Diane Abbott

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Another reminder not to dismiss seemingly outlandish political predictions

A year ago this weekend Diane Abbott made this prediction

Labour will be level-pegging with the Conservatives within a year, Diane Abbott has said amid more woeful polling for Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

Labour slumped to fourth place in the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election this week, while the Conservatives enjoyed a 17-point lead over the official opposition in a YouGov survey on Friday.

The Shadow Home Secretary suggested the party’s recent poor showing stemmed from the moves against Mr Corbyn’s leadership this summer.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr show, she conceded Labour has gone through a “very difficult year” and argued “it was always going to take time to pull round from that”.

“But I think we are coming together now. We’ve got a new chief whip, Nick Brown, who’s one of the most experienced party managers in the House of Commons,” she explained.

“I think that as we come together, as you hear less noises off, I believe we can close the polling gap.”

When asked to give a timeline for Labour to narrow the gap to the Tories in the opinion polls, Ms Abbott replied: “I’m confident we’re going to close the gap in the coming 12 months.

“We’ve had a pretty difficult 12 months – partly [due to] Jeremy’s enemies in the party, partly commentators. But we have the right policies and we have the right leader.”

Ms Abbott also said that claims the Labour party is in demise are “much exaggerated”.

“We are the largest social democratic party in Europe,” she declared. “That huge surge in membership is due to the current leadership. We have the right policies on whether it’s the NHS, whether it’s investing in the economy.

“As you know the Tories are fatally split on Europe. It consumed John Major’s leadership, it consumed David Cameron, I believe it will consume Theresa May.”

Shortly after Diane Abbott made her prediction I wrote a piece on PB tipping the 10/1 on Labour polling below 20% at the next general election which tells you what I thought about the chances about Diane Abbott’s prediction coming true.

But twelve months on the polling averages have it neck and neck whilst Survation, the current gold standard of polling, have Labour 8% ahead. Twelve months ago very few could have predicted Mrs May to go back on her word and hold a snap election, run up a 25% lead in the polls, and then run the worst general election campaign in living memory.

After the 2015 general election result, Corbyn becoming leader, Brexit, Trump becoming President, and the Tories losing their majority against Corbyn, we shouldn’t be quite so dismissive of outlandish predictions.

As for Diane Abbott, her prediction seems to be a lot better than Jeremy Corbyn’s prediction in June that he’d be Prime Minister by Christmas. Perhaps we should all start paying closer attention to the pronouncements of Diane Abbott, for the first time in a while I’m feeling a little bit confident about my bet on Diane Abbott being Corbyn’s successor.



It is now five months since “right to Leave” had lead in YouGov’s Brexit tracker

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Could this swing back following today’s deal?

Ever since the referendum PB has been monitoring the regular tracker that has been issued at regular intervals by YouGov. The wording is in the chart above which seeks to show the trend since Britain voted to leave.

What I have done is to take the average monthly “right to leave” figure and deduct from it the average “wrong to leave” number. I am using monthly averages in order to illustrate the trend.

What is clear is that since the June General Election there has been something of a change of mood although the scale of that is not that great.

But you have to go back to the general election month itself to find average “right to leave” leads.

The interesting question now is where will the tracker go following the developments today in Brussels. My guess is that we could see a narrowing given the fact that there has been a degree of support amongst leading Conservative figures for what Mrs May has achieved.

There is, of course, a long way to go and moods can swing very much one way or the other.

Note that this polling question should not be interpreted as how people would vote in a fresh referendum if there was one. It is asking those sampled to reflect on what they think in hindsight.

Mike Smithson


In late April the Tory data chief, Jim Messina, told senior Tories that his modelling pointed to a CON majority of 290

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Put this on your “Christmas” list

I’m just back in the UK after my holiday on the West Coast of the US visiting my son, Robert, and his family who have moved to LA from London in July.

Part of my holiday reading was Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election by Tim Ross and Tom McTague which was published last month.

It is an absorbing read giving a detailed account of GE2017 based on conversations with many of the key players and provides interesting revelations that look remarkable given what we know now.

The top point for me that put all this into context is the one highlighted in the heading – what Tory chiefs were being told ten days into the campaign. This is an extract.

“.. Ten days into the campaign, Jim Messina, the American data consultant working with the Tories, told Stephen Gilbert, Lynton Crosby, Mark Textor and other senior figures that his modelling suggested the Conservatives would win 470 seats – enough for a staggering majority of 290, more than double Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide – and an exponential improvement on David Cameron’s winning margin of twelve.

It was an extraordinary moment and one that caused serious concern among those at the top of the campaign who already feared expectations were spiralling out of control. Messina’s forecast was the high-water mark for the tide of Tory optimism, but right up to election day the most senior campaign officials thought they would make strong advances into Labour territory… “

Although this inevitably got ratcheted down as the campaign progressed the view throughout the seven weeks that an increased majority was a certainty had a totally adverse impact on Conservative thinking. Quite simply it skewed the party’s whole management of the election and approach to seat targeting.

This is how the authors describe what happened when in late May a poll had the lead narrowing sharply. They were so convinced of the outcome that it was dismissed.

“.. On May 25th YouGov ran a poll in the Times, cutting the Tory lead over Labour to just five points. It was the first clear sign that a real change could be happening but was widely dismissed by commentators and analysts as unrealistic. Five days later, YouGov produced something even more dramatic: a seat projection model that said the Tories were on course to lose their majority in a hung parliament. Jim Messina and Mark Textor did not believe it. Sitting inside CCHQ, Messina composed a message on Twitter: ‘Spent the day laughing at yet another stupid poll from .@yougov. Hey .@benleet do you want to bet for charity? I’ll take the over.’ Messina showed it to colleagues and asked if he could tweet it, before doing so…”

But it wasn’t just the Tory campaign that was getting a distorted view of what was happening. Labour’s private pollsters were also giving a gloomy picture for their client. This from just before polling day:

“.. The picture from Labour’s own pollsters BMG was pessimistic. For most of the campaign, BMG had been forecasting a Tory majority of 150. On election day, they thought May was on course for a majority of 80…”

In a telling point on LAB targeting the authors report that activists believe they would have come a lot closer to the CON seat totals if they’d known what was really happening.

If you are being pressed to suggest ideas of Christmas presents for yourself then mention this book. It is a must read for all who follow polls and election forecasting.

Mike Smithson


Survation Scotland poll offers great potential for Corbyn

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Picture: Latest Survation Scottish Westminster VI poll translated into seats

Over the last day or so Survation have released their Scotland specific polling, and it presents get potential for Corbyn.

Survation say

If we input today’s published vote share figures into Baxter’s Scotland model, modelling today’s figures against the vote share the parties achieved at the General Election we can see the effect on seats at play.

Although the SNP has essentially the same vote share in today’s polling as at the GE and despite the Conservatives having the worst showing overall in this poll, Labour’s slightly improved fortunes vs. the election mean that the party would pick up 7 seats – from the SNP. SNP held Fife would go Lib Dem, with the SNP picking up just a single seat – Stirling – from the Conservatives.

With most of the GB wide polls and the polling averages indicating it being very close between the Tories and Labour an improvement in Scotland will help Labour get ahead of the Tories in seats and correct the imbalance in the electoral system which favours the Tories at present.

The one thing people should remember is given the quite violent swings we’ve seen in Scotland over the last two general elections making long term predictions about events in Scotland can be quite risky.

The other impact of this polling is if the Scottish Tories are destined for third place in Scotland it could force Ruth Davidson to focus her attentions on Westminster. My own personal belief, gleaned from being a member of the Tory party for over 20 years, is that were she to stand to be Theresa May’s successor, she’d win.

Forget the Brexit ideological issues, the Tories want to win the next general election, and Ruth Davidson is perceived to be a winner among many Tories, being a Remainer won’t be an impediment to becoming to Tory leader, just ask Theresa May.

There was also a question on another indyref.

Anyone who gets overexcited by a 1% change really needs to calm down, the overall figure can be seen in two ways.

1) This is is a really shocking poll for the Independence movement, given the fiasco at Westminster, especially over Brexit, you’d think Scots would be desperate to be Leave the Union, but no, they still want to Remain part of the Union.

2) This is a really shocking poll for the Unionists, at the start of the last indyref No had a much larger leader which was whittled away by voting day, a six point lead won’t be sufficient if the next indyref campaign follows a similar to the last one.

Survation also conducted some Holyrood specific polling, which I’ll cover in more detail in a later post.