Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category


Before we can make judgements about the outcome of an early general election we need new Scotland only polling

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

The last one was in June

There’s been a lot of GB voting intention polling since Mr Johnson became the new Tory leader and Prime Minister but none of it has been Scotland specific. One thing we do know is that is can be highly misleading keying the latest GB poll shares into Baxter and getting anything that is relevant to Scotland.

North of the border, as we all know, is the part of the UK which has seen the most turbulence in recent general elections. In 2010 Scots LAB won 41 of the 59 seats only to lose all but one of them in the SNP landslide 5 years later.

Then 2017 the Tories made something of a recovery and picked up 12 gains to add to the single seat making them the second party in Scotland .

What is hugely interesting for election watchers is that the largest majority that the SNP secured in any of its 36 Scottish seats at the last election was 47%. A large proportion of what they hold is vulnerable something that applies to almost all the parties there.

As the Wikipedia panel above shows the Tories were in something of a mess in the most recent surveys. The numbers suggest that Ruth Davidson’s party could be on the point of losing all but one of the hard won gains from 2 years ago. But is that really going to happen?

So much has happened politically since the last Scottish poll and we have no real sense yet of how the new PM is going down for of the border. Will having Johnson in charge help or hinder the blue team?

Hopefully we should be seeing some new Scotland polling in September. There is tendency for these to come out just before the SNP conference.

Mike Smithson


If BJohnson is planning an election the numbers continue to look good

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

And JSwinson’s response to the PM Corbyn suggestion doesn’t seem to have hurt the LDs

August is generally a month when we see fewer Westminster voting polls and it’s probably because of the possibility of an early election that this year we’ve seen as many surveys as we have.

Even leaving Kantar aside the Tories will feel relatively comfortable about where they are which is being helped by the ongoing poor numbers for Labour. The ambivalence of Corbyn’s party on Brexit and the antisemitism row have taken their toll and its hard to see the party recovering as much in an election campaign as it did at GE2017.

The strongly anti-Brexit LDs have seen their Commons numbers increase by three in recent months with the addition of Umunna who was elected as a LAB MP and Sarah Wollaston who switched from the Tories via TIG and ChangeUK to the party. On top of that was the Brecon by-election gain. They are hoping that the Sheffield Hallam MP will carry out his promise and step down as MP on September 3rd.

The Greens have been prospering well up from 1.6% at GE2017 to 8% in one poll. My guess is that they will pick up more than one MP at an early election if local agreements can be worked out with the LDs.

Farage’s Brexit party has seen a decline partly because it isn’t in the news at the moment and BJohnson has stolen some of their thunder.

Mike Smithson


At least ComRes didn’t bring Nelson Mandela into its controversial poll

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

When mentioning his name might get better results?

All the discussion over alleged leading questions in the ComRes poll have provided a peg fo me to highlight one of my favourite polls ever.

In the build-up in 2005 to the resolution London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics a poll was commissioned to try to show that people in the capital backed the idea. This was the series of questions in the order that they were put:-

“Are you aware that Nelson Mandela recently came out in support of London hosting the 2012 Olympic Games?” YES 60% NO 39%

“To what extent do you agree or disagree with Nelson Mandela’s view that because London is a diverse city, providing a home to hundreds of different nationalities, it would be the best place to hold the Olympic Games.” AGREE 72% DISAGREE 13%

Would you support or oppose London being chosen as the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games?” SUPPORT 79% OPPOSE 13%

A few years later the SNP specially commissioned YouGov poll over their handling of the release of the Lockerbie bomber. One finding was that voters in Scotland divided two to one in saying that the affair had enhanced Scotland’s reputation.

Just look at the question however. It read “Do you believe Nelson Mandela’s comments in support for the release of Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds has enhanced or damaged Scotland’s reputation internationally?”

I wonder what both the SNP and the London Olympic polls would have produced without the mention of Nelson Mandela?

Mike Smithson


(UPDATED) Could Welsh Labour be about to experience a near wipe-out similar to that which Scottish Labour saw at GE2015?

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

It is not often that all eyes are on Welsh politics but yesterday’s Tweet from the respected Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University has really set things going.

We don’t get very much Wales only polling but what there is generally associated with Professor Scully. And for him to be trailing his survey for ITV in this way suggests a sensation.

His tweet reminds me of a similar one from Ben Page of Ipsos-MORI in late 2014 relating to a poll that his firm had produced for STV. There was a similar big build up and then the numbers can and which point pointed to the total collapse of Labour in Scotland. This is, of course, what happened six months later at GE2015. LAB moved from holding 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats to just a single MP.

We know from Wales only polling over the past nine months that Labour’s once invincible position in the Principality is on the decline. Last December Survation had Corbyn’s party in 47% with Scully’s YouGov poll at 43%. In May that was down 25% with the Brexit party just two behind.

At GE2017 Labour won 28 of the 40 Welsh seats. If that number is substantially reduced and there is still no recovery for the party in Scotland then it is very difficult to see how LAB can win most seats overall in a UK general election.

We wait in anticipation for Professor Scully’s new poll. Hopefully it will be out by late morning.

Updated – the poll is now out

Thus LAB drops to its lowest ever level in Wales with the Tories up 7 to take the lead and the LDs up 4. The Brexit party’s down 5 Plaid up 2

Mike Smithson


Why many pollsters overstated LAB so much at the May Euros and what could be happening with current VI polls

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019


GE2017 LAB voters forgetting what they did could be causing distortion

After the 1992 polling debacle when John Major’s Tories won an overall majority even though all but one of the pollsters had LAB ahead a big effort was launched by ICM to find out what had gone wrong and we’ve all heard about “shy Tories” less willing to take part in polls.

The firm’s Nick Sparrow in conjunction with Prof John Curtice came up with what is known as past vote weighting to ensure samples were balanced. Basically respondents were asked how they voted last time and their responses were adjusted so that the sample broadly reflected the previous election.

It worked well and for GE1997 and GE2001  ICM became top pollster. At GE2005 another pollster, NOP, used the same approach and got the result spot on.

By GE2010 most pollsters had adopted mechanisms on the past vote model to ensure balanced samples. The only problem is that you cannot rely on those sampled to remember how they voted.  According to an excellent analysis by Anthony Wells of YouGov is what is happening at the moment with many of those who voted for Corbyn’s LAB at GE17.  He writes:

“How to deal with false recall used to be one of the big methodological debates within British polling. Ipsos MORI still don’t use past vote weighting at all because of their concerns over false recall. In more recent years, recalled vote seemed to be closer to reality, and it has become less of an issue. But with the recent major shifts in party support it may once again become a major concern.

At YouGov we have the advantage of a huge, well-established panel, meaning we have many thousands of people from whom we collected past vote data in 2017, before their memory had chance to play tricks on them. Many other companies do not, and must rely on asking people to recall now how they voted in 2017.

This difference may well explain some of the present variation in Labour support between different companies (I suspect it may not be coincidence that the two companies who avoided significantly overstating Labour support in the recent European elections were Ipsos MORI, who don’t use past vote weighting, and YouGov, who are able to use data collected back in 2017 for past vote weighting).

To illustrate Wells did a test with the same data from the sample but processed differently. One using what those on its panel said they did at GE17 and another on how they now recall their vote. As can be seen there’s a marked impact on the LAB share.

The reason for the variation is that the smaller number of those recalling now that they voted LAB at GE17 means that the responses of those who said they did have to be weighted up in order to fit a past vote weighting model.

Mike Smithson




Two new polls this afternoon with very different shares for LAB and the Greens

Friday, July 12th, 2019

If LAB had been doing better at recent elections then you might say that Survation has got this right. But Corbyn’s party had a miserable set of locals in May followed up by dreadful Euro elections three weeks later when they slipped down to just 13.6% and could not even maintain position as top party in London. They did, of course, hold Peterborough in June but with a share down 17% on GE2017.

At the Euro election YouGov got the Greens almost dead on and were within a point for the LDs and LAB. Survation had LAB on 23% compared with the UK actual of 13.6%. The firm put LDs on 12% compared with a UK actual 19.6%.

Survation was, of course, the most accurate pollster at GE2017 but, as we’ve seen, being top at one is not always a good guide to the future.

Mike Smithson


If Boris wins then last month’s ComRes poll suggests a huge CON recovery is in prospect

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

Telegraph June 11 2019

The possiblity of a 140 majority would surely tempt the new PM

There is little doubt that the Telegraph’s ComRes poll that appeared on June 11th played a major part in the Conservative leadership contest. It came out at a crucial time just as the MP rounds of voting were due to start.

As the headline above showed it pointed to a Johnson led Conservative Party winning a majority of 140 seats over LAB in a general election. The paper noted at the time:-

“Asked how they would vote if Mr Johnson was Prime Minister compared to his main rivals, 37 per cent said they would vote for the Conservatives, 22 per cent said they would vote for Labour, 20 per cent said they would vote for the Liberal Democrats and 14 per cent said they would vote for the Brexit Party.

Using these figures and taking out those who ‘didn’t know’ and ‘wouldn’t vote’, Electoral Calculus projects that the Conservatives would win 395 seats compared to 151 for Labour, 26 for the Liberal Democrats and no seats for the Brexit Party – suggesting that the former foreign secretary would have the ability to banish Nigel Farage’s party from Westminster for good.

None of the other contenders got anywhere near that sort of success in poll and the unequivocal message from the numbers and the way it was presented in the newspaper was that Boris was the man to lead the Tories to recovery and a substantial victory.

Now that the leadership contest looks a certainty then we’ll get an idea whether the polling got it right.

Certainly the experience of new PMs taking over during a parliament  is that their parties  had substantial polling boosts. We saw that with Major in 1990, Brown in 2007  and, of course TMay in 2016.

If ComRes was right then the new PM effect with Johnson should dwarf them all.  It could have an impact on the Tory performance in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election that takes place only a week after the new leader will be in place.

Not long to wait.

Mike Smithson




The best test of a pollster is not how they’re currently doing against other firms but what happened last time they were tested

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

I am afraid that I have to disagree with David Herdson on his latest Saturday thread about YouGov understating Labour. Firstly you cannot judge pollsters’ based on their current surveys when less than 5 weeks ago they were tested against a real election involving real voters.

In the two charts above I compare LAB and LD vote shares for the May Euros in their final published polls.  Just two of them can claim to have come out of the election well with the rest trailing some way back.

Just examine some of the exaggerated figures that some pollsters were record reporting for LAB where we had a range from 13% to 25%. The actual GB figures was 14%.

Now look at the second chart showing the final LD shares. These range from 12% to 20%. The actual GB share was 20,4%.

Apart from Ipsos MORI and YouGov the rest really did rather badly.

Because of the low turnout, the 37% that actually happened was broadly anticipated, this was always going to be a challenging election for polling because turnout was everything. If one party’s supporters were less likely to vote  then that presents the pollsters with serious challenges .

The other challenge, of course, was tactical voting generally by remain backing LAB voters to the parties they saw as being most likely to succeed in their region and so the vote could produce the maximum number of MEPs. This helped the LDs and, of course, the Greens to achieve the success that they did. Whatever mechanisms YouGov and Ipsos Mori use they were able to detect better what was the big characteristic of this election.

So when I look at the current polls I regard Survation and Opinium, of the recent ones, as LAB over-staters.

Mike Smithson