Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category


After 30 years the curtains close on regular Guardian/ICM polls

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

The longest lasting poll series in British politics comes to an end.

This is something of a sad moment in British politics. The longest lasting polling series, ICM for the Guardian, has come to an end after a total of 30 years. Polls have been running from the firm in the paper at least monthly since January 1989 when ICM replaced Marplan as the paper’s voting intention provider.

The first one, as seen in the chart above, was in January 1989 when Mrs Thatcher was still heading the Conservative Party and showing a 4% lead.

Andrew Sparrow of the Guardian political team tells me:“We couldn’t justify the cost given that scepticism about the reliability of polling makes them less newsworthy than they used to be in the past.But we haven’t cut our links with ICM and will still be commissioning polling from them on a more ad hoc basis”

During the three decades of running polls for the paper ICM established a formidable reputation. It was the first to take action after the GE1992 polling disaster when none of the firms got it right. Under its then boss, Nick Sparrow, it pioneered past vote weighting to deal with what was then a systemic bias towards LAB in voting polling caused partly by what was described of the spiral of silence amongst CON voters.

For a long period Guardian/ICM polls were regarded as the “gold standard” a reputation that did not survive GE2017 when its final had the Tories with a double digit lead.

A notable correct prediction in more recent times was the ICM/Guardian poll for AV referendum which was correct to 1 within decimal point.

ICM also did remarkably well with the Brexit referendum with it last polls published online and phone surveys more than a week ahead showing Leave 4-5% ahead.

The pollster that’s still around  doing voting intention surveys the longest is MORI, now Ipsos-MORI, which began in the run-up to Mrs. Tharcher’s victory at GE1979.

Mike Smithson


This questionnaire on the “Values and Identity” clans of GB is well worth doing

Friday, October 26th, 2018

If you haven’t done so already check this out for yourself here.

Essentially this is a different approach to identifying voters which has been put together by the pollster BMG and academics at Bristol and Manchester.

Both David Herdson and I came out as Orange bookers.

Mike Smithson


TMay’s great current strength is that there’s little conviction that anyone else could do better

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

So another day of Theresa May’s leadership begins and no doubt she will be under pressure yet again by her party and maybe even the official opposition about her stance and approach to Brexit. Later she’s facing the Conservative backbench 1922 committee of which there was some overblown talk over the weekend off this being a “show trial.” That of itself illustrated the schism within the party.

Well the rhetoric has been toned down a fair bit and the PM had a relatively assured performance in Parliament a couple of days ago.

    The real strength of her position at the moment is that there’s little conviction amongst voters that any other leader could make a better job of dealing with the Brexit negotiations.

The polling from YouGov featured in the chart above illustrates this quite strikingly with just 25% believing that someone else would be making a better fist of it.

We are where we are and clearly the PM’s main objective in honouring the referendum outcome must be to ensure that this huge constitutional change results in as little possible damage to the economy.

What the process has shown is that Brexit is far more complex than any of its proponents have ever been ready to acknowledge. TMay is, in that famous description by Ken Clarke, a “difficult woman” and we are seeing it every day.

DDavis, the man being tipped as a temporary replacement, has been damaged by the widely publicised Tweet sent by the man he personally appointed as his BrexSec Chief of Staff, Stewart Jackson. That, his detractors argue, says a lot about his judgement.

Mike Smithson


LAB would struggle to win a snap election with 50% of GE2017 LAB voters not rating Corbyn as “best PM”

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

His 50% LAB voter rating compares with 80% of GE2017 Tories for May

While all the focus this week has been on TMay’s chances of survival the PM and her party can take comfort in the latest “Best PM” ratings from YouGov in which those polled are given just two options – her and Corbyn.

In recent weeks TMay has been regaining her position and is now up from a low of 31% overall naming her to 38%. Corbyn is 14% behind on 24%.

What is striking when you look at the past vote splits is the breakdown that appears in the chart above. As can be seen GE17 CON voters are in broad terms still rating the PM highly on this measure. Corbyn’s position is that just half of LAB’s 2017 vote is now ready to rate him as best PM.

Clearly those who have voted for a party in the past must be regarded as almost bankers for the next election. This polling, which is very similar to other pollsters asking the “Best PM” question should be of concern to the red team.

There are two segments of the general election LAB vote which Corbyn appears to be having problems with – those who want to remain within the EU and those alienated by perceptions of antisemitism.

His view on Brexit is very much alien to the 70% or so of LAB voters who believe the vote to leave was wrong. On antisemitism we saw in the May locals how the party performed very badly in areas with large Jewish populations.

All this compares with the proportion of general election Tory voters backing Mrs May which is very much out of line with the noise coming from the hardline Brexiteers.

This does not bode well for Labour in a general election.

Mike Smithson



A reminder of how GE2015 UKIP voters voted at GE2017

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

History suggests assuming Kippers will strongly back the Tories when UKIP don’t stand is a mistake.

Since the announcement of the Chequers deal in July UKIP have experienced a bit of a polling surge with some polls having them polling 7% and 8% but generally in the 4% to 6% range.

I’m expecting UKIP at the next general election will repeat their 2017 strategy of not standing in many constituencies. Right now UKIP seem happy to be the political wing of the EDL and their leader, a convicted fraudster, the man arrested for being an illegal immigrant, and assaulter of police, and all round bad egg Tommy Robinson. All of this seesUKIP potentially reconfiguring into a street movement than a political party.

So who will these current UKIP voters vote for at the next general election if UKIP don’t stand many candidates? The graph below shows how 2015 UKIP voters voted at the 2017 general election based on some analysis by YouGov.

Anyone adding most of the current UKIP vote share to the Tory share will be making a huge mistake based on past performance. In 2017 centre left voters put Jeremy Corbyn on cusp of Downing Street, at the next general election Tory to UKIP defectors might end up putting him Downing Street.

I suspect how these current UKIP voters vote at the next general election will mostly be determined by 1) The type of Brexit we achieve and 2) Who the Tory leader is. Someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg will see them back the Tories in greater numbers, less so if the Tory leader is someone like Philip Hammond or Sajid Javid.

Hopefully YouGov and other pollsters will track these switchers, and further analyse their long term past voting past behaviour so we can work out if this just typical mid term blues for the governing party or a more fundamental switch.



The one thing we are not getting st the moment is a clear picture from the polls

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

So which pollsters’ numbers do you prefer

Conference season is now over and we now face the final few months before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. UK politics is set to go through a period of turmoil and there’s not an insignificant chance that there could be an early general election.

Mrs. May’s wonderful dance sequence prior to her Birmingham conference speech might have diverted attention for a short while but decisions that could impact on the nation for generations are in the offing. Yet just look at the polls

The Wikipedia chart above shows the extraordinary range of the next General Election voting polls at the moment. We’ve got YouGov which has a 6% CON while the most recent BMG survey has LAB 5% ahead.

I can’t recall in recent such a gap between the parties. A LAB 5% lead against a CON 6% one in two of the latest polls. We also have the LDs in a range from 9% to 13%.

Which snapshot is the best reflection of the public mood?

The great thing is that there’s something for everyone and as I often point out on Twitter – It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most accurate poll at any one time is the one which has numbers which please you most

Mike Smithson


Polling boost for beleaguered Theresa as the Tory conference opens in Birmingham

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Her party retakes the lead with Opinium

Opinium fieldwprk Sept 26-29
CON 39+2
LAB 36-3
LD 9=

It used to be one of those rock solid polling rules that LAB would always get a boost in its polling position in surveys taken at the end of its September conference and before the Tory one started. After all the media focus has been on the red team and during the week the general perception was that Labour had had a much better than expected conference. The policy ideas paraded for the first time seemed to have been well received.

Well not so the latest poll from Opinium for the Observer which sees the blues team re-take the lead which must come as a relief for TMay after she faces her conference in Birmingham in the most difficult of circumstances.

    Boris, as seen on the Sunday Times front page, is on the war-path and no doubt will get acres of coverage over the next four days but he’s nothing like the star that he was.

Yesterday the YouGov/Times poll found 57%, more than any other contender, think the ex-Mayor would be a poor leader, Gove had a negative rating of 56%, with Hunt 47%, Rees-Mogg 40% with Javid at 30%. The same poll found that 55% of CON voters want TMay to lead the party into next general election. 33% thought she should go earlier.

One thing I’m very confident of for this year’s conference – if there is a sign behind TMay when she’s making her big speech the letters will remain in place!

Mike Smithson


In the only 2018 polls to be tested against real results LAB shares were overstated by 7%+

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

GE17 LAB polling understatement doesn’t mean that the same will happen next time

One of the things that true believer Corbynistas keep telling me on Twitter is that last year’s general election was a turning point in British politics and that the rules have changed. Thus anything that doesn’t fit into this narrative has to be swept away and dismissed.

A key point here is current polling both voting intention and leader ratings which don’t support the contention that their man is heading for an enormous victory next time. Given how understated Corbyn’s was in most polls at GE2017 it is little wonder that many Corbyn backers raise it in response to less than good current numbers. But is the undoubted polling failure of last year a good pointer to future elections?

Certainly LAB did far better in June last year than most predicted and their leader got most of the plaudits. But for Labour, it is sometimes forgotten, it was a third consecutive General Election defeat and the Tories remained in power.

One of the challenges when trying to assess polling accuracy is that there are very few occasions when election outcomes can be compared with actual pre-election polls. Since GE2017 there has been just when one set of elections when published surveys were put to the test – May’s London Borough elections.

YouGov in partnership with QMUL and the top GE2017 pollster Survation did produce surveys ahead of May’s borough elections in the capital and the party shares together with the GE2017 and the London local election party vote aggregates can be compared.

Those are all featured in the chart above and as can be seen LAB did much worse than any of the polling. The gap on the final polls was more than seven points and suggests that London Labour was being overstated.

Now there were special factors in May. The elections took place a few weeks after the party’s antisemitism crisis broke and the demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster. A feature of the London results was the very high turnout in areas with large Jewish populations and this had some impact on the overall numbers.

In recent years polling of local elections in London has proved to be pretty good. The 2016 Mayoral race was a case in point in 2012.

So I’d argue that the failure of some pollsters at GE17 cannot be taken as a reliable guide to the future in the same way that CON understatement at GE2015 was no guide to what happened two years later.

Mike Smithson