How the readership of the main national papers are split on Brexit

September 20th, 2018

YouGov have just published a poll which shows how readers of different newspapers are viewing brexit and how they would vote in a new referendum. For some reason the Sun does not appear to be included.

In broad terms the results are what you would expect with Guardian readers being staunchly for Remain while Express ones are for Leave. But there are some surprises. To me the big one is the Daily Telegraph where the split is 45% remain to 55% leave is very different from the strong hard Brexit editorial approach that the paper has been taking four years.

I also like the Daily Mirror figures where the readership is completely split down the middle though I am a bit surprised about the the fact that 30% of Daily Express readers are remainers. That seems on the high side.

The Mail, also, appears to have more Remainers than you would expect. I wonder how they are going to take the new approach being adopted by the pro-Remain new editor.

Mike Smithson


NEW PB / Polling Matters podcast: Where do the Lib Dems go from here?

September 19th, 2018

Keiran Pedley is joined by Mark Pack of the Lib Dem Newswire to discuss this week’s Lib Dem conference. Keiran and Mark discuss how the conference went and where the party goes from here and Mark gives everyone an outside tip on who the next Lib Dem leader might be when Vince Cable steps down.

Listen to the latest episode here:

Follow this week’s guests:


Ashcroft US poll finds 53% saying there are grounds to believe that Trump committed crimes that would warrant impeachment

September 19th, 2018

Nearly a half believe Trump campaign colluded with Russia & he was aware

A 6k sample poll of US voters has just been published by Lord Ashcroft and sets the scene for the important midterm elections that take place in the first week in November.

Currently the Democratic party is enjoying reasonable leads in generic Congressional polls and the betting is on the party re-taking control of the House.

But a much tighter battle is taking place for control of the Senate where about a third of the seats are up for election this year. Currently the Republicans have 51 of the 100 seats and the betting is that they will continue to have a majority.

What’s very likely to dominate US politics if the Democrats do as well in the House of Representatives as projected will be the ongoing rumbles and investigation into whether the Trump colluded with the Russians in his victory in November 2016.

The view is that if the Democrats do end up holding the House then impeachment proceedings could start and the Ashcroft polling seeks to test opinion on what American voters believe happened in that election.

As can be seen voters’ views are very much determined by whether or not they are Trump supporters.

Mike Smithson


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

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


My 66/1 longshot for WH2020 now favourite for the Democratic nomination and 2nd favourite for the Presidency

September 18th, 2018

While I was on holiday I was grateful that TSE Tweeted my post from January 18th 2017, two days before Trump was inaugurated, on my long-shot bet for WH2020 – Senator Kamala Harris of California.

On Betfair Harris is currently a 16% chance for the nomination and 10% to become next president. In November 2016 she became the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the Senate. She’s a former Attorney-General for California and is the daughter of an Indian-American mother and Jamaican-American father.

Since then she has gained huge prominence in the US following her grillings of Trump’s nominees for high office. The clip above is from the hearing last week on the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court. This is what I wrote about her in January 2017 –

“My reading of the Democratic party 2020 race is that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will simply be too old to contemplate running. Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren (15/2) is currently favourite and she’s likely to play a big part in her party’s opposition to the incoming president. She was strongly tipped to run last year but didn’t. Maybe 2016 was her best chance.

Michelle Obama (8/1) is also being tipped but somehow I can’t see her taking the plunge.

For bets that won’t mature for nearly four years I like long-shots and have 53 year old Harris at 66/1 for the Presidency and 40/1 for the nomination. As I write these odds are still available and might be worth a punt.”

My other longshot bets for WH2016 are on the current Governor of Colorado, John Hickenhooper. My longest price is 270/1. After looking at some TV interviews I love his laid back-self-deprecation and he has already started to indicate that he’s thinking of a run. I think that he would be appealing to primary voters and Trump would find him difficult to deal with.

What the Democrats want more than anything is to get the current incumbent of the White House out.

Mike Smithson


Betfair punters make it about an evens chance that TMay will be out next year – I’m not tempted

September 18th, 2018

A no confidence move is highly risky for any plotters

One of the great jobs of returning from a longish holiday is reviewing how things have changed while you’ve been away and the biggest move over the past three weeks is how the Chequers Brexit plan is gathering support. Maybe the Mail was following rather than leading. TMay’s big gamble might just succeed.

What is this going to do to her future career prospects?

It is being widely said within the Conservative Party that after Brexit, March 29th next year, Mrs. May will go and there will be a leadership election. I’m not convinced. She’s mentioned a couple of times that her plan is to stay on and what is the party going to do if the woman who has by then delivered Brexit wants to stay put?

Are we really going to see an attempt to oust her if she makes it clear that she won’t go of her own accord?

To get rid of Mrs May 15% of MPs have to write to the chairman of the 1922 committee demanding a confidence vote. The key number is not the 15% of MPs but whether the desire to oust her is backed by 50% plus one of the Parliamentary party – 158. The downside for ousters is that if there is a confidence vote that she survives, even by just a single vote, Mrs May would be safe in the job for a further year. So those wanting her out could actually be giving her greater job security.

These latest rules were created when William Hague was leader in the first Blair government are totally different from that which is existed in Mrs Thatcher’s time something that many commentators don’t seem to appreciate.

The overwhelming factor in the event of a confidence vote will be who would be the successor and here the party is totally split.

    If ousting May is perceived to increase the chances of Johnson becoming leader that will surely inhibit many CON MPs from voting for TMay to go in a confidence ballot.

The former mayor who uses terms like suicide vests to describe Mrs May’s Brexit approach has far less support amongst his parliamentary colleagues than might be appreciated.

I wonder as well if TMay might be helped by the “time never being ripe” for a leadership contest. If she went soon after March 29th that would conflict with the May locals. It was the “this is not the right time” element in the 2008-2010 period which helped Gordon Brown to struggle on. There was always a reason why a leadership election shouldn’t happen and eventually we got to the election itself.

The need for 158 CON MPs to back it and the consequences of a failed move make the no confidence option unattractive. It is no wonder that it hasn’t happened so far.

I’ve already lost money betting on this market (I was on a 2017 exit) that I’m not going to risk any more.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Oldies’ headache: Turnout levels reverting to GE2015 levels

September 17th, 2018

And will young voter enthusiasm be retained?

Unlike Alastair Meeks on the previous thread I am far less certain that Labour, certainly under Corbyn, have a good chance of winning most seats, let alone getting a majority at the next election.

The boundaries, the lack of any discernable progress in Scotland and the ongoing blowback from Corbyn’s cack-handed handling of the antisemitism issue are going to make it hard.

This thread is about another potential challenge – the changes in turnout levels between the last two election shown in the above chart. These were, of course, the reason why many pollsters got GE2017 wrong. Quite simply their turnout modelling was linked back to GE2015. As can be seen there was a huge increase in levels in the younger age groups which was combined with reduced turnout rates in the older ones.

This has been put down to a keenness at the time for younger voters to respond Labour, its manifesto and leader. There was also the Conservatives manifesto with, of course, Nick Timothy’s dementia tax. It was that move three weeks before polling that saw the huge turn around in the Tory standing, partly driven by lower oldie turnout that led to its failure to hold onto its majority.

But that is all history. A big question for the next election is whether turnout levels are set in strone or could we see a reversal back to GE2015? If older turnout levels return this is not good news for LAB. More oldies casting their votes means bigger CON shares.

At the younger end of the voting spectrum we cannot assume that Labour and Corbyn will retain the attractiveness of last time and retain the turnout levels that we saw in June last year. Certainly the latest polling suggests an easing off.

    The weekend’s Opinium poll for the Observer had just 38% of 18-34 year olds approving of Corbyn compared with 33% saying they disapproved. This compares with just 15% of oldies(65+) approving of Corbyn with a whopping 70% disapproving.

It is the same pattern with recent leader ratings from other pollsters.

Mike Smithson


Ruthless People. The Conservatives lose a leadership contender

September 17th, 2018

I have an announcement to make. Sadly I do not foresee circumstances in which I shall be standing to be leader of the Conservative party. This is no doubt a great loss to them, despite my having no ministerial experience, not being an MP or even being a member of the Conservative party. But they will have to struggle on without me.

The bemusement you are, I expect, feeling was not matched when Ruth Davidson similarly ruled herself out. Perhaps it was because she is a member of the Conservative party. After all, she has the other two disqualifiers, just like me. There are 316 MPs more immediately eligible, of whom at least half will have had more governmental experience. Why should her disavowal attract so much attention?

This can be explained partly, of course, by the basis on which she did so. As has been widely acknowledged, she has been incredibly open about her past struggles with mental health, an openness that will help change attitudes to a set of serious problems that are far too little discussed. She may have helped to save lives with her words. Few politicians achieve as much.

Still, the question can’t be dismissed: why is this major news? The answer is simple, and worrying for the Conservative party: they have a serious lack of talent. A charismatic outsider with a winning track record looks much better than most of the alternatives. Theresa May only remains in office because the alternatives look dire. Unsurprisingly, Conservatives are looking to see whether the grass is greener.

Ruth Davidson’s hypothetical candidacy is symptomatic of that bigger problem. Jacob Rees-Mogg, an MP who has not yet climbed as far as unpaid bag-carrier in government, has been among the favourites for next Prime Minister. He too has disavowed leadership ambitions, so far without harming his betting odds very much.

Others have seen the gap in the market. Last week George Freeman, an MP who had previously served in unblemished obscurity, helpfully announced that if called upon he would stand. The nation no doubt is grateful for his sense of duty.

When Theresa May goes, whether sooner or later, she will in all probability be replaced by a candidate with substantial experience at the highest rank, however lacklustre they might otherwise be. The paucity of quality of the field, however, suggests that the Conservatives will be likely to make heavy weather against Labour.

What of Ms Davidson? Having announced that she does not want to be Prime Minister she has benefited from a wave of sympathy from a public that finds a great renunciation a compelling story. It does raise a further awkward question, however: if she is not up to being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, why does she think she is up to being Scotland’s First Minister? She had better have a clear answer.

Alastair Meeks