Tag Archives: election

The Polls


Senior Consultant Diana Varley looks in more detail at the polling during this General Election campaign.


Until Theresa May called the General Election, the polls were relatively consistent. Last month the Conservative Party were miles ahead and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party were struggling to keep up. UKIP were just behind the Liberal Democrats, polling at between five and seven percent compared to the Liberal Democrats’ 12 percent. Meanwhile the Greens were polling at less than three percent.


Then the Prime Minister called a snap General Election and all hell broke loose. In polling terms. The UKIP vote collapsed virtually overnight – the County Council elections seeing them wiped out – and the Liberal Democrats found that they were losing votes to the Labour Party. The sudden switch was probably down to people taking a harder look at who they actually want to run the country.


Over the last week the polls have become incredibly volatile. They have gone from predicting a huge Tory majority just two weeks ago, to a tightening race last week and now potentially to a hung Parliament. If they are to be believed, Theresa May has squandered a 20-point lead. The question is, how did she allow this to happen?


The answer is, perhaps she hasn’t.


This, as we know is not the first time that polls have called things wrong. In 1992, the phenomenon of the ‘Silent Tory’ was first recognised. People were nervous of calling themselves Conservative. To take this in to account, the pollsters adjusted their methods, testing the new outcomes on local elections. But again in 1997, the pollsters called it wrong, overestimating the Labour Party’s support. The pollsters predicted the ‘right’ result, but they were still wrong.


In addition, this ‘wobble’ in the polls happens at every election. This could be because the leading party had a bad week – as we saw with Theresa May U-turning on her manifesto. The result is voters feel they can punish the Party for doing something that they don’t like. Furthermore, it is worth looking in more detail at the polls themselves. All of the polls themselves agree that the Conservative Party are consistently polling at around about 45 percent. There is of course a margin of error, but we can agree that the polls are roughly in line with each other on where the Conservative vote is. Additionally, the polls seem to roughly agree on where the vote is with smaller parties: UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.


It is in reality the Labour vote that seems to be volatile. Pollsters accepted just after the 2015 General Election that the political fabric of our country, and indeed from looking at recent big elections, the world, has changed enormously. None of the pollsters were able to predict a Conservative majority, albeit a small one, in 2015. Further, none of the pollsters predicted that Britain would vote to leave the EU or that Donald Trump would win. They were even quite wrong on the French Presidential election. Although, because the polls predicted the ‘right’ result, this has gone largely unnoticed.


There could be any number of reasons why pollsters are coming up with such different conclusions. But one area to think about is the reliability of Labour’s vote. A huge number of people have registered to vote at this General Election. Labour’s vote, which has always been a bit unreliable, now has to take into account activists from Momentum, i.e. people who would not ordinarily vote. Predicting who is going to turnout is proving to be difficult for pollsters. The EU referendum had the highest turnout amongst people who would usually not vote that it is now difficult to forecast who might or might not turnout.


Furthermore, political polling demonstrates that traditional Labour voters who do not like Corbyn are saying that they will still vote Labour at the General Election. However, a firming up of the Labour vote might see these anti-Corbyn Labour supporters stay at home on polling day.


Another reason for the polling could be that pollsters are frightened of calling another election wrong. If the pollsters are wrong again the political class will use it as a stick to beat the industry. However, by predicting a Conservative win, the pollsters could well be hedging their bets. If the Conservatives do indeed win with a landslide victory when the pollsters only predicted a 50-seat majority, as with President Macron’s election victory, the people will largely forget about it.


It is also worth saying that although we look to the polls to offer guidance, this is essentially a competitive business. The last year has shown how unpredictable elections are. If a relatively new pollster can be bold and predict something against the grain, and get it right, then they are more likely to be seen as the pre-eminent expert in polling in coming years. Therefore, we are bound to get the odd unusual prediction from time-to-time like never before.


Either way, there is some thought to be given about the difference between forecast and fact in this post-truth world.

Top seven things to look out for in the final week of the election

Campaigning is well underway again after the shocking terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The decision that was (rightly) made to suspend campaigning gave the nation time to grieve over a terrible act which specifically targeted young women and girls celebrating the many freedoms offered to them in the West. It is worth saying that whilst campaigning is back in full swing, for many families, the horrors of that night earlier this week is a constant worry and will not ease any time soon.


UKIP were the first to being campaigning again, chaotically launching their manifesto yesterday. Local campaigns began shortly thereafter and national campaigning for the other parties started again today. After the break the parties are determined to make up the lost time and will be campaigning hard over the Bank Holiday weekend and beyond.


With a lot going on over the next couple of weeks it will be interesting to see how the campaigns adapt to the change in circumstances. Here at Chelgate we have identified the top seven things to look out for between now and 8th June.


  1. Manifestos

Following a disastrous U-turn on one of their headline policies, you can rest assured that Theresa May wants to keep the focus off the Conservative manifesto as much as possible. However, the other parties who have not been forced into a climb down will look to capitalise on the Tory slip up as much as possible.


Look out for the Conservative Party striving to keep the debate focused on national politics, Jeremy Corbyn, the future of the UK and a Brexit deal.


Meanwhile, all the other parties will talk about their manifestos and policies, which tend to be more popular than their leaders. Also, enjoy the melodrama of UKIP banning ‘adhesive gold stars’ as a reward in the classroom.


  1. Dead cat on the table

The talk of the manifestos will lead to Lynton Crosby’s favourite election technique, throwing a dead cat on the table. As Boris Johnson said, ‘they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’


When the debate focuses too much on Theresa May’s weak points, Mr Crosby will release one of the Tory attack dogs, possibly Chris Grayling, to refocus the national debate.  Although it does remain to be seen what the line of attack will be.


  1. The Polls

The gap in the polls has closed, possibly to as low as five points and this has left Corbyn and his team feeling confident. Hence, Corbyn’s speech today in which he laid the blame for the Manchester attack on Western foreign policy failures.


This is crucial, because although Corbyn’s stance is what he has firmly believed for decades, the Labour Party would be unlikely to push forward with such strong language if they were still massively behind in the polls.



This poll ‘wobble’ always happens to the incumbent party as election day looms.  CCHQ will certainly have a lot to think about over the bank holiday weekend. However, Crosby is unlikely to be too upset by this. It is exactly what he wants, as a seeming hardening of Labour support allows people to focus their minds more on the type of Government they want and ensuring they turn out to vote.


  1. Security

The debate around security has played a major role in this General Election and the Conservatives have been arguing that voters cannot trust Jeremy Corbyn with the UK’s security. Considering what has happened this week, this argument will now have to be phrased delicately. Manchester has previously been targeted by the IRA, and the IRA tried to assassinate the Margaret Thatcher when she was PM. Days later Jeremy Corbyn invited them in to Parliament to speak.


The Tories will seek to ensure that this is not forgotten. As John McDonnell does his rounds on the talk shows expect this past to be highlighted. McDonnell’s, Corbyn’s and even Diane Abbott’s (who is crucially the Shadow Home Secretary) links to the IRA and other potentially questionable organisations will be brought up.


In many Conservative Party members’ minds, the attack on Manchester cements the validity of this argument more than ever. The question is how this will play out and will it form part of Crosby’s dead cat strategy?


  1. The Mayors

Out of the horrific attack in Manchester, the nation came together, spearheaded by Labour’s newest mayor, Andy Burnham. He did a terrific job speaking up for Manchester. Furthermore, Sadiq Khan has demonstrated he can use his mayoral platform to make the case for Labour moderates. Expect more from these Mayors as the public view of Corbyn remains negative. Also, expect Corbynistas to blame the media, the voters, the pollsters and whoever else they can think of for his failures, rather than looking introspectively and identifying that Corbyn is in fact the problem.


In addition, expect to see Andy Street, the Conservatives’ latest elected star, making the case for Conservatism in the West Midlands. Labour will hold Manchester, and some of London, but expect the Conservatives to make some gains in one of Labour’s biggest Midlands strongholds.



  1. The devolved institutions

It seems the hysteria around the Conservatives beating Labour in Wales is losing steam. That said, it should be noted just how brazen Theresa May and her team are being in targeting safe Labour areas. Along this line is the decline of Labour in Scotland. Labour’s collapse north of the border was a major contributor to the Conservatives’ surprise win two years ago. Those traditional Labour voters have turned to either the SNP or, to use its full name, the Conservative and Unionist Party.


Now, Ruth Davidson, the Leader of the Scottish Tories, looks like she will help the Conservatives gain seats in Scotland. She in part gets a fair hearing because she is not some tweed wearing bloke shipped up from the lowlands, but speaks with a genuine Scottish accent in dulcet female tones. If Theresa May is to win the landslide she so covets she is going to have to make significant gains in both Scotland and Wales. Expect to see Theresa May moving her tanks further forward as she moves from Labour’s front garden to their back yard in both Wales and Scotland.



  1. Leaks

Theresa May has run a pretty tight ship. Water tight. So water tight it’s barely even on water. She will have taken the leaks from the American press as a personal affront. Seeing a British Prime Minister stand up to an American President is the stuff of dreams for many people. More so as Donald Trump seems to have actually listened.


Although people may be shocked, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Remember when she defied America as Home Secretary and refused to extradite Gary McKinnon? The PM demonstrated there she was willing to stand up to the United States, and if she is given a mandate, she will continue to do so.


The Conservative Party will be formally briefing the press over the next couple of weeks. But don’t expect any leaks from the Conservative or Labour moderate side. The Conservatives will be concerned about upsetting Crosby, a man many of them trust whole heartedly to return them to power. Labour moderates will not leak as they want to allow Corbyn every chance to fail on his own, so they can seize back power in the aftermath of the election.


So what next?

These are just a few themes to look out for over the next couple of weeks. The electoral cycle has been unpredictable recently and it is clear that the political fabric of our society has changed.


Then we get to the polls. The polls were wrong in 2015. They were wrong on Brexit. They were wrong on the US presidency. They were still wrong in the French presidential election, although this was less noticeable because they did at least predict the right result. Therefore, who is to say they are not wrong now? Jeremy Corbyn sweeps to power in a 1992 ‘Silent Tory’ style victory. Only this time it is the rise of the Hard Left in the UK.


The only thing we can do is wait and see. Watch how the remaining leaders do in their one on one interviews with Andrew Neil. It’s all a bit of political theatre but in the age of social media comments and clips will be circulating way beyond a TV audience.  Look out for Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC as he is first out of the blocks after the PMs performance last week. His media performances aren’t great, but he has been more assured of late. However, anything short of a dismal failure will be hailed as a success and it is likely the polls will take this ‘success’ in to account. Particularly when compared to Theresa May’s performance at the beginning the week which was shambolic.


The result of this crucial election remains to be seen.