Projection of Tory victory narrows to 13-16pts as Corbyn’s ratings improve

Posted in Historical polls, Politics on May 18th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Projection of Tory victory narrows to 13-16pts as Corbyn’s ratings improve

I recently published analysis that showed leadership ratings are an excellent predictor of election results and used Ipsos MORI’s April poll to project a Tory win of 15-18pts. Their May poll has now been published and, with Corbyn’s ratings having improved and May’s remaining unchanged, that projection has narrowed to 13-16pts.

My analysis is based on a relationship that Matt Singh spotted in his celebrated 2015 pre-election article. As with my last article, this post doesn’t go into as much depth as Matt did – if he repeats the analysis he did last time, as he’s suggested he will, his projection will be more thorough than mine.

Nevertheless, the comparative leadership ratings in MORI’s last polls have a very strong relationship with the final gap between the parties at the election, so this is a useful guide.

With the new data, I’m looking – as before – at both the difference in satisfaction with May and Corbyn, and the difference in net satisfaction, ie also taking into account those who are dissatisfied.

Graphs are below, but the headline is: on the gap in satisfaction the Tories are projected to win by 13pts, and on the gap in net satisfaction they’re projected to win by 15pts.

With a linear regression (rather than polynomial) this increases to 14pts and 16pts, so the range is 13-16pts (this is Great Britain only, though that doesn’t make much difference to the gap).

This means the Tories are on course for a win that’s about as large as the one in 1983 – less than it seemed a few weeks ago, but still historically large.

It seems surprising that the projected gap has narrowed by two points when the correlation was very good both for the previous analysis and for this one. I initially thought it might be that views of Corbyn were relatively unsettled compared to past elections as he’d been leader for a fairly short time when the election was called – so the swing towards him might have been unusually large. But actually the change in his satisfaction over this period is only around median – he’s gained less in terms of relative satisfaction, since the last poll, than the swing towards Howard in 2005, Blair in 1997 and Kinnock in 1992. The answer may just be that the ‘model’ is quite sensitive and is moved by a change of a few points in satisfaction, but still leaves an overlap around 15-16pts.

So, regardless of the reason – and despite Corbyn’s slightly improved satisfaction score – the projection still points to the largest win by any party for at least 34 years.

Leadership satisfaction polls suggest the Tories will win by 15-18pts

Posted in Historical polls, Politics on May 9th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Leadership satisfaction polls suggest the Tories will win by 15-18pts

Quite long and data-y. Key points:

  • Historical polls show the gap between satisfaction with Labour and Tory leaders, in polls close to elections, is an extremely good predictor of the gap between the parties at the election.
  • It is actually a better predictor of the gap between the parties than voting intention data.
  • The measure suggests the Tories are on course for a 15-18pt win.
  • This means current polls may be overstating the Tories’ lead.

Two years ago this week, Matt Singh correctly argued, against the consensus, that the Tories were on course for a clear win.

This post recreates one of the analyses Matt used to come to his conclusion. Using it, I suggest the Tories are on course for a 15-18pt victory.

I’m using Mori’s long-running data on satisfaction with the party leaders. This was one of several that Matt used and is being widely talked about as an apparent sign that the Tories will win (note, Matt used several other measures as well – my analysis is less thorough than his and I’m not suggesting this is such a serious study as his was).

Some high-profile commentators treat this satisfaction data as if it’s a direct substitute for voting intent. So when, for example, 23% say they are satisfied with the job Corbyn was doing, some people have interpreted that as meaning Labour would get 23% of the vote. That is not borne out by the data.

The following charts compare satisfaction with the leaders, from Mori’s polls taken six weeks before the election (chosen so we can compare with the latest Mori poll, from April 2017).

The first shows the percentage satisfied with the Prime Minister minus the percentage satisfied with the Leader of the Opposition, compared with the governing party’s lead at the election.

The second is essentially the same, but shows the difference in net satisfaction between the leaders, so also takes into account how many are dissatisfied.

For each I’ve used a polynomial regression, as Matt did. This points towards a Tory victory of 15pts if we compare only those who are satisfied. If we compare net satisfaction the Tory victory is 17pts. Both have nearly equally good r-squared values.  The fit is almost exactly as good with a linear regression but in that case the Tory victory is around 1pt greater. So I suggest this points to a Tory victory of 15-18 points.

(This is in GB only, but that shouldn’t make much difference to the gap between the parties expressed in terms of UK results.)

This suggests the Tories are likely to exceed their 1983 victory, but probably not 1931.

It would mean current polls are mostly overstating the Tories’ lead. The last five have given the Tories a lead of 16-22pts, which appears a little high.

That said, it may be that opinion has shifted since the latest Mori poll. Perhaps the unusually short period between elections means opinion is less settled than it normally is before an election, so the 6-week-out poll isn’t as accurate as it normally is. The next Mori poll, out in a couple of weeks, will tell us whether satisfaction with the leaders is indeed still shifting.

On a final note: I was wrong. I’ve said a few times that I think the suggestion that analysts should look beyond voting intention numbers, to underlying figures, was like astrology – you could always find something in the underlying numbers to, retrospectively, fit with what actually happened.

But this analysis has changed my mind (perhaps it should have been changed by Matt’s analysis two years ago). I’ve also run the same dependent variable – election results – against the voting intention data in the same Mori polls that I took the leadership-satisfaction scores from. Unexpectedly, to me at least, the correlation between voting intent (in terms of gap between the parties) and the election result was worse than the correlation between leadership satisfaction and the result (the same is still true of the final Mori poll before the election, although the difference is smaller):

In short, if you want to project the gap between the parties at the election, it’s better to look at the leadership satisfaction – and apply the regression formula – than it is to look at voting intent.

Unless perceptions of Corbyn and May shift dramatically, the Tories are heading for the biggest win since before the Second World War.

UK worries about climate are at a 5-year high – new analysis of climate polling since 2005

Posted in Climate Sock on May 4th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on UK worries about climate are at a 5-year high – new analysis of climate polling since 2005

UK worries about climate change are at their joint-highest level for five years according to new data published today. The government’s new poll found that 71% say they’re concerned about climate change – about the same as its poll last year and as high as any poll since 2012.

In the US worries about climate recently went reached record levels.

It might be that a Trump effect has pushed up concern in the US: his dismissal of climate change may have perversely, drawn attention to the issue. Or perhaps it reflects the accumulation of severe weather events in the US and the success of campaigners there in raising concern about it them.

For whatever reason, worries in the UK haven’t seen such a dramatic increase, but have been gradually growing for the last few years.

As far as I’m aware, this blog is the first place to have compiled this 12-year data series – which comes from the near-identical question asked in several different sources – to produce this long-running tracker of UK worries about the climate. The latest finding is from the UK government’s opinion survey, the latest wave of which is published today.

See below for the data sources and why I’m not totally happy with comparing these results – but overall I think it’s ok to put them together and compare the trend over time.

The data comes from various different surveys, some of which I don’t have the full data for:

Oct-Nov 2005 – MORI, age 15+

May 2008 – MORI, age 15+

Jan-Mar 2010 – MORI, age 15+

Mar 2011, Aug 2012, Mar 2013, Aug-Oct 2014 – MORI, age 16+

Jun-Jul 2012, Mar 2013, Mar 2014, Mar 2015, Mar 2016, Mar 2017 – TNS, age 16+

I doubt the small age variation makes much difference.

My main concern is I haven’t seen some of the questionnaires/full data tables, so it’s not clear whether there were other questions that might have influenced respondents before they were asked about climate change.

The main risk is obviously the 2005 data. Since that’s the outlier in terms of worries, it would be useful to know if anything was done differently in the questionnaire (for example, did it follow other questions about the environment or severe weather events?). All I have is a reference to the 2005 results in a report from 2010. Given it’s so unlike the other results it might be tempting to assume there’s something dubious about it – but as we saw in the US, worries about climate change were higher around 2005 so it does seem possible the data here is right. Given that, I’m inclined to believe the results are ok.

Are radical policies the answer to Labour’s slump?

Posted in Labour, Politics, Polling Matters on April 24th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Are radical policies the answer to Labour’s slump?

This was originally published on Political Betting.

Despite using Easter to announce several policies, Labour is making little effort to pretend it knows what it would do with power. The party’s website still invites visitors to “help shape our next manifesto” and Corbyn semi-loyalist Dawn Butler suggested on Newsnight there might have to be a “rolling manifesto” while policies are developed.

This isn’t just a lack of detailed policies. It’s also about what Labour stands for and who it is trying to appeal to.

Corbyn ran for the leadership with the promise of a “radical economic strategy” yet the recent announcements have largely been repeats of earlier Labour policies. Free meals in primary schools was floated for the 2010 election. A plan to pressure big companies to pay suppliers on time was in the 2015 manifesto. The triple lock on pensions was another Miliband pledge.

You could argue that Labour’s recent policies go further than previous ones. But no-one can seriously claim they would revolutionise the economy. As such, they seem designed for the same voters – progressive but not radical – that the 2015 manifesto aimed to win over.

Yet Corbyn’s Labour has also made some radical pledges that wouldn’t have made it into recent manifestos. Among its current 10 pledges are rent controls and nationalisation of the railways.

This week’s Opinium poll for the PB/Polling Matters podcast tested public views of eight possible and actual Labour policies.

The policies that did best were a mix of the radical and the incremental. Two of the top-scoring were 2015-style measures: a £10 minimum wage in 2020 (more radical than Miliband, but hardly socialist) and requiring companies to pay suppliers on time.

Also among the top-scoring was “control rents so landlords cannot keep increasing the amount they charge”, which 47% of those considering Labour strongly supported. Surprisingly, that measure was most popular among the 55+ age group, and least popular among the ‘generation rent’ 18-34s.

Other radical policies were much less popular though. A citizens’ income of £6000 and railway nationalisation were strongly supported by only 29% and 32%, respectively, of people who would consider Labour.

So Labour might find support for a mix of tangible incremental policies, and radical policies aimed at tackling a well-known problem. With 49% saying they would at least consider Labour, these policies appear to win the strong support of around a quarter of the population – suggesting there is still a 25% strategy open to Labour.

But while this might suggest Labour could avoid slipping further, there are two problems with this approach.

First, such an incoherent mix of policies would leave voters struggling to know what Labour stands for. One set of policies suggests Labour would govern as social democrats. The second set suggests Labour wants to revolutionise major parts of the economy.

Without a unifying argument, Labour’s pledges would be easily forgotten. Ed Miliband didn’t lack popular policies but the failure to stake out a clear position, and stick to it, cost the party at the election.

Second, the poll also suggests even well-scoring policies may be less popular than they seem. Over Easter, Labour’s policy that got the most coverage was the pledge for free school meals. Yet this was the least popular of the policies tested.

It’s hard to be sure why it did so badly, but free food for children doesn’t seem an inherently unpopular measure. Its failure in the poll might be because it is now associated with Labour. If that’s the case, more policy announcements might do little to stop Labour’s vote sliding further, even if they were popular before they become linked with the party.

Listen to the latest episode of Polling Matters, where I talked about the state of the parties and the race ahead with Conor Pope of Progress and Laurence Janta-Lipinski, a political consultant:

The Lib Dem fightback – how high can their support go as the party of Remain? Latest Polling Matters

Posted in Liberal Democrats, Politics, Polling Matters on April 17th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on The Lib Dem fightback – how high can their support go as the party of Remain? Latest Polling Matters

This article was originally published on Political Betting.

The SNP lost a referendum and won a landslide. Could the Lib Dems do something similar by becoming the party of Remain voters?

This week’s PB/Polling Matters Opinium poll suggests the party could do well with a relentless focus on stopping Brexit. But it also shows that a single-issue stop Brexit party would be unlikely to win more than a quarter of voters.

Only around 11% currently say they’d vote Lib Dem, but the Opinium poll found 41% of the public would definitely vote Lib Dem or would consider doing so, including 47% of current Labour voters. Winning over half of those considering the Lib Dems would put the party above even its record 2010 vote.

So should the party try to gain these voters with a promise that they would keep the UK in the EU?

In part the poll backs this up. Among those who voted Remain, 60% would at least consider the Lib Dems – around 29% of voters.

But this overstates the opportunities for the Lib Dems in focusing on stopping Brexit. Most Remainers don’t care enough about staying in the EU to put it above all other issues.

In another question the poll found that only 22% agree with the statement “My top priority when deciding who to vote for is supporting a party that will try to stop Brexit”. This 22% may be a more realistic limit for how far a stop Brexit party could go.

This still suggests the Lib Dems could double their vote share with an anti-Brexit focus. Even winning over just those who strongly agree with the statement, and aren’t already Lib Dem voters, would add 7pts to the Lib Dem vote.

With Labour now facilitating Brexit, the field is clear for the Lib Dems to be the party of Remain. The poll suggests this focus could serve the Lib Dems well, in comparison with their 2015 vote.

But a single-issue stop Brexit party is unlikely to win more than one in four voters. Unless the UK’s exit goes so badly that public opinion changes, this focus can take a party from fourth to third, but it can’t take them from third to second.

You can listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast here:

3 reasons there won’t be an early election

Posted in Politics, Polling Matters on March 28th, 2017 by Leo – 5 Comments

The Tories’ vast poll lead is prompting speculation Theresa May will call an early election. Despite the government’s repeated denials, the rumours won’t stop.

But here are three reasons – which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere – why the government might not go ahead this year:

1. Boundary changes won’t go through until after the September 2018 review. They will make elections easier for the Tories. Calling an election on the old boundaries would both forego the benefit of the changes for a few more years and would mean having to find candidates for seats that won’t exist at the next election. Not impossible but an avoidable pain.

2. Theresa May might hope to be PM for 8-12 years. That’s how long the most successful seem to be able to last.

Let’s say she’s thinking about the lower end of this and expects to stand down around 2024. If that’s the case, a 2017 election would mean fighting another by 2022. The first election might shock Labour enough it gets rid of Corbyn, elects a new leader and becomes a plausible opposition by 2022. That second election could be quite tough.

On the other hand – if May thinks Labour is unlikely to improve much by 2020 – holding off another three years means she might only have to fight one election. She can leave by mid-2024, giving her successor time to get ready for the following year’s election.

This means, from the perspective of May’s entire Prime Ministership, the question isn’t just “will Labour improve by 2020?”, but is also “will Labour be better in 2020 than it would be in 2022 after having lost a 2017 election?”.

Of course if she wants to go beyond eight years she’ll have to fight at least two elections regardless. But then if she wanted to go past 11 years, an early election now would mean fighting three over her time in office.

3. The Lib Dems are mostly talked about as a threat to Labour, but they’re more likely to stop May calling an early election.

It’s certainly true that their pro-EU message appeals to some 2015 Labour voters and potential converts. But the Tories have 24 seats with a majority of less than 10,000 over the Lib Dems, compared with Labour’s 6 seats. Given the Lib Dems’ improvement since 2015, many of those seats are likely to fall.

In an early election May could be confident that her gains from Labour would outweigh these losses to the Lib Dems. But that won’t be much compensation to the 24 Tory MPs who might lose their seats and are, presumably, arguing against an early election.

 

I talked about these issues, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, on this week’s Polling Matters podcast with Keiran and Rob:

Worries about climate change are at record levels. Is this a new chapter in public opinion?

Posted in Climate Sock, U.S. on March 16th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Worries about climate change are at record levels. Is this a new chapter in public opinion?

Public opinion is rarely tidy but sometimes there are clear trends in the popular mood. A new poll suggests there has been a shift in public opinion about climate change, with a surge in worries about the threat.

Since polls began asking about climate change, worries about the issue in rich English-speaking countries (the places where denial has been prominent) have gone through the following broad stages:

Up to 2007: public discovery of the problem and increasing worries (with a peak around 2000, a fall after 9/11 and a recovery until around 2007)

2008-2010: rapid decline in worries, accelerated by Copenhagen and the 2009 email hack

2011-2016: slow increase in worries, back to around 2009 levels

The new poll – of the US public, by Gallup – suggests we may be in a new stage. Concern about climate change appears to have past 2009 levels and to now exceed all previous peaks.

2017-onwards: concern increasing to record levels (?)

Is that a justifiable conclusion?

A problem is that this is just one poll. It’s the only one I’m aware of that shows concern to now be greater than it’s ever previously been. It might be a rogue result, outside the margin of error.

But… It’s 8-points up on the previous year’s poll, and 4 above any previous. This poll would have to have been a real statistical fluke for the true level of public concern not be the highest since at least 2009.

And a different poll, from the UK, suggests something similar.

Various people have asked the “is climate change real” question (FWIW, I don’t like the question – it’s confused by political identity and doesn’t reflect what people actually want done about emissions – but these results are so striking I can’t ignore it). Since 2009 responses to this question were uncannily static. But in February this year ECIU’s poll showed a sudden jump.

So that’s more evidence that we’ve started a new chapter.

Yet I’m still not sure it’s definitive that worries are at record levels. We can probably say concern about climate change is greater than it’s been any time since 2010 – in the US at least – but there’s not enough evidence to be sure it’s at the highest level ever.

One issue is Gallup’s chart shows only the percentage that worry a great deal about climate change. In the equivalent chart last year they combined it with those that worry a fair amount. If we do the same for this year’s data, we find worries this year are no higher than they were in 2008 and are still lower than they were in 1999-2000.

So if we’re still, if not on the fence, at least within touching distance of it, what more evidence might persuade us that worries really are smashing records?

In the UK, the government’s quarterly climate and energy poll asks a question once a year on concern about climate change. The question uses the same wording that MORI has run since 2005, giving a nice comparison that will allow us to test the theory. The next wave, due to be published in late April, should ask that question, so we’ll have more evidence soon about whether concern is rising.

And in Australia, the Lowy Institute has run the same climate question since 2006 in its annual poll. The next wave should be out in June.

In both that and the UK poll, concern in 2016 was still some way below the pre-2010 peak, although the highest for a few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s data shows worries are up but not yet at record levels.

Putting it together, the evidence is clear that worries about climate change have been rising for several years. Last year concern was around where it was in the late 2000s. This year, either worries have stopped increasing or they’re moving towards record levels. It may be too early to say for sure but the initial evidence suggests concern is still rising.

Why fake news might not be such a problem for UK liberals: Polling Matters

Posted in Politics, Polling Matters on February 16th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Why fake news might not be such a problem for UK liberals: Polling Matters

On this week’s Polling Matters, Keiran and I were joined by Harry Carr, who run’s Sky’s polling. We talked about an interesting YouGov poll on ‘fake news’, which suggested that people in the UK are relatively unlikely to believe made-up stories about immigrants and benefit scroungers. We also discussed the new Polling Matters/Opinium poll on immigration, which found public opinion to be more nuanced than it might seem.

 

Tory governments age well in the memory. Labour governments turn sour.

Posted in Politics on February 12th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on Tory governments age well in the memory. Labour governments turn sour.

This article originally appeared on Political Betting

No recent Prime Minister was popular as they approached the end of their time in power. Each of the last five had net satisfaction scores – the proportion satisfied minus the proportion dissatisfied – of well below minus 20 points during their final month, according to MORI’s satisfaction data.

Thatcher was the most unpopular, with 71% dissatisfied with the job she was doing. The least unpopular was Gordon Brown, who still had the support of 35% before the 2010 election.

If it seems surprising that the Scotsman was less reviled than the others, that’s because of what’s happened after his defeat.

In the time since each Prime Minister left office, the collective memory of their effectiveness has been transformed. This week’s Opinium poll for the PB / Polling Matters podcast found that Thatcher has gone from being the least popular recent Prime Minister, when she left office, to the most popular now.

Over the same time, Blair and Brown have gone from the Prime Ministers with the joint-highest satisfaction scores (along with Major) as they were leaving Downing Street, to being seen as the ones that did the worst job.

With Cameron moving up the ranking, the picture is clear – Tory governments are remembered increasingly well over time, while Labour governments become less popular.

The reason for this is Labour voters. While current Tory voters have views that you’d expect – overwhelmingly believing Tory Prime Ministers did a good job and thinking the opposite of Labour ones – Labour voters are more reluctant to support their party’s leaders.

Only one in three thinks Blair did a good job (he’s more popular among Lib Dems) while even fewer think the same of Gordon Brown.

This ambivalence does Labour no good. Tory voters can draw on several examples of what they consider successful Prime Ministers from their side. If even the currently diminished ranks of Labour voters don’t believe that past Labour governments were worthwhile, it’s hard to see who will resist the accusation that Labour administrations spend too much for too little benefit.

There are many reasons that Labour supporters might come up with to justify their doubts about Blair and Brown’s governments. But Tory voters have forgotten their previous reservations about the woman who left office as the least popular Prime Minister in recent history. If Labour is to become an election-winning machine again, it will need to do the same for its own past leaders.

How past Prime Ministers are seen: Polling Matters

Posted in Politics, Polling Matters on February 8th, 2017 by Leo – Comments Off on How past Prime Ministers are seen: Polling Matters

This week’s episode discussed the latest Opinium/Polling Matters data, which looked at how past Prime Ministers are seen. We also talked about the chances of a possible Labour leadership challenge and whether there’ll be a vote of no confidence in the speaker.

The first part of the show covered German politics, where the SPD’s new leader has given the party a rapid boost in the polls.