Making sense of the disparity in the polls 2

By Jonathan Bartley
April 25, 2010

More discussion this morning from commentators trying to make sense of the ongoing disparity of poll results in today’s Sunday Papers:

BPIX (Mail on Sunday) Con: 34, Lab 26, LD 30, Other 10

YouGov (Sunday Times) Con: 35, Lab 27, LD 28, Other 10

ICM (Sun Tel) Con: 35, Lab 26, LD 31, Other 8

OnePoll (People) Con: 32, Lab 23, LD 32, Other 13

IPSOS MORI (News of the World) Con 36, Lab 30, LD 23, Other 11

ComRes (Indy on Sunday and Mirror) Con: 34, Lab 28, LD 29, Other 9

To add to the complexity, YouGov polling in the Lab-Con marginals shows the Tories slipping to 34%. Labour is on 35% and the Lib Dems have jumped to 26%. This still represents a pro-Conservative swing, because of the drop in Labour support, but of only 4%, in line with the overall national swing. It would give the Tories 57 of these seats, not enough for a majority.

On the eve of the election campaign (before the first TV debate and the Lib Dem surge) I suggested that this election would see quite an ongoing disparity in the polls caused by:

- The Lib Dems doing much better as a result of the TV debates

- The ongoing difficulties that pollsters have in dealing with Lib Dems

- Misc. local factors that the polls wouldn’t pick up

- Large number of retiring MPs

- Reaction in some constituencies to certain MPs over expenses

- Large numbers of ‘other’ candidates standing

...all of which are very hard to take account of using the usual polling methods.

In the broader picture what now seems to be evident from the polls:

1. The Tory vote share pretty consistent around 33-34%

2. Lib Dems and Labour jostling for position around the 26-32% range, with Lib Dems apparently edging Labour into third

3. The “Other” vote finally being squeezed as the Lib Dems pick up on the ‘anti-politics’ sentiment. Whereas ‘others’ were around 12-14% ten days ago, they are now hovering around the 9-11% mark.

This takes us in to trying to predict election results based on a ‘three dimensional’ swing from Labour to Conservatives, and from Labour to Lib Dems, with the prospect of what is going to happen in seats where both Tories and Lib Dem have a chance, and three way marginals, very uncertain. The Tories were banking on taking 10-20 seats off the Lib Dems. Now the Lib Dems may even take some seats off the Tories. This is the crucial factor that would/will deprive the Tories of an overall majority and leave us with a hung parliament, even if the Tories do much better in the Lab-Con marginals.

So the most significant factor now may be people voting Lib Dem where Lib Dems are seen as having a chance of winning. The key to making sense of the polls, and predicting the election result, would seem to lie in the Lib Dems top 50 target seats. 22 are currently held by Labour, 28 by Conservatives.

Ekklesia is reporting on the polls from a perspective in line with our 'ethics election' initiative. This will include specifically highlighting what's happening to the smaller parties and 'others' who often get ignored in the polls, but could be important in a balanced/ hung Parliament. We do not support or endorse betting on poll results. We have also suggested that this election there is likely to be a significant disparity in the polls

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