Meanwhile from the White House as the staff turnover continues –

March 14th, 2018

Tonight’s Leonard and Cochrane cartoon.


The big development following TMay’s Russia statement is an apparent divide within LAB over Corbyn’s response

March 14th, 2018

The most noticeable feature of the MP responses to the PM Russia statement was the way many LAB MPs seem to be backing the government rather than their leader, Mr. Corbyn. The Tweets above sets the scene. One after another LAB MPs stood up pointedly backing TMay and not mentioning what their leader had said.

Quite where this will go is hard to say but based on the LAB MPs contributions to the discussion after the statement ignoring what their man had said it is clear that the party has a problem.

In the past year most of Corbyn’s opponents from the 2016 confidence move against him have held their tongues and there has been a show of unity. Maybe the events in Salisbury will change that.

Mike Smithson


So crunch day on Russia for the PM

March 14th, 2018

It is now Wednesday and the Russians have not done what was demanded of them by the PM over the Salisbury attack and so it is up to her and the government to announce what they are doing.

We all know that you don’t make a threat unless you are ready to follow it through otherwise you just look a push-over.

My sense is that she had thought that through before her statement to the Commons on Monday and that there will be a series of measures coming which could have an impact on the UK because of the likely Russian response.

Clearly given what is being said in Moscow about Russia Today, the TV station based in London, we get a sense of the likely reaction from Moscow and Mr Putin.

The World Cup which starts in less than 3 months could be an area for action and this in a way adds to the overall difficulty for the British government. Assuming there is no pull out there must be huge concerns about sending the English team and all the associated media and hangers on as well as potential supporters. But ordering a pull out would have it own huge disadvantages.

The biggest political loser so far in this crisis, I would suggest, is Mr Corbyn whose equivocal response on Monday appears to have been a mistake and raises a lot of questions about him and some of the aids who advise him

PMQs today should be interesting

Mike Smithson


The Pennsylvania election almost a dead heat and hard to see how a clear result tonight

March 14th, 2018

As expected the special election in Pennsylvania has been extraordinarily tight and as can be seen from the New York Times table above this is a virtual dead heat. At the moment, 0300GMT, about 11000 absentee ballots have still to be counted and it is hard to see how we can get a result overnight.

Betfair has been swinging all the time with news of each minute precinct pushing it one way or the other.

Whatever this is a very good result, even if at the end of the day they don’t win the seat, for the Democrats given how well the Republicans have performed in this part of Pennsylvania in recent elections. At the White House Race in 2016 Donald Trump won this area by 20%.

Mike Smithson


The Democrats now odds on favourite to take Pennsylvania 18 – the Congressional district won by Trump at WH2016 by 20%

March 13th, 2018

Polls close at midnight UK time

The big political betting event today is the special election (a by-election in UK parlance) in Pennsylvania Congressional district 18 which covers the outskirts of Pittsburgh and where Trump had a 20 point margin at WH2016.

As the RealClear Politics polling table above shows this is looking very tight with the Democratic party believing that they are in with a shout of taking the seat.

Both campaigns have thrown a huge amount of money, at least $10m, at the race which looks set to provide a goodish pointer to this November’s MidTerm elections.

This is very natural Trump territory with a large number of white working class voters.

On Betfair on Monday punters rated this as a 60-40 shot for the Republicans. That’s now flipped the other way moved in following a final poll that is pointing to a 6 point victor for Lamb, the Democratic contender.

Mike Smithson


Moving the dial. How Britain swung last year

March 13th, 2018

Mansfield, Kensington, Canterbury and Stoke-on-Trent South: when political commentators wanted to demonstrate the weird and conflicting swings that took place at the last general election, that quartet’s names kept being brought up. That’s all well and good, but there has been surprisingly little interest in the broader picture.

So I have taken the time to put together a map of the swings in Britain, which you can see above. It is interactive, so you can zoom in on specific areas where the seats aren’t easy to see otherwise (like London or the Scottish Central Belt).

I hope that it is fairly intuitive. The key is as follows:

A – no swing (less than 1% either way)
B – swing of under 5% to Labour
C – swing of 5-10% to Labour
D – swing of over 10% to Labour
E – swing of under 5% to the Conservatives
F – swing of 5-10% to the Conservatives
G – swing of over 10% to the Conservatives
H – swing of under 5% to the Lib Dems
I – swing of 5-10% to the Lib Dems
J – swing of over 10% to the Lib Dems
K – swing to the Greens
L – swing to others

The map, as you can see, looks very different from the traditional political map that we are familiar with. The map is dominated by the pink colour indicated by a 1-5% swing to Labour: that is to be expected, since the national swing was just over 2% to Labour. Nevertheless, the predominance of pink should not be overlooked. Perhaps the swings in 2017 weren’t that weird after all.

Both main parties seem to have been pretty inefficient in targeting last time, spending a lot of time preaching to the choir. The Conservatives didn’t need a 5% swing to themselves in Boston & Skegness and Labour already had an iron grip on York Central without a 10% swing on top. If either main party was effectively focusing on winnable seats, it’s not obvious from this map.

You will note that I have no code for swings to the SNP. None was needed. As can be seen from the map, the story was one of carnage for them, with 10% swings in favour of both the Conservatives and Labour quite routine. Labour benefited in the Central Belt while elsewhere the Conservatives dominated in Scotland. The SNP need to work out how to stop the rot.

You can still see London on the map. It’s that angry splodge of deeper red shades in the south east. London Conservatives will be hoping that it’s fixable and related to the concerns of youngish Londoners about housing. Personally, I can’t see why housing should have been the vote driver. It looks much more likely to be anger about Brexit. That, awkwardly for the Conservatives, is much less fixable given it’s their main policy plank.

There are just 19 seats south of the Severn and the Wash that saw a meaningful swing to the Conservatives. Of those 19, six were seats where a former incumbent from the Lib Dems or UKIP hadn’t stood again. It seems that the Conservatives found a message calculated to undermine their stranglehold in the south. The Conservatives should be very worried about that rash of deeper red in urban seats around London. It looks as though a clutch of seats are acting as exurbs of London, particularly north and west of the capital and on the south coast. The alarm bell should be sounding loud.

Immediately north of the Severn-Wash line and it’s a different story. (Bear in mind that there was a national swing to Labour, so even seats with no swing represent relative outperformance by the Conservatives.) In a band that stretches from the northern fringes of Birmingham to the Lincolnshire coast, the Conservative message obviously fared better. Even the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire found more people willing to mark the blue box (if not fly the blue flag).

North of that, the story flips back. You could walk on a band of seats that meaningfully swung to Labour from Anglesey to the North Yorkshire coast with particularly heavy swings south and east of Manchester and around Leeds. But in the most northernmost English seats, the trend is once again towards the Conservatives. Forget a north-south divide, England has swung in stripy way (largely to Labour’s benefit).

Wales is a microcosm of England. South Wales swung very like southern England while North Wales swung very like Lancashire and North Yorkshire (in Labour’s favour in both cases). Meanwhile, the mid-Welsh seats behaved more like the English midlands. The net balance greatly favours Labour.

It’s important not to get too carried away. Many of the unusual swings were recorded in safe seats. Labour are not imminently going to take Huntingdon and Bolsover looks like a big ask for the Conservatives next time too. Much of the shifts are caused by erstwhile Lib Dems and kippers getting behind whichever of the big two they like the look of best. Often the other main party saw a rise in vote share even as they saw a swing against them.

Nevertheless, the patterns on this map might suggest how Britain’s electoral landscape might be evolving. The battle for 2022 will need to factor them in.

Alastair Meeks

PS – Many thanks to PBer Viewcode for their assistance in creating the above map.


TMay says it’s “highly likely” that Russia responsible for the Salisbury attacks – the question now is what Britain will do

March 12th, 2018

Mike Smithson


Just launched new pollster featuring Martn Boon and Joe Twyman formerly of ICM and YouGov

March 12th, 2018

Welcome to Deltapoll

Today sees the launch of a brand new opinion research company, Deltapoll, which brings together names and faces that many people on this website might be familiar with.

Joe Twyman has for years been the primary face of public opinion in the UK in his position as YouGov’s head of political research, and Martin Boon spend 23 years at ICM, delivering polls that have been relentlessly reported in these pages.

Our third founder, Paul Flatters, is also not unknown to the polling world in which we operate, having navigated a path via Head of Political News research at the BBC through various opinion research and forecasting agencies. He will remain Chief Executive of Delatpoll’s sister agency, the trend forecaster Trajectory.

Does the world really need another polling company? It’s not as if pollsters like us have covered ourselves in glory over the last few years. This is one reason we’ve joined forces. Few have more collective experience and knowledge of looking under the polling covers than us, and having experienced the glory of pinpoint accuracy and the devastation of the opposite, we know how much work needs to be done, and more importantly what needs to be done.

Political polling is very much at the cross-roads in its evolution. We know now that stated response is an unreliable measure of human behaviour, and quietly we’ve been testing new methods that measure the emotional certainty that people reveal when they mark their vote intention box on a poll questionnaire.

And that’s a key point. Just like many decisions that humans make, the act of voting is a highly personal one, sometimes linked to innate and inviable personal preferences, other times to emotionally charged acts of rejection or anger. Orthodox polling techniques have failed to account for this, particularly when social media has created a release valve for the expression of emotionally-charged political views. This mouse wheel will only spin faster – as the public gets ever more able and willing to emote on public platforms, potentially radically changing the way we ‘do’ politics, polling techniques can’t remain statically accepting of yesterday’s culture.

But there’s more. Emotional measurement is only one aspect of this. Mathematics is the other. The advent of MRP modelling has come at precisely the right time, and not just to (hopefully) improve the quality of prediction. It can achieve what orthodox polls cannot – a seat-by-seat prediction that doesn’t depend on old mantras such as uniform swing in the conversion of vote shares into seats (accepting that the poor reputation of uniform swing modelling reputation is slightly unfair). Really, who cares what national votes are at any given moment in time? We’ve only spent our lives predicting them because polls have been largely incapable of translating them into accurate seat projections. Here’s a chance for pollsters to grasp the holy grail of accurately predicting seats from polling data allied to sophisticated modelling, and the race is on to perfect it.

This race is likely to be long distance rather than a sprint. Accurate MRP techniques still depend on representative samples, and by corollary accurate vote intention data. So yes, we do think the polling world is not yet ready to be ruled by genius data scientists, although we have a few in Deltapoll’s corner, as the coming months will reveal.

And the media world, including the Poliitalbetting site, still needs a range of polling conversations independent of the predictive element, and we hope to be able to oblige. Bookmark www.deltapoll.co.uk for the next data library to hit the online shelves.

Joe Twyman/Paul Flatters/Martin Boon