Poll musing

psephology The study of trends in voting.

I am an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to analysing opinion polls. Nonetheless I am a fan of UKPollingReport (for whom I have borrowed the data herein on recent opinion polls).

A week and a half on from the Clacton by-election it is worth a peek at what the opinion polls are showing.

Lab Con LD UKIP Grn
19 October 2014 YouGov 35 32 7 16 5
18 October 2014 ComRes 34 31 7 19 4
17 October 2014 Populus 35 33 10 14 4
17 October 2014 YouGov 32 31 8 18 7
15 October 2014 Ipsos MORI 33 30 8 16
15 October 2014 YouGov 34 30 8 18
13 October 2014 Populus 36 35 9 13 3
13 October 2014 Ashcroft 32 28 8 19 5
13 October 2014 ICM 35 31 11 14 4
12 October 2014 Opinium 35 28 9 17
12 October 2014 YouGov 34 32 9 16
12 October 2014 Survation 31 31 7 25
12 October 2014 Ashcroft 34 31 8 18

I feel obliged to say that I still think that the Clacton by-election does not tell us much about how well UKIP will do next May, except that their best chances of representation in Parliament appear to rest with Conservative ship-jumpers. The imminent Rochester and Strood contest will not tell us much either, other than at an average of £239,000 per by-election these new UKIP converts do like to waste tax-payers money on what is effectively a publicity campaign for their new party.

Heywood and Middleton did provide a surprise. Whilst Labour’s vote held up (and actually registered a modest increase), the opposition coalesced around UKIP to give them a very respectable second-place. Of course, Labour had no incumbency to fall back on, unlike the new/old MP for Clacton.

I think that some Tories will be wondering about their decision to oppose AV, particularly as even their safe seats are beginning to look marginal and the prospect of transferred second preferences would likely calm some nerves. There is speculation that another Tory MP is about the succumb to a loss of nerve (possibly someone else in Essex), and the thought of chunks of their vote going towards the EU-opposing anti-immigration party clearly focuses their minds on the potential for a foreshortened political career.

The averages for the opinion polls over the last week indicate the following levels of support:

33.8% Labour
31.0% Conservative
17.2% UKIP
8.4% Liberal Democrat
4.6% Green

Whilst being in the lead is obviously good news for Labour, the narrowness of the lead (and narrowing from 6% leads regularly seen not that many months ago) will give pause for thought. Comfort will be derived from an electoral system that would still deliver a Labour majority, although there will be noises made about mandate if that victory is gained from barely over a third of the votes cast.

Although many commentators believe Labour has a Miliband problem, I think our failure to defend our record in dealing with the crisis at the end of the Brown Government has led to continuing problems as regards to Labour’s economic credibility. The economy, in the view of this blogger, is still the primary driver for voter intentions.

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