A poll in today’s Times says that the Conservatives will lose seats in next week’s General Election. Its seat number projections claim that we are headed for a hung parliament. It is a far cry from the start of the campaign when it looked the result would be a three figure Tory majority.
There is no doubt that the Conservative party made a mess of its manifesto launch, and that Labour has run a strong campaign. Furthermore, Corbyn performed well in the Channel 4/Sky News “Battle for Number 10”. He will have another chance to impress in tonight’s BBC debate. This has all clearly made the election far closer than it was at the start.
Despite all this, and today’s poll, I will still be hugely surprised if the election does not give May a comfortable majority.
What does the poll actually say, and why?
Sam Coates in the Times reports:
Today’s YouGov election model is based on voting intention data collected in the past week. It puts the Tories on 42 per cent, Labour on 38 per cent, Lib Dems on 9 per cent and Ukip on 4 per cent.
The pollsters performed poorly at the 2015 General Election, and at the Brexit referendum. YouGov’s Joe Tyman told the Spectator that his company has now improved its model. He said:
“In 2015, we weren’t where we wanted to be and in light of that we’ve done various things. The first thing is we’ve identified the type of people we need to contact in greater numbers to be more representative of the population as a whole. And we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of pounds going out to recruit those people to make sure they are in our surveys.”
However, Jim Messina, who has worked for the Tories and Barack Obama, is not convinced:
— Jim Messina (@Messina2012) May 31, 2017
Remembering Cleggmania and an outrider poll
I recently recounted the trauma of following the polls as a reporter in 2015. Today’s data reminds me more of 2010. At the height of Cleggmania, the Sun had a YouGov poll which showed the Lib Dems in the lead. Nick Clegg’s party was on 33 per cent, with the Conservatives a point behind on 32 per cent. In that same year, ICM predicated for a strong showing for the Lib Dems in Labour marignal seats.
The Lib Dems went on to lose seats, not gain them at that election.
Like those examples, the poll today feels like an outrider, a statistical anomaly. I am not going to predict an 100 plus majority for Theresa May anymore. However, other key data, such as who people trust most as a leader or on the economy, is in her favour. In fact, the perception that the Conservatives may not win outright could spur their supporters into action.
The campaign has not gone well for May. However, as with Cleggmania, I think the Corbyn surge will slow, and she will win comfortably.
My first book "Not Buying It", looking at post-truth in media and politics, is being published by Unbound
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