Category Archives: Forecast updates

Final combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks

Since our first combined forecast at the start of the campaign, the number of forecasts for this general election has grown substantially. All of the combined forecasts – seats, vote shares, and probabilities – are pointing to a Conservative majority. However, some individual forecasts do predict a hung parliament, and there is variation within each forecast type over how certain this majority is, and how large it is predicted to be.

SEATS

Seat projections from the betting markets, complex models, and simple models are all very similar, forecasting a Conservative majority of between 343 and 351 seats. The average number of seats across all forecasts that the Conservatives are expected to win – 341 – is slightly lower but ultimately very similar to the forecast last week.

Since last week the Political Studies Association have published their Expert Survey, in which the average expected number of Conservative seats suggests a hung parliament with the Conservatives just shy of a majority. It is interesting that the experts surveyed by the PSA predict the Conservatives will win fewer seats than is currently suggested by the polls. Perhaps they are factoring in the same kind of late-campaign changes as observed in 2017 – although it should be noted that when a similar kind of survey was run for the EU referendum in 2016, the average predicted vote share for Remain and Leave amongst experts was the furthest away from the actual result than any of the other types of forecast. They also predicted a Conservative majority in 2017, although that prediction was made much more earlier in the campaign when the Conservatives had considerable leads over Labour in the polls.

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Experts Average
Con 346 343 350 324 341
Lab 221 225 219 233 224
LD 18 17 18 25 19
Brexit 0 0 0 2 1
Green 1 1 1 2 1
SNP 43 44 41 42 43
PC 4 3 3 4 4
Con majority 42 37 49 -2 31

 

Conservative Seats - 11th December

The similarity between the seat projections from most sources hides considerable variation within one particular forecast type – complex models. These models range from predicting 311 Conservative seats to 366 – the difference between a hung parliament and a healthy Conservative majority. They also range between 190 and 268 for Labour. It is particularly noteworthy that the voter expectation model, from Murr, Stegmaier, and Lewis-Beck, which uses citizen forecasts to predict the number of seats, forecasts one of the highest number of Conservative seats (360) and the lowest number of Labour seats (190). This is in contrast to our implied probability calculated from the citizen forecasts, which suggest that citizens are in general the least convinced about the likelihood of a Conservative majority compared to other forecasting methods. This suggests these surveys also suffer from being open to multiple interpretations and methods of analysis, as well as the question wording effects we discussed last week.

Continue reading Final combined forecast for the 2019 general election

The 2018 and 2019 local election results suggested the Conservatives might struggle to get a majority at the next general election

By Chris Prosser and Stephen Fisher.

Every May local election results are analysed as indicators of the state of the political parties and scrutinised for what they tell might tell us about the outcome of the next general election. That general election is tomorrow. Although a lot has happened in politics since May 2019, and especially since May 2018, it might be worthwhile reminding ourselves of what happened in the local elections then and what those results portend for the outcome this week.

In 2015, when the polls failed to anticipate a Conservative majority, one of the more successful forecasting models was Chris Prosser’s one based on the 2013 and 2014 rounds of local elections. Unlike the polls – which showed the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck – that model forecast a four point Conservative lead in vote share. Using a uniform change projection, the forecast shares predicted a Conservative tally of 296 seats for 2015, short of an overall majority but better than a uniform projection from the final opinion polls and the best of a set of twelve academic forecasting models for that election.

Applying the same method again, the table below shows that both the 2018 and 2019 rounds of local elections point to a clear lead for the Conservatives in a subsequent general election. However, the forecast shares of the vote from both rounds do not suggest a big enough lead for the Conservatives to be sure of an overall majority. On the average of the two set of vote shares, coupled with a uniform change projection (also using last night’s YouGov MrP projected SNP and PC vote shares) points to a very narrow Conservative majority of 8.

Party Forecast share based on 2018 results Forecast share based on 2019 results Average forecast share Standard Error of share forecast Seats forecast
Con 40.8 36 38.4 4 329
Lab 33.8 29 31.4 4 231
LD 13.4 15.4 14.4 4 23
Other 12 19.6 15.8 4 65

The fact that a forecast based on local elections 7 and 19 months ago should be so close to last night’s YouGov MrP projection of Con 339, Lab 231, LD 15 is remarkable. There is just a difference of 10 seats for the Tories and none for Labour.

Given that since the 2018 local elections we’ve had May’s Deal and the first missed Brexit deadline, and since the 2019 local elections we’ve seen Brexit Party and Lib Dem success in the European parliament elections, a new prime minister, a new Brexit withdrawal agreement, and another missed Brexit deadline, it is even more surprising that most opinion polls now do not differ profoundly from what previous local elections suggested would happen.

The Party Leadership Model predicts a Conservative overall majority

By Andreas Murr and Stephen Fisher.

Two years ago Andrew Adonis wrote a piece in Prospect arguing that Labour should ditch Jeremy Corbyn because of the importance of party leadership for electoral success. The piece claimed that “the best leader wins and nothing else matters,” and in Lord Adonis’s view Mr Corbyn is the worst Labour leader since Michael Foot. So, Adonis concluded already in September 2017, that regarding the next election “Corbyn will lose it decisively if he contests it.”

In response to Adonis’ claims many, including Danny Finkelstein, expressed skepticism about the power of leadership and pointed out that it is difficult to properly evaluate the quality of leaders in retrospect. Once we know who won and who lost we have a tendency to convince ourselves that the winner was a better leader than the loser. But there are ways of producing measures of leadership quality prior to elections which have historically been useful for forecasting election outcome.

The Party Leadership Model, was devised by Andreas Murr in the run up to the 2015 general election. It successfully anticipated David Cameron’s victory unlike the vast majority of other forecasts at the time. Murr has elaborated the model further for this election to produce a seats forecast, not just a prediction as to who will emerge as prime minister. His new model forecasts that the Conservatives will win an overall majority this week with 342 seats, and that Labour will win 254 seats.

Continue reading The Party Leadership Model predicts a Conservative overall majority

Fifth combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks 

Since our update last week there have been several new forecasts, most notably including the YouGov MRP (multilevel regression and post-stratification) model. That was a nowcast rather than a forecast, but the same is true of most of our “forecasts”. More on differences between forecasting models below, along with some observations about intriguing question wording effects for citizen forecasts.

But first, overall, the seats projections overall have tightened for the Conservatives, who are down from a 353 average last week to 346 this week, while Labour are up from 209 to 218. The Liberal Democrat forecast total has dropped yet again (from 23 to 19). Now they are estimated to return fewer MPs than they had going into the election (20), but still more than the number of seats they won in 2017 (12).

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Average
Con 343 347 348 346
Lab 220 218 217 218
LD 19 18 19 19
Brexit 0 0 0
Green 1 1 1 1
SNP 45 45 44 45
PC 5 4 3 4
Con majority 36 45 46 42

Conservative Seats - 4th December

There is now remarkably little difference between the betting markets, complex and simple models in the expected size of the Conservative majority. Particularly striking is that on average the complex models differ by only a seat for each party from the simple uniform change projections based on the average of the opinion polls.

Continue reading Fifth combined forecast for the 2019 general election

Fourth combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks 

There has not been much change in our combined forecast over the last week. The Conservatives are still apparently headed towards a comfortable majority (55 on average) based on an average forecast vote share lead over Labour of 12 points. The average predicted probability of a Tory majority has crept up to 72%, partly due to increasing confidence in the betting markets and the quantitative forecasting models, as well as the polls. Citizens remain much more sceptical. Concerns that the Liberal Democrats might make little advance continue, and were compounded by the Datapraxis MrP forecast of just 14 seats for the party. Otherwise the Datapraxis forecast was largely in line with other forecasts of headline seats totals. Further MrP based forecasts are due this week, including YouGov’s.

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Average
Con 346 353 360 353
Lab 210 212 204 209
LD 25 21 22 23
Brexit 0 0 0
Green 1 1 1 1
SNP 45 45 43 44
PC 4 4 4 4
Con majority 42 55 69 55

Conservative Seats - 27th November   Continue reading Fourth combined forecast for the 2019 general election

Third combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks 

Once again all three sources of seat forecasts suggest the Conservatives are heading to a comfortable majority, while Labour are on course for a result on par with their previous post-war low of 209 seats in 1983. The Liberal Democrat forecast has been dropping steadily, so that they are now expected to end up with only a few more MPs than the twenty they had when they chose to support the election.

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Average
Con 346 354 363 354
Lab 209 211 200 206
LD 30 22 22 25
Brexit 0 0 0
Green 2 1 1 1
SNP 46 46 44 45
PC 4 4 4 4
Con majority 42 58 75 58

Con seats 20 NovLib Dem seats 20 Nov 

Continue reading Third combined forecast for the 2019 general election

Second combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks

There are still just a few different forecasts for the general election. Perhaps the big changes during the 2017 campaign have made people more hesitant about predicting early this time. Perhaps the problems of the polls in 2015, 2016 and 2017 have put some off the idea entirely. (More on this in our post-mortem for the 2017 combined forecast which we’re still working on.) Nonetheless, this is the second of our weekly blogs where we review the different forecasts from different methods and combine them into an overall forecast.

Here we aggregate seats and vote share forecasts from a variety of sources including betting markets, polls, statistical forecasting models and citizen forecasts. As well as updating weekly, the methodology (as detailed below) might well evolve. So comments and suggestions on our approach and for new forecasts to include are welcome.

Just as they did last week, all the different sources point to the Conservatives being comfortably the largest party, with heavy losses for Labour and modest gains for the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party (SNP). Last week the betting markets suggested a smaller Tory tally than did the forecasting models. The models haven’t changed much but the betting markets have moved into line with forecasts. On average across betting markets, and complex and simple models, the Tories are expected to win with a comfortable majority of 60, barely changed from 57 last week. All three sources now suggest a majority of 50 or more.

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Average
Con 352 360 353 355
Lab 210 201 193 201
LD 37 25 30 31
Brexit 0 0 0
Green 2 1 1 1
SNP 46 48 50 48
PC 5 4 4 4
Con majority 54 70 56 60

Conservative Seats - 13th Nov

Continue reading Second combined forecast for the 2019 general election

First combined forecast for the 2019 general election

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks (Universities of Oxford, Southampton and Manchester respectively)

There aren’t so many different forecasts for the general election out yet, but enough to start looking at how they compare. This is the first of hopefully weekly blogs where we review the different forecasts from different methods and combine them into an overall forecast. At the moment, the polls and seats forecasts suggest a comfortable Conservative majority but citizens and betting markets are not so sure it will happen.

The idea of combining forecasts from different sources has a good track record, though it has to be admitted that our attempts for the 2017 general election and the 2016 Brexit referendum did not work out well. We will write more about those experiences soon. Also worth noting is the experience of the pollyvote.com combined forecast of the US presidential elections.

Here we aggregate seats and vote share forecasts from a variety of sources including betting markets, polls, statistical forecasting models and citizen forecasts. As well as updating weekly, the methodology (as detailed below) might well evolve. So comments and suggestions on our approach and for new forecasts to include are welcome.

Continue reading First combined forecast for the 2019 general election

Forecasting Local Election Seat Gains/Losses 2018

by Stephen Fisher

My forecasting model for seat gains/losses at local elections has previously been a simple model based on change in party support in the polls. While the historical data show that changes in the percentage of the council seats that a party wins is reasonably strongly correlated with changes in that party’s poll share, that basis for forecasting this year would not work.

The Conservatives are up by 8 points and Labour up by 6 points in the polls since just before the 2014 local elections, when most the seats up for election this week were last fought. As in last year’s general election, support for both main parties has increased largely because of a big drop in UKIP support. Forecasting the parties separately based on changes in their respective poll shares would produce misleading predictions of big gains for both main parties. In first-past-the-post elections it is typically relative not absolute performance that matters for seat outcomes. Last year, despite winning more votes the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority because the Labour vote share went up by more than did that for the Conservatives.

For this reason, my forecasting models this year are based on changes in the gaps between polls shares.  For the Conservatives, who have traditionally faced many contests with the Liberal Democrats, their leads over both Labour and the Liberal Democrats matter. For Labour, the model is primarily based on the Labour lead over the Conservatives. Meanwhile, for the Liberal Democrats, their changing opinion poll performance relative to the Conservatives, but not Labour, has historically been correlated with headline local election seat changes.

Continue reading Forecasting Local Election Seat Gains/Losses 2018

Final Combined Forecast for GE2017

By Stephen Fisher, John Kenny and Rosalind Shorrocks.

Our final combined forecast is for a Conservative majority 66. This estimate is down only slightly from 70 on Friday last week, but well down on the 132 majority we first forecast on 12th May. All three sources on average each suggest that net gains for the Conservatives will largely be at the expense of Labour and the SNP, with tallies for other parties little changed from 2015.

Seats Betting Markets Complex models Simple models Average
Con 371 361 343 358
Lab 199 214 228 214
LD 11 7 7 8
UKIP 0 0 0 0
Green 1 1 1 1
SNP 46 46 50 47
PC 3 3 3 3
Con majority 92 72 36 66

The combined probability of a Conservative majority is now 72%. This is little changed from last week but down from 91% in our first combined forecast. The probability of a 100+ majority Conservative landslide is, at 11%, the same as last week but well down on the 71% we reported on 12th May. Betting markets are the most confident of a Tory majority. Citizens collectively express the most uncertainty, with both the highest probability on a Tory landslide and the second highest probability on the Conservatives losing their majority. Taking the most recent poll from each pollster, only just over half of them show the Conservatives with the lead of 6 points or more that would be needed for the party to win a majority on uniform change calculations. The 54% figure is down from 63% last week, but it reflects a change in who has done a poll this week more than how the pollsters from last week have seen their figures change.

Betting markets Models Polls Citizen forecast Average
Conservative Majority 0.83 0.82 0.54 0.69 0.72
Conservative landslide 0.17 0.00 0.17 0.11

For our final forecast we have taken a straight average of the final polls published at the time of writing instead of relying on other poll aggregators. This average is for a strikingly similar Conservative lead as in the actual outcome last time 2015, 6.5 compared with 6.6 points. But the final polls last time pointed to a tie. The markets and models predict that the polls are over estimating Labour and under estimating the Conservatives again. Overall our combined forecast this week now suggests that the Conservatives will win with a 9.6 point lead. This estimate is down only slightly from 10.2 points last week. But there has been a massive drop from the 18.7 point lead predicted in our first combined forecast on 12th May.

Final Poll average Betting markets Models Average
Con 43.0 45.8 44.3 44.4
Lab 36.5 34.7 33.1 34.8
Lib Dem 7.6 8.3 9.7 8.5
UKIP 4.4 3.4 4.7 4.1
Green 2.1 2.2 2.1
SNP 4.0 4.1 4.0
PC 0.6 0.8 0.7
Con-Lab lead 6.5 11.1 11.2 9.6

Methodology

The main changes in method this week are as follows.

Nigel Marriott in his final model now includes a forecast for party vote shares as well as the previous seat forecasts and so this is included; we have also added new models from Election Data, Elections Etc, Janta-Lipinski, Kantar Public, Michael Thrasher, Andreas Murr et al and Number Cruncher Politics. YouGov’s forecast model has been removed because they have officially dropped it. Betting market data for the forecasted party vote share of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP is gathered from Betfair/Betfair Exchange where such data is not available on Oddschecker.

Our polling average is now a simple average of the final polls.

As there have been five citizen surveys published since the 31st May, we have decided to limit the inclusion criteria for this so that only the most recent citizen survey from each survey company during this period is included.

Overall description of the method

Our basic approach is to combine forecasts by averaging them within each category and then taking the average across categories. Since the different sources do not all present equally clear figures that can be averaged on a like for like basis we have made various judgement calls on how to treat the data.

Historically the idea of combining forecasts from different sources has had a good track record, though it has to be admitted that our attempt to do one for the EU referendum did not work out well. Most recently the pollyvote.com combined forecast of the US presidential election last year was 2 points out on the share of the vote. 

Polls

Our polling average is now a simple average of the final polls. Previously for vote shares, we use the various available polling averages, or ‘polls of polls’, and take their average. We exclude polling averages for whom the most recently published polling average is more than a week old. There are a number of different polling averages. They are in truth nowcasts rather than forecasts, but we are in effect treating them as forecasts. Some admittedly are quite sophisticated, allowing for pollster (aka house) effects, but they are nonetheless estimates of current public opinion and not future votes.

We do not attempt to say what seats outcome is implied by polls (that is the job of the modellers). However, since statistical models are rarely if ever clear about the probabilities their models place on key events like a Conservative majority and a 100+ majority, we have included in the probabilities table some pseudo-probabilities from the polls. Taking the most recent poll published by each pollster in the last week, we calculate the proportion showing a Conservative lead over Labour of more than 6 points as the pseudo-probability of a Conservative majority, but we allow polls with exactly a 6 point lead to contribute a 0.5 to the average. Using the same polls, we use the proportion showing a Conservative lead over Labour of 16 points or more as the pseudo-probability of a Conservative landslide. These thresholds of 6 and 16 points are based on what would be required under uniform swing assumptions for the Conservatives to win a bare majority and a 100+ majority respectively.

Betting markets

There are numerous betting markets for the various outcomes in the election. We have taken those that are most helpful for the four forecasts we want to produce. For seat shares, we take the mid-point of the spread as the seat share, and average these mid-points between different sources. Note that the markets imply fewer seats forecast than there are actually are in the House of Commons. This is because the markets are separate for each party and do not need to be consistent collectively.

For vote share, we use betting markets for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. (Vote share markets for other parties are unavailable either on the betting market aggregation site Oddschecker of Betfair/Betfair Exchange). Odds are given for 5-point ranges of vote share. We take a weighted sum of the mid-points of these ranges where the weights are the implied probabilities. For the top and bottom options we use 2.5% above/below the upper/lower bound (e.g. 52.5 for “Above 50” and 27.5 for “Below 30”). The weighted sum is calculated just using the three categories with the largest implied probabilities, because the probabilities for other categories are so small and unstable. For UKIP we use just the two most likely categories.

For the probability of a Conservative majority we give an average of the implied probability from sites offering this market. For the probability of a Conservative landslide, we use the combined prices PredictIt that the Conservatives will win 370-379 seats, 380-389 seats, and 390 or more seats. This really represents a majority of 90 or more but that was as close as we could get to 100.

Statistical models

There are numerous statistical forecasting models this year. We have divided them into two categories: simple (poll average plus uniform swing seats projection) and complex (anything more elaborate than the simple models, although they are not necessarily particularly complex). Some make adjustments for long run differences between pollsters, for constituency variation, and some estimate by how much things will differ between current polls and the eventual result. Chris Hanretty’s forecast at electionforecast.co.uk does all of these things. Within these categories we simply average the available estimates of seats and shares. In addition, as discussed above, we have separated those models based on the local election results into a separate category.

We should note that not all of the models are the modellers’ favourite. Some are counterpoints to their main models for comparison. We have included these on the basis that they are still talked of and expected to be reasonable estimates, for example, at Electoral Calculus, Martin Baxter has a local election results based model. We have not excluded any models based on our judgement of quality, but they do have to be statistical models as opposed to personal guesses.

Citizen forecasts

Some polls ask people what they think that the outcome will be on June 8th. Different pollsters use different survey questions but they can be combined to generate pseudo-probabilities. We use the proportion of poll respondents who think the Conservatives will win/there will be a Conservative majority, excluding don’t knows and re-percentaging, as the pseudo-probability of a Conservative majority. We similarly use the proportion of poll respondents who think that there will be a Conservative landslide/the Conservatives will win more than 100 seats, for the probability of a Conservative landslide.

Note: Estimates come from around 9am on the morning of  8th June 2017. In all seat estimates, the Speaker’s seat is counted as Conservative.

 Sources

There sources we used are listed below in no particular order. Please let us know of any that you think we have missed or misclassified. Some polling averages we know of were not included because they were more than a week old.

Prediction markets:
IG
Predictit
Sporting index
Oddschecker
Betfair Predicts

Betfair

Betfair Exchange

 

Complex Forecasting Models:
Chris Prosser

ElectionForecast.co.uk (Chris Hanretty)
Electoral Calculus (main and local election forecast)
Election Data

Elections Etc

Forecast UK 
Janta-Lipinski

Kantar Public

Lord Ashcroft

Michael Thrasher
Murr, Stegmaier and Lewis-Beck

Nigel Marriott

Number Cruncher Politics

PME Politics (Patrick English)

UK-Elect

 

Simple forecasting models (polling average + uniform swing):
Electionpolling
Principalfish

 

Polling Averages (less than a week old):
Telegraph
FT
Britain Elects
Electionforecast.co.uk
NewStatesman
Electionpolling
Principalfish
The CrossTab

 

Citizen forecasts:
YouGov (here)
ComRes (here)
ICM (here)

Opinium (here)

Survation (here)

The three authors are equal contributors and our names are in alphabetical order.