Category Archives: General elections

The public-private electoral divide

by Stephen Fisher

Janan Ganesh in today’s FT is right to point to trends in public sector employment as an import factor in understanding the political future of Britain. He notes that, “The public sector headcount has fallen by about 1m since the last election to 5.4m, which is where it was before Labour’s expansion commenced in 2000. […] Meanwhile, private-sector employment has risen and the self-employed account for a record 15 per cent of the labour force. The confluence of fiscal policy and economic trends is creating a looser, more individualised economy. This does not guarantee that the electorate will become less receptive to collectivist ideas, but it requires no feat of imagination to see how it might.”

As well as the electorate as a whole becoming less collectivist with a smaller state there is also a more simple mechanism at play. For obvious reasons, private sector workers have long been more likely to vote Conservative and public sector workers more Labour. The more of the former and the fewer there are of the latter the easier it will be for the Tories to win elections. Continue reading The public-private electoral divide

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Labour’s tuition fee cut promise and the student vote

Stephen Fisher, 27th February 2015

Today Ed Miliband announced that a Labour government would cut university tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 a year.

In December the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published a report I co-authored showing that the student vote seemed to respond to the changing pattern of generosity of party policies on higher education funding since 1997. Most notably in 2001, 2005, and 2010 the Liberal Democrats did particularly well among students by offering the most generous package.

But this does not mean that Labour will reap big rewards for their promise today. Continue reading Labour’s tuition fee cut promise and the student vote

Labour need to tempt not terrify the voters they have lost to the SNP

by Stephen Fisher

Abstract: This post summarises the main points from the national and constituency polls in Scotland before discussing what might help Labour north of the border. The British Election Study survey evidence suggests that Scottish Labour MPs will not be saved by incumbency effects or tactical voting, so the party will primarily need to attract a significant number of their former voters back from the SNP. Arguing that “votes for the SNP help the Tories” seems unlikely to help as the former Labour voters who now support the SNP care little for Miliband over Cameron, or even Labour over the Conservatives. Instead of scaring they need positive persuasion with something that appeals to their strong preferences for more devolution and against austerity cuts. The recent Vow+ demand for greater devolution of welfare benefits seems to fit the bill. Whether it will prove convincing is another matter. Continue reading Labour need to tempt not terrify the voters they have lost to the SNP

After a year of forecasting, what’s changed?

Stephen Fisher, 24th October 2014

I first published a forecast of the 2015 general election result in October 2013. After taking on board comments and testing more candidate models, in February I revised the method from the one in this working paper to the one in this working paper. Both use opinion polls and election results going back to the 1950s to tell us what is likely to happen in this electoral cycle, and importantly, how sure we can be that it will happen. The historical pattern suggested governments tend to recover from mid-term blues while oppositions suffer a set back. Also the polls have tended to overestimate Labour and underestimate the Conservatives. Both factors suggested a Conservative lead at the next election. But also the variation in previous cycles was plenty enough to suggest very different outcomes were also possible if less likely.

Using a polling average for 8th October 2013 of Conservatives 32%, Labour 39% and Liberal Democrats 10% the revised method suggested a 42% chance of a Conservative overall majority. Over the last year the probability of a Conservative majority dropped steadily to 24% now. Why? Continue reading After a year of forecasting, what’s changed?

Extreme events and probabilistic election forecasting: salutary lessons from football

In his article on last week’s forecast, John Rentoul wrote:

“Probability is hard enough to understand anyway, of course. Look at Nate Silver, the guru of American election predictions. He said Brazil had a 65 per cent chance of winning against Germany in the World Cup semi-final. Well, you could say that their 7-1 defeat fell in the other 35 per cent but – after the event – we can be pretty confident that the 65 per cent figure meant little useful.”

There are various issues here in the context of the overall article. Did the 65% figure mean little useful? How should we judge probabilistic forecasts after the event they were trying to predict? Even if John Rentoul’s interpretation here is right, should the poor performance of a football match prediction undermine the credibility of other forecasting exercises of very different kinds of events for the forecaster, or even for all forecasters? Continue reading Extreme events and probabilistic election forecasting: salutary lessons from football

Leadership effects and electoral cycles

In his article on our 11 July forecast, John Rentoul wrote:

“My view, and this cannot be based on opinion polls, is that when the voters come to choose they will shy away from the prospect of Miliband as prime minister, just as they shied away from Neil Kinnock in 1992.”

This view is not so far from being based on opinion polls as suggested. Continue reading Leadership effects and electoral cycles