Category Archives: General elections

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

Speculation on parliamentary arithmetic

This is the second in a series of posts in response to John Rentoul’s excellent article, much of which discussed the politics of our 11 July central seat forecast (Con 296, Lab 295, LD 31; so either Con+LD or Lab+LD would have a majority).

I have mixed feelings about speculation on the parliamentary arithmetic of any particular forecast. Part of the point of the forecasting method is to estimate uncertainty, which is naturally huge this far away from an election. Continue reading Speculation on parliamentary arithmetic

Fluctuations in polls and the timeliness of the forecast

Belated thanks to John Rentoul for his excellent article on last week’s forecast. This is not to say that I necessarily agree or disagree with his views on the desirability of particular election outcomes, just that I think it is a good discussion of lots of issues in politics and forecasting. Continue reading Fluctuations in polls and the timeliness of the forecast

Why is the 2015 general election forecast trending?

A few people have asked me this question about my forecast. The trends are definitely there as you can see from the graphs below. But since they are well within the very broad prediction intervals, there is a danger of reading too much into them. Certainly we are far from having enough information to say the model isn’t working well for this electoral cycle. Continue reading Why is the 2015 general election forecast trending?

What do the 2014 European and local election results mean for the opinion polls and next year’s general election?

Labour emerged narrowly ahead of the Conservatives in both the local and European Parliament elections. I discussed the implications of the local election results in a previous post on Friday. The results of the Euros only came through last night. This post considers the lessons learnt from both elections for the general election, including the likely accuracy of the opinion polls. Continue reading What do the 2014 European and local election results mean for the opinion polls and next year’s general election?