Category Archives: Methodology

How the BBC will be benchmarking the results on EU referendum night

by John Curtice and Stephen Fisher.

Referendum night is going to represent something of a departure from usual. There will not be the drama of an exit poll announcement to stir excitement – and possibly shock – at 10pm. Meanwhile, when the actual results do start to be announced, except in Northern Ireland they will not be declared by the parliamentary constituencies with which we have all become familiar. Rather they will be unveiled local authority by local authority. As a result, we will get just one declaration for the whole of Birmingham, while, at the other end of the spectrum, the Isles of Scilly will get their moment in the sun.

But perhaps the biggest departure from the routine of election night will be that there will be no ‘last time’ against which to compare the results as they are declared. So when Sunderland or Swindon announce their result we will not be able to say whether it represents a ‘swing’ to Remain or Leave – and thus for which side, if either, it represents a good result.

To overcome this problem we have, on behalf of the BBC, been beavering away at establishing which local authorities appear to be more likely to record a relatively strong vote for Remain, which are the ones where Leave can be expected to do relatively well, and which are the council areas where the two sides could be expected to be equally matched. Our evidence has come primarily from a dataset of over 61,000 interviews about people’s attitudes towards the EU. These interviews were conducted with people in Great Britain by YouGov between March of last year and March of this year and we are deeply grateful to the company for making these data available.

Continue reading How the BBC will be benchmarking the results on EU referendum night

A combined forecast for the UK’s EU membership referendum

Stephen Fisher and Rosalind Shorrocks

There is a lot of evidence from the academic research on forecasting that suggests it is a good idea to combine information from different sources (e.g. here). In US and German elections generating a forecast by combining the forecasts of others has a good track record. For the upcoming US presidential election pollyvote.org provides an average of different forecasts together with excellent summaries and discussions of the different methods and forecasts.

We have developed a similar method of combining forecasts for the UK’s referendum on EU membership on 23rd June 2016. The summaries of the average forecast win-probability and share of the vote for Remain by method and then overall are presented in the tables below. Note that there are different components for each because some of the source forecasts provide only probabilities or only vote share.

Share of the vote Remain Leave
Combined forecast (mean) 53.6 46.4
Betting markets 53.9 46.1
Polls 51.4 48.6
Expert forecasts 56.0 44.0
Volunteer forecasts 54.6 45.5
Poll based models 54.0 46.0
Non-poll based models 52.0 48.0
Probability that Remain wins
Combined forecast (mean) 66.8
Citizen forecasts 64.3
Volunteer forecasts 71.2
Prediction markets 65.4
Betting markets 62.2
Polls 63.0
Poll based models 74.7

Continue reading A combined forecast for the UK’s EU membership referendum

Forecasting Local Election Seats 2016

by Stephen Fisher

Local elections are supposed to be about local matters, but the electoral fortunes of councillors and would-be councillors depend very heavily on the popularity of their parties nationally. So the outcome of this year’s local elections depend on how the current standing of the parties compares with four years ago when the seats up for election this year were last contested.

In the run up to the 2012 local elections Labour were polling above 40% with a solid 9 point lead over the Conservatives, in part because of the so-called omnishambles budget. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats had slumped in the polls after the formation of the coalition government with little over 11%.

According to the average of the most recent polls from six companies, Labour have dropped since 2012 to 35% now, only narrowly ahead of the Conservatives who are on 34%. The Liberal Democrats have slid even further to just 7%. On this basis alone we should expect both Labour and the Lib Dems to lose substantial numbers of council seats while the Conservatives should make gains from their 3-point recovery. Continue reading Forecasting Local Election Seats 2016

First Forecast for the Brexit Referendum

By Stephen Fisher and Alan Renwick

The UK will have a referendum on whether to remain in or leave the EU on 23rd June 2016. We have developed a method for forecasting the outcome based on current vote intention polls and analysis of opinion polls from previous referendums from the UK and across the world. Continue reading First Forecast for the Brexit Referendum

Salutary lessons from the Israeli election polls 2015

by Stephen Fisher

Publishing polls in the last five days before an election is illegal in Israel, so the final pre-election polls were published on 13th March. They suggested that Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would get around 22 seats to 25 for the Zionist Union (the alliance between Labor and Haunuah, led by Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni).

The exit polls yesterday suggested 27 each.

The actual result was 30 for Likud and 24 for the Zionist Union. Continue reading Salutary lessons from the Israeli election polls 2015

A guide to the US midterm election forecasts

Stephen Fisher and Jonathan Jones

Tomorrow Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election, as well as 36 Senate seats and a host of state and local offices.

The historic tendency for the President’s party to lose ground in midterm elections, is sufficiently strong to say that there is virtually no chance of the Democrats regaining control of the House. Meanwhile the experience of previous midterm elections with a second-term President suggests that the Republicans should have a decent of winning the extra six seats they need to take control of the Senate.

Not only history but also political and economic circumstances in recent months, and especially current polls for individual Senate races suggest the Republicans have, according to the main forecasters, at least a two-thirds chance of achieving a Senate majority.

We are not attempting to forecast the outcomes of any of these elections, but several others with excellent track records for US election forecasting are. This article purely provides some introduction and links to the forecasts and offers some commentary from a British election forecasting perspective. We consider the House forecasts before turning to those for the Senate. Continue reading A guide to the US midterm election forecasts

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?