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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Opinion Polls"

James Frayne: Public opinion is solidly behind the Government – for the time being, at least.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

There are two main groups of critics of the Government’s strategy to contain the Coronavirus: those that say the Government is wrongly curtailing our civil liberties; and those that say the Government risks wrecking the economy with the lockdown. Both groups are currently politically weak; and only the second group has any realistic chance of changing Government policy.

As it stands, the Government is seen to be doing a very good job. It has overwhelming support for the lockdown – and clear majorities are in favour of a greater police presence, and even an army presence, on the streets to enforce it (although the police are doing their best to undermine this support with some extraordinary behaviour).

This seems to be for three main reasons: most importantly and obviously, because people are worried about their old and vulnerable family members getting it, as well as themselves; because, now we’ve gone down this route, we should at least do it properly, so we’re not stuck in a sort of semi-lockdown forever; and, in terms of tougher enforcement, because people can’t stand some people ignoring the rules that the rest of us are playing by.

People are aware that their civil liberties are being curtailed, but they’re currently content with this; only a very small minority believe their civil liberties are being wrongly infringed. For the most part, people are essentially volunteering to stay at home. The vast majority of people don’t want to go out and don’t want others to go out either.

To date, the conversation in politics and the media has been understandably primarily focused on the public health aspect of the virus, rather than the existing and potential economic impact. As such, while polls suggest the public expect a serious economic downturn, they also suggest that most people aren’t yet obsessing about the potential impact on their lives.

Of course, immediate fears are very audible from the self-employed above all, and from business owners, but they’re not audible from the public at large. Again, this mainly reflects the fact that people are overwhelmingly worried about public health at this point. But it likely also reflects the success the Government has had in communicating its worker support programme; people feel like they will be looked after. The Government rightly judged that people, perfectly reasonably, will think first of all, and overwhelmingly, about their own wages.

It seems impossible that this relative quiet about the economy will continue for long. For while the Government has reassured the mass of people in the private sector on PAYE about their salaries, many businesses will have to lay off staff regardless of the help the Government is offering if they have no money coming in; and the Government is offering support to keep staff on, they are obviously not banning firms from laying people off.

Even though the Government’s support for employees’ wages is welcome, plummeting revenue will wipe this benefit out and more. If businesses have no money – and yet still have to pay for everything from renting premises to accountancy support to daily expenses – then they just have no money.

Many will start laying people off, and many will go bust. Even the most prudent firms generally only keep three months operating costs in their bank account; a long lockdown eats into this very fast. In such a climate, a comprehensive lockdown of the scale we’re now seeing isn’t sustainable.

There is another issue, of course, that hasn’t yet been discussed. This is the extent to which social problems emerge because of people being kept in isolation. Again, the polling suggests that people don’t view this as a problem at this point and say they’re feeling positive about isolation, but the media are beginning to report some of the darker things that are going on behind all those closed doors. Related to this, we will likely start to see a rise in general health problems as the NHS focuses on the impact of the virus. This will also add to pressure for change.

Public opinion is solidly behind the Government and the strategy it has laid out but, in the environment of a lockdown, where days feel like weeks, and weeks feel like months, things could change quickly. People will always put health first, but they will start to call for serious mitigating action to protect the economy when the first signs of high-profile business closures are seen. There were suggestions this week that the lockdown could continue for six months. Very few businesses could survive a lockdown of the type we’re currently in for that period of time. A sustained lockdown will have to be more focused.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Labour will ignore Blair’s speech yesterday. But Tories should take note.

Last year, Barack Obama told a student audience in Chicago:

“This idea of purity and that you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke — you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.

“I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media — there is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. Did you see how woke I was, I called you out. Then I’m going to get on my TV and watch my show … That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

Tony Blair gave an equivalent message when he spoke at King’s College London yesterday. There was the old showman. The voice a little more hesitant but the grin as broad as ever. All the familiar rhetorical ticks were used – that fey diffidence when he wanted to emphasise a point on which he was especially emphatic. (“Saying to the people you need to win ‘we don’t like you’ is not a great start to a political conversation to be honest….”). The event marked the 120th anniversary of the Labour Party. Blair is not one for nostalgia, his great theme is wanting everything to be “new”. Yet he did manage the following reference:

“I thought hard about taking stock on the Labour Party’s 120th anniversary. It’s not as if my advice is particularly welcome to today’s Party. But then it occurred to me that there are only two people born in the last 120 years who have actually won an election for Labour. And alas Harold Wilson is long gone.

As for the other two Labour Leaders to have won an election, Ramsay MacDonald was born in 1866 and Clement Attlee in 1883.

Out of 120 years, Labour has been in power for just over 30 of them. That is a stark statistic.”

To say his advice is not “particularly welcome” – he went on to say he wouldn’t endorse any leadership contender to avoid harming anyone’s chances – was not self-deprecatory humour. It’s an understatement. There is a deep hostility towards him among large swathes of current Labour Party members. A YouGov poll of Labour members found 62 per cent unfavourable – including 42 per cent who declared themselves “very unfavourable”.  If anything, the Lib Dems are even less keen on him. So his vague pitch about some kind of merger or alliance between Labour and the Lib Dems is unlikely to be well received.

In an echo of Obama, he cautioned against “shouty denunciation of anyone who disagrees”. Then Blair told his audience:

“The Labour Party is not an NGO, and not a pressure group. Its aim is not to trend on twitter, or to have celebrities (temporarily) fawn over it, or to glory in a bubble of adulation pricked by the sharp point of the first tough decision.

“Our task is to win power and get our hands stuck into the muddy mangle of governing, where out of it can be pulled the prize of progress measured not in fine words spoken at a distance, but in real grounded changes in the wellbeing of the people, some of which they may thank us for and many of which they will never even know were down to our struggle to place self discipline over self indulgence.”

Though Labour supporters may not have much inclination to listen to Blair, I think he does have some useful message for Conservatives – both in his speech and the Q&A session afterwards with Rachel Sylvester of The Times. On Brexit he is vulnerable, of course. He is keen to tell the Lefties (or “progressives” as they like to call themselves) that to refuse to compromsie is a mistake, as you end up with no power at all. Yet did he apply this lesson to himself when it came to his refusal to accept the referendum result to leave the EU? He did not. Blair said that patriotism was “preconditional” for a party to be elected:

“You may decide you will vote on the basis on the health service but if you have got any doubts about a party’s patriotism…I’m afraid people had a lot of doubts.”

Indeed. But Labour’s resistance to Brexit did not enhance its patriotic credentials.

Still, I did think it interesting when Sylvester asked him if Labour should campaign for the UK to rejoin the EU. He said:

“No. You just can’t I’m afraid. Long term, who knows. But you have got to give it a chance….The country does not want to redebate Brexit.” 

If Blair is not going to push for this then who will? It does help to settle the question.

There was then an interesting point from Blair on opinion polling:

“I learnt through the 1980s and 1990s the fallacy of polling individual policy and thinking you are learning something. Each individual policy might be popular but you put them altogether and it’s not popular…You go back to the 1980s and all Labour’s policies, except unilateral nuclear disarmament, were popular. So how come Margaret Thatcher kept winning by a landslide. I kept puzzling over it.”

Finally there was firm criticism of the Labour embracing identity politics and seeking to engage in a culture war – on such issues as transgender rights:

“We don’t need to be fighting that culture war. If you are going out and you are going to start trying to advocate things in a kind of finger-jabbing, sectarian way. You don’t sign up to what I’m saying or I’m going to disrupt your meetings and shout at you…then you are not going to win that battle. You are just going to put people off.”

I was a bit surprised by this. The Blair years seemed to include a fair bit of identity politics – gay rights, feminism, all-women shortlists. Great attention was paid to keeping ethnic minority votes in Labour’s electoral coalition. But the threat to free speech from some of the demands from special interest groups has become much more serious. Either way, Blair’s warning is welcome.

Edmond Burke said:

“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.”

So often Conservatives have been craven towards unreasonable demands that might be favoured by the media class but not by public opinion more broadly. Blair is right to warn Labour that they will lose by seeking to placate such lobby groups and hounding those who disagree. All the more reason why Conservatives should stand firm. Being true to our principles means championing individual freedom rather than engaging in a bidding competition over sectional grievances. That approach is also popular.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ed McGuinness: To be One Nation Conservatives means winning over Londoners too

Ed McGuinness is Chairman of Islington Conservative Federation and stood for Hornsey & Wood Green at the general election.

Disraeli, the father of modern Conservatism, famously wrote in his novel Sybil, the nineteenth century equivalent of a docudrama, of “two nations… who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were inhabitants of different planets.” Disraeli was speaking of the rich and the poor, the conditions of whom were vastly more stark than today, at the height of the Industrial Revolution. However, one need only to look at a before and after map of the 2019 General Election to see the emergence of two, separate “nations”, particularly in England and Wales; those in the cities and towns – and those who are not.

Traditional theories point to economic disparity. The perception of cities is that they tend to be the preserve of the wealthy, globalised, educated elite. But those in more rural areas can feel left behind by globalisation concentrating wealth in Capital and regional cities. The idea follows that these two poles become echo chambers, where the Left, who are seen as accepting of multiculturalism and progressive ideas, prevail in cities. Whereas the Right, with its perception of sticking with the same, finds success in more rural areas.

Perceptions are not, however, all as they seem. A YouGov study last year showed that conventional viewpoints of what may be considered Left or Right are changing. Commonly perceived right wing views on stricter discipline in education, for example, are shared by a majority of people who “self-identify” as left wing. The same can be said for attitudes to criminal justice and, most intriguingly, a plurality (47 per cent), of left wing people were in favour of tighter restrictions on immigration. This shows that the Left-Right spectrum is not a sharp line, but a smudge that is far more nuanced than previously thought. The result is that there is an opening to persuade and win over voters who may have, in the past, been overlooked as unreachable.

With the Conservative Party having won a thumping majority in the 2019 General Election, one could be forgiven by saying we have recognised this change and reacted successfully. Key pillars of the Conservative manifesto were somewhat non-customary, relying on public spending increases. Although anyone who considers the Conservative Party a party of pragmatism will understand that affordable public spending in order to benefit society is absolutely central to our method of governance. In addition, having been in place two months, there have been a number of policy decisions which have crossed the “established” Left-Right divide. However, let us not consider this Mission Accomplished, the election was dominated by Brexit, and the Government needs to act to deliver, real, tangible benefits to the voters, particularly in the rural North who leant the Conservatives their vote. In tilting towards the North, the Government must not forget the South and London.

The London Assembly and Mayoral elections will be a litmus test for the Conservatives electoral strategy towards, not just the Capital, but our towns and cities in general.

This is important for three reasons:

Firstly, a matter of perception. Mayors are directly elected officials, often elected with huge numbers (the London Mayor is often over one million depending on methodology) making them singularly powerful and influential in their region.

Secondly, winning and holding our towns and cities shows there is no preserve of a single party and therefore a healthy democracy can ensue.

Thirdly, and most importantly, cities and towns have a huge influence on economies of the suburban and rural communities that surround them. To focus on one and not the other may be a tactical success, but will ultimately lead to strategic failure.

For too long the Labour Party has dominated government in London, and they do this by spinning a narrative of Tories being evil, rich and uncaring. This is the traditional Left-Right divide that Labour councillors and candidates want to send around their echo chambers. Not only that, but they actively pursue policies which keep those on lower incomes at the bottom, often ploughing public funds into their own propaganda, from where it is easier for Labour to blame a lack of central government funding for their problems namely, complete mismanagement of our public finances on a local level. Most worrying of all, however, is the impact of the focus on self-promotion and vote retention, rather than the issues that matter most to Londoners – public safety.

Both the Mayor and his complicit Labour councillors have spent their time preening themselves in the mirrors of their traditional voters, blind to the fact that that same electorate feels unsafe in their own streets.

Shaun Bailey and the London Assembly candidates are effectively countering this narrative and holding the Mayor to account. Shaun has an actionable plan for crime, starting with more police on the streets, community groups to give young people a sense of belonging, and zero tolerance on gang activity, all to make London safe. Not only this, but his housing policy gives a sense of aspiration for young Londoners who feel a lack of participation in our property owning democracy – arguably the central pillar of Conservative values. Along with improved transport, attracting business and environmental commitments, it is clear that only the Conservatives can actually deliver what Londoners want, not what a complacent Labour administration says they need.

Westminster is increasingly focusing on developing the North – rightly as it is the only way to truly level-up the country, an unbalanced economy is both inefficient and unfair. We can and we must win the narrative in our towns and cities, or else we risk forever gifting them to the Left, making us a party, not of the whole country but of one half. Multi-generational development can only occur when it is adopted in an integrated fashion, made possible when all levels of government adopt the same guiding principles of public service, safety, and aspiration.

Put another way, we cannot be One Nation Conservatives, in the truest of senses, without speaking to and delivering for every part of the country.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Frayne: The BBC’s growing problem isn’t public hostility. It’s apathy. Fewer people see the point of it.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

My first focus group was in Watford in 2000. In those days, virtually every other group seemed to take place there. Partly because it was seen as a bell weather seat. But also because it was the nearest vaguely normal place to London that could be reached in an evening.

In those days, people were stuffed full of sandwiches and crisps, beer and wine – unlike now when it’s generally more austere. And every focus group tended to begin with the same ice-breaker: tell us where you get your news from.

The news question provoked a bunch of different answers, depending on the make-up of the group or its location. Older people read the Daily Mail, working class people read The Sun or sometimes the The Daily Mirror, middle class people read The Times or The Daily Telegraph – and yes teachers read The Guardian. Most people in the Midlands and North read a local paper.

But everyone – almost without exception – relied primarily on the BBC1 nightly news bulletins for their daily news. And most supplemented this by dipping into other BBC news sources such as Today, Newsnight or On the Record (the main Sunday interview show, as it then was). For the English, the BBC was ubiquitous.

Over the years that followed, I was often asked to test public trust in the corporation – usually for campaigns that complained bitterly about the BBC’s attitudes towards their cause – on everything from Europe to economic policy. These campaigns hoped that people would share their concerns about BBC bias.

They never did; people almost always said they trusted BBC News in absolute terms, and relatively far more than most political parties and campaigns. Trying to make people question BBC News’ values and motives was a pointless exercise.

It was always hard to say, but the trust the public had in BBC News seemed partly to derive from their wider trust and affection for the BBC as a whole. When you asked people what they thought was so good about the BBC, they generally said wildlife and factual programmes, local programmes (including news) and the fact that there were no ads. Some would talk about the blockbuster shows like Only Fools & Horses. The BBC was interwoven through the lives of ordinary working class and lower middle class life.

Broadly speaking, in my experience, I’d say this was the reality consistently until a couple of years ago. Now, when you ask where people get their news from, it’s almost always Facebook and other social media channels – in turn, directing them to an array of sites (by no means usually the BBC).

Hardly anyone says they make time to watch the main BBC1 news bulletins, and fewer and fewer people say they watch or listen to the main news analysis shows. Furthermore, when you ask people about the shows they watch, they generally reply with an answer about the platform, not the shows themselves. So, they’ll say “Netflix” or “Amazon Prime” or whatever. They never say they “put the telly on” like they did even a decade ago.

Again, in my experience, I have not found that trust has fallen per se – although post the referendum and two brutal election campaigns, there is now a larger minority of people who moan about “BBC bias”. But “trust” has become become less relevant people as the BBC has become less relevant.

By that I mean that they don’t view trust as a negating factor in their views on the decreasing relevance of the institution. This is the big problem that the BBC has: it could always fall back on the trust argument, even as it was getting a kicking from usually right-leaning activists about its output. Now, trust doesn’t cut it because, increasingly, people are saying “so what?”

They’re increasingly saying “so what?” about everything regarding the BBC. When so many people are forking out for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Sky and other niche content on their phones and tablets, more people (but not all, see below) are starting to view the BBC as “just another service” that’s competing for their attention. In my experience, this is particularly true amongst younger audiences – they just don’t see the point of it, and they don’t even share the nostalgia to “better times”.

This is my experience from the focus groups, but what of the polling? The polling bears this out to a significant extent. My agency Public First polled directly on the question as to whether the licence fee should exist, which got a bit of attention at Christmas.

It showed a clear majority overall favouring its abolition – by 74 per cent to 14 per cent overall – and this was true across all the key demographics. And the poll also showed that people favour decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee.

But it also showed that people were unsure about how the BBC should be funded in the future. Younger people were quite positive about the idea of the BBC being funded like Netflix, through subscriptions, but older people were hostile. More people liked the idea, they said, of the BBC being funded commercially, like ITV. Interestingly, the poll also showed that more people disagreed that the BBC was “neutral”, than agreed with it. Either way, the lesson is clear: very few people support the status quo.

The BBC’s perfectly reasonable pushback to this poll was that it didn’t give sufficient context – that it didn’t present enough alternatives, essentially. Their view is that the BBC always looks better when people are confronted with the alternatives or with the prospect of no BBC at all.

We had never intended this to be any sort of detailed look at public attitudes to the BBC; we ran it because one of our staff was being interviewed about the future of the BBC, and we wanted to have something to say about it. But the problem with the BBC’s pushback is that it almost acknowledges that the status quo is, at best, just the least worst option. They seem to be waiting for the future to make them entirely irrelevant.

So what does all this mean for Number Ten’s future combat with the BBC? My sense is that the BBC is extremely vulnerable to massive change if Downing Street simply and narrowly questions whether its relevance to people’s lives justifies the licence fee. This is where people are. On the other hand, if Number Ten tries to turn change into an ideological battle, it would leave most people cold but probably light up metropolitan lefties in ways that would be problematic.

Which takes us back to the BBC. As I note above, the it was interwoven in the lives of the English working class and lower middle class. This is no longer true – practically or culturally – and the Corporation will struggle to mobilise these people.

All the BBC has probably got left is the hope that at some point the public will view this Government as “just another set of politicians” who mess everything up. And of course the Corporation should seek to mobilise metropolitan lefties who aren’t terribly influential in Number Ten’s thinking. You have to start somewhere. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: Was it really ‘Brexit wot lost it’ for Labour?

John McDonnell was first with the theory, as soon as the exit poll had stunned the nation. “Brexit dominated the election,” he said. “I think people are frustrated and want Brexit out of the way.” The theme was taken up over the hours and days that followed, culminating in the claim Labour “won the argument” and that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership had nothing to do with the party’s worst result since 1935. Brexit alone was to blame.

Well, if this is the result you get when you win the argument, we can only imagine what losing it would look like. But what about the idea that the result can be put entirely down to Brexit, rather than the broader questions of policy and leadership that usually go into people’s voting decisions?

It would be absurd to deny that Brexit played a big part in the result. My election-day post-vote poll of 13,000 voters found the idea that a Conservative vote was most likely to lead to “the Brexit outcome I wanted” topped the list of broad explanations for Tory voters’ decisions – but only 37 per cent mentioned it as the single most important reason, and a third of them didn’t mention it in their top three. The view that the Conservatives “would do a better job of running the economy” was close behind, as was their view that Boris Johnson would make a better Prime Minister.

But even though Brexit policy was a clear dividing line between the parties, this cannot be disentangled from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on the issue, or lack of it. Since the referendum, voters have found Labour’s policy muddled and unclear. Time and again, people told us in focus groups that they suspected Corbyn really wanted to leave the EU but wouldn’t say so. They understood that he was caught between his mostly Remain MPs and activists and his many Leave voters, but that didn’t make him seem any stronger or more decisive. When telling us what they understood Labour’s policy to be – usually in terms like “they will negotiate a new deal and then have another referendum and campaign against it,” if they knew it at all – they would often do so with a smirk which betrayed what they thought of it. Corbyn’s ultimate declaration that as Prime Minister he would be “neutral” on the biggest political question facing the country simply invited derision.

It is true that only 64 per cent of 2017 Labour Leave voters stayed with the party last week (just as 66 per cent of 2017 Conservative Remainers stayed loyal to the Tories). Certainly, Brexit was important to these people, and as we found week after week in our focus groups, many were torn over whether they could bring themselves to vote Conservative. But Corbyn made their decision to do so easier, not harder.

Regularly we heard that he was an ultra-left-wing, backward-looking, 1970s throwback with terrorist sympathies and no fondness for Britain, who had at the very least failed to deal with antisemitism in his own party and simply did not have the qualities to be Prime Minister. Many former supporters told us they could not vote Labour in its current form, Brexit or no Brexit. Indeed, in our post-vote poll, only 14 per cent of Conservative voters said they would have voted differently had Brexit not been on the agenda, and only a quarter of them said they would otherwise have voted Labour.

But even though Brexit helped some Labour Leavers away from the party, how to explain the defections among its 2017 supporters who voted Remain? Sixteen per cent of 2017 Labour Remainers declined to vote for the party last week – twice the proportion of Conservative Leavers who failed to vote Tory – despite the adoption of a policy on the supposedly overriding issue of the election which was designed to keep them on board.

Perhaps the starkest evidence of all on this question came midway through the campaign, when I asked voters what, if anything, they feared about a new Conservative or Labour government. In third place for Labour, “their plans might damage business and the economy.” Second, “they would spend too much and get Britain into more debt.” And top of the list? “Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister.”

We should understand why many in the Labour Party want to hold fast to the idea that Brexit alone cost them the election. After a traumatic setback, it is only human to grasp at the most comforting explanations that come to hand. It is also a regular habit of losing political parties, as we saw with Labour in 2010 and, let us not forget, with the Conservatives after 1997, who took years, not days, to grasp the reasons for their predicament. But the longer Labour clings to its consolation theory, the more distant will be the first step on the road to recovery.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A good election for the pollsters, but most still under-estimated the Tories

Following a couple of elections in which the pollsters have come in for considerable flak for mis-calling the final outcome, last Thursday proved what must surely have been a welcome corrective.

As Sir John Curtice points out in today’s Daily Telegraph, several companies got the result almost exactly right and ten “put their reputation on the line” by publishing polls conducted very close to polling day.

YouGov’s Anthony Wells, writing on UK Polling Report, has provided a handy summary of those final surveys, which we have listed below in the order of their projected Conservative share (rounded to the nearest whole number).

  • Deltapoll: CON 45%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%, BREX 3%
  • Survation: CON 45%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, BREX 3%
  • Opinium: CON 45%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 2%, BREX 2%
  • Ipsos MORI: CON 44%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 2%
  • Kantar: CON 44%, LAB 32%, LDEM 13%, BREX 3%
  • Panelbase: CON 43%, LAB 34%, LDEM 11%, BREX 4%, GRN 3%
  • Qriously: CON 43%, LAB 30%, LDEM 12%, GRN 4%, BREX 3%
  • NCPolitics: CON 43%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 3%
  • YouGov: CON 43%, LAB 34%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 3%
  • ICM: CON 42%, LAB 36%, LDEM 12%, BREX 3%
  • SavantaComRes: CON 41%, LAB 36%, LDEM 12%
  • BMG: CON 41%, LAB 32%, LDEM 14%

It is interesting to note that, whilst several companies did get the Conservative share correct, the average still under-estimated it by two points. The spread is entirely in that direction, with a long tail of pollsters beneath the mainland Conservative share of 45 per cent but none erring in the other direction. Is this because there are still ‘shy Tories’, or is there another reason?

With a solid majority, which the polls largely forecast even if commentators and politicians alike refused to believe them, the polling industry can perhaps look forward to a few years of respite. Questions raised during the campaign about the impact of polls on the race, and whether they should be restricted during elections, will take on less urgency.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

I surveyed over 13,000 people on election day who had already cast their vote to help understand how this extraordinary result came about. The results show who voted for whom, and why.

The demographics

Westlake Legal Group 1-Demographics Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  Labour won more than half the vote among those turning out aged 18-24 (57 per cent) and 25-34 (55 per cent), with the Conservatives second in both groups. The Conservatives were ahead among those aged 45-54 (with 43 per cent), 55-64 (with 49 per cent) and 65+ (with 62 per cent).

Men chose the Conservatives over Labour by a 19-point margin (48 per cent to 29 per cent), while women did so by just six points (42 per cent to 36 per cent).

The Conservatives won among all socio-economic groups by margins of between 6 points (DEs) and 20 points (C2s).

When did you decide?

Westlake Legal Group 2-Timeline Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  More than half of voters said they made up their minds within the last month, with a quarter saying they did so within the last few days, including 16 per cent saying they decided on election day or the day they filled in their postal ballot. Labour support was higher among those making up their minds within the last week of the campaign.

Westlake Legal Group 3-Vote-by-timeline Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election

How easy was the decision?

Westlake Legal Group 4-Ease-of-vote Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  39 per cent of all voters said they found their decision harder than usual. Labour (42 per cent) and Lib Dem (56 per cent) voters were more likely to say they found the decision harder than usual than those who voted Conservative (32 per cent). Those who voted Conservative and SNP were the most likely to say they found the decision easier than usual, with 27 per cent of voters for both parties saying they found it much easier than usual.

44 per cent of Remain voters said they found their decision harder than usual, compared to 35 per cent of Leave voters.

Tactical voting

Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of all voters said they were trying to stop the party they liked least from winning, including 43 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem and 31 per cent of Labour voters. One in three Remain voters said they were voting to stop their least preferred party compared to 18 per cent of Leave voters.

Westlake Legal Group 5-Tactical-voting Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  Overall, 72 per cent said they were voting for the party they most wanted to win, including 82 per cent of Conservatives, 74 per cent of SNP voters, 67 per cent of Labour voters and just over half (54 per cent) of Lib Dems.

39 per cent of those trying to stop their least preferred party voted Labour, 30 per cent voted Conservative and 20 per cent voted Lib Dem.

Where did 2017 voters go?

Westlake Legal Group 6-EU-and-2017 Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  84 per cent of 2017 Conservative voters stayed with the Tories, with eight per cent going to the Lib Dems, five per cent going to Labour and two per cent going to the Brexit Party. 79 per cent of those who voted Labour in 2017 stayed with the party, while nine per cent went to the Conservatives, seven per cent to the Lib Dems, two per cent to the Greens and one per cent to the Brexit Party. Three quarters of 2017 UKIP voters switched to the Conservatives, with 11 per centgoing to the Brexit Party.

Best Prime Minister

Westlake Legal Group 7-Better-PM Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  49 per cent of all voters said Boris Johnson would make the best Prime Minister, with 31 per cent naming Jeremy Corbyn and 20 per cent saying they didn’t know. 95 per cent of Conservative voters named Johnson, while 76 per cent of Labour voters named Corbyn. Lib Dem voters named Corbyn over Johnson by 26 per cent 19 per cent, with 55 per cent saying they didn’t know.

The issues

Westlake Legal Group 8-Reasons-for-vote Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  Asked to choose their top three broad reasons for their decision, Conservative voters were most likely to say their party or leader “was the most likely to get the Brexit outcome I wanted” (68 per cent), “would do a better job of running the economy” (64 per cent), and that the leader “would make a better Prime Minister” (58 per cent).

The top reasons Labour voters chose were that they “trusted the motives of the party I voted for more than those of other parties” (65 per cent), that they “preferred the promises made by the party I voted for more than the promises of other parties” (59 per cent), and that they thought Labour would do a better job of running the economy (though only 39 per cent chose this as a reason). Only 19 per cent of Labour voters said that believing the party would get the Brexit outcome they wanted was among their top three reasons for doing so.

For Lib Dems, the most important reason was “trusting the motives of the party” (62 per cent), followed by getting “the Brexit outcome I wanted” and that they “preferred the promises” made by the Lib Dems (both 53 per cent).

Asked to choose from a longer list of issues which three had been the most important in their voting decision, 72 per cent of Conservative voters named getting Brexit done, with 41 per cent naming the NHS, 29 per cent naming the economy and 25 per cent choosing having the right leadership or the best PM. For Labour voters, the NHS was by far the most important issue, named by 74 per cent; 28 per cent mentioned stopping Brexit or getting a second referendum, while 27 per cen t mentioned poverty and inequality. Among Lib Dems, 65 per centmentioned stopping Brexit or a getting second referendum, 58 per cent mentioned the NHS and 30 per cent mentioned climate change and the environment.

The Brexit effect

Westlake Legal Group 9-Top-issues Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  73 per cent of those who voted Leave in the EU referendum voted Conservative, while 16 per cent voted Labour and four per cent for the Brexit Party. 92 per cent of 2017 Conservative Leave voters stayed with the Tories. 64 per cent of 2017 Labour Leave voters stayed with Labour, while 25 per cent switched to the Conservatives.

Labour took 47 per cent of the vote among those who voted Remain in the EU referendum, while the Lib Dems took 21 per cent and the Conservatives took 20 per cent. 66 per cent of 2017 Conservative Remain voters stayed with the Conservatives, with 21 per cent going to the Lib Dems and eight per cent to Labour. 84 per cent of 2017 Labour Remain voters stayed with Labour, while nine per cent  went to the Lib Dems.

One in twenty (five per cent) said they voted Leave in the 2016 referendum but now think we should remain; 13 per cent said they voted Remain but the referendum result should be honoured.

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of Conservative voters said they voted Leave and wanted Brexit to happen as soon as possible; a further 18 per cent said they voted Remain but wanted the referendum result to be honoured. 61 per cent of Labour voters and 76 per cent of Lib Dem voters said they voted Remain and still wanted to prevent Brexit happening if at all possible.

Westlake Legal Group 10-Party-by-EU Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  80 per cent of Leave voters who wanted to get on with Brexit voted Conservative, with 11 per cent choosing Labour and four per cent the Brexit Party. More than half of Leave voters who now wanted to remain voted Labour (58 per cent), with 14 per cent going to the Lib Dems and another 14 per cent to the Conservatives. Remain voters who wanted the referendum result to be honoured chose the Conservatives over Labour by 62 per cent to 23 per cent, with eight per cent going to the Lib Dems. Among remainers who still wanted to prevent Brexit if at all possible, just over half (56 per cent) voted Labour, with 26 per cent going to the Lib Dems; five per cent of them voted Conservative.

Westlake Legal Group 11-Vote-by-brexit-enthusiasm Lord Ashcroft: How Britain voted and why. My 2019 post-vote poll Postal voting Opinion Polls Lib Dems Labour Party Comment Campaigning Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  15 per cent of voters said they would probably have voted for a different party had Brexit not been on the agenda at this election. This included 28 per cent of those who ended up voting Lib Dem, 14 per cent of Conservatives, and 11 per cent of Labour voters. 2016 Leave and Remain voters were equally likely to say they would probably have voted differently had it not been for Brexit (16 per cent).

Half of Labour voters who would have voted differently had it not been for Brexit said they would probably have voted Lib Dem; 52 per cent of Lib Dems who would have voted differently had Brexit not been on the agenda said they would probably have voted Conservative.

Postal votes

We found 38 per cent saying they had voted by post. The Conservatives won 48 per cent of postal votes, with 29 per cent going to Labour and 13 per cent to the Lib Dems. 41 per cent of Conservative and Lib Dem voters voted by post, compared to 34 per cent of Labour and 33 per cent of SNP voters.

Full data tables are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com

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Henry Hill: YouGov lowers its Tory expectations in Wales and Scotland – but other sources disagree

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time examining the electoral landscapes facing the Scottish and Welsh Tories in this general election.

Each received an entry in our comprehensive battlegrounds series, whilst this column has looked at what YouGov’s first MRP poll augured for the Party and, drawing on that, the question of whether the Welsh Conservatives could get their campaign back on track.

Yet since then there’s been a final round of fresh evidence (or omens, depending on your faith in polls), and it once again poses interesting questions.

(As a lot of polling is conducted on a Great Britain basis which excludes Ulster, I won’t cover it here. Our battlegrounds profile for Northern Ireland, which includes a link to the latest LucidTalk poll of the Province, was published yesterday.)

Is something afoot in Scotland?

In my previous column on YouGov’s first MRP poll, one point I kept coming back to was how different was the story it told both from general expectations before the campaign began and from on-the-ground feedback from activists.

The same is true for the second one. Despite a general sense that the wind is in the sails of the Scottish Conservatives, YouGov has them going backwards.

Where in the first poll they were on track to hold 11 of their current haul of 13 seats, it is now only eight. On top of losing Stirling and East Renfrewshire – and the latter is widely viewed as an implausible win for the SNP – they are now forecast to lose Angus, Gordon, and Ochil & South Perthshire (confusingly the Times graphic has the SNP winning Moray, but that appears to be a glitch). These losses are partially offset by a predicted gain from the SNP in Lanark & Hamilton East.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour, which just a couple of weeks ago were staring down the barrel of a near-wipeout, are forecast to retain five of their current haul of seven seats, including fending off a rumoured Tory upset in East Lothian.

This conflict between YouGov’s forecasts and the wider narrative of the campaign could mean that the pollster has identified trends which have flown almost entirely beneath everyone else’s radar. Or it could mean that they have mis-calibrated their model and got it wrong – we’ll find out tomorrow.

If they are right, it will pose hard questions both to campaigners and commentators – from many parties – about our ability to read a live election campaign, not to mention trying to work out where the Labour recovery came from and why the Conservatives slipped back in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Conflicting auguries for the Welsh Tories

In Wales, the second YouGov report is also disappointing reading, albeit less so. The Conservatives are still forecast to win back their by-election loss of Brecon & Radnor, reclaim Vale of Clwyd, and make an historic advance by winning Wrexham.

But where two weeks ago they were apparently on track to win Anglesey (‘Ynys Môn’) for the first time since the mid-Eighties, the MRP odds now have them in third. None of the other gains they were anticipating to make from Labour at the start of the race are tipped to fall – although they are neck-and-neck in Delyn and just a few points short in both Bridgend and Alyn & Deeside.

This is a strong level of continuity with the previous poll, and if true poses the questions I raised in last week’s column. But it is not the final word on the subject.

Step forward Professor Roger Awan-Scully, of Cardiff University, and his Welsh Political Barometer poll. This is the main, regularly-conducted Welsh opinion poll and it ought to be familiar to readers of this column.

According to him, Labour are on track for an “historic shock” in the Principality. Whilst the Opposition’s vote share has recovered to 40 per cent, he found the Tories on their heels at 37 per cent. This would apparently be the strongest Conservative vote share in Wales since 1900 – before the universal franchise.

Were this to be true, tomorrow night would play out very differently. The Party would not only pick up Brecon & Radnor, Vale of Clwyd, and Wrexham but also Alyn and Deeside, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Delyn, and Gower. Meanwhile Mark Williams would take back Ceredigion from Plaid Cymru, which YouGov thinks is deeply improbable.

Such results would cut Labour’s representation to 20, just half of Welsh seats, whilst the Conservative would wrack up a better result than their previous high-tide mark at the 1983 election. By contrast the last Welsh-specific poll, on November 25, forecast Labour to lose just four seats.

Once again, we have a fascinating conflict between YouGov’s model and another source, in this case the well-established Welsh Political Barometer. Which is right? It isn’t just a fascinating academic question (although it is that): the MRP model has played a very prominent role in shaping public understanding of the campaign. If parties have based strategic choices on it, and it turns out to be wrong, that could have profound consequences for the result of the election.

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Lord Ashcroft: The limits of tactical voting – why all Brexiteers should vote Conservative tomorrow

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

A funny thing about elections is that people’s expectations of what the result will be can affect what the result actually is.

There have been hints of this in my polling over the course of the election campaign. The survey I published yesterday found more people expecting a Conservative victory than was the case last month. At the same time, enthusiasm for switching to the Tories among some critical voters – the things that makes such a result possible – has diminished.

There could be several reasons for this. But one might be that with Boris Johnson apparently safely on course for a majority, some may feel they don’t need to sully themselves with a Conservative vote.

In focus groups over the last few weeks we have witnessed how agonising many Labour voters find the choice this year: people who want to get Brexit done and feel Jeremy Corbyn’s version of the party has ceased to represent them, but struggle with an ancestral injunction never to vote Tory. The idea that they can have the outcome they want without having to vote for it must be a tempting one to embrace.

The problem is that it is an illusion, and one that represents a serious threat to the Tories’ chance of getting the majority that would drag politics from its three-year quagmire.

New analysis from YouGov, based on over 100,000 interviews in the past week, highlights the danger. Having forecast 359 Conservative seats two weeks ago, they now project 339 – a Tory majority of 28, down from 68 in the initial estimate. The model’s margin of error means another hung parliament is well within the range of tomorrow’s possible outcomes.

If this new forecast makes Tories nervous, it at least has the effect of clarifying the choice.

Naturally, there will be previous Conservative voters who are not enthusiasts for Brexit and find that Boris is not their cup of tea. The kind of people you might expect to find in, say, Putney – a seat which YouGov now predicts to fall to Labour, having projected a Conservative hold two weeks ago. Esher & Walton is now classified as a tossup between the Tories and the Lib Dems, whose leader has been increasingly clear that she will not support Johnson in a hung parliament, which leaves only one alternative.

It is hard to see many people in such places enjoying what Corbyn and John McDonnell have in store for them. I hope anyone considering using their ballot to make a point against the Tories will resist the temptation unless they really do relish the idea of a Corbyn government – because that is what they could get.

But perhaps the biggest threat to a Conservative majority tomorrow is not from those who oppose the party’s central policy, but from people who support it. YouGov’s seat-by-seat data reveals 48 seats in which Labour’s lead over the Conservatives is smaller than the projected vote share for the Brexit Party.

The Brexit Party’s argument has always been that they can win in places the Tories never have. This is debatable enough: the Conservatives never won in Mansfield or Stoke or Gower, until they did, and historic Tory gains are forecast in Bishop Auckland and Bolsover.

But tragically, the Brexit Party threatens to prevent the Tories regaining seats they lost just two years ago, like Bedford, Lincoln, Keighley, Bury North, Vale of Clwyd and Warrington South. These are constituencies the Conservatives should be able to count on this time, but which could be kept in Labour hands by a split in the pro-Brexit vote.

So, if you’re tempted to vote for the Brexit Party, let me appeal to you. Forget the wrangling about whether there should have been a pact, and who should have stood down for whom. The decision is upon us. Whether you think it deserves any or not, the Brexit Party is projected to have no MPs. On Friday, these seats will have Conservative MPs, or Labour ones. The Tories will have a majority, or they won’t. Boris Johnson will keep Corbyn out of Downing Street, or he won’t – and as a result, Brexit will happen, or it won’t.

This election can have one of two possible outcomes: the Conservatives and Brexit, or Labour and no Brexit. If you’d prefer the first, that’s what you should vote for.

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Red Swan…or Conservative landslide…or…

We’ve been here before – and recently, too. Today’s YouGov MRP poll may be “wrong”: that’s to say, its data may not represent what happens on election day, either because voters change their minds substantially, or the findings will be out of date by then, or are simply mistaken.

It doesn’t follow that because this particular MRP was right in 2017, so to speak, it will necessarily be right this time.  Other MRP polls were wide of the mark two years ago.  And one conventional pollster, Survation, got it right (in other words, its final poll mirrored the actual result).

When all that is said and done, however, the poll is roughly where one might expect.  We noted in our final campaign summary last Friday that Labour’s support had risen according to the polls.  The most simple explanation is that a swathe of the party’s supporters are coming home.  Lord Ashcroft’s latest election dashboard suggests the same.

At any rate, the YouGov MRP headline finding is a Tory majority of 28 – down from 68 last time round.  Our media colleagues are making much of the consequent possibility of a hung Parliament.  And no wonder: journalists love a contest. They are making rather less of that of a Conservative landslide.  (John Rentoul tweets that if the YouGov MRP has the same relationship to the final result as in 2017, thid election will produce a Tory majority of 44.)

As we wrote last week, Labour could yet produce a “Red Swan”. “[It] could yet close the divide for a mix of reasons: if there is large-scale tactical voting; if the vote distribution works for it; if its ground campaign is sufficiently strong; if the polls are “wrong” – and perhaps above all if there is differential turnout that favours the party,” we said.  And if the YouGov MRP is picking up a late swing.

Boris Johnson would have to be unlucky for such a combination of events to occur.  But even a mix of some of them might do for him.  He would see the seats that the YouGov MRP find competitive between the two main parties fall overwhelmingly to Labour.  And the Tories fare poorly against the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, too.

All in all, a Conservative win is still the most likely result.  But if the YouGov MRP, the Ashcroft dashboard and other polls are accurate, it is less likely than it was.  Just as Johnson wouldn’t have been entirely happy with his bigger lead last time, so he won’t be entirely unhappy now.  A closer race means more incentive for Tory voters to turn out.

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