With a huge quantity of elections on Thursday, we also have a huge amount of opinion polling ahead of it. Here is a summary of the polling on this week’s elections and what we can predict about this week’s results from it.
The Scottish election race has been heavily polled and with fairly consistent results across polling companies. Everyone has the SNP clearly ahead in both votes, and we can be confident as confident can be that the SNP will win. The broad questions are:
a) How close the SNP will get to an overall majority in their own right, rather than with the Greens
b) Whether Labour or the Conservatives will be in second place
c) Whether Alex Salmond’s Alba party will win any seats
At least six companies have released Scottish polls in the last week or so (and we may well get more tomorrow). Most have shown the SNP around 50% in the constituency vote (SavantaComRes in the Scotsman were lower at 45%, but was conducted a week ago now, so I don’t know if they have another to come). In the regional vote most companies tend to show the SNP at around 36%-41%, with everyone showing the Conservatives in second place on around 22% and Labour third.
It is hard to translate votes into seats with confidence between so many of the final regional seats end up being won by extremely small margins, but it is probably the best way of understanding the interaction between the two votes. The most recent projections have tended to suggest that the SNP may just scrape a majority.
Sky projects 67 seats for the SNP based on the Opinium poll, John Curtice in the Times suggests 68 SNP seats based on the YouGov data. Panelbase in the Sunday Times at the weekend was projected to deliver them 65 seats by Curtice. The Herald’s BMG poll was projected to deliver 68 SNP seats. If the SNP do fall short then they will easily have a pro-independence majority with the Greens anyway, but an outright majority may give them a stronger moral case in the inevitable argument with the UK government over a referendum.
Finally, there is Alba – Alex Salmond’s new party. There has been some difference between polling companies on their projected level of support. For a while Panelbase were giving them around 6% while other companies were giving them derisory support. The final YouGov & Opinium polls did at least see them climbing to 3% (possibly enough to get a seat somewhere depending how unevenly their vote is distributed), while the most recent Panelbase poll had them dropping to 4%.
In the past Wales has not tended to attract much polling – there have been elections when it was YouGov and no one else. This year has been more interesting, with polls from SavantaComRes, Opinium and ICM. There are final Welsh polls from YouGov and Survation due out out tomorrow (and possibly SavantaComRes too) so we’re not done here yet.
The polling show far has also shown Labour ahead, but by differing amounts. Back in February and March YouGov produced a couple of polls showing the Conservatives within touching distance of Labour. Since then Labour have pulled back ahead, with a lead of 9-11 points on the constituency vote, 7-10 points on the list vote. We will see what the final polls show tomorrow.
Perhaps the most foregone conclusion that we have polling for – there has never really been the slightest doubt that Sadiq Khan was going to be re-elected as London mayor once Rory Stewart dropped out (even when Stewart was in the race polling showed an easy win for Khan, but at least Stewart had the potential to shake things). Given the race hasn’t been competitive there hasn’t been nearly as much polling as in past years, but we have had two final calls today (and perhaps more to come tomorrow). Both show Khan winning easily.
Opinium’s final call has Khan winning the first round by 48% to Bailey’s 29%, with Porrit in third on 8% and Berry on 7%. Khan wins easily on round two.
YouGov’s final call has Khan slightly lower on the first round, winning by 43% to Bailey’s 31%, with Berry on 10% and Porrit on 5%. Again, Khan wins easily on round two.
As well as London, there are elections for seven combined authority mayors (Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West of England, West Yorkshire). We have polling for two of those, and in the case of the more recent polls, both show incumbents who were initially elected on a knife-edge now cruising to re-election.
The West Midlands mayoralty is being defended by the Conservative Andy Street. We have two decent sized polls there. Redfield & Wilton polled about a fortnight ago and found a 9 point lead for Street on the first round, but only a 2 point lead once second preferences were redistributed. Opinium released a more recent poll on Tuesday morning, commissioned by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which projected a clearer win for Street – a 17 point lead and victory on the first round.
The only other poll I’m aware of is for the Tees Valley race. This was won by the Conservative incumbent Ben Houchen by an extremely narrow margin in 2017. The only poll is by Opinium. It has a sample size of only 387 (243 once you take out don’t knows and won’t votes) and the size was such that Opinium didn’t have the space to filter for likelihood to vote. For what it’s worth though, the shares were CON 63%, LAB 37% – suggesting a very easy hold for the Conservatives.
Survation have produced two opinion polls of Hartlepool. The first for the CWU early in the campaign, the second for Good Morning Britain, conducted at the end of April. Constituency polling is a difficult challenge that has a somewhat patchy record, and small sample sizes mean they are large margins of error. That said Survation’s latest poll showed a very solid 17 point lead for the Conservatives, well outside the margin of error. The poll would have to be very wrong indeed for this not to be a Conservative gain.
Local elections rarely get much polling because of the nature of the contest. There is very uneven pattern of contestation, so many people don’t get a choice between all parties. In many places people get more than one vote so can vote for different parties. From a pollsters point of view, it’s also difficult to know what you are measuring – the “Projected National Share” that the BBC calculate on election night is not the actual shares of the vote – its a projection based on the votes in some key wards – so even if pollsters did ask about local elections, the numbers wouldn’t match the numbers the BBC announced on the night!
Normally the only attempt we get to predict likely gains and losses in local elections is therefore the Rallings & Thrasher modelling based on how people have voted in local council by-elections. This time round the coronavirus lockdown means we’ve had hardly any local council by-elections, so even the Rallings & Thrasher model lies dormant.
Unusually though we have got a couple of predictions using polling data. YouGov released a poll last week of councils that cover Northern & Midlands seats that the Tories won at the last elections (the so-called “Red wall” seats) that was used to project gains and losses here – that predicted Tory councillor gains in those areas.
Meanwhile Electoral Calculus have make predictions of district and unitary councillor gains and losses based on data from newcomers “Find Out Now” (a company that polls people visiting the PickMyPostcode website). Not sure why the county elections were excluded, but there goes. That predicts gains of about 300 seats for both Labour and Conservative, at the expense of Lib Dems and Others (note the overall number of seats rises because council changes). Note that the YouGov fieldwork was mid-April, the Electoral Calculus data last week, so quite possible that it pre-empted some of the recent poor coverage for the Government.
POLICE COMMISSIONER ELECTIONS
The final set of elections on Thursday, and very much the poor relation, are the Police Commissioner elections. Given the lack of public profile these – rather unsurprisingly – don’t appear to have been polled at all (indeed, given the uneven pattern of contestation and the fact I expect many people have no idea they are happening and won’t make their mind up how they’ll vote before being presented with a surprise additional ballot paper on Thursday, they would probably be rather hard to poll if we tried).