Making sense of the polls

Making sense of the polls

Labour victory possible at UK general election

The UK general election will be held in two days, on Thursday 8 June. Polls close at 10pm local time (7am Friday Melbourne time). An exit poll will be released once polls close that will give the estimated number of seats for each party. In the past, projections from the exit poll have been far more accurate than projections using pre-election polls.

In most developed countries including Australia, votes are counted at the polling booth level, so much of the vote is quickly counted. In the UK, votes from each booth within a constituency are driven to a central counting centre. It usually takes several hours for each constituency to tally its votes and formally declare a winner, so UK elections are not decided until the small hours on Friday UK time. By 6am UK time (3pm Melbourne time), the vast majority of seats will be declared.

Polls that were in the field between Tuesday and Friday last week had little change on average from the previous editions of the same polls. The Conservatives led by 4-12 points in these polls, the wide range reflecting the pollsters’ different methods.

The Conservatives are likely to lose their majority if they win the popular vote by five points or less. If the Conservatives fall much below a majority, Labour would be likely to take power with the help of the Scottish Nationalist Party and/or the Liberal Democrats.

US analyst Nate Silver has written about the UK polls. Most commentators expect the Conservatives to outperform, as they have done in six of the last seven UK general elections. However, adjustments made by the polls since the 2015 polling disaster could make them overcompensate for bias towards Labour.

In addition, Silver’s first rule is that almost all polling errors occur in the opposite direction to what the commentariat expects. In the UK Brexit referendum, the US Presidential election and the French Presidential election, the commmentariat expected Remain, Clinton and Le Pen to outperform their polling. Instead, Leave, Trump and Macron all outperformed.

There have been two late developments that could have an impact on the election. On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This decision has been explicitly condemned by many world leaders, but not by UK PM Theresa May.

In much of the developed world, Trump is very unpopular, and the Paris withdrawal will be seen by many as vandalising the planet. This withdrawal could push people into voting for a PM who would stand up to Trump. Two Survation polls, one phone and one online taken since the Paris withdrawal, both have Labour just one point behind, but an ICM poll still has the gap at 11 points; ICM has been one of the most Conservative-friendly polls.

It is possible that Saturday night’s London terrorist attacks could impact the election, but the Manchester attack two weeks ago had little impact in the polls. Criticism of Conservative police cuts and Trump’s tweets attacking Sadiq Khan, the Labour and Muslim mayor of London, could help Labour.

YouGov’s Sunday poll has a dramatic increase in Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings. From a net rating below -40 at the start of the campaign, he has surged to a net -2, gaining 26 points in the last week alone. Theresa May has her first negative rating since becoming PM; she is at a net -5, down 12 points on last week.

I think it is reasonable to expect a large increase in youth turnout, as young people are far more enthusiastic for Corbyn than they were for Ed Miliband in 2015. If Labour benefits from youth turnout, and the Conservatives are generally overestimated, as right wing parties have been in Europe since Trump’s victory, then Labour could win.

Don’t just blame Trump for Paris withdrawal; US Republicans also to blame

In Newsweek, Michael Dorf has written that mainstream Republican members of Congress are very much in favour of Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris. Although only 22 of 52 Republican Senators signed a letter urging Trump to withdraw, this does not mean that the others were not in favour.

Obama never put the Paris agreement to the Senate as a treaty, since he knew it had no chance of winning the 2/3 Senate majority required to ratify treaties. Furthermore, just one Republican Senator, Susan Collins, voted against the confirmation of known climate change denier Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Congressional Republicans reluctantly defend Trump on some issues, such as his tweeting and Russian connections, but there is no reluctance on the Paris withdrawal.

In The Guardian, Naomi Oreskes writes that the Republicans have obstructed climate change mitigation for at least the last 20 years. During the 2016 Republican Presidential primaries, only one candidate, John Kasich, even acknowledged that human-caused climate change was either significant or real.

Queensland ReachTEL: 51-49 to LNP

A large-sample ReachTEL, with over 3600 surveyed Thursday night, has the Liberal National Party (LNP) leading 51-49, from primary votes of 35.3% LNP, 31.9% Labor, 17.0% One Nation and 9.4% Greens. The large sample was used to obtain samples of over 1000 for north Queensland, south-east Queensland, and the remainder. North Queensland is particularly poor for Labor, with a negative primary vote swing of 13 points since the 2015 election.

There have been two ReachTELs released in the last two weeks conducted for left wing groups. Two weeks ago, Labor led 51-49, last week it was 50-50 and now it is 51-49 to the LNP. It is likely that Labor’s decline has been caused by the Adani coal mine issue. ReachTEL has been leaning to the conservative parties in its state and federal polls since One Nation’s rise started. The next Queensland election is due by early 2018.