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Led by Boris Johnson, the Conservatives won 56% of the vote and will have an 80-seat majority. AAP/EPA/ VIckie Flores

Conservative landslide at UK’s Brexit election; Trump’s ratings rise on strong US economy

At the December 12 UK election, the Conservatives won 365 of the 650 House of Commons seats (up 48 since the 2017 election), Labour 202 (down 60), the Scottish National Party (SNP) 48 (up 13) and the Liberal Democrats 11 (down one).

The Conservatives won 56% of the seats and will have an 80-seat majority over all other parties. It is the Conservatives’ largest seat haul since 1987, and Labour’s lowest since 1935.

Popular votes were 43.6% Conservatives (up 1.2%), 32.1% Labour (down 7.9%), 11.6% Liberal Democrats (up 4.2%), 3.9% SNP (up 0.8%), 2.7% Greens (up 1.1%) and 2.0% Brexit party.

The Lib Dems thus lost a seat despite a 4% vote share increase, while the Greens won one seat and Brexit party none – that’s first-past-the-post. The Conservative vote share was the highest since 1979 for any party. Labour had a lower vote share in 2015.

In Scotland, the SNP won 48 of the 59 seats (up 13), the Conservatives six (down seven), the Lib Dems four (no net change) and Labour one (down six). Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her seat. On popular votes, the SNP led the Conservatives by 45% to 25%, an 8% swing to the SNP.

The election means Britain will Leave the European Union by January 31 under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which was blocked by the previous parliament. Johnson has promised not to extend the transition period to implement a trade deal beyond December 2020, so January 2021 is likely to be when the real Brexit occurs.

This election was a realignment along Brexit referendum leave/remain lines that had been predicted to occur in the 2017 election. A key problem for Labour was that, while “leave” won the referendum by a narrow 51.9% to 48.1% margin, it carried 64% of seats owing to remainers clustering in the big cities.

I wrote for The University of Melbourne’s Election Watch that working class voters, who supported leave by 64-36, were likely to deliver Johnson a majority. There were many traditional Labour seats that flipped to the Conservatives, such as former Labour PM Tony Blair’s old seat of Sedgefield.

In the December 5-6 YouGov poll, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had a net -47 approval rating, while Johnson was at -13. Corbyn was at -34 with remainers and -67 with leavers, while Johnson was respectively at -61 and +42. Labour’s vote fell with both leavers and remainers, as this chart shows.

Much of Corbyn’s problems were caused by his reluctance to move from Labour’s successful 2017 pro-Brexit policy; this reluctance hurt him with remainers while leavers detested any move towards remain. As I argued in this Poll Bludger article, an explicitly pro-remain Labour leader would probably have been destroyed by accusations of betraying the Brexit referendum.

Corbyn’s left-wing agenda had far less appeal in 2019 than 2017 owing to greatly improved real wage growth. Before the June 2017 election, annual real wage growth had fallen to -0.5%. In the latest available data, real wage growth is up 1.7%. With the US economy continuing to perform well, it would be inadvisable for Democrats to select a left-wing nominee, such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

It’s not just UK Labour that has suffered from the desertion of lower-educated working class voters: the left unexpectedly lost the last US presidential election and last Australian federal election owing to this. Swings to the left among better-educated voters are not compensating yet.

Read more: Final 2019 election results: education divide explains the Coalition's upset victory

After performing badly at the last three UK elections and the Brexit referendum, the UK polls did well this time. Most polls had the margin between the Conservatives and Labour at nine to 12 points, and four polls had it at either 11 or 12 points – the actual margin is 11.5 points.

Trump’s ratings rise

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are currently 41.9% approve, 53.2% disapprove, a net approval of -11.3%, up 1.4% since my November 20 US politics article. With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.1% approve, 52.7% disapprove, a net approval of -9.6%, up 1.4% since November 20.

Read more: Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections

In the FiveThirtyEight impeachment tracker, 47.4% support removing Trump from office and 45.8% are opposed (46.8-45.2 support November 20).

In current general election head to head polling according to RealClearPolitics averages, Trump trails Joe Biden by 9.8%, Warren by 7.2%, Sanders by 8.4% and Pete Buttigieg by 4.1%.

In a Quinnipiac poll conducted in early December, Trump had a 54-42 approval rating on the economy – a record high for him. If the US economy continues to be strong until the November 2020 election, Trump has a good chance of re-election, especially given his likely Electoral College advantage.

Read more: Trump could win again despite losing popular vote, as Biden retakes lead in Democratic polls

US jobs situation still strong

In November, the US economy created 266,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate slipped 0.1% to just 3.5%. The US conducts two employment surveys every month: the headline jobs growth is from the establishment survey, and the unemployment rate from the household survey.

In this case, the household survey was weaker, with just 83,000 jobs added and the drop in unemployment explained by a fall in participation.

Owing to inflation of 0.3% in November, there was no real change in wages in that month. Over the year to November, real weekly and hourly wages were up a modest 1.1%.

Democratic contest

Seven weeks from the February 3 Iowa caucus, Biden leads in the national RealClearPolitics Democratic average with 28.4%, followed by Sanders at 18.2%, Warren at 15.8%, Buttigieg at 9.2% and Michael Bloomberg at 5.2%. No other candidate has more than 3%.

In Iowa, it’s Buttigieg 22.5%, Sanders 19.3%, Biden 18.0% and Warren 16.3%. In New Hampshire (February 11), it’s Sanders 19.0%, Buttigieg 17.7%, Biden 14.3% and Warren 13.3%. Biden continues to dominate in South Carolina (February 29) with 35%.

The next Democratic debate will be held on December 19; seven candidates have qualified. There will be four debates in January and February 2020, with the first on January 14.

Australian Newspoll: 52-48 to Coalition

Newspoll has become completely conducted using online methods; previously, it used a mixture of online methods and robopolling.

Since my last Conversation article, there have been two Newspolls by the new method. In late November, the Coalition took a 51-49 lead, (50-50 in the final Newspoll using the old method in early November).

In the latest Newspoll, conducted December 5-8, the Coalition had a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition. Primary votes were 42% Coalition (up one), 33% Labor (steady), 11% Greens (down one) and 5% One Nation (steady).

Scott Morrison had a net approval of -3, up six points. Anthony Albanese had a net approval of -1, also up six points. Morrison led as better PM by 48-34 (46-35 previously). The new Newspoll series appears to give the leaders harsher personal ratings than the old one.

Voters were asked to rate the leaders according to nine attributes. You can read about those results at The Poll Bludger.

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