Moon Polling – Ipsos-Mori



Ipsos-Mori poll – 17th Feb 2016

Labour close the gap to 6% but projected Tory majority unchanged at 64


Ipsos-Mori have released their February poll showing a different trendline to ICM and Com Res that were out over the last few days. The headline voting intention figure sees the Tory lead over Labour down from 9% in January to 6% this month. The poll detail shows the old South of England problem returning giving Labour a big swing in the south, as against modest to medium swing to the Tories everywhere else against the May 2015 result. This along with the sample in the raw data being heavily skewed towards public sector workers is why Labour’s position holds up better than in other polls.

The 7% swing in the south (excluding London) would only have Labour picking up 13 seats in the south against the Tories which is easily wiped out by Tory gains in other regions. This shows the problem Labour will have even if they did very well in the south but not elsewhere as this poll suggests, as in the main they need huge swings to gain a serious number of seats there. The seat projection actually sees the Tories get exactly the same number of seats as in the January poll with a net increase of 26 seats on 357, meaning an overall majority of 64. In Scotland the SNP are recorded at 55%, and would take all 59 seats Scottish seats as a result. The poll is another showing no breakthrough for the Lib Dems.


The poll also asked the EU Referendum question and that too sees no change from January with Remain maintaining it’s 19% lead. The dynamics described above may suggest why this poll shows no change while the other poll that is done by phone, Com Res, saw a substantial swing to the leave campaign. The skew in this poll towards public sector workers and the high SNP figure mean an increase within groups known to be more likely to vote for remain. The likely exaggeration of Labour position in the south also may help the remain figure where a bigger Tory lead would have closed the gap.


While there is evidence to suggest this poll probably exaggerates Labour (In terms of headline voting percentage at least, though not so much in terms of seat projection) and the Remain in the EU positions, this is a poll for both to hold onto. Labour can use it to challenge the assumption that the Tories have increased their lead, and remain supporters can point to this poll to claim the rot of support moving to the leave campaign has stopped. A poll to challenge perceptions, that are sometimes more important in what happens next than the reality. Also of course while this poll of the last few is the outlier, the lesson of May 2015 is that we should not assume the outlier is always wrong.Whatever the details, this poll is good news for Remain, and some relief for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

THE NUMBERS (Poll of Poll averages)

Voting Intention – The Tory lead over Labour falls from 9% to 8.5%

Seat Projection – The Tory projected Overall Majority remains unchanged at 78

EU Referendum – The Remain lead in the EU Referendum phone poll average is unchanged at 13.5%

All the updated numbers can be found here. A breakdown of the Ipsos-Mori poll is below.




Ipsos-Mori Poll (17/02/2016)


Con 39% Lab 33% LD 6% UKIP 12% Green 3% – Con lead 6%


Con 357 Lab 204 LD 7 SNP 59 UKIP 1 Plaid Cymru 3 Green 1 Northern Ireland 18

Con Overall Majority of 64


Remain 55% Leave 36%Remain lead 19%




Numbers Round up – by-elections & YouGov


By Elections

There were several by elections on Thursday evening. Most of them in Scotland. There was only one in England where Labour got their first gain in a Tory-Lab contest since Jeremy Corbyn was elected. The context of the gain however is that it is a multi member ward where the Tory stood down, but the other seats were won by Labour and Labour had most votes on General Election day, so oddly Labour could get this gain by standing still. They did a bit better than that with a 2.5% swing. That change in a hypothetical across the whole country would still see the Tories ahead on votes and seats, never the less, it is a win for Jeremy Corbyn that will be welcome in the south of England where for the moment the rot stops with this result, something Labour will hope is the start of better things to come.

In Scotland the picture was less rosy for Labour. The SNP only lost in one seat and that was to an Independent in Moray. The SNP won everywhere else with the Tory vote up and Labour vote down almost everywhere (Linlithgow is the exception.) The biggest failure is in Glenrothes West, before May Glenrothes was one of Labour’s safest Westminster seats seats, they only needed a 0.5% swing here to get this ward back and they failed very badly. This shows Labour are making no serious progress in Scotland as the SNP march on.


By Elections 01/10/2015

Grimsbury & Castle (Cherwell) Lab 781 Con 661 UKIP 150 LD 73 Green 72 – Lab gain from Con- Swing (May 2015) Con-Lab 2.6%

Irvine Valley (E Ayrshire) 1st Pref SNP 1797 Con 865 Lab 860 Green 88 – SNP Hold on 2nd rnd – Swing (May 2012) SNP-Con 0.2% – Con beat Lab into 2nd

Glenrothes W & Kinglassie (Fife) SNP 2235 Lab 1207 Con 234 Green 113 – SNP Hold – Swing (May 2012) Lab-SNP 12.9%

Stirling East (Stirling) – SNP 1311 Lab 1094 Con 343 Green 152 – SNP Hold on 3rd Round – Swing (May 2012) Lab-SNP 9.4%

Heldon & Laitch (Moray) Ind 1323 SNP 1003 Con 703 Green 192 – Ind Gain from SNP in round 3 – Swing n/a

Linlithgow (West Lothian) – SNP 2049 Lab 1088 Con 973 Green 282 Ind 230 LD 133 – SNP Hold on Round 4 – Swing (May 2012) SNP-Lab 0.6% – :Lab beat Con into 3rd

Midsocket & Rosemount (Aberdeen) SNP 1168 Con 672 Lab 605 LD 238 Green 178 – SNP Gain from Con on 4th round – Swing (May 2012) SNP-Con 4% – Con beat Lab into 3rd

George Street & Harbour (Aberdeen) SNP 961 Lab 490 Con 195 Green 136 LD 96 – SNP hold – Swing (May 2012) Lab-SNP 11%

YouGov Poll

It was like the old days as YouGov released their latest poll at 10pm last night (They released one at 10pm daily for some time between 2010-2015). The Tory lead UK wide is 6% on this poll down from 8% last week. However the regional breakdowns as in most polls make for more positive reading for the Tories and less so for Labour. The old Southern issue raises it’s head with the Tories only 14% ahead in the south, A 6.5% swing to Labour since May. Every other region including Wales goes the other way and leads to an increased lead on the seat projection, despite little change on the VI headline. The poll also sees the Tories ahead of Labour in Scotland, this is fast becoming a consistant pattern on the Scottish sub samples, and given the Tories improvement in the by elections in Scotland last night too, can no longer be ignored or assumed to be an outlier. UKIP are also up to 17%, the migrant crisis is certainly helping them at the moment and has given them an identity post May’s general election.


YouGov 01/10/2015

Voting Intention UK Wide – Con 37% Lab 31% UKIP 17% LD 7% Green 2%

Voting Intention Scotland – SNP 49% Con 26% Lab 17% Others 12%

Regional Seat Projection – Con 354 Lab 211 SNP 54 LD 8 Plaid Cymru 3 UKIP 1 Green 1 NI 18Con majority 58


Conservative – Will be dissappointed with the Cherwell result as it shows they will not going winning all the Labour Vs Conservative battles that come up in the future as they have been, but given the context it is not cause for great concern and the poll is in line with others showing them still very much ahead. They will be delighted with what happened in Scotland where their vote was up in all but one ward and they beat Labour into second place in two of the wards. Confidence going into the Hollyrood election must be growing that they can make some good gains under Ruth Davidson.

Labour – Will of course be pleased to finally have a victory due to in their gain in Cherwell which they will try and present as proof they can win on the south of England. In Scotland however, the position looks as dire as it ever did. The Glenrothes result particularly shows the scale of the problem, a seat until the SNP surge, they would never be losing in any circumstances is now on paper a very safe SNP seat.

SNP – Nicola Sturgeon marches on much as before. The only concern will be the Moray result where the Tory vote was up and a strong Independent vote saw the SNP beaten. Is their a risk as they march to victory across Scotland in areas they traditionally have not won, they are taking their own traditional areas for granted? Moray of course was an SNP westminster seat long before the SNP surge, yet still voted No in the Indy referendum.

Opinion polls – were they that wrong in May?


In May 2015 Opinion polling took a hammering. Most of the polls showed the General Election very close throughout the whole year, never mind just the election period. There were a few outliers in Labour’s favour, especially from the company TNS, whose methodology appeared to be the reason and was very different to other pollster including a self selecting element. There were a few outliers in the Tories favour, the ones in reality were the more accurate ones, most from Lord Ashcroft but also a couple from ICM. Why did they get the more accurate outliers? And why were the rest wrong?

Let’s deal with Scotland first. This is the plus point for all polls, Scotland specific or those showing small Scottish samples. In short the polls for Scotland were pretty much bang on. The average SNP score for all polls going into the General Election including detailed Scotland specific polls and nation sub samples was 49%. The SNP scored just over 50% in the real election. When it came to Scotland, in spite of some inevitable sub sample outliers due to low samples, were overall bang on.

Throughout the campaign I was producing regular seat projections not based on uniform national swing but using the swing in each region against the 2010 result. It is a method I still use today (Albeit against the 2015 result now of course.) What was interesting was the discrepancy between the English Midlands and Wales on one hand, and The North and South Of England on the other. Going into the campaign a trend started emerging that in the Midlands and in Wales, poll after poll on the whole, saw no swing at all, indeed as often as not there was a small swing to the Tories which I flagged up again and again on my twitter feed that possible gains and pro Tory swings in these regions were possible (Which proved correct with gains from Labour in Derby North, Telford, Gower & Vale of Clwyd). Labour were doing better in the north in the polls, which they were, and poll after poll was also seeing a big move to Labour in the South of England (Not just London where the polls like Scotland were pretty much bang on), often swings as high as 7-8%.

The other noticeable thing was that if you assumed the swing in the south of England was more in line with what was going in in the midlands and Wales, taking into account the Lib Dem collapse, my seat projection would have seen the Tories above 300 seats regularly, with my showing an overall majority. Time and again it was the southern results dragging down the Tory seat score, with the Lib Dems holding up with 20-30 seats due to a small number of Lib Dems holding up the percentage, and Labour gaining seats on paper again and again that proved in May to be never on the cards.

Nationally the polls were just within the 3% margin of error, underestimating the Tories on average by 3% and overestimating Labour by 3%. The build up of Labour votes also made it look closer than it was. I stated earlier Labour were doing better in the north, indeed in the North-West Labour scored a 5% swing from the Tories in the region as a whole. However they only gained a net of 2 seats. The Tories did much better in the marginals like Warrington South while Labour piled up extra votes in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool that did not matter. The North is the first area which skewed the perception of the election, it was not that the polls were wrong, but the effect on seats was wrongly assumed, Labour on an even 5% swing would have taken a number more seats in the North-West, they didn’t.

But the biggest thing was the South of England. I suspect the problem lay in the size of the Tory lead there. How on a small sample, where a small number of Liberal Democrat or Labour voters can skew the numbers, can you consistently model a South of England Tory lead of 27% over Labour accurately? Remember YouGov were producing a poll everyday and most pollsters at least once a week during the long campaign. This failure was producing a regular swing in the south to Labour based on a handful too many Labour voters being found. In terms of my regional method, this suppressed the Tory swing against the Lib Dems by reducing the Tory vote, which also saw them holding onto too many seats under my method.

So how did Lord Ashcroft and ICM get the majority of the outliers. The answer lies in how they put their regions together. Most pollsters report the south of England and Greater London separately. Lord Ashcroft’s polls were different, his polls reported the South-East with London, and the South West with Wales. Note both London and Wales had Labour lead in 2010, so putting these regions together reduced the starting point for the Tory leads in what was being reported, enabling the balance of London and Wales to make it easier to produce a credible starting sample and increasing the chances of finding something more accurate. For ICM they did not report Greater London separately, but in with the south. This does not dilute the lead in the whole south by as much, hence they had less outliers than Lord Ashcroft, but again increased the chances of something more accurate, which occasionally they did.

There are enough votes in the south alone to account for the 2-3% errors in most of the polls. Yes odd outliers in other regions will have accounted for a small amount too, but the pollsters southern problem was the primary cause of the polls being inaccurate last May. With no swing in the south in 2015, the problem will remain going forward to 2020 as the Tories still start with a 27% lead across the south excluding London. Can they solve it? Time will tell, but in the meantime the lesson is to be cautious when you see the south going clearly the opposite way to the rest of England and Wales, this may well be the reason for it.

So in reality no the polls were not that wrong. They were right in Scotland, in London, the trends were correct in the Midlands and in Wales, in percentage terms they were right in the north and national polls cannot detect differences in safe and marginal seats, so you can’t blame the polls for that. They fell foul of an anomaly that on a small sub sample is not that easy to solve when either side has such a big lead. A few extra Labour or Lib Dem supporters found in the south of England accounted in the main for the small under estimation of the Tories, and small over estimation of Labour, and thus the polls, that were only wrong by a similar amount to most polls in 1997 (Which was ignored because Labour were so far ahead, they won anyway despite being overestimated then), were hammered because it was close and the outcome itself was not called. The hammering they took in my view was unfair, but the challenge of the South of England is a facinating one to see if they can put right.