Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Swing When You're Winning

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Swing When You're Winning

Article excerpt

Life on the margins

The deluge of polls published over the past week has pointed to one conclusion: the most the Conservatives can hope for in the coming election is a hung parliament. David Cameron and his party look likely to be roughly ten to 15 seats short of the 325 they require for a majority.

The two most significant recent surveys both focused on the marginals, and returned very similar results. The Channel 4 News/YouGov poll was carried out in 60 Labour-held seats requiring a swing of between 4 and 7 per cent for a Tory win: the survey found a swing of 6.5 per cent. Meanwhile, the Populus poll for the Times covered 100 seats--those numbered 51 to 150--on Labour's "most vulnerable to the Tories" list. The swing was 6.7 per cent.

Headline vote shares from polls of marginal seats often get reported as if they could be counted the same way as the results of standard national polls. But in fact they have different baselines. In 2005, for example, Labour had a 3 per cent vote lead; in the seats polled by Populus, that figure was 14 per cent. So the vote split suggested by the most recent poll, 38:38, would deliver 97 Labour seats to the Tories. According to the YouGov survey, the figure would be 95.

The remaining 20 or so seats needed for a majority would have to come from the Liberal Democrats. But the signs are that their incumbents will be tougher to shift--whatever the national polls suggest.

Extrapolating the Populus data to a national scale, we find that it is broadly in line with the latest ICM survey for News of the World, which had the Tories back at 40 per cent--9 points ahead of Labour.

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Bolstered pollsters

Just about the only thing that can be said with any certainty about the coming election is that there will be more opinion polls, published by more pollsters, than ever before. …

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