Confused?

The Sunday Times
The Conservatives have opened up a polling lead of 17 points, bringing an abrupt end to recent Labour hopes that the next election could result in a hung parliament. Only the Chancellor’s plan to impose taxes on bankers’ bonuses is backed by voters, with 66 per cent saying taxing high earners is fair. And Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, have yet to convince voters that they have the right prescription to get Britain out of recession. Some 34 per cent agree they have the right ideas; 46 per cent disagree.
The Independent
Today’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times puts Labour on 31%, just nine points behind the Tories, who are on 40%. The Liberal Democrats have fallen two points to 16%. Only last weekend the Conservatives were still enjoying a comfortable 13-point lead.
The narrowing of the gap is a result partly of voters’ enthusiasm for the 50% tax on bankers’ bonuses above £25,000 announced in last week’s pre-budget report.

The one thing the two polls have in common is to show the Conservative lead is soft. But it persists.. The pollsters have a lot of explaining to do

  • LabourNIman

    I take anything said by a Murdoch paper with a grain of salt.

    These pools show little as it is just after a recent budget announcement, in four weeks time people will have absorbed it and will have calmed down.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ah yes, Mr Labour Man. We’ll just stick our heads in the sand and pretend that deep down, everybody thinks we’re great.

  • LabourNIman

    Great come back.

  • Brian, the quotes and the headline urls don’t match up.

  • Brian, firstly you have your links the wrong way round, “The Conservatives have opened up a polling lead of 17 points……” is in The Independent.

    It is The Times who claim the lead is down to 9 points, and as LabourNIman says we can “take anything said by a Murdoch paper with a grain of salt.”

    I’m not sure how you think that a 17 point lead is soft? It would result in a Conservative majority of 106!

  • igor

    All polls have error margins – typically 3% to 4%. The aggregate of a wide cross section of polls is always much more likely to be closer to the end results – in the case of these two that would be around a lead of 13% for Cameron

    Also the raw % lead means nothing – its how that plays out in the marginal seats that will determine the majority. At the moment a ‘conservative’ view suggests perhaps a majority for the Conservatives of 40 to 80 seats

  • Brian,

    I find polls generally problematic. What I do find valuable is to look at what lots of people who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is make of it all. Opinion is one thing, prediction is another entirely.

    I suspect that – if you want an accurate picture of what the most likely result is based upon all of the evidence, you couldn’t do much better than to look at Political Betting’s spread index:

    http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2009/12/13/the-polls-punters-give-their-verdict/

    (60 seat Tory majority is their conclusion)

  • The New Insider

    I take it everyone knows that the Conservatives have to be 3-4% ahead of Labour in these Polls, just to break-even in an actual election i.e. before they even start to think of an overall majority in the House of Commons. This is because of the current boundaries, which are very favourable to Labour.

    If we take the YouGov figures above i.e. Conservatives – 40%, Labour – 31%, LibDems – 16% then this produces a Conservative majority of 18. Change one percentage point i.e. Conservatives – 39%, Labour – 32%, LibDems -16% then this produces a Hung Parliament with the Conservatives the largest party 16 short of an overall majority. If we change another percentage point i.e. Conservatives – 38%, Labour – 33%, LibDems – still on 16%, then this produces a Hung Parliament again, but with Labour this time the largest Party 31 seats short of a majority.

  • Scaramoosh

    The Tories are trading on Betfair at 1.42 for an overall majority. They were 1.41 two weeks ago.
    They remain about 1/10 to achieve an overall majority. The betting market is usually the best guide to these things, as there is little time for politics when the money is down.

  • Scaramoosh

    But the prospects of a March election has seen the odds shorten into 2.72 from 4.0.

  • Scaramoosh

    Sorry 1/10 to win most seats.

  • [i]I’m not sure how you think that a 17 point lead is soft? It would result in a Conservative majority of 106![/i]

    It’s not soft on account of its size but on its volatility and propensity to disappear. [url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/dec/08/david-cameron-conservative-election]The Guardian carried a story last week which said[/url]:

    [i]Up at the University Of Strathclyde, the psephologist John Curtice talks about the share of people who describe themselves as “Tory identifiers” – not just Conservative voters but, in their own eyes, essentially Tory people. As things stand, the numbers of Tory and Labour identifiers seem to be pretty much equal, meaning that the Conservative poll lead is classically “soft” – made up of people who, as he puts it, “have at least the potential to disappear”.

    Curtice continues: “The reason the Conservative party looks to be in a strong position is, frankly, not because they’re doing particularly well. It’s just that the Labour party is doing so badly. In terms of shares of the vote, no government at this stage of a parliament has been as unpopular as this one. The fact that Conservatives often have a double-digit lead is simply down to them being on around 40 and the Labour party coming in under 30. And 40%, by historical standards, is nothing.”[/i]

  • The New Insider

    Scaramoosh

    The betting figures are as you say.

    I’ve made substantial amounts of £££ on previous elections betting, admittedly mostly on N. Ireland elections. My experience is that the odds reflect mostly Bookmakers opinions at this stage i.e. several months before an election, as the market in just too narrow several months before an election (i.e. not many punters at this stage), so you can’t draw too many conclusions.

    My experience is that there are always opportunities ‘early on’ in an election period – Look at the PaddyPower odds on Jim Allister before the last Euro election when they had him at 6/1 against for getting over 60,000, about 8-10 weeks before the election. This narrowed to about 5/4 for 60,000+ by the time election day came around! I, of course, had ‘piled on’ at the 6/1, as any decent anorak knew Jim A. was ‘nailed on’ to get at least 60,000+ – Again, the Bookies were out of step (at least early on).

    The above Poll factors, re. the difficulty for the Conservatives with the Boundaries etc., are something the Betting markets maybe don’t appreciate, or at least don’t appreciate enough. For the Conservatives to get an overall majority of 60 as someone indicated above, would be a phenomenal achievement – My best advice is to watch the odds for a ‘no overall majority’, and if you get the right price then ‘bet the ranch’ on this!!

  • The New Insider

    Scaramoosh

    I like your correction re. the 1/10 – I was just about to post this myself. There’s one H*** of a difference between ‘an overall majority’ and ‘winning most seats’!

    You’ve had me chasing around looking for this 1/10 for a Conservative overall majority, so I could lay the bet – If I could get that, I would not only be ‘betting my ranch’, I’d be mortgaging my neighbours ranch to bet that as well!!

    BTW: If want to make money on predicting an election date – go for 6th May 2010. I would bet the ranch on that as well!!

  • Panic, These ones like it up em.

    You know I do not think there is much enthusiam for the Tories just a resignation that lkabour must go.

    This may not get the tories an overall majority.

    Now if labour could frighten enough of the electorate about those big bad Tories then labour could do some damage.

    If the Tories win by a large margin they will resort to type in such a situation (and the economic times that are in it)

    Big bad Tories frighten me but I am getting older and do not have to put all that effort into pretending I am a tough guy anymore, haleluyah.

  • Brian Walker

    sorry about the wrong way round links guys but I’m glad they didn’t spoil the fun. In a rush out this morning but couldnb’t resist the polls.

  • I agree about the marketing being a bit narrow still. I think that the bookies odds a few days out will be as close as you’ll get to a reliable prediction.

    But with the degree of partisan dealignment and the general distrust of all politicians at the moment, I’d say that the Tories have less to comfort themselves with than parties with a similar lead would have had in the past.

  • Dev

    Today’s ICM’Guardian poll – Tories on 40%, down two, Labour on 31%, up two, and the Liberal Democrats on 18% – and that is after the PBR